Ask Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow which phase of her post-secondary education experience was most fulfilling and enjoyable and she would promptly point to the University of the West Indies (UWI).
She completed her undergraduate degree in science with honours and a diploma in education at the St. Augustine campus.
As Dr. Chandler-Crichlow prepares to be honoured with a vice-chancellor award at the sixth annual UWI Toronto benefit gala on March 28, she reflected on the time spent at the university in her native Trinidad & Tobago.
“The big thing with my undergraduate and post-graduate education is that they were embedded in the community,” she said. “For the majority of science courses I did, we visited caves and reserves and learned about the effect of erosion. It was very much grounded in the reality of the community. The education was really integrated into the community in which we lived.
“For the post-graduate diploma in education, you were taught, you assimilated and discussed and then you implemented and tested your learning in the classroom. It was very practical and built a sense of community and how you apply your learning in a broader community. I think that impacted how I approach everything I do. I believe strongly that whatever we do, we need to support the communities in which we live and be sensitive to what is going on around us.”
The last of six children born and raised in San Fernando, Chandler-Crichlow said it was an easy choice when the time came to selecting a university.
“I went there by choice because I have an older sister who went to UWI and I would often hear her talk about all of these places she visited like bird and wildlife sanctuaries,” she said. “To hear her learning was actually grounded in reality sounded like fun. When I was doing my ‘A’ level exams, I wasn’t thinking of going anywhere other than UWI. I made the right decision.”
After completing her Master’s in Education at Harvard University, Chandler-Crichlow came to Toronto in 1987 to complete her PhD in Education.
“My interest was in human capital and trying to determine how a population is developed to be competitive in a sector such as petroleum or tourism,” she said. “As I was doing my Master’s, there was a lot of literature coming out of Canada linking the workforce and economic development. When I saw what has been done here, I applied to the University of Toronto and was accepted. When I did my PhD, I was able to apply that learning as I was studying which is exactly the experience I had at UWI. It was phenomenal because that sort of learning in context allowed me to be able to see where I could use my skills and knowledge before I graduated.”
Chandler-Crichlow worked as an associate vice-president responsible for education and training at TD Bank Financial Group and served as executive and leadership development advisor to a number of international agencies, including the Toronto International Leadership Centre for Financial Sector Supervision which is an international financial sector development initiative funded by the federal government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
In addition, she has overseen the design, development, delivery and evaluation of capacity-building programs for financial sector supervisors in T & T, Brazil, Poland, Singapore and Malaysia and also played a key role in the development of leadership programs for international financial sector supervisory associations.
With extensive experience in the private sector, she has advised leaders on organizational change and staff development and has been a consultant to the World Bank, the Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Malaysia. She has also conducted high-level needs analyses for both industry sectors and large organizations for the development of integrated education and training curricula designed to meet the learning needs of diverse stakeholder groups.
In December 2009, Chandler-Crichlow was appointed executive director of the newly-established Centre of Excellence in Financial Services Education.
“The financial services sector in this region has identified that there are a number of what we call career groupings where they can’t find the people that they are looking for,” she said. “As one of the largest sectors in the world and in this region, we have gaps where they can’t find people. Youth employment is 23 per cent in this region and we have newcomers who are coming with high human capital abilities. They have got tremendous experience in financial services with undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from renowned educational institutions abroad. They come here and really struggle.
“We have job shifters, those who have been downsized from one sector in this area, but who have the skills and knowledge that could be readily applied in the financial services sector. So you have all of this mix of talent that’s really rich and well educated, but can’t find jobs. My role, in essence, is to understand the demand, what the employers want and what they are looking for in terms of talent and then to be able to say to job seekers this is what the industry needs and where do you fit.”
Chandler-Crichlow will dedicate her UWI award to her parents – Joseph and Nassaria Torres-Chandler – who are deceased. Her father worked in the oilfield. Her mother was born in Venezuela.
“When you have had the success that I have, it’s not about me,” she said. “There are so many people who have given the nudge and squeezed the shoulder on my journey. When I learned I was going to be the recipient of this prestigious award, the most profound thought that I had was the joy my parents would feel. I can’t help but think there is nothing more personal for a child than to have a home where both parents are present with clear standards. I can’t think of a greater tribute to mom and dad. This award is for them.”
Toronto Film Festival artistic director, Cameron Bailey, will also receive a vice-chancellor award while retired Quebec judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traore and Grammy-award winner, Shaggy (Orville Burrell) are the Luminary Award winners.
The Chancellor’s Award honourees are Toronto Caribbean Carnival and George Brown College.
The inaugural G. Raymond Chang Memorial Award will be presented to retired RBC executive, Charles Coffey.
Chang, who was the gala’s patron, passed away last July.
Close to 200 UWI students have benefitted from the approximately $1 million raised through the gala in the last five years.