October 16th, 2017

Leadership for Graduate Students


A guest blog by Joanne Lieu.

Hello fellow readers!
My name is Joanne and I am so humbled to be here as a guest blogger to bring another perspective to Grad Life! A little bit about myself: I am a first year Master of Education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto (UofT). I currently work with Student and Campus Community Development as the Leadership Development and Programming Assistant (LDPA) to develop ways to nurture and cultivate your leadership skills at UofT. I want to know where your passions lie and bring out the best in you to help you become successful. That being said, I hope you find my insights, milestones, and struggles as a graduate student helpful.

I’ve never considered myself a leader by profession. I was involved in campus clubs and other organizations but leader was not actively a term I used to describe myself. So before I get into a discussion of what makes a good leader, I want to acknowledge that you all can be (and most likely are) a leader in some form or fashion–whether you are aware of it or not.

I challenge you to look at your current duties: perhaps you’re a teacher’s assistant, research assistant, or you’re with a campus club and you regularly send out e-mail to your executive or campus club members. Maybe you sat down with a family member recently and got the inescapable question of , “So what are you doing now?” I’m certain that once you dig deeper, you’ll find yourself realizing that you were in a leadership position at one point or another.

Once I began my journey of self-reflection, I realized my Classroom Cleaner position in elementary school evolved overtime as I now work as a workshop facilitator. Despite the fact that I still pick up crayons, I now perform data analysis and curriculum development. That being said, you don’t have to be in a formal position to consider yourself a leader.

So what makes a good leader? A good leader realizes that through lifelong learning they can build themselves and others. Reflective thinking and taking the time to slow down can go long ways to making you a better leader personally and professionally. Nurturing a growth mindset allows you to realize where your shortcomings are and where your strengths lie. Visioning where your goals are and how you can progress to them showcases accountability and scope.

What  resources does UofT offer for us to grow our leadership skills?

  1. Student Life Programs & Services. Particularly, their Leadership for Graduate Students Workshops. These workshops tackle topics such as characteristics of a good leader, facilitating a team, and exploring leadership and management. If you attend a minimum of three workshops you get CCR-approved! They also have a great Facebook Group if you want to join the online community.
  2. The plethora of clubs available at UofT. Clubs aren’t just for undergraduate students! There are many opportunities for graduate students to get involved and exercise their leadership skills. An example would be the Healthy Grads, a student-led team that provides health promotion programming by graduate students for graduate students. A great place to start is to look at your department’s graduate student association. 

Taking the first step to any new commitment can be challenging but perseverance and commitment will almost always pay in fruitful rewards. With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Dr. Seuss that always leaves me inspired:

“And will you succeed? Yes, you will, indeed (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed) Kid, You’ll move mountains.”


Joanne Lieu


October 5th, 2017

Fall Activities in Toronto for Graduate Students



By Cricia Richon, Gradlife ambassador

Congratulations on surviving the first month back to school! I hope you’re making the most of the beautiful weather and scenery before we start hiding indoors due to the cold Canadian winter. Remember that it’s important for your mental well being to not get too consumed by your graduate studies. Take breaks to explore other aspects of your identity and explore Toronto!

Do you identify as a…

Sports enthusiast? Attend a Varsity Blues football game!

Today our Varsity Blues football team will take on the McMaster Marauders in the Varsity Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM, and tickets are free with a TCard. The UTSU is hosting pre-game homecoming festivities from 4-7 PM at the University College Quad. Can’t make it this week? View the rest of the season schedule here.

Preservationist? Visit the Evergreen Brick Works Saturday Farmers Market!

Evergreen is a Canadian charity based in Toronto that aims to inspire action to green cities, and has connected, collaborated, and catalyzed green initiatives for more than 25 years. The Evergreen Brick Works, located at the Don River Valley Park has a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 8 AM – 1 PM. Each Saturday of October there’s a new theme: Thanksgiving, chicken, waste reduction, and Halloween. This is really North of campus, but there is a shuttle bus that runs every half hour from a parkette by Broadview TTC Station. Read more here.

Bibliophile? Attend Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA)!

Take a content break from your own writing and attend Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA): a celebration of words and ideas of writers and readers. At the Harbourfront Centre from October 19 to 29, there will be readings, poetry slams, panel discussions, interviews, and book signings. Tickets are free for students and $18 for general admission. View the full schedule here.

Foodie? Explore the Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sunday!

Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most vibrant neighbourhoods that is considered an important tourist attraction and addition to Toronto’s cultural life. Every last Sunday of the month from May to October, it hosts “Pedestrian Sundays”. Between 12 to 7 PM, the streets are closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians to explore vendors showcasing what the Market has to offer with live music. October 29th marks the last one–don’t miss your last chance to experience this before having to wait until next year!

