Researchers Reflect: The Power of Empathy

This blog post is the first of Researchers Reflect, a new series where we embark on the journey of a design researcher at the Innovation Hub. Each post will spotlight a different design researcher sharing their stories, experience and learning moments throughout the course of their research.

Amal is wearing a jean jacket, smiling towards the camera with a whit ebackground.

Written by Amal Yusuf, UTQAP Research Coordinator  

Since 2019, I was given the privilege and trust to listen to students’ stories and experiences throughout a variety of projects, such as the Presidential and Provostial Task Force for Student Mental Health, Food Insecurity on CampusLet’s Talk About Failure Project, Student Experiences at Rotman Commerce, and much more! Being a part of this work has been a real growing experience for me. Today, I will be sharing a bit about this journey and how it has made an impact in my area of work and studies.  

Meet the Team 2021-22 Innovation Hub Team!

Betelehem outside smiling at the camera
Betelehem Gulilat, Content Writer

As we enter a brand-new term, the Innovation Hub is excited to welcome our Fall/Winter 2021-22 Team! Each year our team is expanding along with our growing number of partnerships and are pleased to continue designing with and for students at the University of Toronto. In support of our expansion, we are grateful to be transitioning to a new workspace on campus where we plan to follow a hybrid work model to provide flexibility & space for innovation.  

Reconciliation & Reflection: Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Please note that this post speaks about residential schools and the meaning behind Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We acknowledge that the land in which we work from at the The University of Toronto has been, for thousands of years, the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land. Learn more about which lands you may reside on, and the treaties and histories connected with it, at: https://native-land.ca/  or https://www.whose.land/en/


On September 30th we commemorate Orange Shirt Day, a day intended to raise awareness on the centuries long impact Canada’s Residential School System has had on Indigenous communities, knowledge, traditions, and beyond. Orange Shirt day comes from the experience of Phyllis Webstad (Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation), who was six-years-old when she first arrived to a residential school. On her first day of arriving at the school she was stripped of her new orange shirt. This is what she has shared on what it felt like – and you can learn more about Phyllis’s story in the link provided:   

Community Repost: Introducing the Tech2U Initiative

Tech2U is an exciting new pilot program that employs over 125 students to provide instructors with personalized tech support as they make their long-awaited return to teaching on campus. This week’s post is a repost from U of T News, where Tech2U was featured in a recent article written by Staff Reporter at U of T News, Rahul Kalvapalle.

All about the TIL Operations Working Group

Georgia is outside, smiling towards the camera and wearing. a dark blue shirt.

Written by Georgia Maxwell – Senior Research Assistant for Transforming the Instructional Landscape

Transforming the Instructional Landscape (TIL) is an ongoing project at the University of Toronto that examines how learning environments can be improved for both instructors and students. TIL employs design thinking to help build better learning environments with students rather than for students. A wide range of professionals from across UofT are also involved in the project’s exciting and innovative work. 

Delving into the Digital Campus: The Many Faces of Vulnerability

By Ayaan Hagar, Design Researcher & Project Team Lead  

Ayaan Hagar

This blog post is part of Delving into the Digital Campus, a four-part series in collaboration with the Digital Community & Connectedness Project, aimed at understanding how students find and make connections in digital spaces. Each post is a written reflection from our Design Researchers, sharing how the insights from their project has resonated with them in their own lived experiences. 


What does it mean to connect in an age where we’re constantly connected? 

It’s a question that’s been on my mind since the start of the pandemic; with a parent working on the frontlines, I heard accounts of the virus’ impact that didn’t give me much hope for returning to campus anytime soon. I had always had a bit of hard time finding my place on campus until I switched my program last year and became a part of a tight-knit, cohort of students. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I realized how much of that connection was forged over months of FaceTime, group trips to Kensington Market, shared triumphs and troubles over coffee, and daily lunches in the student lounge. With my younger brother entering university in the fall, I wondered what his experience and so many other new students would look like. 

The Academic Integrity Project: Designing Student-Centered Academic Integrity at U of T

Hai Dao smiling to the camera on a sunny day
Hai-Dao Le Nguyen
Shankeri outside, with a plain grey background, smiling to the camera
Shankeri Vijayakumar

By Shankeri Vijayakumar – Data Analysis Researcher and Hai-Dao Le Nguyen – Data Analysis Researcher 

Academic Integrity is essential to learning at the University of Toronto as students learn to engage with knowledge and ideas in a way that is respectful and honourable. This past year, the Innovation Hub partnered with U of T’s Provost’s Office to explore what academic integrity means and how it is experienced by students at the university.  

Redefining Traditional: The Importance of Meaningful Land Acknowledgments (Part Three)

tree with multicoloured triangles as leaves

This is a re-post from Redefining Traditional, a community aiming to equip student parents with the tools to navigate their various roles, build a community of support and belonging, as well as providing a space for productive dialogue amongst policy-makers to help reimagine higher education. If you’re interested in contributing to our online community, we encourage you to share your story as a student parent by filling out this form.

Our land acknowledgements series highlights important stories and teachings from each of the Redefining Traditional team members – Heather, Shamim and Kaitlyn. Through these posts, we aim for our community to think about how land acknowledgments are immensely important, and to ensure we engage in teachings about specific cultures beyond a day or month of recognition. We also highlight important questions to support our community so that an acknowledgement moves beyond a ‘script’ and towards an ongoing conversation.

Shamim Ahmed

Our final post in this series is by Shamim Ahmed! Our previous two posts are from:


In Community: the Importance of Reflection & Meaningful Work

By Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer

Betelehem outside smiling at the camera

ZOOMlockdown and asynchronous. These are some of many words that come to mind for this academic year. It’s also been a year of many firsts. Many more students have been attending classes remotely, campuses have transformed, and the Class of 2020 has celebrated their graduation virtually in their homes within their bubbles.

The uncertainty unearthed many concerns for the future both near and far. Whether its deciding where to study or spend time with friends, or travelling amongst a sea of students, losses have been felt all around. For others, the pandemic might have also felt like an unexpected gift to reflect on what’s important. Perhaps it’s been a mix of everything, too! We have seen these realities in our work, both through research projects and in our own teams. Reflection on what we have accomplished this last year not only helped us learn from our experiences, but it also reaffirmed why holding space for meaningful work is so important.