Interview with Concordia President Graham Carr: Fall 2021

On the return to in-person classes amid COVID-19, vaccination policy, and more.

President and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, Graham Carr, spoke with The Concordian about the gradual return of in-person instruction, the construction of a new building for the Concordia Student Union (CSU), and the strategy for the university’s success on a global scale.

TC:  With the fall semester just a week away, how ready is Concordia for a gradual return to in-person classes?

GC: I think we’re pretty ready for a gradual return to in-person classes. I think a lot of people in our community are also really looking forward to coming back.

TC: In this hybrid semester, how will the university provide students with the best learning experience while also mitigating the risk of COVID-19?

GC: Those are… the two most important goals for this semester. We want to do our utmost to make sure that students have as great of an experience as possible academically, whether they’re here in person, studying remotely, or doing a mix of in-person and online. And of course, as we have been doing over the last 18 months, we’re very focused on the health and safety of the community.

The deans, led by the Provost, over the course of the summer really took their time to think through the schedule that they wanted to offer students for fall. That meant thinking through which courses they felt could productively be delivered online that may not have been delivered online before, and which courses were going to offer an important in-person component or a hybrid component as well.

One of the things that motivated the decisions in all of the faculties was making sure that there were a significant number of online courses targeted to students who we knew might have difficulties being in Montreal in person, particularly international students. So we did a mapping of which courses had high international student enrollment and were compulsory for programs, and have tried to make sure that we have online components there.

TC: If an international student’s arrival is delayed by the 14-day quarantine (or other issues related to vaccination or travel) — and they have in-person courses — would Concordia be able to accommodate them in any way?

GC: Yes. We’ve been messaging with international students directly for months now, because it’s been a challenging environment for international student travel generally. And the instructions that we were getting from federal and provincial authorities were that students should be planning … to start arriving in Canada in mid/late August, and we know that a number of international students are already arriving.

But others, for the reasons you described, won’t be able to be here at the beginning of the semester. So what we have done is we’ve set a deadline for Nov. 8, which is the add/drop date, and have given students that leeway to arrive in Montreal — which is important for the visa processing that they all need to go through as well. So we’re trying to be as flexible as possible and, in the meantime, provide those students … with a way to begin their semester in an online environment.

TC: Concordia has encouraged both international and local students to get vaccinated as soon as possible. But some Canadian institutions such as the University of Ottawa and Carleton University have gone even further, making vaccination mandatory for all students and staff to continue studying or working on campus. Is Concordia considering using the same approach anytime soon?

GC:  In Quebec, the government has deemed higher education to be an essential service. And we are not … allowed to deny essential services to individuals on medical grounds. … To be quite honest, I think we are, like other universities in the province, reluctant to demand mandatory vaccines when it’s not clear how we would implement that. It’s not clear how we would monitor that, particularly on university campuses, which have many, many, many points of entry.

So instead, what we will be doing is taking advantage of something that’s unique in Quebec, which is the vaccine passport. What we are looking at is how we can apply the vaccine passports for non-essential activities that happen on the campus: things like going to the gym for recreational purposes, going to Reggies, going to cafeteria and other food places, or attending cinema events that are not academic. If we can implement those measures on campus, our feeling is that will further encourage and incentivize unvaccinated people (whether they’re faculty, staff or students) to get vaccinated.

We will have vaccination sites on both campuses, which we’re mounting in collaboration with public health and the city of Montreal, and we’ll have mobile vaccination units as well. Now there’s also a kiosk at the Trudeau Airport which allows international students … to get vaccinated once they arrive, if they are not fully vaccinated at that point.

So I think when you put together the ensemble of those measures, over the already-high vaccination rate that students in Quebec have achieved*, I feel that there’s quite a good range of measures that are in place … to help us ensure a safe experience for everyone.

* In Quebec, over 82 per cent of university and CEGEP students are either fully vaccinated or have booked their second dose appointment, thus exceeding the provincial government’s original target of 75 per cent.

TC: If Santé Québec ends the provincial mask mandate later this fall, which would apply to university classrooms as well, will Concordia follow suit and make masks optional on campus then?

