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.  

What We Learned from the ‘Let’s Talk About Failure’ Project

Amal smiling to the camera, wearing a black and light pink outfit.
Rosemarie smiling at the camera against a light green background.
Sanskriti is smiling towards the camera, they are outside with trees and scenery in the background

Written by Sanskriti Maheshwari, Rosemarie Shephard, and Amal Yusuf, Data Analysis Researchers for the Let’s Talk About Failure project

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The Innovation Hub partnered with the Division of Student Life Academic Resilience Initiative to learn about UofT students’ experiences with failure: how they define failure, how they endure it, and the impact it has on their lives. We explored existing data on the topic in our archive of over 600 interviews and reached out to students at UofT to take part in our dialogue-based feedback sessions. We approached this project with the intention of hearing from and listening to students’ stories surrounding failure in their own words and on their own terms.  

Share your experiences with classroom accommodations – Student Feedback Sessions

Tell us about navigating classroom accommodations! The Innovation Hub and Accessibility Services (St. George) want to know about your experiences navigating accommodation from instructors. Tell us about what happened, what works and what doesn’t, how it’s hard, and more. We want to hear from…

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. 

Delving into the Digital Campus: Birds of A Feather, Do Flock Together

Sanskriti smiling to the camera outside

By Sanskriti Maheshwari, Design Researcher

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. 


Ever been told that opposites attract?

Through taking a course on Interpersonal Relationships, I uncovered something quite eye-opening. ‘Opposites attract’ is just a fantastical expression used to keep us invested in the romantic relationships and friendships that play out in front of our TV and movie screens. In reality, I have found that birds of a feather do in fact flock together. For example, in my own life I have observed that most of my closest friends have identical hobbies, personalities, political views, and so on. When meeting new individuals, any differences in interest or personalities can seem more pronounced than they really are. Possibly because a foundation built on a shared purpose hasn’t been established just yet.  This is also something I learnt from my experience conducting the Stories from a Distance Sessions and The Digital Community & Connectedness Project.  

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.  

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.

Transforming the Instructional Landscape: Moving Towards Learner Centric Design in Times of Change

By Philippa Gosine, Senior Research Assistant

Philippa Gosine, Senior Researcher, smiling at the camera in the sunny outdoors.

Through our user-centered consultations, we’ve realized that learning spaces are extremely personal and important places for the people that use them. Instructors and students have a strong sense of ownership over their classrooms and want to see their individual needs and preferences in the design of learning spaces.  

Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative – The Student Advisory Committee

By Emma McCann – Engagement Lead & Kristin Cleverley – Chair, Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative

A headshot of Dr. Cleverley smiling to the camera wearing a dark blue blazer.
Dr. Kristin Cleverley

A headshot of Emma McCann smiling to the camera, wearing an olive green shirt.
Emma McCann

The Innovation Hub has been involved in a scope of conversations on mental health, wellness, and initiatives to support students. Most recently, our work with the Presidential & Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health shone a light on many needs in the community and has been a launch pad to important partnerships and initiatives to further support students at the University. We deeply understand how it’s so important to continue to highlight what is happening now in the community on student mental health and opportunities to be a part of these important conversations.

If you are a student and are passionate about improving campus mental health through collaborative research, we encourage reading this week’s special blog post on the Mental Health for Students & Youth Research Initiative!

*** Please note that the deadline to apply to this wonderful opportunity has been extended to January 11th, 2021! ***