The University of Guelph’s Board of Governors has appointed Dr. Rene Van Acker as its new vice-president (research and innovation) for a five-year term, effective July 1. The announcement was made today by Dr. Charlotte Yates, president and vice-chancellor, who chaired the search committee. 

Previously titled vice-president (research), the word innovation has been added to the role to emphasize U of G’s strategic priority of driving innovation and institutional creativity. Reporting to the president and vice-chancellor as part of the executive leadership team, the vice-president (research and innovation) provides leadership and vision in shaping strategic directions, accelerates growth for greater global impact, supports researchers and promotes the University’s research mission. 

Rene Van Acker headshot. Van Acker is wearing a black suit with a dark tie and a light shirt.
Dr. Rene Van Acker

Van Acker has served as the interim vice-president (research) since July 20, 2023, prior to which he was dean of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). Starting his academic career as a professor at the University of Manitoba, Van Acker returned to U of G in 2006 and has since gained 18 years of experience working in leadership at U of G as the dean of OAC, associate dean and department chair. 

“Rene has done a fabulous job as interim vice-president (research) and we are thrilled to have him continue in the role,” said Yates. “He is deeply familiar with what makes U of G great and has a clear vision of opportunities for advancement in research and innovation that will drive forward our success as one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities.” 

As dean of OAC, Van Acker developed a strong framework and vision for the college through OAC’s renewed strategic plan as well as the OAC Space Visioning Plan, OAC’s first infrastructure master plan in more than 40 years. He also led the fundraising of over $100 million for OAC including support for 25 externally supported chairs and professorships, demonstrating his effectiveness and experience in successful fundraising efforts. Combined with a proven track record of creating new platforms for research, education and outreach and an impressive record as an active faculty member, Van Acker is well-suited to lead U of G’s research and innovation. 

Van Acker said he is excited to continue serving in the role of vice-president (research and innovation).  

“As I’ve come to appreciate the scope and scale of the role, I’m looking forward to continue the work I’ve been doing with the excellent leaders and teams within the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation. We are a very successful research-intensive university, but we can never take our past success for granted. We always need to take a fresh look at what we are doing to be successful going forward, and that’s what I intend to do.” 

Van Acker grew up on a farm near Burford, Ont. before attending U of G to obtain his BSc and MSc and earning a PhD from the University of Reading in the U.K.  

As Van Acker continues in the role of vice-president (research and innovation), Dr. John Cranfield, currently acting dean for the Ontario Agricultural College, will serve as interim dean.