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

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. 

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.


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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. 

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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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.”

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. 

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 Dr. Mark McGowan

Principal Emeritus Dr. Mark McGowan will serve as the Interim Principal of the University of St. Michael’s College for the 2020-2021 academic year, President David Sylvester has announced.

“I am delighted that Dr. McGowan, with his extensive administrative experience both at St. Michael’s and at the University of Toronto, will be returning to Odette Hall,” says Dr. Sylvester. “His presence in the Principal’s Office, particularly in these challenging times, ensures that the academic affairs of St. Michael’s will remain in strong and capable hands.”

St. Michael’s Principal from 2002-2011, Dr. McGowan is an historian renowned for his work on the Catholic Church in Canada and the Great Irish Famine, as well as the lasting impact that the Famine’s mass migration had on Canada.

He has won multiple awards for both his teaching and writing, and is well known for his work in Catholic education, including the history of Catholic education in Ontario. He has served as a consultant to the Institute for Catholic Education. His latest book, It’s Our Turn: Carrying on the Work of the Pioneers of Catholic Education in Ontario was published by Novalis in 2019.

He is cross-appointed to U of T, where he holds tenure and has served as Deputy Chair of the History department (2017-19), as Senior Academic Advisor to the Dean of Arts & Science, International (2014-17) and as Acting Vice-Provost, Students, for the University of Toronto for part of 2013.

Dr. Sylvester also offers his congratulations to current Principal, Dr. Randy Boyagoda, on his appointment as Vice Dean, Undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T.

“St. Michael’s has greatly benefited from Dr. Boyagoda’s four years as Principal,” Dr. Sylvester says. “His vision and creativity have led to a renewal of undergraduate education at St. Michael’s, including the hiring of new, full-time faculty as well as the roll-out of our new One Seminars, which are quickly becoming the most popular first-year programs at U of T. We are grateful for his many contributions.”

Dr. Boyagoda will continue to teach the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas for St. Michael’s.

Dr. McGowan’s and Dr. Boyagoda’s appointments are effective July 1, 2020.

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 

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?
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    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?
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    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!
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  • 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

    On June 14, the University of St. Michael’s College will welcome back to campus two accomplished alumni, who will be addressing the Class of 2019 at each of this year’s two-degree conferral ceremonies.

    Dr. Andy Smith, President and CEO of Sunnybrook.
    Dr. Andy Smith, President and CEO of Sunnybrook.

    At 10 a.m. June 14, Arts graduates will gather in Convocation Hall for the presentation of their degrees, and Dr. Andy Smith, CEO of Sunnybrook Hospital, will deliver remarks.

    Dr. Smith graduated from St. Michael’s in 1990 and entered medical school. Today, Dr. Smith serves as president and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a prestigious appointment that followed years of leadership in other roles at Sunybrook, the Division of General Surgery at the University of Toronto, the Odette Cancer Program and Cancer Care Ontario. A surgeon by training, Dr. Smith anticipates a day when advances in ultrasound and other medical technology result in surgical procedures no longer requiring incisions on the patient’s body – a science-fiction scenario he is helping to bring into reality with his team at Sunnybrook.

    Aashni Shah, CEO of non-profit Elixir Labs and software engineer for Square.
    Aashni Shah, CEO of non-profit Elixir Labs and software engineer for Square.

    Science and Commerce graduates will gather at Convocation hall at 2:30 p.m. for their degree conferral ceremony, and those students will hear from Aashni Shah, CEO of non-profit Elixir Labs and software engineer for Square.

    A member of the St. Michael’s Class of 2016, Ms. Shah was named one of Canada’s 50 most inspiring women in STEM by Inspiring Fifty, an honour she received for her innovative work at the intersection of technology and philanthropy. She was the first female president of the Computer Science Student Union at the U of T in over a decade, and founded UofTHacks, Canada’s first student-run hackathon. Born and raised in Kenya before moving to Canada in 2011 to start university, Ms. Shah is an advocate for diversity in tech, and believes that “by promoting diversity in STEM, we’re increasing our odds of finding stable and sustainable solutions that will help Canadians and people all around the world.”

    Dr. Smith and Ms. Shah have worked to create new pathways into the future, representing the value of an education that pairs elite skills and job-readiness with a sense for the most important questions facing society today. We look forward to their remarks to the Class of 2019.

    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.