Year in review: 20 unforgettable moments at U of T Scarborough in 2023

A group of U of T SCarborough community members at Homecoming
Our second Homecoming was just one of the memorable moments from the past year (Photo by Don Campbell).

Alexa Battler

While we try to wrap our heads around how it’s already almost 2024, let’s look back at some of the great things that happened at U of T Scarborough in 2023. 

1. We opened a huge, eco-friendly student residence

Harmony Commons became home to almost 750 students, not to mention one of North America’s largest passive house projects — a classification for buildings that meet the highest standard of energy efficiency.

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2. We broke ground on Scarborough’s first medical academy 

The Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health (SAMIH) will train hundreds of students each year as physicians and health-care professionals, including nurses, pharmacists and rehabilitation specialists. SAMIH is scheduled to open in 2026, next to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. 

3. Sam Ibrahim donated $25 million in funding for our new entrepreneurship centre

The Sam Ibrahim Building will be a five-storey hub for student services, and a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs. Alongside high-tech lecture halls, lab spaces, study areas, lounges and more, the building will include a centre to support students wanting to turn their business ideas into a reality.   

4. Our student won one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world

Fourth-year neuroscience student Sapolnach Prompiengchai is the first student from Thailand to be named a Global Rhodes Scholar, which comes with a full ride at the University of Oxford.

5. Our students won big

Abigail Ralph (BSc 2023 UTSC) was one of just 20 Canadian recipients of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. Meanwhile, Charlotte Wargniez (BSc 2023 UTSC) received the Rose Shenin Award as the top woman graduating form a science program at U of T, and Yao Yan Huang (BSc 2023 UTSC) earned the 2023 Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award.

6. We had our second Homecoming

The Ferris wheel returned, as did thousands of alum, students and GTA residents for a day packed with fun. Across the campus were tours and alumni reunions, games and activities, a paint night, talent show and bounce house, along with food trucks and a market of small businesses.

The Ferris wheel at Homecoming
The Ferris wheel was again a highlight of our second Homecoming (Photo by Don Campbell).

7. Our first chair in Tamil studies was appointed

Sidharthan Maunaguru’s new role is the culmination of a massive five-year fundraising campaign, which saw more than 3,800 donors contributing $3 million. Maunaguru, an expert on global Tamil communities, will start in May 2024 and bolster the campus’ academic programming in Tamil research and scholarship. 

8. Thousands of students became alum

This was the second year of in-person convocations following the pandemic; more than 2,000 students walked the stage in the summer, and about 500 joined them in the fall ceremony. 

9. A ton of construction projects finished across campus

Our Tim Hortons got a makeover, Bento Sushi moved to a bigger location and an Osmow’s Shawarma opened; just around the corner is a new Booster Juice and the cafe Bottega, while Tasty Jollof, a local favourite for African cuisine, opened a pop-up in the Kina Wiiya Enadong Building (formerly MW). The library added a chic lounge, more spacious book stacks and tech-equipped group study spaces. Nearby, the outdoor area beside the Academic Resource Centre (known as the ARC Quad) was upgraded with infrastructure for stage performances, lectures and leisure, below criss-crossing orange sun shades. The Information & Instructional Technology Services (IITS) office got an upgrade, and multiple beach volleyball courts opened in the Valley. 

Booster Juice and the new Bottega
Our food options got a major upgrade this year (Photo by Don Campbell).

10. We partnered with the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC)

We embarked on a research project to investigate the barriers and structural challenges young Black entrepreneurs face in communities across Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Bringing together The BRIDGE and U of T’s Black Founders Network, the findings will help guide the creation of programs that boost Black entrepreneurs’ success. 

11. Paty Romero-Lankao appointed Canada Excellence Research Chair

The position comes with $8 million in research funding over eight years. Romero Lankao is a professor in the department of sociology with almost 150 peer-reviewed papers under her belt; her work centres on ways cities can transition to run entirely on renewable energy without exacerbating equity gaps.

