Images of five students, four women and one man, side by side in separate photos.

Five members of the Class of 2021 have received Student Leadership Awards from the University of Toronto for their outstanding volunteer contributions to the life of the College and the larger University. Over their student careers, they have worked to deepen and enrich the community of St. Michael’s and UofT, advocated for programs and received awards for academic achievements, and pursued environmental initiatives to help keep the University on a path to a sustainable future.  

St. Michael’s congratulates: 

Natalie Barbuzzi – Natalie’s leadership in cultivating community in the student body at St. Michael’s has been demonstrated through her involvement in senior roles in the Mentorship program and with the Commuter Don team as well as multiple years of involvement with St. Michael’s Orientation. She also pursues social and environmental justice at the University through roles with the Environmental Sustainability Society and University of Toronto Policython.  

Natalie Barbuzzi

Adam Da Costa Gomes – Adam has helped many fellow students feel more at home at St. Mike’s through his work as founding secretary for SMC Inclusive, a club dedicated to creating inclusive and LGBTQ+ positive spaces on campus, and through several roles with St. Michael’s Orientation. He has also left a mark on the University’s approach to mental health and its academic community through volunteering as Undergraduate Representative for both the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Mental Health Initiatives Advisory Group and the University of Toronto Advisory Committee to the President for the Selection of the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  

Adam Da Costa Gomes in winter gear

Chiara Perry – Chiara works to help every member of the student body feel welcome and included through her work as both Vice President of Community Life for SMCSU and Social Functions Coordinator for the Indigenous Studies Student Union. She has directly supported fellow St. Michael’s students over several years through the Mentorship program and multiple roles with St. Michael’s Orientation.  

Chiara Perry

Nour Ramzi – Nour has enriched campus life through her multi-year involvement with SMC Troubadours, a student theatre group, and has helped to foster community at St. Michael’s and at the University of Toronto through her involvement in St. Michael’s Orientation and her work as Executive Events Associate for the Middle Eastern Students’ Association.  

Christeen Salik – In addition to her work as a Student & Youth Mental Health Art-ivist who founded Healing Hearts Through Art (h2art) and as a Mindful Moments facilitator for the Multi-Faith Centre, Christeen has served as a Marshal Lead for St. Michael’s Orientation, playing a major role in giving St. Mike’s students their first experiences of the College’s unique community. She currently pursues environmental and social justice–focused objectives as President of the Board of Directors for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group of Toronto (OPIRG Toronto).  

Christeen Salik

Established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) and the Division of University Advancement, the University of Toronto Student Leadership Awards (formerly the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards) recognize students who have made outstanding extra-curricular contributions to their college, faculty or school, or to the university as a whole. 

Mortarboard on a computer next to text: Alumni Workshop Series - University of St. Michael's College - Business Success Feb. 2 6 p.m. - Finding a Job in a Challenging Market Feb. 4 6 p.m. - Opportunities in Education Feb. 11 6 p.m. - Women in STEM Feb. 23 6 p.m. - Entrepreneurship March 2 6 p.m. - All times EST

St. Michael’s alumni workshops help students forge a path to the future

In an academic year like no other, St. Michael’s students have found themselves faced with challenges beyond what any of them expected when they first decided to pursue university studies. Fortunately, they won’t have to go it alone.  

A new alumni workshop series will connect current students with members of the St. Michael’s alumni family to give them an opportunity to see new paths into a post-pandemic future. Co-presenters for the workshop series will bring extensive experience in a variety of fields to bear on topics ranging from life after graduation to career opportunities in specific fields.  

“Our alumni have such deep and generous hearts, which they demonstrate through their gifts, their volunteer leadership, and their interest in serving as mentors and advisors,” Chief Advancement Officer Kathryn Elton says. “These workshops are a great example of how committed St. Michael’s alumni are to helping current students succeed in a time that has been challenging for everyone.”  

The series kicked off Tuesday, Feb. 2 with “Business Success.” Later sessions include “Finding a Job in a Challenging Market” (Feb. 4), “Opportunities in Education” (Feb. 11), “Women in STEM” (Feb. 23), and “Entrepreneurship” (March 2). Each session will be facilitated by student leaders and include both an alumni panel and time for students to pose questions during a Q&A.  

Darren Slind (SMC 8T8), co-founder and managing director of Clarify Group and a co-presenter for the Feb. 2 panel, says he valued the opportunity to offer guidance to the current generation of students in the same way he found mentors during a period at St. Mike’s he describes as “formative.” He also wanted to simply encourage St. Michael’s students about their prospects.  

“If students can survive and thrive through this pandemic, they will have the confidence to overcome future challenges,” he says. “That’s the silver lining in what has otherwise been a hard and sometimes painful pandemic, especially for those families directly impacted by COVID-19.” 

Slind encourages current students thinking about life after graduation to pursue kinds of success that put people first, a quality he feels St. Michael’s does a good job of inculcating in its students. “You quickly realize after arriving at St. Mike’s that you are surrounded by equally or even smarter peers!” he says. He considers developing one’s “emotional intelligence” to be the most important factor for success in the workplace and names fellow alumnus Victor Dodig, CEO of CIBC, as providing an example of the sort of “extraordinary people-centric leadership” St. Michael’s alumni specialize in.  

“In a challenging job market, it’s encouraging to see St. Mike’s alumni stepping in to connect with and support current students,” says Maxine Webster, Advancement Officer, Alumni Engagement. “These types of conversations and connections between alumni and current students are one of the things that makes St. Mike’s special.” 

All sessions will take place over Zoom. Register online

Brennan Hall in wintertime with snow visible on the roof and shrubbery

In a shifting academic year, St. Mike’s community and creativity keep students engaged

A strong reputation among students, creative, empathetic responses to the pandemic, and hosting some of the most popular undergraduate classes and programs at the University of Toronto have all helped St. Michael’s weather the challenges posed by COVID-19.

“This is a surprising story,” says Interim Principal Dr. Mark McGowan. “We planned for the worst, hoped for the best and were pleasantly surprised. We were dealt an unusual hand and staff, professors, and students responded admirably to the challenges we have been dealt.”

The result, says McGowan, is that enrolment at St. Michael’s has remained healthy, with increases in enrolment in all college courses. This, he says, is due to a number of factors. One is the ongoing popularity of St. Mike’s Book & Media Studies program, which takes an interdisciplinary approach, offering an historical investigation of the role of printing, books, reading, and electronic and digital media in cultures past and present. The program remains one of the most popular at U of T.

Another decision that has kept enrolment numbers strong was St. Mike’s rapid move to online classes, assuring students — and especially international students — that they could continue their education safely from home. At times, this has driven students to discover new interests, as demonstrated by an increase in the number of international students, for example, in Mediaeval Studies courses.

And if students can’t engage in the international travel that is a key component of programs, St. Mike’s has decided to bring the world to our classrooms. In response to the cancellation of the  trips that are a key aspect of the popular first-year One seminars, St. Mike’s is creating what is being called a global classroom, allowing students in Toronto to engage virtually with research and data from around the world. Funded in part by a grant from Universities Canada, the global classroom will have dedicated space on campus, complete with cutting-edge technology, to engage with students, professors, and researchers around the world.

The Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories, which offers students an interdisciplinary approach to examining the Celtic influences in the mediaeval world, with particular focus on early books and historical artifacts, will be the first to use the concept, partnering with Maynooth University in Ireland. Students here and in Ireland will engage with their peers, accessing digital resources from both universities. With the plan that student travel will resume once travel bans are lifted, the virtual classroom lends itself to any number of courses and programs, as well as a hybrid model of virtual and in-person classes. 

Along with the university’s outstanding faculty members, a roster of strong sessional instructors has drawn students to enrol at St. Mike’s courses. In Book & Media Studies, for example, award-winning journalist Michael Valpy has returned to St. Michael’s to teach media ethics while journalist, scholar and activist Emilie Nicolas is teaching a new #BlackLives and the Media course.  In Celtic Studies, meanwhile, Shane Lynn is teaching modern Irish History, a course whose numbers have been growing steadily.

But one of the biggest strengths that allows St. Michael’s to remain vibrant is a strong reputation for a student-driven approach, McGowan says.

“Student word of mouth focusses on things like how well the students are treated at St. Mike’s, or small class sizes,” he says.

This academic year has highlighted the care faculty and staff have for students, he says, noting, for example, how impressed he was when he sat in on a regularly scheduled Zoom session, organized by librarian James Roussain, Dr. Iris Gildea and Dr. Felan Parker, for professors to talk about student issues and how best to offer support.

“It is edifying to listen to compassionate professors focussed on being merciful, especially during COVID,” he says.

Underpinning classes and communication is a strong commitment to IT, the interim principal says. To help ensure smooth delivery of classes, the Principal’s Office offered faculty members funding to upgrade equipment to better serve students online. McGowan also credits St. Mike’s IT Supervisor Pio Sebastiampillai , working with the team at the Faculty of Arts & Science, with enabling professors and students to make the best of online learning.

And while in-person events are still not happening, enhanced student experiences continue to happen. This year, for the example, the annual USMC Research Symposium will still take place, online, on Saturday, March 13, on the topic of “Community, Citizenship, and Belonging.”

St. Mike’s also continues to engage with the important matters of the day. For example, the popular Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reading Group, started by Dr. Reid Locklin in 2019, moved online this year so that the university community can learn how it can better engage in the recommend, holding its meeting recently and welcoming everyone to future sessions when they resume in the next academic year.

“St. Mike’s responded well,” McGowan says. “We didn’t panic but worked as a team.”                                           

A bow tied around the wrought iron gate on Elmsley Place

Not even a pandemic can stop Christmas from coming to St. Mike’s.

While the campus is quiet and missing many of the traditional seasonal activities this year—the alumni Christmas tea and the Schola Cantorum Advent concert are two notable, sorely missed examples—our gorgeous Christmas lights will still illuminate the grounds to bring cheer both to those students in residence as well as to neighbours and passersby.

To ensure that help gets to those in need, the annual toy drive, which sees St. Michael’s team up with the University of Toronto campus police and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is accepting donations online to buy gift cards for families so that parents can pick out the perfect items for their loved ones.  Donations of gift cards are also being accepted at the security desk in Charbonnel Hall at 81 St. Mary St. Donations are being accepted up until Friday, December 4.

And in this season of giving, the University has been particularly touched by the generosity of the creative minds who came up with a way to compensate for the fact the annual golf tournament fundraiser was COVID-cancelled. Two golf tournament sponsors—Mackenzie Financial and CIBC, who are represented by event co-chairs Barry McInerney and David Scandiffio—made donations of $10,000 each this year instead of sponsorships. USMC matched these donations with proceeds from previous years’ tournaments to create a $40,000 expendable fund, allocated care of the Registrar’s office, to help students with exceptional needs related to COVID.

A tree lit up for the holidays next to Brennan Hall

This approach parallels the Faculty of Theology fund created earlier this year, which was built from donations and matched by St. Michael’s. Together, these gifts represent the continued loyalty of golf tournament sponsors and the commitment of alumni, faculty, staff and the university to helping students during this challenging time.

At a time when food banks and social service agencies are seeing soaring demand, the generosity is being spread widely. Another golf tournament sponsor, Mawer, donated $5,000 in lieu of sponsorsip. This, too, was matched with donations from previous years and augmented by other alumni gifts, creating a gift of $12,500 to support the Out of the Cold program at St. Basil’s Church.

While an Advent Vespers service followed by dinner is one of the highlights of the Faculty of Theology’s social calendar, Vespers will be observed online this December, with a social gathering to follow. And since there’ll be no dinner cheque for the SLC to pick up this year, they’re offering a great incentive to partygoers, promising to make a $15 donation to the Into the Cold program for each person who attends the online party.

Holiday lights on tree branches overhang Elmsley Place with the Kelly Library illuminated in the background

The undergrads also have online fun planned, with a Winter Festival from Dec. 4 to 6 featuring decorating Christmas ornaments with the commuter dons, a Kelly’s Corner, and a family dinner all lined up.

And while most of us will find this a quieter, slower-paced Advent season, without the usual trips to the mall or holiday parties, there is no doubt we could all use some peace. With that in mind, St. Basil’s is hoping to open the church for prayer from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 12 to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays, and 12 to 1 p.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Capacity when the church is open is restricted to 10 people. During these prayer times, a priest is usually available to hear confessions, except for the 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. time periods.

COVID-19 may have changed this holiday season, but the heart of St. Mike’s just continues to grow.

The crest of the University of St. Michael's College

Convocation is a time not only for celebrating memories and friendships, but also the academic and extracurricular achievements of the graduating class. Celebrate the accomplishments of this fall’s College Silver Medal and Fr. Madden Leadership Award winners with us as members of the Class of 2020 enters the St. Michael’s alumni family.

St. Michael’s College Silver Medal

College Silver Medals are awarded to all graduating students who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.7. The recipients of College Silver Medals for Fall 2020 are:

Layla Kristina Pereira DaSilva

Fatima Asiya Habib

Nora Sahel-Gozin

Chutian Wang

Zigeng Zhao

The Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards

Father Robert Madden was a much admired professor, chaplain and rector at St Mike’s who served as the director of alumni affairs in his retirement. The Father Robert Madden Leadership Awards are presented to students who have made significant contributions to the University of St. Michael’s College community by demonstrating leadership, cooperation, and solidarity in student-run organizations or community endeavours.

The recipients of Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards for Fall 2020 are:

Alison Feise

Joseph Gratkowski

Bridget Hager

Kaitlynn Marrese

Isabela Villanoy

Celebrate Fall 2020 graduates with us during a virtual convocation ceremony for the Faculty of Arts & Science Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. 

 St. Michael’s Profs Use Creativity to Remotely Engage Students

Felan Parker sitting on a bench on the St. Michael's campus

As a scholar of video games in popular culture, St. Michael’s Assistant Professor Dr. Felan Parker is deeply familiar with entertainment platforms used to livestream video games for an audiencea genre of media that has only grown more popular among Parker’s students since the pandemic forced their lives online.  

Parker puts his expertise to use by using the streaming platform Twitch to teach, offering critical and academic commentary on his own playthroughs during his courses and virtual eventsDoing so enables him to provide direct insight into issues of form, themes, tropes, and even the economics of production in the context of the games themselves.   

“I think being a media scholar is a double-edged sword in this situation,” says Parker. “On the one hand, I have practical knowledge of digital media and conceptual understanding of how to use them effectively, but on the other hand I am acutely aware of the challenges and potential problems with digital platforms,” he says. Making sure students understand how platforms leverage user data for targeted advertising, for example, has been important to Parker during the transition to remote teaching.  

Each week for classes such as his First-Year Foundations course How to Study Video Games, Parker uses Twitch to play a different game live on stream with running commentary about how it relates to the topic, and students will chime in using the text chat function.  

“Rather than being passive observers, I’m taking advantage of the interactivity of the platform to encourage students to be ‘backseat players,’” Parker says. The active involvement of his students during in-class streams ranges from their own observations about the game and connections to other class materials to crowdsourced decisions that Parker uses to drive ahead the game’s action.  

The Twitch engagements provide a foundation for further discussion, and Parker uses the stream in part to model “a critical and analytical mode” for students to practise when they interact with games. Twitch also factors into the course content because it’s become an essential promotional tool for game developers as well as a major presence in gaming’s cultural ecosystem. In his research, Parker explores the way the streaming platform has become essential for independent game developers to market their wares, and in class he uses it to showcase games his students may not have seen or been able to access before.  

A screenshot from Twitch of the indie game Blasphemous; profs Felan Parker and Stephen Tardif are visible on the lower corners.
St. Michael’s profs Dr. Felan Parker and Dr. Stephen Tardif discuss the indie game Blasphemous during a Streaming SMC session on Twitch.

One example is Blasphemous, a game Parker played on Twitch to kick off Streaming SMC, a new series in which he invites fellow St. Michael’s professors to join him to discuss games relevant to their expertise. As Parker’s St. Michael’s colleague Dr. Stephen Tardif offered commentary linking the game’s pseudo-Catholic aesthetics and narrative to real-world sourcesComper Professor of Medieval Studies Dr. Alison More entered the chat to provide historical insight into subjects ranging from 13th-century understandings of purgatory to medieval penitential movements.  

The way games and other popular media help to shape and inform modern culture is one of the interests that drives Parker’s research. This year, he joined scholars from several other universities to collaborate on a SSHRC grant–funded project, Swarming SDCC, which looks at the complicated relationship between media industry producers and fans. The two groups have very different relationships to both entertainment franchises and the ComicCon events that showcase them, as Parker and his collaborators argued in an article for The Conversation. Eventually, Parker says his hope is to bring his students into the project as researchers “to participate in the actual on-site ethnography. 

“I always strive to give students the tools to bring a critical perspective to bear on the digital media and technology that structures their everyday lives,” says Parker. “This feels particularly pressing in this moment, since for better or for worse we are more immersed in digital media than ever.”  

_____________________________ 

Consult Fall 2020 for current updates on St. Michael’s plans for the fall semester. 

The quad on the St. Michael's campus with trees showing fall colours

Fall Campus Week gives prospective University of Toronto students the opportunity to remotely explore programs and colleges at the University. This Saturday, St. Michael’s College will open its virtual doors to introduce some of those students to its vibrant community, its outstanding academic programs, and its robust supports for students.  

When you come to St. Michael’s you will feel this sense of community that is very real,” says Giancarlo Mazzanti, St. Michael’s Registrar and Director of Student Services. Our approach is to make it as human an experience as possible – meeting with current students, advisors and student services personnel,” he says.  

This year, current students will facilitate live chats with virtual guests to discuss life at the College during two two-hour windows, and a diverse student panel will also offer a more focused presentation on their experience of community at St. Mike’s.  

Advisors from the Office of the Registrar and profs and staff from the Office of the Principal will also introduce prospective students to another St. Mike’s distinctive during Fall Campus Week and on Fall Campus Day itselfthe outstanding interdisciplinary programs that draw from the College’s historic strengths.  

I like to think of it as a small liberal arts college sitting at the corner of Bay and Wellesley,” Mazzanti says, noting the small class sizes and personalized support students receive in sponsored programs like Christianity & Culture and Medieval Studies. The appointments of new professors like Dr. Adam Hincks, SJ as the Sutton Family Chair in Science, Christianity and Cultures and Dr. Alison More as Comper Professor of Medieval Studies and the introduction of special initiatives like Dr. Paolo Granata’s Media Ethics Lab have contributed to a sense of renewal and new excitement for the College’s programs.  

These professors also support the College’s commitment to building a diverse and inclusive community, connecting with students through virtual events and a unique first-year check-in program. These are two examples of the many supports the College’s registrarial advisors will introduce to students—a range of services touching all parts of campus, from mental health counseling to academic assistance to financial aid.   

While the pandemic has made the prospect of attending university more challenging for some students this year, Mazzanti also emphasizes the ways the University and College are partnering to give unprecedented help to incoming students affected by COVID-19. St. Michael’s normally receives $372,000 from the University of Toronto to support grants and other student aid. This year that figure has doubled to $744,000, with the extra funding intended to cover COVID-19-related needs. This funding is in addition to St. Michael’s own bursaries, grants, and other student aid, all of which will be covered during the event.  

The additional funding enables the Office of the Registrar to help a bigger pool of students to cover additional expenses, and gives the office the flexibility to provide assistance to international students undergoing pandemic-related financial stresses.

While students may not be able to physically visit the campus, virtual tours will make it possible for them to take in the sight of St. Michael’s “Oasis in the City.” If they pay attention to social media, they may even get a chance to catch sight of one of the campus’s most recent visitors—a silver foxor take a moment to relax in front of one of the many fireplaces 


Fall Campus Week at the University of Toronto runs from October 17 to 25. Fall Campus Day for St. Michael’s College will take place Saturday, October 24. Register to attend.  

Chiara Greco is a fourth-year student studying Philosophy and English at St. Mikes College. Since her second year she has been involved with student journalism and harbours a deep passion for the field. She is currently the Editor in Chief of  The Mike, our official student newspaper.


The Importance of Student Journalism to Campus Life

A stack of newspapers

When I reflect on the importance of student journalism, especially in a time when we have been struck with a global pandemic, my immediate reaction is to create a defence of the field. To rake up all the reasons in my head why student journalism is important and worthwhile. While I can’t be sure where this response came from, I am sure that many people question the choice of being a student journalist—of the added stress without perhaps the large reward or payoff, or even exposure, that professional journalists get in breaking stories. While I’ve been told the career path I have chosen may be a “dying field” I’ve still prospered through my experience and, if anything, this global pandemic has shown me exactly why student journalism is so important.

In a time of social distancing the importance of staying connected through stories, media, and news is so pertinent. Our current global crisis has unveiled the dependence we all have on media and news to connect us. I’ll be the first to admit that virtual living—and learning, for that matter—can be very impersonal, and presents a challenge to most. But the job of student journalists is to bridge this gap between virtual life and ‘normal’ life for students across the university community. Student journalism is a pillar of university life on campus, and with our new-found virtual world, student journalists are those who will form the path towards online community. Stories are the basis of life, the overarching connection we all have to each other, and it is through journalism that these stories get communicated.

While my experience will not speak for everyone, I understand the importance of representing the masses, of being a voice to and for the unheard, and of cultivating a personal experience through our shared stories. Student newspapers like The Mike are an avenue in which this cultivation takes place—and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine university life without student newspapers or the journalists who staff them.

My time at St. Michael’s College has been defined by my involvement with The Mike, starting at the beginning of my second year. From working on the news team to becoming the Editor in Chief, I’ve understood that student journalists have a nuanced responsibility to their peers. We have a responsibility not only to hold our school accountable but also to be a reliable source of student life and news. Integrity, facts, and accountability summarize the three pillars which have come to define my experience of student journalism, and they will continue to guide me through my role with student publications.

Over the summer as I prepared for my role as Editor-in-Chief  I faced many challenges in reinventing the paper as an online periodical. The future of The Mike fell into my hands, and while it may have seemed like a large task to take on, especially with the challenges of the pandemic, I was privileged to represent the St. Mike’s community. As I transitioned into my role I began to prepare for things none of my predecessors had to ready for—how to run a printed student newspaper during a global pandemic. With no precedent,  changing the course of The Mike meant I had to evaluate the immense role student newspapers have within the university community. To put it simply, without student newspapers one of the most crucial aspects of student life would be taken away. In this way, The Mikes achievements and success translate directly into St. Mike’s overall successes and achievements.

Decorative banner for The Mike: By Students, For Students

For as long as can be remembered The Mike has delivered students with a print version of the paper across campus newsstands. But the newspaper has been forced to make some hard decisions, such as forgoing our printed paper for now. But since The Mike’s inception our intake of news as students has changed drastically. While an online publication may take away the feeling of holding a physical copy of your work, we now rely more than ever on online avenues to give us news and connection, so The Mikes online home has gone through a complete 180.  We’ve changed our website and delivery to allow more students to access and stay up to date with our publication and newsletters.

