Season of Change

The arrival of summer is supposed to herald a quieter phase in the life of a university. Classes are finished, students have departed and faculty and staff take time to reflect and plan, to repair and renew.

But the Canada Day we have just celebrated marks a major turning point in the life of St. Michael’s. This summer is one of change and transformation. The university that welcomes new students in September will be significantly different from the one that only days ago said farewell to the class of 2017.

Principal Randy Boyagoda and his team have just completed their recruitment of the inaugural intake of students for the Gilson Seminar on Faith and Ideas.  Indeed, competition for its limited number of placements was more intense than for any other “100 series” course on the University of Toronto campus.

Why? Because there is a deep hunger for the broad intellectual canvas that St. Michael’s so uniquely offers.  And in welcoming these wonderful students we are also welcoming the many good things that they will contribute to our community.

July also marks a welcome and long-overdue expansion in the teaching ranks of the College, our undergraduate division. This begins with the early-July arrival of 6 new teachers for our sponsored academic programs. They will be joined later in the summer by 2 post-doctoral fellows who will be supporting Randy with our Gilson program.

Another late summer arrival is Giancarlo Mazzanti. He takes over duties as Registrar in August, replacing Damon Chevrier, who is retiring after many years of service to St. Mike’s. Giancarlo will be getting off to a fast start, helping to oversee the move of the Registrar’s rather antiquated office in Alumni Hall to a bright, new and more student-friendly space in the Coop.

After more than a year of careful preparation, the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies has, as of July 1st, officially become part of St. Mike’s.  While they will be taking up permanent residence in Windle House, they will also be dedicating a new chapel in Elmsley Hall for their liturgies. With their arrival, the University adds much needed depth and expertise to the study of eastern Christianity and welcomes a community of distinguished and very joyful scholars.

The summer will witness important changes in the administration of the University. The recent promotion of Oriana Bertucci to become Director of a newly created Campus Life portfolio represents our commitment to supporting the intellectual, moral and spiritual life of our student community. Oriana will join Randy, Giancarlo, Dean of Students Duane Rendle, and Wellness Counsellor Nicole LeBlanc in working to ensure that we are offering a healthy, happy and intellectually stimulating environment for our students.

I have asked Hilary Ryall to manage our response to the review of our Continuing Education program. Among other things, she will be thinking carefully about options for returning the CE program to its original focus of forming the leaders that the Church and Canadian society so urgently need.

Finally, this summer of change promises to usher in long-overdue improvements to our website and, with it, an update to our St. Mike’s logo, something that will signal our new direction by summoning up the very best from our distinguished past. Stay tuned.

Of course, all of this is about something more than incremental change. The process of transformation that we have embarked on is more profound than the sum of the individual announcements. This summer we take a big step forward in our effort to reclaim fully our heritage as a lively centre of Catholic intellectual life, offering our students a broader spectrum of ideas and possibilities within an increasingly diverse, confident and welcoming community.