View from the Inside: Reflecting on Empathy and Equity

Continuing the View from the Inside series, we reflect on the first two weeks of the Design Thinking Experience Program, in which we discussed the Innovation Hub’s focus on empathy- and equity-based design.

In this post, we hear from Sharon Lam, Data Analysis Assistant. Sharon worked in education after completing Bachelor’s degrees in English, History, and Education, then started a Master of Information degree in User Experience Design and Information Systems and Design. This is her first year with the Innovation Hub.

Sharon Lam, Data Analysis Assistant

During the first two weeks at the Innovation Hub, we spent a lot of time on reflection. This may seem counter-intuitive since we are just starting our projects, but it actually makes a lot of sense. By beginning with reflection, we recognize that we each bring a lot to any starting point and that there is a lot of context to every situation. There is no truly blank slate. This is both encouraging and humbling. On the one hand, we bring value based on the unique perspective formed from our past experiences; on the other hand, how we see and interpret our research is limited by the degree to which we can understand what is outside of our realm of experience—in short, our ability to empathize. 

Meet the Team—Fall/Winter 2019/20

Charis Lam, Writer

This academic year brings new and returning faces to the Innovation Hub. As always, we have assembled a team with diverse disciplines and interests but a shared excitement for the work we’ll do, including:

  • Working with the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health,
  • Improving the experience of student parents with the Family Care Office,
  • Creating ideas for space redesigns with the Transforming the Instructional Landscape Project & our Kinesiology and Physical Education partnership,
  • Gathering student feedback for the Division of Student Life,
  • And partnering with Rotman I-Think.

View from the Inside: Innovation Hub Orientation

In the View from the Inside series, we take you into the work of the Innovation Hub as seen by its members. Our students share their experience with our team and what they’ve learned so far.

This week, we hear from Eric Hanson, Design Research Assistant. Eric recently graduated with a Bachelor of Design from OCAD University and came to the University of Toronto, where he started a Master of Information and joined the Innovation Hub.

Eric Hanson, Design Research Assistant

Whether we’re engineers, doctors, professors, or students, design influences how we do our jobs, how we communicate with others, and how the world communicates with us. As a designer coming from a Bachelor of Design degree at OCAD University and starting a Master of Information degree at the University of Toronto, I understand the importance of human-centred design and design thinking in redefining our experience in today’s disruptive and innovative society. Empathy and social innovation were cornerstones of my undergraduate work, and coming to the University of Toronto is an exciting opportunity to see how a larger institution can use design thinking to improve the university experience and the way it serves its students.

The Innovation Hub: Our Vision for 2019–20

Julia Smeed, Innovation Hub Project Leader

At the Innovation Hub, we are what we do. We commit ourselves to community growth through prototyping and iteration, not only in the design projects we take on, but also in designing our own work processes. By being responsive to the changing needs of the community—both internally, within our own team, and externally, with our project partners—we continually improve our practices.

Project Primer: Data Analysis

Danielle Baillargeon, Data Analysis Team Lead

What happens to all the interviews and data that the Innovation Hub collects?  Over the past three years, over 450 students and staff have shared their experiences with our teams. We are honoured that so many were willing to entrust us with their stories and experiences, which helped us identify their needs, suggest and prototype services and supports, and contribute to substantive changes at U of T through over a dozen collaborative projects. The interviews and feedback we receive are the basis from which we advocate for change in all our collaborations, including the New College Dining Hall redesign, the Family Care Office projects, and the classroom redesign under the Transforming the Instructional Landscape Project. 

The Innovation Hub is Hiring!

Julia Smeed, Innovation Hub Project Leader

As we look forward to the new school year, the Innovation Hub is excited to assemble a team for our upcoming and continuing projects. We want to offer our potential team members the opportunity to both contribute to the university and learn new skills: we’re looking for dedicated students who are interested in improving campus life by focusing on student needs, and we’re also offering those students training and hands-on practice in human-centred design. We hope to put together a diverse team that enjoys the challenges of our work!

Read below for job descriptions, and go to the Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network work study job board to learn more and apply.

Spotlight: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Community?

Social and Cultural Community at First Nations House

Charis Lam – Design Research Events Lead

Written by Charis Lam – Design Research Events Lead

In search of factors driving student engagement, First Nations House partnered with the Innovation Hub in summer 2018 to ask: what causes students and staff to engage and connect with First Nations House? Among the factors identified—including assistance with scholarships and housing, personal relationships to staff members. and access to the resource centre—cultural and social programming emerged as a need strongly felt by students. Thus, First Nations House and the Innovation Hub renewed their partnership to investigate what sorts of social and cultural programming students want.

The Innovation Hub is Hiring for Summer Work-Study Positions!

By Kaitlyn Corlett, Project Assistant and Julia Smeed, Innovation Hub Projects Officer

Kaitlyn CorlettPhoto of Julia

Now that the winter term is coming to a close, it’s time to consider some exciting opportunities at the Innovation Hub for the summer 2019 term. The Innovation Hub offering a wide range of work-study positions open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements. These positions offer opportunities to work with various areas at the University of Toronto in team-oriented environments that are supported by innovative, design-thinking practices.

Reflecting on Innovation Hub’s Evolution

Photo of JuliaBy Julia Smeed, Innovation Hub Project Leader

It’s hard to believe that in a few months the Innovation Hub will be approaching it’s two year anniversary since our launch event in May, 2016.  So much has happened in the past two years that I felt this would be a good time to reflect on this important work and what it’s meant to me and so many of the students, staff, faculty, alumni and other members of our community that have been involved.

Innovation Hub Big Ideas Kick-Off

Photo of Sneha By Sneha Dasgupta, Innovation Hub Blog Editor

By early 2017, the Innovation Hub’s research survey of the U of T student experience was complete. We used this research to come up with  25 innovative ideas designed to create a better student experience. Of these 25, the following five ideas emerged as the most promising:

  • Chill Spots
  • U of T Concierge
  • Neighbourhood Communities
  • Future Readiness Course
  • Student-Faculty Exploration Cafe