Special Projects | 19-Jun-2020

Transformational donation establishes Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS as a knowledge hub

 

The pursuit of those Eureka! moments in learning research will expand at UTS, thanks to a transformational gift of $4.1 million from Richard Ingram ’61 and Satoko Shibata to permanently establish the Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS.

This gift symbolizes a lifetime of Richard’s connection with UTS: honouring the teachers at the school he credits for being “instrumental” in forging his life’s path, and stemming from the couple’s belief that teachers themselves are in the best position to further everything we know about learning to learn, because they live it every day on the frontlines of education.

“The times I would go back to UTS, I would look at the teachers and I wanted to help them so they could devote themselves to improving how we teach the students,” says Richard. “I wanted to return my gratitude to them and everything UTS means for me.”

 

Closing the divide

As one of a very small number of research institutes based at a school in Canada, the Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS is uniquely positioned to close the divide between education research and the real-life practice of teaching.

Situated at a nexus of education with its permanent location on the University of Toronto campus, UTS has dedicated teachers, and high-achieving students admitted solely based on merit. Research is empowered through robust partnerships with the University of Toronto – including the departments of Psychology, Germanic Languages and Pharmacy, as well as the Global Ideas Institute at the Monk School of Global Affairs, and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). International partnerships with schools in Shanghai, Copenhagen and Frankfurt, and soon to come with Japan, explore questions like: “How do we best teach global citizenship?” as well as other best practices.

 

The power of UTS

Born out of sheer passion for UTS and a love of innovation, the couple’s support of the Institute furthers everything that UTS meant in Richard’s life. “UTS set me on my life’s path,” says Richard, who followed the footsteps of his brother David Ingram ’58 to the school. “The superior education I received and, in particular, having to study so many languages turned me into a world traveller. That has been a defining feature of my life.” He credits the power of a UTS education for getting him into Harvard, for his business success at the document storage company, Archivex (with fellow UTS grad Arthur “Bill” Burk ’34), and even for putting him on the path to meet Satoko, whom he met through his mother while Satoko was earning her Master of Social Work degree at U of T.

 

Breaking boundaries

A gift of this magnitude effectively takes the Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS to the next level, bestowing the permanence that can break boundaries in education research. For Richard and Satoko, it’s about coming full circle. They supported the Institute every step of the way, from the funding that first officially established the Institute in September 2017, and going back even further to the early days in the 2000s, when Richard began funding UTS teachers to become Eureka! Fellows, giving them the time to explore research questions that interest them, often related to their teaching. The latest results delved into questions such as: what teaching methods are preferred by Grade 7 students, how valuable are gamified quizzes in the history classroom, and what strategies could help improve the on-the-job experience for new teachers?

“They are so eager to learn how to teach better,” Satoko says. “Eureka! helps them to come out of the box from traditional teaching methods. They were excited to have the time and money to pursue this kind of research.”

 

The gift of time

Richard and Satoko are deeply vested in the Institute’s mandate to foster “co-designed” research. 

“It means learning from and learning with,” says Angela Vemic, the Institute’s Director, who divides her time with her role as Assistant Professor and Research Coordinator of the Master of Teaching Program at OISE. “The teachers are involved in the design of the research itself at many different stages – not just as subjects of the research but as active agents in designing research studies that are relevant to them.”

The transformational donation from Richard and Satoko came in tandem with a new strategic plan for the Institute, unveiled earlier this year.

“This endowment buys the gift of time for UTS teachers and U of T faculty researchers, which is absolutely priceless,” says Rosemary Evans, UTS Principal. “We are so grateful to Richard and Satoko for giving us this certainty to firmly establish the Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS as a hub of knowledge creation and mobilization at our school. We will build on what they started, expanding on what we know about learning and how to teach better, and sharing what we learn to improve the process of education in Canada and internationally.” The funding will help further vital partnerships and collaboration, and create events that showcase the research culture at UTS, she says, as well as launching a new international partnership with schools in Japan.

 

New Japan partnership

Satoko, who helped drive the Japanese partnership, says the ultimate goal is to empower Japanese teachers to learn how to teach better. “They typically teach the government curriculum, with traditional knowledge, using teaching methods based on remembering, not experiencing.” The Japan partnership brings the potential to change that, with UTS sharing the inquiry-based and transformative teaching methods that have proven to be so effective at the school.  

 

UTS as a knowledge hub

This is one of many ways that the Eureka! Research Institute @ UTS serves to improve the quality of education at home and abroad. As public schools typically don’t have the funding or the time to do this kind of research, the Institute fills a vacuum. “UTS really is in a unique position, with its affiliation with the University of Toronto, to be a leader in research in Canada and internationally,” says Susan French O.C., who serves on the boards of the Institute and UTS, and is a renowned leader in nursing education, and a personal friend of Richard and Satoko. “What we learn here can apply to schools everywhere, changing not just what we teach but the very process of teaching itself, improving the quality of education for the people who matter most in the process: the students.”


 

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