GC: Well, I’m not going to forecast what may or may not happen. Obviously, that would be a major decision on the part of Santé Québec. You may remember that it was McGill and Concordia that insisted upon mandatory masking (including in classes) with procedural masks, not face coverings. And subsequently, that became policy for the higher education sector as a whole, as we see, as of [Aug. 24] for certain elementary and secondary school districts as well. The public health situation has been evolving.

If we’ve learned one thing over the course of the last 17 months or so, it’s the challenge of predicting where the next bend in the COVID-19 road will occur. And I think our track record has been pretty good in terms of adapting to those changes in ways that maintain the health and safety of our community. Obviously, we work very closely with public health authorities, and we would certainly cross that bridge when we get to it — I think is the best answer at this point.

TC: Earlier in March, the CSU held a referendum on a variety of issues, including the construction of a new building for the CSU, and nearly 85 per cent of all students who participated voted in favour of the project. With the CSU saying that it will provide a new “space for events, social gatherings and new services,” does the Concordia administration support this project? And if so, how would you collaborate with the CSU to make this plan a reality?

GC: In 2019-20, the then-head of the Concordia Student Union began meeting with me and more importantly with Roger Côté, who was the vice president of services at that time, to discuss exactly how we would collaborate on creating the student union building.

Those conversations obviously got interrupted because of COVID. There was a change in the CSU with the elections for the 2020-21 team, but conversation resumed late in the 2021 mandate — probably around the time when the referendum was taken — between the CSU and our facilities management people, led by Michael Di Grappa, who is now the vice president for services and sustainability. So the university has been very open to that.

There’s been talk at Concordia for decades, frankly, about having a Concordia Student Union building on the downtown campus. Equally importantly, we want to make sure that in the coming years, we improve student services on the Loyola campus as well. I know that’s something that the current CSU leadership is also interested in. There’s a report which is due on the animation and future of the Loyola campus, which had student representation over the last year and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing that report. So for us, how we can, as a university, improve student services, including places for students is important, but not just on the downtown campus — on both campuses.

TC: Last year, Concordia was ranked first in Canada of all universities under 50 years old. Going forward, what will be your strategy to not only maintain Concordia’s reputation among Canadian universities, but also to increase its prestige on an international level?

GC: That’s an important priority for us, because we know that one of the things which is hugely motivating for students in selecting a university are the rankings.

I would say that looking forward, … one of the areas where we’re really focusing is on sustainability, and particularly the work that we’re doing to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So there is the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which measure how universities are performing against the 17 UN SDGs. By performance, they’re measuring not only their academic and research activity, but also what’s called the stewardship of the goals: how the institution advances the goals through its own operational practices, its external partnerships, etc.

And earlier this spring, … Concordia was ranked 62nd in the world, for the work that we’re doing on advancing the SDGs. And in three categories, we were actually ranked in the top 25 in the world; in one of those categories, which was reducing inequalities, we were ranked number one in Canada.

This will not only improve the impact that Concordia is making as a university for the community and society at large, but it will bring recognition internationally for us. … We announced in the spring that we wanted to undertake a map of voluntary university review, to map how we are performing against each of the UN sustainable development goals — that process has begun. And I think it’s something that’s very exciting, very mobilizing for the community as a whole, and has a great opportunity to position Concordia as a leader internationally.

TC: Is there anything you would like to say personally to all Concordia students ahead of the new academic year?

GC: I want to wish everybody good luck! I have to say it will be nice to see more people on campus in the fall.

I recognize fully that there’s a spectrum of opinions, attitudes and concerns about the return to campus, and I appreciate that some students and some faculty, staff and administrators have misgivings about returning because of the public health situation. But I think we have to be feeling so much better than we felt a year ago at this time.

There’s still uncertainty, but the situation 12 months later is that we can offer a rich mix of in-person and online activities. Our online courses continue to improve because of what we’ve learned over the course of the last 17 months. And more importantly, we’re able to bring society to reopen in part because of the success of the vaccination program, which was not the case a year ago.

