Trinity's Sense of Place

Posted Apr 21, 2017 2:18 pm

Provost's Letter: Spring 2017

Photo Mayo Moran

(originally published in Trinity Magazine Spring 2017)

Over the past year we’ve been working hard to improve the overall student experience at Trinity. Thanks to the generosity of our alumni, we have launched our ground-breaking Mental Health Program and Anne Steacy Counselling Initiative. Supporting the whole student means we pay attention to all facets of the student experience and, among other efforts, we have enhanced our food services and expanded our experiential learning program.

Through these initiatives and others, we continue to make great progress on the first two pillars of our Strategic Plan: People and Program. Equally important is the third pillar: Place.

A sense of place is so vital—at its best our physical space elevates us and connects us in a meaningful way to the world around us. In the Trinity community, that sense of place is especially profound. Trinity College expressed its aspirations in the built form from the very beginning, as we see in our glorious historic campus.

Today we treasure the buildings we have the privilege to steward, striving to ensure that they are cared for and that they improve the lives of those who live here. Sometimes this means reclaiming space, as with the beautiful soon-to-be-opened Archives space, which was once an ignored basement. Sometimes it means refashioning spaces so that they work for the Trinity of today, which strives to be an inclusive, welcoming environment.

To that end, we are so pleased about the recent installation of our Junior Common Room accessibility lift, and the handsome new elevator that will make the Archives space and Seeley Hall accessible. These enhancements were generously supported by our students and alumni. We are so grateful for their willingness to invest in the evolution of place at Trinity College.

We are also thinking about our sense of place in other ways. The very essence of college is in a shared common life. Our alumni so often speak to me about the importance of the resulting bonds. And indeed, the evidence supports this—students perform best when they can learn, study, eat and live together.

Many of our alumni will remember taking some of their classes at Trinity, getting to know their professors here, and often living here as well—these were the glory days of the College. Today, though we are and resolutely remain the smallest college at U of T, our student body has grown since those early days. Too many of our students have no choice but to live at a great distance, limiting their ability to experience college life to the fullest. They would like to spend more time on campus studying, interacting socially or indeed living in residence but we do not have the spaces to meet all of their needs.

It has been some time since we added significant learning or residential space. The results are obvious. Today we have room for only approximately 25 per cent of our students in residence despite great and growing demand. The space for students to interact, study and engage is severely limited, and the wonderful new programs— like the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One program—that have reinvigorated the College’s teaching mission struggle to find space for classes and professors. Trinity College attracts students that number among the very best in this country. I believe that we can do better for them.

That is why we have engaged a master planner to help us look at our physical space and consider our options. In the months ahead we will be having a lot of place-oriented conversations on campus. As always, I welcome your thoughts as well. Get in touch anytime at provost@trinity. utoronto.ca, or share your comments with other alumni through a letter to the editor at alumni@trinity.utoronto.ca.

If you haven't already, please view the latest edition of Trinity magazine. As you'll read in the issue, in 2017 we mark 175 years since the founding of Trinity’s Faculty of Divinity. I think it’s particularly fitting that we are also highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit of several of our alumni, who are, in true Trinity fashion, becoming leaders in their chosen professions. We have so much to be proud of.

Mayo Moran
Provost and Vice-Chancellor