Premier Kathleen Wynne got a first-hand look at some of the innovative research being done by students at U of T Scarborough during a visit on Feb. 13.
The visit is part of Wynne's week-long tour to provincial post-secondary schools where she is also meeting with students to hear about the benefits and challenges of pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario today.
"I want to understand the work that you're doing, and I want students to have the opportunity to question me because there is nothing more important to the future of the province then you and the work that you're doing," says Wynne to a panel of graduate students.
"I want to understand the work that you're doing, and I want students to have the opportunity to question me because there is nothing more important to the future of the province then you and the work that you're doing," says Wynne.
Wynne, joined by Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Mitzie Hunter, who is also a U of T Scarborough alumna, first met with graduate students from the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. The students presented current research projects focused on climate change and the perception of changing weather patterns, intensive agricultural practices, various social practices that impact forestry management and endangered species and systems for monitoring mercury contaminants.
"It's always important to know that science has a voice, especially when it comes to government officials," says Ariola Visha, a fourth-year graduate student with the Arhonditsis Ecological Modelling Lab.
Visha, whose research provides a comprehensive analysis on the trends of contaminants such as mercury and the threat it poses to the health of fish communities in the Canadian Great Lakes, says it's important for policy-makers to know of the diverse work being done in the department.
"Our department is very inter-disciplinary, so it covers a wide range of fields, and we have a lot of research areas around topics that are currently really relevant in science," says Visha.
Wynne and Hunter then met in The Hub with undergraduate students representing several academic disciplines, student groups and backgrounds on campus including the Scarborough Campus Students' Union, commuters, international students, AccessAbility Outreach and athletics.
Many topics were discussed during a question and answer period including transit issues, racism, increasing support for students with disabilities, ending sexual assault and violence in all forms and increasing support for Indigenous students.
Diane Hill, who has been involved in UTSC's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, was glad for the opportunity to speak to some of the issues facing Indigenous students.
"The Premier’s visit was appreciated and nice," says Hill, an Indigenous fourth-year student double majoring in health policy and socio-cultural anthropology.
Hill hopes that meetings like yesterday’s will quickly push past just conversation around post-secondary Indigenous student issues towards actionable change, mentioning to the Premier a need for more Indigenous representation among post-secondary faculty and staff.
“I’d like to see more action by the Ontario government to invest in Indigenous youth as they are the fastest growing population,” she says.
Following the Premier’s meetings with undergraduate and graduate students, Wynne says her impression of students is that of engaged and smart young people.
"I always feel inspired when I have a chance to talk with students in our schools, in our universities and this was no exception," says Wynne.
"Every one of those young people had insights into societal issues that we are grappling with, and that helps me to figure out how we should move forward."