I fully expect that everybody coming on the campus should be vaccinated at this point, unless they have a valid medical or religious reason not to be. And if there are students, faculty or staff who still are not fully vaccinated, my message to them is:

Please, get fully vaccinated. Not only for your sake, above all, but also for the health and safety of the community as a whole.


Photo courtesy of Concordia University


Interview with Concordia University President Graham Carr

On this unprecedented year, and a hint on what students can expect going forward

Concordia University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr virtually sat down with The Concordian to talk about this past year and the university’s plans moving forwards.

TC: How did Concordia handle the changes brought on by the pandemic?

GC: I’m pretty pleased with how the whole university community responded. I think that faculty members, by and large, really made a great effort … to develop courses in the online environment that were stimulating for students and that allowed them to develop the competencies that they needed.

Not to say that [students] enjoyed the situation, nobody enjoyed the fact that we were not able to access campus — but … we had [the] largest graduating class we’ve ever had last June. We had the largest summer enrollment that we ever had. And interestingly, in January, we had the lowest dropout rate from courses that we’ve ever had.

So to me what that says is that students, although it was a challenging year, were making adaptations to try and to cope with the situation.

TC: Can you provide an update on what students can expect for the upcoming year?

GC: We anticipate and we hope that our fall [2021] will include a much greater number of in-person courses. Our senses [are] that students who are not currently in Montreal*… would prefer to be in Montreal, even if some of their courses continue to be delivered online.

Our goal with this is that by May, we can actually tell students, this is what the schedule is going to look like.

*On March 29, Concordia sent a letter encouraging international students to make plans to move back to Montreal for the fall semester. More information can be found here.

TC: Will Concordia consider providing vaccinations for students on campus?

GC: So that’s a discussion point that universities are having with public health. We’ve indicated that we would be prepared to [be a] site for vaccination for members of our own community.

But the decision around the rollout of vaccinations is … a decision of public health authorities. For the moment, they’re focused on an age based vaccination process … and we are part of those conversations with public health, about [the] potential strategies with regard to our own community, including students.

TC: A lot of students have complained that the quality of education has not remained the same. Can you speak on that?

GC: In March and April of last year when we really had to switch on a dime, from in-person teaching to remote teaching … that was an emergency situation and I think faculty members adapted as best they could.

Since that time … many faculty members have continued to modify their approach to teaching in an online environment. So I think that the quality of what is available — I won’t say in every single case — generally, online, has significantly improved.

TC: How are you hearing back from students without the teacher evaluations?

GC: We’ve done a number of surveys with students over the course of the last year. I … meet regularly with both the heads of [the] CSU and the Graduate Student Association. When we were at the height of the closures, we were meeting once or twice a week.

Also we had the COVID-19 hotline and web based interaction where we literally received thousands of questions and comments from students.

TC: Students were asking for a pass/fail option this past year, and the university granted the option for one class after much deliberation. Could you speak on that decision?

GC: Under the context of COVID we were trying to make accommodations which will reduce tension and stress on the student population. If I have any regret about the fall, [it] was that we didn’t come to that decision and announce that decision a few weeks earlier.

I think the ideal framework in which to approach a pass/fail option is not something that’s across the board, but something that’s very selective and which has a positive intention of allowing and encouraging students to experiment. This is something that we want to look at with [the] senate as a potential permanent change to the universities approach going forward.

TC: There have been calls to reduce tuition. What are your thoughts on that movement?

GC: Tuition for the overwhelming majority of students is set by the Government of Quebec. When students are paying tuition they’re paying for the competency that comes with the credits that they get for the course. And whether that’s delivered in an online environment or an in-person environment, the competencies are still the same.

I’m comfortable that the tuition that students pay is to allow them to achieve those objectives.


Courtesy of Concordia University

Student Life

Concordia is not doing enough: the case for tuition reduction

The University has not been lenient towards students amid a global pandemic

Last May, Concordia’s proposed budget was decided by the Board of Governors and was “long-term oriented to address post COVID-19 structural issues.” The 2020-2021 budget assumes the impacts of COVID-19 will go on for three years into the future. However, recent developments in clinical testing by Pfizer and Moderna have led the government to stockpile available doses. This means a return towards pre-COVID life might come sooner than expected. As such, a crucial reduction in tuition is justified despite the university potentially operating under a larger deficit for the current fiscal year.

