Spotlight on UofT Cressy Award Winner: Jody Chan

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!

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 (That’s Jody on the right!)

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
College: Trinity

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.

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Spotlight on UofT Cressy Award Winner: Kaylah Krajnc

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: Kaylah Krajnc
Program: Double Major in Conservation Biology and Psychology, and a Minor in Environmental Biology
Involved with: The Centre for Community Partnerships, Hart House, Veg Club, Student Voice Committee, Office of Student Life
College: Woodsworth


We asked Kaylah to share her experience with incoming students. This is what she said:

My university journey started with a whole first year of only focusing on academics… it was quite the dreary existence. Not wanting my entire university experience to be reflected by my coursework and GPA, immediately after my last exam I went to talk to someone at my College about how I could get involved in campus life.

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That’s Kaylah in the middle!

This first step sparked a whirlwind of diverse and awesome experiences getting involved in the university; I went from not being involved at all, to being involved way too much, to finally striking a healthy balance between the two. But I loved each step of the journey because it was a continuous self-learning process. My first year taught me that I don’t feel fulfilled learning only in a classroom, my times of being way too involved allowed me to explore different avenues of myself and learn what I was passionate about, and throughout it all I was able to meet amazing people and become a part of some great communities.

In the last couple years of my university journey I committed myself to a few experiences that really aligned with my passions and values. In particular I poured a lot of myself into my roles at the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP), Hart House, and the Veg Club. And maybe this sounds super corny, but my experiences with these communities really made me who I am today, in a variety of ways.

Through the CCP I grew comfortable with self-reflection, and I discovered that I am really passionate about community-engaged learning and initiatives. Though Hart House, I learned the values of challenging myself to push past my comfort zone to experience self-growth. And with the support of the Veg Club I really developed my passions for animal and environmental activism.

Even though these learning experiences are all different, what’s important is that they shaped me to be the person I am today, and they enhanced the learning experiences I had in the classroom. It allowed me to take the knowledge I was learning through my courses and explore ways to apply it in my future life experiences after university. And the people I’ve met along the way have made these experiences even greater; I’ve gained life-long friends, amazing mentors, and have met just plain cool people that have inspired me simply by living their amazing lives.

These experiences have made me fall in love with UofT, and I’m sad that I’m finished my degree, but at the same time it has given me memories, stories, connections, and self-knowledge that leave me feeling super excited for the next phase of my life. I’m not quite sure what that phase is yet, but I’ve struck a balance between rooting myself in my values and passions, and embracing the unknown so that I can always continue to grow – this, I know, will leave me feeling fulfilled on whatever path I choose to take.

Spotlight on UofT Cressy Award Winners: Louis Train

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: Louis Train
Program: Philosophy, English, Writing & Rhetoric
Involved with: Peace by PEACE, blogUT, The Mike, The Howl, Arts and Science Council, Humanities Curriculum Committee, The Underwear Club
College: SMC

LouisWe asked Louis to share some advice he had for incoming students. This is what he said:

Some of my best learning at UofT was outside the classroom. I watched experienced leaders and figured out how to do what they did. I watched them plan, organize, direct, and inspire. I went to their events and worked on their projects and followed their instructions. Then I planned my own events and launched my own projects.

Your leader might have only a few more years of experience than you, but a few good years can make a big difference. If you read about someone who seems impossibly accomplished, remember they started in the same position as you. The difference is what they’ve learned since. That’s also what you can learn from them.

Choose involvement opportunities like choosing a class – what can I learn? Who is in charge, and what can they teach me?

But also ask: Do I care about this? Do I believe in it? I lost a year following a charismatic student leader whose club was essentially padding for her resume. I learned a lot, but felt empty.

At Peace by PEACE, I worked on something I believed in and learned a lot. I invented a conflict resolution game that 3000 Toronto kids have played.

I also found a love for writing, and spent three happy years writing and (and later editing) blogs, newsletters, curricula, and newspapers. I wrote about meeting Margaret Atwood, and she shared the article on Twitter. Now I’ve begun editing professionally.

Find your calling, first, then find out who does it well. In a few years, people will try to find you.