Musicphile? Listen to jazz and explore Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada!

At the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada there are over 16,000 aquatic animals, featuring North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, with over 100 interactive opportunities. Ripley’s hosts a unique musical underwater adventure on the second Friday of every month: Friday Night Jazz. These tickets are included with the Sharks After Dark or Express Anytime general admission for $28. Be sure to have a look into your affiliations’ group rates; for example, the University Health Network offers a discounted ticket prices for their graduate students. Read more about Friday Jazz Night here.

September 27th, 2017

Creating an Online Presence as Graduate Students

online presence


By Cricia Richon, Gradlife Ambassador

Branding was once a strategy to differentiate products, services, and companies to build value for the consumer and brand owner; later it evolved to broader areas such as the personal life or careers of individuals. The term personal branding refers to what you promise to bring to the marketplace and the world. The most efficient way to convey your personal brand to the world is: online. When was the last time you Googled yourself?

Personal branding is a way to provide coherence to your story, allowing your audience to easily understand your strengths and interests. This is why in the global job market, personal branding is often considered indispensable. This “story” can refer to your personal life story, your work story, or for graduate students:  your research story. As the impending scholarship season is pushes graduate students to update their academic portfolios, some may also consider amplifying their personal brand through their online presence.

Why is having an online presence important? Academically, many institutions advocate for their academics to create an online presence because it provides a professional profile, allows control of an online image, broadens access to research, and (perhaps most importantly) make connections through online engagement.

What are some useful tools? To start, research portals allow you to read and discuss publications, create exposure for your work, get statistics on your research, and connect with others in your field. Two popular research portals are ResearchGate and Academia.edu, which have similar features and are often referred to a “social network for scholars” as you can receive updates and initiate discussion on recent publications by your colleagues. A more social route would be Twitter: the form of micro-blogging academics use to learn about talks, publications, job opportunities, and interact with the public. Its instant nature can be taken advantage of to optimize your outreach and engagement. For example, many conferences and events can be attended virtually now with live tweets and Periscope (the live video streaming app Twitter acquired).
What’s the difference between online presence and your personal brand? As you delve into different tools to develop your online presence, it’s important to remember that online presence cannot be substituted for a personal brand. In a research setting, your personal brand can be thought of the story that you want your CV to convey. Your online presence can be thought of as the number of points on your CV. Quantity is nice, but quality definitely overrides quality. Without a balance, the quantity can begin clouding the quality. This is where your online presence may begin to become a distraction, and why social media like Twitter sometimes get a bad rap. However, with the growing popularity of tools like Altmetric, which looks at the broader influence and impacts of your work beyond academic citations, playing with this balance may be worth the time investment in the long run.

Photo credits: Kenneth Jones

September 19th, 2017

Welcome [Back]!


Congratulations and welcome [back] to graduate studies at the University of Toronto! The beginning of the year, especially for students moving to Toronto for the first time, can be a disorienting time. We at GradLife are excited to offer services to you in order to ease this transition. As the new GradLife Ambassador, part of my role is to help orient you on these services.

Last September, I started my research-based program with UofT’s Institute of Medical Science. I treated the first few weeks like clockwork. Lab from 9AM-5PM delving into my thesis topic: neuroplasticity in chronic deep brain stimulation patients with Parkinson’s disease. The isolation that easily comes with graduate studies didn’t occur me until I realized how difficult it was for me to answer the casual question: “how was your day?” GradLife exists to prevent this isolation as it encourages you to:

Connect with people. Alone, we are limited to our stream of consciousness and experiences. Through making connections we can expand our scope of knowledge, strategies, and perspectives in both academics and other aspects of life. I am a huge advocate for reaching out to people in your institute, program, and to those outside academia. By getting involved with the Trainee Affairs Committee at my research institute, my departmental magazine, and one of UofT’s many dragon boat teams, my self-inflicted feelings of isolation dissipated. An easy suggestion for you: attend one of our GradTalks, and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. Ask them how their day went.

Explore Toronto. Graduate studies allow students to become rare specialists on topics, and thus they are often propelled towards opportunities around the world. As graduate students of the University of Toronto, the more you allow the culture of this city to enhance your graduate experience, the more you’ll be able to embody a University of Toronto alumni at a national or international level. I hope to inspire you to discover Toronto for the beautiful city by Lake Ontario, rich with multiculturalism, and traditions that it is. Easy suggestion for you: seek an experience that is novel for you through one of our GradEscapes. Did you know that Toronto has a Shoe Museum?

