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06.29.21 – Interim Dean Robert Wright reflects on the year as his term comes to a close on June 30

Daniels Faculty community,

It has been the greatest privilege of my career to work for you as dean during this time of immense change within the Daniels Faculty and around the world.

After a year of loss and uncomfortable (and necessary) conversations, we are now emerging into an uncertain future. The challenges that we face today: climate change, inequity, racial injustice, mental health, and the impacts of the pandemic — are not going away.

Yet, during a time when we could have felt stagnant or immobilized, the Daniels community demonstrated great resilience. And you seized the opportunity to enact positive change.

Students, alumni, faculty, and staff called on our institutions and professions to transform, adapt, and evolve — not only to meet a changing world, but to be a part of the solutions ahead.

rob wright holding a cue card that says thank you

We went “on air” for final reviews and hosted more than 60 public events with global leaders in our fields. We grew our faculty by welcoming new colleagues in building science, visual art, and forestry – and maintained enrolment numbers across our programs. Faculty and students navigated time zones, oceans of distance, and new ways of learning together. Not only adapting to the circumstances but producing some of the highest-quality work I have ever seen during my 35 years at the Faculty (some of which you can explore in our virtual end-of-year show).

My goal as your interim dean was to engage in a process of self-examination to develop new approaches to professional education that will lead to long-term change. Addressing representation and inclusion at all levels was, and will continue to be, a critical part of this change.

One of the highlights of my time as dean was to welcome Elder Whabagoon as the inaugural First Peoples Leadership Advisor to the Dean. With Elder Whabagoon's guidance, we will find new ways to introduce Indigenous values, knowledge, and languages to our programs and reach out and support Indigenous communities. We also established the position of Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This critical new role will sit jointly between the Daniels Faculty and U of T’s Division of Human Resources and Equity. The search for this position will recommence under Dean Du’s leadership.

At the beginning of my term, I shared my belief that it is our shared responsibility to create the future that we want. The successes of this past year are a reflection of the collective efforts of students, staff, and faculty. To continue this work we need transparency, dialogue, collegiality, and mutual respect. With these values as our foundation, I know that we can tackle the challenges ahead.

And now it is my pleasure to pass the torch to Dean Du. Her demonstrated skill at research and administration, her extensive professional and academic experience, along with a strong socially conscious design approach, make her the ideal person to lead our school into the future.

Thank you all for pushing me, and the Daniels Faculty, forward. I am proud of what we accomplished together and I look forward to our future.

Stay safe this summer, and I hope to see you all on campus this fall.

Robert Wright
Interim Dean

Photographs by Thai Go. Follow Thai on Instagram @gothaigo.

rob wright with cue cards departing message
rob wright in main hall