Innovation at Waterloo: Cathy Newell Kelly


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In September, the 10K crew went on location to the 2017 Ontario Universities’ Fair, to interview a dozen higher ed leaders about trends in innovation.

Catherine Newell Kelly was appointed Registrar at the University of Waterloo just a month before this interview, after serving for two decades as Director of Waterloo’s Centre for Extended Learning, as well as stints as Executive Director of eCampus Ontario and President of CAUCE and OCULL. In this special bonus episode, edited to 7 minutes, Ken asks Cathy 3 key questions.

Innovations at Waterloo?

Cathy emphasizes Waterloo’s liberal intellectual property policies, and its roots in co-operative education, and its co-op program has grown to be the largest in Canada, with students earning $253 million a year. Waterloo is pushing the envelope to make experiential learning more flexible, like the EDGE experiential learning certificate program for non-co-op students. Waterloo’s Velocity is the largest free start-up incubator in the world. After 50 years in online learning, Waterloo is exploring Labster and Riipen to bring laboratory and co-op work experiences to online students.

The Decade Ahead?

Cathy predicts that university-business partnerships will become much more important, with the government’s emphasis on work-integrated learning. Transformative research, which changes what we know, will grow, and interdisciplinarity will continue to drive research and teaching. Universities will also need to enhance the flexibility of program delivery and structure for adult learners and working students.

Culture of Innovation?

Cathy believes that senior leadership has to foster a culture of entrepreneurship on campus, in which students, staff and faculty feel safe enough to take strategic risks.

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