Thousands of students have petitioned since the beginning of the fall semester to reduce tuition. Nearly 97 per cent of students who participated in the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) by-elections of 2020 voted in favour of tuition reduction.

In a town hall meeting  hosted by the CSU on Nov. 19, students considered mass organization and protests against tuition hikes, similar to the 2012 student strike. They stated that, “In the context of the pandemic, we need to do that now as well — enough is enough.”

Many feel as though the school is indifferent towards the plight of its students.

“I’m convinced that the university doesn’t really care. They’d let half of us die if it means that the other half will be filled with students, because what they’re really interested in is keeping us enrolled and keeping us paying,”  said a student who was interviewed by The Link.

While students continue to voice their concerns, Concordia’s current budget leaves little to no room for financial leniency towards them.

According to Fiona Harrison-Roberts, the outgoing finance coordinator of the Journalism Student Association (JSA), “Concordia will be increasing the price of tuition this year as opposed to reducing tuition.”

“COVID-19[‘s] recurrent and structural impact will need to be integrated into the budget model for fiscal years 2021-2022 and thereafter,” as mentioned in the budget’s PDF document.

With a bulk of students shifting from full-time to part-time as well as a decline in first-year students, Concordia experienced an expected loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19.

“The drop is attributable to lost income from on-campus activities such as residence room rentals, parking and conferences, and diminished tuition revenue because of a decline in international student registrations, particularly at the graduate level,” said Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr in a public statement .

Currently, Concordia is operating under a deficit of five to eight per cent for the fiscal year.

“It is a large amount; however, the figures are similar to what the Government of Quebec has invested in proportion to its own budget to address the COVID crisis,” Carr added.

While Concordia is using the government’s actions to justify their current expenditures, the question to be asked is whether comparing themselves to a provincial government that has not done enough in the face of COVID-19 is a smart thing to do.

Regardless, as the student body grows more restless and with vaccines available this upcoming year, a “three-year financial plan” to combat the effects of COVID-19 becomes less pertinent. Students continue their uphill battle this year in paying rent and tuition, working, and studying through “Zoom University,” with little to no financial relief from their institution.

Concordia boasts of a “solid financial track record” in reference to their “balanced budget for 2019-20” after public funding cuts forced deficits for many years.

“In 2019-2020, before COVID, we had a balanced budget for the first time in six years,” stated Carr.

While it may be a commendable feat for some, Concordia’s members should ask themselves: at whose cost was this achievement realized, if not the students’?

Operating under a larger deficit to ensure the financial safety and security of nearly 50,000 students during a global pandemic is not an unreasonable demand. Especially when such an operation runs at the detriment of both the financial and mental health of its students.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Welcome back: Concordia in the age of COVID-19

The strangest semester in the history of our university has officially begun

Along with the rest of the world, Concordia and its students are adjusting to a crushing new reality. To date, over 27 million people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide. The virus has claimed nearly 6,000 lives in Quebec alone, and while the death rate has slowed, the number of losses continues to climb. Marked by insecurity, inequality, and inexhaustible anxiety, the past months have been a challenge, to say the least.

Despite this, we’ve somehow managed to stumble our way through half a year of this mess. We’re adapting, a little clumsily at times, but enough to continue our studies in the midst of a global meltdown. All things considered, it’s pretty impressive.

For most of us, adaptation will take the form of Zoom classes in our pyjama bottoms and study dates in the park. Some obstacles, however, will be more difficult to tackle: in the wake of such colossal uncertainty, countless students are faced with a lack of funds, a lack of accessibility, and a decline in their mental wellbeing. Demanding support from the institutions that vow to support us is crucial, and this includes our university.

