Reinventing the university
With this project, one of the world’s leading universities is committing to reinvent the very notion of a university — its structure, purpose, and how it serves its students and society.
Why? Because today’s global problems are too complex to be tackled using the traditional university structures of faculties and departments. Their solutions demand creative and sustained effort by leading thinkers and practitioners across a multitude of disciplines. They demand innovation and partnerships across the public and private spheres. They demand the creative fire and energy of students unconstrained by convention and custom.
The academic plan
How can we ensure the prosperity of people today without endangering the well-being of our neighbours and of future generations?
Confronting climate change will not be enough. A sustainable future depends on our ability to address the impact of human activity on the environment in tandem with its economic and social impacts. This is why the New Vic will center on two academic pillars:
McGill is taking a “Systems” approach to sustainability, taking into account the relationships between sustainability challenges and goals – understanding that actions towards a goal in one system will often impact many interconnected systems. We will build on the interdisciplinary strengths that McGill has spent decades developing, providing a research and learning environment where new ideas grow and new partnerships flourish. The New Vic will house three research clusters that are central to sustainability: Molecular/Materials Systems, Earth Systems, and Urban Systems. These clusters will develop greater collaboration, share resources (equipment, space, personnel, and administration) and have access to wet, dry, and computational laboratory spaces.
Driven by the Max Bell School of Public Policy Policy and select Institutes and Centres of the Faculty of Arts, we will bring policy expertise into direct conversation with Sustainability Systems. This will ensure that new discoveries and technologies are communicated to those who are ultimately responsible for putting them into practice. At the same time, scientists will learn from policy experts, so their work can be informed by the realities of the governments, communities and citizens who will adopt them. Tomorrow’s policy leaders will be informed by a dynamic multidisciplinary environment, fueling evidence-based policy from the local to the national level.
The sustainability issues we face are more complex than ever before, but our ability to meet them has never been greater. With their mission to connect brilliant minds and drive discovery and innovation for the collective good, universities like McGill are our best chance to solve seemingly intractable problems. And while no one institution — no matter how skilled — will solve our sustainability and environmental challenges alone, each must play a part in a global push for change. McGill’s role is clear: we have an exceptional ability to pair outstanding strengths in sustainability-focused science and engineering with the social science and policy expertise to translate knowledge into real-world sustainability impact. We have the people, the partners and the vision to make important contributions to the global pursuit of answers. But we need to give our teams every possible resource, including the space, to get the job done.