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Athletics: Teamwork, leadership and fun March 16, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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Which university involvement opportunity allows you to combine elements of leadership, social interaction, learning new skills, and staying in shape? Athletics, of course! Being involved in athletics allows you to make new friends, learn a new skill, or refine skills you already have, while keeping active and having fun.

“Getting involved in athletics is a different way to colour your university experience,” says Catherine Morgan, a winger for the Women’s Varsity Rugby team. “Sports have always been a part of school for me, and it just gives me a good way to release my energy.”

Darcy Brioux, Senior Manager for Leadership Development at the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, says that being involved in athletics offers tremendous benefits to students, by “being able to work with others, helps build a diverse resume, helps balance your life and manage your time better.”

Catherine decided to join varsity rugby because sports were initially a big part of her high school experience, and she wanted to continue to reap the benefits that the sport provided.

“My coach and team create such an extensive support system, they’re here for me both on the field and off.”

She also says that sports are a great way to make friends “I’ve made friends with people from many different backgrounds. Everyone is united on a team for the same desire and passion for playing the sport at a high level, so you feed of everyone’s energy. “It’s definitely helped me network, because I’m involved with people of many ages,” Catherine says.

Not only does athletics offer social support, it also allows you to exercise your teamwork skills. “Sports in general are extremely dependent on teammates and you have to trust each other in order to accomplish a common goal,” Catherine says. “You each have a role and you all work as a unit towards a certain play.”

Sports have also allowed Catherine to improve her time management skills. “I actually manage my time better during the season, because I’m so busy that when you do have free time, you actually use it to be productive.” This also flows into the bigger picture: “I never know how long the season is going to last, especially in the playoffs, so you have to be on top of your work, so you’re caught up”

Catherine also says that sports have enriched her school experience “I’m motivated to work… I finish my work so I can go out and play.” This motivation allows Catherine to structure her life, to maintain a good balance between school work and extracurricular activities. “I’m committed to both school and sports, so I will finish that essay so I can go out to practice.”

Maybe you have the urge to get active, but you’re not about to try out for a Varsity team. Try joining an intramural team in your preferred sport area – U of T has its own Quidditch team – so there’s no doubt you’ll find an option that will interest you. Visit the intramurals website for more information.

The Athletic Centre also hires over 800 students every year. View job opportunities at the Athletics Centre Website. UTSC also offers job opportunities. And check out volunteer opportunities for Camp U of T.

Photo from the Varsity Blues website.

Elect to make a difference February 16, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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Student election time is coming. Of course you should vote, but have you thought of taking it to the next level?

“Elections time is a really exciting time,” notes Russi Krantman, the Elections Coordinator of the University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit). “People really get into it; some think about getting involved for a long time, collect their ideas and present it on a platform for other students to decide who they will vote for.”

Student governments on campus are a great way to interact with your community and represent their wants and needs by bringing their ideas to council meetings and debate about how best to address their needs and concerns. By getting involved with your college student government, you can have an impact on your community and make a difference.

The UC Lit is holding elections for executive and representative positions all through March. Society president Sarah Ubbi decided to get involved in student government to get her voices and opinions heard. “I noticed that the community at UC is so connected,” she says. “I express my thoughts on matters in the college. As a student, I felt that I had valid concerns that reflected other students at my college.”

Getting involved in your student government also exposes you to further opportunities around your college. “I really like being on the Lit because it gives me the chance to exercise my leadership skills and see how the college is run in a different kind of way,” Ubbie says. “[Being involved in student government] empowers students to be able to interact with the UC administration and seeing things we want to change actually change” Ubbi expresses.

Ubbi says it’s important to reach out and communicate with others as a member of council to reach out to others and better their university experience. “You help others from a different point of view. It’s fulfilling to be a part of something that’s affected someone in a positive way.”

Being involved in student government allows you to exercise your teamwork skills and organizational skills. Managerial skills also come into play along with communication and cooperation skills. The most important thing that Ubbi says she’s taking away from her experience is interpersonal skills. “Learning how to work with others and see how you can reach out to different people are major skills that I will carry out of university.”

So, how can you get involved in student government? “Pick up a nomination form, create a platform and campaign in the elections happening at your college,” says Ubbi. You can find more information on your college elections at the ULife website.

