The Power of Student Stories Through Data: Wellness and Academia at U of T

 

Kaitlyn Corlett, Project Assistant

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.

Project Primer: Accessibility at Convocation

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…

People gathering for ceremony at Convocation Hall

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.

#DisplayYourPride: Celebrating Individuality, Creating Connectedness

Allie Dainow
Design Research Assistant
Rhea Makund
Design Research Assistant

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?”

Meet the Team—Summer 2019

Charis Lam
Writer

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.

Spotlight: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Community?

Social and Cultural Community at First Nations House

Charis Lam – Design Research Events Lead

Written by Charis Lam – Design Research Events Lead

In search of factors driving student engagement, First Nations House partnered with the Innovation Hub in summer 2018 to ask: what causes students and staff to engage and connect with First Nations House? Among the factors identified—including assistance with scholarships and housing, personal relationships to staff members. and access to the resource centre—cultural and social programming emerged as a need strongly felt by students. Thus, First Nations House and the Innovation Hub renewed their partnership to investigate what sorts of social and cultural programming students want.

The Innovation Hub is Hiring for Summer Work-Study Positions!

By Kaitlyn Corlett, Project Assistant and Julia Smeed, Innovation Hub Projects Officer

Kaitlyn CorlettPhoto of Julia

Now that the winter term is coming to a close, it’s time to consider some exciting opportunities at the Innovation Hub for the summer 2019 term. The Innovation Hub offering a wide range of work-study positions open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements. These positions offer opportunities to work with various areas at the University of Toronto in team-oriented environments that are supported by innovative, design-thinking practices.

Spotlight: Trademark Licensing and Student Pride at U of T

Rachel Davis: Design Research Team Lead for Trademark Licensing
Rachel Davis: Design Research Team Lead for Trademark Licensing

Written by Rachel Davis: Design Research Team Lead for the Trademark Licensing Team

University of Toronto’s Trademark Licensing Department began their partnership with the Innovation Hub in the Summer of 2018 to better understand the ways in which a sense of school pride can be fostered in the lives of students. During this previous partnership, themes such as “survival” and “fragmentation” emerged from the research to describe students’ perception of the university experience. The Innovation Hub continued this partnership during the 2018-2019 academic year to expand on these themes and to better understand student pride at U of T.

Spotlight: New College Dining Hall Team Shares Their Results!

By The New College Dining Hall Team

These past few months, our team has been investigating student and staff perspectives on how the New College Dining Hall might be redesigned to offer an innovative, multi-use community eating space. When this process drew to a close, we then presented our data and analysis to the University of Toronto’s Food Services stakeholders. We brought forth three themes that emerged throughout our research: comfort, community and communication.

Spotlight: SLP Team Shares Their Results!

By Charis Lam, Design Research Events Lead

charis lam

As students, we often think of staff as curating the university experience for us—laying out the processes and procedures between us and our degrees. Yet, staff are not just responsible for providing the university experience; they also share it, albeit from a different perspective. Through the Future of SLP (Student Life Professionals) project, my team had the chance to take a peek into this perspective.

New College Dining Hall: Data Analysis

By The New College Dining Hall Team

This academic year, our team has been trying to answer this question: how might the New College Dining Hall be redesigned to offer an innovative and multi-use community eating and social space for students and staff? We conducted long-form ethnographic interviews with staff and students, as well as with New College Dining Hall users and students who eat primarily at other dining halls.