Tuesdays with Barry

This morning I booked the robe rental for my graduation ceremony this coming June -- yet another sign of the finality of my time at the University of Toronto. And so begins my wistful remembering...

The university has been the site of a mental battlefield like one I've never experienced before and though apprehensive at first, the intellectual challenge is something that I've come to embrace and truly cherish. And having a professor to guide me through this time has made all the difference...

One of the most fruitful experiences of my undergraduate studies has been working with and getting to know the great Professor Barry Wellman. I first took his course, SOC356: Technology and Society, in my third year. Throughout the year we analyzed how technology plays a role in our everyday lives in the way that we communicate with our family and friends, how it has the potential to create community and what community even means in a virtual context, how it perpetuates or breaks down social inequalities, and how it affects the broader political landscape. I've always had an interest in technology but I didn't quite know how it fit with my PoliSci and Sociology major. It wasn't until Professor Wellman's class that I discovered just how beautifully and perfectly I could couple my interests like fingers interlaced. So for that alone I am thankful to him.

But Professor Wellman has done more than just open my eyes to the study of technology and society. I don't quite remember how it happened exactly but we really got to know each other throughout that year and he continued to fuel my interest in the subject. He shared and continues to share news items, articles or upcoming events that I may be interested in and happily connects me with people who may help me in this journey of mine. No other professor has shown me such unabashed generosity and kindness and for that I am forever grateful. And I know that I'm not the only one he does this for. Many of my friends have taken his class as well and we're all in agreement that Professor Wellman is one of the few professors on campus who actually takes the time to get to know your name and is genuinely interested in getting to know you.

with Professor Wellman

I was lucky enough to continue working with him in my final year. With his guidance, I conducted an independent research study on networked organizations. Even better, he recruited me to assist in the writing of two chapters from his and Lee Rainie's upcoming book -- an opportunity that undergrads only dream of! Going through draft after draft, Professor Wellman helped me develop my writing skills, which as you may be able to tell from this blog, is something that's dear to my heart. He pointed out certain aspects of my style that I never noticed before (hello, passive voice!) and he showed me how to tighten my sentences, making my arguments ooze with conviction. Seriously, how many undergrads get the opportunity to work one on one with their professor going through almost every sentence of their work and tweaking it to near perfection? I am but of the rare few and I continue to be dumbfounded by the confidence Professor Wellman had in me to take on this endeavour.

Beyond his guidance though, Professor Wellman has been a source of support and friendship for me. He's so incredibly easy to talk to and it is a joy just to hang out and, as he calls it, schmooze! He is honestly the coolest and most relevant professor I know, always in the loop and eager to learn what his students are up to. It's easy to forget about time when you're chatting with him...

With its massive size, U of T can be a cold and unfeeling place. You're lucky if you have the opportunity to actually get to know one of your professors. You're even luckier if that professor is Barry Wellman.

And with that said, I thank you once again for taking me under your wing, Professor! Even though I'm still uncertain of what exactly I want to pursue in the future, your guidance, generosity, and friendship has made all the difference. You are my advantage.

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams

"Magellan This City" or rather, this campus!

For awhile now, I (as a rep for blogUT), along with some friends, have been working behind the scenes with My City Lives to film a video series exploring the University of Toronto, St. George Campus. For those of you who don't already know (and take note, cuz you'll be hearing this name more often!), My City Lives is an online platform that gives us, the citizens, the opportunity to capture and share our daily experiences around the city on video. If you check out their website, you'll see that the web stories are presented on an interactive map that shows exactly where each video was filmed so you can learn more about our city based on the narratives of others. It's a simple yet incredibly powerful idea...

Now the idea to shoot on campus arose out of the need to create and build an accessible resource for first-year students who often find themselves lost during those first few weeks of university, both physically and socially. It's a terrifying and potentially alienating experience to find yourself out of your comfort zone in a totally different environment with people you don't know. It's overwhelming. I know because I've been there myself.

