One year on the job: It’s about tech for UOIT’s president

Dr. Steven Murphy sitting in his office on the second floor of the UOIT Energy Systems and Nuclear Science Research Centre. Photo credit: Cecelia Feor

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s (UOIT) new president wants to use his skills to push the Ridgebacks ahead of the pack.

Dr. Steven Murphy has been UOIT president for a relatively short time, but he’s taking a long term view about his new role.

Photo credit: Cecelia Feor

On the job for a year (start date March 1, 2018),he’s already thinking 15 years into the future of what the university can become – and he’d like it to be the MIT of the north, referring to the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Murphy was previously the dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto’s Ryerson University. He sees similarities between UOIT and where Ryerson was 10 years ago. As a result, he believes UOIT is on an exponential path for the future.

He hopes to build on the use of technology to teach its 10,000 students better, in part by developing improved hybrid courses.

“It’s (technology) not just in our name, it’s also in how we want to live and in our values and our day-to-day actions,” Murphy says.

It is important to integrate technology systems to better serve students, by having everything in one place, he believes.

“We’re really reaching the point where you need to be able to come to one spot that has everything to do with your university experience,” Murphy says, noting all aspects of the student experience, including assignments and study groups, should be accessible through a central app or system.

He is also interested in using technology to deliver education in an improved way. He says hybrid courses should become more the norm, where there is an online component and then an in-person portion for discussion.

In addition, Murphy would like to see courses become modular, based on the length of student learning absorption levels. This would focus less on the traditional course model of a 13-week semester with four-week exam period.

Murphy is also pleased students can experience different course and pathway options on the joint campus of Durham College (DC) and UOIT.

Cathy Pitcher, assistant to the president, previously worked in the DC president’s office, including for Gary Polonsky, the Durham leader who helped found UOIT.

Pitcher says pathways are beneficial to students.

“I think this campus brings tremendous opportunities to our students, the fact that you have a university and a college sharing,” she says.

Murphy meets with DC president Don Lovisa monthly to discuss how to enhance diploma-to-degree pathways but also to create other opportunities for students.

Specifically, Murphy proposed a business training module for those who have graduated from skilled trades and apprenticeships looking to start their own business.

“It’s about doing a flexible delivery, thinking about really creative models of working together, and trying to figure out where our visions intersect,” he says.

As for his legacy, Murphy is more concerned with UOIT’s goals.

“For me it’s far more satisfying to see our students walking across the stage (graduating) knowing that the value of their degree has increased because we’ve worked really hard as a team over 10 years than it is for me to say that my legacy after 10 years is that I pushed on ‘x’ or ‘y’,” says Murphy.