Rhonda McEwen appointed UTM dean

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 12:01pm
Kate Martin

Professor Rhonda McEwen’s personal website features the Latin quote “Propterea quod qui audet adipiscitur.”

Translation: Because she who dares, wins.

It’s a philosophy McEwen has built her career on, and now her long list of accomplishments has a new entry: she has been appointed UTM’s vice-principal, academic and dean. Her appointment was announced by Agenda Committee of Academic Board today.

“I am delighted Professor McEwen has accepted the role of vice-principal, academic and dean,” said Vice-President & Principal Alexandra Gillespie. “She is both an experienced leader and accomplished academic, and I look forward to working with her in her new role. I know she will be terrific, building on the exceptional work done by our current dean, Amrita Daniere.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank Professor Daniere for her outstanding leadership and commitment, especially during this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

McEwens five-year term will begin July 1.

“I take to heart the honour and trust imparted to me as I take the baton from our incredible dean Amrita Daniere,” said McEwen. “UTM is an inspiring environment – our students, staff and faculty are the source of the campus’ continuous energy. I am inspired every day by the many examples of the warmth and respect that we have for each other.”

McEwen currently serves as UTM’s special advisor to the vice-president and principal on anti-racism and equity, and is also the director of the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology (ICCIT) at UTM.

Under her direction, ICCIT has evolved into a stand-alone unit, with a new professional experience certificate in digital media, communication and technology. During her five-year term, ICCIT enrolment grew by more than 20 per cent, student retention improved to more than 90 per cent and successful faculty grant applications rose by 70 per cent.

McEwen has been involved in numerous inclusion initiatives including UTM’s Black Table Talks, a networking opportunity for Black students, faculty and staff, and Visions of Science, which engages youth from low-income or marginalized communities with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As a member of UTM’s research council, she helped develop a policy to support female researchers on parental leave.

McEwen said she plans to focus on the strategic priorities identified by Gillespie: enabling excellence in student and faculty research; developing inclusive communities and sustainable spaces; and inspiring academic innovation and student success.

“At UTM, to take risks in developing new programs, constructing spaces, expanding research and delivering student success every year for over five decades – and succeed – is remarkable,” she said. “To continue to do so during and after this pandemic is extraordinary.”

McEwen’s research that focuses on social and new media emphasizes mobile and table interactions; it has earned her awards including a $500,000 Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, an Ontario Centres of Excellence grant and numerous Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grants to explore the potential uses of emerging technologies in student development and participation.

McEwen co-authored the peer-reviewed book Understanding Tablets from Early Childhood to Adulthood (2017), challenging a dominant narrative that tablets are for all learners, and her research has been shared in more than 30 journal articles and book chapters, and in the mainstream media.

She was the host and closing remarks speaker for the launch of the U of T Schwartz-Reisman Institute for Technology and Society in 2019, and later this month, will be presenting virtually at the Academy of Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, McEwen completed a bachelor of science degree in sociology and management at the University of West Indies, St. Augustine, an MBA in Information Technology at City, University of London and a master of science in telecommunications at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

After moving to Canada in the early 2000s, McEwen worked for both Deloitte and IBM, where she was a consultant on business development for information technology management. Her time at IBM inspired her to pursue a PhD from U of T’s Faculty of Information. McEwen joined the ICCIT in 2011 as an assistant professor, teaching courses at both UTM and St. George.

“In my role as vice-principal, academic and dean, I will continue to do the things I love best – listening to my campus community, deciding on issues collaboratively and successfully executing on our vision,” she said. “I am excited by challenges and I see many opportunities for UTM."