Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Vivek Goel, the President Designate for the University of Waterloo, is photographed on the campus on Nov 11 2020.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Faced with a pandemic that has transformed higher education, the University of Waterloo has chosen a new president renowned for his expertise in public health as well as academic research and administration.

Vivek Goel, until recently vice-president for research and innovation at the University of Toronto and a leading public-health expert, was on Tuesday named the next president and vice-chancellor of the Waterloo, Ont., school, beginning in 2021.

A physician by training, Dr. Goel has worked on COVID-19 research in recent months after stepping down from his senior administrative role at the University of Toronto.

Story continues below advertisement

He has extensive experience in academic leadership, having also previously held the post of provost at U of T. In the aftermath of SARS, he was named founding president of Public Health Ontario and has also worked in the private sector.

Dr. Goel said in an interview that he looks forward to shaping a postpandemic university that will tackle some of society’s most important challenges: training students for an uncertain world and setting a research agenda that contributes to the well-being of the community.

“What’s become clear to me is just trying to fix public health alone is not going to help build a more resilient society. We really need to think about this broader set of societal issues that COVID-19 has laid bare and think about what we need to do from an education perspective, what kinds of research teams need to be brought together, to address these really big challenges,” Dr. Goel said.

The university has more than 40,000 graduate and undergraduate students in full-time and part-time studies and a reputation for research in engineering and technology, in particular. Dr. Goel will replace Feridun Hamdullahpur, president since 2010, next July.

One of the first challenges he’ll face when he takes up the post is how to safely manage a transition to fall 2021 classes that could potentially be held in-person, depending on the progress of COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Goel has said he has always favoured a balanced response to the pandemic, and it has become clear that students value the face-to-face learning that takes place outside a lecture setting.

“We have to figure out how we can preserve as much of those critical activities as possible,” he said.

It’s also clear that the educational transition universities have executed in response to COVID-19 has shown that higher education can be delivered differently, at least in some cases. That presents opportunities, Dr. Goel said.

Story continues below advertisement

He said he can imagine a future in which education is not delivered solely in four-year degree programs, but as a continuing process of lifelong learning, blended with off-campus experiences such as Waterloo’s renowned co-op program.


One area where he sees potential for the university to grow is in its commitment to research at the intersection of health, technology and society. Dr. Goel said he has no plans for a medical school at Waterloo, but there are many other ways to have an effect on health-related research.

“Waterloo has a great opportunity in this postpandemic world in thinking about those broader determinants of health. In terms of its research and its academic programs it can focus more broadly and without the predisposition of starting with a medical school. Because when you start with a medical school, you tend to go to the medical solutions for a lot of things right away,” he said.

When the pandemic hit, Dr. Goel was one of the relatively few public-health experts not working on the front lines, so he stepped back from his administrative duties to contribute to public-health research and networking. That was also when he was first approached about taking on the presidency at Waterloo. The timing wasn’t right initially, he said, but he was persuaded by the school’s five-year strategic plan, with its agenda for developing talent, research and community engagement.

“In the long term I can make a greater contribution to public health through trying to support Waterloo, and the broader university sector across the country, in thinking through how we live in this postpandemic world,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies