Here’s how I know that tomorrow will be better than today

Teaching is a calling and deeply rewarding. I’m sure I’ve learned as much and more from my students than I’ve ever been able to impart. If there’s any downside, it’s that we have to say goodbye when it’s time for our students to graduate. 

I’m a Scarborough booster, so even though our outstanding students come from all over the GTA, across Canada and around the world, I want to tell you about two incredible young Scarborough residents who graduated just last week.

Masooma Ali graduated with a major in City Studies and Public Policy, and a minor in Urban Governance. Born in New York, she came to Canada at age 11. She thought she would study political science until, in her second year, she took a course in Canadian Cities and Planning. Masooma got fascinated by transportation policy. She supervised research for a report on the future LRT linking U of T Scarborough to the Kennedy subway station and Toronto’s downtown core. She went abroad to compare Toronto’s subway system with the denser Paris metro, London Underground, New York’s subway system, and the subways in Tokyo and Yokohama. On a Human Geography field trip to Japan, she learned about the concept of machizukuri, or community action—where neighbours empower themselves to create solutions, and thought about how this could work here at home.

Another young woman who made a huge impact here is Karen Young, a psychology and health studies major, who wisely says that anything worthwhile takes time. She’s talking about her projects outside the classroom—launching U of T’s first-ever TEDx event (next February will the 5th annual TEDxUTSC), and bringing the C3 Inspire conference to Toronto. After a series of powerful personal experiences, Karen founded MindsMatterMagazine, the University’s first student-run mental health magazine and the first interdisciplinary magazine of its kind in Canada. It’s a community platform, dedicated to student perspectives related to mental health. Karen says it’s a mantra—everyone should be helping. She’s received accolades for her work like the prestigious 3M National Student Fellowship and the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Student Scholarship Award. For Karen, it’s the mentorship she received on these projects that she relishes most. She set out to create opportunities for her fellow students, and she has been enormously successful.

By the time each student graduates, they have already directed their skills and energy to help others in a dazzling variety of ways—mentored disadvantaged youth so they too see a path to a more promising future, raise awareness and improve mental health services, encourage healthier lifestyles, promote sustainability locally, nationally and globally, help victims of hurricanes and work to counteract bias and sexual violence. They contribute to the 60,000 hours of service that U of T Scarborough students give to the community, raising our collective awareness and spurring positive change around a host of issues.

This makes me optimistic about the future. Our students give us good reason to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Among the many treasures of our University—from our iconic architecture to our contemporary scientific discoveries—it is our students who are the greatest treasure of all.