Good morning, dear readers! Exams are impending* and my saga is more than half done. In fact, after today, we have only two more colleges to go! Without further ado, let me introduce Jen McMillen, Director of Residence and Student Life for New College!
* Sorry for reminding you! I can empathize.
Can you tell me briefly about the history of the college, and where the name came from?
New College was founded in the ’60s to accommodate the big expansion of baby boomers in post-secondary education. We were the first college to have multi-purpose buildings built around a quad — a design principle similar to the New College at Oxford — and the warden from there travelled to New College to present us with a piece of their Stone Angel sculpture, which is now embedded in one of the walls in Wetmore lounge.
What’s unique about your college?
We embody the values of social justice and equity in everything we do. We have a strong activist approach, and a strong commitment to diversity, which we consider our cornerstone. We have a highly international population and a diverse national population, as well as a diverse faculty representation.
Our architecture is very unique: each building has an academic teaching space and administrative offices on the ground or second floor, and the residences above. This structure lends itself to the life of the college, where residence students going to the dining hall pass by their professors’ offices. We are truly a living-learning environment.
Do you have any mentorship programs at the college?
We have programs where New College students act as both mentors and mentees: we have a relationship with Big Brothers and Sisters of Toronto, where we pair our students with high school students in the community, as well as a successful mentorship program between our current students and accomplished alumni. We have doctors, judges and other professionals who mentor small groups of students in navigating the world, balancing academic life, etc.
How does the selection process to the college work?
We’re one of the biggest colleges, so although the selection process varies from year to year, you don’t have to rank New College first in order to get in.
What are some of the common stereotypes of your college, and what do you think about them?
I’ve heard stereotypes that we’re an “OSAP college” because there is a myth that our admission standards are relatively lower and some of our students are from a lower socioeconomic background. The reality is that New College, like all of U of T, admits excellent students. I don’t know what the statistics are in regards to how many of our students receive financial assistance in comparison to others, but access is a really big source of pride for us. As I said, there aren’t any students who are not bright admitted to U of T anyways, so if this means we attract students who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to attend post-secondary education, then we are glad to be a point of access at U of T. What we end up with are students with different world experiences that make us less homogeneous than other colleges — and this is a strength.
What are some of the clubs that are unique to your college?
Because of our equity mandate, not only do we house clubs which are recognized by our student council, we have other U of T clubs here as well. For example, the Black Students’ Association is housed here; so are area student groups like the Portuguese Students’ Association and Somali Students’ Association. We have a huge dragon boat club, an a cappella group, a funk band … so it’s a mix. The Human Biology program, as well as the Women and Gender Studies Institute, is located here, so we have their student associations as well.
What resources are available for commuting students?
We are quite proud of the renovations in the lounge in Wilson Hall, as well as the commuters’ lounge in the basement. We’ve got couches, hard seating, microwaves, wireless, that kind of stuff. The next renovation phase will include changes to lighting — which is part of our greening initiative as well — as well as the creation of a café at the Wilson lounge. Basically, we are hoping to relocate the Coffee Shed — a cooperative project where the staff who run the operation are adults living with developmental disabilities, and learn commerce and customer service skills. Ideally, the plan is to have new microwaves, some sinks so commuter students can wash out their Tupperware, and a water station to encourage the use of reusable water bottles.
What about scholarships and bursaries at the college?
We offer approximately 55 admission scholarships, which are merit-based, ranging between $1,000 and $3,000; approximately 155 in-course scholarships, ranging from $500 to $2,500; and a substantial number of grants (needs-based) for approximately 400 students, averaging $1,500 each.
What’s available to eat at the college?
Pretty much whatever you want! We have a dining hall that features several stations during mealtimes, including a grill, stir-fry, comfort food station, vegan hot station. We have halal options, a pizza bar, salad bar and sandwich bar.
What are the residences like?
One of the cool parts about our residence is that we’re multi-faculty, so we have lots of professional faculty students mixed with Arts and Science students. All the residences are single/double rooms with a common washroom. All our residence dons have at least one undergraduate degree, so they fulfill a great mentorship role for the students, showing them how to balance social life with demanding academic and community service commitments. We have study rooms and newly renovated common rooms with breakfast bars, flat-screen TVs, etc. The residence is divided into 18 houses, with about 40 students in each. Every house has a don, and we operate as one residence even though we have three buildings. We operate as a large community.
Why should students choose your college?
At New College we care about the world and making a difference in the world, either locally or globally. I think we appeal to students who want to make a difference, expand their university experience to not only be about the amazing academics found at U of T, but engage in co-curricular initiatives. We’re launching a leadership certificate program, we have a diverse student body, our facilities are really coming along, we have a green space, we’re close to everywhere. Our buildings are multi-use and the staff are friendly, student-centred and approachable. We operate like a small community that cares.
Is there anything else you want to tell students about your college?
We created a student life and leadership portfolio which doesn’t exist many other places in quite the same way. We’re largely focused on committing resources to all students, with a special focus to commuting students. For example, we have the Commuter Community Initiative, where divisional leaders who are upper-year New College students who live in different parts of the city host events for commuting students in their home area. The idea is to bring the New College community to where the commuting students live, whether it be Newmarket or Mississauga.
Can we close off with a fun fact?
Our mascot is Goliath Gnu (pronounced “new”). Goliath has gone through many identity crises and has been kidnapped by various colleges and faculties. He’s seen a lot.
My thoughts and pictures
New College is home to one of my minors — Paradigms and Archetypes! It’s called Panda for short. How cool is it that I am minoring in Panda? *
The New College buildings are hard to capture in only one picture, but here’s a good view. You have the fab outdoors, a glimpse of the dining hall, and the curve of another building.
New College is like one of those farm estates where you can enter from different streets. It’s easy to get lost if you’re unfamiliar, so I thought I’d show you a map. As you can see, NC is surrounded by Spadina Ave., Huron St., Willcocks St., and Classic Ave.
Of all the registrar’s offices I’ve been to, New’s is the most “hidden.” In fact, let me take you on a tour. First you go through this set of doors:
Then you pass the admittedly very cool glass office of Human Biology (so apropos for them to have hand sanitizer in front of the door):
And finally, after going through a winding hallway with two surprisingly neat and well-organized bulletin boards…
… you hit the registrar’s office:
Ironically, you have to pass the EXIT ONLY doorway first.
Quite a journey! I’m sure there’s an alternative route that I don’t know about. GNU* students, feel free to enlighten me.
* Couldn’t help myself, really. The Goliath Gnu is the coolest mascot ever. New College is the only one of all the colleges I’ve covered so far to have one. As Jen said, the Goliath Gnu has gone through many identity crises: it can go from manic to disarmingly cute:
Good luck with essay and exam dashes, dear readers. It’s almost over!
Next week: St. Michael’s College or Woodsworth College.