Shruti Nistandra, Associate Editor

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers”

2020, a memorable annus horribilis in history; a year which was bid farewell to with tears of joy and relief, rather than with the bittersweet celebrations that normally mark December 31st. Yet, in many ways, this annus horribilis brought out the true lustre of the human spirit, because only in combat with the worst does the best have a chance to reveal itself. Hence, in welcoming 2021, let us look back to 2020 through the rose tint of retrospection. 

Here are the hope-filled Trinity news stories of 2020, which highlight the strength of the Trinity community and how it conquered the year. As Emily Dickinson’s verse above suggests, 2020 should not merely be remembered as a terrible year in the annals of history but also as a year of resilience, unity, strength and hope — hope, which never left the Trinity community through these difficult times.

Online Learning

One of the many innovations borne out of the Coronavirus crisis was the widespread implementation of online learning at universities. Clearly, online learning is not perfect and poses unique challenges for students, professors, and the administration. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the establishment of online learning was vastly sped up, and the challenges were ironed out at a remarkable pace. The Fall 2020 semester was already significantly smoother than the end of the Winter 2019, when the university had hastily and unexpectedly transitioned to online learning.

It is undeniable that the establishment of online learning can be a great gift as it increases student flexibility and opens the door for different assessment styles, which benefits students who struggle with traditional exams. Additionally, online learning allows students to exercise skills such as self-motivation, and gain experience with different modes of online communication, which can prove to be assets in the workplace.

Given more time, online learning could be a powerful tool which will revolutionize the face of higher education and remain a part of the university experience for students all over the world long after the pandemic has passed.

Betterment of Student Mental Health Services

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, with an unprecedented pandemic, the stresses of social distancing, and the transition to a new normal. This new normal includes learning and working from home, a high degree of social isolation, and an overwhelming transition from a world of face-to-face social interaction to the digital landscape. Thus, it is no surprise that an unfortunate consequence of this tumultuous change is a deterioration of mental health. This is much more pronounced among students who are also undertaking the stressful transition from school to university at the same time. Catherine Zahn, the president and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has said that “mental health challenges commonly arise at a time of intense life transitions.” The absence of social interaction among students only amplifies the problem. Nonetheless, this grave mental health challenge has become an opportunity for the University of Toronto and Trinity College to bring much needed improvements to their mental health services.

In early 2020, it was announced that the University of Toronto would partner with CAMH and form a team to redesign the mental health services. Once the pandemic became widespread later in the year, the need for changes to the mental health services became even more crucial. This team aims to work hand-in-hand with students, both undergraduate and graduate, to understand their needs and devise solutions. The team also aims to simplify access to mental health services by consolidating the service in a single website, creating one single booking system, and having one system for all the records.

The university has also pledged to improve health and wellness spaces on campus, increase privacy, as well as clarify which services are available and how to access them.

In the coming time, the University seeks to establish a “culture of caring” alongside a “culture of academic excellence” to maximize student well-being.  

See here for the full story (story adapted from the following article)

Graduating Classes of 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic was an unexpected storm that wreaked havoc to the celebration of one of the most important milestones of student life: convocation. However, the resilience and optimism with which students dealt with the cancellation of graduation ceremonies deserves a mention as one of the most positive stories of 2020.  

The optimism and socially distanced celebrations of the graduating classes of 2020 have been a highlight of the U of T and Trinity College Instagram pages over the last year! This positive outlook transformed the 2020 virtual celebration to one of the most memorable.

Posts related to 2020 Graduation 
on the U of T Instagram page

Image from: U of T Instagram page

Lawson Centre for Sustainability

At the end of 2019, Trinity College received its highest ever single donation. Trinity College Alumni Brian and Joannah Lawson donated $10 million to increase sustainability at the college and promote environmentally sustainable food systems. 

