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Here’s to a great term, president cheers

January 8, 2024 — 

Welcome back and Happy New Year!

Before we left on break, I had the pleasure of speaking at one of my alma maters, Carleton University, about the career path that brought me to UM. I had the chance to connect with some of my former professors that came to my talk, and we reminisced, laughing about our Tuesday afternoon basketball games—profs vs. students—and about the relationships that not only resulted in several academic papers, but many life-long connections.

Throughout my trip, my wife Kim was texting me reminders of our student days, from the musicians we liked—KD Lang, UB40 and the Talking Heads—to the unique and special connections we made on campus. I returned home appreciating just how deeply connected we become to our campus communities when we try new things and meet new people, growing in profound and lasting ways.

Joel Nichols, UM’s 100th Rhodes Scholar, is a great and recent example of this from our community. When Joel came here, he aspired to be a doctor and was enrolled only in science courses until his second year. Then, he decided to explore something completely different. He tried something new and took an introduction to drawing elective. In doing so, he discovered a passion he’d never known before—and it altered the course of his life. Joel will now pursue Fine Arts at Oxford University.

At the start of a new year, it is common for us to seek some form of self-improvement or growth. With the above stories in mind, I challenge students to try something new on our campus—maybe an intramural, or maybe you test a budding idea out through Idea Start, an incredible new incubator that will help you take your idea for a business or social cause to the next level. Meet new people. Try new things. Take risks and dream big—this is the best place to do it.

However you decide to approach your term, I hope you will keep your mental health top of mind.  I invite you all to a special recording of my podcast What’s the Big Idea? on Jan. 11 where I will sit down with Dr. Joss Reimer, president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association and chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Dr. Reimer will share her ideas, insights, and lived experience, which will surely help us all find ways to improve our thinking about mental health and proper supports in our community and health care system.

I’m excited for this coming year. Our community has been doing a lot of hard work to prepare our university for the future and this year we will launch the university’s new strategic plan that captures our shared aspirations and provides a framework for how we will shape our future and become a more inclusive university. We’re also releasing a new strategic research plan, a new Reconciliation action plan, and a new anti-racism report.

This year is going to be a good one, especially if we all engage with this campus and each other. One of my favourite ways to immerse myself in our campus community is watching the Bisons. Students, know that you can get free tickets to all Bisons games, so come out and join me, especially if you have never been before. Let’s do new things this year!

Michael Benarroch

Here’s to a great term!



Michael Benarroch, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor


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