It is the duty of student journalists to deliver their colleagues’ voices on campus. The importance of cultivating a community across borders is exactly why student journalism is so valuable, because without it the distance between us would be far exacerbated. Student journalists, like professionals in the field, need to become experts on our own community. We need to become a voice for those students who may otherwise not be represented on campus. But this wide range of representation is only accomplished if students contribute their voices. The more voices published in The Mike, the more the diverse and accurate the representation of our community. So while a printed copy of the paper would be an ultimate goal, we have to remember the importance of accessibility and inclusivity when representing the student community. In a time of social distance, it only makes sense for student journalists to present student life as such.

While this pandemic has taught me many things, both good and bad, navigating my role as a student journalist and Editor in Chief of The Mike will perhaps be one of my biggest takeaways. Student journalism is at the heart of every university and college campus. It’s what connects us all.


Read other InsightOut posts.

Courtyard of the Queen's Park buildings on the St. Michael's campus
With increased cleaning requirements, physical distancing, and safety measures in place, SMC Residence currently has single room vacancies for the 2020-2021 academic year. Living on campus is a great way for students to meet new friends, enjoy downtown Toronto, and not have to worry about cooking meals or shopping for groceries.
 
If you are interested in joining St. Michael’s residence community, please email smc.residence@utoronto.ca and include: (a) your full name, (b) student number and (c) put the word “Vacancy” in the subject line. Information about the SMC Residence, including fees, can be found on the St. Michael’s College Residence page. Commonly asked questions regarding residence operations, rooms and room assignments, shared spaces and safety can be found on the SMC Residence FAQs page.
 
Finally, the Office of the Vice Provost, Students has made available additional information on applying to residence for Fall 2020 and quarantine accommodations.

Mike Czobit is the director of the Office of the Principal, and the coordinator of SMC One. Before joining St. Michael’s in 2017, he was an editor and writer at World Vision Canada.


There Will Be Cake 

Photograph of a cake with a fondant beret on top

Every year, before the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas meets for its first lecture in September, we have an opening reception and something we call the “Beret’ing In.” To the tune of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” each incoming Gilson Seminar student approaches the lectern in Charbonnel Lounge and receives a black beret, officially joining the seminar. After every student has been beret’ed in, cake is served—a special kind of cake: raspberry beret cake.

This tradition is a night of fun and introductions before the hard work of the Gilson Seminar begins. The course, which is split into two half-term classes over the course of the year, is one of three first-year seminars offered by St. Michael’s College as part of our SMC One program. The other two seminars are the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology and the Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories.

These seminars are among the most popular first-year courses at the University of Toronto, owing to a number of factors. For example, each is taught by a member of our talented St. Michael’s faculty in a small class setting that fosters fascinating discussions and close friendships with fellow classmates, and each features an international learning experience. In the Boyle Seminar, students are invited to travel to Dublin after the April exam period. A trip to Silicon Valley takes place during reading week for the McLuhan Seminar. And the Gilson Seminar’s second half-course has its destination in its title: The Gilson Seminar in Faith and Rome.

For most people, international travel these days has been ruled out for health and safety reasons, and for the impracticality of visiting a country when it likely requires a quarantine upon arrival. But, back in February, before the present conditions of international travel took hold, there still was the possibility to go to Rome or Dublin. In fact, that was the plan for both the Gilson and Boyle classes (the McLuhan Seminar had traveled to Silicon Valley last November, before anyone here had really heard of the virus).

In the Principal’s Office, we are responsible for organizing all three SMC One trips. Throughout January and February, we proceeded as usual, preparing students by holding Safety Abroad workshops, requesting traveler information, and making airfare arrangements. We worked with our partners in Dublin and Rome to finalize details for each trip, and in the case of Rome, arranged for tickets for the Pope’s Wednesday Audience. Everything was proceeding as it had every year, except, as everyone knows now, this wouldn’t be a normal year.

By late February, my office was paying particular attention to reports of COVID-19 cases emerging worldwide. When the first few cases surfaced in northern Italy, we were concerned but hopeful that the country would get control of the virus. Reflecting on that now makes me realize how little we all knew and how naïve my optimism was. Day by day, in early March, the number of infected patients rose. Not just in Europe, but also at home. These developments worried our SMC One students, who began asking my office questions about the safety of our planned trips. At the time, we honestly didn’t know what the virus would mean, but we assured our students that safety would be paramount and that the trips could be postponed. Then, on March 12 that happened. The University decided that due to safety concerns, all student travel would be postponed until further notice. This was the right decision.

After we unwound the arrangements for the planned trips, my office had a different task to attend to, which was to start recruiting for next year’s SMC One seminars. When we promote these classes, we do the opposite of shying away from discussing their travel components. But during this recruitment period, getting on a plane to go somewhere far away seemed like the least desirable thing to do. At the same time, the 2020–21 SMC One seminars were months away and the situation in March would change—and, to be optimistic, be much, much better.

We pushed forward with our recruitment effort, inviting incoming U of T students to apply for a spot in our seminars. We expected that we would struggle to fill the classes. We expected that SMC One would have lost its popularity. What happened was something different.

When the application window closed on June 15, we had received the highest number of applications for SMC One in the three years their present format has existed. In fact, we doubled the total number of applications over our previous best. Our incoming students were not deterred by news reports of the virus or of how international travel will never be the same. They reacted to the closing of borders with a greater desire to see them open again. What they want, and what classes such as SMC One will provide, is a return to better times when a desire to explore and experience life and culture in different parts of the world can enrich a university education.

As the new academic year begins, we have begun planning for our SMC One classes. Different this year is that all three will take place in the Winter term, with the hope that all will be able to be in-person or have a larger in-person component than is safe in the Fall term. It is too early to know what international travel will look like in 2021, but we’re hopeful that conditions will improve.

Every year, the Gilson Seminar begins with berets and cakes. We hope to see this tradition resume in this coming year’s Gilson class. And when the cake is finally served, it will have the double meaning: welcoming a new class to St. Michael’s College and also celebrating how far we’ve come through difficult times. When we began our recruitment effort for SMC One in the spring, we were pessimistic about our prospects of filling these classes. Our students showed we should have felt otherwise.


Read other InsightOut posts.

Clubs are an essential part of the larger St. Michael’s community, and bring students together from across the university. USMC alumnus Modele Kuforiji found community while a student at the University of Toronto through his involvement in clubs such as the Black Students Association:

Current students have an opportunity to learn about clubs on campus through the annual USMC Clubs Fair. This year’s event will be divided into Day One and Day Two. Both events will take place online; contact SMCSU for Zoom information in advance.

Cianna Choo and Jessica Sorbara are this years Orientation coordinators. Cianna is a 3rd-year student majoring in Neuroscience and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, while Jessica is a 4th-year English and History major. They have been involved with Orientation throughout their time at St. Mikes and, as they say, becoming a part of Orientation has undoubtedly been one the best decisions weve made throughout our time at UofT so far.


Welcoming the Class of 2024 Virtually

Photograph of silver U S M C balloons with blue balloons in the background

Welcoming incoming students to the St. Mike’s campus and university life at UofT is always exciting and rewarding, but this year we are even more excited to be greeting students in a new, innovative way, adjusting to life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizing a virtual Orientation for upwards of 1000 incoming students was definitely not something we expected when we started to plan our events in April, and we have had to adapt and reconstruct mostly all of our original plans. We have faced challenges of accessibility, social distancing guidelines, and scheduling with people located around the world. With the changing and complicated circumstances around us, we were constantly in a cycle of adjusting and re-imagining our plans for Orientation 2020. Because we are unable to have a traditional in-person Orientation we have had to think of fun events that would substitute for our usual elaborate on-campus activities. While changing plans and adapting to virtual methods of Orientation is extremely challenging, it has also allowed us to explore so many different delivery methods, activities and events that we would have never thought about before.

Something new and exciting this year has been the shift from Orientation being one week of amazing events and activities in September, just before school starts, to organizing an entire summer leading up to that week. Planning Orientation has been both a challenging and exciting process, trying to figure out ways to build the St. Mike’s community with incoming students who have never been on campus before. With the transition to an online approach, we have had to find new ways to make sure students can feel—through their computer screens—the welcoming, positive energy that radiates throughout St. Mike’s.

Throughout this summer the two of us, along with our amazing Orientation team, have had to find a way to create a virtual community; thankfully, we’ve managed to do that through our SMC Online Orientation page on Quercus and our various social media pages. Our SMC Online Orientation page is filled with modules introducing different programs, professors, clubs, events, and all aspects of life at SMC.

We have also been able to interact with students directly via our Summer Workshop Series—a new concept we are both so happy to have made possible this summer. Wanting to make sure the incoming class was prepared for their first year of university, we took a moment to reflect on our own first-year experiences and all the questions we had asked regarding university life. Our Orientation team then created and facilitated the Summer Workshop Series sessions, where we would share our own experiences and advice to help incoming students with their transition into university. We got the chance to host some amazing sessions, including ones offering ideas on how to get involved at St. Mike’s, study and time management tips, ways to explore Toronto, and so many more!

Even though we have had to eliminate some of our traditional Orientation events, we were able to create such amazing aspects of Orientation we would have never thought about previously. We also began thinking about all the different ways we wanted students to get excited about Orientation before the week itself. We wanted to make sure this incoming class wasn’t missing out on the sense of spirit that we have at St. Mike’s, so we had to get creative. We have introduced many contests this summer on our social media pages to get students engaged—learning the Hoikity Choik, getting excited about bed races, and showing off SMC spirit! We have also been extremely lucky to work with an amazing group of leaders and marshals who, throughout the entire summer, have shown everyone how much SMC means to them. By facilitating events and creating videos about campus, TikToks, Instagram takeovers, and so much more, everyone on our Orientation team has shown the incoming students how amazing and welcoming the community is at St. Mike’s.

Organizing a week of fun, informative events online was a completely new experience for the two of us, but it was something that got us to think about Orientation in a completely new way. With all the changes that have come our way, we are so excited to meet our incoming class and to see that SMC spirit—even if it is through our computer screens!


Read other InsightOut posts.

In the aftermath of the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man responsible for the death of Black teenager Trayvon Martin, a hashtag began to circulate on Twitter: #BlackLivesMatter. In the years that followed, the hashtag has transformed from a rallying cry in response to police violence against Black people to a powerful movement for racial justice and equality around the world. 

Starting in the Winter term, a journalist, scholar, and activist who has been deeply involved in the conversation about the movement in Canada will teach a high-level seminar on #BlackLivesMatter in the Book and Media Studies program at St. Michael’s.  

St. Michael's visiting instructor Emilie Nicolas
St. Michael’s Visiting Instructor Emilie Nicolas

“To answer the question of the relationship between the movement and the media, it is necessary to answer a second question: do Black lives matter in the media?” #BlackLives and the Media course instructor Emilie Nicolas says. “That second question is the question that goes way before the creation of the [BLM] movement, which is very much the latest iteration of a human rights movement that goes back generations.” 

Providing this historical context for #BlackLivesMatter is an important goal for the course, which will also provide a critical perspective on the dynamics of power and the complicated interrelationships between the movement and the media environment in which it emerged. Because the media environment varies from country to country, Nicolas will also offer a comparative international perspective to help students grasp the nationally specific characteristics of the movement and its reception around the world. Though the hashtag first appeared in response to violence in the United States, it’s important to remember that #BlackLivesMatter “is not just an American movement,” she says. 

As a columnist for Québécois newspaper Le Devoir and a regular contributor to national outlets such as CBC’s Power & Politics and CTV’s PowerPlay, Nicolas has spent years observing and participating in conversations about how the media covers stories about Black people—and how it can fix its coverage. She also “contributed to social movements and organized on behalf of victims of police brutality in Montreal,” and several years ago helped head up a group that lobbied against Canadian media using blackface. This larger background in both journalism and organizing will fuel a course that provides an inside look at the dynamics of both media institutions and the movement for racial justice that sees media as a “battleground.” 

With guest speakers including both reporters and organizers, the course will also be responsive to breaking news, including the aftermath of the upcoming American election. “When we understand the relationship between anti-Black racism and the media better, we can understand the news better,” Nicolas says. 

#BlackLives and the Media continues a series of topical Book and Media Studies seminars that began in 2018 with Trump and the Media, a class taught by journalist and former New York Times editor Sam Tanenhaus. Last year, the series continued with #MeToo and the Media, which was jointly taught by Jessica Johnson of the Walrus and the late Anne Kingston, a senior writer and columnist for Maclean’s. 

“In its efforts to educate students in media literacy, the Book & Media Studies Program must engage the salient issues of the day, particularly those of social justice, media manipulation, and systemic racism in North American society,” Interim Principal and Vice-President Mark McGowan says. “It is imperative that our students explore the engagement of #BlackLivesMatter and the media and I am delighted that St. Michael’s College can provide a forum for this important conversation.” 

SMC300H1S #BlackLives and the Media will be taught on Fridays from 12 to 2 p.m. during the Winter 2021 term. 

A screenshot of the online orientation portal at St. Mike's includes information listings and a photo of a group of students

When the Office of the Dean of Students started developing an online orientation program early this summer in response to the pandemic, they had no idea how popular the program would become. Over 800 incoming St. Mike’s students have enrolled in the program so far, over a hundred more than the average number of participants in Orientation Week on campus in recent years—and not only are they enrolling in greater numbers, but those who enroll are spending large amounts of time on the site as well, Campus Life Coordinator Emma Graham says.  

The system recreates an essential part of campus life for incoming students in a time when it’s not possible to gather in person, making it possible for participants to start experiencing the school’s hallmark community in a safe way before the fall term begins. 

When developing the online orientation systemGraham and her team of current students aimed to capture three essential content areasinformational content, providing incoming students with everything they need to know before starting their university careers; the physical space, so students will be able to properly orient themselves on campus when they visit; and community. While all three parts were essential to this year’s orientation strategy, the last content in particular helps to account for the program‘s success with the incoming class.  

Hosted on Quercus, the University of Toronto’s online teaching and learning environment, St. Michael’s online orientation comprises 12 modules spread over 48 pages. The content includes 37 videos featuring St. Michael’s students and professors. St. Mike’s student and Online Orientation Executive Natalie Barbuzzi took the lead in developing the informational content for the modules, which launched in early June. 

The modules were created to be as accessible as possible,” Barbuzzi says, mentioning topics ranging from financial aid to mental health and student life. The goal was to create a “one-stop shop” for information to help new students make a successful transition into university, which includes information on ways students can get involved in clubs and other activitiesThe material will remain available on Quercus after the academic year starts, making it a resource new students can return to as their university careers develop.  

Additionally, in conjunction with weekly Q&A sessions and international student webinars for new students offered by the Office of the Registrar, Orientation Coordinators and St. Michael’s students Jessica Sorbara and Cianna Choo developed an itinerary of twice-weekly synchronous Summer Workshop sessions meant to offer opportunities for incoming students to connect with each other and foster community. 

“We got the chance to host some amazing sessions with our incoming students about getting involved at SMC, international student experiences, study tips and time management, some insider tips on the best wasy to explore Toronto during this unusal time and more,” Choo says. The workshops included how-tos on things like using public transit and talking to professors—essential, practical skills for any new student, but not ones they’re likely to ask around about. “As a team, we all took a moment reflect on our own experiences in first year and tried to think of some things that we would have loved to know in advance of our first year at UofT,” Sorbara says. 

The final phase of Online Orientation will begin the first full week of September, when Orientation Week is traditionally scheduled. Divided into groups as they would be for an in-person orientation, new students will have the opportunity to get to know their new classmates while participating in a bevy of online events including movie nights, games, informational sessions, socials with students and faculty, virtual tours, and an online version of Kelly’s Korner 

The connections students are making in advance of the fall term will continue after Orientation concludesThe Mentorship program will kick off with a special social event September 3, and a Clubs Fair will follow later in the month


Students who still wish to register for St. Mike’s Orientation 2020 can do so at www.stmikesorientation.comConsult Fall 2020 for current updates on St. Michael’s plans for the fall semester. 

The front door and stairs on the exterior of Muzzo Alumni Hall on the St. Michael's campus

What does community look like in the face of a pandemic? For the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, community has meant professors digging deep into their own pockets and inviting others to join them to start an emergency fund for graduate students struggling with finances due to COVID-19.

 To date, the fund has received more than $30,000 in donations from a small group of professors, staff and alumni and the university has offered to match up to $50,000.

When the pandemic began to take hold, the University of Toronto quickly established an emergency fund for students, but because the Faculty of Theology’s degrees are issued by St. Michael’s rather than UofT, graduate students studying at the faculty are not eligible for the UofT relief funding.

Having been graduate students themselves, however, Faculty professors Drs. Darren Dias and Michael Attridge recognized that their students might be facing any number of challenges, ranging from job loss—particularly tough for single students with no supplementary income—to additional expenses because travel restrictions kept them grounded in Toronto. International students, they note, are not eligible to receive CERB funding from the federal government.

“As soon as [Dr. Dias] reported that students were asking if any funding was available I knew creating assistance was the right thing to do,” Dr. Attridge says.

The two professor chatted and then opened up the conversation to their colleagues. In the broader brainstorming session it was suggested that professors establish a fund to help students unable to help cover costs such as groceries, rent or other standard expenses.

St. Michael’s President David Sylvester received the idea enthusiastically and took it one step further, proposing to match donations up to $50,000 from a University fund.

“The Faculty of Theology is in a position to generously fund many students in terms of tuition, but we do not cover day-to-day living expenses,” Dr. Dias explains. “Graduate students often live close to the poverty line. Coronavirus would only make things worse.”

Doctoral student Mariia Ivaniv agrees.

“It is a challenge for an international student to be alone in a foreign country, but to be alone in a foreign country during the world pandemic is….a huge struggle,” says Ivaniv, who comes from Ukraine. “As a student in such a situation, I was happy to hear about [the] initiative… It shows [the professors’] desire not only to develop the big theological ideas but to practice Christian generosity. 

“This kind gesture will help students to overcome a lot of challenges and feel protected and supported.”

Another student, who preferred not to be identified, noted that Toronto is a very expensive city, offering as an example his rent of $1,000 a month for a basement apartment.

“Finances are probably the most difficult thing about being a PhD,” says the student, who was forced to stay in Toronto for the summer, even though his work hours were reduced, due to conditions in his home country.

“Response has been great,” says Ken Schnell, whose regular role is Advancement Manager of the annual fundraising campaign, but who is also overseeing this special project. After the initial donations from professors, the advancement office launched the next phase of the campaign and is reaching out to the wider community of alumni and partner organizations to invite them to contribute. “We are delighted by the generous response, to date.”

“Our students tend to be shy about asking for any kind of help,” says Emil Iruthayathas, the faculty’s Student Services Officer, who is notifying students by email about the fund and how to apply.

Funding will be on a semester-by-semester basis and capped at $2,000 a semester per student. With the $32,000 already received and the matching amount from the university, the fund sits just shy of $65,000.

“Since we do not know how long the pandemic will last we want to ensure we can keep some money flowing to students for as long as possible,” says Dr. Dias.

“This kind gesture will help students to overcome a lot of challenges and feel protected and supported,” says Ivaniv.

For more information or to contribute to the Faculty of Theology Student Emergency Fund please contact Ken Schnell at ken.schnell@utoronto.ca or call 416-926-7281.

Question: I want to study on campus this fall.  Can I enter Canada and come to U of T?

We understand that you may be concerned about regulations and expectations around entry into Canada in the Fall. Currently, Federal Government policy is that following students are eligible to enter Canada with a non-discretionary reason and should request a letter from their registrar:

  • Returning or newly-admitted international students with a study permit approved on or before March 18, 2020
  • Returning or newly-admitted students traveling directly from the United States to Canada with an approved study permit regardless of study permit approval date or citizenship

Please be assured that you can begin your program through online courses if you are living outside of Canada.

We will update you as quickly as possible if border restrictions change and will be pleased to provide you with a letter stating that your travel is non-discretionary should that be the case.  You can request a letter of support for non-discretionary travel, from you registrar if

  • you lived in Canada this past year (e.g. went to high school in Canada)
  • you have planned to complete a 14-day quarantine period as soon as you arrive at your final destination (note all travellers from abroad need to quarantine — the university can support you in your quarantine plan (hyperlink)
  • you begin studying after you complete your quarantine
  • you need to be in Canada for your program (for laboratories, workshops, etc.)
  • pursuing your studies online is not an option at your school or not possible from your home country (due to internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations)

 

Who is currently eligible to enter Canada with a non-discretionary reason:

 

Yes

No

Returning or newly-admitted international students with a study permit approved on or before March 18, 2020. (If arriving from the United States see below)

P

 

Returning or newly-admitted students traveling directly from the United States to Canada with an approved study permit regardless of study permit approval date or citizenship

P

 

Newly-admitted international students (not traveling from the United States) without an approved study permit, or with a study permit approved after March 18, 2020

 

O

Returning international students (not traveling from the United States) without an approved study permit, or with a study permit renewal approved after March 18, 2020

 

O

 

An aerial view of the St. Michael's College campus

As the fall semester approaches, the University of St. Michael’s College is implementing cutting-edge measures—including some from front-line health care settings—to keep the campus safe for community members and visitors.  

“Safety is of foremost importance when considering reopening—not just for staff and students, but for everyone that has access to USMC,” says Michael Chow, Director of Facilities and Services at St. Mike’s. Following public health guidelines and the University of Toronto, Chow and his team have implemented measures ranging from extensive cleaning strategies to high-tech virus-killing devices. The measures fall into three main categories: facilities, administrative measures, and personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Facilities 

A plexiglass barrier installed over a desk at St. Michael's
Plexiglass barriers provide extra protection in areas where social distancing may be difficult.

Visitors to campus will notice a variety of newly installed safety measures this fall, including Plexiglass shields at key points including the Porter’s Desk, Registrar’s Office, and other areas where queues could create challenges for physical distancing. Classrooms and common areas will have less furniture and reduced capacities in order to make it easier for an appropriate distance to be maintained, and signage and stickers will help direct pedestrian traffic to keep people moving efficiently and safely through indoor spaces.  

HVAC equipment will receive increasedefficiency filters wherever possible, as well as a more rigorous filter replacement schedule to ensure clean air throughout campus buildingsTwenty-five free-standing hand-sanitizer stations have been installed next to building entrances, high-traffic areas and entrances to larger classrooms, and wipe or spray disinfectants will be available for students to quickly clean off a desk or chair before they use it, as well. All washrooms are now stocked with paper towels, and Legionella testing has identified no issues with water on campus.  

Administrative 

A UV light device used for disinfecting rooms
A UV light device used to disinfect rooms on campus.

“I think the most important change is about our cleaning strategies, for both common spaces and student spaces,” Chow says. In line with UofT’s tri-campus cleaning protocols, St. Mike’s will conduct enhanced cleaning throughout all building spaces and student areas while also adding “a dedicated team of cleaners to do disinfecting and increase cleaning in high-touch areas—a minimum of twice a day for high-touch surfaces.” Routine cleaning during normal workday hours as well as on nights and weekends will be enhanced through the use of new cleaning agents, which have been upgraded to a dual-purpose cleaner that both cleans and disinfects.  

