Your College at U of T: Victoria

Let’s get the ball rolling! First up in the heptadic saga*: Victoria College. I got a chance to speak with Janine Hubbard, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator at Vic. My thoughts come after the interview!

* If you’re just joining me now and have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my primer from Tuesday.

Can you tell me briefly about the history of the college, and where the name came from?
Victoria College was named after Queen Victoria and was founded in 1836. Victoria College is actually part of Victoria University, which also includes Emmanuel College. So Victoria University is essentially two colleges, where one — Victoria College — is arts and science, and the other — Emmanuel College — is theological. A student registered with the Faculty of Arts and Science would not take any courses from Emmanuel College.

What’s unique about your college?
Well, all our newly admitted Vic students are asked to select a seminar in first year. This can be a 199 course, Vic One, Trinity One or Pathways seminar. We feel that being in a small class in first year is a great way for students to participate and build on the teamwork skills from high school, and develop them at a university level.

Vic students are also guaranteed funding for studying abroad. One of the Vic President’s goals is for every student to have the opportunity to study abroad, and we guarantee up to $2,000 per student to make this possible. We even have a staff member whose job is dedicated to helping coordinate Vic students studying abroad, and to making international students who enter Victoria College feel comfortable with their transition from home.

We’re also one of two colleges on campus that have a Campus Life Coordinator, because we feel that the university experience is not just about going to class. Getting involved adds a lot of value to a student’s educational experience.

Do you have any mentorship programs at the college?

Yes, we started one this past summer! The E-Mentorship Program is run by a diverse group of student volunteers. It is a place online where students can email current Vic students about student life, residence, clubs and other questions they might have about Vic. The E-Mentorship Program will be available online for applicants to Vic in January.

How does the selection process to the college work?
When applying to U of T, you’re going to have to rank Victoria College as your first choice, because we have a lot of applicants. Similarly, we have cutoffs slightly higher than Arts and Science in some admissions categories.

For current Ontario high school students, you’re going to have to complete a profile if you aren’t applying to Vic One, because we want to know more about the applicants than just their marks.

What are some of the common stereotypes of your college, and what do you think about them?
That we’re just an artsy college. We actually have a fairly even distribution of arts and science disciplines at the college. I think the misconception stems from the fact that a lot of our famous alumni and programs are “artsy”. Will you fit in if you’re a science student? Absolutely! We even have two First-Year Learning Communities for the life science students.

What are some of the clubs that are unique to your college?

Clubs change every year, depending on student interest. This year we have a cooking club, a martial arts club; we have our own photography club and we have our own darkroom! We also have VUTube, The Victoria College Jam Club, and lots of other clubs — check out a list here. Students can also create their own club. For example, one student started a club to knit bears and they sent the bears to impoverished countries.

What resources are available for commuting students?
We have lots! We have a campus coordinator who helps commuter students with any questions or concerns they might have; we have positions on the student council for commuters; and we also have pancake breakfast every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s even like Iron Chef — we have a secret pancake ingredient every week! There are also first-round tickets for commuter students at a discount price for events, and there are commuter meal plans.

What about scholarships and bursaries at the college?

There are over 100 admission scholarships which students are automatically considered for. We have one special scholarship for students interested in becoming a teacher, valued at $10,000 a year, for up to five years. There’s more information on the college website and students will have to apply for this scholarship by February 1. After students complete a profile, they can also apply for scholarships for performing arts, leadership, athletics, where we look at things other than marks. There are in-course scholarships for up to $1,000 for students who maintain an A average in first, second and third year. That’s why we encourage students to look beyond just first-year scholarships. We also have other awards that students can apply for. Our range varies. Check out a list here.

What’s available to eat at the college?
We have a dining hall called Burwash where most of our students eat. Each meal is all-you-can-eat. We have lots of variety, including a fully stocked salad bar, vegetarian and halal options. We have theme nights at the dining hall to keep things interesting. We just had an Indian theme, actually. The dining hall is fun because you can make your own Belgian waffles (on waffle day) and eat ice cream any time of the day. It is also a great place for students to connect with friends.

