By Ayaan Hagar – Project Team Lead, Kethmi Egodage – Community, Social Connection & Support for Students Team Member, and Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer
Our new reality has accelerated change in all areas of our lives, from work to socializing, we’re staying connected to our communities through the most hyper-connected platform called the internet. What elements of digital connections and communities help students feel like they’re connected with one another? With this question in mind, we’d like to introduce the Digital Community & Connectedness Project. Building on our previous work, this project isexploring how the student experience of finding and engaging in community continues to shiftduring this time, and what implications this has for those who build and facilitate connections within the online UofT community.
In times of uncertainty, navigating an unfamiliar space can feel like an impossible task to achieve.Last March, we were in this very spot where we didn’t know what our work at the Innovation Hub would look like. But what we did know is thatwhatever it may be, it would be immensely valuable in these times.By embracing changewe’vebeenexploring new ways to support the UofT communityand ensuring we continue to drive our work by students for students through our design research projects. We’re so excited to share that by embracing change, new channels of our work have been inspired to connect individuals and build community in dynamic ways.
Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon, Lead Writer and Editor
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….
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.
Meng Xiao recently wrote a book titled Student Engagement in Practice: Chinese International Graduate Student Engagement Handbookwhich is a book inspired by her own doctoral research from OISE’s Doctorate of Education Program at the University of Toronto.
June 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).
Happy Pride Month, 2020!From all of us at the Innovation Hub, let’s celebrate love and affirmation for everybody. Thisis especially important in a time where many of us may feel disconnected from our communities, spaces, and activities that ground us forcelebrating this important time of year.At the Innovation Hub,we often celebrate #DisplayYourPride in a collaborative activity to connect with one another and express how we are celebrating.Since we can’tconnect in-person this year, we are celebrating by acknowledgingthe important history of Pride and inviting readers to think about how to celebrate in a commitment to anti-racism and intersectionality. We are centering the lives of BlackLGBTQ2SIA+1folx2, who continue to be catalysts for significant change in the LGBTQ2SIA+ movement.
Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else. – Maya Angelou
At the Innovation Hub we honor our commitment to design with and for students. This work intersects with a scope of communities, faculties, and voices to ensure that we can co-create a university that works for all. Recently the University of Toronto has addressed a commitment to anti-racism in solidarity with Black lives, communities, and spaces. Through conversations, protests, and movements we are experiencing a critical moment in time to end racialized violence. This is a centuries-long movement that must be joined, loved, and actively acknowledged.
In these conversations we have also recognized that it’s important to name racism and support anti-racist efforts. Compounded by the reality of COVID-19, many Black communities are disproportionately impacted by racism in education, health care, and law enforcement. These experiences are present in many spaces we are a part of – in Canada and beyond. We must continue to acknowledge and address by resisting these types of discrimination in the foundations of the work we do.
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.
What does space mean to you? According to Dictionary.com, it’s a noun: the “expanse [where] material objects are located and […] events occur.” But it’s more than that sterile definition—it’s what constantly surrounds us, what we inhabit, and thus part of our mental and physical experience.
The Innovation Hub has conducted many projects examining the experience of space. Examples include Transforming the Instructional Landscape, Chill Spots, and the New College Dining Hall and Clara Benson Pool Gallery redesigns. Through this work, we’ve seen how the physical environment impacts us.