Ryerson University’s eagerly anticipated arrival in Brampton is a game changer. Stand UP for Brampton had the privilege to meet with the President of Ryerson University, Dr. Mohamed Lachemi to discuss Ryerson’s proposal for a new university to be built in Brampton. This is part one of a three-part series generated from our discussion.
Ryerson University Part I: Community collaboration to build a city
Sitting on the 13th floor of the President’s office overlooking Ryerson’s downtown Toronto campus, Rowena Santos and Paul Vicente of Stand Up for Brampton met with Dr. Lachemi, inspired by a view of what could also be possible for Brampton. It didn’t take long for Dr. Lachemi to share his own enthusiasm about the potential in our city.
“I am excited that Ryerson is going to Brampton,” said Dr. Lachemi. “Brampton has a lot to offer. It has youth, it has energy. I am very interested to work with stakeholders and see how we can benefit the population.”
Ryerson’s downtown Toronto campus currently serves 45,000 students, and classrooms are being fully utilized. Dr. Lachemi explained that that it took several years to reach this point of success especially for the community.
“The role of an urban university, when we look at city building, is not just about ourselves, it’s about the communities around us. And as a university in the 21st century, if we don’t think about the communities that surround us, we will not serve the population well.”
Dr. Lachemi has been at Ryerson for the last twenty years, and has witnessed the full transformation of the area in which they are currently situated. “This area, twenty years ago, was kind of empty; with no life here,” he describes.
His description of what was twenty years ago can be compared to the feel of our own downtown Brampton today. Being one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country our downtown core is lagging.
You need a catalyst to attract talented people including a comfortable space for experimenting and interacting with mentors, Dr. Lachemi explained. “A university is not about building walls; it is about opening doors with your neighbours and collaborating with people. That is what I see in the opportunity for downtown Brampton.”
Ryerson’s expansion into Brampton appears to be an opportunity for everyone. Now at full capacity at its current location, Ryerson is ready to expand as soon as possible, taking with it a successful experience in transforming a barren block into a booming hub of creative and economic activity in Toronto.
“I think Brampton needs that anchor; a university in the downtown area, and that will bring more businesses, more collaboration and more opportunities.”
Dr. Lachemi provided a number of examples of collaborations benefiting students, the community, and the economy. Ryerson’s business school is located on Bay Street, a partnership that benefits the private sector and gives students direct networking and professional access to heart of the financial district.
Ryerson’s collaboration with St. Michael’s Hospital is another example where the university has a direct presence in occupying an entire floor. Engineering and science students work alongside with clinicians in the hospital, in an institute for research, but in partnership they also created an innovation hub called the Biomedical Zone.
Dr. Lachemi is excited about the great partners the university will be working with in Brampton including Sheridan College, the City of Brampton and the local business community.
“I would say the nature of the work we do here is to focus on partnership and collaboration. I think the way that I see an innovation university in the 21st century, you need to push boundaries. You need to think out of the box. You need to develop strategic partnerships.”
Ryerson’s vision to expand in Brampton coincides with local demand from a growing population where immediate access to transit is an issue. The partnership with Metrolinx was discussed as a natural solution for students to access transit. But Dr. Lachemi also described Metrolinx as a collaboration that puts Brampton at a strategic advantage within the innovation hub.
“If you take the train from Toronto, going to Waterloo, Brampton is the mid-point. So I need to think about a way for us to capture this, and Metrolinx can be a strategic partner in that aspect, for sure. The location is extremely important, and the linkage to both cities, to Waterloo and Toronto, is extremely powerful.”
Being directly linked to transit and the innovation hub opens new doors for our students and community creating further opportunities to expand.
“A lot of people said you are coming here with only a thousand or two thousand students. I told them we are not talking about two thousand students. We are talking about the big picture at this point. You have to think about what kind of synergies you can create for a better future for Brampton.”
We have been inspired by Ryerson’s creative community approach to city building and we are excited to see what this partnership will bring for our city.
In the second part of our series, we will delve into the economic benefits of Ryerson in Brampton and we will end with our third article discussing the unique programming that Ryerson will bring to our city.
Photos by Shelby Morell.
Part I: Community collaboration to build a city – Click here.
Part II: Economic Benefits and the Innovation Hub – Click here.
Part III: Brampton as a world leader with specialized programming – Click here.