By Yusur Al-Salman, Redefining Traditional Project Lead
Between the rising costs of childcare and the COVID-19 pandemic, entering parenthood as students seems more challenging than ever. And yet, there is growing effort to accommodate the practical needs of student-parents and to address them meaningfully, and one example is in making university libraries family-friendly.
Written by Betelehem Gulilat, Content Writer
Illustrated by Anna Tram, Digital Storyteller
We are two months into the fall semester. Classes have picked up, we are in the heart of midterm season and students are establishing a routine across their academic, work and social lives. Yet similar to last year, this school year is not quite like the rest. After spending the past year and a half at Zoom University, UofT students are returning to campus with mixed emotions from excitement, frustration, joy, anxiousness, more and everything in between.
Fragments of normalcy can be seen walking through St. George Street, while waiting in line at the bookstore, or finding a seat at the library. But despite this ‘normalcy’, we cannot deny the gaps that endured in pre-pandemic student life as much as the ones emerging post-pandemically. A recent poll conducted by KPMG surveyed more than a thousand Canadian postsecondary students and discovered that 78 percent of students agree the pandemic has “fundamentally changed” their expectations of their higher education experience.
As we enter a brand-new term, the Innovation Hub is excited to welcome our Fall/Winter 2021-22 Team! Each year our team is expanding along with our growing number of partnerships and are pleased to continue designing with and for students at the University of Toronto. In support of our expansion, we are grateful to be transitioning to a new workspace on campus where we plan to follow a hybrid work model to provide flexibility & space for innovation.
By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer & Editor and Philippa Gosine, Senior Research Assistant
Preserving a rich learning environment accessible for all students has been an ongoing commitment for many institutions. As faculties and administrators navigate the complexity of delivering courses online, it’s important for us to turn to our student community to understand the needs of students during this time. Our work at the Innovation Hub is centered around students and their unique stories with the goal of designing a campus experience inclusive for all. We recognize the importance of prioritizing accessibility and hope to inspire our community members to develop equitable strategies for accomodating students in their online learning.
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 that whatever it may be, it would be immensely valuable in these times. By embracing change we’ve been exploring new ways to support the UofT community and 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.
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.
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 and Kaitlyn Corlett
Happy Pride Month, 2020! From all of us at the Innovation Hub, let’s celebrate love and affirmation for everybody. This is especially important in a time where many of us may feel disconnected from our communities, spaces, and activities that ground us for celebrating 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’t connect in-person this year, we are celebrating by acknowledging the 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 Black LGBTQ2SIA+1 folx2, who continue to be catalysts for significant change in the LGBTQ2SIA+ movement.
Editor’s Note: In light of COVID-19 and social distancing, we would like to note that the insights expressed in this post were developed prior to the COVID-19 crisis. We acknowledge that imagining student spaces physically looks very different at this time, and we hope that some of these insights provide value to virtual spaces for students.
Students often spend long hours on campus. Throughout the day, they move around to accommodate their busy schedules. Classes eat up big chunks of time, but in the spaces between, students look for comfortable places to relax or be productive. They find many formal study spaces , but are those the only places they seek?
To provide more student-friendly spaces on campus, the Innovation Hub partnered with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) for the Fall-Winter 2019/2020 term to redesign the Benson Pool Gallery. We wanted to turn the Gallery into an accessible student space. Moreover, we wanted to ensure it was truly student friendly. Thus, we interviewed other students about what they need in community spaces. Our ultimate goal was to answer the question: “How can the Benson Pool Gallery be redesigned to offer an innovative multi-use community space for students?”