With a focus on diversity and inclusion, U of T gears up for annual Giving Day event

Inaugural 2023 event raised more than $1.2 million, including funds for new student scholarships and awards, infrastructure, student experience programs and research
group of students working on an assignment together

(photo by Moussa Faddoul)

Darren Hamilton, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, is on a mission to ensure students from different backgrounds see themselves represented in the curriculum, teaching faculty and university community more broadly.

That’s among the reasons he founded the U of T Faculty of Music Gospel Choir. 

The undergraduate credit course explores various forms of gospel music, teaching aural musicianship skills and performance practices – all while providing insights into an element of African American history and culture. 

“Equity, diversity and inclusion have always been central to my work as a music educator and researcher,” says Hamilton, who recently completed a PhD in music education at U of T and spent more than 15 years as a music educator in secondary schools. 

His work is part of a broader effort by the U of T community to foster a diverse and inclusive environment where students, staff, faculty and librarians of all backgrounds can thrive – including through such supports as the Black and Indigenous Musical Excellence Scholarship. 

“[The university] has created space for myself and my colleagues to do [the] practical work required to embrace diversity and foster sustainable change for the future of music curricula,” Hamilton says.    

Hamilton is one of several U of T community members who are acting as ambassadors for the university’s upcoming Giving Day event on March 26. First launched last year, the event encourages the global U of T community to come together to support over 90 funds for equity, diversity and inclusive excellence at university – with U of T matching donations made between Feb. 26 and March 26, up to $1,000, dollar-for-dollar, while matching funds last.   

Last year’s inaugural event raised more than $1.2 million, including funds for new student scholarships and awards, infrastructure, student experience programs and research.

Other 2024 Giving Day ambassadors include: Andrew Wiebe, a queer Michif scholar, who is researching how to incorporate Indigenous and queer data into digital humanities projects ethically; Safiya Nur, vice-president of the U of T chapter of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance, who is committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion; and Jemy Joseph, a physician, speaker and consultant who has advocated for equity, diversity and education. 

Darren Hamilton, an assistant professor in U of T’s Faculty of Music, leads the gospel choir (photo by Mike Hwang)

Hamilton says creating pathways for more students to access higher education has a ripple effect throughout the community.  

“By supporting funding initiatives that create opportunities for more racialized and marginalized students to become members of the university community, the community benefits from the cultural diversity, and students [can] maintain a sense of belonging while pursuing their academic endeavors.” 

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