enSEMble Summer Reflections


After a busy summer, a new school year begins

For those of us who work in an academic institution, September feels like a new year more than the one that January ushers in: our rhythms are driven by the academic calendar. With September comes a quickening of pace, within and around us: Students return to campus in full force and calendars fill up as we prepare ourselves for the more regularly scheduled programming of the school year. As we fall back into this familiar tempo, there is the (largely optimistic) sense that September is a fresh start, a feeling that is helped along by the crisp air that arrives once summer starts to give way to fall.

At 172 St. George, we are slightly removed from the hubbub of centre campus; those at OSR or McMurrich are more in the thick of things. Our fall kick-off event, on September 5, was intentionally held in a classroom to connect with this back-to-school energy. It also evokes a sense of nostalgia, as we recall our own schooldays.

“While this is my 35th year as a faculty member at U of T, the fall memory that resonates most with me is my first year as an undergraduate at Victoria College, living in North House of Burwash Hall (in 1980!).”

It was exciting to move to the “big city” after finishing high school in relatively sleepy Ottawa. As was convention in a men’s residence, my stereo was my prize possession. Not unlike male songbirds, we broadcasted our musical affinities as a matter of personal branding and differentiation. That fall, my turntable wore out London Calling (The Clash), I Just Can’t Stop It (The English Beat), Quadrophenia Soundtrack (The Who), and even Bad Habits (The Monks). Looking back 43 years from then, it’s shocking to imagine that the comparable playlist for my 1980 self would be from 1937 (Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington).

I also remember that my first real interactions with the University of Toronto were not with faculty, but with staff in the Vic Registrar’s office: Helping me enrol in courses, sort out how to pay my fees, arranging OSAP (including taking on loans for the first time), ensuring my scholarship was in order, and more generally offering a port should a storm arise. Not only was there no internet, photocopies were a luxury, and all of the paperwork was completed on carbon paper to generate duplicates. Except for a bank, it was my first real experience with independent “adult” transactions, and the quality of support I received from people with these mysterious new titles (e.g., registrar, bursar) helped welcome me to the community and provided a foundation that allowed me to focus on my courses (e.g., ECO100 in the Medical Sciences Auditorium with 499 other bewildered students – a course that materially changed my path in life).

Sneak Peek of VPSEM Projects & Initiatives

I’m excited for the many projects and initiatives that are in the works this year across our portfolio to advance our support for student success and the overall student experience. Here is a mere sampling of what some of our teams are working on:

  • the redesign and ongoing rollout of the UTAPS program to better meet student financial need;
  • improving our classroom scheduling practices with the goal of developing a student-centric academic schedule and increasing space utilization;
  • the implementation of the recommendations suggested by the high-calibre team who reviewed our admissions processes in March 2023;
  • Identifying a new call centre solution for Client Services;
  • the development of the Enrichment Academy, a multi-year access program which engages historically underrepresented students in the GTA with the goal of establishing an enrolment pathway to U of T;
  • moving forward with identifying a plan to replace ROSI.

My experience as a student at U of T was overwhelmingly positive, and it’s a privilege today to be “on the other side,” in a position where I can work with you to continue to make this true for current students.