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September 19, 2012 — Innis One program lets students get creative in the city

by Sean Bettam — Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012

By Sean Bettam

First-year students in the new Innis One program, The Creative City, are getting a chance to work in the biggest research lab that the university has to offer – the city of Toronto.

The program combines Innis College’s three specialties – cinema studies, urban studies and writing & rhetoric – to enable students to develop their creative and critical capacities by exploring the dynamism of the urban environment. They will gain an appreciation of the interplay between film, writing, and urban landscapes – all in the context of the city around them.

“The program will help students develop a Toronto consciousness,” said Roger Riendeau, Innis College’s vice principal, academic coordinator and founding director of the program. “Even those who may have been born and raised in the city, yet are only familiar with the area in which they grew up, will learn to see Toronto in its diversity.”

They’ll be learning from some of U of T’s foremost scholars in the fields. Cinema Studies director Charlie Keil will present Hollywood: The City Where Movies Are Made.  The course fuses the ideas of creativity and cities by looking at how a locale acquires a reputation for a particular activity – in this case, filmmaking. Students will learn a cultural history of Hollywood and discover how Toronto has positioned itself as a counterpart to Hollywood by cultivating film and television production here.  The course will include visits to the Bell Lightbox and studio facilities.

Shauna Brail, director of the Urban Studies experiential learning program and teacher of Blogging the Just City, will introduce the concept of the city as a creative environment and blogging as a form of communication.  Students will explore how cities can foster social justice, including equality and respect for individuals and society through case studies and visits to areas undergoing renewal such as Regent Park and Kensington Market.

“They’ll create their own blog and learn to write for a variety of audiences, connecting ideas from personal experience, class discussion, readings and site observations,” said Brail.

Creative Writing and the Natural City instructor Sharon English, a 2007 Giller Prize nominee for her collection of short stories Zero Gravity, will teach students to develop their conscious relationship with the built and organic environment through writing and reflection. English will lead students on a trip along the Humber River Corridor to show them how to tune into the natural-built environment and draw on their personal reactions and experiences in their writing. Her students will also go on a guided exploration of the acoustic environment known as a “sound walk”.

As with all of the St. George campus’ College One programs, students will benefit from seminar-style learning with no more than 25 students in each course. For Revati Tilokani’s, the small-group format was a key factor in her decision to enroll.

“Through the Innis One program, I am able to broaden my horizon with a variety of courses that allow me to make the best decision possible for my future, while socially, the personalized classes allow me to build stronger relationships with my peers. This program will ease the transition from high school to university.”