University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

What Inspires Us

Little things sometimes mean a lot

Ben Kaplan, who wrote our cover feature about an international students’ soccer team at U of T, is himself an immigrant to Canada, having arrived in Toronto two years ago from New York City.

Now an editor with Post City Magazines, Kaplan found the international students he interviewed – who ranged in age from about 18 to 38 and hailed from at least a dozen different countries – a refreshing change from the celebrities he usually covers. “They were so pleased that someone was interested in them,” he says. “And they were so happy to be here. They appreciated it. They didn’t take it for granted.”

At one of the practices, a young Saudi Arabian player showed up wearing jeans, and the coach wouldn’t let him play. Kaplan, who was wearing baggy shorts, offered to trade pants, which the player gladly accepted. It was an oddly moving moment for Kaplan, who is Jewish, because he had never met someone from Saudi Arabia. “With everything that’s going on in the Middle East right now, to meet someone from ‘the other side’ was eye-opening,” he says. He enjoyed the assignment so much, he adds, that he ended up spending more time with the players than he needed in order to write the story. “I found speaking with them inspirational.”

All universities hope to inspire their students, but some students – particularly undergrads – often labour under the impression, fairly or not, that this university tends to reward inspired researchers more often than inspired teachers. President David Naylor has sought to rectify that perceived imbalance.

In his installation address, almost a year ago, he announced the creation of the first U of T–wide teaching award. Margaret Webb profiles the five winners, and discovers that each is not only an excellent teacher, but has dedicated his or her career to improving pedagogic technique. Carol Rolheiser, a professor at OISE/UT, sums up her approach well: “Teaching is not about finding the magic answer and applying it,” she says. “We can only be really good teachers if we’re always questioning what we’re doing.”

The late alumna Betsy Mosbaugh didn’t stay involved with the university after she graduated in 1945, and she didn’t go on to take another degree. But in the brief time she attended U of T, she made an indelible impression on many of the writers and editors she worked with at the Varsity. It was one of this magazine’s readers, George Garland, who alerted us to Mosbaugh’s unusual contribution. In a letter to the editor in our spring issue, Garland described how Mosbaugh had managed to publish the Varsity during an especially blustery snowstorm in December 1944. The gutsy 21-year-old from Huntsville, Ontario, was the first woman to edit the Varsity, and was considered by her colleagues to be frank and tough – but fair. U of T Magazine managing editor Stacey Gibson talked to several of Mosbaugh’s friends and family members and spent hours in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and Robarts to recreate the Second World War era in her feature story about Mosbaugh.

Finally, if you feel inspired to write, please enter our Alumni Short Story and Poetry Contest. Send us a previously unpublished story or poem by March 1, 2007, and you could win $1,000 and publication in our summer issue. Get writing!

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