Media Releases

New course engages students in citizenship and connects them to Toronto

October 13, 2011

TORONTO, ON – Citizenship in the Canadian City – a stream in University College’s new UC One program – aims to connect first-year students to the Toronto community.

Led by Emily Gilbert of the college’s Canadian Studies program, the stream will include guest faculty lecturers, tours around the city and discussion on issues facing Toronto.

“Some of the students are quite active in political ways but not ways we associate with voting, more activism behind the scenes,” says Gilbert. “I’m really interested in that disconnect, why young people feel that they aren’t getting value from voting or why they don’t feel they’re represented.”

The stream hopes to offer an opportunity for students to look at what is unfolding in the world right before their eyes and how they can get involved in the future.

“No matter what they do, I hope they have some sort of political awareness,” says Gilbert. “I’d love for them to be able to foster that deep thinking and engagement in problem solving, which is what I think citizenship should capture, not just ‘I’m going to tick this box for this candidate,’ but being directly engaged with the world.”

Students will get acquainted with the city and how they feel to be a part of it through issues such as privacy and safe spaces. They will tackle the question of ‘who belongs?’, the idea of priority neighbourhoods, what it means to identify parts of the city as needy or downtrodden and what it means to have a new mayor who is approaching these situations differently from his predecessor. Gilbert says they’ll be thinking critically on questions such as what kind of city do I live in, what kind of shape is it taking, where do I fit in that city and where can I get involved?

UC One follows the successful beginnings of Vic One and Trinity One. It also features three other streams, Sex in the City, Performing Toronto and Gradients of Health & Wellbeing in an Urban Mosaic. In the first semester, all four streams are joined as one general lecture for the 100 students and then after lunch, 25 students go into their separate seminars for the stream they chose. Second semester will just be the four streams as separate seminars.

To date, there have been a couple guest lecturers from the faculty. Philosophy professor Mark Kingwell, who co-authored one of the class textbooks, Rites of Way: The Politics and Poetics of Public Space, spoke about issues he raised in the text such as the necessity for a broad, contemplative education, in which students stop to explore and engage with the world around them. He also spoke on how important his engagement with the city was to his development as a critical thinker and citizen. Dean Meric Gertler, who is a geographer, addressed the idea that cities such as Toronto are made more livable because of a university (for its people and innovation), while a university also draws from a city to drive its knowledge and innovation. He spoke about economic importance of the university to the city to generate innovation and creativity, with respect to income brought in by external grants and contributors driving the “knowledge economy” through innovation and partnerships. Camilla Gibb, a Barker Fairley distinguished alumnus visitor to University College, spoke about her education at U of T, her writing and what life is like after university.


For more information, please contact:

Emily Gilbert
Canadian Studies
University College
University of Toronto

Jessica Lewis
Faculty of Arts & Science
University of Toronto