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?
These are key questions guiding the Innovation Hub’s work with the Divison of Student Life. Together, we are undertaking a strategic planning process to support and enhance student experiences at the University of Toronto. The project will involve a team of both staff and students, who will work to revise the Division’s mission, vision, and values, and develop ways to enhance collaboration between the internal and external partners who will ultimately implement the strategic plan. Consistent with our interest in student-centred design, the Innovation Hub will work closely with the Division to ensure that meaningful student input is gathered, considered, and utilized throughout the process.
To gather valuable input from student voices, we will carry out a design thinking process using empathy-based methods: through deep conversations with students, we want to ensure that their voices are reflected in strategic outcomes. This means understanding how students currently engage with programs and services, and considering how to better involve them in the process of designing and redesigning programs, services, resources, and spaces.
It’s important to consider the perspectives of students in the process of planning, rather than assuming what their needs are. I’m excited to develop my experiences with empathy-based design and to learn more about creating dialogues with students through interactive research methods. I’m also happy to connect with students and to learn from their experiences. The insights that we will gather from student responses will hopefully help the Division of Student Life’s Strategic Planning Process in better catering to actual student needs.
We have much to learn about students and much to learn from students. When we involve them in the processes that influence their university experiences, we can better understand how they situate themselves within the institution and what they require from it.