With almost 90,000 students, 14,000 faculty and a network of almost 600,000 alumni, the University of Toronto is often described as a “city within a city.” Students from across the globe are drawn to the school’s 700-plus undergrad and almost 300 graduate programs for a world-class education at the institution that turned out grads including Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Clarkson, David Cronenberg and Michael Ondaatje. In fact, the number of foreign students who accepted admissions in 2017 rose 20 per cent over the previous year. A recent report in the Boston Globe cites the school’s cultural diversity as one of the reasons for the influx.
A glance around the university’s three campuses reveals that the student body reflects the multicultural city that surrounds them. And a big part of what students love about U of T is its location. The leafy-green and bustling St. George campus is located in the middle of downtown, while the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses cover the east and west of the city, and have a more suburban feel.
The most recent addition to U of T facilities is One Spadina, the new home of the John H. Daniels faculty of architecture, landscape and design. Designed by acclaimed architects Nader Tehrani and Katherine Faulkner, the glass-fronted, zigzagging concrete structure has been lauded by the Globe and Mail as “one of the best Canadian buildings of the past decade.”
A stellar reputation in research areas including science, medicine and artificial intelligence are the school’s big draws. One of the world’s foremost authorities on AI, Google fellow Geoffrey Hinton, is U of T’s professor emeritus of computer science. He and his students are responsible for turning Canada into what the New York Times calls a “high-tech hotbed.” U of T associate professor Raquel Urtasun, a researcher in the field of self-driving vehicles, has been tapped by Uber to run its first international research lab in Toronto.
Also in the realm of cutting-edge tech, the Rotman School of Management’s Creative Destruction Lab is now providing start-ups with access to the world’s only commercially available quantum computers, thanks to a seed-stage accelerator program run by U of T.
U of T research often makes the headlines with fascinating new discoveries and creative solutions. For example, researchers at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics recently converted Saturn’s rings and moons into two pieces of music in celebration of NASA’s Cassini mission. And earlier this year, an undergrad student led a team of palaeontologists in classifying ancient, mythical-looking cone-shaped marine creatures called hyoliths.
The school’s faculty draws a lot of attention as well. Assistant professor Angela Schoellig of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies was recently named one of the world’s top innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review for her work on applying machine learning to drones and robots. And Aisha Ahmad, an assistant professor of political science at U of T Scarborough and the Munk School of Global Affairs, is receiving attention for her new book Jihad & Co., an exploration of how exploiting local businesses in conflict zones helps groups like Islamic State rise to power.
By Jennifer Goldberg, MACLEANS