Headshot of Teo Salgado

Q&A with UTM Alumnus Teo Salgado, Founder of VerveSmith Ltd and 2020 Recipient of the U of T Arbor Award for Exceptional Volunteer Service

Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 9:54am
Negin Neghabat-Wolthoff

An exceptionally respected higher education professional, Teo Salgado began his career with two of the most prominent universities in Ontario, one of them being U of T, after graduating from the University of Toronto Mississauga in 1997 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. 

After leading in and shaping the higher education sector for over 20 years, Salgado launched VerveSmith, Ltd., an education consultancy serving clients from around the world. His firm offers advisory services to prospective students and their families seeking post-secondary programs in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Service to his community, including his alma maters, is second nature for Salgado who serves as a board member of the U of T Mississauga Alumni Association and as a director of the McGill University Alumni Association - Toronto. Through his volunteer involvement at U of T, he has had a direct influence on almost 700 students and young alumni interested in applying to graduate school or looking for advice on the transition to the work world. This year, to recognize his continuous outstanding service to U of T, Salgado was presented with an Arbor Award, the highest honour granted by the University to exceptional and longstanding volunteers.


Congratulations on being named one of the 2020 Arbor Awards recipients! While this is just one among many recognitions for you, what does this award mean to you? 

Some 2,400 U of T alumni have received the Arbor Award since 1989. It is a recognition that alumni – while we are not on campus – still continue to make significant contributions to the broader university community. 

You were a UTM – or, back then, Erindale – student in the 90s. What are some fond memories you could share? 

My experience at Erindale was wonderful. So, there are many I could choose from, like late nights at the Blind Duck or collaborating with friends at the Medium. Still, one of my fondest memories is the sense of camaraderie experienced during exam period. Expecting late nights, I’d pack an overnight bag. I often wouldn’t go home for days. I’d study at the library all day and, when the library closed, our group would continue studying in the South Building Meeting Place. During spring exam period, it was common to see students sleeping under the bright lights. We even had designated time keepers to ensure we didn’t oversleep. 

Can you tell us more about your personal background? Where are you originally from?

I’m from a small town in northern Nicaragua. My family left for Miami, Florida just before the revolution, in 1979, and remained there until 1987, when we moved to Toronto. I should note that I have three brothers, all of whom are U of T Mississauga alumni, too.

After working for almost two decades at universities, you moved on to launch your own company, VerveSmith, Ltd. What compelled you to undertake this transition?

It was an incredibly difficult decision. I still had many ideas for improving the way the university engages alumni. At the same time, change has been constant in my life, and I’d been performing in similar roles for nine years, staying much longer than anticipated. It felt like the right time for a change. Toward the end of my term at Alumni Relations at the university, we began a collaboration with Enrolment Services, and our exchanges reminded me how much I enjoyed working with young people. Now, I work with students with big aspirations and help them realize their goals. It’s very rewarding work. 

What motivated you originally to start volunteering with your alma mater and what does your volunteer work with UTM mean to you today?

My parents both are avid volunteers. They instilled in my brothers and me the understanding that we are responsible for doing our part to advance our community’s priorities. As a student leader, I aimed to improve the student experience; today, my goal remains the same. I have a unique opportunity to continue the work I started in 1992.

In addition to contributing your time as a volunteer, you are also a donor to U of T. What inspired you to give back?

I did a lot of my independent learning at U of T’s libraries. Recognizing their important role in an academic community, I direct my giving there. As far as I’m concerned, the library system is a jewel in U of T’s crown that must be supported.