#UofTGrad17: For these University College grads, UC means everything from “ultimate community” to “unlimited choice”
University College is the founding college of the University of Toronto. It was established in 1853 specifically as a non-denominational institution of higher learning free of religious affiliation, inheriting the teaching functions and resources of the former King’s College, while the newly established University of Toronto became an examination and degree-granting body. It is home to Canada’s oldest student government — the University College Literary and Athletic Society, founded in 1854.
The College System
When the University College building first opened its doors to students in 1859, Toronto was a town of 30,000 people and cows grazed on the fields behind it. In 1968, University College was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in recognition of its role as the founding member of U of T’s modern college system, and as one of the earliest examples of the model at universities in the Commonwealth.
Founded with a commitment to openness, diversity and academic excellence, University College is home to several academic programs including Canadian studies, cognitive science, drama, health studies, and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.
One of the many features of the college system in the Faculty of Arts & Science is that it offers students a small community within the very big world that is U of T. University College — UC for short — was certainly like that for Christopher Lozano, and it began the moment he first stepped on campus nearly four years ago.
“My favourite moments at U of T are my experiences with UC’s orientation week,” said Lozano, who graduates today after completing his studies in physiology and health & disease. “I participated in orientation four times — as a frosh, twice as a leader, and finally as an executive on the organizing committee. I felt a growing sense of community at UC which came full circle this past September watching all the first-year students have a blast and integrate into the community, just as I had done three years earlier.”
Lozano’s contribution to UC Orientation was one reason he received a 2017 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award from the U of T Alumni Association. The award recognizes graduating students for making outstanding leadership contributions. And while Lozano was thrilled to be named among this year’s recipients, he was humbled by the attention and inspired to aim higher.
“I was blown away by the amazing things my fellow students have done, when their accomplishments were read out at the award ceremony,” Lozano said. “I am honoured to be among such a highly passionate group, and it has encouraged me to continue my leadership activities in the future.”
Modesty aside, Lozano is every bit deserving of the honour as he also co-founded the Neurodegenerative Disease Society of Toronto at the beginning of his third year. The group strives to make what he describes as a “small yet meaningful contribution” to fighting conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, by getting students engaged with the issues and inspiring them to perhaps take on research of their own in the future.
“We spent a summer working in a lab at Toronto Western Hospital that researches Parkinson’s disease, and had amazing opportunities to meet world-class researchers and learn about their projects,” explained Lozano. “We felt extremely lucky to have met them and wanted to share what we learned with our fellow students.” The group held its second annual conference this past winter, featuring talks from leading researchers at the hospital as well as McMaster University, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Huntington Society of Canada.
Lozano will build on his studies when he begins medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland later this year. “My dream is to become a surgeon,” he said.
He believes his years at U of T prepared him for life beyond undergrad in a variety of ways. He knows the series of medically oriented courses he took will give him a leg up in medical school and he has developed strong practical skills for organization and studying.
“U of T has also provided me with an expansive social network,” Lozano said. “I’ve been surrounded by highly intelligent and ambitious students who I hope to remain in contact and potentially collaborate with in the future.”
When Madhavi Gupta arrived at U of T after completing her first year of undergraduate studies at Western University, a range of opportunities opened up for her, too.
“Suddenly my choices had widened from, say, psychology or sociology to over 70 different programs,” she said. “I loved having the choice to try a more niche subject, and find what I truly enjoyed.”
Gupta settled on a combination of environmental studies, Spanish, and environmental geography.
“Spanish literature, Latin American film studies, a course at the School of the Environment that examined ecological worldviews…these were some of my favourite courses,” Gupta said. “I also fell in love with some of my electives, including an astronomy course on stars and galaxies.”
A professional experience course in her senior year provided Gupta with the opportunity to work with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, a non-governmental coalition of over 90 organizations that helps Ontario become a leader in producing and using energy cleanly, efficiently and safely. She described it as an incredibly enlightening experience.
“The organization is currently focused on an anti-nuclear campaign so I helped with outreach and advocacy, which included attending meetings, leafletting, and engaging with activism,” Gupta said. “It was a side of the discussion I had never seen before. I still hope to work within government eventually however it was really interesting to see an NGO at work.”
As someone who had not lived in residence during her undergrad years, Gupta was drawn to University College for its physical amenities and welcoming spaces as much as anything else. She has many fond memories of spending time with friends in the Junior Common Room (JCR), as well as walking down tree-lined pathways past buildings covered in ivy, right in the middle of downtown Toronto.
“UC is gorgeous, and there’s so much to discover within,” Gupta said. “Places like the Junior Common Room with its big red couches and Diabolo’s coffee shop were a big factor in my choice.”
With her undergraduate studies completed, Gupta is looking ahead to law school, possibly combining that with a master’s degree in environmental studies.
But not before taking a well-deserved break from her studies and going to Spain for a year to teach English.
“I know that when I come back I will have the motivation to study again,” Gupta said.
Notable alumni include: David Cronenberg, filmmaker; Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, comedians; Barbara Frum, journalist; Michael Ondaatje and Farley Mowat, authors; John McCrae, soldier and author of “In Flanders Fields”; Arthur Meighen and William Lyon Mackenzie King, former prime ministers of Canada; and Dr. Charles Best, co-developer of insulin.
Congratulations to the 697 students who are graduating today!