In late 2020, Trinity College announced that it would be using this historic contribution in constructing a new residence building at Trinity College: The Lawson Centre for Sustainability. The Lawson Centre will have a unique focus on sustainability; the building will have solar panel arrays, geothermic heating and cooling, a kitchen for the student community, a rooftop garden, as well as academic programming based around sustainability. The Lawson Centre will also help address the growing shortage of residence spaces at Trinity College by creating accommodation for 352 students.

In the midst of a difficult year for all, the Lawsons’ donation illustrates the power of giving for the benefit of the community and the impact that such generosity can have in creating a better future. 

See the following for the full story (story adapted from the following articles):

https://thevarsity.ca/2020/05/29/plans-completed-for-new-student-residence-community-centre-at-trinity-college/

Plan for the Lawson Centre for Sustainability

Introduction of New Bursaries

2020 was financially challenging for many as Canada entered an economic recession and unemployment soared. In response to these challenging times, the University of Toronto established the COVID-19 emergency grant in order to allow students to prioritize their education in the face of unprecedented financial burdens.

Trinity College has also created new bursaries in 2020 to address different student needs. Information on Trinity College bursaries can be found on the page linked below:

Margaret Macmillan

Margaret Macmillan is a Trinity college alumna, renowned historian and a former provost of Trinity College. Her new book, “War: How Conflict Shaped Us” was selected as one of the top Canadian nonfiction books of 2020 by CBC books. 

In her book, Margaret Macmillan explores how conflict influences society and culture over time, and ultimately, shapes the course of human history. 

This book, along with Margaret Macmillan’s other works illustrates how Trinity College, its students, faculty, and alumni continue to be a leader in producing thought and writings that leave a real and lasting influence on society.

See more here: https://www.cbc.ca/books/the-best-canadian-nonfiction-of-2020-1.5822569

100th anniversary of Insulin

A 100 years ago at the University of Toronto, Fredrick Banting and his assistant Charles Best discovered insulin, giving new life to people living with diabetes.

Upon hearing of a sick child, Teddy Ryder, whose health had deteriorated rapidly due to diabetes to the point that he could barely walk, Dr. Banting set out to help the boy and find a cure to his illness. One night, waking suddenly, Dr. Banting had his revolutionary idea, which he scrawled onto a scrap of paper. That idea led to the discovery of insulin, which not only saved, but improved the lives of millions of people like Teddy Ryder. 

The impact of Dr. Banting’s discovery was revolutionary. After the success of insulin in the treatment of diabetes, Teddy Ryder wrote to Dr. Banting, “I wish you could come to see me, I am a fat boy now and I feel fine. I can climb a tree.” Bill Bigelow, a surgeon from U of T described the impact of insulin as patients being “snatched away from death’s door”. Even today, millions of lives all over the world depend on Dr. Banting and Charles Best’s work. Moreover, this discovery vaulted Toronto’s name as a leader in research and paved the way for further discovery and development.  

In a year like 2020, where miracles seemed scarce, the 100th anniversary of insulin is a reminder of the potential within each person to create the miracles which shape history.

See Here for the full story (story adapted from the following article): https://insulin100.utoronto.ca

Extended Winter Break

The Fall 2020 semester had been unprecedented in the long history of the University of Toronto and Trinity College, being almost completely online and riddled with many spontaneous changes and adaptations at the university level and an unpredictably changing world situation. In response to this unprecedented situation, the university took unprecedented actions when it extended the 2020-2021 winter break by one week to support student well-being, in response to the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

In a year marred by difficulties and unexpected changes, the university’s prompt response to the student voice was heartening for the student body and emphasized the importance of a large community, like Trinity College and U of T, working together to ensure the well-being of all.

Thus, 2020, despite its hardships, has provided many examples of hope, goodwill, the power of community and the strength that comes from optimism and positivity. Therefore, rather than deeming 2020 an unpleasant memory of the past, it should rather be remembered as a year of hope, at Trinity College and beyond.

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