Alternatively, you can join a commission if you still want to be a part of the council but choose not to run in an election. Commissions are a good way to get started in student government involvement. You can also form a club at your college or join intramurals. Visit your college council’s website to view the opportunities available to you:

Innis College Student Society
New College Student Council
St. Michael’s College Student Union
Trinity College Meeting
University College Literary and Athletic Society
Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council
Woodsworth College Student Association

Also, check out these opportunities at Mississauga and Scarborough:

UTM Student’s Union
Scarborough Campus Student’s Union

How to be sustainable – and get eco-involved! January 26, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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As the new term gets into full swing, many of you may be wondering what the deal is with the green eco-trays you’ve been seeing at U of T cafeterias. Or maybe you’ve never noticed the trays, which are available for purchase at Robarts, Sid Smith, and Medical Sciences cafeterias, among others.

Well, these trays are part of a UeaT initiative launched during environment week at the beginning of last semester. For $5 (plus HST) you can purchase not the eco-tray itself, but the eco-tray card. The card works as part of a hassle-free system for you. When you order food at these cafeterias, your food will be given to you in an eco-tray in exchange for your card. After you finish eating – whenever that may be! – you bring the tray back to the cafeteria, and they give you your card back. That means no dishes or lugging around dirty Tupperware for you; you get all the benefits of an eco-friendly container without the hassle! Your card never expires so you can use it over and over again for a one-time flat charge. The cards are even transferrable, so you can spread the love by lending it to your friends.

But if eating out isn’t for you, there are other ways you can participate in the green movement at U of T. There are many ways to make changes in your daily activities. For example, Bikechain has bikes for rent so you can reduce your carbon footprint, while U of T libraries have initiatives in place to decrease paper if you follow the recommended guidelines, like double-sided printing. The Public Water Initiative is making it easier than ever to refill your eco-friendly re-usable water bottle with their map of water fountains on campus.

If you’re looking to get involved with events and the community, UTSU’s Sustainability Commission has monthly meetings open to everyone where upcoming events and initiatives (read: opportunities to get involved!) are discussed. The Sustainability Office also has lots of information about upcoming events, most readily accessed by joining their mailing list. A central point of connection, UTERN has some great opportunities to get involved on campus with the green movement. Finally, the Office of Student Life is rolling out the Eco-Sustainability Network, which will function to connect students with groups and events as well as to connect groups who are working on similar initiatives. Look out for more exciting news about this initiative in the coming weeks!

Guest Post: Through blogging and workshops, students open up religious discussion December 7, 2010

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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By Nicholas Dion

I had fought my way through the crowds on the streetcar. Fought my way through the angry cries of “Tony Blair, war criminal!” to get inside the building. I had fought my way to the front of the line to pick up tickets. I had cleared the security checkpoint. Now, I could finally find my seat, right up on stage, to the left of the spot where former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would soon be standing.

On a recent Friday evening, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation organized one of the semi-annual Munk debates at Roy Thompson Hall, in which Blair and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens (of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything fame) would debate the motion, “Religion is a force for good in the world.” I had been offered tickets through the Centre for the Study of Religion’s Religion in the Public Sphere initiative (RPS), whose student steering committee I have coordinated for two years now. Obviously, for those of us interested in how religion is discussed in public, this debate was right up our alley. Within the university, we spend our days learning what scholars think about religion. Few are the opportunities to interact with the public, to hear their thoughts and share our passion for the subject with them. But this is exactly the kind of opportunity that RPS works to create. And it is a dimension of the RPS mission that we at the student steering committee have sought to make our priority.

How did we do this? For one, we created two seminars to contribute to the University’s annual High School Gifted Program Conference, to give visiting students a sense of what it means to study religion at university. Our morning panel, which looked at the Christian roots of vampire mythology, rode the Twilight wave and attracted an impressive crowd of 30 students. The afternoon session, led by law graduate student Howie Kislowicz, discussed the accommodation of religious beliefs in high schools, an environment that our guests knew very well.

Our other main project involved the creation of a blog, The Religion Beat, as another avenue for bridging the gap between the university and the public at large. Updated regularly by graduates students and undergraduates studying religion, the blog tackles timely subjects related to religion and the public sphere.

For example, Rebekka King has posted an analysis of the film Avatar as a religious metaphor, while Barbara Greenberg has discussed the meaning of Christmas for a secular Jew. Simon Appolloni regularly writes about issues of religion and environment, while Chris Zeichmann gathers links to relevant newspaper articles and other online sources in our weekly ‘link roundup’. With a rotating list of contributors, the blog provides readers with a plurality of voices interested in various issues related to religion.

