Connecting to Campus as a Team

Written by Anchana Kuganesan – Design Research Team Lead Transforming the Instructional Landscape

Anchana smiling while leaning against a wall
Anchana Kugansesan

After joining the design research leadership team at the Innovation Hub, I had the chance to learn more about my colleagues during our team retreat day on August 8th. In the morning we took turns taking the team to different spots on campus that were memorable to us. We shared stories about how these places evoked emotions and memories about our time on campus, and how we are all connected through these feelings. We used design thinking methods to ask one another questions that probe more deeply into each other’s experiences and build empathy and we had great conversations as a team throughout the tour. Not only did this make us pay closer attention to our team members, but it also evoked new ways of thinking when we revisit these spaces on campus in the future. 

Anchana telling team leads about the space and answering their questions

Sense of Peace and Stillness

When I thought about a place that’s meaningful to me to take my team mates to visit, the bamboo garden inside the Terrence Donnelly Centre came to mind because I used to go there during my first semester as a U of T student to take a break and relax. When I visit the bamboo garden, I feel like I have a piece of nature to myself inside a busy city. I sit on the benches surrounded by greenery and have a sense of peace. I have very fond memories of making new friends and catching up with classmates there. After one year at U of T, this bamboo garden still brings me a sense of peace and stillness within a massive campus.  I always make a point to sit down on one of the benches and take time to myself as I navigate my time here as a graduate student.  

Sharing Stories of Campus

Innovation Hub team members at the Athletic Centre talking about wellness and a healthy mindset

My teammates also shared their stories with us as we walked around campus. To me, it was very interesting listening to their memories about their undergraduate experiences at U of T. I learned about the university’s various faculties and colleges through listening to their experiences as U of T’s unique structure is new to me. Most of my knowledge about U of T comes from the Innovation Hub. We visited Victoria College, the Athletic Centre, Daniels Building, and Philosopher’s Walk to name a few. My fellow team leaders took the time to answer each of our questions and their answers gave us deeper insights into who they are and what they value. I learned about my colleagues’ personal values and how being a student at U of T has helped them grow as individuals. 

An Awe-Inspiring Moment

Innovation Hub team members at Convocation Hall listening to a story about growth and ownership over one’s accomplishments

One spot that resonated with most people was Convocation Hall. We had an awe-inspiring moment as we entered this important space and saw that it was empty. Convocation Hall is where graduation happens for U of T students. One team member mentioned how she visited campus for the first time when she was about 11 years old with her family and recalled parking by University College. This moment came full circle for her as she walked by the same spot upon graduating this past Spring. Another team member told us about graduating from undergrad and how her feelings about the stage have grown as she became more confident about her accomplishments as a graduate student now. 

Innovation Hub team members at the Daniels Building

Storytelling is a powerful way to connect people. As leaders we set the stage for open communication on our teams and need to role model vulnerability and empathy as we strive to understand our team members’ values. On August 8th  practiced vulnerability and empathy by sharing our own stories and listening to the stories of our colleagues.  We took time to reflect within ourselves, and asked insightful questions to each colleague as they took turns as storyteller. This day brought us closer as a leadership team at the Innovation Hub, and we will maintain these connections going forward for the following year as we onboard our own team members and grow as leaders. 

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