Ask questions. No question is too simple or too complex. We are here for support. Easy suggestion for you: e-mail us at gradlife@utoronto.ca or tweet at us @UofTGradlife.

Hope your day is going well.



September 8th, 2017

Starting the Semester Right

Whew! Orientations are slowly drawing to a close (but don’t forget, the Gradlife transition event will be happening Monday, September 11), and that means the real work is right around the corner. I know there was a lot of information thrown your way this week, and that you might be starting to feel some anxiety about how you could possibly juggle it all, but not to worry! We’ve got you covered :) If you don’t have time to check out all of the wonderful resources available to you on campus right away, then read on!

In an effort to help you stay calm, collected, and on top of things, we’ve compiled a list of some great apps that will help you study, encourage your calm, and hopefully bring you a little clarity during the start of the term.

Good luck with your research and courses!

Apps to get through it all without wanting to order 100 coffees

**most of these apps are compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows, and can be accessed via your phone or computer**

Study-Based Apps to Get You Through:

taken from LaptopMag

taken from LaptopMag

Evernote (FREE): a great app to organize all those notes, graph photos, to-do lists, and pre-holiday obligations. Evernote helps you to: take notes, make to-do lists, set reminders, attach files, and also save a photo as a document or post-it.

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Khan Academy (FREE): Strictly speaking, this one isn’t a study organizer, but it DOES have cool videos on basically any topic, which means you can watch LeBron James introduce a probability problem if you need a quick reminder on the basics of a topic, or just want to browse a different subject as a study break.

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Wolfram Alpha: This app isn’t free, but it IS a tutor, report & graph generator, and formula explicator that you get all for $2.99. Not too shabby!

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Easy Bib (FREE): We all know that writing the bibliography of a research paper is the wrst part, so why not make it easier on yourself? EasyBib is great because you can access it from your phone, now you can work on those pesky citations when killing time on the subway!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

My Study Life (FREE): need to keep track of a crazy study, research, class, lab schedule? Want to access it across multiple devices? Look no further!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Flash Cards Deluxe: Too cool NOT to include, even if it IS $3.99. This app lets you create personalized flashcards for anything. ANYTHING. And you can use them on your phone, and NOT waste more paper or get hand cramps writing out your notes on cue cards.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Sleep Cycle ($1.69-1.99): Knowing WHEN to wake up, no matter how early or late you’re going to bed, is key to making sure you get a good night’s rest and your brain is ready to go even without that coffee! This app will tell you when you need to wake up depending on your sleep time, and helps you get there too.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

The Now (FREE): This app will help you keep your chin up by sending you mindfulness messages throughout the day.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Talkspace: Don’t have time to book an appointment with UofT Health Services but really need someone to talk to during crunch time? For $25 a week, you can message with a therapist from your phone. The app IS free, but that version gives you limited access to therapists.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Smiling Mind (FREE): This app gives you guided meditation practice based on your age. Ucertain about this one? A little mindfulness each day is actually a great way to boost your awareness, and create a sense of peace…something we could all use when research papers loom.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

SuperBetter Games (FREE): Basically, these are games that help improve your resiliency, mental health, and encourage creative thinking to hard problems. A very productive way to take a study break if you ask me!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Songza (FREE): For me, there is nothing better than instrumental music to keep me focused when studying, a little old rock to get me having a dance party when I need to move (aka when I can no longer sit at my desk), and some upbeat tunes when I need to put a little happiness back in my mind. Check out Songza for music playlists to fit your every mood, activity, genre, and occasion!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Magic Window – Living Pictures: Can’t actually get outside to take a walk and take in nature? Try Magic Window, it will send you peaceful nature scenes from around the world to put everything right in your world.

While we certainly hope these apps help you de-stress, stay centered, and get through this busy period more easily, don’t forget to take care of yourselves and to seek help in person here if you need to. Good luck!

September 5th, 2017

Virtual Campus Tour

Didn’t make it to our Gradlife Campus Tours last week? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered! For those of you new to campus, or who are returning to campus but want to know more about the resources available to grad students, read on. Below is a picture of the route we took, with some info about each of the places we stopped. If you have any questions, send us a message on facebook , or follow us on twitter (@UofTGradlife) to stay tuned with what’s coming to you from the Gradlife office.



Grey Star – Start @ 65 St. George St., Schools of Graduate Studies (SGS)

Yellow Circle – Stop @ Cumberland House

Orange Circle – Stop @ Koffler Student Services

Pink Circle – Stop @ GSU, Multi-faith Centre, Bike Chain

Purple Circle – Stop @ Grad Room/Grad House, Athletic Centre

Black Circle – Stop @ 21 Sussex Ave.

