Interim Principal Christopher Manfredi (Photo: Owen Egan/Joni Dufour)

On Campus

Principal’s Perspective: An eventful return to campus

Christopher Manfredi on a busy fall semester and how his time as the University’s interim principal has “deepened my appreciation for the people who work to support McGill, both internally and externally.”

Story by McGill News

January 2023

Professor Christopher Manfredi has served as interim principal and vice-chancellor of McGill since September, ensuring that the University stays the course during a transitional period that has seen, under his leadership, a successful return to campus after months of pandemic-related disruptions and a bright start to McGill’s third century.

You have been a member of McGill’s community for over three decades, serving in different leadership capacities, most recently as provost and vice-principal (academic). Has the role of interim principal and vice-chancellor given you a different perspective of McGill? What aspects of your new mandate are you enjoying most?

In addition to my current mandate, I have been fortunate to serve as a professor and dean in the Faculty of Arts, and, more recently, as provost and vice-principal (academic). Each of these roles has expanded my perspective of McGill and has reinforced the importance of our University’s values in fulfilling its mission.

As interim principal, I have enjoyed greater opportunities to connect with other university leaders and to exchange on and advance the priorities of higher education. It has likewise been a pleasure to interact more regularly with members of the Quebec government and to have the chance to advocate for the importance of universities in driving progress, advancing innovation, and in facilitating social mobility.

Above all, I would say that this position has deepened my appreciation for the people who work to support McGill, both internally and externally. We are fortunate to have such an engaged community, from our students, professors, and staff to our alumni and friends around the globe. They each show a tremendous commitment to advancing our mission and a keen interest in ensuring that McGill has a strong foundation on which to build its third century. Every day, so many people in so many ways contribute to propelling our University forward, and it has been a privilege to witness this in greater depth as interim principal.

Your time as interim principal coincided with the return to campus after two years of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic. What was your experience like leading the community back to McGill’s campuses?

To serve as interim principal and vice-chancellor of McGill is a great honour; to do so as our community returned to our campuses after two challenging years made it all the more meaningful. The start of the fall semester was a most energizing time, as students and colleagues reconnected with one another and rejoiced in the possibility of resuming many beloved McGill traditions in person.

Some highlights for me included the return of the annual Pow Wow on Lower Field, the Beatty Lecture featuring the journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, and the campus plant giveaways that saw the distribution of thousands of plants in celebration of McGill’s Bicentennial.

I should underscore that the successful return to campus was owed to the efforts of the many people who had been planning for this eventuality. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our outstanding staff, the full resumption of on-campus activities was not only a joyous time, but it was also undertaken as safely as possible.

McGill recently concluded its Bicentennial Anniversary celebrations. As we direct our attention to the future, what do you believe are McGill’s biggest strengths moving into its third century?

As we have seen over McGill’s Bicentennial celebrations, our history is one that is distinguished by the greatness found in our students, professors, staff, and alumni. Without a doubt, our biggest strength has and will continue to be our people.

McGill is also fortunate to be situated in Montreal – a dynamic, multicultural city that is home to a high concentration of excellent universities. This favorable positioning will continue to benefit McGill, helping us to continue attracting the top talent worldwide, as well as facilitating further research and industry collaborations.

Finally, as announced in November, Professor H. Deep Saini will soon join McGill as its 18th principal and vice-chancellor. Having most recently served as the president and vice-chancellor of Dalhousie University, Professor Saini brings a wealth of experience in higher education and an international perspective that will propel McGill to new heights into its third century. A priority for me as I conclude my current mandate is to leave the University in the best possible shape so that he can hit the ground running. All of us at McGill are very much looking forward to welcoming Principal-designate Saini to our campuses in April.

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