Over the past year, Angela Esterhammer Vic 8T3, principal of Victoria College, has focused on learning beyond the classroom, reimagining the Northrop Frye Centre, and assisting students in their pursuit of post-graduate studies. “Through these activities, we are exceeding boundaries and crossing borders,” Esterhammer says.
Looking beyond the classroom, for instance, Vic’s Material Culture program has opened a new learning laboratory that allows students to do hands-on work with objects that embody a particular culture. The program is also providing students with work placements in museums and cultural institutions.
In addition to the popular Vic One program that brings together small cohorts of first-year students in a series of themed courses, Vic is placing an added emphasis on its Vic One Hundred courses. These small seminar courses also bring in guest lecturers and try to include an experiential component. “Vic One and Vic One Hundred erase the natural boundaries between faculty and students and make education more personal,” says President Paul W. Gooch. “A hallmark of a Vic education is that personal touch.”
The Creative Expression and Society program is another new Vic offering that has been quite popular, Esterhammer says. It focuses on creative writing, along with music and visual arts, and examines topics such as reviewing the arts, marketing and censorship. Part of the program is delivered in a workshop format to allow students to develop their skills in fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction.
Vic’s renowned Northrop Frye Centre has also undergone a significant transformation, redefining its borders, Esterhammer notes. Previously, the centre focused on hosting visiting researchers and editing the collected works of Northrop Frye Vic 3T3, Emm 3T6. Today, it has become a humanities and social science research centre with a special mission to support undergraduate student research and integrate it with the work of faculty and graduate Fellows. One-on-one mentoring is available to students engaged in research projects. “Northrop Frye’s work is a really important heritage that Vic has,” says Esterhammer, one of his former students. “we are inspired by the cross-disciplinary work he did. -The Centre’s new focus on students and research is very much in the lifelong spirit of Northrop Frye.”
While Moustafa Abdalla, the 2015 Rhodes scholar, may be the current Vic emblem for post-graduate opportunity, other Vic students displayed academic prowess during the past year. Alina Guna Vic 1T4 was selected as Gates Scholar, a scholarship for graduate study at the University of Cambridge that was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is comparable to the Rhodes Scholarship. She is presently working toward a PhD in biological science. Of the six 2014 University of Toronto Alumni Association scholars, three were Vic students: Christine Farquharson, Galina Gheihman and Roland Xu.
In addition, says Esterhammer, in June 2014 51.2% of students who had done the Vic One program graduated from U of T with high distinction, and another 26.4% with distinction. That is more than twice the rate of high distinction achieved by Arts & Science students in general. “Vic One is not just an excellent first-year experience; it provides an excellent foundation for high achievement throughout a student’s university career,” says Esterhammer.