UofT Mississauga campus drone shot

Rule the School

Carla DeMarco


With a term officially starting in July 2023, new Dean aims to accentuate and build on all that UTM has to offer and break free from misperceptions

Professor Nick Rule, UTM's Vice-Principal, Academic and Dean as of July 1, 2023
Professor Nick Rule, UTM's Vice-Principal,
Academic and Dean as of July 1, 2023
Photo by Carla DeMarco

An expert in social psychology, Professor Nicholas Rule is keenly aware of how personal perceptions frequently permeate and persist in colouring people’s opinions and observations of others. This can be applied to how places are perceived, too, and one of his overarching priorities as UTM’s new Vice-Principal, Academic and Dean (VPAD) starting on July 1, 2023, is for UTM to own and embrace its excellence and step out from behind the sometimes towering presence of the St. George campus.

“The dominant narrative often for the University of Toronto centers around the urban experience of studying in downtown Toronto, and I think when people imagine UofT, that's often what they're thinking,” says Rule in a recent episode of VIEW to the U podcast.

“UTM would appeal to a lot of students, faculty, and staff, who otherwise have a different impression of what UofT is, and I’d like to see us do more in terms of letting people know what UTM really has to offer and what's unique – from the extremely gorgeous campus with first-rate, modern architecture to the excellent academic programs that are only available here, as well as the fantastic research happening on this campus that doesn’t always get captured within the broader context of UofT's research powerhouse.”

Rule says he fully intends to support the groundwork that has already been laid, specifically in striving towards the priorities outlined in UTM’s Strategic Framework, but also to continue to build on established partnerships, particularly with the Peel region and at the local level with the city of Mississauga to ensure all collaborators benefit.

Rule joined the Faculty of Arts & Science in the Department of Psychology at UofT in 2010 as a Canada Research Chair. His four-year term as VPAD runs until the end of June 2027.

“I would really like to see us thinking about ourselves as the premier research institution in this area and servicing this extremely large community within the country, and also a really vibrant one, with lots of cultural diversity, socioeconomic diversity,” says Rule.

Rule, who identifies as gay, is a stalwart advocate of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and aims to ensure that marginalized and underrepresented groups in the academic environment have the resources they need.

His other main objective is to foster and encourage a community made up of various backgrounds, particularly people coming from lower socioeconomic status.

As someone who grew up in extreme poverty in a rural part of Florida, without access to a decent education system, he is passionate about assisting people who are financially disadvantaged. Rule was the first person in his family to attend university, and while he progressed through his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth and a Masters’ and PhD program at Tufts University, he did not come across others who had a comparable background, or, at least, were open about acknowledging any humble beginnings. This experience provided him with the motivation to create a community of support for others who may be similarly struggling with trying to fit in to the world of academia and feeling like they don’t necessarily belong here. He is the founder of a mentorship program for first-generation scholars in psychology.

“I know the importance and the value of education, and it isn’t hyperbole for me to say that getting an education literally transformed my life, lifted me out of poverty, and gave me opportunities to have an existence that I never imagined for myself,” says Rule.

“At a personal level, I would like to do outreach and connect with people at UTM or living in the Peel region, who come from a background like mine, and give them the opportunity, the hope, and the chance at the life of their choosing, that is more than what they imagined for themselves.”



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