This year at The Concordian, we aim to connect students with the resources they need; to hold our university and other institutions accountable for the promises they make; and to tell the stories of students, faculty, staff, and everyone in between as they navigate these treacherous times. If you’re someone with a tale to tell, or maybe you’re interested in amplifying the voices of others, we strongly encourage you to pitch us your ideas. Our digital door is always open.

As much as we hypothesize about the months to come, it’s hard to say exactly what the fall semester of 2020 is going to be like. One thing is for certain: it won’t be one to forget.



  • Homeroom – A weekly virtual homeroom where students can make friends and learn must-know information about starting university. Registration is required and participants will receive perks based on attendance.
  • Centre for Teaching and Learning – Get help navigating online learning, Moodle, assignment submission, and setting up your phone and laptop.
  • Student Success Centre (SSC) – Get help from a learning specialist and one-on-one tutoring.
  • Support for mental and physical health – Find support for your mental and physical well being, as well as academic and financial support.
  •  Financial Aid and Awards Office – In-depth advice on planning finances and discovering bursaries and loans.
  • Concordia Emergency Student Relief Fund – Concordia has allocated over $1 million to support students’ economic hardships.
  • Student groups – Connect with over 200 student groups and see what they’re up to during the online semester.
  • Library services – While the physical library is closed, the librarians are working hard to support students online. Students can request textbooks to be put online. The Library is hoping to open limited study spaces by Sept. 14.
  • Stay updated – Keep informed about what Concordia is offering and any changing regulations.


A statement from President Graham Carr:

“Being a Concordian means being part of a community. This fall, as we start an academic year unlike any we’ve seen before, we’re looking forward to you joining this great community. Whether you’re a new student or a returning one, we’re here to support you and help you succeed in your studies. Please take advantage of the many services we have in place to assist you. Let’s continue being bold, being innovative and creating the kind of community that makes me proud to be a Concordian.”


Feature photo by Alex Hutchins


Editorial: An open letter to Graham Carr

Dear Graham Carr,

It has been almost two months since you’ve been appointed Concordia’s newest president. In the statement released on the Concordia website on Jan. 16, you expressed your excitement about building off of this “great momentum we’ve created in the last several years.”

While this sounds great, it is also a little bit brief.

We at The Concordian would like to make a few suggestions regarding what needs to be addressed at our wonderful school: 


Sustainability: While there have been some improvements, we can’t help but notice a lack of awareness when it comes to sustainability on campus. Some people remain unaware of sustainability groups, like CUCCR (Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse), and compost bins are scarce—-the CJ Building at Loyola only has one. We reported back in October that half of what the university sends to landfills could be composted, according to student groups. Becoming completely zero-waste isn’t going to happen overnight, but providing a clear plan will give the Concordia community an opportunity to track the university’s progress.

Transit: Yes, the university already had a conference concerning the shuttle bus, and we are pressing the matter again. While efficient, the shuttle bus can be unreliable at times. Universities across Canada include a transit pass as part of their tuition. Why not Concordia? As an institution with a large contingent of students reliant on public transit, it’s clear that the demand is there. This would also serve as an incentive for students who drive to campus to start using public transit instead.

Food: Concordia’s five-year agreement with Aramark comes to an end in May this year. For years, students have pushed for more independent and student-run food providers. Aramark’s reputation is also less than stellar. So let’s be realistic, feeding hundreds of students at both residences and the thousands across both campuses is extremely difficult and requires a large workforce. But what the university can do is commit to signing shorter contracts with large corporations, and begin transitioning towards independent and student-run groups becoming the main food providers on campus. It’s not an issue that can be solved immediately, but this is the type of legacy move that only benefits the Concordia community.

Online Opt-Out Consultations: It should come as no surprise that we at The Concordian are against online opt-outs for fee-levy groups. When opt-outs are done in person, Concordia’s groups, from gender advocacy groups (The Centre for Gender Advocacy) to food services (People’s Potato, The Hive), to student media (CJLO, The Link, The Concordian) have a chance to educate students about the services they offer. Following the recent vote to move to online op-outs, all that we ask is to be included in meaningful discussions about the implementation of this system. Will the website include a list of services offered by each group? Will it properly inform people of the role the groups play on campus, and how they can get involved? Or will it simply have a list of services to opt out of?

