On the unintended side benefits of Fall Study Week

Student live painting in the Great Hall

This past week was OCAD U’s second ever Fall Study Week – a mid-term break with no classes. We instituted the practice for lots of reasons – primarily to protect your mental health. To give you a week to catch-up, retool, reconnect with friends and families, reset and recharge for the second half of the semester. Anecdotally, it seems to work.

But we’re also recognizing a lot of unintended side benefits to having a week where the school is a little less scheduled and frenetic. Here’s what my week looked like:

Bruce Hinds talks to PhD studentsOne of my new responsibilities is internationalization. With the support of our new manager, international relations, Paola Aron Badin, we showcase OCAD U to visiting delegations from all of the world. This week, we welcomed five PhD students from The Sorbonne in Paris who were here in Canada to learn about approaches to art, design and social change. Among the group: two architects involved in creating a self-sustaining village under the Eiffel Tower as part of the international climate change conference COP21, an artist/economist, a digital artist exploring new forms of narrative, and a political blogger. We found many points of common interest and potential future collaboration. We ran into Bruce Hinds, Chair of Environmental Design at OCAD U, in the hallway and he gave them an impromptu talk about biomimicry.

At the same time, our Recruitment team welcomed almost 100 high school students from Specialist High Skills Majors Programs across the city to a series of workshops presented by our faculty showcasing different forms of digital technology and creative practice. Thanks to everyone who helped out with that program!

On Wednesday, the Fibre Studio was transformed to host an intimate memorial for a long time supporter of OCAD U, Marion Selig, who passed away last spring. Ms Selig’s contributions to the school provided support to many, many students to study abroad. Among them: ED student Chloe Moss, who spoke eloquently at the service about her experiences at Dundee University in Scotland, on of our many exchange partners.

The Great Hall was transformed Thursday into a showcase of our Drawing and Painting students for a provincial government announcement about a new $2.25 million fund for artists to produce work the raises awareness of sexual violence. Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Coteau, and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Tracey McCharles, made the announcement against a backdrop of student work, and three students who were, remarkably, living paining for the event. Later that day, the Premier herself tweeted out this video:

Finally, on Friday we said thank you to one of OCAD U’s biggest donors and supporters with the opening of the Ada Slaight Gallery on the second floor of 100 McCaul. Mr. Gary Slaight, whose gift to OCAD U in his mother’s name not only supported the renovations to the second floor, but also the Drawing and Painting Program, and nine renewable entrance scholarships for students across all programs, was there in person to meet the students and see the Gallery.

Group photo of students with Gary Slaight

Recipients of the Ada Slaight Scholarships meet with Mr. Gary Slaight.

So that was my week.

At the same time, folks in many of the Student Affairs departments used the four class-free days to program activities for you that you wouldn’t normally have time to attend. For example, the Centre for Emerging Artists + Designers has been holding a series of workshops called Your Creative Career throughout the week.

So we’re finding Study Week has a bit of a win-win aspect. It gives you the time to do what you need to do to succeed. And it gives us (staff, administration, faculty) time to showcase the school, thank our donors, and provide co-curricular programs to you.

— @deannefisher