Students at UofT desire a place to relax, grab a coffee, and sit with friends in an informal setting. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, 35 % of students at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) want more informal gathering spaces. They are not alone: through surveys and meetings, students at other departments have expressed a similar desire. To meet this need, KPE is working with the Innovation Hub to uncover what draws students to such spaces and to create design principles that will help with the renovation of the Clara Benson Pool Gallery into a Chill Spot for students to relax, connect, and de-stress.
Chill Spots started as one of the five “Big Ideas” from the first year of the Innovation Hub, and they have become an important priority at UofT, as seen from the Provost’s recent call for applications to the Student Space Enhancement Fund. We hope that the insights from this project will be useful for other KPE space projects and Chill Spots designs in the future.
In many fields, outliers are seen as a nuisance. We run tests to justify ignoring them; we explain them away; we resent their intrusion on our neat results. Design thinking, however, asks us to do the opposite—to forgo the blinkers that constrain us to staring at the centre of the bell curve, and to take a good hard look at the outliers.
Among Latin American and Latinx students, there is a concerning trend of attrition at the secondary and post-secondary levels. For me, this trend is personally—and particularly—alarming, as I’m both a member of the Latin American diaspora and a UofT student.
Continuing the View from the Inside series, we reflect on the first two weeks of the Design Thinking Experience Program, in which we discussed the Innovation Hub’s focus on empathy- and equity-based design.
In this post, we hear from Sharon Lam, Data Analysis Assistant. Sharon worked in education after completing Bachelor’s degrees in English, History, and Education, then started a Master of Information degree in User Experience Design and Information Systems and Design. This is her first year with the Innovation Hub.
During the first two weeks at the Innovation Hub, we spent a lot of time on reflection. This may seem counter-intuitive since we are just starting our projects, but it actually makes a lot of sense. By beginning with reflection, we recognize that we each bring a lot to any starting point and that there is a lot of context to every situation. There is no truly blank slate. This is both encouraging and humbling. On the one hand, we bring value based on the unique perspective formed from our past experiences; on the other hand, how we see and interpret our research is limited by the degree to which we can understand what is outside of our realm of experience—in short, our ability to empathize.
This academic year brings new and returning faces to the Innovation Hub. As always, we have assembled a team with diverse disciplines and interests but a shared excitement for the work we’ll do, including:
In the View from the Inside series, we take you into the work of the Innovation Hub as seen by its members. Our students share their experience with our team and what they’ve learned so far.
This week, we hear from Eric Hanson, Design Research Assistant. Eric recently graduated with a Bachelor of Design from OCAD University and came to the University of Toronto, where he started a Master of Information and joined the Innovation Hub.
Whether we’re engineers, doctors, professors, or students, design influences how we do our jobs, how we communicate with others, and how the world communicates with us. As a designer coming from a Bachelor of Design degree at OCAD University and starting a Master of Information degree at the University of Toronto, I understand the importance of human-centred design and design thinking in redefining our experience in today’s disruptive and innovative society. Empathy and social innovation were cornerstones of my undergraduate work, and coming to the University of Toronto is an exciting opportunity to see how a larger institution can use design thinking to improve the university experience and the way it serves its students.
The cornerstone of our approach at the Innovation Hub is “students talking to other students.” We believe that peers relate to each other more openly and advocate for each other more strongly and that peer-based support both provides comfort and leads to change. This belief invigorates all our projects, including our upcoming partnership with the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, in which we are leading student consultations to gather perspectives about mental health on campus. While I, as a staff member, am coordinating this project, students are co-leading the initiative with me.
At the Innovation Hub, we are what we do. We commit ourselves to community growth through prototyping and iteration, not only in the design projects we take on, but also in designing our own work processes. By being responsive to the changing needs of the community—both internally, within our own team, and externally, with our project partners—we continually improve our practices.
How do students understand and navigate the University’s programs and services? How might students become active participants in the process that the Division of Student Life uses to design and redesign programs, services, resources, and spaces? What could meaningful student engagement look like in this process?
The Innovation Hub is looking for committed volunteers who are interested in improving campus life by joining our Design Thinking Experience Program in 2019-2020. If you’re keen to join a high-performing team learning design thinking while working with a campus partner on a challenge/issue that impacts the UofT student experience, we’d love to have you join us!