Human Library project to be hosted at UTSC

Event features people that can be ‘checked out’ for one-on-one storytelling

Human Library project to be hosted at UTSC

The Human Library Project will be hosted at the UTSC Student Centre on Wednesday, March 28. The event will explore Scarborough’s diverse cultures and communities through the theme of ‘Rebirth and Resiliency.’

The Human Library event will feature 12 speakers who can be ‘checked out’ for one-on-one, 25-minute conversations about their own personal narratives, which examine topics including race, class, and sexuality.

Here, storytelling is used as a strategy that bridges the gap between subjective dispositions and social structures, and the main objective of The Human Library is to encourage individuals to reflect upon the stories that have shaped their identities. The project gives the participants a platform to express their own stories of survival, growth and resiliency. In telling their stories, they will be able to play a part in determining the narrative and ethical shape of our world.

The participants involved in The Human Library are creative, enthusiastic, and original thinkers. They use a collection of mediums to tell their stories. For instance, Bidhan Berma will be telling his story, The Last Train East, through the medium of spoken word, whereas 16-year-old Indygo Arscott will be using her platform to showcase her resilience against anorexia nervosa through her story, How to Lose A Quarter of Yourself In All The Right Places.

The project is hosted by Hart House, the UTSC Department of Student Life, the UTSC Library, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), and ARTSIDEOUT. Trish Starling, the coordinator of the UTSC Hart House Human Library Project, graciously took the time to speak to The Varsity about the event.

The Varsity: What is the significance of this project?

Trish Starling: The Human Library Project is an exercise in empathy-building and giving people the opportunity to learn from each other through active listening.

TV: Why have the artists involved decided to be a part of it?

TS: This is a good question! We as the organizers cannot speak for them. We believe each human story will have a different reason for wanting to participate. We know from human stories who have participated in the past, some wanted the chance to express themselves and process their own stories more fully, others just thought it was a great way to establish connecting with strangers in a deeply human way.

TV: What are you, as organizers and people, hoping to achieve by hosting this project?

TS: As the organizers, we believe this project has the important job of providing a platform for hearing important stories that the dominant media, publishing houses, etc. may not provide to us. The collaboration first began between Hart House, UTSC Department of Student Life, and the SCSU’s VP Equity Nana Frimpong. We wanted to work together on a meaningful project that is aligned with our mission to deepen understanding of others. This was an opportunity to bring our different audiences and communities together in a positive way.

The Human Library event is free and will be held at UTSC’s Rex’s Den, in the Student Centre basement from 3:00–7:00 pm. You can drop in or register online.

In conversation with Adrian Huntelar and Ammara Wasim

The Varsity sits down with the newest UTSU executives to discuss appointment, transition, upcoming student life and advocacy projects

In conversation with Adrian Huntelar and Ammara Wasim

This past semester saw two University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executives step down from their posts. They were replaced by Adrian Huntelar, formerly one of the union’s General Equity Directors, and Ammara Wasim, Vice-President Communications of the Muslim Students’ Association.

The Varsity sat down with both new executives to discuss their new positions and their future plans.

Unelected student politicians

In an op-ed that appeared last December 3 on The Varsity’s website, Huntelar, who is serving as Vice-President University Affairs, wrote that he understood that some students may have some concerns over the fact that he did not go through the democratic process of election. “I’m a political science major, so I know very well that appointed leaders rarely have the time or the mandate to get anything meaningful done,” he explained at the time.

Huntelar further addressed this concern in the interview. “I think the best way to address those students’ concerns is just to make myself as open as possible, listen to as many students as possible, to be in as many open forums as possible for students to raise their concerns with the UTSU.”

Wasim, the new Vice-President Campus Life, took the same view, but she maintained that it was less about their qualifications and more about the necessity of having someone fill their roles during the academic year. “As a student,” she said, “I would want someone to be in my position rather than having the position being vacant for three months.”

Transition process

Huntelar described the past two months as being “very informative,” detailing the learning curve he was initially met with. “I’m learning about just how many different aspects of university policy and governance actually influence students’ day-to-day life,” he said, noting that many factors like textbooks or accessibility accommodations fall under his portfolio.

Wasim highlighted the help the other executives and full-time staff have provided throughout her transition into the role. “They’ve been really nice and really supportive and helpful with everything,” she said. She also thanked her predecessor, Stuart Norton, for meeting with her and helping her out.

Both Huntelar and Wasim understood the limited amount of time left in their posts, but they underlined their commitment to make improvements on campus. “There isn’t a lot of time left, three months isn’t a lot of time to do a lot. I think it’s better to just focus on what really needs to get done and enhance what’s there,” said Wasim.

Student life and advocacy projects

Huntelar also spoke about food security, one of his top priorities. He said that the UTSU is working on multiple projects to raise awareness within the university and provide related services. “We’re working to create an online grocery store, so that students can purchase their groceries online on utsu.ca and have them shipped to the office,” he said.

The online grocery store concept will involve working with FoodReach, an organization that connects community agencies, like the UTSU, with wholesalers who provide foodstuffs.

“It offers a benefit to students who are pressured for time and money,” he said. “The main group that this supports is those who live off-campus without access to a dining hall, but also who are responsible for essentially making their own food.”

Wasim will first be focusing on the UTSU’s Winter Week of Welcome. In an earlier interview with The Varsity, UTSU President Mathias Memmel mentioned that one of the reasons why the hiring process was sped up was due to the need to have someone in the post by this week.

Wasim noted, “[Norton] had the plan in place already, I’m marketing and promoting mainly, and I’m attending all the events and running them on the day itself. I’m taking care of the smaller details, logistically.”

She also highlighted her intention to concentrate on the Campus Life Commission, which she chairs as part of her portfolio, and looking through requests for clubs funding. “I have to try to expand upon the Campus Life Commission in a way where it doesn’t necessarily have to be sitting down to a meeting,” she said, adding that she wishes to make meetings less “boring.”

With the UTSU elections coming up in March, Huntelar declined to comment on his intentions to run for a position or not, while Wasim mentioned being undecided at present. “I would tell you if I knew myself,” she said. “Right now, I have to figure out my course load that’s already hectic.”

Alina Dormann: spiking her way to success

The Blues volleyball star talks friendships, family, and life in Toronto

Alina Dormann: spiking her way to success

‘Hectic’ can only start to explain the life of Varsity Blues women’s volleyball right side Alina Dormann. That isn’t to say that she’s not enjoying every minute of it. Upon first meeting her, it’s not hard to feel intimidated by her towering six-foot-two stature.

Dormann spent last summer away from Toronto, training in Richmond, British Columbia with Canada’s women’s indoor national team. She found herself a piece of home in her close friend Anna Feore, her teammate on the Blues and the national team. The pair first met while they were playing on the provincial team together in high school. “This past summer I lived in Vancouver with [Anna] and we’ve become closer as friends.”

Whenever the pair aren’t training or studying, they find ways to have fun. As a result, Dormann and Feore founded @george_feoremann_grill, a joint Instagram account with the sole focus of displaying their meals and foodie adventures. The two seem to have a great time together, creating silly captions to accompany the photos. One of the funniest posts is a photo of the two after a game, holding a box of donuts and detaling it as a “high cal, low protein” and “easily digestible” post-game meal.

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The tight bonds between each player appear to be a key factor in the team’s past success. With a national championship on the line, there’s no room for frustration or fighting on the court. Dormann places emphasis on the team’s bonding activities, including their nutrition sessions. The trust built off the court translates into teamwork that can be seen on the court, a key factor needed for the Blues to earn their second national championship in the past three seasons.

Dormann finds time for her hobbies and friends between classes, as well as practices that can sometimes reach three hours and that occur nearly every day. Maintaining a strong balance between academics and social life can sometimes feel like a challenge while playing on a varsity team.

In Toronto, Dormann enjoys pursuing her love for a nice latte by exploring coffee shops in Yorkville and Kensington Market. Hailing from Ottawa, Dormann explains she didn’t face many issues with her transition away from living with her family. “I really love living in Toronto. It’s super fun and there is lots to do. I’m also close to home and can go back to visit on long weekends.”

As a Life Sciences student, Dormann has to find time to complete assignments and attend lectures. “My majors right now are health and disease and biology.” Her future, like that of many of her peers, hasn’t been fully planned out yet. “I have no idea what I want to do but [school is] super interesting right now,” she adds.