As our president, these are some of the issues that we ask you to consider as you plan what to tackle here on campus for the duration of your tenure at Concordia. 



The Concordian.



Feature photo by Alex Hutchins


The President’s back-to-school get together

Newly appointed Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr met with students on Jan. 8 at the SP Atrium on the Loyola Campus. It was Carr’s first official event, as his five year mandate began on Dec. 12, 2019.

‘’I think it’s a great way for the whole community, students, faculty and staff to get an opportunity to get together at the beginning of the semester, before the semester gets too stressful,’’ said Carr. “To say ‘welcome back,’ and wish the best and success for the year ahead.’’

Carr revealed that he plans on continuing initiatives that have already been implemented at the university, such as Indigenous relations, sustainability and growing research.

As students, faculty and staff gathered, doctorate biology student Safa Sanami remarked that the event ditched plastic entirely. All the food was served on washable platters, no cutlery was used, drinks were distributed in large jugs and attendees were invited to bring their own cups.

The university has put these new initiatives into effect to improve its recycling, all while promoting ways for students to have fun, while highlighting that no act is insignificant to help the planet.

According to biology graduate student James Perry, cutting back on single-use and consumable products is essential.

‘’I like the idea that these plates and drinking glasses are compostable and recyclable, as opposed to mass-produced items that are not often made of recyclable materials,” he said. “Although, there isn’t an advanced and efficient upcycling or recycling system in place, I feel that we are improving and are more conscious than a year ago.”

It seems that Concordia University will be looking for more ways to evolve during this new era, as Carr also mentioned that he plans on doing more complementary things to improve Concordia’s teaching agenda and offering a panoply of opportunities to its student body.


Photos by Britany Clarke


While on break…From Interim Presidents to Climate Clocks to the Hall building

A five-year term for Graham Carr 

On Dec. 12, Interim President Graham Carr was officially appointed President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia. Earlier in July, Carr succeeded Alan Shepard after he stepped down from a seven-year mandate.

“Concordia is a young, forward-looking university. It’s a unique place where experimentation, innovation and creativity are truly valued,” Carr said, in a press release. “Our community of students, faculty, staff and alumni all contribute to our momentum as Canada’s next-gen university. As president, I plan to continue broadening that circle, pursuing collaborations with industry, government and community stakeholders to further demonstrate how Concordia makes a positive difference for the people and economies of Canada and the world.”

Carr emerged from an international search process as Concordia’s Board of Governors’ top choice, according to Board Chair Norman Hébert Jr, saying it was a bonus that Carr used to teach at Concordia. Carr joined the university in 1983 in the Department of History.

“He brings that knowledge and those existing ties as well as his constant drive, imagination and curiosity to the position,” Hébert said in the press release.

The five-year contract is effective starting now.

Closure of Henry F. H. Building’s sixth floor 

Renovations in the Hall building will be taking place throughout the year, and are expected to end by 2021. The university is looking to improve the environment of the Hall building’s sixth floor. The transformation is meant to provide greater collaborative workspaces and lighting, according to Concordia’s website.

One of the major transformations will be to supply the entire floor with inclusive, gender-neutral bathrooms. The facilities, which haven’t been updated since 1966, will now be equipped with floor-to-ceiling stalls.

Facilities Management, who is responsible for planning, designing and developing a safe working environment for students, consulted all those who actively use the sixth floor to ensure the needs of everyone were being respected.

Information about the relocation of student groups’ offices is available on the university’s website.

Updating the Climate Clock Project 

The Concordia real-time measurement countdown until we surpass the 1.5-degree Celsius temperature limit set by the Paris Agreement was updated for the fifth time since its creation in 2015.

The clock is meant to be a visual representation of the time left before the climate crisis becomes seriously threatening.

“We feel that the clock is able to communicate the urgency of action in a way that people understand and can relate to,” said Damon Matthews in an interview with Concordia News. Matthews is a professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and one of the project creators, alongside musician David Usher.

