We met with Steve Orsini (President and CEO), Krisa Orendorff (Vice President of Public Affairs), Lisa Krawiec (Manager of Policy and Sector Collaboration), and Dominika Flood (Director of Government and Stakeholder Relations), of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), one of OLIP’s generous partners. Throughout the pandemic, the COU supported universities as they facilitated the move to online learning, while ensuring that higher education remained accessible for students.
The COU acts as a forum for collaboration among university institutions, representing a broad constituency of 21 institutions. Since these institutions range in size and location, the COU plays an important role in finding a high-level consensus to highlight the major issues facing the sector to the government. To do so, the COU utilizes a non-partisan advocacy strategy to engage all political parties. Furthermore, the COU often seeks to build coalitions and shared opportunities for advocacy with other groups with similar perspectives. This includes groups such as students and the college sector, and the COU leverages non-partisan research at every stage to share best-practices. Here, we were reminded of the importance of non-partisanship in our work as interns and in many future employment opportunities after OLIP.
During our meeting, the representatives from COU discussed the vital role that higher education plays in society. Universities train students to be resilient, teaching them in a way that reflects their curiosity and preparing them for the workforce. Mr. Orsini explained that university graduates will play a prominent role in solving global challenges, such as climate change. Solving global problems will require well-educated individuals in all fields to work multilaterally across nations to find the best solutions. Additionally, as increasing automation continues to drive changes to society, well-educated leadership will help strike a balance between protecting cybersecurity, promoting inclusivity, encouraging the use of technology for good, and mitigating any unintended societal consequences. As a result, the COU advocates on behalf of Ontario’s university sector so that it has the tools necessary to support students and prepare them to face these challenges in the future.
Higher education has played an important role in preparing us to successfully meet the challenges of OLIP, so we thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the sector and COU’s role in supporting institutions. Thank you to the COU for a fascinating discussion and for your support of our programme!