Brown Circle – Stop @ Hart House

Red Star – End @ 65 St. George St., School of Graduate Studies (SGS)

School of Graduate Studies (SGS)

  • Graduate Professional Skills Program (GPS)
    • runs the Leadership Skills for Grads workshops
  • Counsellor dedicated to grad students
  • Newly renovated student lounge – with coffee and cookies (for the tour times only)! Feel free to hang out, anytime
  • September 5, Graduate Orientation “Making the Most of your Graduate Experience”
  • Website: tips on living in Toronto if you’re new
  • Collaborates with other departments like the CIE
    • Free movie nights
    • Intercultural communication workshops
    • Step-Up Orientation for International Grad Students (Aug 31)

Cumberland House

  • Centre for International Experience – exchange and transition support
    • Orientation for International/Exchange Grad Students: Aug. 31st
  • Partners with the School of Graduate Studies (SGS)
    • English writing support, for native and non-native speakers (called the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication)
      • GCAC is located at 704 Spadina Ave.
    • Offers workshops on intercultural communication
  • Gradlife Ambassador program
  • Free movie nights (movies are screened at Innis College, just North of Robarts on St. George)

Koffler Student Services Building

  • Bookstore
  • Academic Success Centre
    • Learning strategists/workshops/graduate writing group/graduate centre for academic communication/
  • Conflict Resolution Centre for grads only (book an appointment with G2G peers online to chat about problems with your thesis, your supervisor, etc.)
  • Health & Wellness Centre (drop-in or appointment; first time appointment you make it by phone, and it’s very easy to do; suggest making an appointment so they don’t wait & so they get a spot, walk-in spaces fill up quickly)
  • Family Care Office (for students with kids or other family responsibilities)
    • Orientation for students with family responsibilities is Sep. 16
  • T-Card Office (to access gym, libraries, and to get your TTC student discount card)
  • Housing Office
  • Career Services
    • Flexible Futures series for grads (learn about diverse careers, explore your interests, plan your career, experiential and peer-to-peer learning, etc.)
  • Second Cup
  • Student life & AskMe (ask students there any questions about facilities, programs, resources, libraries, etc. on campus)

GSU (Grad Student’s Union)

  • home of the Grad Student Union (dental, health insurance)
    • Welcome BBQ with grad-specific info fair on Sep. 6 (4-8pm)
  • Harvest Noon Café
    • Local and organic food
    • Board games
    • Used by Gradlife for trivia nights
  • GSU pub (365 days a year)
  • Grad Minds (offers free healthy living and PD activities for students)
  • UTGSU weekly digest office
    • Still hiring coordinator and photographer, check their website for details
  • Free intramurals for all grad students,

Accessibility Services

  • 455 Spadina, at the corner of Spadina & College

Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Office

  • Located at 704 Spadina (street behind Koffler house)
  • Referrals for counselling, workshops, connect students with medical care/legal counsel/housing, etc.

Bike Chain

  • Free bicycle rental for U of T students (you have to go in person to book it)
  • workshops on bicycle safety and repairs
  • free “Do It Yourself” bicycle repairs (access to space & tools & mechanics to guide you)
  • offer a women/trans/gender non-binary space of their own to work on bike repairs on Tuesdays from 6-9pm

Multifaith Centre

  • Home of the Community Partnership Program (CPP), a great organization to join if you want to get involved in the Toronto community while you’re at U of T
  • Location of the Transitioning to Gradlife orientation run by Gradlife on Sep. 11
  • Has:
    • Fun Food & Friends drop-in Wednesdays at 4
    • Massage Thursdays from 2-4
    • Being Authentic workshop
    • Spirituality & Social Justice Film Series (interdepartmental initiative)
    • VEDA café (Halal food options)

First Nations House for Indigenous students

  • On Spadina, around the corner from Koffler house
  • Runs workshops and learning opportunities with Elders

Athletics Centre

  • The largest recreational gym on campus
  • Has: pool, running track, basketball courts, squash court, weight rooms, etc.
  • Used a lot by varsity teams [be careful of scheduling for when you can use the equipment and the track, there are some days/hours reserved to varsity teams (info on this is on the Athletics Centre website)]
  • Other gyms: Hart House & Goldring Centre
  • All gym locker rooms are following an initiative called “The Change Room Project” (especially designed to make members of the LGBTQ+ community feel comfortable and safe in their persons, and in their school space)

