Student Profile: Iris Deng – Student, Artist, and Leader

Meet Iris Deng, a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto and good friend of the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP). Her involvement at the CCP has been an integrated part of her University of Toronto life; from volunteering to writing and graphic design, Iris has been involved with the CCP in various roles and perspectives. Iris’ involvement began during her first year of study for February 2017’s Alternative Reading Week, and she has since pursued other volunteer and work-study positions.

It was my first year. I was living in res, and I saw the poster. It said: ‘What are you doing during reading week? Consider Alternative Reading Week!’ I was intrigued,” says Iris.

Alternative Reading Week is an annual volunteering experience organized by the Centre for Community Partnerships in which students spend three days working on various projects with local community organizations. Iris spent her first Alternative Reading Week with the Innovation Hub. “The Innovation Hub is a student-led initiative that collaborates with partners in the university community to research and ideate innovative strategies for improving the campus experience” (Innovation Hub).

The following year, Iris was inspired to rejoin Alternative Reading Week as a project leader, collaborating with students on a mural for ArtHeart at Daniels Spectrum. “A community cultural hub, Daniel’s Spectrum is home to several art-based communities such as ArtHeart, whose mission is to build self-esteem and self-reliance for children, youth, adults, and families in the Regent Park community” (ArtHeart Community Art Centre). In addition to her interest in psychology and economics, her two majors, Iris also has a passion for visual arts and design: “I draw portraits, photo-realistic drawings, and in recent years, comics and graphics too”. Along with her contributions as a project leader for Alternative Reading Week at ArtHeart, Iris has also applied her technical art skills through comics for the University of Toronto’s “The Varsity” and her work-study positions at the CCP. During her second and third years at the University of Toronto, Iris worked in the CCP work-study position of Communications and Promotions.

(Left) Iris (5th from the right) and her teammates in front of the 2018 ArtHeart Mural created during Alternative Reading Week. (Right) A sketch of Iris’ ‘lovely squad’ during the 2018 Alternative Reading Week.

During her second year of study (and first work-study period), Iris also worked for Student Life’s blog, representing the CCP and writing alongside other U of T divisions. She proposed formatting her blog posts as comics with blurbs, making the comics the emphasis of her posts: “I got to incorporate my artistic skills. I got tired of writing so I asked: “Can I draw instead?”

Comics from Iris’ Student Life blog.

Henceforth blogging for Student Life through comics, Iris blogged in a personal and unique style. For her CCP position, she undertook numerous projects that allowed her to apply her graphic design and illustration skills, including poster and t-shirt designs. For one such project, she illustrated for the CCP’s children book “Bloom’s Community Garden”, of which 70 copies were printed.

“It was hard balancing everything. I was working at the CCP, and that made me want to be more involved in the events that they held. I had to attend them and blog about my experiences for my Student Life blogger position, which I really enjoyed. I was glad to incorporate my artistic skills.”

Illustrations by Iris from “Bloom’s Community Garden”.

During her third year, Iris was a photographer for Alternative Reading Week and delivered a public speech during its orientation. She also continued in her role as Communications and Promotions Assistant at the CCP. Through the variety of roles she has assumed at the CCP, Iris has gained skills from digital art to writing, blogging, and even public speaking. “In a work-study position, you aren’t limited. Your skills come up and that’s what you can bring to the table. I guess I brought artistic skills. From there you learn even more. Being involved has helped me grow in many ways. …  I made some opportunities happen and some just happened to me! CCP was a starting point and I jumped to different places, like Student Life and University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU), but I always came back because there’s always more I can learn.”.

Now in her fourth year of study, Iris continues to be involved with the CCP. She plans to finish her Bachelor’s degree in 2020 and pursue a career in communications, design, or marketing. “I don’t want to limit myself to these fields though”, says Iris. Additionally, she plans to further pursue her visual arts skills through formal training and practice. “I’d love to have a stall at an art exhibition or show, or sell my art.” Check out her Instagram page to see more of her amazing work, or click here to see her illustrations for the Varsity!

Iris D. (@shh.who.draws) • Instagram photos and videos

See Instagram photos and videos from Iris D. (@shh.who.draws)

Drawings from Iris’ Instagram page.

Works Cited

“ArtHeart Community Art Centre.” Daniels Spectrum,

“Our Work.” The Innovation Hub,


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