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Canadian embassy hosts Toronto grads

Korean graduates of the University of Toronto gathered recently at an alumni reception at the Canadian embassy in Seoul to meet fellow alumni and remember their time at the various campuses in Toronto.

The University of Toronto has over 540,000 alumni ― one of the largest and most active in the world. Their academic and professional excellence has contributed to the university’s recognition as Canada’s top higher educational institution.

Over 1,000 ethnic Korean students and researchers study at UofT each year, and many come back to Korea to work or continue their learning.

Canadian Ambassador Eric Walsh expressed his regret at the event Thursday for not being a legitimate alumni member.

“I went to the University of Toronto schools, a closely affiliated university preparatory school for 7th to 12th graders, and after my undergraduate at McGill, started a masters program in Russian and European studies at UofT,” Walsh said. 

(From left) Mark Fox, professor of industrial engineering and computer science, chancellor Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador Eric Walsh and Barbara Dick, assistant vice president of alumni relations, pose at the University of Toronto alumni reception at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
(From left) Mark Fox, professor of industrial engineering and computer science, chancellor Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador Eric Walsh and Barbara Dick, assistant vice president of alumni relations, pose at the University of Toronto alumni reception at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“But only a year into the program, I was hired by the government. For anybody in Canada with a bachelor’s degree to get an offer of employment, let me tell you, you jump on that.”

Barbara Dick, assistant vice president of alumni relations, told some 50 guests: “As graduates, you are the most influential and effective ambassadors of our university. Your accomplishments reflect our outstanding reputation in the region and the world.”

She added, “I was struck by speaking to many of you here today how interesting and diverse your paths have been. No one has taken a straight line from point A to B.”

With world-leading professors, researchers and thought-leaders, the UofT comprises three campuses ― St. George, Scarborough and Mississauga ― and spearheads global research in a broad range of disciplines. The discovery of stem cells, insulin and black holes, as well as the anatomy of criticism and global village, have been some of its scholarly achievements over the past 188 years since the school’s establishment.

The UofT ranked first in Canada and 15th in the world by the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015. Among publicly funded universities, it ranked eighth globally.

The diversity of the student body, which comes from the world’s most multicultural city of Toronto and 111 countries abroad, reflects the institution’s international character. Graduates go on to fill leadership positions across the globe in a range of vocations.

The university started a $2 billion fundraising campaign, “Boundless,” in late 2011 to attract talent and research funding.

Chancellor Michael Wilson, former Finance Minister and Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., praised students for their achievement.

“Our students see their education as something broader than the nuts and bolts of their school life. They have produced groundbreaking results through entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide,” Wilson said.

He added that the bilateral trade volume has increased from $4 billion to $10 billion since 1991, when he came to Korea as a finance minister on a trade mission. “Our robust trade and investment will grow by leaps and bounds through the bilateral free trade agreement, as it came into force this year,” he said.

The chancellor highlighted some 1,500 joint publications involving over $10 million in funding that have been coauthored by researchers from the UofT and their colleagues in Korea. There are also numerous other collaborations in medicine, commerce and humanities, he stressed.

Ted Sargent, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UofT, is currently leading joint research on renewable energy with the Ulsan National University of Science and Technology, which has received funding from the Korean government.

Kim Eun-gi, the president of the Korean alumni branch, said the university’s recognition in Korea rose from mid-2000 onward after its high international ranking was publicized in the media.

Although America’s Ivy League schools still dominate the demand in Korea, the UofT is recognized above state universities in the U.S., he said. Kim is a professor and dean of Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies, and received his masters and doctoral degrees in sociology at UofT.

The advantage of studying at a Canadian university is that students are pushed hard academically ― much more than in Korea ― and they receive theoretical grounding, critical insight and enlightened companionship that last a lifetime, according to the professor.

The Korean alumni group, which has been officially registered since 2001, holds lectures, field trips, hiking trips, sports events, pub nights and year-end parties every year. It is a valuable source of networking and information-sharing, Kim said.

Mark Fox, an international authority on artificial intelligence and professor of industrial engineering and computer science, gave a lecture at the reception, dubbed “Smart cities need smart citizens.”

Pointing out the difficulties of having a perfect system of information communication technology in a city, Fox said it is critical to empower citizens to achieve their goals without relying on the municipal resources.

As the global population increases with urbanization, the need for urban energy consumption will increase, along with welfare demands from the aging population, Fox pointed out.

To address these challenges, the professor is developing artificial intelligence that will optimize the interface between citizens and the city’s electricity, water, transportation, and open government systems.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
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