Vaccarino Installed as President, Encourages ‘Adaptation’

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Our changing world needs more of the University of Guelph – and U of G must not only respond to but also help to shape those changes.

That was the message from Franco Vaccarino during his installation as U of G’s eighth president and vice-chancellor Saturday in War Memorial Hall.

“An important part of our mission as a university is to provide an environment with broad perspectives and analysis, and the opportunity for people to adapt in healthy ways to a changing world,” he told his audience, including U of G community members, dignitaries, current presidents and vice-presidents of Canadian universities and colleges, and former U of G presidents.

This means helping people address uncertainty and confront ambiguity, and providing clarity and the intellectual tools needed to“successfully navigate through the complexities and dynamics of modern society,” Vaccarino said.

“The interconnectedness of our world today makes knowledge more accessible and abundant. This is accelerating discovery and new learning faster than many of us can catch up to it,” he said.

U of G must instill an ability to adapt and thrive, while also fostering innovation, discovery and learning, Vaccarino said.

Universities should also help people find meaning, belonging and a sense of direction, he said. “With today’s pace of chance and related uncertainties, this is more important now than ever.”

Referring to U of G’s history and track record of community-mindedness, he said, “In pursuit of healthy adaptation, we must never compromise what makes Guelph so unique – our integrity, our team and community spirit.

“How and what we choose to explore will always be grounded in, and guided by, these timeless values that we have held for 150 years.”

He also stressed the need to use university knowledge and research.

“We have a solemn responsibility to apply the fresh thinking that is happening within Guelph classrooms and labs, and within our student life experiences, in ways that enhance our communities and our world.

“We must lead the discussion of ‘now what’ – turning our research breakthroughs, our new and emerging knowledge, into action.”

Vaccarino was selected as president in January 2014 following an international search, and assumed his new role Aug. 1.

“Our eighth president and vice-chancellor, Franco Vaccarino, clearly has what it takes to lead the University of Guelph in the years ahead,” said Dick Freeborough, chair of the Board of Governors.

“He is a remarkable scholar and educator as well as an accomplished administrator — someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, a powerful sense of community and a profound commitment to societal engagement.”

Vaccarino has spent 30 years as a teacher, researcher, policy adviser and academic leader. Most recently, he was a vice-president at the University of Toronto and principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough.

He has been recognized internationally for his research in psychology and neuroscience. He led the development of the World Health Organization’s first-ever authoritative report on the neuroscience of addiction, and led the integration of four research centres into what is now Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Vaccarino has received major awards from leading scientific organizations and was recently named a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, one of the highest honours for members of the Canadian health sciences community.

He also served as executive vice-president (programs) and vice-president (research) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and as vice-president and director of research, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, both in Toronto.

He holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and an M.Sc. and a PhD in psychology from McGill University.

He and his spouse, Cosmina, a psychotherapist, have two daughters, Oriana, 24, a PhD student in applied social psychology at U of G, and Elysia, 22, who is pursuing a master’s degree in the field at York University.