Hard at work keeping campus safe since the pandemic began, the Facilities and Housekeeping teams is going into the fall semester with new, high-tech tools. Chow says that his team adopted some of these after first seeing them used in hospital and long-term-care settings—the front lines in the fight against the virus.  

 These tools include a standalone UV light system, which staff are using to disinfect all residence rooms before new students move into them in September. The portable UV system is also intended for use in classrooms. A hospital-grade portable disinfectant misting system will also be employed on an as-needed basis, helping to disinfect places that are hard to reach using normal cleaning methods.  

PPE 

A pair of reusable University of Toronto non-medical masks
Reusable non-medical masks being distributed to staff and faculty.

All Facilities & Services staff members have worn either reusable or disposable masks during their work since the pandemic began, with many of those coming from a generous donation of 2000 masks by a St. Michael’s student in MayNow, as some staff and faculty return to campus this fall, two reusable masks will be provided to every student and employee. St. Michael’s will follow the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto in requiring non-medical masks or face coverings to be worn inside buildings that are normally publicly accessible.  

Anyone without one will be able to receive a single-use mask at the Porter’s Desk, ensuring that all outside visitors and contractors will also be able to have access to masks while on the USMC campus. Signage posted throughout campus will provide visitors and community members with reminders of proper mask usage as well as principles of handwashing, correct hand sanitizer usage, and other important safety principles.  

Behind all the safety measures being implemented on campus, Chow says, are the members of the Facilities and Housekeeping teams, whose tireless efforts have kept students, employees, and visitors safe throughout the pandemic. As he wrote for InsightOut, “Behind the scenes—and often unnoticed—the F&H staff have faced the challenges of the pandemic as essential staff and turned them into opportunities as guardians for the university.”  

“I think we’re doing something right,” Chow says. While the safety measures will help keep the St. Michael’s campus safe this fall, he notes, it’s almost just as important to communicate the changes to the campus community “to put everyone’s minds at ease. 

“We’re not just sending everyone back to the same university they left,” he says. 


Consult Fall 2020 for current updates on St. Michael’s plans for the fall semester. 

Students sit together at outdoor tables in a small parkette at St. Michael's

With 40 residents living on campus in the Historic Houses and Sorbara Hall this summer amid the pandemic, Dean of Students Duane Rendle has spent a great deal of time thinking about how to keep students on campus both safe and comfortable. When the SMC Residence Summer Don team noticed residence students leaving campus to find available green space elsewhere downtown, they came to Rendle to propose a potential solution. He knew the team had found a perfect creative fix.
 
“Often when our students would visit the quad, they would find all the available benches were occupied,” Rendle says, because other Torontonians were also enjoying St. Mike’s campus. In order to continue welcoming external members of the St. Michael’s community while also making sure students in residence had a place of their own to use, Rendle and the Summer Don team worked with the Facilities and Services team to repurpose one corner of campus as a parkette available exclusively to students.

“The west end of Carr Hall is a beautifully manicured area that sees very little foot traffic,” Rendle says, so it was easy to reimagine the space with tables and fencing. The students-only space allows for robust social distancing at the outdoor tables, making it an ideal space for students to spend time together in a safe manner. It’s also become an ideal spot for al fresco meals, studying quietly, or simply relaxing in the sun.

Since its introduction, the space has seen regular use on sunny days, giving students in residence and members of the larger Toronto community equal opportunity to enjoy St. Mike’s “oasis in the city.”

Isabella Mckay is a senior student majoring in Book and Media Studies at the University of Toronto. Following her passions in marketing, communications, technology, and media, she has become the Vice President of TechXplore, the Director of Marketing of Data Science Toronto, and the Assistant Project Coordinator at the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s Office. Mckay looks forward to applying her passions and work to innovate the future.


Love and Happiness as True Measures of Life

The city of Toronto on a partly cloudy day

During the coronavirus pandemic, I have discovered that the principles of humanity, which are love, togetherness and health, exist as the ultimate purpose and meaning of life.

On January 27, 2020, the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Toronto. Remembering the words of my mother to not fear and panic but be prepared and cautious in case of emergencies, I bought one of a few alcohol rub left at a pharmacy in Toronto. At my condo, I found one pack of 20 N95 masks for around 85 dollars with express shipping on Amazon. Although I could search for cheaper masks, future prices would likely increase, and then I might search longer to find no masks and sacrifice my health. I would work to recoup the price within hours; however, I would spend more time and energy to regain what was most important, my health. I purchased the N95 masks within three minutes.

When coronavirus cases rapidly increased after February 24, I had the proper procedures and supplies to calmly protect myself from the coronavirus while others began to panic. I still socialized with friends, studied at the libraries, and attended club events at the University of Toronto.

Then, the University of Toronto announced that, as of March 16, it would close, and move to  online courses and examinations to limit coronavirus cases. I wore my N95 mask as I walked around the campus and a downtown Toronto that resembled an abandoned town devoid of energy and emotion.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I huddled in a tight and quick one-way line of students to attend my classes on time. Now, I freely and slowly roamed past three students on my way to the library. I used to walk around for five minutes to find an empty library seat and to hear pencils and pens scratching on paper during midterm and final exam season; now, however, I found an empty seat and heard the hum of the air conditioner as soon as I walked into the library. I used to sit next to students who flipped through pages of homework, wrote mathematical equations and assignments, and coded programs. As I sat in one of the hundreds of empty seats, I remained two metres or more from other students because of my own preferences or because of tape placed between every two desks and in front of desks.

With the cancellation of on-campus classes and exams, I returned to my family home in Vancouver on March 21. Although the Canadian government did not require citizens to self-isolate on a domestic flight, I feared that someone might have coronavirus on the plane. I wanted to ensure that I had no symptoms and that I would not transmit the virus to family, especially my single mother and grandmother. At a young age, my father passed away. My mother and grandmother raised my siblings and me. If I transmitted the virus to my family, I would fail to mend my shredded heart.

Although I talked to my family and friends through my phone during isolation, I became an outsider who might have a disease that everyone feared. I yearned to be near my loved ones, especially my family who sacrificed their time and health to care for me. I did not want, and  was not motivated by, my empty university scores and jobs, which for years  I had desired most; instead, what I wanted and was motivated by was familial love and unity.

Once I left self-isolation, my family revealed that they struggled to obtain essential groceries and supplies. Before the coronavirus, my family and I might spend half an hour choosing organic and natural vegetables among full shelves. Now I wore ski goggles, plastic gloves and a N95 mask as I social distanced to purchase any supplies at a local grocery market.

Similar to food and supplies, before the coronavirus stole the simplest moments, I took daily and normal activities for granted in order to pursue my career and high marks. I carelessly walked, compared to now seeing someone and moving to the other side of the road. I carelessly talked to others, compared to now yelling over two metres to discuss the coronavirus lockdown. I carelessly socialized with friends compared to messaging them. I carelessly went anywhere to perform multiple activities compared to restricting myself to my home and grocery trips. Appreciating people and the simplest things are blessings of happiness. I am not measured by what I have, but who I am and how grateful I am to have what I have.

Once the lockdown ends, I will refuse to let fear control my life and I will experience the meaning of life: to be around loved ones and increase happiness activities. When will I get another chance, and who foresees the future?

The coronavirus pandemic has taught me how health is the most important quality and how everything else is minor, how people, and the smallest and simplest things, deserve appreciation, and how love and happiness are true life measurements. These essential human qualities are the purpose and goals of an amazing life and these human foundations will support the fight to defeat the coronavirus.


Read other InsightOut posts.

Noel McFerran has worked as a librarian at the University of St. Michael’s College since 1998. His current position is Theology and Rare Books Librarian.


“Be Right Back!”

Image depicts a student waiting for curbside pickup service assistance

I spent last Wednesday morning in the Kelly Library providing curbside pickup service to faculty and students. As a librarian, it was exciting for me to see the library taking further steps to provide library materials to patrons while maintaining the health and safety of everybody involved.

Since mid-March I’ve been working from home, keeping very busy responding to emails from faculty and students about their course work and research. Wednesday was one of my first times back inside the Kelly Library. The most important thing was to be trained in how to function in my regular work environment during a pandemic. I thought that I knew all about social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing hands—but it’s so much more important in a workplace where there are other staff using the same desk and equipment. Just like in the supermarket, we’re maintaining a one-way route in the library in order to reduce face-to-face encounters between staff.

Every day the Kelly Library receives a computer-generated list of books and DVDs which patrons have requested through the UofT Library Catalogue. One staff person looks for these items on the shelves. Most items are where they are meant to be, but occasionally we have to search for something which has wandered from its regular home. Items then get checked out to patrons. Right now all items are signed out until September 18, 2020.

Another Kelly staff person, working from home, sends personalized emails to patrons telling them that their books are ready to pick up. Sometimes patrons respond with special requests (e.g. “Can a friend get my books for me?”).

At present patrons can pick up their requested items at the Kelly Library anytime Monday to Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The pick-ups ebb and flow. I filled the low periods with other library work to keep myself busy.

The first encounter between a library patron and staff is through a glass wall where the patron shows their library card. (I had real difficulty reading the card through the glass, so I might need to make an appointment for an eye exam!) You can’t really hear people on the other side of the glass, so we have various printed signs which communicate the most frequent things (like “Be right back”).

Staff retrieve the patron’s bag of books and place it on a table outside the library under the overhang. Even then there is reduced interaction between staff and patrons. Smiling doesn’t mean so much when you’re wearing a mask, so I tried to wave in a friendly way.

The response from faculty and students to the Kelly Library’s curbside pickup service has been very positive. My colleague Risa de Rege, who has worked many shifts in the past week tells me, “People have been very grateful that we’re offering curbside pickups, and are also respectful of our space and policies.” In the first week, 76 patrons submitted requests for 141 items. As more people learn about the service and how easy it is to use, that number is likely to increase. So far, though, we’ve been able to respond quickly to requests.

Nobody wants the COVID pandemic to go on any longer than it has to. But for the present and near-future, the Kelly Library is developing solutions to continue to provide library service to our faculty and students. I love being a part of that, knowing that my work contributes in a small way to the academic success of others.


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Giancarlo Mazzanti is the Registrar and Director of Student Services at the University of St. Michaels College. Giancarlo is a graduate of the University of Toronto (St. Mikes) with an Honours B.A. in Political Science, and a B. Ed. from the Faculty of Education in 1985. He began his career in education at St. Michaels College School and has worked in student services for over 30 years.

Our Connection Is Just Fine

Image depicts a man's hands as he works on a laptop

It’s not like rumours weren’t swirling about a possible move to a primarily online mode of delivering the services of the Registrar’s Office and related Student Services. So it was with the better judgment of our team that we began preparations for what was beginning to look like the inevitable. It seemed like no time at all passed from those water cooler conversations with colleagues within the university community to when the email arrived from the Office of the President telling us that our offices were closing to in-person services. Academic advising meetings, learning strategist sessions, wellness appointments, and every other function and/or service would need to go online.

We received the call on the afternoon of March 17. Within minutes, Morteza was making sure e-tokens were good to go and that college staff in the various university offices were able to log in from home. Most were taken care of, but there were still a few to activate: no problem. Miranda, with Guillermo’s and Philip’s help, was making certain all students on the day’s docket were either seen or given a new appointment, all while planning for graduation scholarships and any number of the other responsibilities within our office. Nawang was ensuring that bursaries were going to get into students’ hands… yesterday! Next was getting ready for the hundreds of financial aid requests that would be submitted by our students, as well as the upcoming round of May admissions. Stephen was finalizing plans on how we were going to meet with future applicants, remotely, all while he and his wife were getting ready to deliver a future SMC student. Judy and Alex? Well, the newest members of our office were getting ready for the onslaught of student advising appointments which would fall on their shoulders as the various portfolios were being tended to. Hundreds of emails daily! Then, as the day turned into evening we packed our favourite mugs and our laptops and, with e-tokens in hand, we went home to our new offices!

All were confident as we prepared for remote delivery, even though the occasional nervous giggle could be heard. Gone were the commutes, the traffic, and the aggressive drivers. So was that horribly conspicuous dash to the only open seat on the train; everyone knows when you have designs on a seat in a subway train at 8:15 in the morning! Now it was simply a 12-second climb to the second-floor office, right next to the bathroom, and with a lovely view of the garden.

And so it was that practically overnight all university operations moved online, except for the staff in finance, the residence operation, and building services. They were our “hyflex” model pioneers. They were toughing it out on campus to make sure that USMC kept functioning and that students unable to get home had a room on campus, and that it was a safe space. The I.T. department stood on its collective head to make sure we had the hardware, software and in-servicing on the technology we had all dabbled in but which was not yet part of the daily menu. All of a sudden, Teams and Zoom were the plat du jour! And of course, the Communications team made sure there was an uninterrupted flow of information, essential to all parts of the community.

By the end of Day One of working from the home office, in whichever corner of the house we were assigned—or had earned over many years of squatting—many of the bugs had been worked out. It was quickly becoming business as usual for most, with the rest not far behind. Professionals who were accustomed to meeting in person were now looking at a screen with nothing more than a student’s initials in a small circle. Whether discussing course selection, scholarships, or convocation, all meetings were now being conducted via telephone or in a Teams meeting. Different delivery models, same great advice and suggestions.

And how appreciative our students were during those early days of the new, even if only temporary, normal! Every email or call we received began with “sorry to bother you during this very busy time,” and was often followed up with a lovely thank-you note.

Today, after hundreds of Teams or Zoom advising meetings, thousands of emails, dozens of website updates, countless online lectures and tutorials, governance meetings, a virtual Welcome Day for newly admitted students, two new Quercus courses to help transition our class of 2024, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency financial aid to our students, it dawned on me. I confirmed for myself what I knew all along. The people! That is the ingredient that is making all the difference.

The people I met on campus were important to me during my undergrad years, decades ago, and I understand far more clearly how important that is today: the staff, faculty, and students of the university. In these “interesting” times, we know we can rely on each other. Whether teaching or making sure we are well positioned to tackle the financial pressures of the coming year or helping a student find a course that will fill a final breadth requirement, we know each member of our community continues to do their utmost to make things work for our students—and for each other. I am confident that is why we were all drawn to this place, our community. That is why we will be ready for the coming year. Yes, a simple electronic screen will not get in the way. Our connection in just fine.


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Hi. Im Peter Mason, a first-year engineering student from the U.K. living in the Historic Houses. In the St. Mikes community, Ive loved everything from talking to film assistants on their on-campus sets to just being close to my friends. From my love of travelling, Im working on sustainability projects around Canada and the larger world, and supporting small Canadian businesses affected by COVID-19 by writing a childrens book, working with thisbag.ca. Always smiling.


Forward.

Image depicts two of the historic houses on the St. Michael's campus on a sunny summer's day seen from the southeast

Our quarantine. We’re stuck at home, unable to travel freely and be together, but things are opening up soon. I’m from England, but I was in the GTA for quarantine until very recently, there for an extra three months, with a good friend from St. Mike’s. Aside from adjusting, I spent time thinking about my extended stay, what’s happened this past year and where my motivation has gone.

In my quarantine in Canada, I treated each day as its own, focusing on the super short term. I didn’t know when flights would open up, and so it was best not to think about being ‘isolated’, ‘stranded’ or any of the above. And I didn’t feel that way, but perhaps that’s because I’m pretty used to adapting. With this attitude, I was able to take each day, and I felt happier. Not every day would be productive but I’d learn something and take that positive step into the next one. I also meditated more. I’m grateful for the memories I’ve made and the people who were by my side this year. Meditating helps set up my day for whatever could happen. It also helps gradually inch away at hard thoughts and choices rather than reacting to them once they hit you all at once.

I received genuine kindness from my friend’s family during my extended stay in Canada, and this is a reflection of how I’ve felt throughout my time in Toronto so far. Unexpected, but I felt very welcomed and I can only be thankful. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know I’ll see them again. At the airport, I took extensive care to be aware and clean. Yet, there was no one there! I started to think there were more staff than passengers. It was a very eerie, silent experience and, I pictured what the deserted airport looked like the last time I was here five months earlier. I remember a lengthy Starbucks queue. It felt as if I was part of a TV show and I was left alone in an airport.

In the fall semester, I fell a little bit into the annoying trap of saying I had a lot of work. I’m in that small bracket of engineering students at St. Mike’s. Once I heard the same line from my roommate, I re-evaluated what I was saying. I began to balance classes, soccer and social activities in St. Mike’s better, and in a different way to the winter semester. However, I kept the same mindset. My attitude going into university was to hope to enjoy what I was studying, make some friends and keep on helping people. If I was smiling, I’d be alright. I would be pretty flexible to dip my toes into new things and meet new people and looking back I think I can say I met some pretty motivated people. They’ve introduced me to Canada and its culture, and I’ve shared what I’ve known.

I like to think I’ve done my best to contribute back to it, and hope my actions and words have helped people this year. Yet, I didn’t make it simple. For those who don’t know me, I end up balancing a lot and taking too much on my plate. The reality dawned on me, and my friend’s opinion was right. I couldn’t study and get the grades to retain my scholarship, play for three soccer teams, follow my passions, and be a part of St. Mike’s without burning out. I have those around me to thank. And for those of you I knew better, I miss your smiles.

As I look back, I do so looking forward. I remember how travelling used to be my goal, and I reminisce about St. Mike’s dynamic and vibrant individuals. Yet, I realize I shouldn’t wait, but keep making steps forwards. Whether that’s sharing initiatives, listening and learning and supporting my friends, I’m not 100% sure what’s ahead, but I’ll be ready. If this can get us closer to a future where we are proud to see each other again, I’ll keep trying.

For that future we are trying to chase, how do we try to define that? When Matthew McConaughey won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2014, he spoke of his hero being himself in 10 years. He’d always look up to the future him, but never be his hero as he’d always be 10 years away. This is great on a personal level for moving forward. I couldn’t have imagined my life being like this 10 years ago, but I’d be proud of the big moments and the small laughs. I hope we can together reflect on the progress we’ve made in a year, or in a decade. We’re moving to Mars, we can produce more sustainable clothes, and we’ve reduced famines globally. We’re not there yet by a long way, but let’s appreciate our progress and look up to the community we will define together.

In the last few weeks, I read a lot, listened more and kept on learning. This helped me start my blogs on Medium and Vocal, and allowed me to grow. We’ve all grown, too. From the start of quarantine, I remember the social media shenanigans, sadness at missing basketball games, or waving a final goodbye. But look and think about what has happened since. My friends have made visors for fire stations, supported Black Lives Matters protests, and taken on leadership positions across so many different areas. We’re tackling mental health issues among ourselves and preparing ourselves for when we return. I’ve chosen to better myself and share that with others. It is the confidence I’ve gained from being at St. Mike’s this past year that I can use to make a longer lasting change, one that I couldn’t have made before meeting everyone.


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These last few months have not been easy, but St. Michael’s student athlete Curtis Harvey has found a way to make a difference.

Image depicts a group of people in medical masks standing under an awning, with St. Michael's student Curtis Harvey at the right
(Middle: Jayne Harvey | Far Right: Curtis Harvey)

Countless students headed home when the university announced the cancellation of all in-person classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 13; however, the fourth-year Varsity Blues men’s hockey player stayed put in his Toronto apartment.

“I’ve been on my own for most of quarantine as my roommates moved back after the school year,” said the industrial relations major from Keswick, Ont. “My mom took over my room in Keswick to stay somewhat isolated from my dad and sister.”

Image depicts St. Michael's student and Varsity Blues Men's Hockey forward Curtis Harvey in a face off on the ice
(Photo by Seyran Mammadov)

Harvey’s mother, Jayne, works at River Glen Nursing Home in Sutton, Ont., and like so many healthcare heroes, did her best to isolate herself from her family.

“It has been weird whenever I go home,” added Harvey. “For the most part I stay outside but not being able to hug my family hasn’t been easy.”

Just when they were getting used to their new ‘normal’, the River Glen Nursing Home suffered a COVID-19 outbreak. Jayne and 30 of her coworkers moved into a nearby motel to fully isolate from their families.

Image depicts St. Michael's student and Varsity Blues Men's Hockey forward Curtis Harvey on the ice during a matchup with Western
(Curtis Harvey was named an alternate captain for the 2019-20 season | Azadeh Hassan-Kashani)

Wanting to help and witnessing all of the generosity in the community, Harvey sprang into action. He enlisted the help of the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team to raise money and provide his mom and her coworkers meals after their long shifts.

“I first pitched the idea when Coach [Ryan] Medel gave me a phone call after we heard about the delay to the start of the season,” said Harvey. “He thought it was a great idea and said if there was anything he could do to help, he would. I sent a message in the team group chat explaining the situation and set up a GoFundMe page where they could make donations. My teammates and the staff were incredibly generous.”

To date, Harvey and the men’s hockey team have provided two meals to Jayne and her coworkers in Sutton, with a third on the way, thanks in large part to U of T assistant coach and former NHL’er Mike Zigomanis.

Image depicts the 2019-2020 University of Toronto Varsity Blues Men's Hockey team in their team photo for the year
The 2019-20 University of Toronto Varsity Blues Men’s Hockey Team // Head Coach Ryan Medel – bottom row, middle //  Curtis Harvey – bottom row, fourth from right //  Mike Zigomanis – bottom row third from right

“I got the idea from the community. A lot of people and local shops have been donating supplies or meals to healthcare workers. I figured if I could make their day even 1% better, it would be worth it.”

Harvey also credits his friend and current Ottawa Senator, Chris Tierney, for the great idea.

“Chris donated a weeks’ worth of meals for nurses and I thought it was amazing.”

Jayne is just one of many healthcare heroes who continues to fight this pandemic and Harvey couldn’t be more proud of her.

“My mom is doing well and she just had her eighth negative test. It’s been hard on her not being able to come home every night and have the support from our family. My dad’s been great through this. He often will grab food from town and bring it to her for dinner. He’ll sit by his car and they’ll talk about the day and enjoy a meal together.”

Image depicts Dave Harvey, Curtis Harvey, and Jayne Harvey posing with a large trophy
(From left to Right: Dave Harvey, Curtis Harvey, Jayne Harvey)

The burning question in everyone’s mind is ‘what will you do when this is all over’? For Harvey, he’s excited to spend quality time with his family again.

“I know we are hoping to be able to go up to the cottage together at some point this summer. We just got it last fall so we’ve been chomping at the bit to get up there and utilize it.”

Image depicts the logo of the University of St. Michael's College.

Convocation is a time not only for celebrating memories and friendships, but also the academic and extracurricular achievements of the graduating class. This year, almost 150 graduating St. Michael’s students received medals and named awards. Celebrate their accomplishments with us as the Class of 2020 enters the St. Michael’s alumni family.  

 

Graduation Awards by Application 

 

The Principal’s Medal Award 

In conjunction with the family of the late Professor Lawrence E. Lynch, the Principal’s Medal was created in 1978 to recognize the almost lifelong association of Professor Lynch with St. Michael’s College, and also to mark his 25th wedding anniversary. 

 Professor Lynch served as the College Principal from July 1976-June 1981. 

