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Students win big for their contributions to the arts

Photo by Henry Chan.

Students from U of T Scarborough were the big winners at the annual Student Engagement in the Arts Awards in late March. Seven of the 15 awardees in the tri-campus competition came from UTSC.

“On the night, the energy was incredible,” says Cheryl Gibbs, U of T’s Assistant Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students, and lead coordinator of the event. “Every award recipient was there, so there was a huge contingent of U of T Scarborough students and supporters and they just seemed to be having a wonderful time.”

“We were all cheering,” says Frances Wdowczyk, Director, Business Development, for UTSC and a nominator of one of the winners. “It felt like every other name was from UTSC.”

The awards celebrate students who have made contributions to the arts on campus outside the classroom; academic work is not eligible. Students are often recognized for their leadership and volunteerism as much as for their own creations. 

Take Mahnoor Leghari, the student Wdowczyk nominated, for example. She’s now in her final year of a double major in Human Biology and Health Studies with a minor in Psychology. But as an executive of the Biology Students’ Association, or BioSA, she applied for funding during the campus's 50th anniversary celebrations for projects that included commissioning the large mural “Metamorphosis: Growing Through the Seasons,” located outside the Market Place cafeteria in H-Wing.

“It shows the four stages that students go through at university,” says Leghari. “We wanted to create a lasting legacy for students.”

Leghari and her team also organized a smaller installation called BioBoard, a long communal chalkboard where students can write and draw, in a hallway near the Department of Biological Sciences. “It gives them a chance to express themselves in any way,” she says. “It’s an engagement tool.”

Fellow winner Vivek Parikh is himself an artist—a dancer—but he’s getting ready to graduate in Management and International Business with a job at a major bank waiting for him. When he arrived at U of T Scarborough four years ago, he already had a lot of high school experience in hip hop, Bollywood and fusion dance styles, and had travelled to India for competitions. He saw a need for a club that could bring together a variety of art forms, so he formed Unity at UTSC, a chapter of a Toronto hip hop-based youth charity. “Dance can help students relieve stress,” he says.

The group of up to 30 or more dancers, singers, musicians and spoken-word artists has put on major performances at TEDx, Cultural Mosaic and other events, and is now well established. Parikh says he did not expect the award but is very happy about it. “It makes me feel my work has been noticed and appreciated, and that what I do has had an impact on students,” he says.

The awards, supported by the Pillar Sponsorship Program, were handed out at a reception hosted by Sandy Welsh, U of T’s Vice-Provost, Students, on the eve of the opening of the 2017 University of Toronto Shelley Peterson Art Exhibition, which began March 24 at the U of T Art Museum and runs to April 15. Three visual artists were also honoured for their in-class work.

The other UTSC Engagement awardees and their programs were Patrick Atienza (Studio), Kaelan Klith (Theatre and Performance and Studio), Jason Li (Music and Culture), Grace Phan-Nguyen (Theatre and Performance) and Helen Su (Arts, Culture and Media). All 15 winners are profiled here.


© University of Toronto Scarborough