L-R, Nancy Brown Andison, Board of Governors vice-chair; Dr. Charlotte Yates, U of G president; Shauneen Bruder, Board of Governors chair

Harnessing the University of Guelph’s “genius” to improve the world is the top priority for Dr. Charlotte Yates, who was installed Saturday as the University’s ninth president and vice-chancellor.

She becomes U of G’s first woman president.

A respected scholar, teacher, researcher, policy adviser and academic leader, Yates said during her installation address that she aims to build on U of G’s reputation for teaching excellence, its tradition of interdisciplinary research for solving critical global problems, and its contributions to culture and communities.

“It is about taking our ‘genius’ and using it to make the world a better place,” she said, adding that universities are critical for fostering innovators, leaders and problem solvers while finding solutions to international challenges.

“I have a deep pride and admiration for what this institution is and where it’s going. To say I feel privileged to lead and advance us into a bolder knowledge-rich future is an understatement.”

Her installation took place during a small, in-person ceremony on campus that was live-streamed to a global audience. Among attendees were dignitaries including numerous First Nations and Métis leaders and government officials, former U of G chancellors and presidents, prominent U of G supporters and current higher education leaders.

Speakers included Shauneen Bruder, chair of the U of G Board of Governors; Roberta Bondar, an alumna and former Canadian astronaut; and student speakers. The event began with a procession to the Strong Woman Song performed by Indigenous student drummers. U of G professor Lawrence Hill served as master of ceremonies.

Yates said she never dreamed of becoming a university president.

Prof. Lawrence Hill

Referring to her rural Manitoba roots, she said her undergraduate studies at the University of Winnipeg and graduate work at Queen’s University and Carleton University were transformative.

“There is no doubt that my education played a critical role in achieving this milestone. Just as my parents dreamed big for me, I am dreaming big for this University. I want to advance our pursuit of greatness by achieving global excellence and building on our strengths.”

Yates said U of G will pursue global excellence by recruiting top students, faculty and staff “with different experiences, different backgrounds and different perspectives. We must elevate and advance those voices that are under-represented today.”

Yates also promised to “reconnect the social fibres that have been frayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and build on U of G’s civic-minded values and sense of community.

“Under my leadership, we will be recognized nationally and globally for our unique commitment to mobilizing knowledge into action, and for our deep and distinctive interdisciplinarity. I will ensure we continue to push the limits in our unique approach to learning, built on our history but decidedly focused on solving the problems of the future.”

She also pledged to ensure fiscal stability, invest in research and scholarship, and engage with alumni, donors and other supporters.

“In this time of great uncertainty, we will come together stronger than ever before, leveraging our genius to improve life both on campus and across the globe.”

Yates was named U of G’s president in August 2021. During the preceding year, she served as acting and interim president.

Since joining U of G in 2015 as provost and vice-president (academic), Yates has demonstrated deep commitment to students, staff and faculty, and has cultivated strong connections with the University’s external constituencies.

Earlier, Yates was dean of the faculty of social sciences at McMaster University, where she was a faculty member in the department of political science and the labour studies program.

During her extensive career, she has focused on student success through experiential, problem-based learning and mentorship.

As a professor and administrative leader, she has championed the rights of women, Indigenous peoples and other equity-seeking and marginalized groups. She has combined her commitment to equity with a passion for governance and policy, strategic budgeting and institutional innovation.

A nationally recognized and widely published expert on labour issues and the Canadian automotive industry, Yates has been awarded more than $10 million in research grants. Her research has been recognized by leading academic organizations including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Industrial Relations Association.

She has authored three books and dozens of peer-reviewed publications and has supervised more than 40 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers and mentored dozens of undergraduate students.

Among her many community engagements, Yates is a past president of the YWCA Hamilton and a current member of the YWCA national board of directors; director of the Automotive Policy Research Centre; and a member of both the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council and the partnership board of the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail in Montreal.

She and her spouse, Bob Currie, have two children, Elliott and Ned.