12. Our faculty won big too

Notisha Massaquoi, assistant professor in the department of health and society, was the first to win U of T’s Connaught Major Research Challenge for Black Researchers, and earlier this year also won the 2023 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award.

William Seager, professor emeritus in the department of philosophy, was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Hilary Brown, associate professor in the department of health, was awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project grant. Associate professors Robert Haslhofer and Stefanos Aretakis from the department of computer and mathematical sciences won this year’s Coxeter-James Prize and the Cathleen Synge Morawetz Prize respectively. Sanghyun (Kris) Kim — assistant professor, teaching stream, in the department of physical and environmental sciences — was one of the three recipients of the U of T Early Career Teaching Award. David McLagan (PhD 2018 UTSC), along with Professors Carl Mitchell and Frank Wania of the department of physical and environmental sciences, were part of a team that received a Governor General’s Innovation Award. And Professor Myrna Simpson from the department of physical and environmental sciences received the Clair C. Patterson Award from the Geochemical Society. 

13. Juvenal Ndayiragije was named special advisor of Black Faculty Success 

Ndayiragije is a renowned linguistics professor, and he’ll be advising the campus’ vice-principal academic and dean, vice-deans and associate deans on ways to attract and keep Black faculty and postdoctoral fellows at U of T Scarborough. He’ll also support the Global Learning initiatives at U of T, with a focus on opportunities in Africa. 

In his role as special advisor Juvénal Ndayiragijeis will work closely with deans at U of T Scarborough to support recruitment and retention efforts while also exploring systemic barriers to faculty success (Photo by Sean Liliani)
Juvénal Ndayiragijeis is supporting recruitment and retention and exploring systemic barriers to faculty success (Photo by Sean Liliani).

14. We launched iRISE, and SDGs@UTSC

We’re advancing research that fights the world’s most pressing problems with three institutes for Resilient and Inclusive Societies and Ecosystems (iRISE). iRISE also became home to an interdisciplinary research network (known as an institutional strategic initiative, or ISI) with an ambitious agenda dedicated to getting the world closer to reaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

15. Frank Stronach became our executive-in-residence

Stronach created one of the country’s largest diversified companies, Magna International Inc., and his role in the department of management has him using his decades of business expertise to mentor students. 

16. Diana Valencia named Guggenheim Fellow

Valencia, associate professor in the department of physical and environmental sciences, is one of only two Canadians to win this highly competitive award. Valencia is known for being the first person to study planets beyond our solar system by combining geophysics with astrophysics, and her work determining what these planets are made of could be critical for finding another planet that could support human life. 

17. We launched Soundlife Scarborough (SLS)

SLS is a centre dedicated to creating and supporting free, accessible opportunities to make music within and beyond the university. It’s centralizing and growing the several partnerships, initiatives, research projects and programs in the music and culture program, and already offers weekly events for hand-drumming and ukulele, along with Brazilian Maracatu sessions.

the launch of SLS
Soundlife Scarborough hosted a launch event full of music-making activities earlier this year (Photo by Alexa Battler).

18. We created the new health sciences stream at UTSC

The stream encompasses more than 50 different co-op programs and is specifically designed to set students up to become the next generation of health-care professionals. Students can simultaneously earn the new certificate in pathways to health professions, to receive additional training and develop core skills such as leadership, equity and critical thinking.

19. We hosted a major health equity conference

Hundreds of researchers, community leaders and health-care workers gathered in Highland Hall for a conference, dubbed Building Communities through Inclusive Health, co-hosted by the campus and Scarborough Health Network (SHN), to discuss concrete steps to address the greatest issues in Scarborough’s health-care system. 

20. Indigenous placemaking on campus

The award-winning accessible pathway leading down to the Valley was renamed Ma Moosh Ka Win Trail, and the building formerly known as MW became the Kina Wiiya Enadong Building. Two major campus walkways were translated into Indigenous languages, and Rock Walk is now also known as Tsi Yonnenyakéhtó:Ten while Scholar’s Walk was translated to Ilinniaqtiup Aqqutinga.