Although school can be stressful at times, she explains the importance of taking time to be with her teammates. “We spend so much time together, it’s awesome to have close relationships on and off the court,” she says. “They are people you enjoy spending time with off the court.”

someone told us energy balls make you hit harder

A post shared by george _feoremann_grill (@george_feoremann_grill) on

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As a well-rounded athlete, Dormann competed in many sports in her younger years. Track and field, basketball, and touch football are some of the sports she played. Being avidly involved in basketball throughout her time at Brookfield High School was also one of her passions.

Dormann’s stellar high school athletics career was acknowledged when she was named Most Valuable Player in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and Athlete of the Year in 2012–2013 and 2014–2015.

With many star athletes coming from athletic lineage and being trained from a young age, it surprised me when Dormann explained her situation. “My parents both came to Canada from Europe, my dad came from Germany and my mom came from Ukraine.” She explains that although they were both athletic, they never played volleyball. Dormann started playing volleyball in grade eight.

Being involved with competitive volleyball throughout high school, Dormann recounts her travels with the various teams she has played for.

“When I was playing club volleyball we would play a lot in Toronto,” says Dormann. “As I got older we started to go further. And now with the national team, starting to go a little further.”

Dormann has traveled to many countries over the course of her volleyball career, including the Dominican Republic for the 2016 Pan Am Cup. She represented Canada this past summer at the FISU Summer Universiade in Taipei. “It was an amazing experience,” says Dormann. “A lot of hours and hard work, but it’s worth it. Representing Canada is always an honor.”

But the Canadian National Team is not the only goal she has her sights set on. “Personally I want to contribute the best way I can to our goal of being a championship team and winning the OUA championship,” says Dormann.

“We’ve talked a lot about what it takes to be that championship team and every day whether it be the gym or on the court, and we are taking a lot of positive steps towards that direction.”

Jeska Eedens leads a bright future for Blues women’s lacrosse

The head coach earned bronze and OUA coach of the year honours in 2017

Jeska Eedens leads a bright future for Blues women’s lacrosse

After a transformative sophomore season coaching the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s lacrosse team, head coach Jeska Eedens is heading back to her family home in St. Catharines. On a Friday morning, a few hours before she’s scheduled to depart Toronto, Eedens, alongside co-captain Sarah Jamieson, recounts the year-long journey the team underwent following their second consecutive seventh-place finish in 2016.

It was not a fluke that just a week prior, the Blues defeated Wilfrid Laurier University to earn bronze at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships.

“At the end of last season it was very clear afterwards that we are better than this and we have the talent, the systems, and everything in place that we shouldn’t be in seventh anymore,” says Eedens. “This time last year, literally a week after OUAs, I was getting messages from our girls being like, ‘Hey, when are we lifting, when are starting the offseason, when are we going?’ And so we spent a year working towards it, and our goal was a gold medal, a championship.”

Jamieson believes Eedens has provided Toronto with an outline for success, one that begins with her constant effort to reinforce a strong team culture. She expresses that prior to Eedens’ hiring, the team lacked cohesion and the ability to set an overall goal.

“Since Jess has taken over we’ve been able to see that we, as players, have such an impact on how we play on the field and also what we put into our offseason,” says Jamieson. “Our goal-setting, our working out really dictates what’s going to happen… She’s given us a vision [and] the girls have grasped it.”

“It was important to me to make sure the girls always knew that I 100 per cent believed that they can do it,” adds Eedens.

As the Blues enter the offseason with a plethora of graduating players, Eedens is excited by the challenge of rebuilding the team. She spent last summer tinkering with different lineups and shift changes, scheduling when and where each player was subject to play depending on the various game situation, but without last season’s veteran squad, she no longer has the luxury of knowing her entire lineup.

“Going into next year is going to be a lot of fun because everything is going to be so different, we’re going to be seeing new players really stepping into roles that they were just starting to get into at the end of this season,” says Eedens.

A self-described lacrosse nerd, Eedens appears jovial. Earlier in the morning she provided Edmonton’s Vimy Ridge Academy lacrosse team with a campus tour, where she highlighted the campus and facilities as well as the benefits of competing at a Canadian university.