 The medal is given annually to a graduate who has made a distinctive contribution to life at the college and who upheld the practice of Catholicism proper to a university community. 

This year’s recipient of the Principal’s Medal is Rose Wang 

 

The Marina Santin Award  

Sylvia and Raymon Santin, St. Mike’s alumni, established the Marina Santin award in honour of their late daughter. During her time as a St Mike’s Marina contributed significantly to the life of the College and to the University through her work as an Arts and Entertainment columnist for The Mike, staff photographer for The Newspaper, a Coordinator of the 1991 St. Michael’s Orientation, and by her presence at and support of College and University events and programmes. 

 The Marina Santin Award is presented annually to a female graduate who has distinguished herself by an active and constructive involvement in the life of the college. Recipients exemplify the Christian ideals of joyful engagement in life, openness to others, service to the community, and responsible leadership. 

This year’s recipient of the Marina Santin Award is Sasha Hellwig 

 

The Sir Bertram Windle Graduate Scholarship 

The Sir Bertram Windle C.A Graduate Scholarship is awarded to a student with an excellent academic record who will be entering a liberal arts graduate program at the University of Toronto in the September following graduation. 

This year’s recipient of the Sir Bertram Windle Graduate Scholarship is Isabel Armiento 

 

The W.B. Dunphy Medal  

The W.B. Dunphy Medal was created in 1991 to honour Professor William Dunphy, who served as College Principal from 1981-1991. 

 Principal Dunphy was particularly concerned that university life should not be separate from the life of the wider community. 

 The medal is awarded annually to a graduate who has been most successful in combining excellent academic achievement with sustained commitment to volunteer service in the wider community. 

This year’s recipient of the W.B. Dunphy Medal is Zara Ahmad 

 

The Fr. Henry Carr, CSB Award  

The Father Henry Carr, CSB Award, named in honour of a Basilian father who helped shape this institution and who served as president and superior at St. Michael’s from 1915 to 1925 is presented to a graduate who has made an outstanding contribution to the University of Toronto in athletics, academics, leadership, or student life. 

The recipient of this year’s Father Henry Carr, CSB Award is Hodan Mohamud 

 

The Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards 

Father Robert Madden was a much admired professor, chaplain and rector at St Mike’s who served as the director of alumni affairs in his retirement. The Father Robert Madden Leadership Awards are presented to students who have made significant contributions to the University of St. Michael’s College community by demonstrating leadership, cooperation, and solidarity in student-run organizations or community endeavours. 

The recipients of this year’s Fr. Robert Madden, CSB Leadership Awards are:  

Anna Zappone 

James Pettem 

Julia Orsini 

Luke Bannon 

Almeera Khalid 

Vicente Constantino Kripka 

Sabrina Daniele 

 

The University of St. Michael’s College Young Alumni Award 

The recipient of this year’s University of St. Michael’s College Young Alumni Award is Samuel Gearing 

 

 

Graduation Awards by Merit and Program 

 

The Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni – Centro Scuola Scholarships  

Alberto Di Giovanni, 7T1 and his wife Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, 7T0 have a long and close association with the University of St. Michael’s College. They met here as students and have stayed involved as alumni. Three of their children (Annamaria, Carlo and Franca) as well as nieces and nephews have followed in their footsteps and graduated from St Mike’s. Alberto and Caroline have endowed scholarships and an annual Dante lecture to demonstrate their appreciation for their experiences here and to encourage St Mike’s graduates to develop life-long connections with their alma mater. 

 Four Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni Scholarships are awarded each year to St. Michael’s College students. Earlier this spring Di Giovanni scholarships were awarded to students participating in the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas. 

Today we are recognizing Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni Scholarships for graduating students who have achieved the top marks in Italian Studies and have demonstrated leadership and community spirit on the St. Michael’s College campus; and in the community at large. 

The recipients of this year’s Alberto and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni – Centro Scuola Scholarships are Julia Volpe and David Adamiszyn 

 

The Tommaso Serrao Award 

This award was established by the Family and Friends of Mr. Tommaso Serrao, who had a great love and passion for Italian literature. 

The award is presented to an outstanding graduate who has excelled in the study of Italian. 

The recipient of this year’s Tommaso Serrao Award is Janet Marta 

 

The Mercier-Knowlton Prize for Philosophy in Christianity & Culture 

While studying at St Michael’s College, William Leo Knowlton, class of 1927, developed a deep love of philosophy that never left him. 

In 1999, he made a generous donation to St Michael’s to establish an endowed lectureship in Philosophy and Theology. 

This gift also enabled the College to re-institute the Mercier Prize, which had been established in 1924 in honour of Cardinal Mercier and his work relative to the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas. 

This award is given to the student with the highest CGPA in Philosophy and Christianity & Culture. 

The recipient of this year’s Mercier-Knowlton Prize for Philosophy in Christianity & Culture is Sasha Hellwig 

 

The James O’Brien 5T0 Book Award 

The James O’Brien Book Award was inspired by the memory of James O’Brien, St. Mike’s Class of 1950. 

After graduating he remained an active alumnus of the College, serving on the USMC Senate for a number of years and on the Library Committee. 

His family established this award to honour his love of literature and to celebrate their continuing association with St. Mike’s. 

The recipient of this year’s James O’Brien 5T0 Book Award is Danielle Nassr 

 

College Gold Medals 

 

The College Gold Medals are awarded to graduating students with the highest cumulative grade point average in Arts, Science, and Commerce. 

The recipients of this year’s College Gold Medals are:  

Arts Science Commerce
Nathaniel Crocker Laurestine Bradford Anthony Adair

 

College Silver Medals 

 

College Silver Medals are awarded to all other graduating students who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.7.  

The recipients of this year’s College Silver Medals are: 

Vinit Nirav Jogani  

Julian A Takagi-Stewart  

Yufang Liu  

Zara Ahmad  

Gianni Vincent Pescetto  

Jijun Xiao  

Xiaowen Zhang  

Erica Alexis Venturo  

Haorui Zhang  

Heng Kan  

Kate Rose Jaworski Friesen  

Lazar Joksimovic  

Xinqi Shen  

Yuling Chen  

Zhuoran LI  

Shiqi Feng  

Yibin Zhao  

Sunsiya Wang  

Yu Guo  

Zeyang Zhang  

Christian John Tramontin  

Julia Francesca Volpe  

Shuting Jiang  

David Jan Adamiszyn  

Musa Talluzi  

Nicolas James Cicci  

Xueqian Ma  

Constantine Dean Gregory Kanargelidis  

Michael Sisti  

Jamie Evers Stalcup  

Shyam Mehta  

Xing Gao  

Christy Melody Simangon  

Jiayi Shi  

Michelle Antoinette De Pol  

Timothy Chee Cheng Lui  

Zhengkai Fu  

Chenglan Huang  

Christian Michael Rostankovski  

David Frank Rhodes  

Ke Er Zhang  

Amelia Lois Leung  

Joseph Matthew Massabki  

Xin Yue Gao  

Katherine Schmidt  

Ming Yuan Zhao  

Nicole Joan Turner  

Yu Jia Yin  

Yue Li  

Alex Lee  

Du Wang  

Julia Passarelli  

Anna Aksenovich  

Daniel Kim  

Kuorosh Rezaei  

Ian Michael Cappellani  

Quanzhou Li  

Rebecca Kwiatkowski  

Yuxi Lin  

Ge Sun  

Janet Adele Marta  

Ankur Shiwakoti  

Chelsea Ann Marie Amos  

Gregor Neil McEdwards  

Junsheng Luo  

Xinran Huang  

Marina Samantha Salis  

Robert Newman  

Yi Wai Kwok  

Angela Wang  

Oswa Shafei  

Tianna Alexandra Damario  

Sara Eslam Pour  

Lara-Melodie B V Patry  

Sayeda Fatima Zahidi  

Yara Haitham El Bardisi  

Hallam James Willis  

Isabel Marie Rose Armiento  

Jason Kei-On Ho  

Jong-Hwan Joseph Lee  

Min Jin  

Rishikant Sharma  

Jeremy Boon Chinsen  

Rhonda Michelle Rathburn  

Simon Alexander Craig-Wright  

Jiayi Lu  

John Alexander Muir  

Oriana Irene Maurach Theo  

Ziying Zhuo  

Andres Felipe Medina Pineda  

Tiancheng Shi  

Xiaoqi Gao  

Tianhao Wu  

Zihan Yi

Ask.smc@utoronto.ca offers a single point of access for student to find the help they need  

Image depicts the south facade of Brennan Hall on a sunny day.

From academic advising to assistance with financial aid, accessibility needs and career planning, the Office of the Registrar and Student Services provides essential help to students in all stages of their St. Mike’s journey. Although the physical office has been closed since mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student Services team continues to provide timely, crucial support to St. Mike’s students online, and the team is optimizing its services for remote delivery this fall as well. 

The effort on the part of the office to optimize online service delivery for St. Michael’s students in a matter of days “is truly something I have never witnessed before,” says St. Michael’s Registrar Giancarlo Mazzanti 

“Advisors have stepped up to deal with the very significant increase in student inquiries, while working at putting into a virtual format everything that students have come to expect of the Registrar’s Office and Student Services,” Mazzanti says. “The university has made a commitment to the continuation and expansion of Student Services to be certain that all students will have the advising and services that have become synonymous with the student-centered St. Michael’s approach. 

During this unique time, a single point of access has made it easier for students to find the help they need: ask.smc@utoronto.ca. Students can email this account to get in touch with an advisor directly, and to get connected with a variety of ongoing services. 

Academic Advising is a primary focus of the office. During one-on-one sessions, advisors provide assistance with registration, course selection, program selection and scheduling. In addition, advisors can provide students with guidance regarding workloads relative to other aspect of their student life, and help provide clarity on options for financial aid, some of which are available directly through the University of Toronto.  

Nicole LeBlanc MSW, RSW has been the Wellness Counsellor at St. Michael’s since the fall of 2016. All students and residents of St. Michael’s are welcome to set up an online half-hour counseling appointment with her by emailnicolem.leblanc@utoronto.ca. Other wellness resources can also be found through St. Michael’s Student Services under the Wellness Counsellor tab.  

Dr. Andrea Graham and Julia Andrews are the Academic Success Learning Strategists at St. Michael’s, and they support students in all areas of learning and academic performance. Graham and Andrews are available to help students discover their best ways of learning, adapt to university expectations, increase their efficiency, identify and pursue their goals, improve their work, and get the most out of their academic learning experience. Appointments with each can be set up through ask.smc@utoronto.ca, and additional resources for academic success are available through University of Toronto Student Life.  

Accessibility Services at the University of Toronto can help students with temporary and permanent accessibility needs receive necessary academic accommodations. St. Michael’s accessibility advisor can be reached through ask.smc@utoronto.ca, and more information about registering for services is available through University of Toronto Student Life. 

It’s no secret that writing at the university level can be a challenge, especially for new students. That’s why the Writing Centre at St. Michael’s continues to offer one-on-one appointments for students looking for guidance on all aspects of the writing process, from researching and outlining to drafting and editing. 

Support for students also includes help with the period that follows graduation. This is where St. Michael’s Career Educator Husna Arif comes in: she helps students with exploring career options, applications for grad school, upgrading job search skills, conducting mock interview, learning about employment opportunities, and making plans for after graduation. As with the Office of the Registrar’s other services, digital appointments with Husna can be set up through ask.smc@utoronto.ca. 

As these services continue being offered digitally through the summer, Mazzanti says remote service is being optimized for the Fall term as well. “We have doubled the number of front-line advisors available to answer student inquiries as well as adding resource to the financial aid portfolio, in personnel and funds,” he says. Regular services offered during the Fall and Winter terms such as the Math and Computer Science Success Centres will be available remotely, too  

Many students will also be making their transition to university during this uncertain timeand the Office of the Registrar and Student Services team is already working hard to make the move as seamless as possible. “We have over 20 events planned over the summer to facilitate the student transition to university,” Mazzanti says, including “welcome events, course planning and selection and other events that will allow students to actively participate, collaborate and meet with our advising team.”  

June 8, 2020

Image depicts St. Michael's president David Sylvester seated at a table in his office on campus.

Dear members of the St. Michael’s community,

I trust this message finds you in good health and holding up in these uncertain times. The 2019/2020 academic year has ended like no other, and I have watched our community respond with grace, courage and resilience to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, St. Michael’s is showing that even in very difficult times, our strength and generosity marks us as an anchor of hope in our community.

Social media use of #allinthistogether has gathered traction as the world responds to COVID-19, but I am particularly struck by how, at St. Mike’s, we really are in this together. Together, our students, faculty, alumni, and staff have worked to respond to these unique times, enabling classes to continue while ensuring the safety and security of campus, and the community. Students have been particularly resilient, and they have shown great understanding and patience in the face of a dramatically upended school year. As I look forward not only to the coming academic year but also to the future of St. Mike’s, I am confident that the lessons learned in these challenging days will help strengthen this incredible place, a place with compassion and community at its very heart.

When it became clear in mid-March that we needed a drastic response to the looming health crisis, creative problem-solving swung into action across the University. Within days, faculty and staff began offering classes and advising remotely, and students rose to the challenge. Residence students were able to pack up and head home early. The library remained open online, even offering a town hall on research. With a dedicated skeleton staff on campus to ensure that our students who could not leave were safe and supported, colleagues began working remotely, and virtual meetings became the norm. For the first time in history even Collegium and Senate meetings moved online.

This period will forever be remembered as a time when the world faced challenges above and beyond the norm, and we offer our support to those who are suffering. For St. Mike’s, the pandemic has forced us to sacrifice some much-loved traditions. We had to cancel spring reunion on campus and move to online anniversary activities, and the Class of 2020 missed out on an in-person, on-site convocation. As always, however, our community has responded with energy and hope. Whether it’s our Student Life team working on a virtual orientation for the incoming class, staff in the Registrar’s office taking additional time and care to respond to new and returning students’ concerns, or one of our students arranging to donate thousands of masks to protect those still on campus, this community is motivated by a concern for others, and it has been deeply moving and inspiring to witness.

We were in the midst of our St. Mike’s 180 planning when the pandemic hit. The pause in this project has allowed us time to reflect on our efforts to date and has affirmed what we already knew, that it is the strength of this community that is helping us weather this difficult storm and gives us hope for the future. We remain focused on our plans for renewal and I look forward to restarting conversations with you all about who we want to be as an institution and how we plan to achieve that. Obviously, we are stepping into a very different world, but St. Mike’s is prepared and must take up the mantle of leadership and think of new ways to build hope for our university and society, through our academic and student life programs and through our alumni and community partnerships.

Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 academic year, much remains unknown and difficult decisions must be made in the face of ongoing uncertainty. The health and safety of our community continues to come first, as well as the ability to reopen and resume operations when we are able to do so safely. The university is also facing challenges with regard to reduced revenues, and must also ensure that it remains fiscally sustainable. In early April, we implemented a hiring freeze, along with temporary redeployments. More recently, faced with prolonged shutdowns of parts of our campus and operations the University has worked with the United Steelworkers so that employees in our Facilities and Services Department and Physical Plant Departments can self-identify if they are willing to take a temporary leave. Staff who are affected by this decision have already heard from us directly.

Despite the challenges we are facing as the result of the pandemic, we remain committed to our community and charting a path forward. We are doing everything we can to sustain our workforce and adapt as we move through this crisis. We have established an advisory group, focused on plans for the fall, and we will continue to follow advice from public health and government guidelines. The University of Toronto has recently announced a plan to support employees in working from home where possible until at least September. St. Michael’s is part of this collaborative effort to achieve a gradual and safe reopening of the city’s workplaces.

Fortunately, in addition to calling on the expertise of our in-house resources, we can also tap into the knowledge and best practices of organizations such as Universities Canada to help us continue to do what we do best as a centre of learning and faith committed to building the common good.

Our Collegium remains a strong sounding board and a source of advice, responding wisely and compassionately to the unique concerns raised by the pandemic. Last week, the USMC Senate discussed the impact of COVID-19 on our academic community. We head into the coming year in especially capable hands, with former St. Michael’s Principal Dr. Mark McGowan returning as Interim Principal, as Prof. Randy Boyagoda becomes Vice-Dean, Undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T. As well, Dr. John McLaughlin will again serve as Interim Dean of the Faculty of Theology as Dean James Ginther returns to the classroom following a leave. We are also very fortunate to have continued great student leadership, and I have already begun to work with Cianna Choo and the newly-elected executive of SMCSU.

While there is still so much we do not know about the course of this pandemic, rest assured that we will continue to communicate via email, social media and our website, stmikes.utoronto.ca, with important information about the 2020-2021 academic year and how and when the campus will reopen. Yes, we are in extraordinarily challenging times, but we are truly all in this together, and with your help St. Michael’s serves as an anchor of hope, an engaged and compassionate community dedicated to serving the greater good.

I am proud to be a member of this remarkable community.

Gratefully,

David Sylvester, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of St. Michael’s College

A title card for the article includes images depicting each of the students quoted in the article.

Although a virtual ceremony took the place of an in-person Convocation at the conclusion of their university experience, members of the Class of 2020 look back fondly on their time at St. Mike’s, starting from the moment they first set foot on campus. “Every time I think about my time at St. Mike’s,” Michael Coleman (Honours Bachelor of Science: Physiology and Biochemistry double-major) says, “it really starts from the welcome I got” during Orientation Week 

Anna Zappone (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Environmental Geography major, Forest Conservation and English minors), a veteran of St. Michael’s orientations over several years, agrees. “It’s such an amazing week, no matter what goes wrong or whatever happens,” she says. “Everyone screams until they lose their voices – everything is just so extreme and it’s just so fun.”  

The thrill of the week’s activities introduces new students to a community of care and support. Coleman remembers Orientation for the way “it makes you feel a part of something bigger, but not intimidating, a quality he did his best to communicate to new students when serving as an orientation leader and residence don in later years. “Everyone’s your family,” he says. “It’s gotten better every year.”  

Brennan Hall provides a setting for Paul Nunez’s (Bachelor of Arts: English major, Classical Civilization and Anthropology minors) memories of St. Michael’s. “I really love how’s there’s a community within the Coop,” he says, “very outgoing, encouraging strangers to join in the fun.” Though he often spent late nights there hitting the books alongside his classmates, “we don’t usually talk about what we’re studying.” The camaraderie grew irrespective of programs or disciplines.    

Joseph Rossi (Honours Bachelor of Arts: International Relations major, History and Political Science minors) remembers this feeling of camaraderie in Brennan, and across campus generally at “move-in days, Dean’s cup events, and great conversations in the residence or in the Coop.”  

“The college system is great at UofT, and I think it’s an important experience, Rossi says. While students benefit from the larger University of Toronto setting, St. Michael’s provides community and support on a smaller scale, something that students often mention as being uniquely valuable. “I think that St. Mike’s is where I found my support network,” says Michelle De Pol (Honours Bachelor of Science: Neuroscience specialist, Physiology minor). “I will remember the support that I felt from other students at St. Mike’s most.”  

Julia Orsini (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Political Science major, English and Italian Culture and Communication minors) comes from a long line of St. Michael’s grads, setting her memories of community on campus alongside those of her family. “It’s true what they say, St. Mike’s is a very tight knit community,” she says, mentioning the Office of the Registrar and Student Services as giving her essential support throughout her undergraduate experience. “They were really there to listen and hear what was going on, not only in my academics but in life,” she says. “They want to see you succeed.”  

Family is, of course, the word that keeps coming up in reference to the St. Michael’s community—and that family only continues to grow. “I met my best friends here,” Kate Friesen (Honours Bachelor of Science: Immunology major, Physiology and Biology minors) says. “Living in residence, we would go out—like half the floor would come to McDonald’s to get a coffee at 1 a.m. to keep studying.”  

Echoing several of her classmates, Friesen says the most memorable thing for her about St. Michael’s is “how welcoming everyone was, and how supportive the whole community was, and how fantastic the people were.”  

We asked members of the Class of 2020 if they had messages for their classmates. Here’s what they said.

 

Julia Orsini is a member of the graduating class of 2020. On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, she was granted an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Political Science and Double Minor in English and Italian Culture and Communication. She will be pursuing a Master’s Degree in Marketing at Schulich School of Business in September 2020.


Double Blue Forever

Image depicts Class of 2020 St. Michael's graduate Julia Orsini in an academic gown.

Coming from a long line of family members with double blue running deep in their veins, I was so excited to carry the torch in my academic journey and become a St. Michael’s College student myself. By reflecting on my time working with USMC Orientation, teaching chants like Hoikity Choik and Bubbaloo, I couldn’t help but remember learning them at a young age and wearing my dad’s oversized SMC sweater. For decades, St. Mike’s has influenced education through Basilian teachings to transform young enthusiastic student minds into great leaders, and the university welcomed me with open arms the fall of 2015 with opportunities to grow and develop.

At USMC we are always quick to discuss our tight-knit community. It is no wonder the place quickly became the home that I had been expecting on my arrival, and hence why it will be so difficult to leave now that I have graduated. I learned early on that your university experience will be whatever you put into it, and I knew being heavily involved in the USMC community from the start was integral to my five years here. As I prepare to leave the gates of USMC behind I am confident that my time and experiences here have helped me mature in ways I could have never imagined when I first stepped foot on campus. My time with the St. Michael’s Troubadours Drama Society and The Mike are notable memories, including having the opportunity to find creative ways to connect the Young Alumni community as a work-study student at the Office of Alumni Affairs. The latter is now becoming reality for me as I become part of the Young Alumni Community myself.

Although our USMC Class of 2020 had the unconventional experience of graduating via a YouTube Convocation, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that God does not give you more than you can handle. I believe that the Class of 2020’s unwavering determination to continue learning without a traditional university experience is a testament to our strength as a community capable of accomplishing greatness.

Despite not having the traditional convocation, the University of Toronto administration still managed to recreate the procession, which I watched as I gathered with my family at home on the couch. Instead of wearing fancy heels that bore the impact of walking across campus from USMC to Convocation Hall, I opted for comfy house slippers. Rather than trying to find my parents in the sea of people as I waited for my name to be called out, we screamed, celebrated and cried when my name appeared on our television screen, and we held each other tightly. It turns out our unprecedented virtual convocation allowed me to celebrate instantaneously with my family in a way that transcended distance, continents and time zones.

I am proud to be a St. Michael’s student turned Young Alumni member, and share with the graduating class the optimism for a better and safer future as we continue to form new knowledge, skills and experiences to keep the world on turning.


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“Community” is one of the words that comes up most often when graduating students talk about what made their St. Michael’s experience special. While their university experiences were not always easy, several members of the Class of 2020 found that the St. Michael’s community was there for them when they needed it most.  

Image depicts USMC student Kate Friesen on campus.

“I struggled in first year,” Kate Friesen (Honours Bachelor of Science: Immunology major, Physiology and Biology minors) says. “I was going to transfer home—I transferred all my credits.” What ultimately convinced her to stay? Conversations with older students in the Canada Room, who encouraged her that things would get better if she stuck it out. At St. Mike’s, she says, she found “people who are going to push you further.”  

