21 memorable moments of 2021 at U of T Scarborough

A photo of the Highland Hall building.
Article Date

Alexa Battler

Let’s admit it, 2021 wasn’t as different from 2020 as we’d hoped. But the year had its bright spots as we continued pushing, adapting and coming together. Here’s 21 moments that stood out.

1. WE RAN A COVID-19 TESTING CENTRE

As case counts rose, we pitched in to house a COVID-19 testing centre in the Highland Hall event centre. The space was retrofitted with its own HVAC system, and from December 2020 to March 2021, almost 79,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted.

2. WE SAW INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE IN ACTION

This year, we launched our five-year strategic plan, Inspiring Inclusive Excellence. The plan contains the guiding principles for our campus, and a vision to work towards.

3. WE TAUGHT OUTSIDE THE BOX

Virtual field trips and online 3D models were only some of the ways our instructors made their online classrooms engaging. Students in Sonja Nikkila’s class could earn marks for posting the good things in their lives to a bonus discussion board.

4. WE SHOUTED OUT A STARBOY

Hot off his performance at the 2021 Superbowl, we reminded everyone that Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, is a Scarboroughboy. The viral tweet included an image of The Weeknd performing at the SCSU talent show in 2008.

5. WE REFLECTED ON THE PANDEMIC

We took a moment to acknowledge that we’d spent a full trip around the sun in a pandemic. We thought back on the first two weeks to flatten the curve and looked forward to a new normal as vaccines rolled out across Canada.

6. THE TAMIL CHAIR CAMPAIGN REACHED ITS $3 MILLION FUNDING GOAL

Since 2018, more than 3,800 donors have contributed to create a Chair in Tamil Studies at U of T Scarborough, the first position of its kind in Canada. The Chair will act as a touchstone for scholars to pursue higher Tamil studies.

7. WE WELCOMED BRUCE KIDD AS OMBUDSPERSON

Many remember Bruce Kidd as the former vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, and as an Olympic runner for Team Canada. He now helps students, staff, faculty and alumni with university-related issues and alerts leadership of broader systemic problems.

8. WE DISPLAYED OUR PRIDE VIRTUALLY

The annual Rainbow Tie Gala took to Zoom for its twelfth year. Participants enjoyed performances from Priyanka, the winner of Canada’s Drag Race, and acclaimed musician, writer and artist Vivek Shraya.

9. WE SHARED WHAT MAKES US GREAT

We highlighted some of the people that make U of T Scarborough such a special place to study, work, discover and thrive.

10. WE TOURED THE CAMPUS

With 14 Tuesday Tour videos, we painted a virtual picture of our campus. Staff and faculty guided us through the practical and the picturesque, from the International Student Centre to Instagrammable spaces around campus.

11. WE GOT SHOTS IN ARMS

As community needs shifted, so did we. We replaced the COVID-19 testing centre with weekly vaccine pop-up clinics. From July to October, 27,405 COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Highland Hall’s event centre.

12. RENOVATIONS CAME TO THE ARC

The quad alongside the Academic Resource Centre building added new benches, electric outlets, shade sails, lighting, improved WiFi access and outlets for food trucks. The space is a relaxing area with the infrastructure to host concerts, lectures and events.

13. WE HONOURED THE FIRST NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION

On Truth and Reconciliation week, we reflected on the atrocities of the residential school system, the legacies of pain and trauma and the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities in Canada. Events included the creation of a video capsule, a series of talks with Indigenous artists and an in-person beading workshop.

14. THE LIBRARY RAMPED UP ITS RENO

The UTSC Library entered phase two of its four-year, five-stage renovation plan, which focused on additions to the students’ area on the first floor. Single space study rooms, state-of-the-art group study rooms, more outlets and flexible seating are in the works.

15. WE TEAMED UP TO HELP THE EARTH

We were one of five universities and colleges to formally launch the Environmental and Related Technologies Hub (EaRTH) District initiative. The district will house facilities for environmental science research, training for current and future jobs in green tech and entrepreneurship within the field.

16. WE TOOK A DIGITAL DETOX

October is jam packed with days and weeks dedicated to mental health awareness. We participated by unplugging; social media accounts across the campus took a two-hour break from posting while a walk was held down the Valley Land Trail.

17. WE SIGNED A NATIONAL CHARTER ON ANTI-BLACK RACISM

U of T became one of almost 50 universities and colleges to commit to a national action plan on dismantling anti-Black racism and advancing Black inclusion in higher education. The Scarborough Charter highlights Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality and accountability as its primary goals.

18. WE BROKE GROUND ON INDIGENOUS HOUSE

Construction began on new gathering place for learning about Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. The two-storey building’s design draws on the traditional winter wigwam and longhouse; inside there will be spaces for ceremonies, flexible research facility, student lounge, library, teaching kitchen and more.  

19. WE WON!

Awards were doled out across the campus as students, faculty and staff were recognized for their exceptional work.  

20. OUR FAMILY GREW

We welcomed several talented staff and faculty into our community this year, and talked to some of them about the work they’re most excited to do at U of T Scarborough.

21. WE REVIEWED OUR CURRICULUM

A working circle spent much of the year conducting a campus-wide curriculum review, which focused on knowledges and perspectives of Indigenous, Black and racialized people worldwide. Its members scoured course descriptions and consulted with people across campus to review content within the classroom, and the academic supports beyond it.