Q&A with Kim Hunt-Rao, Executive Director of Advancement

June 3, 2020 by Lucianna Ciccocioppo - A&S News

A life-long champion of education and its power to transform lives, Kim Hunt-Rao, former Vice-President of Corporate Donor Relations at United Way Toronto and now the Faculty of Arts & Science’s new Executive Director of Advancement, shares ideas and goals, her support for the U of T family — and a little-known secret

Why did you want to work at U of T?

The range and depth of scholarship at the Faculty of Arts & Science makes this role such an exciting one, and I was intrigued. From anthropology to artificial intelligence, interdisciplinary research collaboration across the arts, sciences and humanities creates a tremendous opportunity for groundbreaking research discoveries that reverberate around the world. I wanted to be a part of helping these amazing initiatives receive the support they need, while also helping to fuel the next generation of committed citizens through A&S teaching and learning.

I have watched U of T from afar for many years and have long been impressed by the loyalty and generosity of its alumni supporters, donors and friends. U of T always pushes the bar higher and higher in terms of donor support and unique partnerships. The Boundless Campaign set a new record with more than $2.6 billion raised — what a success story! And innovative partnerships, like those involved with the launch of the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre, define what is possible when private donors (whether individuals or corporations) and higher education come together with a transformative and visionary goal. It will be exciting to have the Faculty’s Impact Centre housed here — the synergies will be unlimited.

I am especially impressed with President Gertler’s focus on community connections.  As a research and teaching powerhouse, U of T has made a commitment to tackle really important issues, such as inequality, Indigenous rights and access to education, for those facing barriers in society. I believe U of T can truly make a substantive difference, not only in individual lives, but also in the broader community and around the globe.

Having been here for four months, what are your initial thoughts about the Faculty of Arts & Science?

It's remarkable, particularly in its commitment to students, faculty, staff and alumni in these unsettling times. And it’s very adaptable. Dean Melanie Woodin is a wonderful, engaging and caring leader. She moved swiftly with faculty and staff to transition the teaching, learning and business operations of the Faculty to remote and online alternatives to ensure continued student success. With the launch of the Online Learning Academy, it’s a transformative time here at Arts & Science, and it’s terrific to see the leadership leverage online teaching strengths with this new learning hub.

What are your goals for your first year leading Advancement?

I will build on the A&S priorities of continuing to improve the student experience, especially by supporting greater access to education and deepening student financial aid. I am also excited to lead support for outstanding and world-class research, such as in AI materials, and the renewal of A&S buildings, including a transformative new home for data science. I Iook forward to sharing the ambitious academic plan in the near future with the Arts & Science family. There are so many opportunities for alumni and friends to support and enable these phenomenal initiatives. Stay tuned!

How will A&S continue to stay connected with our alumni and donors?

The Advancement team and I are working hard to stay connected with our alumni, in alternate ways of course, to enable more of you to participate in our virtual mentorship programs, and to give back in support of COVID-19 related research and emergency bursaries. We’ve heard from so many alumni with offers to help, and we are so grateful, especially for the lovely and positive notes of encouragement many sent to our Class of 2020 students. We are engaging alumni as online mentors to current Arts & Science students and new graduates during these unprecedented times. Watch your inbox and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to hear about these opportunities as they are confirmed. We’re always brainstorming new ideas. If you think of something, do reach out to me.

What have you discovered as a hidden gem at A&S?

There are so many! It’s too hard for me to choose. One highlight of my first four months was welcoming Michael Sabia as the new Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. A U of T alumnus and internationally renowned business, finance and public policy leader, Michael has had an illustrious career in both the private and public sectors. I am so thrilled for U of T and our students.

Any final thoughts to our alumni?

Thank you to those who have reached out to me. And to those whom I have not yet met, I would love to get to know you and to learn about your experiences at this great university. I am happy to help find ways to get you involved, so please don’t be a stranger. And please take care of one another. More than ever, community is so important for our mental and physical well-being.

A little-known fact about Kim Hunt-Rao?

As the daughter of an Ontario dairy farmer, I know how to milk cows.