Grad Room/Grad House

  • Grad Room is the study & workshop space FOR GRADS
  • Grad Room has peer advisors (ask questions about: life as a grad, including events/workshops/jobs/volunteering/writing support, and more)
  • Grad Room has: Second Cup, Gradminds yoga sessions, visits from St. John’s puppies, professional development sessions, etc.
  • Grad House is the graduate student residence on campus, there is also a family housing unit just off campus

21 Sussex

  • office of the clubs on campus, including Graduate Life & Leadership for Grads & the CCR office
    • GradEscape: Games Social @ Hart House, September 21
    • GradTalks: Sharing & Publishing Your Research, September 19
    • Transitioning to Gradlife Orientation: Tips, Tricks & Making Connections, Sep. 11
  • Sexual Gender & Diversity Office
    • Q21 Conversation Café: every Thursday, 3-4 (drop in)
    • Queer Orientation Sep. 25-30, check their website or FB for details
  • Check out the CLN (career learning network) for opportunities to work with Student Life or Gradlife, they are still hiring for the 2017-2018 school term
  • Campus police
  • they have an open house in October with free candy and cool drop-in activities so you can learn about all of the clubs and programs offered

Robarts Library

  • tours for the first few weeks of school so you can learn the ins/outs (ONLY UNTIL September 4)
    • Reference & Research: drop-in M-F, 1pm & 5pm
    • Robarts Library (general): drop-in M-F, 830am & 11am
  • awesome librarians who run workshops on how to do research
  • Can book consultations with librarians to get help/direction with your research; they’ll try to match you with someone who has experience in your specific area
  • CTSI – Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, run the Teaching Assistants Training Program
  • Features: open 24/7 during exam season, cafeteria, ATM, Ask Me desk

Hart House

  • Gym
  • Hart House Theatre
  • $5 lunch days, International cuisine café
  • Library rooms for studying
  • “Get Crafty” events & Board Games Café
  • Family Sundays once/month
    • First: Bubble Fun, Sep. 17 (see front desk or website for registration)
  • Open-house BBQ, “Explore Hart House” on Sept. 14, 12-2pm (where you can try out a bunch of their programs and get free BBQ in return)

August 18th, 2017

Welcome & Welcome Back! Starting 2017/2018 Off Right

Written by: Kat Clark, Gradlife Intern

It’s about that time again, when we calculate just how many official days there are left in summer (or is that just me?), and how many more times we can sit on a patio or study in the sunshine before the campus calls us back to hide in our labs, lecture halls, offices, and libraries.



For some reason, even though most grad students still have research and course work to do over the summer, those May-August months still seem like a little bit of a break, and we’re always just a little bit surprised when we look up and realise that it’s nearing the end of August.

To make that welcome or welcome back to campus a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the some of the orientations available to grad students, where you’ll learn about opportunities for you to get involved on campus (and find that very important support system and community), and how to be proactive in building a successful graduate career.

Without further ado, take a big breath (you’ve got this), and here we go!

Date Time Event Meeting Place
Aug. 28th

Aug. 30th

Sep. 1st

Drop-in at 12pm, 3pm, & 530pm Grad Campus Tours!

Our grad-focused tours are back for their second year in a row, and we’ll be visiting locations/services that are grad-friendly/focused. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you where the good food is, too.

School of Graduate Studies Student Lounge, 63 St. George St.

(PS – there will be cookies & coffee in the lounge for tour folks, tell your friends)

Aug. 31st 8:30am – 6:30pm Grad Step Up!

Are you a new, international grad student? Join the Centre for International Experience (CIE) and the SGS for a full-day orientation that will connect you to Toronto & U of T (plus, there’s a social).

Hart House Building

7 Hart House Circle

Toronto, ON M5S 3H3

Sep. 5th 10:00am – 12:00pm

2:00pm – 4:00pm

5:00pm – 7:00pm

School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Orientation

This day will be filled with a resource fair & panelist discussions that target both research & professional students.

JJR MacLeod Auditorium, 1 King’s College Circle, Rm 2158
Sep. 6th 4:00pm – 8:00pm

5:00pm – 7:00pm


Come get a little more social and meet some of your fab grad peers at the Grad Student Union’s (GSU) annual resource fair and FREE BBQ. So, grab a new friend and come say hi!

PS. The GSU is still hiring some positions for the Fall term, so this is a great time to connect.

Graduate Student Union

16 Bancroft Ave.


Sep.11th 9:00am – 3:00pm Transitioning to Life as a Grad Student

Join our Gradlife team, the Conflict Resolution Centre, peer panelists, the Academic Success Centre, & Mentorship Programs for tips & tricks on succeeding in grad school.