Friesen found community at St. Michael’s near the beginning of her student experience, meeting people who would become her best friends in residence and at Orientation. An orientation coordinator her first year who “was just so welcoming” stayed in touch with her and even recently provided her with a reference. Because of the support Friesen received at St. Mike’s, she stuck it out at the University of Toronto—and now is preparing to take on a PhD placement in Oncology at Oxford University. “I feel I’ve grown leaps and bounds from where I was when I came in,” she says, “and I wouldn’t have grown this much if I’d stayed at home.”  

Image depicts USMC student Anna Zappone, posing next to a bush of flowers.

“St. Mike’s is such a wonderful community, it’s so diverse, it’s so warm and welcoming,” Friesen’s classmate Anna Zappone (Honours Bachelor of Arts: Environmental Geography major, Forest Conservation and English minors) says. She finds the college’s sense of community unique at the University of Toronto. “Everybody is always together, always doing things, always so eager to give back to our little community.” Involved in Orientation, student government, and even Collegium during her four years at St. Mike’s, she spent much of her student career giving back to the community in just this way, and was recognized for her contributions this year with a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award.  

Image depicts USMC student Joseph Rossi.

Joseph Rossi (Honours Bachelor of Arts: International Relations major, History and Political Science minors) didn’t realize how much the diversity of the St. Mike’s student body would shape his experience—but that diversity would become one of the things he valued the most about his time in the school’s community. “Learning about different religions, cultures – it shapes your own perspective,” he says. “When you listen to someone and have a conversation, you grow as a person, and as an intellectual.”  

Image depicts USMC student Michael Coleman.

“The older colleges are so rich in tradition, and I think there’s something to be said about that – it gives a community and a heritage aspect to it,” he continues. Michael Coleman (Honours Bachelor of Science: Physiology and Biochemistry double-major) agrees: “St. Mike’s is probably the most proud college to display its history,” from historical photos on display dating back to its founding to the many fireplaces that can be found all over campus. “Pretty much everywhere you go, St. Mike’s is just brimming with history,” he says.

As a student in residence all four years, including two as a residence don, Coleman took a special pleasure in introducing parents of students to this history while helping their children move into their rooms during Move-In Day. Welcoming students to campus is, in part, helping them come to see this history as belonging to them, as well.  

Image depicts USMC student Paul Nunez.

“I associate St. Mike’s primarily with community engagement,” says Paul Nunez (Bachelor of Arts: English major, Classical Civilization and Anthropology minors), founder of the SMC Wellness Club and a fellow winner of a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award. Nunez’s experiences of community at St. Mike’s are primarily set in the Coop, a hub for both students in residence and commuter students alike. For him, the most memorable parts of life at St. Mike’s “are the nights in Brennan Hall when I would stay till closing at 11 p.m. studying,” he says. One or two other students would almost always be doing the same, creating a special late-night camaraderie.  

Image depicts Michelle De Pol.

Ultimately, what Nunez and other students came to feel about St. Michael’s during their time as students is summarized well by their classmate Michelle De Pol (Honours Bachelor of Science: Neuroscience specialist, Physiology minor)“Coming onto St. Mike’s campus, I always felt like I was coming home.” Coordinator for SMC Mentorship and also a U of T Student Leadership Award winner, De Pol continues: “I find that that kind of student community is unique at U of T, and it was definitely a cornerstone to my success throughout university. 

The following remarks were included in a program delivered to members of the graduating class as part of their virtual Convocation.


Image depicts President David Sylvester seated in his office.

On behalf of Principal Boyagoda, and all of our colleagues at the University of St. Michael’s College, I offer congratulations on completing your undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto.   

The historically rich university ceremony of convocation is meant to provide the opportunity to celebrate your academic accomplishments and to acknowledge publicly those who have supported you. Well done, and congratulations also to your family, friends and the professors and many others who have helped you complete this important chapter in your educational and personal journey.  

This year, however, you and your classmates, in fact all of us, have been also called to reflect upon the extraordinary events we find ourselves facing, individually and as a society.  The circumstances surrounding your convocation are like no other.  We recognize that it has been a challenging way to end this year.  It is not only the shift to remote learning, and the distancing from good friends at this time of celebration: for many, the events of the last few months have added real economic and personal strain to the usual challenges one would expect to face as program completion deadlines approached. So, please know that we acknowledge that in addition to the academic focus and discipline you have demonstrated in this last semester of your studies that you have been asked to find within yourselves the patience, flexibility and strength to face these new challenges.  

Thank you for the grace and resilience you have demonstrated in this challenging time.  You, and the class of 2020, will be remembered in a unique way in the long and rich history of St. Michael’s.   

Congratulations again.  Be well, and God bless you and yours. 

President David Sylvester's signature

David Sylvester, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
The University of St. Michael’s College

John Montefiore is a member of the graduating class of 2020. On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, he will be granted a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Double Minor in Education and Society and Human Geography.


Walking Away—and Coming Back

John Montefiore graduation photograph

My relationship with St. Mike’s goes back to 1995, when I first began my university career. I abandoned my pursuit of a university degree, however, after I was found I was unsuccessful in performing academically while also being a varsity athlete with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team. I walked away from both my academic and athletic dreams, primarily because I was unable to face and overcome the adversity and difficult position in which I had put myself.

Decades later, in the summer of 2018, I returned to the University of St. Michael’s College to explore the possibility of returning to school to complete my university degree. The staff at the registrar’s office were so helpful, accommodating, and supportive of me in my goal to complete my studies! A special thank-you goes out to Associate Registrar Miranda Cheng. She helped me plan my return and directly contributed to my success. I will be forever grateful to her and to the entire St. Mike’s administrative staff for helping me erase decades of feelings of regret and disappointment.

Today, I am proud to be a graduate of the University of St. Michael’s College. My feelings of pride, however, would have been delayed if not for the flexibility, actions, and commitment the entire University took to ensure that the academic year would not be lost due to COVID-19. All my professors went above and beyond to transition to a virtual format to help complete the winter term. Considering my own experience with adversity, seeing the University of Toronto react so positively in a time of crisis was inspiring. As such, I have decided the best way I can repay both St. Michael’s and the University of Toronto for their efforts is to aspire to be the best version of myself in spite of being faced with challenges that may arise, and to “pay it forward” to anyone that can benefit from any assistance I can provide.

As for not having an in-person convocation, well, I do feel somewhat disappointed. More so for my family, who would have loved to experience a moment that I failed to deliver to them decades ago. But it is just the cherry on top of the sundae! As I reflect back on my academic journey, I am reminded that it was the journey itself, the knowledge gained, the friends I made, the personal growth, and my sense of accomplishment that was the ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream and nuts that made up one delicious dessert. I am so grateful for being a part of the class of 2020, and will always remember graduating during the COVID-19 crisis. So, instead of using crisis as an excuse, I will use it as a reason, a reason to rise above it and do interesting things during these interesting times.


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Image depicts the John M. Kelly Library on the St. Michael's campus seen from the building's northeastern corner.

Sheril Hook, chief librarian at the John M. Kelly Library, tells the story of a University of Toronto professor calling her recently for help. The professor simply couldn’t find the materials he was searching for—Syriac-Latin text editions for the Patrologia Orientalis series, as well as articles from Analecta Bollandiana. With just a little digging, she found them, digitized from the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) collection, which is housed at Kelly.

“U of T is one of the top research libraries in North America. I was confident I could find the materials,” Hook says.

A library can be hard enough for an expert to navigate, so asking students to find resources remotely during physical distancing can be a challenge for those already stressed over papers, exams, and an uncertain summer.

In response, Hook and Noel McFerran, Kelly’s Theology and Rare Books librarian, are hosting a virtual town hall on Wednesday, May 6 for students in the basic and advanced degree programs at the Faculty of Theology. The afternoon session is perfect timing for theology students enrolled in intersession courses. Eligible students have received an email with instruction on how to access the online gathering, and it will be recorded for anyone who cannot make the 3-4 p.m. time slot.

The librarians have three goals for the hour-long session, which will include a 15-minute presentation, as well as time for questions posted to the forum. First, they want to do a close look with students at the U of T catalogue, delving into some of the more advanced ways to search it to discover digitized materials.

“We’d like to show people how to find materials they didn’t anticipate being online,” Hook says.

Then, they will highlight materials that have been made temporarily available to students. While in this period of physical distancing due to COVID-19, for example, students can call on the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service.

The third thing McFerran wants to stress is that the Kelly librarians are constantly discovering new materials.

“Send us an email and ask us about availability,” he says. “Just last week I had to say ‘sorry, it’s not available’ to a request, but this week that material has been digitized, so I was able to help the student after all.”

“This is a great new opportunity for learning,” says Hook, who notes that Kelly Library plans to expand sessions in the fall semester to include undergraduate students as well. “It’s important to feel comfortable in asking for help. If you can’t find something, we will look for you, as we very likely have it.”

Image depicts the eastern exterior of Sorbara Hall, a residence hall at St. Michael's.
Sorbara Hall

Move-out weekend traditionally sees the mass exodus of 550 residence students moving into apartments, heading to the airport, or being picked up by mom and dad. It’s a day of frenetic activity that includes tearful goodbyes, warm hugs of welcome and long line-ups of cars on St. Mary and St. Joseph streets.

This year however, the mass exodus took place in mid-March after the prime minister announced that everyone who could go home, should go home. By the time late April rolled around, the SMC Residence only had about 90 students left, mainly from countries where international travel was either restricted or financially prohibitive. So what’s happening with these student now?

“St. Mike’s is committed to housing students through the summer who don’t have anywhere else to go,” says Dean of Students Duane Rendle, “including students who weren’t previously living here, but who now find themselves without options.” Some of the students who took advantage of Dean Rendle’s offer included about a dozen women from Loretto College.

The Loretto College Residence is located just across the street from St. Mike’s and provides accommodation to 120 women during the academic year. Although Loretto is an independent college with their own staff and governance structure, their Catholic identity and proximity to St. Mike’s have earned them the moniker of “SMC’s sister College.” In mid-April, St. Mike’s agreed to provide housing for any Loretto students who were unable to return home, which has in turn allowed Loretto to close down for the summer. “It just didn’t make sense for Loretto to keep their entire building open to house such a small number of students. We were more than happy to have them to join us here at St. Mike’s,” explains Dean Rendle.

The small community of summer students who remain are being housed in either Sorbara Hall or the Historic Houses. All rooms in Sorbara have their own sink, which cuts down on the need to share common facilities, and the Historic Houses already have small populations, which helps to maintain social distancing. Chartwells, the College’s food service provider, is still providing food service to students, albeit in a takeaway form. Residents can purchase a “Dine on Campus” plan consisting of either 50 or 100 meals depending on their length of stay.

If you are a St. Mike’s student with a precarious housing situation, email smc.residence@utoronto.ca for more information on summer rates and availability.

Ann Mathew graduated from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, in 2019 with a double major in English and Christianity & Culture. While an undergraduate, she served as an editor on Saeculum, the student peer-reviewed journal associated with the Christianity & Culture program. She has just completed her first year of the three-year Master of Divinity program at the Faculty of Theology. A member of the Faculty’s Student Life Committee, she also sits on one of the subcommittees preparing for the coming visit by the Association of Theological Schools, the Facultys accrediting body. 


Adjusting to the New Normal

Image depicts the inside of an empty subway car in Toronto

Writing this draft in the glory of the Risen Lord, I am also thrilled to have completed my first year of the Master of Divinity program at the Faculty of Theology at St. Michaels College. Although this global situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected all of our lives, taking a special toll on the state of classrooms, the fact that I had enrolled in a couple of introductory online courses at the Faculty meant I was quite prepared for the virtual classroom setting. That being said, this shift in ones surroundings was indeed surprising.  

Being a commuter student, this change was admittedly rather welcome. To avoid rush hours and wind chills between home and campus for the second half of the Winter semester was an unexpected blessing in the present circumstances. The faculty and administration were rather prompt in addressing us about the changes that were about to take place. In light of the various final papers and deadlines, I recall the commute to campus to hoard up on library books before the closure. While many online resources have been made accessible to us by the university, there were still a few books that I needed to check out. My transit experience on March 16th was interesting, insofar as that, during what would have been an otherwise crowded morning commute, the TTC subways ran almost barren to the bones. Strategically planning my time between the Emmanuel College and John. M. Kelly libraries, I managed to bring home some 12 books. The ride home was eerie in that many at Union Station were homeboundluggage and neck pillow-clad, with no return date in sight.  

The remaining four weeks of classes flew by and we all seemed to adjust to our Zoom meetings, despite technical difficulties with Internet crashes at home, screen shares and background noises. Given the limited access to research materials, my professors graciously agreed to deadline extensions, along with concessions to primary sources. Throughout my undergraduate years, the Kelly Library gave witness to my eremitic lifestyle as each semester concluded. This time, however, my family got to experience my two weeks as a recluse. Truth be told, I rose with Christ on Easter Sunday as I submitted my final research paper.  

The whole world has more or less been brought to a halt. Each one of us plays a crucial part in maintaining normalcy, and the community at St. Mike’s has helped me adjust to this new normal, especially during the most stressful time of the semester. Currently, I am awaiting the commencement of online courses in the summer. Until then, I am passing time by engaging in some leisure reading, creative writing, family prayer, card games and such. As Archbishop Cardinal Collins often mentions in his daily homilies, let us continue to demonstrate our “love for our neighbour” in these days of keeping to our homes. May we find inspiration in the most trivial of things, all the while getting a step closer in knowing ourselves and emerge out of this phase as finer human beings.  


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Although the COVID-19 pandemic drew life on campus to an early close, St. Michael’s students continued to enrich the community with their talents and service as their coursework and extra-curricular activities transitioned to online platforms. 

This year’s Student Life Leadership Awards recognize the outstanding extra-curricular contributions to the University and the St. Michael’s community as a whole during a particularly challenging time.  

An award graphic for Emily Villani, recipient of the Student Life Award for Leadership in the Arts

New awards recognizing Service in Student Mental and Physical WellbeingLeadership in Community and Cultural Development, and Outstanding Contributions to Social Justice Initiatives were introduced in 2020 to highlight areas of distinct interest to St. Michael’s students, staff and faculty.  

Several awards recognize creative initiatives that are a vibrant part of campus life, including student publications and the artsThe theatre is a space for people of all different experiences and backgrounds to come together and work to create something beautiful,” says third-year student Emily Villani. As Artistic Director for SMC TroubadoursVillani oversaw and performed in theatrical productions, including a recent production of Guys and Dolls 

Other awards recognize the work of students to foster inclusion, social justice, and a deep sense of welcome major goal for Sonakshi Sharma, a third-year student and Executive member of the Indian Students’ Society at U of T, is to help international students find more familiar and comfortable spaces in campus community—especially in the area of cultural representation. “I believe building such a community is important for students in order to have a comprehensive university experience,” says Sharma.   

An award graphic for Sonakshi Sharma, recipient of the Student Life Award for Leadership in Community and Cultural Development

Athletics, a longstanding area of achievement and an important part of the education of the whole person at St. Michael’s, is another area in which students are being recognized for leadership and service to their peers. “Intramurals are an incredible foundation for a social and athletic life on campus!” says Mika Embury, fourth-year student and recipient of the Mary H. Lee Award for Leadership in Women’s Sports.  

Student Life Associate Emma Graham describes the recipients as “leaders who actively encourage their peers to get involved, follow their dreams, and build up others.” Their influence has helped other students at the college become active participants in community life outside the classroom. Each award is peer-nominated, which means that each recipient is being recognized not only by the College, but by fellow students who benefited from their service. 

The full list of the 2020 Student Life Leadership Awards can be found below, with more details available on Facebook 

  • Award for Leadership in the Arts: Emily Villani 
  • Award for Leadership in Community and Cultural Development: Sonakshi Sharma 
  • Award for Outstanding Contribution to Social Justice Initiatives: Adam Da Costa Gomes 
  • Award for Excellence in Peer Mentorship: Sam Gruppuso 
  • Award for Outstanding Exhibition of College Spirit and Pride: Simran Dhir 
  • Award for Service in Student Mental and Physical Wellbeing: Christeen Salik 
  • Award for Leadership in Student Publications: Ian Hauber 
  • Award for Male Athlete of the Year: Victor Wakelin 
  • Sr. Kathleen Heffron Award for Female Athlete of the Year: Elaine Pityn 
  • Mary H. Lee Award for Leadership in Women’s Sports: Mika Embury 
  • Kevin Fawcett Award for Freshman Athlete of the Year: Eloïse Alarie 

Fr. Gustave Noel Ineza, OP, is a doctoral student at St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology. Born and raised in Rwanda, he lived through the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and went into exile for a month in what was then Zaire. His family left the refugee camps and returned to Rwanda after three members of his family developed cholera. He studied in the minor seminary and joined the Dominican Order in 2002. He studied Philosophy in Burundi, and Theology in South Africa (SJTI/Pietermaritzburg) and the UK (Blackfriars/Oxford). Ordained in 2014, he worked for Domuni (www.domuni.eu) and was a chaplain to university and high school students. In 2018, he came to Canada to pursue studies in Christian-Muslim dialogue. He is currently reading on post-colonial approaches to the taxonomies assigned to religious traditions (Muslims and Christians) by colonial powers in Rwanda.


In Solidarity with the Suffering

Image shows a person cupping their hands against the sky, creating the illusion that they are holding the setting sun

When it was announced in Canada that COVID-19 was knocking at the door, multitudes rushed to shopping malls to buy as many provisions as they could, to be “prepared” for the pandemic. One item in particular was a major target of the worried crowds: toilet paper. Looking at images of people with trolleys full of toilet paper, one thought came to mind: “People are planning to eat a lot.”

I was reluctant to write this post because it is not easy to introduce a distressing subject in the middle of a global lockdown caused by a pandemic. It would be adding distress to distress. However, anyone interested in humanitarian crises has to know that disasters differ in intensity.

As I write this reflection on April 7, the whole world has started commemorating the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, one of the worst genocides of the history of the world. Twenty-six years ago, in 100 days, about a million people died in a genocide, yet the rest of the world seemed disinterested by — or unaware of — what was happening there. Nations sent contingents of soldiers to Rwanda to remove their citizens from what the world knew to be genocide while at the same time trying to ignore the plight of the Tutsi for reasons no one has yet managed to logically explain to me.

After the genocide, masses of Rwandans moved to what was then Zaire – now, the Democratic Republic of Congo – seeking refuge. For a couple of weeks, we thought the world did not know that Rwanda existed. I was 11 years old.

Today, as the world closes in on itself to fight a ruthless pandemic, it is easy to forget there were ongoing crises around the world before COVID-19. No one forgot, I suppose, that Syria was in the middle of a bloody war, that Yemen never saw the end of another almost internationally ignored horrific conflict.

As a young child in Rwanda during the genocide, I would spend the day looking up at the sky to see if planes would bring United Nations troops. A few months later, in the refugee camps, I saw UN workers and knew we would get food soon if cholera did not first decimate my family, as three members were already infected. There was hope because, at that age, I knew that there were not so many crises going on in the world. I can imagine there is nothing as frightening as knowing that you may die soon of hunger or be killed, and that no one will even know about it because the whole world is afraid of something you consider a minor threat to you in light of all the other challenges and threats you face. Today, the UN relief agency UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations are reminding people that crises are still happening around the world and that charitable people should not forget those who are hungry, in refugee camps,or being persecuted because they belong to minorities.

Charity tables set up in Cairo during Ramadan
Charity tables in Cairo. Photo by Otto J. Simon / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Consider this pandemic as experienced by poverty-stricken families in extremely poor countries. After the confinement began in Canada, it took only a couple of days to have African countries announce total lockdowns. In most African countries, a lockdown means staying inside your compound-house, your hut, or just in a small house that hosts more than eight people. A five-week confinement without a job for a family of five is nothing less than a death sentence. Fortunately, some countries have started distributing food, but very few people manage to get it. Worse, all those without homes and who had relied on charitable people’s provisions will have to find other means to feed their families. The city of Cairo has announced that the famous charity tables (mawa’ed al rahman) that adorn the streets during Ramadan for poor people to eat after a day of fasting were not going to be set this year. Having been in Cairo during the 2012 Ramadan month and having shared food at Al Abbasiah and Midan Al Tahrir with people from all strata of society, I understand how this will impact poor communities.

It would be inconsiderate to end without mentioning another shared worry for African people around the world. Two French doctors, Dr. Jean-Paul Mira, head of the Intensive Medicine and Intensive Care units at Cochin Hospital, and Professor Camille Locht, director of research at INSERM, discussed on a French talk show the plausibility of testing COVID-19 vaccines on the African continent. The suggestion raised an outcry from many who did not grasp there are many other places where testing is in progress. The overall perception from both ordinary people and many African celebrities, including the WHO’s Director-General Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was that Africa would once again be that continent where people are considered lab-rats, where foreign countries go to test their unsure economic and political theories, drugs, or just to dump hazardous industrial wastes. The WHO Director-General called those French doctors’ attitudes a colonial hangover. Whatever intention those doctors had, their statements were inappropriate enough to worry an entire continent and all those who care for its inhabitants. Would that mean that when a vaccine is finally discovered African countries will still need to overcome trust issues before making it available to their people?

As we struggle to accommodate the strenuous new routines caused by home confinement, let us think of all those dealing with COVID-19 while facing greater and deadlier calamities. May solidarity with those who suffer be the major lesson we may take from these distressing times.


Read other InsightOut posts.

Seven members of the Class of 2020 have received Student Leadership Awards from the University of Toronto for their outstanding extra-curricular contributions to the College and the university as a whole. Over their university careers, these students have organized St. Michael’s Orientation, served as dons and mentors, edited journals, founded clubs, coached intramural teams, held Student Government positions, and much more.

St. Michael’s congratulates:

Michelle De Pol – coordinated the St. Michael’s Mentorship Program, served in several leadership roles for St. Michael’s Orientation, and was Co-Founder and President of Cards for Humanity, a club serving homeless youth.

Samuel Vincent Gearing – very active in Student Life as a Residence Don and Campus Ministry Student Leader, and served as Vice President, Religious and Community Affairs for the St. Michael’s College Student Union.

Bridget Carroll Hager – Editor of Garm Lu, a Celtic Studies journal, and was also a Commuter Don.

Robin Martin – Vice President and then President of the Women and Gender Studies Student Union, Crisis Analyst and then Specialized Agency Director for UofT’s Model United Nations conferences, and served in multiple leadership roles for St. Michael’s Orientation.

Charlie Mitchell – Residence Don for three years, a St. Mike’s Intramural Basketball Coach, and the President of the American Culture Club.

Paul Nunez – founded and served as President of St. Mike’s Wellness Club, and was also a St. Michael’s Orientation Marshal.

Anna Zappone – coordinated St. Michael’s Orientation in 2019 after supporting the event in other leadership roles in prior years; she also served as Vice President, Communications for the St. Michael’s College Student Union.

Established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) and the Division of University Advancement, the University of Toronto Student Leadership Awards (formerly the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards) recognize students who have made outstanding extra-curricular contributions to their college, faculty or school, or to the university as a whole.

