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.

The E-Motion of Research at the Innovation Hub

By Terri-Lynn Langdon, Lead Editor and Writer – in collaboration with Johanna Pokorny (Ethnography and Insights Team Lead) and Danielle Baillargeon (Data Analysis Team Lead)

A mosaic of students connecting over Microsoft Teams, with sticky notes around the outside with writing on them such as "navigating resources" or "commuting students". Dashed lines and icons are connecting with one another to visualize collaboration in research.
Virtual Collaboration at the Innovation Hub, Summer 2020

At the Innovation Hub an intended focus of our research as a by and for student research Hub at U of T is empathy and the tapestry of it in the development of our questions, writing, and its role in research findings.

[1]The research process at the Innovation Hub includes design thinking supported by ethnographic research methodology, which seek to understand people in context. Where other qualitative methods (like survey work) operate through “extracting” data, ethnography is wholistic and expanding. The goal is not to be ‘statistically significant’ but rather to identify insights and themes from a few rich and unique stories.

A Glimpse Into the Lives of Disabled Student Parents at the University of Toronto

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon, Lead Writer and Editor

Terri-Lynn and her daughter smiling
Terri-lynn and her daughter, Jaycie.

I am a wheelchair- using mother and a PhD student at OISE in Social Justice Education. When the lockdown in Toronto began we lost access to daycare and we also lost more than one support person (Nurturing Assistants) who felt that their own lives were too disrupted by the pandemic to continue to provide ongoing support to us. Without this direct support neither myself nor my child can shower safely, and I have no means of taking my twenty-one month old outside on my own. On top of which our building has been plagued with significant apartment maintenance issues all summer which has meant I have had to solve big family pandemic issues for 4 months and counting….

In Conversation with Dr. Meng Xiao: Supporting Chinese International Students at the University of Toronto

Written By: Terri-Lynn Langdon, Lead Editor and Writer, Innovation Hub

At the Innovation Hub one of our projects focuses on engaging International students. International students currently make up 25.4% of the undergraduate and graduate student population at U of T.1 Questions around how the University of Toronto can support this group in the best ways possible and how their needs differ from domestic students is extremely important to the work that the Innovation Hub is engaged in, not to mention that, student engagement and a project by and for students is our bread and butter.

Photo of Dr. Meng Xiao in a library, looking to the camera and smilingMeng Xiao recently wrote a book titled Student Engagement in Practice: Chinese International Graduate Student Engagement Handbook which is a book inspired by her own doctoral research from OISE’s Doctorate of Education Program at the University of Toronto.  

Centering Hope, Action and Change for National Indigenous History Month at the Innovation Hub

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon, Editor and Writer

Magnifying glass with a heart in the middle. Looking for hope and loveJune is National Indigenous History Month and The Innovation Hub wishes to celebrate this month and Day  (June 21st) by celebrating the lives of Indigenous communities and acknowledging the richness and diversity of Indigenous knowledge, histories, and world views.1

In recent years, our work with Indigenous Student Services (also known as First Nations House) has focused on engaging with spaces, services, and needs for Indigenous students on campus. Through these projects, we collaborated these spaces from 2018-2019 to foster spheres of community on campus. The Innovation Hub then explored the core needs of services that are needed on campus for Indigenous students to feel supported and engaged throughout their respective studies. It’s through these integral community partnerships and our design thinking processes and resources that we continually work to address realities that Indigenous lives, spaces, and communities face in a Canadian context (and beyond).

The Redefining Traditional Backstory: How Design Thinkers Created a Virtual Community of Student Parents and Supporters During COVID-19

Redefining Traditional: Making Higher Education Family Friendly

By Celeste Pang, Sauliha Alli, Sanja Ivanov and Heather Watts

Design thinkers at the Innovation Hub share the backstory of the Redefining Traditional virtual community of student parents and their supporters.

Imagined Worlds

How Imagination Drives Innovation

By Darren Clift, Writer

It’s easy to exercise creativity during childhood, when imaginations are unrestrained. But as we grow up, we learn to leash our imaginations, to criticize our own creativity. The open parks of childhood become the closed spaces of our grown-up selves.

Design thinking seeks to re-liberate our creativity, but the forces and learned behaviours pushing against it are strong. To see how design leadership can nurture fresh ideas, I spoke to Gabriele Simmons, a Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub.

Designing Better Empathy

Two hands reaching towards each other
Photograph by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

By Max Yaghchi, Writer

Can empathy be learned?

This question is central to the Innovation Hub’s methods. We use design thinking to take “a human-centred approach to solving problems,” and since the rise of empathic design in the late 1990s, designing for humans first has meant empathy.1

Lessons in Listening

Innovation Hub members practising their interviewing skills

By Anusha Arif, Writer

To design for students, we need to understand the student experience. Thus, the Innovation Hub prioritizes learning to listen—interviewing empathically and attuning ourselves to the world revealed through participants’ words. Though ‘listening’ is a basic skill, listening deeply is another art, and learning is an important part of the process. Some Innovation Hub members come with experience from anthropological, sociological, or other human-centred research, but many others are new to empathic interviewing. How does this learning process go for them? What do they find challenging and interesting?