There’s a lot of talk about “outreach” in the university today. It has become the new buzzword. What role should the university play in a liberal democratic society? How do we justify the billions of taxpayer dollars that we consume each year? How can we give back? I was surprised, when Dr. Pamela Klassen first began RPS back in 2007, of the extent to which my peers – students and faculty alike – supported what we wanted to do. There are tons of good ideas out there, but the majority of them will never get off the ground. So here’s a new buzzword – ‘initiative.’ Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that, as long as someone is ready to take charge, great things can (and will) happen.

As for the debate, I won’t spoil the surprise. But if you want it spoiled, you’ll just have to check out my summary of the evening on The Religion Beat.

Viva Volunteering! November 9, 2010

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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Among the many experiences you’ve had at U of T, which ones have left you feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside? Can you think of any warm and fuzzy experiences that also give you a competitive edge in your desired career path? Would you like that feeling? Have you considered volunteering?

Why volunteer? Volunteering offers students the opportunity to gain valuable work-related experience, while also making a difference. You can develop new skills and learn something new about yourself by finding interests and hobbies you didn’t think you’d enjoy. You will leave your volunteer experience with unique life experiences, knowing you’ve made a positive impact on a community in need.

There are many other opportunities to get your hands dirty in the world of volunteering. Volunteer Abroad, U of T Chapter, is heading down to Peru this May, and is recruiting volunteers to teach at an orphanage.

Providing great volunteer opportunities for those interested in pursuing careers in the medical field, Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA) at U of T is the first student-based chapter in Canada. They offer free medical, dental, and veterinary assistance to communities in South America.

The career Centre at St. George is teaming up with the department of politics to host Careers in NGOs and Government Wednesday November 17 from 4-6pm. This discussion panel invites guest speakers from the Government of Canada, the Toronto Office of Human Rights Watch, and the Office of the Ontario Minister of Citizenship & Immigration. See event details and What’s On at the Career Centre.

Volunteering abroad not your thing? Explore the Ulife website to find a volunteer opportunity that best suits you! You can find the hundreds of community outreach clubs at U of T, so you need not go far. Many more volunteer opportunities can be found on your career centre website’s Job Search option. (Click here for UTM, here for UTSC and here for downtown.)

The Virtuous Cycle October 29, 2010

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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You’ve probably noticed bike icons painted on the street at the St. George and Harbord/ Hoskin intersection at the downtown Campus. These are bike boxes – an effort by the city of Toronto to prevent discord among cyclists and right-turning motorists.

Bike boxes provide a designated wait area in front of vehicles for cyclists at a red traffic signal, allowing for a smooth traffic progression, while avoiding bike-car conflict. The bike boxes offer an sense of safety for cyclists, which encourages students to take up biking to get to school.


Biking provides a sustainable and more affordable option to commuting. So what can you do to safely share the road with motorists? The best thing is to educate yourself as a cyclist on the rules of the road, and know your rights.You can actually take a course through a program called offered through the City of Toronto called CAN-BIKE, which teaches cyclists ways to share the road with other vehicles.

It is also important to equip yourself with safety gear, as riding at night and in various weather conditions can be unavoidable. Consider picking up a helmet, some reflective clothing/tape for your bike, some lights and rain-appropriate attire. And with winter just around the corner, you can ride safely with winter-riding recommendations from BikeChain.

All three U of T campuses offer bike rental services. The Mississauga campus has established a BikeShare program, a service free for all U of T faculty and staff which allows for a free 24-hour bike rental. The Scarborough campus Student’s Union also has its own BikeShare program, which offers 48-hour bike rentals. At the St. George campus, BikeChain offers bike rentals for up to seven days with a student T-Card and $100 deposit.

Once your bike arrangements are sorted out, try biking along the Mississauga bikezone, a series of nature trails of surrounding the UTM campus, or explore to the city surrounding the Scarborough and St.George campuses using Toronto’s Cycling Map, or you can Ride the City at your own discretion.

Looking for life on Mars August 19, 2010

Posted by barrett hooper in Student Life.
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A few intrepid U of T researchers are taking the name of this blog a lot more literally than I ever imagined. Jonathan Abbatt of the Department of Chemistry and Kimberly Strong and Kaley Walker of the Department of Physics are part of the international team of scientists developing an instrument to search for signs of life on Mars during the 2016 ExoMars Trace gas Orbiter NASA-European Space Agency mission (what a mouthful!).

To continue with the gobbledygook, the instrument is called the Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer, or MATMOS for short. It will probe the atmosphere of Mars in search of biological sources of methane, and consequently, signs of life.

Looking for alien life. That’s a pretty cool way to spend your time at U of T. Even if it’s not as cool as finding alien skulls or an intergalactic Bigfoot.