Main Activity Hall
Multi-Faith Centre
569 Spadina Ave
Toronto, ON
M5S 2J7
Sep.16th 10:00am – 1:30pm Family Care Orientaion

Are you a grad student with family responsibilities? Come by OISE to start building support for your time at U of T and learn what resources are available to help you get proactive about balancing your family and school life.


252 Bloor Street West, Rm 5150

And there you have it, folks! Whether you’re a new grad student discovering U of T for the first time, or you’ve called U of T your home for some time, the orientations and support workshops available to grad students will help you start the 2017/2018 year off right. Above all, we’re hoping that you come out to learn not just about how to succeed academically, but where you can build your support networks, make friends, and find some community during your time at U of T.

We’re excited for the year to start, and are hoping you are just as jazzed as we are about starting this year together.



August 4th, 2017

No Issue is Too Small: conflict resolution in grad school

While graduate students may enjoy small class sizes and work in small groups, grad school can be an oddly isolated experience. Not being exposed to your fellow students and lacking a peer network can be particularly challenging when dealing with conflicts or other interpersonal issues. It can be difficult to understand what the “normal” graduate school experience is like, and I have often felt as if I was the only one struggling with being a grad student. Here is where the Graduate Conflict Resolution Centre (Grad CRC) can help!


The Grad CRC has been operating since January 2016, providing graduate students with conflict resolution and management resources and support. Formed in response to recommendations put forward by the Provostial Committee on Student Mental Health, the Grad CRC aims to support and engage students in the conflict resolution process. The centre offers workshops and training on conflict resolution strategies and a large part of their work is done through the G2G (grad-to-grad) peer advisors.

The G2G peer advisors make up an informal network of peers who are available to talk with you about any issue or problem that you may be dealing with in a safe and confidential manner. They are a diverse bunch, comprised of nine Master and PhD students in a wide range of departments across the University of Toronto. The peer advisors do not advocate or act on your behalf, but they will support you throughout the conflict resolution process. “We respect the autonomy of the student to decide how they want to resolve their conflict,” states Matt, G2G peer advisor and PhD student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies. A quarter of all of the issues students discuss with the peer advisors relate to conflicts with supervisors or professors, according to Heather McGhee Peggs, manager of the Grad CRC. Often, students are unaware of the various options (both informal and formal) that are available to them to solve conflicts. “We are here to talk through the issue and let students know that there is more than one way to deal with conflict,” states Priyanka, another G2G peer advisor and Master student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies.

The G2G peer advisors receive extensive training, with over 35 hours of conflict resolution training, where they develop skills such as active listening, intercultural communication, dealing with power imbalances and imposterphenomenon, and learn about essential graduate policies and resources. Both Matt and Priyanka were drawn to the role of G2G peer advisors because of their previous experience with mentorship. Matt works at the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication, where he teaches courses on academic conversation skills and academic writing for non-English speaking students. Through this role, Matt gained insight into the academic and cultural norms in Canada, as well as how to navigate them. For Priyanka, this role is a natural fit given her prior experience as an informal peer advisor during her time as an undergrad, as well as her own experience dealing with academic culture shock as an international student.

In their roles as peer advisors, Matt and Priyanka have encountered students with a large variety of issues, ranging from difficult relationships with colleagues, to dealing with isolation and loneliness, to coping with imposter syndrome. “Being able to talk through a problem with someone can be very helpful in clarifying the issue,” says Priyanka. And although the peer advisors do not provide counselling services, they can help validate a student’s experience. “Even giving something like imposter phenomenon a name shows students that they are not alone, and that this is something many people go through,” states Matt.

Both Priyanka and Matt stress that no issue is too small to discuss. “Students do not have to be in the midst of a huge crisis or conflict to seek support,” says Matt. Priyanka agrees, stating, “Often students just want to talk about how to manage the general stress of grad school.” Talking to a peer about managing stress can be an invaluable experience, particularly as the culture of academia may often encourage a “deal with it” attitude. But with graduate peer support services becoming ubiquitous across university campuses (including Western University, McGill, York University, and MIT, to name a few), it is clear that schools are recognizing the importance of providing support networks and fostering a sense of community among their graduate trainees.

At U of T, the G2G peer advisors host drop-in sessions all over the St. George campus, as well as having private one-on-one appointments available year-round. Follow the Grad CRC Twitter page for updates on drop-in hours (which are also available on the CLN website), and visit the Grad CRC website to book an appointment.

June 28th, 2017

Graduate Writing Groups — a community to get you through your writing woes

Throughout my time as a grad student, I have found that as soon as I need to sit down to write a grant application or a manuscript, a number of other very important tasks magically appear. Making the time to write can be challenging, especially when it comes to writing something as long and daunting as a thesis or a dissertation. This is where the Academic Success Graduate Writing Groups come in handy!

