Hugh Gunz named inaugural director of UTM’s new Institute for Management and Innovation

Hugh Gunz plans on building more connections between the University of Toronto Mississauga’s new business school and local companies and entrepreneurs.

It’s a tall order for the 67-year-old chemist and longtime professor, who was just named the inaugural director of UTM’s Institute for Management and Innovation, part of the  campus’s $35 million Innovation Complex.

“One of the really big things is to have an impact on the world,”  the associate chair of management and professor of organizational behaviour told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “That means working with people in Mississauga and the country more generally.”

The new school has already contacted the Mississauga-based Research Innovation Commercialization Centre (RIC) about a seminar series for the business school’s  masters students. “It’ll involve people from the business world, particularly in the Mississauga area,” he said.

Gunz and his team are also looking to set up new research programs, run conferences, as well as hands-on learning opportunities or internships for students with companies in the western Greater Toronto Area.

Finding skilled workers, researchers and managers is a critical workplace problem for many Mississauga companies, so a new business school would help technology and advanced manufacturing companies especially, as well as big multinationals, fill that skills shortage.

In fact, strong post-secondary education is a key competitive advantage for cities trying to lure new companies, investments and jobs in the growing knowledge-based economy.

Gunz’s new job is all  part of the his big switch from overseeing undergraduate programs to the business school’s specialized masters and doctorate degrees.

“Really, I’m going to be responsible for setting it up and making it real,” he said, noting the building won’t open until August 2014 and his two-year term officially starts July 1.

Gunz will be hiring for some new positions but much of IMI’s staff and faculty will come from people already working on campus. “We’ll have around 60 members of faculty that will hold cross-appointments,” he explained.

It’s a long way from Gunz’s original career in the 1980s, when he worked as a chemist in the petrochemical industry with Shell Oil, one of the word’s biggest energy companies.

However, after a few years in plant operations he enrolled in the MBA program at Manchester University in Britain.

After graduating with another doctorate (which he only realized after reading the fine print of his fellowship), becoming an assistant professor at Manchester University, he got a job offer from U of T while on sabbatical.

Since his arrival at UTM in 1989, Gunz has observed a lot of the dramatic changes on campus and in his own department. “It was a much smaller place,” he said, “It’s really been over the last 20 years where we’ve brought in a whole bunch of programs we wouldn’t even have dreamed of.”

As someone who specializes in studying career evolution, Gunz said his journey to his new job at UTM isn’t really that unusual. “Nobody ever has a clue where they’re going end up,” he said.

As for the future, there will also be an international search for Gunz’s successor when his term is over in August 2015. At that point, the professor plans on taking some much needed built-up leave and writing a book.

The subject is a pretty good fit. It’s going to be on the study of careers.

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