By Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer
ZOOM, lockdown and asynchronous. These are some of many words that come to mind for this academic year. It’s also been a year of many firsts. Many more students have been attending classes remotely, campuses have transformed, and the Class of 2020 has celebrated their graduation virtually in their homes within their bubbles.
The uncertainty unearthed many concerns for the future both near and far. Whether its deciding where to study or spend time with friends, or travelling amongst a sea of students, losses have been felt all around. For others, the pandemic might have also felt like an unexpected gift to reflect on what’s important. Perhaps it’s been a mix of everything, too! We have seen these realities in our work, both through research projects and in our own teams. Reflection on what we have accomplished this last year not only helped us learn from our experiences, but it also reaffirmed why holding space for meaningful work is so important.
By Johanna Pokorny – Senior Research Assistant, Amal Yusuf – Data Analysis Researcher, Rosemarie Shephard – Data Analysis Researcher and Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer
In Canada alone, 2 out of 5 post-secondary students experience some form of food insecurity2. Food insecurity is described as inadequate and insecure access to food as a result of financial constraints3. Its prevalence within the student population is overlooked by many considering the significant implications it has on students’ livelihood, learning and overall well-being. It’s complex and interconnected with our core needs and different for each and every individual in our communities.
In March 2021, the Innovation Hub and the Centre for Learning, Leadership & Culture will launch a Design Thinking Experience Program (DTEP) for students and staff. Building on the success of the Innovation Hub’s student and staff DTEP bootcamps, this program will continue to address challenges in the student experience at UofT while providing participants with hands-on training in design thinking; moreover, it will bring staff and students together to encourage dialogue and broaden perspectives on what is possible at UofT.
By The Robarts Library Team (Philippa Gosine – Senior Research Assistant, Mac Morgan – Design Research Team Lead, Manaal Mirza – Data Analysis Researcher, and Anshika Seth – Data Analysis Researcher) & Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor and Writer
As a keeper of knowledge and endless possibility, a library occupies a key place in a student’s campus experience. Robarts Library, the largest of the UofT libraries, brings in thousands of students each day to support the diverse student population at every stage of their academic careers. Since September 2020, the Innovation Hub has worked closely with Robarts Library in seeking to understand what students truly desire from a redesigned library space. We shared a call for participation to the broader UofT community and received an overwhelming amount of interest for our virtual feedback sessions – in which students had an opportunity to share their unique stories with library spaces.
By Emma McCann – Engagement Lead & Kristin Cleverley – Chair, Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative
The Innovation Hub has been involved in a scope of conversations on mental health, wellness, and initiatives to support students. Most recently, our work with the Presidential & Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health shone a light on many needs in the community and has been a launch pad to important partnerships and initiatives to further support students at the University. We deeply understand how it’s so important to continue to highlight what is happening now in the community on student mental health and opportunities to be a part of these important conversations.
If you are a student and are passionate about improving campus mental health through collaborative research, we encourage reading this week’s special blog post on the Mental Health for Students & Youth Research Initiative!
*** Please note that the deadline to apply to this wonderful opportunity has been extended to January 11th, 2021! ***
By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer and Editor
What makes the international student experience different from those of domestic students? Since the pandemic, a 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.
Well into our fourth year at the Innovation Hub, we continue our mission to improve campus life through student-centric design. Over the last four years, we have collected an immense amount of data, including over 600 interviews from students and other community members from across campus. Our diverse teams of students have logged over 4,600 hours of data analysis to generate empathy for students and their experiences on campus.
There is tension in our work, and our teams have learned that we must recognize the biases we carry from our respective capacities. The diversity of our teams is a strength and we challenge each other daily to understand how our own perspective is just one perspective, shaped by our own positionality. I feel so privileged to lead these diverse teams of students in this work and I learn alongside of them each day. I also feel honoured that so many students have felt safe to share stories of their experiences with us. Our job is to constantly think about how we honour these stories and ensure that they are shared back to the larger UofT community.