Note: This article was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. While athletics are central to St. Michael’s, current social distancing measures have put this part of campus life on hold. 


St. Michael's student athlete Anna Licht serves during a Varsity Blues volleyball match.
St. Michael’s student athlete Anna Licht serves during a Varsity Blues volleyball match. Licht is one of the Varsity Blues Silver T Award winners for 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Varsity Blues organization.)

Central to St. Michael’s since its founding, athletics continues to reflect our commitment to educating the whole person

A new skating rink in the quad is the latest reminder that athletics matter to the University of St. Michael’s College. Walk through campus and you’ll see a pick-up game of basketball or a quick toss of a Frisbee outside the COOP. Intra-mural teams are thriving, and we currently are home to 98 varsity athletes, competing in 21 different sports.

It’s no accident that St. Mike’s has a storied history of athletics. One of our guiding principles has always been that supporting athletics reflects a commitment to the formation of the whole person, with the physical rigours of the playing field complementing the intellectual rigours of the classroom.

Athletics also serve as a major source of community and school spirit, whether students are involved primarily with an intramural team or with a nationally ranked Varsity Blues squad. Participation offers a way to develop gifts shared in community, an expression of our calling to service.

A football team poses for a photo in this image from the St. Michael's college archive.

St. Michael’s has long been a sports powerhouse. As noted in Edward J. Monahan’s (USMC Class of 1949) Teach Me Goodness, Truth and Knowledge: A History of St. Michael’s College, for example, in the first half of the 20th century, St. Mike’s rose to become a regional centre of collegiate athletics. We even had Basilians competing for St. Mike’s: one notable example is Father David Bauer, who helped a 1945 SMC team win the Memorial Cup, and who gave up a career in the NHL to join the priesthood. He later coached Canada’s Olympic hockey team, and was admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously in 1988.

Today, a whopping 33 members of this year’s Varsity Blues Football team call St. Mike’s home, attracted by our reputation for being a supportive community aware of the importance of athletics. We can say with confidence that St. Mike’s is the college of choice for athletically minded students.

My introduction to St. Mike’s athletics came when I moved into residence here as a student in 1995. In May of that year I flew to the Big Smoke from Victoria B.C. to find a place to live for the Fall. I knew only one person in Toronto, a former high school classmate named Laura. She nixed my idea of searching off-campus, telling me to look for a dorm. When I asked for a recommendation, she said: “St. Mike’s. It’s Catholic, it’s a big sports college and it’s right across the street.” The prospect of living close to my only Toronto friend became even more appealing after meeting her roommate, a beautiful Victoria College student to whom I’ve now been married for the past 18 years, but I digress.

Women play football on campus in this archival image from the early 1970s.

I soon discovered why Laura referred to St. Mike’s as a “big sports college.” The residence houses all competed for the coveted Dean’s Cup sports trophy, the College’s teams were perennial contenders in U of T’s intramural leagues, and St. Mike’s was the only college to have its own fully stocked weight room.

One day, as I chatted with housemates in the Canada Room, one of the dons dropped by to say he’d been asked to recruit players for the annual ‘alumni vs students’ football game. Our group didn’t ask many follow-up questions because it sounded like the perfect way to spend a Fall afternoon.

But it wasn’t until I played in that Boozer Brown game in mid-October that I realized how deep the sports roots ran at St. Mike’s. U of T’s football program had run from 1895 to 1994, for example, and during that 100-year span, St. Mike’s had won the Mulock Cup 12 times, including ‘back-to-back-to-back’ victories the final three years. No wonder former players were so eager to relive their glory days.

The alumni team was composed of players from a now-defunct intra-mural league that used to play tackle football. Due to liability issues the tackle program had folded a couple years prior, but the alumni weren’t about to let their annual tradition die with the league. These guys were premier athletes in their day and this game was an excuse to return to their alma mater and prove they hadn’t lost a step.

An archival image of a football game in progress at St. Michael's.

As our respective squads began running drills, I sized up the competition. Some looked older than my father while others appeared younger than my then-25-year-old self. St. Mike’s jerseys of uncertain vintage were worn proudly but loosely due to the absence of pads, and a few of the old-timers brought their families along, lending a homecoming-type feel. Led by the larger-than-life booster Phil Giroday (USMC Class of 1977), our teams huddled up to go over the rules, flip the ceremonial coin and then the 27th installment of the Boozer Brown got under way.

It was obvious the alumni had come to play. I was stunned to hear their quarter-back calling plays – actual football plays like, “red dog five hook left” and “blue right 30 pull trap.” The ragtag group our dons had assembled possessed lots of talent but the coordinated approach of the alumni, coupled with the ‘creative officiating’ of former coach Lex Byrd, made it clear the alumni would be leaving with bragging rights. When the final whistle blew, the alumni had six touchdowns and the students four; you would have thought they’d won the lottery. (Lex, by the way, had coached the St. Mike’s team from 1978 to1993 and had led the team to an astonishing eight Mulock Cup championships.)

While reliving highlights at a post-game BBQ with the victors, I learned that the alumni-student game had been taking place since 1968. It was named after Bud “Boozer” Brown, a student instrumental in St. Mike’s winning its first football championship in 1930, the coveted Mulock Cup. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have ended up at a college tailor-made for sports-minded students like me.

A St. Michael's women's basketball player passes the ball during a game in 1982.

I attended the Boozer Brown again the following year as a student and then in 1998, St. Mike’s hired me as their new Dean of Men, involving me in the game in a new way. By this point, the intramural football program had folded, and some wondered how we’d be able to keep the alumni game going. But U of T began awarding the Mulock Cup to the winner of its intramural rugby program and by the mid-2000’s, SMC’s team was a powerhouse, regularly competing for the championship. I was very involved with the team back then and would always explain the historic connection between the football and rugby programs — and would inform our players it was their duty to participate in the annual Boozer Brown game!

Eventually, the intramural rugby league was discontinued, and it was once again time to re-imagine how best to keep the spirit of the Boozer Brown game alive. It was alumni athletes who came up with a great way to create a new athletics tradition. In the summer of 2019, a group of alumni approached USMC’s Advancement Office wanting to create two scholarships, male and female, to honour Lex, their former coach.

We decided to morph our annual alumni-versus-student game into an annual alumni-plus-student reception for the new award. The event would still give our football heroes the chance to connect with their teammates, but a more inclusive event would mean their ranks could be joined by all the great athletes, women and men, who’d competed for St. Mike’s over the years.

On November 30, 2019, SMC hosted the inaugural Boozer Brown Athletics Reception in Charbonnel Lounge. In addition to our esteemed alumni, we had a great turnout from our current crop of varsity athletes, all of whom were introduced by name in President Sylvester’s remarks. The women’s recipient of the initial Lex Byrd scholarship was Varsity Blues hockey forward Melissa Bieman, who is currently studying History and Philosophy. She came to the reception directly from Varsity Arena, where the Blues had just defeated Waterloo to move into first place in the OUA standings. Varsity Blues wide receiver Liam Cousineau, a 1st-year student whose goal is a double major in Political Science and International Relations, was the men’s recipient.

Attendees had an opportunity to reminisce about the past as well as stoke excitement for the future. While there may no longer be an alumni-student football game happening on the northeast corner of the campus, rest assured that sports are alive and well—and thriving!—at St. Mike’s.


By Duane Rendle, Dean of Students

From St. Michael’s Magazine: Winter 2020

Photos courtesy of the University of St. Michael’s College Archive. Check out more photos of athletics at St. Mike’s here:  

St. Michael's student athlete Anna Licht poses for a photo on the St. Michael's campus.
St. Michael’s student and UofT Varsity Blues athlete Anna Licht balances athletic achievement and academic performance.

Even by UofT’s challenging standards, Anna Licht is busy. The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team captain turns up for practice five days a week throughout the long season, which stretches from October to mid-March. A three-time OUA East all-star, she is a top performer in weekend games against elite opponents. Add to this a full class schedule including complicated laboratory work in cell biology, and it becomes difficult to imagine how the 5th-year Health and Disease specialist, Environment and Health major, and Physiology minor manages it all – but she does.

Her secret? The same thing that makes her so well suited to the middle blocker position on the Blues team: finesse.

Volleyball, Licht says, “is so different from other sports. It’s not a full physical exertion; it’s more that super fine control while you’re fully exerting yourself.” Controlled power is the name of the game, and as a middle and a student studying medical science both, Licht has found it essential to her success both on and off the court.

Licht made the decision to come to UofT after being recruited by a Blues coach who refereed one of her high school games. Staying in Toronto kept her close to her parents and brothers, an important factor for a family that had moved internationally multiple times during her childhood before settling permanently in Toronto in 2006.

Student athlete Anna Licht blocks at the net during a match.
Licht, a team captain, finds the middle position to demand finesse and constant control. (Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.)

Once the choice to come to UofT was made, the decision to choose St. Michael’s naturally followed. Licht’s older brother Johann had played for the Blues men’s volleyball team while himself a student at St. Michael’s. An accomplished organist, he even plays the organ for the TV Mass program that was filmed on campus at St. Basil’s Collegiate Church while he was a student.

Licht decided to live in residence at St. Michael’s after hearing that many varsity athletes found a special community outside of practice and competition there. “The friendships I built that first year [in residence] are some of the strongest I have through university to this day,” she says, mentioning her first-year don in Sorbara Hall as someone who left an important impression on her. The balance of community at St. Mike’s and on the Varsity Blues team “was huge, and made my first year extremely enjoyable.”

It was also an exciting first year for her on the UofT squad: during the 2015-2016 season the Blues team won the first national title of its history. This year, the #1-ranked team in the OUA is hoping for a repeat, and after capitalizing on their top-seeded playoffs berth last weekend, the odds are good for a strong showing. Their postseason continues this Friday in an OUA Final Four match against the Western Mustangs.

Johann, Martin, Anna, and Benedikt Licht sit together in a locker room during a video.
While Licht followed her older brother Johann (left) to St. Michael’s, her younger brothers Benedikt (second from left) and Martin (right) also came to the University of Toronto. All four siblings play or have played for the Varsity Blues volleyball teams. Watch a Varsity Blues video about the Licht volleyball dynasty at UofT.

Through five years of hard work, Varsity Blues women’s volleyball Head Coach Kristine Drakich says, Licht “has grown into a wonderful leader on our team” who has a remarkable “ability to be fully invested in each moment and to really be focused on the task at hand.” This is the “super-fine control” Licht says the middle blocker position requires. Every moment against the net requires an almost virtuosic level of finesse and focus.

The postseason presents special challenges to athletes on Varsity Blues squads. If Licht’s team goes to the national tournament, for instance, it will require missing at least three days of class. “Getting on top of assignments ahead of time, planning ahead, and talking to faculties and profs” are all necessary for reducing postseason-related academic stress, she says. Thankfully, the Varsity Blues coaching staff and St. Michael’s Registrar’s Office alike provide ample support for students in Licht’s position.

Miranda Cheng, Assistant Registrar at St. Michael’s, finds Licht’s focus in spite of the pressure impressive. “Anna is a true student athlete!” she says. “She is taking a very demanding academic program along with her responsibilities as a varsity athlete. This speaks to her dedication.”

While her athletic career won’t end with the close of the Varsity Blues season – she will play for the Canadian national beach volleyball team after she graduates – Licht ultimately hopes to work in the healthcare field. Her current research project in the lab is on “fungal infections of epithelial cells.”

Student athlete Anna Licht sits at a table outside the Office of the Registrar at St. Michael's.
Licht has valued the help she’s received from the St. Michael’s Registrar’s Office to balance her academic and athletic commitments.

“What really solidifies learning is the hands-on and theoretical aspects” together, she says, describing the appeal of her lab work and also echoing a key theme of education at St. Mike’s. Like every part of her life, Licht holds the theoretical and practical elements in perfect balance, just as she balances her athletic achievements with her academic work. Over the past five years of her student life, the one change she’s noticed in herself is a growing confidence in what she can do.

As her coaches, professors, and peers would attest, that confidence is certainly justified.

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team will take the court in OUA Final Four competition against the Western Mustangs at the Goldring Centre Kimel Family Field House at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 6. Fans can cheer on the Blues and catch updates in real time at the Varsity Blues Twitter account, and watch the match live at OUA TV.

President David Sylvester is pleased to announce the establishment of the Comper Professorship in Medieval Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. This newly endowed position has been made possible by a foundational investment by St. Michael’s alumnus, Dr. Tony Comper, C.M., L.LD. (Hon). Dr. Sylvester is also delighted to announce that Dr. Alison More is appointed the inaugural holder of the Comper Professorship. Dr. More is a highly regarded Latinist whose research investigates the intersections of social and religious culture in late-medieval Northern Europe.

A portrait of Dr. Tony Comper
Dr. Tony Comper

The donation reflects Dr. Comper’s firm belief that studying the humanities offers invaluable benefits both personally and professionally – and that St. Michael’s is on the right path with its renewal as a vibrant centre of undergraduate education at U of T. “Studying liberal arts, in particular literature, provides significant insight into human nature; (it offers) essential knowledge in interpersonal skills, the most important skill for success in business and indeed in life,” says Dr. Comper, who is the retired President and CEO of BMO Financial Group.

Dr. Comper recently returned to campus to take courses in Medieval Studies, a Faculty of Arts and Science undergraduate program sponsored by the University of St. Michael’s College that is available to all students in Arts and Science at the University of Toronto. This has given the philanthropist a front-row seat for the revitalization of Arts and Science undergraduate programs sponsored by St. Michael’s. Pleased with what he has seen, he has offered the university a unique hybrid investment in teaching by funding this position. The gift is comprised of a multi-million dollar bequest, and the promise of annual funding, effective immediately, in the intervening years to cover salary and benefits. This faculty position is one of six that St. Michael’s implemented in 2017 as part of its focus on teaching excellence in the four undergraduate programs it sponsors: Book and Media Studies, Christianity and Culture, Celtic Studies, and Medieval Studies.

A headshot of Dr. Alison More.
Dr. Alison More

Dr. Alison More came to the College from the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent where she designed and taught core courses on Latin and palaeography. She and the other assistant professors who joined the St. Michael’s community and broader University of Toronto three years ago have become a vital part of social and academic renewal. They have enhanced students’ learning experience through their own engaged and creative teaching and research interests and have contributed a great deal to the culture and community of the College beyond the classroom by supporting student-run initiatives and presenting public lectures for alumni. The Comper gift is creating great excitement on campus, as it represents the first step in the campaign to ensure the professorships remain permanent.

“This generous gift is an extraordinary demonstration of the confidence in the renaissance under way at St. Michael’s,” says Dr. David Sylvester, President and Vice-Chancellor. “It’s also a model of funding for other professorships, and an ideal example of how St. Mike’s continues to renew itself through endowed legacy positions. We’re thrilled that an outstanding philanthropist like Dr. Comper has demonstrated his dedication to his alma mater in this way.”

“St. Michael’s and the wider U of T share a long tradition of international excellence in the field of Medieval Studies,” says Professor Meric Gertler, President of the University of Toronto. “Dr. Tony Comper’s wonderful gift will help to strengthen that tradition for future generations, and to accelerate the renewal of undergraduate education at the College. His generosity also builds on his long record of leadership in the University community, including his previous service as Chair of U of T’s Governing Council, as well as his and his late wife Elizabeth’s support for the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. We applaud this latest contribution to our collective success.”

About Medieval Studies at The University of St. Michaels College

With its strong combination of intensive Latin study alongside explorations of theology, literature, history, culture, and manuscripts, Medieval Studies invites students not just to study the Middle Ages, but instead to join a great tradition of inquiry and discovery enlivened by the world-renowned professors who have taught Medieval Studies at St. Michael’s over the years, including Étienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Msgr. Edward Synan, Sr. Frances Nims, IBVM, Sr. Mary Arthur Knowlton, CSJ, and Colin Chase.

The University of St. Michael’s College has a long tradition of teaching and research in medieval disciplines and its library has rich resources in the field. The PIMS library, which is housed in the John M. Kelly Library, includes rare, non-circulating books and draws scholars from around the world. The University of St. Michael’s College recently signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding with PIMS and the University of Toronto recommitting to collaborative work in research, teaching and publication.

For more information, please contact:

usmc.communications@utoronto.ca

(416) 926-2267

Principal Randy Boyagoda is happy to offer credit for St. Mike’s new first-term check-in program where it’s due: with the students themselves.

The program, which offers students the opportunity to be matched up with professors to chat about adjusting to university life, is the result of an idea brought to the Principal’s Office by SMCSU, St. Mike’s student union.

With concerns over student mental health continuing to make headlines across the country, touching everyone from parents and professors to roommates and friends, Professor Boyagoda says he was pleased when a group of students approached him last spring to ask what St. Mike’s was doing to promote mental health.

“A delegation from the Student Life committee met with me and wanted to know what was being done locally,” he recalls. “They asked what St. Mike’s could do to respond. The challenge came from students.”

In ensuing discussions about what causes students worry or distress, one of the issues that came to light was students’ anxiety over meeting with professors, an experience that is pretty much unavoidable over the course of four years of a post-secondary education.

“Students were telling us they felt intimidated. Our goal was the humanize the relationship,“ he says.

A photo of Dr. Felan Parker, Assistant Professor, Book & Media Studies.
Assistant Professor, Book & Media Studies Felan Parker met with new students as part of St. Mike’s first-year check-in program.

Working to overcome that challenge seemed like a good – and feasible – first step, and so the first-year check-in idea took root with the goal of normalizing professor-student meetings.

A quick survey of professors – both at St. Mike’s as well as fellows associated with St. Mike’s – indicated a great willingness to help, and the program was launched to success this past fall. The University of Toronto has taken notice of the program and is considering broader applications, Professor Boyagoda notes.

“This program is not about course advising. It is totally voluntary, and student-centred,” he says.

First-year student Lisa-marie Lofty took advantage of the new program, and says she found the opportunity to chat with Dr. Felan Parker helpful as she adjusted to life at St. Mike’s.

“We met early in the semester as I was still thinking about courses and we had a friendly conversation about things to consider as the year went on,” she recalled.

As someone who had attended boarding school four hours outside of Nairobi and was drawn to U of T in part because of the appeal of a big city, it was nice, once here, to have another friendly face to relate to, especially as Dr. Parker told her a bit about his own experiences as a student.

Mathematics professor and St. Mike’s fellow Dr. Mary Pugh also participated in the program after a student contacted her. She says the main message she conveyed was that the student could contact her at any time.

The program “gives students access to a disinterested/non-judgmental person who’s well-familiar with the Faculty of Arts & Science and its classes and programs; someone who can treat them like a human and offer support/advice if needed,” Dr. Pugh says.

As helpful as the program is proving to be for students, it is also proving to be educational for professors as well.

St. Michael’s wellness counsellor Nicole LeBlanc offers one-on-one wellness counselling to USMC students.

“Because I usually teach upper-year courses, I haven’t had much interaction with first-year students,” says Dr. Parker, who teaches in St. Mike’s Book and Media Studies program. “Contrary to popular myth, I’ve found that they are the opposite of entitled, frequently apologizing for asking for help and uncertain of what kind of support is available. My hope is that the first-year check-ins, along with other initiatives like the first-year foundations seminars, will help show students that we are here to help.”

Social worker Nicole LeBlanc, St. Mike’s in-house wellness counsellor, says first-year students can experience anxiety for a number of reasons. Everything from worry over marks and making friends through to loneliness and being far from home can make students feel anxious or depressed – or both.

“Students face a lot of pressure these days, whether it’s competition to get into graduate programs or wanting to please parents, or worry over expenses. Add in relational issues – the rules of engagement over dating and friendships, for example – and it can be very challenging,” she says. “Many students are going from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a very big pond, no longer having the top marks or profile they might have had in high school. It’s a shock to the system.”

“Be open and honest,” she says when asked what others can do to help. “Tell the person that you notice a change, and let them know that you care. You can suggest counselling or a doctor. Destigmatizing mental illness is very important.”

LeBlanc offers one-on-one counselling for St. Michael’s students, and notes that all it takes is an email or call to set up an initial appointment with her. She finds that a significant part of her role is letting students know what services are available, whether it’s academic help via the writing centre or learning strategist, social support from places like the Centre for International Experience, a referral to the Health and Wellness Centre at the University of Toronto for medical issues, or friendly encouragement to take advantage of on-campus activities offered through St. Mike’s Student Life.


If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.
St. Mike's student athlete Kyle Potts stands in front of Brennan Hall on campus.
St. Michael’s student and rookie forward for Varsity Blues men’s hockey Kyle Potts has become an important part of the team’s power play.

As the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team went on a 14-game winning streak this winter, first-year St. Mike’s student athlete Kyle Potts was beginning to come into his own. The rookie forward and Ontario Hockey League alumnus has become a power play asset for the Blues, scoring the fourth goal during their hard-fought 6-5 win against the Ryerson Rams that kicked off Toronto’s remarkable winning streak, a feat they last accomplished in the 1973-1974 season.

“It was a wild game with five lead changes,” the Oakville native says. The overtime win provided a morale boost that propelled the team into a string of victories. Potts added to the team’s point tally in six of those games, contributing the game-winning goal in a 6-2 win over the Brock Badgers. He notes, “I don’t think anyone really expected us to win 14 in a row.”

The Varsity Blues are now at the top of the Ontario University Athletics Western Conference standings; Potts considers the Queen’s Cup and a trip to nationals to be in reach, which could open a new chapter in the history of the Blues hockey program. The team won its last national title in 1984.

The prospect of becoming part of an athletic legacy is one of the things that originally attracted the Humanities major to St. Michael’s when he was considering the University of Toronto. “The history of hockey at St. Mike’s is what originally drew me,” Potts says. “I just knew it was the right place for me.”

The Double Blue hockey tradition at St. Michael’s goes back to the early days of the institution, when Basilian priests could be found on the ice coaching and competing with students. With a lineage that includes Hockey Hall of Fame inductees and Olympic team coaches, hockey at St. Michael’s has always been a strong source of community for student athletes, and continues to provide a firm grounding for those who are new to university.

St. Michael's student athlete and Varsity Blues Men's Hockey forward Kyle Potts approaches the goal during a game against the Ryerson Rams.
During a hard-fought 6-4 win against the Ryerson Rams, Potts helped to catalyze the Blues’ 14-game winning streak this winter. Photo courtesy of the Varsity Blues.

“It’s like a brotherhood,” Potts says of the Varsity Blues team, which includes fellow St. Michael’s students Curtis Harvey and Frederic Foulem. “We all stick up for each other.”

Potts made his transition to university several years later than most U of T students, as he played for three years in the OHL after graduating from high school. He also participated in the New York Rangers training camp in September 2018.

Managing a full load of classes in addition to a rigorous six-day-a-week practice schedule has presented challenges beyond the ones Potts knew from his life in the Junior Hockey system. He knew support would be important in order for him to make a successful transition.

“I met with some of the people in the Registrar’s Office before enrolling at St. Mike’s,” he says, noting that they helped make his transition to university easy for him. “They seemed like a great support system for me, and it was the right fit.”

