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Global Outlook, Local Roots

Fifty years on, UTSC has forged a unique identity

University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) has become a campus recognized for its unique blend of global and local. “Both in terms of research and teaching, this campus walks the talk by being engaged locally and globally,” says Professor Bruce Kidd, interim principal and vice-president.

The campus’s commitment to the Scarborough community is partly shaped by location and partly by demographics. UTSC is located next to a low-income community, home largely to immigrants from places as diverse as Sri Lanka and China. “A lot of our students are first-generation and are deeply connected and rooted in our community and they bring that lens to the university,” says Kimberley Tull, UTSC’s manager of development and community engagement. And 16 per cent of UTSC students are international students from 80 different countries.

UTSC’s community engagement is apparent in the many partnerships the campus has formed with local organizations such as the Toronto Zoo (a research partnership) and the East Scarborough Storefront, a centre that houses neighbourhood services where students engage in research and experiential learning. The department of athletics and recreation works in partnership with the Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park neighbourhood to offer KGO Kicks, a soccer program for children from these underserved areas.

Two professors in the department of human geography have partnered with Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change to develop an urban farm in Rouge Park. Working on the farm gives students first-hand experience with the issues of food security faced by new immigrants and others with low incomes. “They learn more about the political economy of food provisioning in relation to class, income and city structure,” says Prof. Kenneth MacDonald. “They gain insight into the dynamics of community formation.”

UTSC’s global character draws on the multicultural makeup of the student body and the faculty, many of whom also come from other countries.

Ju Hui Judy Han, a professor of human geography who is originally from South Korea, asks her students to think about “travel” broadly – not only as holidays, but also experiences of displacement and migration, then write essays about personal travel using the critical geographical lens they develop in her course.

“Many of them vividly remember their first trip as migrants to Canada,” she says. “Many of them also write emotionally charged and conflicted accounts” of their first trips back to where they or their parents grew up, she adds. Their stories are shared online in On the Move, an undergraduate journal of creative geography. These “critical reflections on personal and first-hand experiences can open all our eyes to the intimacy of the global, and cultivate curiosity and mutual understanding,” says Han.

Kidd, the principal, believes that UTSC is an extraordinary campus. “It’s a happening place,” he says. “We’re internationally connected, but what is happening right next door is also of vital importance.”

Watch UTSC’s 50th anniversary video: click here.

View a timeline of UTSC’s milestones and achievements

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