Our Student Life Staff World Cafe

Headshot of smiling woman with black hair in red top

By Ling Lam Student Co-Leader, Future Ready Students Domain

The Innovation Hub was the topic up for discussion at Student Life’s Themed Agenda Meeting on September 20, 2016. This was an amazing opportunity for the Student Leaders of the Innovation Hub to meet with staff members from various departments within Student Life. With the intention of gathering the insight of various staff members of Student Life, our team decided to facilitate a World Café styled meeting. In this style of meeting, each staff member would rotate through a cycle of four tables, each with a question related to the Innovation Hub.

The four questions discussed were:

  1. What questions do you have about the Innovation Hub?
  2. How might we creatively capture evidence/data/stories of the current student experience?
  3. What do we need to unlearn in order to improve the University of Toronto student experience?
  4. What is an example of a UofT student experience that stands out to you?

Using these questions, we were able to generate a great amount of discussion in the room. While each question touched on a different topic, there were some common threads that weaved their way through all of them:

  • Each UofT student is an incredibly unique, complex, intersectional being. There is not just one student experience that can encompass the all of the stories of our diverse student body.
  • Innovation should not be a top-down process – we need to work collectively and build up in order to truly improve the student experience.
  • There is enormous value to be gained from “reverse mentoring” – we need to ensure that we are listening to students and what they have to say about their experience at UofT.
  • In collecting data, there is a tendency of only capturing the voices of those who are successful and willing to participate. We must figure out how to access the voices of students who experience struggle and remain unheard.
  • It is important for staff to recognize that their own student experience is likely different than that of current students.

I was thankful that I had the opportunity to lead the discussion topic 4 (what is an example of a UofT student experience that stands out to you). I believe that so much value is contained within people’s stories – there is so much to be learned through lived experience. Hearing each of the staff members share, it was interesting to hear such a wide array of stories. While success stories were told, it was the stories of students who experienced challenges that stood out to me.

It was reassuring to connect with staff members that recognize how each and every one of us goes through a unique journey at UofT. I could not agree more that our experiences cannot be summarized in one story; there isn’t a magical formula that will generate “success”. I know that my experiences at UofT have differed greatly from the experiences of those of my friends and colleagues. As part of the Innovation Hub, this World Cafe deepened my resolve to find ways of ensuring more students find their stride at UofT and beyond.

We greatly appreciated Student Life’s willingness to share their experiences and knowledge. As we move forward, we will continue to keep each of these meaningful considerations in mind!

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