Today we had a chat with Yvette Munro, Executive Director.
What’s your role at ONCAT?
I am the Executive Director at ONCAT, where I oversee the administration, activities, and implementation of the organization’s strategic plan, approved by our Board of Directors and in line with the mandate of our organization as established by the Government of Ontario.
What did you do before joining the organization? And what experience did you have with postsecondary transfer prior to working here?
I have had a number of positions and with different organizations in both the broader public sector and not-for-profit sector before joining ONCAT. Many of the jobs I had, over the years, have tended to focus on policy or programs aimed at improving access to public services. I would have never guessed my career would have that theme, but it has, whether I've been working to improve access to housing, health services, or postsecondary education. Right before joining ONCAT, I was the Director of Academic Partnerships and Planning in the Provost’s Office at York University. Transfer featured quite prominently in that role as I was responsible for developing the institution’s annual transfer plan and working across Divisions and Faculties to support college-university partnerships and support a transfer-friendly culture.
How does your work advance ONCAT’s mission to improve transfer students’ experiences in Ontario? And why does ONCAT’s mission resonate with you?
We can take different lenses when advancing ONCAT’s mission, but focusing our work on improving transfer students’ experience is key. Every now and then, there may be competing priorities or interests that arise, whether from government or from our institutional members, but keeping the focus on supporting students keeps us moving in the right direction. This still requires understanding what is facing multiple stakeholder groups, finding the right balance between what is reasonably achievable now versus what requires a bit more thinking or planning before we chart the course. I also try to be as upfront, clear, and transparent about our intentions and what we have organizational capacity or system readiness to be able to do. And ONCAT’s mission, at the end of the day, is about facilitating positive change and supporting students along their academic journey.
Transfer students make up a relatively small amount of the Ontario postsecondary student population—approximately 6-9%. Why do you think postsecondary institutions should still focus on improving transfer student experiences?
Yes, the transfer population, in Ontario, is relatively small, but we are still talking about approximately 60,000 transfer students in the system at almost any given time. And as I often point out to folks: that number is still larger than the total enrollment of many Ontario PSE institutions, and it’s ONCAT’s job to think about all those students dispersed across the province. Ultimately, institutions want to see their students succeed and look back on their experience in a positive light. We rely on institutions to do the heavy lifting but it is also ONCAT’s job to equip institutions with the necessary tools and supports to do that well.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about postsecondary education—or student transfer—since starting your work at ONCAT?
I am continuing to learn from, and work with, a great team at ONCAT who are never shy to share interesting things they come across through their work or sector conversations. While I have previously taught at a college, most of my PSE career has been at universities. Recently, my counterpart at the Ontario College Quality Assurance Service took me through the provincial program standards process, a process that I did not know very much about. It's fascinating to learn how these processes work and think of new ways we might embed transfer considerations.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
There is quite a bit of juggling in this role. Often a number of balls in the air, all moving at different speeds, and you really don't want any dropping.
If you could give any advice to yourself as a student, what would you say?
This thing called ‘coffee’ that you started drinking but don’t like? You are going to like it and drink lots of it. This other thing you like drinking called ‘Long Island iced tea’: it isn’t iced tea, and you won’t be drinking it once the 1980s are done.
Just for fun …
What’s your go-to restaurant or recipe?
I really miss leisurely dim sum lunch at Pearl Harbourfront Chinese Restaurant with friends and family overlooking Lake Ontario. I look forward to that when restaurants re-open and we can get together.
What’s the first place you would want to travel to in a post-pandemic world?
Our son moved to B.C. the year before the pandemic, so perhaps a trip out there or we would meet him in Mexico or the Caribbean for winter break.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs, but don’t tell my cat.
Any great books or movies you’ve enjoyed recently and want to recommend?