Anne Macdonald, Director, Ancillary Services, has been awarded this year’s Chancellor’s Award: Influential Leader category.

Described as “visionary” by Yves Roberge, Principal, and Ron Vander Kraats, CAO, New College, Anne has, since taking the helm of Ancillary Services in 2002, quietly and determinedly led a team which has been responsible for several transformative accomplishments.

  • Acquisition of the Toronto Colony Hotel and its transition to a university residence (89 Chestnut)
  • Implementation of responsible procurement initiatives: bottled water ban, Bangladesh Accord requirement for merchandise manufacturing, local sustainable food partnerships
  • Financial and relationship turn-around of university’s program in the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood, which set the stage for a collaborative neighbourhood visioning exercise and long-term plan for redevelopment and growth

While Anne could simply continue to successfully manage the services she oversees (Housing, Food Services, Transportation Services, UTemp and Trademark Services), her dedication to the mission of the University is such that she is constantly striving beyond her official job description, seeking out opportunities which will allow her team to support our students, staff and faculty, as well as the community, in a meaningful, sustained way, to mutual benefit.

Leading a group or project that has made a significant, sustained contribution

One of the President’s 3 priorities is to “re-imagine and reinvent undergraduate education”. As Director, Ancillary Services, Anne Macdonald has always recognized that to nourish the mind we must first nourish the body. For years, and in common with most North American educational institutions, U of T’s St George campus had outsourced their food services.  Over several years, Ancillary Services was engaged in research and consultation leading up to the expiry of its ten-year agreement with Aramark in July 2016.  Roberges and Vander Kraats highlight that “great leadership is not only visionary in nature but requires a deep understanding of the organization to garner the support necessary to effect change”. Following broad consultation and thorough analysis the ultimate decision was to embark on an ambitious transformation of the food services program on this campus, by transitioning from contracted to in-house service provision.

Their mission?

 To nourish and bring the campus community together, contribute to the culinary culture of Toronto and support the work of innovative and sustainable local food suppliers.

As described in MacLeans Magazine’s November 7, 2016 issue, this “great campus food makeover” required intense amounts of work from numerous staff within Food Services, but also from other managers and staff in University Operations. Budgets were restructured and organization charts re-envisioned; staff from the previous provider was met with individually and in teams; benefit and orientation sessions were planned and facilitated; and offers were prepared for 250 new and returning staff.  Trucks had to be purchased, communication plans drawn up and executed, and a commissary production facility had to be created.  RFPs had to be written for food production software, new in-house branding for food outlets and our new campus catering service had to be developed, new and exciting menus had to be built and a new website launched, media inquiries had to be responded to, head office space had to be reengineered and renovated to accommodate additional staff…..all while continuing to maintain services to the campus, and planning for two new food outlets at the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Music.

In their 2017 University Rankings Issue, Macleans actually did a full Food Review of St. George campus (read more here– a unique entry in this restaurant-led domain: “Starting this year, all of the food at the U of T downtown campus is produced in-house. It’s hard to overstate the significance of this. But if [like our students] you’ve ever moved from your hometown to a big city, while at the same time having to learn new skills and make new friends, you can relate to the level of a complete life makeover”.

Communicating a vision and commitment to new initiatives and continually contributing to innovation

The most important thing to note about this transition was that the operating model changed completely – it was not simply a case of replicating Aramark’s process and absorbing additional labour cost. All food production has now shifted to the campus, which means a significant improvement in food quality and freshness. The increased labour expenditure (due to higher wages) is offset by the cost effectiveness of the production operation, which is consolidated in two locations, and which uses raw materials instead of pre-prepared foods. In addition, in-house production allows for quick reaction to changes in demand, which means better service to the community, and less food waste.

Jaco Lokker, Director of Culinary Operation and Executive Chef describes Anne as a “dedicated leader who is supportive and strategic…[and] who is respected by the Food Services Team”.  Anne will be the first person to say that this was a team effort – in fact she takes a back seat in the MacLean’s article, placing all of the emphasis on Executive Chef Lokker – and that all of the countless others who got behind this vision and made it happen are jointly responsible for its success, but it has been Anne’s creation of, and commitment to, the vision, to the team, and to the University and its mission which have propelled this to the pages of MacLean’s, to the live coverage on CityTV, and to such positive feedback from students and staff alike on the improved quality of the food being served.

Food Services is only one aspect of the team that Anne leads: housing is another very important part of student and faculty experiences at the University, and  Anne leads a team committed to excellence in this area, benefitting both residents and our community. Anne’s dedication to a strong community extends beyond the student accommodations at Grad House, 89 Chestnut and Charles Street (student family housing), to ensuring a strong relationship with our faculty housing neighbours. In Huron-Sussex this year, discussions began with the community and our local counselor about a housing strategy project, which would allow all the stakeholders to come to a joint understanding of the goals and priorities for the university’s housing program in the neighbourhood – successfully concluding this project (on track for the end of 2017) should have a lasting positive impact on our relationship with these close neighbours.

Leading a group or project that has made a significant, sustained contribution Part Two

The area outside Convocation Hall has been the subject of concern for the whole University community for many years, but because of the existence of so many challenges associated with making physical changes to such a central and widely used area, nothing has previously seemed feasible, except in the context of ambitious master plans for the entire precinct.

The Convocation Hall traffic calming project, led by Anne in strong partnership with Christine Burke (Director, Campus & Facilities Planning), consisted of the implementation of an “intervention” in the area outside of Convocation Hall at the south end of Kings’ College Circle. The primary concern in the area was pedestrian safety, due to the area consisting of a large, open roadway without a coherent intersection. The pedestrian zone ultimately designed and created to correct these issues is an open “safe” space directly outside Convocation Hall, defined by bollards and a paint treatment on a newly asphalted surface, connected to the north side of Convocation Hall by a sloped sidewalk transition, and with a new intersection created where Kings’ College Road meets Kings’ College Circle. Road painting, including new defined pedestrian crossings, and a new stop sign, were also added to complete the project.

One of the reasons that this project was able to overcome past challenges was that it was imagined and structured from its inception as a small, low-cost, temporary fix. The road could easily be repainted, and the bollards removed, if the result wasn’t satisfactory, without too much worry about excessive sunk cost. This lowered psychological barriers for both the approvers of the work and the team that managed the implementation.

There has been universal (and unsolicited) praise for the intervention from numerous community members at the University and in the broader community, including a resounding endorsement by the members of the Governing Council at their first meeting in September 2015, when the new zone had just been completed.

Demonstrating achievements in support of the University’s mission

Ancillary Services is a self-funded department which has been charged with finding ways to contribute funds to the University’s operating budget in a sustainable and meaningful way. To that end, Anne and her team has worked with Planning and Budget to establish a new fund line which would receive contributions from AS’s profitable enterprises, for use in supporting investments in enhancing the student experience on the St. George campus. Contributions come from a combination of across-the-board percentage of targeted revenue streams and one-time-only contributions.

Anne’s colleagues, know personally what a dedicated, visionary, beyond-stretch-goals person Anne is, and also how humble and “behind the scenes” she prefers to be. Her humility and quiet strength are likely what allows her ideas to take shape and to succeed. Hers are not initiatives spurred by a desire for recognition; they are, in her mind, simply tools which provide the sustenance, environment and funding which allow our students, staff and faculty to focus on their own endeavours. And isn’t that the sign of true, visionary leadership in pursuit of the University’s mission?


The Division of University Advancement will be publishing the names of all of their award winners in late March, prior to a celebration in April, but we here at University Operations couldn’t wait that long to celebrate one of our own!

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