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.  

Designing Virtual Spaces with Accessibility in Mind

By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Writer & Editor and Philippa Gosine, Senior Research Assistant  

Betelehem outside smiling at the camera
Betelehem Gulilat
Philippa outdoors smiling at the camera
Philippa Gosine

Preserving a rich learning environment accessible for all students has been an ongoing commitment for many institutions. As faculties and administrators navigate the complexity of delivering courses online, it’s important for us to turn to our student community to understand the needs of students during this unprecedented time. Our work at the Innovation Hub is centered around students and their unique stories with the goal of designing a campus experience inclusive for all. We recognize the importance of prioritizing accessibility and hope to inspire our community members to develop equitable strategies for accommodating students in their online learning.   

Embracing Change – How our Process of Innovation Has Empowered New Areas of our Work

Kaitlyn Corlett smiling at the camera
Kaitlyn Corlett, Senior Project Assistant

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 beit 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.

What Matters to UofT Students? The Innovation Hub’s 4-year journey to understanding this question

Julia smeed smiling at the camera, wearing a striped shirt
Julia Smeed smiling at the camera

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.

A Glimpse Into the Lives of Disabled Student Parents at the University of Toronto

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon, Lead Writer and Editor

Terri-Lynn and her daughter smiling
Terri-lynn and her daughter, Jaycie.

I am a wheelchair- using mother and a PhD student at OISE in Social Justice Education. When the lockdown in Toronto began we lost access to daycare and we also lost more than one support person (Nurturing Assistants) who felt that their own lives were too disrupted by the pandemic to continue to provide ongoing support to us. Without this direct support neither myself nor my child can shower safely, and I have no means of taking my twenty-one month old outside on my own. On top of which our building has been plagued with significant apartment maintenance issues all summer which has meant I have had to solve big family pandemic issues for 4 months and counting….

#DisplayYourPride 2020: Celebrating Pride and Intersectionality at the Innovation Hub

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon and Kaitlyn Corlett

#DisplayYourPride 2020 at the University of Toronto. More colour, more pride! Theme is Intersectionaly LGBTQ+ identities.
Celebrate this year’s #DisplayYourPride! Image provided by the University of Toronto

Happy Pride Month, 2020! From all of us at the Innovation Hub, let’s celebrate love and affirmation for everybody. This is especially important in a time where many of us may feel disconnected from our communities, spaces, and activities that ground us for celebrating this important time of year. At the Innovation Hub, we often celebrate #DisplayYourPride in a collaborative activity to connect with one another and express how we are celebrating. Since we can’t connect in-person this year, we are celebrating by acknowledging the important history of Pride and inviting readers to think about how to celebrate in a commitment to anti-racism and intersectionality. We are centering the lives of Black LGBTQ2SIA+1 folx2, who continue to be catalysts for significant change in the LGBTQ2SIA+ movement

A Physical Space for Student Well-being

Zahira Tasabehji, Design Research Team Lead

Editor’s Note: In light of COVID-19 and social distancing, we would like to note that the insights expressed in this post were developed prior to the COVID-19 crisis. We acknowledge that imagining student spaces physically looks very different at this time, and we hope that some of these insights provide value to virtual spaces for students.

Students often spend long hours on campus. Throughout the day, they move around to accommodate their busy schedules. Classes eat up big chunks of time, but in the spaces between, students look for comfortable places to relax or be productive. They find many formal study spaces , but are those the only places they seek?

To provide more student-friendly spaces on campus, the Innovation Hub partnered with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) for the Fall-Winter 2019/2020 term to redesign the Benson Pool Gallery. We wanted to turn the Gallery into an accessible student space. Moreover, we wanted to ensure it was truly student friendly. Thus, we interviewed other students about what they need in community spaces. Our ultimate goal was to answer the question: “How can the Benson Pool Gallery be redesigned to offer an innovative multi-use community space for students?

The Redefining Traditional Backstory: How Design Thinkers Created a Virtual Community of Student Parents and Supporters During COVID-19

Redefining Traditional: Making Higher Education Family Friendly

By Celeste Pang, Sauliha Alli, Sanja Ivanov and Heather Watts

Design thinkers at the Innovation Hub share the backstory of the Redefining Traditional virtual community of student parents and their supporters.

The Innovation Hub is Hiring for the Summer 2020 Work Study Term!

We are hiring!


Julia Smeed – Manager, Innovation Projects

As we work and learn in these uncertain times of COVID-19, the Innovation Hub has been thinking deeply about our projects this summer, and how they can truly benefit the UofT community and beyond. We want to offer our potential team members the opportunity to both contribute to the university and learn new skills during these times. We’re looking for dedicated students who are interested in improving campus life by focusing on student needs, who want to work with design thinking inspired methods, and also have the ability to work remotely and engage in virtual project work in collaborative environments. We hope to put together a diverse team that enjoys the challenges of our work!

Please note that job postings go live April 30th, 2020.

The deadline for applying to positions is Monday, May 4th, 2020 at 11:59pm.  

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