“Kyle, like many of our student athletes, faces the pressure of high-level performance in the athletic and academic arenas,” St. Michael’s Registrar and Director of Student Services Giancarlo Mazzanti says. In view of these pressures, the Registrar’s Office makes sure to connect student athletes like Potts with both an academic advisor and the Student Services team at St. Michael’s, which includes learning strategists, accessibility advisors and Campus Ministry.

Potts also credits Head Coach Ryan Medel, Assistant Coach Andrew Dovey and other members of the Men’s Hockey coaching staff for helping to integrate new players into both the team and university life more generally. “They do a really good job around the clock looking out for us and supporting us,” Potts says. “It’s good because it feels like you’re never alone.”

St. Michael's student athlete Kyle Potts poses for a photo in Brennan Hall at St. Mike's.
Potts appreciates the support he’s received from both his coaches and the Office of the Registrar at St. Mike’s during his transition to university life.

Despite the intense rigours of both OUA competition and university-level studies, Head Coach Medel considers Potts to have made a successful transition into his Varsity Blues career. “Kyle skates well for his size and has strong offensive instincts,” he says. “He’s solidified a spot on our power play and has been a big part of our success overall.”

So what’s next for the nationally ranked team? The big goal is securing the number-one seed in the OUA playoffs—the first step towards the Queen’s Cup and a berth at the nationals. As the number one team in the OUA West and fourth-place team in the country, this goal is well within reach. Potts considers the Queen’s Cup achievable as well.

“We play the right way as a team,” Potts says. “I think we have the team to go there.”

Following wins over the weekend against the Windsor Lancers and Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the 19-3 team will next face off against the Western Mustangs in Varsity Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. Fans can cheer on the Blues and catch updates in real time at the Varsity Blues Twitter account, and watch the game live at OUA TV.

As the sponsor of four interdisciplinary programs at the University of Toronto, St. Michael’s emphasizes the conversational and communal nature of scholarship. On January 25, students from the St. Michael’s community will convene a wide-ranging conversation about the nature and purpose of learning and education at the USMC Student Colloquium 2020: “Knowledge, Action, Wisdom: What is Learning?”

The showcase of student research is designed to be a learning opportunity for participants, who benefit from detailed faculty responses to their work as well as dialogue with peers and professors across disciplines. Past student-participants have gone on to present their work at academic conferences and other institutions.

Their presentations will also generate a larger conversation on campus about the ideals, purposes, values, and goals that animate the university community.

“Discovery at the University exceeds the boundaries of teaching and research,” says Principal Randy Boyagoda. “At St. Michael’s College, we are committed to providing students the opportunity to seek the truth for its own good and for the greater good, and this Colloquium represents a natural forum for our academic community to do as much.”

For this year’s Colloquium, students from both the undergraduate division and graduate Faculty of Theology will present on topics ranging from theories of scientific change to the novels of John Williams and Vladimir Nabokov and the future of Catholic education. Respondents include Faculty of Theology professor Jean-Pierre Fortin, Christianity and Culture professor Reid Locklin, and St. Michael’s Fellow Clifford Orwin.

The discussions that follow each presentation place their arguments in a much larger context. “We don’t want the presentations to exist in a bubble, but to be part of the conversation,” says co-organizer and Faculty of Theology postdoctoral fellow Dr. Tristan Sharp, who has helped organize three student colloquia at St. Mike’s.

Participants also have the opportunity to benefit from the perspectives of students outside their disciplines. Dr. Sharp mentions a particularly potent combination of papers two years ago, which paired a presentation on “digital resurrection” through social media applications with a paper about concerns around science and technology during the Enlightenment. Dr. Sharp finds cross-disciplinary encounters can spur students on to deeper questions in their own work.

“One of the new trends in thinking about research is to think about it as a certain kind of conversation. What a colloquium like this permits is an opportunity for students to begin to think of themselves as real partners in the conversation rather than merely observers of it,” says Dr. Locklin, who will be participating in the colloquium as a respondent for a third time. “By reflecting on the nature and purpose of education, students also can help us deliberate about the future of the University of St. Michael’s College.”

The USMC Student Colloquium 2020 will begin with coffee and snacks at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 25 in the Basilian Fathers Common Room. All are welcome, and no registration is necessary. Contact tristan.sharp@utoronto.ca with any questions.

With the city as its classroom, a new Media Ethics Lab at the University of St. Michael’s College will help students respond to the ethical issues being raised by rapidly emerging technologies and new communications practices.

Dr. Paolo Granata, Assistant Professor, Book and Media Studies speaks at the Media Ecology Association conference he chaired in June of 2019 at St. Michael's.
Dr. Paolo Granata, Assistant Professor, Book and Media Studies is the person behind a new Media Ethics Lab at St. Michael’s.

The project is spearheaded by Dr. Paolo Granata, an assistant professor in St. Michael’s Book and Media Studies program. The lab springs naturally from an international conference Dr. Granata chaired earlier this year on the University of Toronto campus in his capacity as the vice-president of the Media Ecology Association (MEA). The conference, Media Ethics: Human Ecology in a Connected World, had a goal of exploring new ethical perspectives and frameworks to help build a digital ecosystem that will serve society in healthy and productive ways.

Popularized by Neil Postman, the phrase media ecology is based on the work of Marshall McLuhan. For those unfamiliar with the term, the MEA’s website defines it as “the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs.”

The Media Ethics Lab, explains Dr. Granata, is built upon open research, allowing a diverse, collaborative body of stakeholders, from students to media activists and organizations, to freely share information on academic programs and research initiatives to foster ethical thinking in research, learning, and civic engagement.

Dr. Paolo Granata poses with student volunteers during the 2019 Media Ecology Association conference at St. Michael's.
A number of Dr. Granata’s students were involved as volunteers during the Media Ecology Association conference that took place at St. Michael’s in June of 2019.

He views the virtual Media Ethics Lab as both an intellectual and social space where interested parties can gather to study and discuss the ways in which digital culture impacts today’s society. He sees it as a sort of clearinghouse to help society stay ahead of the curve of emerging technologies and the ethical issues that can come with them.

For now, the lab will focus on three core areas: Digital Equity, or creating equitable, inclusive communities for all; the Digital City, focussed on designing people-centered information systems; and Digital Literacy, looking at helping communities develop skills to carry them forward into the 21st century.

“Private companies rule our digital world,” says Dr. Granata.  “If public policy is too slow, then the market will come first,” regardless of the impact new technologies have on ethical issues relating to matters such as privacy or artificial intelligence.

“The Media Ethics Lab is being started not only as a research project but also as an opportunity for experiential learning,” he adds, noting that some of the lab’s funding comes from the Advancing Teaching & Learning in Arts and Science (ATLAS) program at the University of Toronto.

And this is where the “city as classroom” idea, another McLuhan concept, will come into play. Experiential learning, explains Dr. Granata, means stepping outside of the confines of the university and into the community.

“Everything we do must be able to support, foster and advance and open an inclusive society, as we must not only work towards a healthier digital world, but a more equitable planet” and that requires students getting involved in civic engagement to listening to what a broad range of people think.

He cites as an example a recent workshop students participated in at Mozilla Foundation in Toronto, a global non-profit dedicated to keeping the Internet a global public resource that is open and accessible to all. Students were invited to provide suggestions and proposals, an empowering experience that allowed them to test-drive their ideas, giving the theoretical a practical turn.

An image of a charrette session in progress.
Charrette sessions are brainstorming meetings where participants respectfully discuss both benefits and challenges of the current digital media landscape.

Another form of engagement via the Media Ethics Lab will be periodic charrette sessions, a type of intensive brainstorming meetings where various stakeholders gather for respectful discussion identifying both the benefits and challenges of the current digital media landscape, all with an eye to making improvements.

“We want to foster and support positive change. All of the Media Ethics Lab’s efforts are also are done in support of the UN’s sustainable development goals.” Dr. Granata says.

Several students have already been involved, either in the conference end of this project, or now by on establishing the lab, including Kelsey Mcgillis, Alexandra Katz, and David Lee, all Book & Media Studies students at St. Mike’s as well as Robert Bertuzzi, PhD candidate at Western University, and Simon Digby, recently graduated at British Columbia’s Quest University.

Going forward, the lab will provide both training and mentorship to the students, encouraging them to participate in academic discussion and debate, necessary skills to carry forward if they are to help shape future policy or plan to teach.

Training and mentoring will be provided by Dr. Granata as amplification of his Media Ethics course. Some Book & Media students will serve as research assistants, conducting background reading in the field and participating in periodic discussions to come up with research questions and creating dossiers on their findings.

Working with Dr. Granata, they will post to the www.mediaethics.ca site, selecting both scholarly and non-scholarly publications, as well as a range of commentary to further the discussion. Students will engage in discovering funding opportunities and learn to draft grant proposals.

“The information environment is very much like the natural environment, and we need to take care of the information environment in much the same way we tend to ecological consciousness ,” says Dr. Granata. “The Internet is polluted but it should be a place where people can go and grow. Discussions on media ethics can help restore health.”

That care will require new thinking on how to stop corporate behaviour that is detrimental to society, he adds. Fines in response to privacy breaches, for example, simply don’t work because they aren’t large enough and, more importantly, don’t change behaviour, he says.

“To move forward, we need a humanistic approach to redefine the interface of humans and technology. It’s time to apply ethical thinking in the process of designing new technology.”

The Media Ethics Lab is a step in the right direction.

Rosemary Boissonneau will receive her MA in Theological Studies on Saturday, Nov. 9. It will be her third degree from St. Michael’s.

If there’s a club for people holding three degrees from St. Mike’s, move over and make space for the newest triple alumna, Rosemary Boissonneau.

Rosemary will be awarded her MA in Theological Studies from St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, having received a Master of Theological Studies in 2017, and a BA, with a major in French and a minor in English, in 1987.

“It was interesting when I came back to St. Mike’s (in 2011) because I was a mother and a teacher and my oldest was in university herself,” she recalls. “What I found was the same hospitality, the same sense of welcome as my undergrad days, but because the Faculty of Theology is small, the sense of community was more pronounced, the sense of Catholicity more informed.

“There’s a real sense of identity and, given the size of the place, it’s easy to get to know people.”

The faculty impressed her for multiple reasons. One of the first courses she took when she returned to school was with Old Testament scholar Dr. John McLaughlin, who, as Rosemary describes, “sets rigorous standards” not only for the content of work submitted but also in his expectations regarding the mechanics of papers. They were standards, she notes, that she applied to all subsequent work to ensure she was meeting the McLaughlin bar and making the most of her education.

There was the fact that classroom topics would be addressed from a range of viewpoints, whether it was one of feminist theology or eco-theology, as well as the expectation that students would use inclusive language as much as possible.

She had the opportunity to learn the workings of a university by serving a term as a student representative on the Collegium, St. Michael’s board overseeing governance of the university.

And then there was Eco-theology Faith and Practice, a week-long course held at the Villa St. Joseph Retreat Centre in Cobourg, taught by Sisters Linda Gregg and Mary Rowell, CSJ. The course confirmed Rosemary’s interest in eco-theology, and led her to studies with eco-theologian Dr. Dennis O’Hara at St. Michael’s Elliot Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology.

“I always cared about the environment but the summer after Laudato Si’ came out I saw Dennis on a panel, which included a talk about the need for climate activism, and since I was working half-time to complete my studies, I felt I had the time to get involved.”

Her goal was to combine spirituality with justice, and that led to her work with ClimateFast, a volunteer organization whose goal is to encourage politicians to take greater – and faster – action on climate change, as well as work with #FridaysforFuture, the group behind the student climate strike.

It also played a hand in her MTS thesis, entitled The Christological Symbolism of Water in the Gospel of John.

“Rosemary is not merely intelligent but also thoughtful and morally motivated. She cannot only grasp complex ideas but she reflects on them in order to integrate them with other knowledge that she has gained,” says Dr. O’Hara. “This invariably prompts her to action, to reframe her own life and encouraging others to follow suit in their own way. She will willingly pay the price for a right course of action. This is why most professors relish her presence in class.”

Reflecting on her time at the Faculty, Rosemary says it enhanced her worldview.

A deeper understanding of Scripture, for example, has “helped me articulate what I believe,” she notes.

It has also left her an even busier woman, because even though she’s back to teaching full-time, she’s finding it impossible to set aside the volunteering she started when she was working reduced hours to complete her studies.

As she talks about finding a way to balance the rest of her life with the possibility of returning to do doctoral work, there’s little doubt she’ll find a way.

TORONTO, Oct. 23 – Four projects demonstrating the impact of business and governments’ Social Responsibility and Sustainability practices on youth mental health, Truth and Reconciliation, municipal CSR engagement, and the real estate sector have earned nominations for the inaugural USMC President’s Capstone Project Award for the Graduate Certificate in CSR/Sustainability.

University of St. Michael's College President David Sylvester announces the new capstone project award at a new cohort training for the CSR program.
University of St. Michael’s College President David Sylvester announces the new capstone project award at a new cohort training for the CSR program.

The nominated projects are:

  • “Stand Up! For Youth Mental Health: Will Community Investment Pay Off for Family Channel?” by Nikki Byrne
  • “Indigenous Impact Report” by Alexandra Biron
  • “Bringing to Life a CSR/Sustainability Conversation for the City of Mississauga” by Andrea McLeod
  • “A CSR Strategy for the Canadian Real Estate Association” by Sarah Thirnbeck

“The Corporate Social Responsibility program is a vital offering at the University of St. Michael’s College, helping business and institutions focus on ways to become better – and more effective – global citizens, whether environmentally, socially, or economically,” says St. Michael’s President David Sylvester. “Program participants return to their workplaces as leaders engaged in social impact that benefits their employers and society. We want to celebrate these extraordinary changemakers with this new award.”

Thirty participants are accepted annually to St. Michael’s CSR program, which attracts students from across Canada and around the world from sectors as diverse as banking and manufacturing to education and NGOs. Participants meet on campus for three sessions over a 13-month period and connect online throughout the program, engaging in readings, webinars, videos, and shared reflections on ethical behaviours that create shared value that contributes to society’s wellbeing. The summative capstone assignment sees participants work with a mentor from their field on a project to apply knowledge, skills and perspectives learned or honed during the program.

Projects considered for the President’s Capstone Award must be distinguished in what they achieve or propose in one or more of the following criteria: 1) advancing social and/or environmental impact; 2) introducing innovative practices in social and environmental responsibility, sustainability, ESG and/or 3) significantly advancing social and environmental responsibility, sustainability and/or ESG to the creator’s organization.

Nominated projects were judged by a panel which includes Kaz Flinn, Chair, St. Michael’s advisory committee for the CSR program; Dr Stephen Scharper, associate professor at the School of the Environment and the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto; and Mary Ann Sayers, a graduate of the CSR program and senior business consultant at West Pine Consultants Inc. For more information, please see the Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability Website.

About the University of St. Michael’s College

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC), federated with the University of Toronto, is a Catholic institution of higher learning founded by the Congregation of St. Basil, whose motto, “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,” sets the tone for campus life. 

A Business Advisory Committee ensures the CSR program is relevant and experiential.  CSR/Sustainability Leaders representing a broad range of industries from insurance to mining, including: The Co-operators, BMO Financial,  Scotia Bank (ret.),  Vermillion Energy, Centerra Gold , ESG Ledger, Conference Board of Canada,  and Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto) provide advice and input.

For More Information Contact

Kathryn A. Cooper, Program Manager, Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Phone: (519) 855-9491

Website: https://www.csr-stmikes.ca/

A photo of SMC student Simran Dhir.
Second-year SMC student Simran Dhir came to St. Michael’s from Kolkata, India.

Each year, students come from all over the world to study at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. We caught up with one of those students to hear more about what life is like for our international student community, and how St. Mike’s becomes a home away from home.

Simran Dhir is a second-year student specializing in Pharmacology and Toxicology while minoring in Education and Society. She came to St. Mike’s from Kolkata, India, and is involved with the SMC Troubadours theatre club on campus. She was also a member of SMC One: The McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology, which features an in-course international learning experience to Silicon Valley.

1. What makes St. Michael’s a good fit for you as an international student?

St. Mike’s is one of the most welcoming places I have been to. Considering how diverse we are, it is impossible not to find people you relate to and who are going through the same things as you. Also, with the help of the super knowledgeable Dons and the Registrar who work so hard trying to ensure that the transition from high school to college goes smoothly, it is hard to not feel as if St. Mike’s is a home away from home.

2. What are some of the resources available at St. Michael’s that new international students should know about?

We have a really well-organized Mentorship program that pairs incoming students with seniors who share similar interests, and I think it’s a really nice way to get to know the workings of the University. Being situated right across from the Kelly Library comes with its perks, and each student has a personal librarian that can help them with their research assignments and writing. There are also study spaces that can be booked for group study sessions. We have a great support system created by our Dons, and we have an excellent team of Commuter Dons who are there for the students who do not live on campus. Our Student Union this year is super involved in campus life and is going out of their way to make students feel like they are being heard.

We also have a wide array of clubs that you can get involved in, like the St. Michael’s College Troubadours, which is the drama club at our college, or Clean SMC, which works on creating a more sustainable campus. The Registrar is there to help answer any questions you may have, and is one of the most important resources that you should take full advantage of. Last but not least, interact with the people around you! Your peers are the most underrated resource here and if you let yourself be open to the community around you, you will have some of the best years of your life here.

3. What is your favourite part of life as an international student at St. Michael’s?

The community is hands-down my favourite part of life here as an international student. St. Mike’s has so many events like the Dean’s Cup and Kelly’s Corner that provide students with the opportunity to get involved and which garner a sense of belonging. I strongly feel that the diversity present in this college makes us more inclusive, and that no matter where you are from, you will find the support and love you need here.

From shared hobbies and interests to causes and activism, the more than 20 clubs at St. Michael’s bring together students from across campus, neighbourhoods, and divisions to enrich the larger community. The annual SMCSU clubs fair and BBQ helps new students get a sense for just how many ways they can get involved in life at St. Michael’s, both supporting and being supported by their university home. Clubs are also a place many students form the friendships that they carry with them after graduation, and develop skills and experience that are directly applicable to their future careers.

“Clubs at St. Michael’s are an essential part of student life, and one of many ways students find opportunities to grow in their talents and passions outside the classroom at St. Mike’s,” says Student Life Associate Emma Graham. “They’re also a bedrock of community life here for both residential and commuter students.”

One of the newest St. Mike’s clubs is Clean SMC, an organization that strives to “educate and empower students to take action against environmental issues through the support of green initiatives and sustainability,” says club president and SMC student Juliano Baggieri. “[We] collaborate with St. Michael’s College and students to make environmentally friendly projects come to life.”

Clean SMC donated a "bee box" that was installed in the garden next to Carr Hall.
Clean SMC donated a “bee box” that was installed in the garden next to Carr Hall.

One of the recent collaborations between Clean SMC and St. Michael’s resulted in the installation of a “bee box” on campus next to Carr Hall. Donated by Clean SMC and coordinated and installed by the St. Michael’s Facilities team, the unit will provide a home to friendly, non-stinging pollinators that will help to brighten the many species of flowering plants that thrive on 11-acre St. Michael’s campus.

Baggieri believes that the growing interest in sustainability and the environment will attract even more new members and help the club achieve its three primary goals of “building awareness, increasing community involvement in sustainable activities and developing environmentally friendly projects.”

Other organizations directly support the work of the University’s four sponsored academic programs: Christianity and Culture, Mediaeval Studies, Celtic Studies, and Book and Media Studies.

Christianity and Culture Social Club co-presidents Maryrose Doucette and Lara Connell work to create deeper connections between students and professors in the program by hosting regular social events where students and professors mingle over refreshments and coffee.

“These clubs exist so that students can make the most of their university experience and genuinely enjoy a community of like-minded people outside of the classroom,” Doucette says.

Other student clubs support the larger St. Michael’s community by offering real-life experience that encourages students to share their gifts beyond the classroom.

“Reporting fresh, relevant stories that are both for students and by students” is the mandate of student paper The Mike, where generations of St. Michael’s students have developed their journalistic chops since the founding of the paper in 1947. Fourth-year SMC student Isabel Armiento oversees The Mike as this year’s Editor-in-Chief. This fall, she hopes to “bring together a larger network of St. Mike’s students and emphasize all facets of the newspaper,” noting that there are major opportunities for artistic and creative students to contribute their talents at every stage of the editorial process.

The 2019-2020 season of the SMC Troubadours.
The 2019-2020 season of the SMC Troubadours.

Many clubs also foster the development of creative gifts. Co-Executive Producers of SMC Troubadours Kaitlyn Wang and Simran Dhir are soliciting suggestions for musicals and student-written plays to showcase student talent at St. Mike’s.

“Students don’t need to have any previous experiences of the dramatic arts,” Wang and Dhir say. All levels are welcome in auditions for shows the club is putting on as part of the 2019–2020 season. This year’s diverse lineup includes “a student-written play, an alumni-written play, a musical, [and] a stand-up comedy show.”

Clubs at St. Michael’s are funded by the St. Michael’s College Student Union, which puts on the annual clubs fair and BBQ. Cianna Choo, SMCSU’s VP of Academics and the organizer of this year’s fair, says “clubs provide a creative outlet for students to explore interests outside of their programs.” She notes that in addition to helping the St. Michael’s community to flourish, club involvement helps students develop essential skills for the workplace in a context of collaboration.

The St. Michael’s community is richer for the variety of student organizations that create community, put on events, and further the extracurricular education of students at the college. More information on ways to get involved on campus is available on the St. Mike’s website.

Orientation Week 2019 at St. Michael’s will take place September 1 to 4. Register here! In the weeks leading up to Orientation, we’re posting quick interviews with each member of this year’s orientation coordinator team. The introduction to the series is available here.

Student Life Associate Emma Graham is a St. Michael’s grad and this year’s staff representative on the team. We asked Emma three questions over email about orientation and life at St. Mike’s.

  1. What part of Orientation 2019 are you most excited for?
Emma Graham (right) at her own orientation as a St. Michael's student.
Emma Graham (right) at her own orientation as a St. Michael’s student.

I am most excited for our Carnival and Academic Orientation! Students get to explore campus, play awesome carnival games and then meet some professors in their programs and some upper year students for Q&A sessions, all accompanied by a fantastic presentation by our very own Principal!
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  • The theme for this year’s orientation is “Into the Wild.” What’s that about?
    .
    Our Executive team chose this theme because it reflects the truth that entering University can be a terrifying and somewhat chaotic experience. However, the wild is also beautiful and full of diversity, so once you overcome your fears there is a wealth of opportunities for learning and growth. Our Orientation leaders and marshals will work hard all week to accompany students into the Wild so that by the time classes start they are well equipped to face it on their own!
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  • What are some resources new students should be aware of before they start the new year?
    .
    Some of the best parts about belonging to St. Mike’s are the friendships and amazing community life, but in addition to this our college offers fantastic resources such as a personal librarian assigned to each student, a robust peer mentorship program to help students acclimatize to university, a chaplaincy program that offers formation for students beyond their academics, and so many more! My greatest hope for our first years this year is that they seek out these resources before the weight of term work sets in, and that they will be able to rely on their community to support them on this wild adventure we call post-secondary education!
    .
  • Emma can’t wait to welcome you to campus in just a few short days. Get excited! The fun begins September 1. Remember to register for Orientation 2019 here if you haven’t already.

