In September a brand new set of students will be joining the University of Toronto community. That is cause for celebration! In the next few posts we are going to share the experiences and insights of a few of our graduating students. These students have all been very involved with the University of Toronto and the University has acknowledged their involvement by awarding them with The Cressy Award.
“The student experience at the University of Toronto is more than classes and books. It is life on campus, in the community and in the world at large. The Cressy Awards recognize graduating students for outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.”
Please click here to view the 2015 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award Recipients.
Incoming students, if you are reading this, welcome to UofT! I encourage to get involved and find your fit here just like these amazing grads did!
Cressy Award Winner: Jody Chan
Program: Specialist in Philosophy and Physics, Minor in Mathematics
Involved with: CCP, Student Voice for Democracy, Varsity Blues Badminton, Varsity Board, Trinity College Orientation, Dig In! Campus Agriculture, UofT350.org fossil fuel divestment campaign
A question I get asked a lot by incoming students is, “How do you balance academics with extracurricular activities?” I don’t think I ever answer this question properly; the truth is, having a healthy balance in my life has always helped me with school. I learned to manage my schedule and prioritize my work because there were always at least five different projects I wanted to be devoting myself to at any given time.
Honestly, even if my grades had suffered a little, I wouldn’t have given anything up. In my opinion, there is so much to be learned from being immersed in the community around you, in real life experiences that can’t be re-created within the walls of the classroom.
Throughout my first three years of university, I dedicated at least 20 hours a week to training and competing in badminton, serving as captain of the Varsity Blues team for two of those three years. Practically, I knew I’d eventually have to stop training at that level – the time commitment was just too much – but letting go of it was still really hard. I never would have been able to, without having developed other facets of myself that I came to see as being more core to my identity than my long-held image of myself as a badminton player.
The experience that quite literally changed everything for me was getting involved with the Centre for Community Partnerships. After participating in Alternative Reading Week in my first year, I was hooked. The CCP quickly became the defining part of my time at U of T. I think a lot about how lucky I am to have had an opportunity to be a part of that community, one that empowered me as a leader, gave me the courage to take risks, sparked my passion for self-growth, and taught me the importance of reflection in that growth process.
The most important lesson I learned at the CCP was the importance of integrity and authenticity. Now, I try my best to match my actions with my values and belief system, and make my decisions based on being true to my own identity (which is not to say that I don’t still make a LOT of mistakes). This commitment to personal integrity led, among other things, to my choice to become a vegan, as well as to devote myself to climate justice activism. Next year, I am going to be pursuing a graduate degree in Philosophy and Education in New York, where I will continue to put my passion for education and social justice into action.
For me, my experience at U of T was a thousand times more valuable for the personal growth that happened outside of the classroom than inside it (though my degree definitely gave me important critical-thinking skills that I continue to use). Though I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do in the world, I now have a little bit of confidence, a clear understanding of my own values, and, most importantly, a support network of the most amazing, passionate, intelligent, and inspiring people to help guide me through that ongoing learning process. Every experience, whether positive or negative, was an opportunity for learning that ultimately contributed to my current identity. All in all, I wouldn’t, and couldn’t, change a thing.