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Victoria University is committed to the belief that our students should have a robust and diverse undergraduate experience.

This program does just that. Ideas for the World blends social interaction, academic reflection, and community awareness (locally and globally). The program is transformative and engaging for all who participate.

Each offering of the program consists of 5 to 10 weekly, seminar-style discussions. Discussions are led by selected U of T faculty and guest speakers.

Programs

We offer Humanities for Humanity and Theatre for Thought courses during the fall and winter semesters respectively. See below for more details.

Humanities for Humanity ONLINE: Fall 2020
Humanities for Humanity ONLINE: Fall 2020

In Humanities for Humanity (H4H) students and community participants will gather online once a week to engage in meaningful discussions on social justice topics from assigned articles.

Discussions will be led by University faculty and staff, and distinguished speakers from across the city. Student mentors are expected to help guide break-out discussions and offer pathways for nuanced commentary on each week’s topics.

Dedicated upper-year students are encouraged to join as mentors, and will receive for co-curricular record credit. 

Sessions will run from October 6 to November 3 on Tuesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. 

Please email vic.ideas@utoronto.ca with any questions you may have.

Register for H4H
CLOSED: Theatre for Thought Winter 2020 

Join us Tuesday evenings this winter for the “Theatre for Thought” (T4T) section of the Ideas for the World program. As a mentor with T4T, you will have the opportunity to read plays, perform excerpts and flex your acting skills, if you’d like—and partake in compelling discussions on the plays’ themes and messages. The plays discussed range from Greek tragedies to contemporary Canadian drama. Hosted over dinner, the event provides a great space to break bread (literally and figuratively) with fellow students and non-student members of the community. There are no tests and assignments: just free food and a chance to foster meaningful connections! T4T participants come from diverse backgrounds and bring a wealth of interesting lived experiences to the discussions that take place in the program.

The program registration is now closed. Please check back in Fall 2020.

Questions about all Ideas for the World programs can be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students at 416-585-4528 or by e-mail at vic.ideas@utoronto.ca

Media Coverage

See media coverage of the Ideas Program to learn more about its vision and goals. 

Humanities for Humanity in the Engaged Scholar Journal
Humanities for Humanity in the Engaged Scholar Journal

Professor John Duncan, Ideas for the World Academic Adviser and the Director, Ethics, Society & Law Program at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, writes about H4H for the Engaged Scholar Journal.

Abstract

Since 2007, the Humanities for Humanity (“H4H”) course has brought together student experience beyond the classroom, educational experiences for community members who could not otherwise attend university, discussion of social justice, and studies in the humanities. By discussing a selection of rich and influential primary texts from the humanities, course members are introduced to a rudimentary history of the present, focussing on who we have become as members of a concrete social and political reality intersected by capitalism, bureaucracy, liberalism, socialism, anti-essentialism, and post-colonialism. Both the texts and the student-participant encounters are rich, and the sessions are guided by two central classical ideals: the activity of learning is primarily an end in itself, and the most important thing to learn may be who we are. The core course content of H4H is outlined, and the ways in which H4H connects student mentors and community participants are discussed. Implications are drawn regarding what makes H4H a unique form of community service-learning in which service is virtually eclipsed by learning in a process that subverts barriers between people.

Humanities for Humanity in the Engaged Scholar Journal
UofT Professor Mark Kingwell discusses the "extraordinary success" of the "innovative series"

Excerpt from "A populist wake-up call for universities" in Academic Matters from UofT Philosophy Professor Mark Kingwell.

It happens that this spring is the tenth anniversary of a program run at the University of Toronto called “Humanities for Humanity.” My friends John Duncan and Kelley Castle, along with a host of student and faculty volunteers, have run this innovative series with extraordinary success over this decade.

In the program, people from different walks of city life, recruited through community centres and downtown churches, attend a series of lectures and discussion groups. They read very canonical material and hear from professors interested in the topics. (I have lectured every year on Machiavelli’s The Prince; also lately on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in a related program called “Theatre for Thought”.) There is a hearty dinner and free childcare, formal certificates at the end, and, above all, an intellectual fellowship I have not seen anywhere else.

Some 500 students have been inspired by the original program over the years, with another 300 graduating from the theatre-based offshoot. These might seem like small numbers, compared to the massive waves of populism that contend with the very idea of a university, and the huge annual intakes of students at all levels of our system. But, I can tell you that there is nothing in my experience more moving than to hear someone, excluded by language or background from regular attendance, wax emotional about the simple chance to attend a university lecture on power, or identity, or faith.

A populist wake-up call for universities
Toronto Star: "University should leave students stirred — and shaken"
Toronto Star: "University should leave students stirred — and shaken"

Louise Brown, Education Reporter at the Toronto Star: "University should leave students stirred — and shaken"

Excerpt:

Dean Kelley Castle "the outspoken University of Toronto academic and former community activist has invited members of the public facing hardship — poverty, disability — to join in several of the discussion-based courses on heady topics in science, culture, religion, theatre, the humanities and politics, all part of a post-secondary experiment Castle calls Ideas for the World.

“For too long we’ve created classrooms where students aren’t interested in deep learning; they’re so worried about upsetting their professor, they’re afraid to take a risk,” warned Castle.

“But I really believe university should leave you stirred — and shaken.”

Toronto Star: "University should leave students stirred — and shaken"
Dean Kelley Castle "The value of being porous: What universities and cities can do for each other"

Dean Kelley Castle writes about the "The value of being porous: What universities and cities can do for each other" in Academic Matters.

Excerpt:

In a program called Ideas for the World at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, we take a crack at making the walls of the university a bit more porous. The program has 10 sections, all of which are designed around meals. Lunch groups have a cap of 25 students who meet with a different faculty member, public figure, or professional every week for an open discussion led by the guest. Sections have included: Art, architecture and building culture; Culture and conflict in the media; Science in society; Environment and economics; Religion in the public sphere; and The purpose, power and politics of the university.

Weekly topics include such things as what forms our views of scientific doubt and scientific risk, and how the media can influence which wars we think are just. Students consider whether forced quarantine is sometimes socially necessary (for instance with new drug-resistant strains of TB); whether Muslim prayer should be allowed in public schools; whether or how evidence-based medicine represents a shift from traditional paradigms of diagnosing and treating patients. They ask how religion is involved in forming public opinion around international policy (especially in the U.S.); how science, morality, and the law intertwine around the issue of HIV status disclosure; how architecture and power relate; and how the media can sometimes influence people to believe things, even against the evidence. And in the section that considers the university itself (led by our own President, Philosophy Professor Paul Gooch, with various guest speakers) themes have included: why academic freedom is so important; the issue of donors influencing curricular decisions; how the government influences how universities function; and the (not-surprisingly heated) question of who sets priorities for universities and on what basis.

The value of being porous: What universities and cities can do for each other
Daniela Rupolo's "The Ivory Tower" Video

Certificates

The Ideas for the World certificate recognizes students who demonstrate sustained involvement in the program during their undergraduate degree.

Learn more...

Eligibility Requirements

You must be  a Victoria College student and complete four Ideas for the World "credits."

"Credits" are earned for each program in which you attend at least 75% of the sessions. (For example, in an eight-week program, attendance is require for at least six sessions.)

The "credits" awarded are based on the number of hours involved in each program. Our community outreach programs are worth two "credits" each, and our discussion series are worth one "credit" each.

Note: Ideas for the World "credits" do not count towards your academic degree requirements and do not appear on your transcript.

Receiving Your Certificate

Certificates are awarded at the year-end banquet in April. All eligible students will be sent an invitation by the Ideas for the World Program Coordinator.