We also have the Wymilwood Café, located in the Birge Carnegie building, which is open later than the dining hall, and it’s great for students with night classes. Finally, there’s the student volunteer–run café, Caffiends. They serve fair trade coffee, and are paperless. You can bring your own cup or use the ones provided.

Are there college-affiliated paraphernalia and where do you get them?
There are! We have hats, T-shirts, hoodies, and they’re sold by our campus life coordinator.

What are the residences like?
We have quite a few different styles. Annesley Hall is all female; Margaret Addison Hall is more of a traditional dormitory, where all the rooms look the same, and there are large washrooms at the end of the hall; there’s Rowell Jackman Hall, which is apartment-style, so the floors are divided by suites and each suite has a living room and a kitchen (you still need a meal plan, though); and we have Burwash Hall, which is divided into Upper and Lower Burwash, and further divided into houses, with one don per house.

Actually, within the residences, we have theme houses called Living Learning Communities where students with the same interest live together in a community. We have one for arts and culture, environment, Vic One — and it’s the only house that’s completely for first-year students.

Why should students choose your college?
Students should choose Victoria College because there are lots of opportunities available. We’re a close student community — we feel that it is important for students to feel connected at the college. Also, we have a really pretty library, and there’s a lot of space at Vic where you can find quiet spaces to study, but still be on campus, like the Emmanuel College library. And we are building a new student centre; we will be the only college on campus with a student centre.

Is there anything else you want to tell students about your college?
Students will have a good experience at whichever college they choose. Victoria College is a good choice, but maybe I’m biased because I was a Vic student and had a fantastic experience. But Victoria College is a great place and has a great student community.

Can we close off with a fun fact?
Yes! Students often comment on how much our dining hall looks like the one in Harry Potter. Well, after a colleague did some research, he found out that our hall design was based on one at Oxford (Christ Church College’s dining hall), and it was used in the Harry Potter films, so we essentially have the same design!

Pictures, and my thought…

Victoria College is really, really pretty, but it’s on the other end of campus from where I normally have classes, so I don’t go there very often. I actually have a class there this year (finally), and it’s so incredibly convenient. The Bader Theatre is literally steps away from Museum subway station. You can’t beat that.

When I went to Vic for the interview, I have to admit that it was a little disconcerting — there are so many buildings! I had no idea where to find Janine, but after some directions from a helpful Vic student, I found the registrar. It’s located in Northrop Frye Hall, across from “Old Vic” (the building that looks like an old Victorian building; it’s very aptly named!).

The registrar’s office is so open! It’s brightly lit and very wide. It’s kind of like a hug. Also, the registrar had some free baked goodies, and the lemon shortbread was AH-MAZING. Like, you-should-go-visit-just-for-them-alone kind of amazing. I have to thank Janine for indulging me, because I was nodding and chewing throughout the first few minutes of our conversation. I don’t know if they (baked goodies, I mean, not me chewing) are a regular thing, though; any Vic students want to confirm?

After the interview, Janine took me on a tour around the college. Victoria feels very enclosed, like a campus within a campus. We visited all the residences, and wow! It was like Residences 101 for yours truly, a commuter. There are so many styles and each residence is so different. I thought I’d prefer the apartment style, but I actually really liked the interior of Burwash Hall! I’m sure the sound of the trickling water from the pond outside (in the Peace Garden, beside E.J. Pratt Library) and the piano in the common room helped me with that decision:

So, dear readers, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of TCOTUOTSG-AEHS! I certainly had a great time at Victoria College, and if you’re a Vic student, please feel free to talk about your experiences* (good and bad and everything in between**) in the comments below. Make this epic even more epic!

* I didn’t ask about the social aspects of student life for a reason! And also, I didn’t have time to ask about everything; there must be some things I missed!

** Really, anything’s a go. Don’t worry about offending your college. They’ll see what they can improve on to make your experience better.

See you on Monday, when UC will be making its appearance!

- Cynthia