By Isabelle Langlois
The new Rector of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Magda Fusaro, marked the beginning of her 5-year term by launching an ambitious program she calls “1 Community, 10 Actions, 100 Days.” Fusaro, Robert Proulx’s successor since January 2018, challenged herself to set up ten priority actions during the next few months, from the development of inclusive education the creation of a concerted strategy to promote UQAM’s contribution to innovation. An interview with the woman behind this vision.
What strategic line are you aiming for with these actions?
These ten flagship actions will enable UQAM to re-focus itself, to demonstrate its value and to be the university it is capable of being: an important one that makes itself known in the city. UQAM distinguishes itself with its incredible research, educational offerings, programs and support. Each of these major actions corresponds to the institution’s needs, as well as those of Quebec society. In this regard, significant connections can be made with the Quartier de l’Innovation (QI). We share the same fundamental conviction that innovation is society’s driver of transformation. I also believe that information sharing is a big part of this transformation.
In fact, you changed the vice-rectorship’s name to reintroduce the information-sharing aspect.
Yes, and it isn’t just publication in academic journals or propagation among peers that’s important. I also include media circulation and public speaking about societal issues, as well as the launch of the UQAM Foundation’s major campaign, 100 million ideas. It highlights the creative potential of this university, where all disciplines and research fields are found. This is what makes UQAM a very rich and prolific university.
Will your collaboration with the QI allow you to showcase this aspect?
This partnership is a privileged platform for showing how we contribute to social innovation in a thousand and one ways. For example, we are the only university with a community service whose number one mission is to create connections between UQAM’s expertise and the needs of the community. Reinforcing the cooperation between UQAM and the QI through workshops, summits or joint initiatives will enhance the impact of both organizations. This collaboration is a social experiment that I think is wonderful.
You know, we often hear that UQAM is the university of the people in Montréal. It is known for being socially involved in its community.
It’s a university that works for society and we repeat that as much as possible. It is distinguished by this position, which is seen in some of our programs, such as the unique one in feminist studies, and our student population, which is 46% made up of first-generation university students. Some people might feel that UQAM is just a university on strike, but even this aspect is important to me because we are educating citizens and critical minds. When I’m asked what UQAM is, I always answer that it’s the best university because of this tradition of involvement with the community. I want to reinforce this message and make it positive.
Do you experience this social aspect through consultations, which are at the centre of your approach?
I am indeed someone who does many consultations. During the next few weeks, I will sit down with different associations to forge bonds of trust. I want to establish a dialogue that respects opinions, gender diversity and lines of thinking. I know UQAM well because I was a student here and have had the opportunity to work in several positions. I don’t just understand the requirements, but the reasoning too. We welcome many different communities here and we need to stay open. Sometimes, the management’s decisions can still seem to be against certain groups; with 41,000 students and 5,000 employees, we can’t all agree.
What makes your management different?
I fight for the diversity, beauty and respect for humanity in all its forms. We can always solve administrative, technological and even organizational problems, but we can never deny the human factor. Whether you’re a support employee, an executive, a part-time lecturer, a professor, a student or a graduate, everyone contributes to UQAM.
You seem comfortable in the saddle since taking up the position.
I am, but it’s still a difficult job. We are navigating complex realities, with extremely diversified needs and gruelling budgetary contexts. As Rector, I am called on to intervene, develop, engage and manage, both internally and externally. I’m going through incredible days one after the other!
Do you believe that you will succeed in your 10 actions in 100 days challenge?
I very much intend to reach my goal. Currently, a third of my 10 actions have been launched! And I’m still talking about 100 working days, here. I’d like to work on Saturdays and Sundays, but I’m being given a few extra days because, unlike me, the community doesn’t work weekends! (laughs)
The Quartier de l’Innovation, UQAM and C2 Montréal are preparing the 7th Montréal Summit on Innovation (MSI) on May 23 during the big C2 Montréal conference. This year, the MSI’s theme will be “Entrepreneurship + Social impact: increasing the potential for collaboration in the city” and MSI will offer six novel activities to entrepreneurs, university researchers and other community participants in order to fast-track innovation in the city. Find out more!