Sept. 22, 2021 The Division of Human Resources & Equity is now called the Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture.

Passionate about improving the student experience on campus? A new equity-centered design program for staff is coming to U of T

Bring your passion for improving campus life to this 10-week series where you’ll have the opportunity to learn design thinking methodologies geared towards enhancing life at U of T.

The Innovation Hub and the Centre for Learning, Leadership & Culture (LLC) are launching a Design Thinking Experience Program for staff. This ten-week program, designed for staff who are passionate about improving life for students on campus, will provide training in equity-centered design thinking through a hands-on project that tackles a genuine challenge in the University of Toronto campus experience. Participants will be prototyping chosen and assigned projects.

What participating staff can expect:

Working on a team with students and other staff members, you’ll see the student experience through their eyes and gain perspective on how it feels to be a U of T student. You’ll also have opportunities to provide mentorship and build connections. In an environment where students and staff can feel separate, working as partners can provide solutions that work for both groups and relationships that improve campus culture.

Why get involved?

Design thinking and the qualitative research skills that accompany it are effective tools for reimagining what existing on-campus services and programs might look like, and for visioning entirely new ones. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about – and practice – designing with rather than for students and other stakeholder groups all the way from inspiration to implementation. Design thinking illuminates how the best solutions come from insights into human behaviour – expand your program development toolkit with this case-based learning opportunity and, on its application, see enhanced engagement levels and program success! Ground yourself in the central principles of design thinking like human-centered design to architect and further culture change at the University.

Join with a project idea in mind and work on a challenge relevant to your daily work, or apply individually and join another team’s design challenge. Either way, the skills you’ll gain will be applicable to service design projects in your future.

Program details:

The program runs from March 5, 2021 to May 7, 2021. By the end of this program, participants will learn and gain hands-on experience with:

  • Various models of design thinking
  • Empathy & design thinking
  • Equity & ethics in design thinking
  • Culture change & strategy in a U of T context
  • Data collection methods including interviews, observations & alternative methods
  • Transcription & data analysis
  • Ideation & prototyping
  • Testing & implementation
  • Reporting & presenting design-based research projects

The first step to participate is to join one of our upcoming information sessions:

Register online by January 29th!

Commitment is intensive: there will be a mandatory two-hour workshop each week, plus three hours of additional work. Because we work on genuine projects with deliverables and deadlines, we ask that participants commit to full attendance and participation.

Space is limited in this pilot program.

Want to apply?

Before applying – here are some prompts to help consider why you want to apply to the program:

  • Have your work/program of study information readily on hand (e.g. program/work information, contact information, schedule of work/studies available, etc.)
  • Consider previous experience you might have had with design thinking/qualitative research – or what you would like to learn from this program?
  • What motivates you to improve the UofT experience?
  • What do you hope to learn? How will this impact your work, and/or your professional/educational goals?
  • Can you meet the time commitments for this program?
    • Mandatory weekly meetings on Fridays 11:00-1:00PM beginning Friday, March 5th to Friday, May 7th, 2021
    • Can commit 3 additional hours outside of the weekly meeting to the work
  • Staff must organize a letter of support from an immediate supervisor/manager. The letter (which can be an email) should include 1) an endorsement of the staff member’s participation and 2) an acknowledgment of the staff member’s capacity to meet the commitments for the program. Supervisors should send their support to
  • Students must ask a referee to submit a letter of reference. The letter (which can be an email) should briefly speak to 1) the student’s ability to commit and participate fully in this program, 2) the unique thought and character that the student would bring to the program. Referees should send their support to