By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer and Editor
What makes the international student experience different from those of domestic students? Since the pandemic, a new set of challenges has emerged on top of the pre-pandemic realm of campus life that international students are valiantly navigating. In turning to our vibrant and diverse community at UofT, we hope to spark discussions by bringing student stories to light.
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.
We’re excited to share a call for participation with our UofT graduate student community!
Graduate supervision and mentorship are the backbone of a graduate student’s experience at the University of Toronto. This is why the Innovation Hub, a student-led group which uses student-centric design to improve campus life, is looking for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to take part in virtual feedback sessions on their mentorship and supervision experiences.
Many of us have shifted into a new reality of learning, working, and connecting with our loved ones. As we return to campus in our relative capacities, we reflect on how this may look for everyone – especially within the scope of mental health. At a time of social distancing, it is incredibly important for every individual to have support and access to the resources they need. That’s why at the Innovation Hub, we’ve been thinking deeply of how our insights from previous (and ongoing work) with students can be shared to our campus community. Our objective is to help support students by designing spaces grounded in a culture of care at the University of Toronto.
We connected with Joshua Grondin, a Master of Education student in Higher Education at OISE and past Vice-President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Joshua is also a part of Students for Barrier-free Access, a levy-funded student group that advocates for disabled and mad-identified students on campus. Through these capacities, Joshua has a great deal of empathy for the many realities at the University. Especially when it comes to mental health, wellness and understanding where culture of care principles come into play between individuals and the University.