Skip to Content (Press Enter)

English / Français

Interview with Academic All-Star Stephen Toope

The Officer of the Order of Canada talks teaching, learning and the global supply chain of ideas.

Stephen Toope

Hometown Montreal
Home base Toronto
Claim to fame Former dean of McGill University’s Faculty of Law and president of the University of British Columbia, current director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and recently named Officer of the Order of Canada
Currently teaching Public international law, “looking at issues related to the protection and promotion of human rights”
Next trip China and Japan, to negotiate joint research projects for the Munk School

You’ve worked in academia in Montreal, Vancouver and now Toronto. What makes each a great learning environment?
In Montreal, it’s the constant awareness of difference, obviously marked by the interplay of English and French cultures. There was never one single approach to a problem, and that for me was very rich. In Vancouver, the recognition of the growth and influence of Asia – and China in particular – was remarkable. And in Toronto, what has already hit me (I moved here last year) is the incredible cultural diversity. It means there’s always a fresh perspective on any conversation.

How does Canada contribute to the sharing of ideas?
Rather than individual countries being the source of new thinking, I increasingly think of the world of academics as a global supply chain of ideas. Something that’s been important in Canada is the evolution of a powerful network of colleges at the community level. We’re now sharing that innovation by helping countries like India create college structures.

Is the role of teachers evolving?
With so much information and so many opinions coming at us, you need a guide, and I think that’s what teachers are now – navigators. They’re not so much people who tell you what you need to know as people who help you figure out how to process what you do find out.

What has travel taught you?
I wish that I had studied more languages earlier in life. Also, although people share much in common, we are not “all the same.” Culture matters.



Please leave a comment

HTML tags will be removed
Web addresses starting with http:// will be converted to links