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 five to ten weekly, seminar-style discussions. Discussions are led by selected U of T faculty and guest speakers.
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
Humanities for Humanities (or H4H) brings together student mentors, community participants, faculty and staff to work together through various texts which speak to political, philosophical, economic, literary, and historical issues.
The course requires no writing, no essays and no exams, but instead gives all participants the opportunity to share diverse perspectives.
Discussions will be led by University faculty and staff, and distinguished speakers from across the city. Student mentors are expected to help guide breakout 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 co-curricular record credit.
Sessions run weekly on Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from late September to early December.
Please email email@example.com with any questions you may have.
Over the last 10 years, H4H has had over 1,000 participants with over 400 of this number represented by student mentors.
Humanities for Humanity, Fall 2023 Dates
- Tuesday, September 19, 2023: Mentors Training
- Session 1 – Tuesday, September 26 - Seeley Hall (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 2 – Tuesday, October 3 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 3 – Tuesday, October 10 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 4 – Tuesday, October 17 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 5 – Tuesday, October 31 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 6 – Tuesday, November 14 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
- Session 7 – Tuesday, November 21 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
Session 8 – Tuesday, November 28 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
Session 9 – Tuesday, December 5 - Combination Room (Trinity College - 6, Hoskin Ave.)
Theatre for Thought
Theatre for Thought (T4T) focuses on theatre and plays. In addition to reading plays weekly, community participants and students work to put on a performance of a short excerpt of the play, followed by a discussion. Performing in the plays offer a robust experience, with rehearsals and formal direction provided in advance of the performance date, providing all participants with a unique way of engaging with the material at hand.
Theatre for Thought runs in the Winter Session every Tuesday evening from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from mid-January to early March.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.
Theatre for Thought, Winter 2023 Syllabus
- Session 1: Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Speakers: Dean Kelley Castle and Prof. John Duncan
Introduction to Theatre for Thought
- Session 2: Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Speaker: Prof. John Duncan, I4W Academic Director and Director, Ethics, Society & Law
- Session 3: Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Speaker: Prof. Alison Keith, Professor and Director, Jackman Humanities Institute
Topic: Plauto’s Casina
- Session 4: Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Prof. Nick Everett, Department of History and Centre for Medieval Studies
Topic: Shakespeare's Macbeth
- Session 5: Tuesday, February 28, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Prof. Ira Wells, Academic Programs Director, Office of the Principal, Victoria University
Topic: Moliere's Don Juan
- Session 6: Tuesday, March 7, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Dr. Rhonda McEwen, President, Victoria University
Topic: Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
- Session 7: Tuesday, March 14, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Prof. Anne Urbancic, Mary Rowell Jackman Professor
Topic: Ibsen's A Doll's House
- Session 8: Tuesday, March 21, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Trina Moyan's The Cave that Hummed a Song (with a special performance by the author)
Speaker: Prof. Jill Carter, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
- Session 9: Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
6:00 p.m. – Registration & Dinner
6:30 p.m. – Guest’s Presentation (the presentation ends with leading discussion questions)
7:00 p.m. – Dramatic Readings (a group performs scenes from the play)
7:30 p.m. – Break
7:40 p.m. – Breakout groups (each group reflects on one or two leading questions)
8:10 p.m. – Whole group (group representatives report discussion highlights)
8:30 p.m. – Wrap up, goodbyes
The Ideas for the World certificate recognizes students who demonstrate sustained involvement in the program during their undergraduate degree.
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.
Higher Education Conferences
The program "Ideas for World" hosts several conferences throughout the academic year, from mental health, to Indigenous Issues, to conflict and society in the media.
Sign up for our Distribution List!
Interested in Ideas for the World programs and conferences?
Sign up for our distribution list and never miss an update!
See media coverage of the Ideas Program to learn more about its vision and goals.
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.
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"
Louise Brown, Education Reporter at the Toronto Star: "University should leave students stirred — and shaken"
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.
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