Source: https://giphy.com

Source: https://giphy.com

These groups are small meetings facilitated by learning strategists and graduate student mentors that provide a time and space for you to dedicate to your writing. The idea for the groups came from one of Academic Success’ Learning Strategists, Dr. Janelle Joseph, who found that there were a number of common challenges that graduate students had to contend with when it came to writing. “Some students have trouble managing their time, they can’t find the time or space to write, and they often feel isolated in their experience,” she states. And so, in January 2015, the first Graduate Writing Group was established, with three main aims: to create a dedicated time and place for graduate students to write, to help build a community of interdisciplinary graduate students, and to provide students with productivity strategies and tips. That first Graduate Writing Group consisted of eight students meeting on a weekly basis. Currently, there are 13 writing groups that meet at various times throughout the week (including evenings and weekends), all over campus. Each group is also equipped with a Grad Mentor, a current graduate student who helps facilitate goal-setting and shares tips and tricks for writing.

The writing group runs for 2.5 hours and is fairly structured. Each group starts off with a check-in where members are asked to set an explicit goal for the session. This type of concrete, measurable goal-setting can help break down large tasks and maintain motivation. The bulk of the session is dedicated to silent writing. Finally, the session concludes with a debrief where students are asked if they had accomplished their goal, if their goal had shifted, and discuss the challenges they are facing and strategies to overcome them. The groups are kept fairly small, with up to 14 students each. The size of the group is a factor that Dr. Joseph is very conscious of. “Small groups help keep you accountable and they also help foster a sense of community,” she says. And it seems that each group does become its very own supportive community, with some students even choosing to meet up outside of the scheduled group for a DIY writing session. “Students are not alone in this. Going through the process of writing is better when you are in a community,” says Dr. Joseph, “and these groups help students build organization and project management skills that will come in handy beyond their thesis or manuscript.”

In addition to designing the groups to address writing challenges, Dr. Joseph wanted to ensure that they were accessible to students with hectic schedules. Registration for the writing groups is open year-round, but the groups are roughly based on the academic semesters, running from September to December, January to April, and May to August. Students can sign up for up to three groups per week and are encouraged to attend the groups as long as they need. “The groups are designed such that you can build your schedule around your writing time,” explains Dr. Joseph. The schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups can be found on the Academic Success website.

Summer schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups. Source: https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/asc/graduate-writing-group

Summer schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups.
Source: https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/asc/graduate-writing-group

There are also a number of resources available to students to assist with the writing process at the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication (GCAC; formerly known as the Office of English Language and Writing Support). Starting in August, the GCAC will offer various workshops, individual writing centre consultations, non-credit courses, and writing intensives. You can find more information on GCAC offerings here.

If you’re looking for virtual support, Shut Up and Write Tuesday is an excellent international community for academic writers. Check out their website and the Shut Up and Write North America Twitter account to see what they’re all about.

June 20th, 2017

Pride 101

This years marks the 37th anniversary of Toronto’s annual Pride festival and the city’s second Pride month. Over the last few weeks, the rainbow flag (a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and trans (LGBQT) pride and social movements) has been popping up around the city and campus. The first iteration of Pride in Toronto started in 1971, when a group of gay and lesbian activists gathered for a picnic at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands to celebrate the gay community. This gathering soon became an annual event and has evolved into one of the largest Pride festivals in the world. Today, Pride celebrations begin on June 1 and culminate in the highly anticipated Pride Parade on June 25.

Pride is a celebration of the unique queer and trans communities in Toronto and consists of numerous artists and cultural events showcased in some of our city’s coolest venues. According to this year’s Pride Guide, “2017 is Pride’s year of +…plus community, plus diversity, plus conversation, plus art, plus family, plus politics, plus our history, plus the future.”

Here are some awesome Pride events to check out this week:

Tuesday, June 20

Source: Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, University of Toronto

Source: Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, University of Toronto

UTSC Pride T-shirt Painting 1-4pm
UTSC Center, 1265 Military Trail

Join SC:OUT and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union for an afternoon of fun, rainbows, and glitter! Get ready for the Pride Parade by painting your own t-shirt and enjoy some good food, good music, and great company!


Source: Toronto AIDS Candlelight Vigil

Source: Toronto AIDS Candlelight Vigil

AIDS Candlelight Vigil 9pm
Barbara Hall Park, 519 Church Street

This year’s vigil is organized around the theme of “In the Spirit of Wellness and Healing”, and will feature performers and artists who reflect the diversity of the community affected by or living with HIV/AIDS. This event brings together people living with HIV/AIDS, friends, family, and allies to celebrate those living with the disease and honour the lives that have been lost.