Those physical, antiquated maps with grids and street names that the university provides its froshies are no longer enough. They don't even begin to scratch the surface of what the campus is all about. As my friends at MCL say, "Ordinary maps are lifeless...we present a view of a city by the people who make it breathe". So here's to hoping these videos breathe life into this lovely, historically rich and vibrant campus!

**Thanks again to Adil, Coleman, and Saleema who made this all happen. Below are some sample videos but you can view the entire series here.

Which Way?

It’s that time of the year again for course selections. And though it’s a critical event every year, it’s even more so this time around. Why? Because it’s the last time I’ll be doing it.

Yep…this coming year marks my last year of undergraduate studies. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three years since I first stepped on to U of T soil...three years since my Frosh week at Trinity College where I first met one of my best friends… three years since I had my first class in Convocation Hall, that terrifying stadium-like “classroom”.

Naturally, much has happened since then.  And as I face the future…as I face this so-called “real world” that everyone talks about, a myriad of questions race through my mind with almost no end in sight. Where am I going after my undergrad? What am I doing? Should I apply to grad school? But to study what? Should I just dive into the workforce? Do I travel first? What should I do?

After high school, I was set on pursuing journalism. I had the privilege of having teachers who lit my way, who ignited my passions in writing, history, and politics. This continued on in university as I took more courses in international relations, development, and sociology that further defined and refined my interest. I got involved in student publications, contributing my writing and even taking on editorial positions. I knew exactly what I was going to do after my undergrad. 

But alas, life is not meant to be orderly. Somewhere in the middle, we break a leg, spill some orange juice, die, or, as is my current situation, discover something new about ourselves.

For me, it happened in September of last year. I got this kickass internship as a Social Media Coordinator at this equally kickass NGO (hello jhr!) and my world has been turned upside down since then. Suddenly I was caught in the middle of the fast-paced and always exciting world of technology. I was learning things I only vaguely knew about and at rapid speed too. Compounding this was this incredibly engaging and stimulating class that I took last year about technology and its effects on community (hello, Prof. Wellman!). I was and continue to be rapt by all these developments!

Suddenly my firm convictions of going into j-school after my undergrad at U of T aren't so firm anymore. Suddenly I find myself questioning where I want to go and what I want to do. I am torn. I feel like I'm being pulled in all sorts of directions. Should I focus on my writing? Or delve deeper into non-profit work? Should I continue to ride on this thrilling social media wave? What do I focus on? I'm dabbling in all these fields, loving it all, but still unsure of what exactly I want to specialize in.

At the same time, however, sometimes these feelings of confusion are overtaken by my excitement. I am ecstatic to know that I live in an age that does not limit me…that all these different industries are intersecting with one another like never before and there's no need to box oneself in anymore. I've learned this best at jhr, an organization that is an amalgamation of everything that I am passionate about: journalism, non-profit work, human rights, and social media. It is reassuring and immensely satisfying to know that there is a place, a space for all of this and that I'm right in the thick of it.

But still...there is that unshakeable feeling of uncertainty and every day I ask myself, which my way?

solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and (thankfully) short

Damn Hobbes and his Leviathan. Clearly he and other related political thinkers have been pervading my mind.

Yup, it's that time of the year my friends. And nope, I'm not talking about holidays. I'm talking about the dreaded time that comes right before then...exam season. Dun, dun, dun! The past week has been absolute madness and this week will be even worse with two papers and three finals to write. So right now, I've been in my own little bubble dealing with matters of sovereignty, NGOs, IOs, MNCs, inequality, globalization, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Veblen, Nietzsche, Weber, ICTs, dadadada the list never seems to end. I've been living in cafes all week and I've seriously considered moving into one and living there for the time being. It's been brutal, I tell you. So brutal that in the past week I've had to line up to get into a library. A library. That's when you know you've reached the peak of your cool. And I know that this struggle of mine is a plight shared by many others. Makes me question whether Hobbes was actually talking more about studentkind than all of mankind when he said that life was solitary, poor (oh so very, very poor!), nasty, brutish, and (thankfully!) short.

So for all of my fellow students out there finding themselves sleep-deprived, overly-caffeinated, and losing your mind, I feel your pain. Just gotta keep on keepin' on and I'll see you all on the flip side!