“A lot of players look to the States, but… more and more girls are starting to stay in Canada to play as the OUA becomes more competitive,” explains Eedens. “It’s really nice to outline for them: you can have this really competitive varsity experience and this great student athlete experience while coming to this amazing university.”

“I hope we can do more stuff like that because they were really engaged,” she says.

Eedens wants to build a program that can rival the Western Mustangs, the “perennial powerhouse” and side that defeated Toronto 10–4 in the semifinals, a match she admits felt a lot closer than the final score suggests. Eedens notes the Blues had a tough time finding the back of the net in the match and were unable to stop the Mustangs. Western went on to win the championship, their sixth title in the past seven seasons.

“The girls on the Western team said we gave them a battle… despite it being a loss, we were still proud of our efforts in that game,” Eedens says. “We gave them a run for their money.”

PHOTO BY MARTIN BAZYL, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

The offseason, which began unofficially with lifting sessions that will go until Christmas, ramps up in January with three lift days per week and one weekly practice and scrimmage. Last year, the Blues went to the US and faced Williams College in an exhibition match during the offseason, and they are looking to do something similar in the coming months, as well as play in a tournament. Eedens utilizes the offseason as a period of time to break down mechanics and focus on the little things with each player. Graduating players will also participate in workouts to help bridge the gap and better prepare next year’s team.

“That was something that during the season our players were really good about. They understand that some of the newer girls need some playing time in games, trying to set them up, and trying to teach them, so that when it’s their turn next year they’re a little more prepared,” explains Eedens. “We still have some great leaders returning and it’s going to be up to them to step up and were really going to be looking towards them.”

She also makes a candid pitch for other athletes around campus to participate in lacrosse.

“Female athletes who are looking for something new and have played a lot of sports should play intramural lacrosse hands down,” she says. “I played for a year and I became a captain, the government paid my tuition, I played for Team Scotland, [and] I’m the head coach now. It’s an easy sport to learn because it uses so many skills from other sports.”

Through Eedens’ meticulous preparation and vocal leadership, it’s easy to see why she was selected OUA lacrosse coach of the year by her peers. Describing the magnitude of the award and her immediate thoughts upon receiving the achievement briefly stagnates the well-versed coach.

“To know that people you have a lot of respect for wanted to recognize me is a great honour,” explains Eedens. “I was really surprised, pleasantly surprised.”

“I think that she deserved it more than anyone else…We implemented certain systems that wouldn’t have been able to be implemented without her,” adds Jamieson. “We are so lucky to have her.”

Eedens first picked up a lacrosse stick at 17, before she entered U of T about a decade ago. She knew she wanted to play on a Blues team but was unsure which one. She considered volleyball, soccer, and rowing, but her path was ultimately dictated by her love for lacrosse. After spending her rookie season as a bench-warmer, Eedens blossomed as a key defender for Toronto under the guidance of Blues assistant coach Jamine Aponte. She earned the OUA most valuable defensive player award and all-star honours in 2009.

The following season, Eedens’ playing career was halted by a concussion, and she dropped out of school that same year. She came back to school for a fifth year, but she didn’t play, then she became a part-time student and soon found a full-time job. She suggests that over the course of her four year-layoff, she likely earned only “a credit and a half.”

In 2015, Eedens made a return to lacrosse, even though she hadn’t touched a stick in three or four years and wasn’t in shape.

“I was working full-time and was not super happy,” admits Eedens. “I had this dream job, amazing life in Toronto, but I was like, ‘I’ll take a step back to go forwards and finish my degree.’ I came back and the coach at that point said they were short on girls, so I thought, well if I’m taking a step back to my undergrad, I guess I should go back and play lacrosse too.”

“I was not a star player that year… Coming back was really me trying to finish off my degree. I got my concussion at my peak: I just had the best season of my life and I got knocked out of it, so I wanted a bit of closure.”

The following January, then-head coach Taryn Grieder needed help to run the offseason and hired Eedens as an assistant coach. When Grieder resigned, Eedens decided the most natural thing would be to apply for the vacant position. She knew the program, the girls, and she was confident she would be the best person for the job.

“I got the phone call on my convocation day, so that was a good day,” remembers Eedens.

Jamieson has had the best vantage point to view Eedens’ growth. Their relationship began when Jamieson was 14. A hockey player, Jameison was instructed to play lacrosse over the summer, and the following season Eedens was at the helm of her local team.

