Our “People You Should Know” blog series interviews key people and offices at the University of Waterloo so you can make the most of their services.
Charmaine Dean is Waterloo’s Vice President, Research & International. She started at Waterloo in 2017 and is responsible for two distinct offices—the Office of Research and Waterloo International.
Research & International is a big portfolio—what does your role involve?
The Office of Research encompasses a number of portfolios, including commercialization, ethics, grants and prestigious awards, centres and institutes, and large research programs such as FedDev and Canada Research Chairs.
I am also responsible for several new portfolios, including interdisciplinary research, and equity, diversity and inclusion in research. In addition, I am the first point of research-related contact for external communities including the Tri-Agencies; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED); and ministers’ offices.
Half of my time is spent on internally facing initiatives and issues, while the other half is allocated to externally facing needs. I sit on 20 Boards of Directors (as Chair for six of the boards) related to research initiatives at Waterloo, as well as a number of boards, councils, committees, and advisory groups for partners and government, and some related to my research.
Waterloo International encompasses international agreements and partnerships; international experiences for faculty, staff, and students, and building a strong international profile.
Why might faculty be interested in your role?
One of the key elements of my role is to ensure that research at Waterloo is understood and supported by government and industry. Part of my mandate is to drive research forward within Canada in order to guide policy, as well as to continue building a profile for Waterloo research internationally. For faculty, I would like them to know that my door is always open to hear about their research and successes, and to help ensure their work leads to valuable impact.
What do you personally bring to this role?
The experience I bring to this role is a combination of managing large teams and big systems along with an understanding of the challenges that researchers face in conducting research. My academic career, entrepreneurial mindset, and ability to develop relationships within faculties as well as with partners in industry and government is where I can provide the leadership that faculty members at Waterloo need.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about the entire research enterprise and, in particular, helping people to be successful. I want to provide the support our faculty members and students need to make Canada a better place.
What new initiatives have you introduced at Waterloo?
One very important initiative is my work on equity, diversity and inclusion that involves developing procedures and processes to support it. Another key focus during the last year has been to increase interaction with industry partners and other communities externally. In addition, I have established an initiative to examine the social impact of technology and ethical use of artificial intelligence that includes a new Ethics, Technology and Social/Human Impact Council to explore and guide this new area.
Are there any productivity tools or practices that you find essential?
A few simple tools such as a tablet, phone, and even paper help keep me organized which is an important part of being productive. Every morning my goal is to handle the inflow of work, or develop a process for handling the major items, by the end of the day, and if that’s not possible I aim to complete it within three days. It’s important to keep the workflow moving, so if I can’t complete a task within that window, I plan time to handle it.
How do you stay healthy?
I believe in living by my own philosophy of life and that involves creating a clear mental space so I can listen to others and be creative. Wellness is extremely important to me because good health is one’s greatest asset. Resiliency is also very important so I ensure that I turn stress into something positive. Overall, I try hard to work into my routine, as best as I can, a good diet, regular exercise, and time with family and friends so I can be present, creative, and proactive. It’s not always easy to fit these elements into the regular routine of work life, so I fit them in as life permits, being creative in how they are worked into the week. I always come back to focus on these goals that build resilience with renewed drive. Life is for living.
What is your leadership philosophy?
My philosophy is embodied in principles which reflect: supporting the aspirations of the University and its members; being highly motivational; utilizing a consultative style; being analytical, evaluative, thoughtfully decisive and straightforward; dedication to duty; being highly organized and diligent; and exemplifying the highest integrity. My office is a key driver for equity and diversity in the context of research and internationalization. I also believe strongly in creating a positive environment and building community.