Do you know the Graduate Speaker Series @ the Grad Room?

When I started my graduate degree at the St. George campus, one of the big changes was the sheer size of the campus. Having done my undergraduate degree at the much smaller Mississauga campus, I felt a sense of community and belonging. As a graduate student at the St. George campus, I felt a real loss of the sense of community and belonging.

I have been working with Grad Minds, the Mental Health Committee of the Graduate Students’ Union, since fall of 2012. In our discussions with graduate students, we found that the lack of community and belonging was a common feeling among the graduate population. Fast forward to the summer of 2016, I started working at the Grad Room. A lot of students are unware of this wonderful hub for the graduate community, so I am going to take some time to talk about the Grad Room. It is located at 66 Harbord Street (northeast corner of Spadina Avenue and Harbord Street). Contrary to the common belief of “that Second Cup next to the Graduate House” (we hear that very often), Grad Room is actually a lounge for graduate students that houses a Second Cup for students to enjoy a beverage while they are there. It is also home to the Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program and a lot of workshops related to graduate students happen at the Grad Room. These include conflict resolution, various Grad Talks, Grad Life events, career centre workshops, graduate writing groups, etc.

When I started working at the Grad Room, I really wanted to do something to create community among graduate students. Since I had an interest in interdisciplinary learning, I thought perhaps other graduate students might be interested in it as well. After all, we are all graduate students and if there is a common denominator among graduate students, it’s the fact that we all do research in some shape or form. I decided that maybe a monthly event where we invite graduate students from different departments to give a presentation about their own research or research area in general to an audience of graduate students from all departments would be a great initiative. Perhaps we could even invite students from different disciplines to give a talk on the same topic. For example, what is the science behind concussions AND how is public policy being made in relation to concussions. I pitched the idea to the Graduate Programming Coordinator at the Grad Room and got the green light. We decided to call it “Graduate Speaker Series”. Our first event was held on September 2016 and we have done a monthly event ever since.

Graduate Speaker Series aims to provide a platform for graduate students to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue. We hope that this series will inform students about research going on at various departments of UofT and perhaps even open doors for interdisciplinary collaboration. So far we have had excellent presentations by students and lively discussions have followed each presentation. One of the best thing about the Graduate Speaker Series has been students learning and discussing ideas outside of their area of expertise. There have even been instances of interdisciplinary research collaborations!

I personally believe that there is value in interdisciplinary learning. Not only does it help in learning about new things but it may also help in approaching your own research from a different angle. Furthermore, the Graduate Speaker Series is an excellent way to provide a gateway for creating community. Moving forward, Grad Room hopes to make the Graduate Speaker Series a permanent fixture of its programming and we hope that students will take the initiative to come talk to other students about their research, their ideas and their hypotheses. …So come to the Grad Room and let’s talk!

If you would like to present at the Graduate Speaker Series, please email a 250 – 350 words abstract to Hamza at hamza.taufique@mail.utoronto.ca. The next Graduate Speaker Series will be held on Wednesday, April 26th at 5:30pm at the Grad Room. The topic of discussion is Education in the 21st Century – Issues, Challenges and Policymaking. Newly-minted Dr. Abdurrahman Wahab, PhD from Social Justice Education, OISE will discuss his research on Education in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – Educational policymaking as endeavours of state building. Mimi Masson, PhD candidate at the Department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning, OISE, will discuss her work on exploring why French as a Second Language teachers leave the profession and how she intends to provide a creative musical response. Mimi recently won the SSHRC Storytellers Award.

Sign up for our next event at http://bit.ly/2p7Hiv5.

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