“It was funny coming back because I coached Sarah… this young woman with all these leadership skills and everything, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so old,’” laughs Eedens.

“The year that [she] coached me with Jamine was actually my first year with a real coach and I was kind of like, ‘Oh, this is what lacrosse is like,’” says Jamieson.

“And it was my first time coaching, so I was like, ‘Oh this is what coaching is,’” laughs Eedens again. “Sarah will be our assistant coach next year, when she graduates.”

“Full circle,” replies Jamieson.

In conversation with Dr. Sandeep Dhillon

An admired physiology professor discusses his career and gives advice to U of T students

In conversation with Dr. Sandeep Dhillon

Aside from being an accomplished scientist and physician, Dr. Sandeep Dhillon is also a well-loved physiology professor at U of T. Students have described Dhillon as down to earth, humble, and genuinely enthusiastic about teaching. Despite the complexity of physiology, Dhillon finds ways to make his lectures entertaining and engaging for students. Recently, The Varsity had the chance to talk to Dhillon about his teaching style, his experiences as a student, and his advice for current U of T students.

The Varsity: Your physiology lectures are well-attended and students provide positive feedback about your teaching. What is your approach to teaching?

Sandeep Dhillon: I try to bring humour into my teaching. I think if you have the basic physiological topics or the basic concepts, you can bring in the clinical scenarios and then you can throw in the humour. I think something as simple as being enthusiastic about your topic really drives you. I am immensely enthusiastic about physiology, student learning, and making sure that students understand things. When something clicks, you can see it. It gives you that instant gratification. My teaching style definitely evolved after speaking to some of my mentors, who helped me and nudged me in the right direction. They told me that when it comes to teaching a large class, you have to approach it like a performance.

TV: How long have you been teaching?

SD: About six to seven years in this lecturing format. I’ve lectured mainly in physiology, but I have taught a lab course as well, in PSL372. I think my teaching goes back to coaching basketball. When I was in my undergraduate studies, I also taught organic chemistry and biology to younger students. I think these experiences helped refine my skills — just talking about concepts and ensuring that students understand.

TV: Can you tell us a little bit more about what you do besides teaching?

SD: So outside of teaching, which is actually the majority of my career as I only teach for a very short period of the year, I work at a hospital at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health as their hospitalist. There I provide medical care and a consulting service to psychiatrists. I also do emergency medicine at Lakeridge, as well as some clinics around the city. I’m hoping to also get involved with research now.

TV: Many life science students probably ask the same question, but how would you describe your time as an undergraduate student?

SD: I always say that your undergraduate portion of your career is probably one the more difficult times, in my opinion. It’s a time when you have immense amounts of pressure to get high grades, you’re trying to partake in extracurricular activities, you’re doing research and the standard stuff that can be associated with pre-med. I found it enjoyable, but there was a lot of studying. I think I was constantly trying to figure out how to balance my time and how to work on time management. That’s something I’m still working on, but it was definitely a challenging time.

TV: Did you always want to pursue medicine, or did you decide later on?

SD: I think I was one of those people who decided a little bit later on. Grade 11 biology was when I started to really enjoy physiology and biological sciences. That’s when I really decided to pursue that in my undergraduate studies. Medicine was on my mind, but I ended up pursuing research at first. I think it was nearing the end of my undergraduate studies and the beginning of my graduate studies that I really started to think about medicine. It was probably a culmination of volunteering in hospitals, partaking in research at SickKids, and getting all those different experiences and realizing that’s really where I want to be.

TV: What advice would you give to U of T students?

SD: I often think about how I wish I had done more in my undergraduate years. Maybe if I studied a little bit less for an exam I might have been able to pursue something else a little bit more. Maybe I would have been able to spend a little bit more time with my friends or I could have been more social. But then I think, would I have been able to get the grades I needed to get? So, it’s a fine balance.

I always tell Life Sci students, or students in general, that you really have to try and enjoy your time, but it’s hard because at the same time, you have to get high marks. If you can work on time management, that would give you the best opportunity of getting both. I also highly recommend that students get a mentor in their lives. I have had mentors throughout my entire life — learning from their mistakes will help you avoid making those same mistakes.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.