In Honour of Black History Month: Shining A Light on Anti-Black Racism

As we approach the month of February, the Innovation Hub will be recognizing and honouring Black History Month, a period dedicated to celebrating the centuries of traditions, heritage and achievements made by African Diaspora across the world. This upcoming month, a new chapter of history will be added to this powerful novel, based upon the series of unfortunate events that transpired over the past year. The previously existing racial injustices and violence faced by black communities were for the first time observed on a world-wide scale. But most importantly, what was clearly observed was the concern of not only the past and present, but the future to come.  

‘Silence ensures that history repeats itself’  

Erin Gruwell

Using Design Thinking Mindsets For Rapid Change

Two hands putting puzzle pieces together into a circle.

With restrictions in place in many of our communities being flexible and responsive to new ideas has become essential. By finding creative ways to work around limitations, design thinking has come to the forefront. Organizations (like the Innovation Hub) are using design thinking to solve their own unique set of challenges, and nurture mindsets that inspire change. Since the lockdown, our Leadership Team has been navigating and responding to internal challenges in new ways and are continuing to do so – many of which are explored in this post.  

Failing Forward: Embracing Failure In Our Work

A side profile in front of a clock.

No matter how many times failure comes knocking at your door, it can feel like a stranger you don’t want to welcome in. Failure looks different for everyone, but the way we perceive it is often similar – a feeling of defeat after expending time and effort on a specific task. Although it sounds cliché, failure is a valuable learning tool. It presents an opportunity to put yourself out there and be vulnerable by attempting something for the first time. In fact, many organizations are beginning to adopt this practice of ‘failing forward’, a term coined by John C. Maxwell, as a mindset of separating mistakes from self-worth and intentionally stepping into unfamiliarity to seize more from life. At the Innovation Hub, failure has not only been welcomed but embraced in the work that we do. It is an essential part of solving complex problems to help us expand on our ideas and pivot towards the side of innovation. Much of our work won’t be where it is today without embracing failure.  

The Robarts Library Project: What do libraries mean to students?

By The Robarts Library Team (Philippa Gosine – Senior Research Assistant, Mac Morgan – Design Research Team Lead, Manaal Mirza – Data Analysis Researcher, and Anshika Seth – Data Analysis Researcher) & Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor and Writer

Icon of a book opening up, with a conversation bubble and ideas popping out of it.

As a keeper of knowledge and endless possibility, a library occupies a key place in a student’s campus experience. Robarts Library, the largest of the UofT libraries, brings in thousands of students each day to support the diverse student population at every stage of their academic careers. Since September 2020, the Innovation Hub has worked closely with Robarts Library in seeking to understand what students truly desire from a redesigned library space. We shared a call for participation to the broader UofT community and received an overwhelming amount of interest for our virtual feedback sessions – in which students had an opportunity to share their unique stories with library spaces.  

Journey of an International Student (Part One): “Much Ado About Nothing”

This is a re-post from Redefining Traditional, a community aiming to equip student parents with the tools to navigate their various roles, build a community of support and belonging, as well as providing a space for productive dialogue amongst policy-makers to…

Designing Virtual Spaces with Accessibility in Mind

By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer & Editor and Philippa Gosine, Senior Research Assistant  

Betelehem outside smiling at the camera
Betelehem Gulilat
Philippa outdoors smiling at the camera
Philippa Gosine

Preserving a rich learning environment accessible for all students has been an ongoing commitment for many institutions. As faculties and administrators navigate the complexity of delivering courses online, it’s important for us to turn to our student community to understand the needs of students during this unprecedented time. Our work at the Innovation Hub is centered around students and their unique stories with the goal of designing a campus experience inclusive for all. We recognize the importance of prioritizing accessibility and hope to inspire our community members to develop equitable strategies for accommodating students in their online learning.   

It Takes A Village

This is a re-post from Redefining Traditional, a community aiming to equip student parents with the tools to navigate their various roles, build a community of support and belonging, as well as providing a space for productive dialogue amongst policy-makers to help reimagine higher education. If you’re interested in contributing to our online community, we encourage you to share your story as a student parent by filling out this form.


Heather Watts smiling to the camera
Heather Watts, Design Researcher

Throughout my childhood, I lived in a number of different communities and homes. Burlington, Ottawa, and Cambridge, Massachusetts are just a few placed I have called ‘home’ over the years. Our moves across Turtle Island were a result of different career opportunities my father pursuing. I remember the networks of friends and family that supported me as a young child: Anna in Burlington, Tara in Ottawa, and Robin and Charmaine in Cambridge. I’m sure there are many others, but these are folks I have vivid memories of riding bicycles in the driveway, taking long walks down our residential street, and playing hours of Monopoly with (you know you’re making an investment of time when you sit down to play Monopoly!) To these people, I thank you. You weren’t merely babysitters, or but people who I looked up to, confided in, and leaned on during my younger years.

A First Look at Our #LearnWithIntegrity Campaign

What is academic integrity? Why is it important to understand? As we continue to learn and adapt to new changes, students are balancing new elements in their academic lives which can be immensely overwhelming. It’s important to think of how we can do this in the best way possible. In our #LearnWithIntegrity Campaign, we explored these themes for students by developing a visual campaign accessible for all, to help students learn and understand the meaning behind academic integrity.

Delving into the Digital Campus – Exploring the Importance of Digital Communities to UofT Students

By Ayaan Hagar – Project Team Lead, Kethmi Egodage – Community, Social Connection & Support for Students Team Member, and Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer

Our new reality has accelerated change in all areas of our lives, from work to socializing, we’re staying connected to our communities through the most hyper-connected platform called the internet. What elements of digital connections and communities help students feel like they’re connected with one another? With this question in mind, we’d like to introduce the Digital Community Connectedness ProjectBuilding on our previous work, this project is exploring how the student experience of finding and engaging in community continues to shift during this timeand what implications this has for those who build and facilitate connections within the online UofT community.

In Conversation with Sebastian Smith: Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 for International Students in Higher Education

By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer and Editor 

What makes the international student experience different from those of domestic students?  Since the pandemica new set of challenges has emerged on top of the pre-pandemic realm of campus life that international students are valiantly navigating. In turning to our vibrant and diverse community at UofT, we hope to spark discussions by bringing student stories to light.