By Sujaya Devi, Design Research Team Lead (Student Life), and Cynthia Zheng, Writer
Each student’s journey through the university is unique. Yet most students spend a significant amount of time on campus—going to classes, studying at the library, hanging out with friends—and the services, resources, and student services at the university play a crucial role in their experiences. Among other services, the Division of Student Life handles Health and Wellness, the Centre for International Experience, the Career Centre, Academic Success, and Housing, and thus it provides a space for students to get support and strengthen skills, including mentorship, leadership, and time management.
Students at UofT desire a place to relax, grab a coffee, and sit with friends in an informal setting. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, 35 % of students at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) want more informal gathering spaces. They are not alone: through surveys and meetings, students at other departments have expressed a similar desire. To meet this need, KPE is working with the Innovation Hub to uncover what draws students to such spaces and to create design principles that will help with the renovation of the Clara Benson Pool Gallery into a Chill Spot for students to relax, connect, and de-stress.
Chill Spots started as one of the five “Big Ideas” from the first year of the Innovation Hub, and they have become an important priority at UofT, as seen from the Provost’s recent call for applications to the Student Space Enhancement Fund. We hope that the insights from this project will be useful for other KPE space projects and Chill Spots designs in the future.
In many fields, outliers are seen as a nuisance. We run tests to justify ignoring them; we explain them away; we resent their intrusion on our neat results. Design thinking, however, asks us to do the opposite—to forgo the blinkers that constrain us to staring at the centre of the bell curve, and to take a good hard look at the outliers.