Vice-President and Principal Alexandra Gillespie
Professor Alexandra Gillespie began her first term as Principal of the University of Toronto Mississauga on July 1, 2020. The first woman appointed to the position, Gillespie brings to the Principal’s Office a spirit of innovation, interdisciplinarity, and inclusion that have defined her academic career for the past two decades.
After completing her BA (Hons) in English at Victoria University of Wellington in her native New Zealand, Gillespie attended Oxford’s Corpus Christi College where she earned an MSt and DPhil. She went on to a Research Fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford, and the Munby Fellowship at Darwin College, Cambridge, before coming to UTM in 2004. Since then, she has worked successfully as both a Professor of English literature and a leader across the tri-campus system. Recognized in 2010 with UTM’s Award for Teaching Excellence, her classes turn interpretation into a communal activity, in which the interplay of diverse perspectives produces a range of meanings richer than any single person could imagine alone. This commitment to open collaboration drives her administrative work as well. She has helped build academic communities as Chair of UTM’s Department of English & Drama; as an early member of Toronto’s Initiative for Diversity & Excellence; as the first Director of the Jackman Humanities Institute’s Digital Humanities Network; and as UTM’s Vice-Presidential Special Advisor in Research.
Gillespie’s own research combines tradition with innovation, old books with new scientific technologies. Her expertise ranges from Middle English paleography to micro-CT scanning, from the poetics of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to the fungi on Dunhuang printed pages. Her publications have uncovered in early books a corresponding diversity of stories about literatures, cultures, and ecologies across the premodern world. In more than forty articles, two monographs, and six co-edited volumes, her scholarship has consistently changed what it means to read the past in a book. Concurrently, Gillespie has worked to change the structure of humanities research itself in her role as director of Toronto’s Old Books New Science Lab. Unlike the traditional model, in which a single humanist works in isolation, the OBNS Lab connects graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and university faculty in the collaborative pursuit of literary, cultural, and historical knowledge. This passion for informed teamwork equally animates Gillespie’s research leadership across the University as a whole, including her recent interdisciplinary work as primary investigator for Toronto’s Institutional Strategic Initiative in Global Book Science.
As Principal, Gillespie looks forward to discovering even more opportunities for teamwork and collaboration; to strengthening relationships with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members; and to building together a future full of curiosity, knowledge, and social justice.
The Vice-President and Principal of the University of Toronto Mississauga is the Chief Executive Officer of the campus and reports to the President of the University of Toronto.