The CBC has named Ryerson’s Marie Bountrogianni one of ten most influential and innovative University of Waterloo graduates.
Bountrogianni is currently the dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. She graduated from Waterloo in 1979 with a degree in psychology with specialization in early childhood education.
“It felt really good that so many years later, I was associated with the University of Waterloo in a very positive way,” says Bountrogianni. “Hard work pays off.”
Other former grads on the list are Mike Lazardis, co-founder of Research in Motion (RIM), and Steven Woods, Engineering Director for Google Canada.
Since graduating from Waterloo, Bountrogianni went on to obtain her master’s and doctorate in psychology at the University of Toronto.
Before Bountrogianni became the dean of the Chang School in 2013, she held a variety of impressive titles. She was an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, the Chief Psychologist for the Hamilton Board of Education, and president and executive director of the Royal Ontario Museum.
“When you’re young, you don’t always see the relationship between what you’re learning and studying, and where it will take you. But there is a connection,” says Bountrogianni.
She also worked in politics for nine years. Bountrogianni was elected to the Ontario legislature in the Hamilton-Mountain riding. While a Liberal MPP, she held a number of cabinet positions, including Intergovernmental Affairs minister and Children and Youth Services minister.
“My favourite moment in politics, among many, is the Accessibility for Ontarians Disabilities Act,” recalls Bountrogianni. It was that landmark legislation that established the province as a world leader in accessibility.
Bountrogianni first came to Ryerson 27 years ago as a part-time research and statistics instructor for the early childhood education program. She returned to the university as a distinguished visiting professor in 2011, where she was a researcher for underemployment in young people, specifically immigrants.
Bountrogianni took up the mantle as interim dean of the school after Gervan Fearon, former dean of the Chang School, was appointed the vice-president (academic and provost) of Brandon University. While interim dean, she furthered Ryerson’s relationship with the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute by signing a contract to offer courses online to entrepreneurs in India.
Bountrogianni was appointed interim dean while the university searched for a permanent one, but found she liked the job more than she anticipated.
“I thought, ‘I’ll do it for a year until they find someone,’” says Bountrogianni. “(But) I loved the team here. I loved the work and I see potential for much more, so I applied and I was fortunate enough to get the job.”
Her five-year term began back in July.
Mohamed Lachemi, Provost and Vice-President of Academics, speaks highly of Bountrogianni.
“She’s very committed to mentoring and helping students succeed,” he says. “In terms of enhancing Ryerson’s reputation nationally and internationally, she’s a great leader in that.”
Bountrogianni has quite a few goals for the Chang School that she hopes to implement over the next few years.
She plans to focus on increasing enrolments by finding creative and innovative ways to offer courses to students.
“We have a few concentrated certificates in the spring/summer, but I think we have to do more of that during the year,” says Bountrogianni. “So if they can’t do 39 hours a term, whether online or not, offer it in different formats. Maybe 20 hours? Maybe ten hours?”
The Chang School also has 400 courses and 20 certificates online, which Bountrogianni plans to market internationally.
Bountrogianni is also developing a strategy to help men and women in the armed forces transition back into school and employment.
“There are organizations that help them now, but there are gaps in what is offered,” she says. “I think as an educational institution, we need to do more.”