This September, University College launches ‘UC One: Engaging Toronto’, a first-year program the college hopes will tie together small classes and big thinking.
The college is following Victoria and Trinity College in implementing a program for well-rounded students to take interactive, close-knit courses.
UC Principal Donald Ainslie sees the program as a transformative learning opportunity giving students a way to transition into university as smoothly as possible.
UC One will focus on the impact of research on the greater Toronto community. “We have really groundbreaking researchers at the university,” said Ainslie, “So I think that students need to understand what research is all about.”
UC One is divided into four pathways: Citizenship in the Canadian City with Professor Emily Gilbert; Performing Toronto with Professor Tamara Trojanowska; Gradients of Health and Well-being in an Urban Mosaic with Professor Paul Hamel; and Sex in the City with Dr. Scott Rayter.
Each pathway correlates directly with the interdisciplinary programs hosted by the college: Canadian Studies, Drama, Health Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies.
Despite the correlation between the UC One streams and the upper-year programs that University College hosts, the administration does not expect students to follow those degree pathways. “Our thought is that it might be a nice side effect that students might enroll in the programs or develop an interest, but that’s by no means the goal,” said Ainslie.
UC One’s administrative team hopes that by being a one-credit course, unlike Vic and Trin’s two-credit versions, students with more prerequisite-driven interests will be inclined to enroll.
In fact, Ainslie describes UC One as being advantageous for students of varying areas of academic interest, including science students. “Having social science [to] complement science is a good thing,” said Ainslie, giving the example of paring UC One’s health stream with a degree in life sciences.
After undergoing a selective application process, UC One students will meet for four hours every Friday. During first semester, they will listen to and discuss the lectures of various guest speakers. Confirmed speakers include Dr. Mark Kingwell, Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Dr. Meric Gertler, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, and David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto.
In second semester, students will have numerous fieldtrip opportunities that will allow each group to look at Toronto from their specific interdisciplinary perspective.
Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost of U of T, thinks very highly of the ‘One’ programmes. “They are a special passion of mine,” she said.
The new UC One program follow in the footsteps of the well-established Vic One and Trin One programs. “I think that these two programs provide the best undergraduate first year in the country,” said Misak. “I would love to see more of our students be able to have access to such an academically and socially rich first year”.
Gertler agrees that the success of Vic One and Trin One triggered this new initiative. “Those colleges really seized the initiative to try something new and different for first year undergraduate education,” he said. “The reviews that came back [have been] pretty positive.”
Although Vic One and Trin One have been around longer, Andrew Lesk, the program director, does not think that UC One will have a problem standing out. “The fact [is] that our program is new,” said Lesk. “We offer something different.”
“Any ‘One’ program speaks about the strength of the college,” Lesk said. “The whole rhetoric behind engaging Toronto speaks to the centrality that is University College itself.”
Ainslie went on to highlight UC’s history of being connected with social engagement. “All of the colleges are open to people of all faiths, but there is a history of UC as being the open college,” he explained, “That’s what we’re trying to build on.”
To Lesk, the fact that the seminars will go beyond the classroom is key to the character of the program. “It gets students out into the city to engage with [Toronto] in a more practical than theoretical sense,” he said.
Gertler likes that a critical aspect of the One programs is the tight-knit environments that they offer. “[They provide] an opportunity for small group learning experience in a year when most classes are pretty large,” he explained. The Dean also likes how the programs identify with the colleges themselves and reflect the colleges’ individual identities.
An expanding trend
The launch of UC One is only the beginning of a much larger movement. Last year, Provost Misak approached the administrations of all St. George campus’ constituent colleges, as well as the UTM and UTSC satellite campuses, offering each funding to implement their own, distinctive ‘One’ programs.
“I put some money on the table and my offer was taken up by each and every college and campus,” she described.
Misak did not disregard Victoria and Trinity College, allocating them each the same sum of money so that they could expand their current programs. “They shouldn’t be disadvantaged just because they were the pioneers,” she said.
Victoria College is using the funding to add a new stream to its Vic One program: the Norman Jewison Stream for Imagination and the Arts.
While all of the colleges and campuses accepted the offer, they are on different timetables. According to Dean Gertler, UC was able to settle on the theme and design of their program very quickly. “UC was really the fastest out of the gate,” he explained.
The remaining colleges, as well as UTM and UTSC, plan to launch their own ‘One’ programmes next September.