Interviewing the President of University of Waterloo

Interviewing Dr. Vivek Goel

 

On August 26th I had the privilege of sitting down with an interviewing the president of the renowned University in Canada – University of Waterloo. This 45 minute interview was one that took me about 2 months to get, and when I did get it, I was on a family trip down to South Africa. I shared this remarkable family experience in a blog I wrote: Family trip to South Africa!

Our conversation was candid, captivating, and thought provoking, delving into different areas concerning the University of Waterloo. I highlighted several key areas during our discussion, including the university’s commitment to co-op excellence, their dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion, ensuring student safety on campus, and the institution’s vision for empowering its students to become future leaders. In my blog, I wanted to use this platform, not to repeat the interview, but draw out key areas as a means to share some of the pivotal insights discussed.

Co-op Excellence

 

Many students in Waterloo, as well as prospective students considering the University of Waterloo, are well aware of its distinctive selling proposition, which is centered around its exceptional co-op programs. But what exactly is co-op? Co-op is essentially a program that allows you to delve into potential career paths and acquire paid or unpaid work experience while pursuing your university degree. Typically, you alternate between study and work terms depending on your course and program, with these work terms typically spanning either 4 or 8 months.

I wrote about My first co-op in Canada, a great read for anyone looking into getting their first co-op jobs.

During the interview, Dr. Vivek emphasized the program’s initiation, it was catered primarily to engineering students before expanding to include students from all faculties. The program’s  focus and remarkable job related outcomes are what set it apart and define the University of Waterloo’s unique appeal to work integrated learning.

One key point Dr. Vivek’s made as advice to students regarding co-op programs was clear: “…explore various co-op positions throughout your co-op journey at the University of Waterloo…” This guidance reflects his desire for students to gain a comprehensive range of work experiences from diverse employers and possibly different industries, thereby enhancing their market readiness with a wealth of valuable experiences.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

 

A key aspect across all facets of the University is it’s dedication to equity, diversity, inclusion, and combating racism. This commitment is evident through various initiatives, such as the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART), student equity and diversity board in its Center for Experiential Education, among many others. During my conversation with Dr. Vivek, a focal point of discussion was the support provided to international students, considering the influx of students from around the world. Dr. Vivek highlighted the university’s commitment to creating a sense of belonging at Waterloo for international students, highlighting the diverse array of campus initiatives designed to provide support and foster a welcoming experience.

Our discussion lead to a brief discussion about the office of indigenous relations, and there was a lot I learned about the efforts and work done with Indigenous people, starting particularly with Truth and Reconciliation.

I wrote a blog discussing why it is important for us to learn to Embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Student Safety and Housing

 

Prior to holding this interview. I reached out to the general public to gather their questions and concerns. The response was overwhelming, with a significant number of inquiries focusing on campus safety and the pressing issue of housing.

In July of this year, a distressing incident motivated by hate occurred on the UW campus during a gender studies class at Hagel Hall. This unfortunate event raised concerns among various stakeholders within the institution regarding safety on campus. When discussing this matter with Dr. Vivek Goel, he pointed out that, firstly, such incidents are not a regular occurrence on campus.

However, he acknowledged that events like these serve as opportunities to learn and improve the safety measures. Dr. Vivek mentioned that the institution has taken steps to enhance safety, including the development of an app called WatSAFE, designed to alert students to unusual campus activities or emergencies. Additionally, the university will no longer include professors’ personal information associated with courses online as part of these safety measures.

Housing we all know, it is a massive issue, if it’s not the location, it’s the price, if it’s not the price, it’s the length of the contract, and the list goes on. I personally raised this issue with the President, and he acknowledged the concerns it stems from. He also conveyed the university’s awareness of this issue. Looking ahead, he mentioned that in 2024, they will initiate operations for a new on-campus building to augment the student housing capacity. But on-top of this, I mentioned how it would also be good in the short term to see whether off-campus partnerships with external landlords can be made to help facilitate this.

Empowering Leaders of Tomorrow

 

This was an exciting bit of the conversation for me, we went into what he believes defines a top University and how within Waterloo there is work being done to empower students to become agents of change and leaders of tomorrow.

With institutions like Velocity Incubator, the Conrad School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Greenhouse Social Impact, WUSA, and many others, there is an ecosystem established that actively nurtures students’ aspirations. To any students reading this, I encourage you to explore and consider becoming a part of these institutions, as they offer a wide array of resources and opportunities tailored to your specific needs.

This was probably one of the best moments in my journey so far, it has helped the Young Eye brand as well as the Darren Baine blog. It took a while to prepare for, but in the end it was worth it, and I am personally proud of and grateful for the final product! So if you haven’t yet, please go watch or listen to this podcast!

YouTube: Interview president of University of Waterloo

Podcast: Interview with President of University of Waterloo

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