    Read other interviews in this series here:

    Anna Zappone Adam Gomes Taylor Medeiros Jessica Sorbara

    Orientation Week 2019 at St. Michael’s will take place September 1 to 4. Register here! In the weeks leading up to Orientation, we’re posting quick interviews with each member of this year’s orientation coordinator team. The introduction to the series is available here.

    Orientation Executive Officer of Leader Training and Management Jessica Sorbara is a third-year student at St. Mike’s double-majoring in English and History. We asked Jessica three questions over email about orientation and life at St. Mike’s.

    What part of Orientation 2019 are you most excited for?

    This year what i’m most excited for during Orientation Week is the tri-campus parade! This event takes place every year during Orientation, and is such an exciting event where we really get to show our SMC spirit. All the cheers and all the energy really get everyone so excited for the school year, which is such a great way to end the week.

    What is one of your best memories at SMC?

    My best memory at SMC is definitely participating in Orientation. Being an orientee, a leader, and now an Orientation Exec member has really shown me all the amazing things that the college has to offer its students. Being a part of such a welcoming community and seeing exactly how our planning and hard work affect the first-year students is so rewarding, and makes me so happy to be part of the St. Mike’s family.

    How can the Class of 2023 get involved on campus in the fall?

    There are so many ways that the Class of 2023 can get involved on campus in the fall! Firstly, participating in Orientation is a great way to get to know all the programs, clubs and people around campus. It can show students all the amazing groups at SMC, and will absolutely encourage everyone to be an active student in the community. Year round there are so many clubs that UofT and SMC have to offer students, so I would say to definitely attend the Clubs Fair during Orientation Week to see what clubs interest you!

    Jessica can’t wait to welcome you to campus this fall. If you haven’t already done so, register for Orientation 2019 at St. Michael’s here.

    Orientation Week 2019 at St. Michael’s will take place September 1 to 4. Register here! In the weeks leading up to Orientation, we’re posting quick interviews with each member of this year’s orientation coordinator team. The introduction to the series is available here.

    Orientation Executive Officer of Communications and Marketing Taylor Medeiros is a third-year student at St. Mike’s double-majoring in Statistics and Book and Media Studies with a minor in Mathematics. We asked Taylor three questions over email about orientation and life at St. Mike’s.

    1. What part of Orientation 2019 are you most excited for?
      I am most excited to be back on campus and see the hustle and bustle of Orientation Week! I am also super excited to participate in the Tri-Campus Parade again, and help first year students move into their residences.
    2. What is one of your best memories at SMC?
      It’s difficult to pick a single favourite memory at SMC, but since I should only pick one I’ll choose my own Orientation Week in 2017. I made the best friends I could possibly ask for. Orientation was incredibly fun and I really loved how comfortable it made me feel at St. Mike’s, on the UofT campus, and in Toronto! The Tri-Campus Parade showed me how much school spirit there really is, and made me very happy with my decision to choose St. Mike’s and UofT. Starting at UofT felt a little daunting, but ended up being an amazing experience.
    3. How can the Class of 2023 get involved on campus in the fall?
      The Class of 2023 can get involved on campus in the fall in a variety of ways. The best way to see all the clubs and what you can participate in is by going to the UTSU Clubs Carnival and the St. Mike’s Club Fair during Orientation Week. There is also a Clubs Fair down St. George St. during the first week of school that you can attend and sign up for what you think is interesting. If you’re a commuter, I highly suggest attending the St. Mike’s Commuter Don Orientation AND attending the events they hold. It’s a great way to meet new people! Another suggestion is to look at the website CLNx. The university posts job positions and volunteer opportunities to the job board, making it easy to get involved.

    Taylor can’t wait to welcome you to campus this fall. If you haven’t already done so, register for Orientation 2019 at St. Michael’s here.

    Orientation Week 2019 at St. Michael’s will take place September 1 to 4. Register here! In the weeks leading up to Orientation, we’re posting quick interviews with each member of this year’s orientation coordinator team. The introduction to the series is available here.

    Orientation Executive for Event Planning and Management Adam Da Costa Gomes is a fourth-year student at St. Mike’s double-majoring in Neuroscience and Pharmacology with a minor in Portuguese. We asked Adam three questions over email about orientation and life at St. Mike’s.

    1. What part of Orientation 2019 are you most excited for?
      I’m having a difficult time deciding a single part of Orientation to be most excited for, but I would probably have to say the zumba classes. I led classes last year and will be doing so again this year, and it’s so much fun to just let loose and dance!
    2. What is one of your best memories at SMC?
      One of my best memories at SMC was last year’s Orientation – I was in the role of a marshal (which is what we call our organizational team members) and it was just so fun taking the class of 2022 through their first 4 days on campus. It’s been amazing seeing how many of the students in Orientation last year have come back to pay it forward for the class of 2023.
    3. How can the Class of 2023 get involved on campus in the fall?
      There are honestly an infinite amount of ways for the class of 2023 to get involved come fall. Even if not specifically through SMC or an SMC-based club/organization, there are just so many different clubs at the university that there quite literally is something for everyone. There are interest-based clubs, cultural-based clubs, faith-based clubs, program-based student unions, intramural sports teams, and if you don’t find something that you like, you can make your own club under the UTSU! The possibilities and opportunities are endless; it’s just on the students to go and make their own paths. And we’re here during Orientation to help them start on the right foot.

    Adam can’t wait to welcome you to campus this fall. If you haven’t already done so, register for Orientation 2019 at St. Michael’s here.

    Orientation at St. Michael’s is one of the most exciting events of the year for incoming students. Over the course of four days before classes start, you’ll meet new friends, get a taste of Toronto life and start to experience the tight-knit community that defines St. Mike’s. There’s even a parade!

    Orientation includes programming with both academic and social focuses to help you feel comfortable and prepared to begin your journey at the U of T. We’re committed to your success as an undergraduate student in all areas of life – that’s what educating the whole person is all about.

    The SMC Orientation 2019 team is composed of an orientation coordinator, executive officers, and a student life associate, who is a St. Mike’s staff member. To get you excited for this year’s orientation, we’d like to introduce you to our team.

    Taylor Medeiros, Anna Zappone, Emma Graham, Adam Gomes, and Jessica Sorbara pose together in front of a bed of flowers outside Brennan Hall.
    From left to right: Taylor Medeiros, Anna Zappone, Emma Graham, Adam Gomes, and Jessica Sorbara.

    Over the coming weeks, check back as we post interviews with each of this year’s undergraduate team members, and get excited! The fun begins September 1. Remember to register for Orientation 2019 here.

    Read the interviews here:

    Anna ZapponeAdam GomesTaylor MedeirosJessica Sorbara

    U of T’s highest-performing female student graduating in a science program is focused on AI research to “make the world a better place”

    2019 Rose Sheinin Scholarship winner Jinman Zhao.
    2019 Rose Sheinin Scholarship winner Jinman Zhao. Photo provided by Jinman Zhao.

    The St. Michael’s Class of 2019 is full of impressive students, many of whom are bound for medical school, teacher training, law school or graduate programs in their fields. One student stands out even in this exemplary company: Jinman Zhao, who recently graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science with Specialist in Computer Science, is the recipient of this year’s Rose Sheinin Scholarship, an honour bestowed on the single highest-performing female student graduating in a science program across the University of Toronto.

    “It is a great honor for me. I didn’t expect to receive this award because I think there are many excellent and talented students around me,” Zhao said over email. “Everyone works very hard.”

    With a perfect 4.00 grade average, Zhao might be the only person surprised by the honour. She attributes her academic success in part to her choice of field, which is one she loves: “Academic success is based on passion,” she said. Asked whether there was a secret to her success, she replied, “Passion and hard work are my secrets.”

    Her passion and hard work have led to other accolades. In addition to the Rose Sheinin Scholarship, Zhao received a College Gold Medal at St. Michael’s as this year’s graduate from the college with the highest average overall in Science. She also received a USMC nomination for the Governor General’s Silver Medal, one of the highest honours conferred on a graduate each year at the University of Toronto. The three students with the highest cumulative GPA out of all students graduating from an undergraduate program in the spring or fall receive the medal.

    St. Michael's President David Sylvester presents 2019 graduate Jinman Zhao with the St. Michael's nomination for the Governor General's Silver Medal.
    St. Michael’s President David Sylvester presents Jinman Zhao with the St. Michael’s nomination for the Governor General’s Silver Medal.

    This year, Zhao is matriculating directly into a PhD program at the University of Toronto to continue her work under the supervision of Professor Gerald Penn; her primary research areas are natural language processing and artificial intelligence, and she wants to become a professor someday. The most exciting area of research in computer science, in her opinion? Theoretical computing. “I hope that one day someone can figure out whether P = NP,” she said.

    When it comes to her own research, Zhao considers the most important question about the cutting-edge field of AI today to be a fundamental – and humanistic – one: “how to use [it] to make the world a better place.” She also observed that there are important challenges in ethical issues related to A.I., and that there is a significant problem in the lag between the rapid advancement of the technology and the relatively slow pace at which relevant laws are updated.

    As she looks to continue her cutting-edge research at the graduate level while preparing to take on the role of professor herself, Zhao is uniquely well positioned to encourage other women to work in Computer Science, a field with a complicated reputation on matters of inclusion. “Scientific achievement is determined by the passion and effort of scholars rather than gender,” she said, continuing, “For female students, the stereotype of computer science should be abandoned.” She offered a succinct piece of advice: “As a woman, if you are interested … don’t hesitate to participate in this field.”

    “I enjoyed every moment of my university life,” the Class of 2019 graduate said. When asked if there were any particularly wonderful parts of her undergraduate life, Zhao replied, “If I have to choose the best time, it is now!”

    11 Graduating St. Mike’s Students Receive Cressy Awards for outstanding extra-curricular contributions

    We are incredibly proud of the Class of 2019, and in advance of Convocation events on June 13 and 14, the University of St. Michael’s College wishes to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of some of our graduating students who were honoured on April 22 with Cressy Awards.

    Cressy Award recipients from the St. Michael’s Class of 2019 have edited journals, presided over conferences and student organizations, supported our sponsored programs, worked in Residence Life and Student Life, coordinated our Mentorship program, and much more.

    Join us in congratulating the following students:

    • Joshua Bowman (USMC 2019) was the President of the Indigenous Studies Students’ Union and co-chair of the Honouring our Students PowWow, as well as an executive on the Arts and Science Students’ Union.
    • Damian Di Biase (USMC 2019) founded “Clean SMC”, a student environmentalist group which has sought to promote sustainable living through public outreach and funding green initiatives on campus. He also served as an Orientation Leader, Student’s Union Representative and Commuter Ambassador for St. Mike’s.
    • Jaimi Foster (USMC 2019) was co-coordinator of the St Michael’s College Mentorship program and President of two USMC Clubs- the American Culture Club and the Pickleball Club.
    • Haseeb Hassaan (USMC 2019) was the President of the Arts & Science Students Union and the Founder and Chair of the Student Success Day Conference.
    • Lazar Joksimovic (USMC 2019) co-founded and directed the Global Society for Genetics & Genome Biology, an international organization whose mission is to advance research on rare yet fatal genetic diseases. He also co-founded the Journal of Innovations in Genetics and served as the Academic Chair for the UofT Ophthalmology Club.
    • Marianne Kalaczynski (USMC 2019) was the Co-President of the Slavic Languages Students’ Union and the Medieval Studies Undergraduate Society, as well as Mentor and Logistics Director for the History Students’ Association.
    • Erin McTague (USMC 2019) was Chief Returning Officer of the St. Michael’s College Student Union, President and Intramural Coordinator of the St. Michael’s College Residence Council, and Munk One Program Ambassador.
    • Giuliana Sframeli (USMC 2019) was the President of Delta Delta Delta, University of Toronto Chapter and the Director of Events for Rotman Commerce Women in Business.
    • Karina Michele Stellato (USMC 2019) was heavily involved in Student Life through her roles as Commuter Don, Senior Mentor with USMC Mentorship and Marshal at Orientation week at St. Michael’s College. She also served as an events coordinator for the Italian Undergraduate Student Cultural Association.
    • Maria Olivia Teotonio Wren (USMC 2019) was the Events-Coordinator for the Celtic Studies Student Union and the Medieval Studies Undergraduate Society aligning study and extra-curricular thus making what is learnt in class come alive. She also served as a student representative for the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies Friends of the Library Committee.
    • Han Lu (Jessica) Yu (USMC 2019) was the Editor for The Attaché Journal and served as the Committee Director at the 2017 Secondary School Interactive Crisis Simulation Conference. She also served as Secretary General of the North American Model United Nations Conference, acting as a Senior Advisor her senior year.

    We also recognize Elicia Pavan (USMC 2015), who was also honoured this year with a Cressy Award.

    Established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) and the Division of University Advancement, the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards recognize students who have made outstanding extra-curricular contributions to their college, faculty or school, or to the university as a whole.

    From Friday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. to Monday, Nov. 19 at 8 a.m. (EST), ACORN, ROSI Alumni Transcripts, Degree Explorer, MyRes and VBRS will be unavailable. 

    U of T is upgrading ACORN and associated applications to improve performance for faster enrolment. As one of the largest university-wide initiatives, the project has involved converting 2 million lines of code to Java and replacing a mainframe server with Linux blade servers. The new platform will ensure that U of T stays at the forefront of technological innovation.

    Thank you for your patience as we make these improvements.

    For updates on progress, check @uoftacorn on Twitter and Facebook.

    By: Martyn Wendell Jones


    How might the imagination provide an “alternative” to knowledge in the encounter with unspeakable horror? What educational styles might empower individuals to oppose the impositions of a homogenizing global culture? What do paintings of the Annunciation across the centuries show us of our changing understandings of spiritual experience? How do HBO’s Westworld and the movie Blade Runner employ the idea of the West? What sorts of ethical questions arise in the context of “digital resurrection” through posthumous social media and chat-bots programmed to respond to messages in the manner of the deceased?

    These questions represent a broad sampling of the issues and concerns that arose during the 2018 Interdisciplinary Colloquium that St. Mike’s hosted in the Basilian Common Room on Saturday, January 27. Titled “Divine, Human, Machine: The Imagination, Its Possibilities and Its Limits,” the event gave over a dozen undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present academic papers and discuss their findings with their peers and professors.

    Postdoctoral fellows Dr. Rebekah Lamb, Dr. Peter O’Hagan and Dr. Tristan Sharp solicited paper submissions in the fall of 2017, and together organized and ran the Colloquium. The event involved collaboration between faculty members, post-docs, staff, students in both graduate and undergraduate programs, and the Kelly Library, where librarian Silvia Vong set up a bookshelf display of materials related to the papers being presented. In printed introductory remarks, St. Mike’s Principal and Professor Randy Boyagoda hailed the event as continuing the legacy of “the ambitious student research culture” developed under former principal Dr. Domenico Pietropaolo.

    Drs. Lamb, O’Hagan and Sharp divided the presenters into five panels, each organized around a theme related to the imagination. St. Mike’s faculty moderated each panel, giving students a chance to receive immediate feedback and questions from Drs. Bernard Kohl, Iris Brooke, Felan Parker, Michael O’Connor and Stephen Tardif. Moderator responses led naturally into Q&A periods with the audience, and often these discussions spilled into the breaks between panels as presenters, cups of coffee in their hands, addressed questions and comments related to their research.

    For many participants, the event offered a first experience of an academic conference. Two first-year students, both members of the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas, explored questions related to the use of the imagination in the context of religious faith. First-year Christianity and Culture major and Gilson student Maryrose Doucette posed a distinction between the “imagination of understanding” and the “imagination of expression” before examining the historical phenomena that pushed the Church in the 2nd century to define the limits of the imagination in ecclesial practices. “I’ve never participated in anything like this before,” Doucette said of the Colloquium, which she described as offering “a valuable widening of my approach to many topics”.

    Fifth-year St. Mike’s student and Editor-in-Chief of The Mike Josh Scott gave a paper exploring novelist W.G. Sebald’s oblique approach to unspeakable atrocity. As with many other presenters, his research grew out of recent classes. Scott appreciated “being forced to articulate, defend, and expand upon my ideas to actual academics” in back-and-forth exchanges during the Q & A period.

    A wide range of cultural objects and artifacts came in for scholarly consideration during the course of the day. Novels, TV shows, movies, academic monographs, paintings and wholesale intellectual movements were brought up in unexpected connection with philosophers, theologians, scientists, journalists and social science researchers, and were analyzed in the light of various critical methodologies. Third-year American Studies and Human Geography student Aisha Assan-Lebbe offered an assessment of “the entanglements of a frontier mythology with the post-human” in the movie Blade Runner and HBO’s television series Westworld. Assan-Lebbe described the research she presented as “the beginning of a bigger project that will hopefully translate to a thesis I would complete for my Master’s or PhD,” and she hopes to use the experience to prepare for presenting at graduate student conferences at the University of Ottawa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the near future.

    In his opening remarks, Professor Boyagoda located the event in the context of the larger community of St. Mike’s, in which the integration of knowledge across disciplines reflects the traditions and commitments of the school. In the course of preparing his paper on acedia, undergraduate Philosophy major Sam Hodgkins-Summer discovered a community of shared concern across the centuries. Encountering writers from ages past grappling with a common problem “was a pretty life-giving endeavor,” Hodgkins-Summer said. His conversations with fellow presenters and respondents during the Colloquium “reinforced my belief that we have to marry our intellectual pursuits with our lived experience.”

    Drs. Lamb, O’Hagan and Sharp concluded the day’s program with thanks to the Gilson donors whose support made the Colloquium possible. Chairs were returned to their places under tables, and the projector powered down. Before the last attendees had departed, however, a new conversation was already in the air: When shall we do this again?


    Martyn Wendell Jones is a writer in the Office of Communications at St. Mike’s.

    Dear members of the St. Michael’s Community,

    I am delighted to report that we reached an agreement (subject to ratification) with UTFA-USMC on Friday February 9. As a result, there will be no disruption to classes or services on campus.

    Sincerely,

    David Mulroney
    President and Vice Chancellor
    University of St. Michael’s College

    One of the great joys of studying and working at the Faculty of Theology is the opportunity to share our faith, whether it’s during our weekly liturgies, class discussions, impromptu chats springing up in the student lounge or at one of our social events.
    As part of our collective Lenten journey, we are sharing seasonal reflections written by students and Faculty as a way to include the broader community in the life of the Faculty. Our Good Friday reflection is written by Fiona Li, who is a second-year ThM student at the Faculty of Theology, studying Feminist Theology. She is finishing her coursework and will be working on her thesis proposal soon. Fiona also has a M.T.S from the Faculty of Theology (2015), and has a H.BA from the University of Toronto, specializing in Christianity and Culture (2013).

    One popular question I’ve heard regarding “Good Friday” is around its name: if Jesus died on Good Friday, why is it “good”? Simply put, “Good Friday” is “good” because it is the day that we commemorate the saving action of Christ for all humanity; through His death; “good” came out of it. And this is the message that we, as Christians, have heard: the message of liberation and salvation.
    But why wouldn’t people believe what we have heard? One obvious answer is that they simply believe in a different religion, which is fair. But another answer, and I propose that this answer has the greatest implication for us as Christians, is that life in the day-to-day world simply does not reflect this message of salvation. We need not look far from where we are to notice all the signs of injustice, misogyny, oppression, abuse, and hopelessness. Indeed, “who would believe what we have heard?”
    Yet, as Christians, we are supposed to be a sign to the world that this Good Friday message is true. Have we fulfilled this call? What have we done to alleviate such sadness in those around us — and also in our distant neighbours? Do we even embody this message anymore? Or did we actually lose our own sense of this message and have lost our identity? If we as Christians don’t believe it, and do not live out this message in our daily lives, then who would be convinced of this message?
    As I tell the students in my RCIC class, it is not enough to say “I believe in God” or that “I believe in the Good Friday message”; we have to live and act accordingly. To name a few examples, it means thinking about how my actions affect others. It means having right relations with God, myself, and with all those I encounter and interact with. It means using my privileged position to advocate for justice and mercy. It means working towards the ending of oppression in whatever context it may be. Ultimately, it means mediating the presence of God to those around us, and building up the Kingdom of God here on earth.
    As we celebrate Good Friday, let us all remember the Good Friday message of salvation, and our identity as those who are to live out this message in our daily lives and spread it to the world. May this scriptural passage from our first reading be a constant reminder for us, “Who would believe what we have heard?”

    One of the great joys of studying and working at the Faculty of Theology is the opportunity to share our faith, whether it’s during our weekly liturgies, class discussions, impromptu chats springing up in the student lounge or at one of our social events.
    As part of our collective Lenten journey, we are sharing seasonal reflections written by students and Faculty as a way to include the broader community in the life of the Faculty. Our Good Friday reflection is written by Fiona Li, who is a second-year ThM student at the Faculty of Theology, studying Feminist Theology. She is finishing her coursework and will be working on her thesis proposal soon. Fiona also has a M.T.S from the Faculty of Theology (2015), and has a H.BA from the University of Toronto, specializing in Christianity and Culture (2013).

    One popular question I’ve heard regarding “Good Friday” is around its name: if Jesus died on Good Friday, why is it “good”? Simply put, “Good Friday” is “good” because it is the day that we commemorate the saving action of Christ for all humanity; through His death; “good” came out of it. And this is the message that we, as Christians, have heard: the message of liberation and salvation.
    But why wouldn’t people believe what we have heard? One obvious answer is that they simply believe in a different religion, which is fair. But another answer, and I propose that this answer has the greatest implication for us as Christians, is that life in the day-to-day world simply does not reflect this message of salvation. We need not look far from where we are to notice all the signs of injustice, misogyny, oppression, abuse, and hopelessness. Indeed, “who would believe what we have heard?”
    Yet, as Christians, we are supposed to be a sign to the world that this Good Friday message is true. Have we fulfilled this call? What have we done to alleviate such sadness in those around us — and also in our distant neighbours? Do we even embody this message anymore? Or did we actually lose our own sense of this message and have lost our identity? If we as Christians don’t believe it, and do not live out this message in our daily lives, then who would be convinced of this message?
    As I tell the students in my RCIC class, it is not enough to say “I believe in God” or that “I believe in the Good Friday message”; we have to live and act accordingly. To name a few examples, it means thinking about how my actions affect others. It means having right relations with God, myself, and with all those I encounter and interact with. It means using my privileged position to advocate for justice and mercy. It means working towards the ending of oppression in whatever context it may be. Ultimately, it means mediating the presence of God to those around us, and building up the Kingdom of God here on earth.
    As we celebrate Good Friday, let us all remember the Good Friday message of salvation, and our identity as those who are to live out this message in our daily lives and spread it to the world. May this scriptural passage from our first reading be a constant reminder for us, “Who would believe what we have heard?”