As a graduate student at U of T with a focus in community development, I look a lot at community-based models and theories for change. I firmly believe that by connecting with one another in authentic and needs-based practices, we can find a sense of community for belonging and support. However, this belief often competes with my role in an academic field fuelled by excellence. This is a reality that I am simultaneously proud of and struggling with, as I try to prioritize my studies alongside work, my artistic practice, mental health, and well … the list goes on!
‘Mental health in academia is too often a forgotten footnote. That needs to change.’ —Arnav Chhabra
In light of recent dialogues and initiatives on campus regarding mental health and wellness, the Innovation Hub has been looking at this reality. Over the past three months, our team reexamined the data from our three years of empathy-based inquiries, which include over 400 student voices, to articulate some core themes and insights into how an academic environment can impact one’s mental health and wellness. We also wanted to use these insights to propose possibilities for change, and we were honoured to share our work on these topics with a range of audiences.
In the Project Primer series, we’ll be introducing the design projects our team members are tackling this summer. Stay turned to learn about our work in five different areas! First up: Accessibility at Convocation…
Written by Alex, Rhea Makund, Natasha Cuneo, and Kate Welsh
Did you attend your convocation? For increasing numbers of University of Toronto graduates, the answer is yes. In the past five years, the number of graduates participating in their convocation ceremony has risen by 20 %.
Thus, creating an inclusive community for graduating students is becoming increasingly important.
At the Innovation Hub, we were excited to participate in #DisplayYourPride at the University of Toronto, so we could show our support for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month at U of T, with its vision of making every student at this university feel safe, accepted, and heard, aligns with our own goal at the Innovation Hub of improving student experiences through empathy-based research that inspires social justice and social change. Thus, #DisplayYourPride was the perfect opportunity to create an installation that celebrates individuality and connectedness, and that rededicates us to our own efforts to create an environment that includes all students.
We centred our installation around the question, “What does Pride mean to you?”
How can we make Convocation more accessible? What makes a classroom great? What support do student parents need? How can staff and students work together to create effective programs?
These are some of the questions driving this summer’s Innovation Hub team. We’ll answer them by listening to the stories of students and staff, shining a searchlight on how they interact with the university—in lecture, at Convocation, at work—and how the university can reach out in response.