While reports of the CO2 emissions for 2019 won’t be released until later this year, various scientific magazines such as Scientific American are already reporting that they will likely be higher than expected. This year, the Climate Clock Project projected that the time left was 12 years, while last year’s update predicted that we would hit the 1.5-degree mark by 2034, according to the project’s website.

You can check the Climate Clock Project updates on the university’s website.


Graphic by @sundaeghosts


New year, new president: 10 minutes with Graham Carr

Following Alan Shepard’s seven-year mandate, Graham Carr is stepping in as new Interim President at quite a euphoric and challenging time for the university.

Concordia recently took a significant jump among the 2,000 worldwide universities ranked by the annual Center for World University Rankings; the largest surge in any Canadian university in the past year. As social movements are calling for educational reform and a change in power dynamics, seizing the momentum will be one of Carr’s greatest challenges. So, what’s next?

Graham Carr

Carr: I have been in a leadership position at Concordia for quite a number of years. I think I have been part of a lot of decision making since 2006.  We have incredible momentum at the moment and we want to seize that momentum, continuing in our strategic direction. But always asking what can we do more? What can we do next? There is a terrific opportunity for us in terms of increasing our visibility of the university – nationally and internationally. How can we continue to improve the student experience at the university and increase our research impact for Quebec and Canadian society? Those are all priorities for us; the appetite to grow, the thirst for knowledge and curiosity about what’s different, those are pretty good drivers for education. You can’t stand still if you’re always thinking of the next generation. We need to always be in that mode of constantly refreshing our reflection about who we are and where we want to go.

Such mentality undeniably helped Concordia’s worldwide reputation, but how can you explain its latest jump in the rankings? 

Carr: We have made a conscious effort in Quebec to be better known, to recruit the majority of our students. More than 70 per cent of our students come from Quebec. We are bringing about 25 per cent francophones into the university now, as well as our international students mix. I think that is also a way of communicating to a wider world, who we are and what we can do.

A student’s experience is something quite personal. Every voice is different. In a university which holds more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students, how do you balance the interests of every student? 

Carr: That is a challenge! Part of the issue is to realize that in a large comprehensive university like Concordia, people’s needs are different. What might work in business school, doesn’t work in the science labs. The needs of students for apprenticeship opportunities in aerospace engineering, for instance, are different than a student who wants a global experience, like the chance to study another language, another culture in another part of the world. So, the starting point for trying to be successful is to understand what the different needs in the university are, and to realize that with the resources you have are not infinite – how you can use [those resources] in a way that has a big impact for as many students as possible.

When you look back on your own student years and the impact that education and different experiences had on you, what do you wish to bring upon Concordia?

Carr: I think if you want to be successful in higher education, whether you are a student or staff or administrator, it’s because, fundamentally, you want to learn. The university has changed a lot since I have been here. It has gone from strength to strength. I think it’s just really an opportunity for everybody’s growth; growth in terms of your curiosity, your network. If you are a student, you have the opportunity to grow and discover areas that you are interested in; to meet new people, to build your network. Equally, I would like to believe that for the staff’s faculty, for university administrators, it’s also all about growth. It’s all about looking for ways to improve and do things differently -– being curious about what makes a next-generation university. Those are the things that I find excited about the job. I’m, frankly, learning new things every day. I meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. For example, when I was in the research sector of the university, I got the chance to learn a lot about fields of knowledge and expertise that I didn’t know.

It’s true that it’s usually once you have graduated that you realize how many opportunities were presented to you through the university…

Carr: Yes! It’s about the best opportunity. As a student – and I don’t want this to be misunderstood – you have the luxury of time. You have time to explore, to experiment. And I’m sure many students have started down one pathway and realized “that’s really not for me, here’s a different path that I didn’t know about and that looks very exciting.” 

Your own path led you to this presidency. The very nature of being a positive leader is in itself fascinating, but as we are running out of time, what would be a must-quality?

Carr: Top quality for leaders? Can it be two? I think one is the ability to listen. Then, the other is the ability to foster success in people and encourage them to do their best and get the best out of them. Short and sweet. That would be it!

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