Wednesday, June 21

Source: University of Toronto Students’ Union

Source: University of Toronto Students’ Union

Unpacking Police and Pride: A Conversation with Rodney Diverlus 4-6pm
OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 5150

Last year, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) called for a ban on police uniforms, guns, and dedicated police floats in the Pride Parade. This ban was later supported by Pride members at their annual general meeting, a decision that sparked controversy both within and outside of the queer community. Join this conversation with one of the co-founders of BLMTO, Rodney Diverlus, to unpack this issue and learn about blackness in the queer community.


Source: http://www.pridetoronto.com/pride-month/events/awaken-youth-showcase/

Source: http://www.pridetoronto.com/pride-month/events/awaken-youth-showcase/

Awaken: Youth Showcase 3-9pm

Yonge-Dundas Stage, 10 Dundas Street East

Head over to Yonge and Dundas Square to see performances from a lineup of youth making a huge impact in pop culture and music. The showcase will feature some of the best young drag performers, incredibly talented queer singer/songwriters, and dynamic bands. Awaken also marks the start of five days of back-to-back performances on the Yonge-Dundas stage.


Thursday, June 22

Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/display-your-pride-2/

Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/display-your-pride-2/

#DisplayYourPride | UTSG, UTM, UTSC campuses

This tri-campus event has become an annual tradition at the University of Toronto. Join your fellow students, alumni, staff, and faculty to show everyone what your Pride looks like. Dress up, decorate your space, display artwork — anything goes! This event is designed to celebrate our Pride, build awareness, and create safe and inclusive spaces on campus. Post photos of your Pride using #DisplayYourPride and #UofT

Campus-specific details:
St. George Campus — 1-3pm, 2nd floor of the Multifaith Centre (569 Spadina Avenue)
Hosted by the St. George Positive Space Committee, this #DisplayYourPride event will have food and a group photo at 2:00pm

Mississauga Campus — 11am, campus-wide
UTM Campus Police Officers will be handing out free frozen treats all over campus as part of “Positive Treats for Positive Space”

Scarborough Campus — 1-4pm, campus-wide
Campus Police and Positive Space will be handing out free ice treats all around campus. Register in advance to ensure that they stop by your location!


Dancing on the Pier: Pride Night!  7-10pm
Boulevard Tent, 235 Queens Quay West

Let your hair down, put on your dancing shoes, and kick off this summer-long dance party at Toronto’s Harbourfront! There will be a dance party every Thursday evening until August 31st, featuring a diverse range of styles, from salsa to big band! Bring a partner or find one on the pier!


Friday, June 23

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/426946277672579/

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/426946277672579/

Trans March | rally 6:30pm, march 7pm
Church and Hayden St intersection

Join U of T at the annual Trans march! The U of T Pride team will be meeting in front of The Croissant Tree (625 Church Street) at 6:00pm. Free U of T Pride t-shirts will be available!


Saturday, June 24

Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/u-t-participates-pride-run/

Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/u-t-participates-pride-run/

Pride and Remembrance Run  10-11:30am
Corner of Church and Wellesley

Hit the pavement with U of T’s Pride and Remembrance Run Team for a 5km run (or 3km walk) in support of local LGBTQ organizations! If you can’t join the team, consider sponsoring them sponsoring them


Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/u-t-marches-dyke-march/

Source: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/event/u-t-marches-dyke-march/

Dyke March | rally 1pm, march 2pm

Church and Hayden St intersection

Join U of T at the annual Dyke march! The U of T Pride team will be meeting at 12:40 pm in front of the Bank of Montreal, 120 Bloor Street East (corner of Church Street and Bloor Street East). Free U of T Pride t-shirts will be available!


Sunday, June 25

Source: http://www.pridetoronto.com/pride-month/pride-parade/

Source: http://www.pridetoronto.com/pride-month/pride-parade/

Pride Parade 2pm
Bloor and Church St intersection

The culmination of the Pride Festival is the highly-anticipated Pride Parade! With over 150 groups participating in the march, there will be unforgettable performances, floats, and lots of glitter and rainbows. Choose a spot along the route to watch the parade, or join the U of T contingent in the march! If you want to march with U of T, the group will be meeting at 2pm on Bloor Street at Ted Rogers Way.


For details, updates, and more information on Pride events on campus, check out the  Sexual and Gender Diversity Office (SGDO) Events Calendar

If you’re looking to connect with LGBTQ graduate student groups or resources, visit the: SGDO website

Check out the 2017 Pride Guide for more awesome Pride events happening throughout the month!

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