Context & Purpose
Developed in conversation between July 2020 and August 2021, amid waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, this draft framework implements an enduring lesson that our public health crisis brought into sharp relief: plans change—and they should change, too.
The pandemic illustrates the value of a principled flexibility: a willingness to adapt tactics and revise expectations, guided by an abiding series of commitments and values. As our community-leading response to the pandemic attests, this balance serves UTM and U of T especially well, in part because it represents some of the fundamental spirit of academic inquiry. From the discovery of insulin a hundred years ago to the present day, our university makes its greatest impact through a combination of conscientious principles and open exploration: through a mode of learning that remains focused, not fixed, always ready to break new ground as new evidence emerges. The same sense of principled flexibility informs this document.
UTM’s Strategic Framework provides focus, expressing core priorities and key commitments that will strengthen consensus, inspire action, and guide investment. But it also leaves room for change, affording our community the flexibility to realize these priorities in many different ways—including in ways that we haven’t yet considered. It accepts that the future holds new challenges and new chances for which we can’t always plan. But it also refuses to accept that uncertainty entails inaction: it sets the priorities that will structure future decisions, defining terms to understand future opportunities even before they arise.
In balancing structure with agility, the framework also signals its role in our institutional history. As it synthesizes UTM’s first formal campus-wide strategy, the framework represents the culmination of earlier exercises in long-term planning, which have created a series of powerful documents in the last five years:
- 2017 Academic Plan
- 2018 Four Corners Framework
- 2018 Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- 2018 Strategic Research Plan
- 2019 Report on Student Mental Health
- 2019 Low Carbon Action Plan
- 2020 Sustainability Strategic Plan
- 2021 Campus Master Plan
- 2021 Recommendations against Anti-Black Racism
Collectively, these plans provide the details to ground our institutional future: recommendations for action, targets for progress, deadlines for implementation.
Their tremendous precedent enables our strategic framework to take a different approach. It seizes the opportunity to unify our existing targets into a common narrative. It provides a shared language with which to communicate our aspirations to internal and external stakeholders. It makes transparent how we intend to reach decisions and identify areas for additional support and growth.
Empowered by prior plans, the framework articulates our plans’ collective purpose, sharing an account of what we do; a description of priorities we will enact; and a vision of the positive change we will create.
As an expression of UTM’s vision, this framework has professional relevance for our librarians, faculty, and staff, all of whom might use the priorities to focus their efforts; to inform their own departmental or office commitments; and to perceive new and rewarding connections—to see how their individual contributions build toward collective aspirations.
The vision matters for our students, too—and not only because its language prioritizes student success, inclusion, and support. It matters because it imagines our students growing into a future better than the present: more truthful, more sustainable, more innovative, more just. It matters because it describes a world in which our students will assert their place and make their mark: in which they can flourish personally and professionally and help others to flourish, too. It matters because it articulates our responsibility to the next generation, of which our students comprise an essential part: that the linked aspects of a UTM education—teaching, research, connections, supports—will build toward a future that they’ll find worth fighting for.