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The Secret is Out: Vic U Campus Sees One of Its Busiest Summers Yet

Aug. 23, 2023
A group of children stand together, beaming with smiles as they enthusiastically wave at the camera. Behind them, a colorful display of flags from various countries around the world flutters in the breeze.

Victoria University had more than 500 campers stay on campus this summer, along with a further 24 youth groups and 19 academic conferences. (Photo courtesy of Patrik Simunec/MWS Student Camps)

By Joe Howell 
 
It’s official: the word is out about the leafy oasis hidden in the bustling Bloor/Yorkville neighborhood, tucked away south of Charles Street and hugging Queen’s Park Circle. It’s possible to walk right by Victoria University in the University of Toronto, not knowing that only steps away is a beautiful landscape in the centre of campus surrounded by neo-gothic architecture. With buildings that are over a century old, the little-known space is full of old-world charm. 

A group of teenagers, all wearing matching green t-shirts, proudly hold up a Canadian flag. They stand in front of the Victoria University sign, with bright smiles on their faces.

(Patrik Simunec/MWS Student Camps)

This summer saw a record-breaking number of visitors to Vic U’s campus, from summer campers to academics attending major conferences. Since May, student residence rooms vacant for the summer break were filled with guests for a collective 29,500 nights across all four residence buildings, nearly doubling the target bed occupancy of 16,000 set by Residence Services. “We had one of our busiest seasons yet,” says Asha Bridgemohan, manager of Residence Services and Campus Security. “Our team was thrilled to meet and greet all the new faces that came by the front desk!”

The Vic U Events crew was also bustling. “It’s been a great summer for kids’ camps, as well as conferences, workshops, theatre bookings and even the popular TD Toronto Jazz Festival,” says Wendy Gamble, manager of Events and space management. “It’s been wonderful to see the buzz on Charles Street, as so many clients returned to hold functions and events at our beautiful campus!” 

A live band delivers an electrifying performance on the main stage at The TD Toronto Jazz Festival, housed within a large tent in the scenic Burwash quad.

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival main stage in the Burwash quad was always jumping. (Sally Szuster/Victoria University)

Victoria University played host to 19 conference groups this summer, including the 13th International Milton Symposium, the Canadian Higher Education Information Technology conference CANHEIT 2023, and the School of Earth and Soul. Vic U also welcomed two summer camps, MWS Student Camps and Eli Camps, with over 500 camp students residing on campus, along with a further 24 youth groups, including the Indigenous-led organization Outside Looking In.

A cheerful group of teenagers stands proudly in front of the main entrance to Northrop Frye Hall on the Victoria University campus.

(Photo courtesy of Elvis Mrizi/Eli Camps)

“Victoria University has always made our students feel welcomed,” says Elvis Mrizi, director of Eli Camps. “They love being here—the beautiful Old Vic building, the outdoor spaces and the residences. It is their home for the summer, and they create lifelong memories.” 

For the past 40 years, MWS Student Camps has operated its Toronto English Camps at Vic U, says camp president Patrik Simunec, complementing its language study programs with excursions, activities and rec sports. “Thousands of young people from around the world have attended our programs since 1983, experiencing summer in Toronto while living and studying at Vic U. Some have even returned to study at U of T and have chosen Victoria College!” 

A young instructor stands confidently in front of a chalkboard, engaging a group of attentive teenagers.

(Patrik Simunec/MWS Student Camps)

Some of the counsellors and teachers working with MWS are graduates of the Vic One program’s Education stream, adds Simunec. “In large part, the success of our programs is based on the excellent relationship we have with the Vic U staff, from the kindness and attention provided to our youngest campers by the servers at Burwash to the efficient and flexible housekeepers.”

At Burwash Dining Hall, a cafeteria station is depicted, with a teenage girl and boy in line, anticipating their food selection.

(Patrik Simunec/MWS Student Camps)

Between May and mid-August, Food Services served almost 53,000 meals out of Burwash Dining Hall alone, says Ajay Sharma, manager of Hospitality Services, with more coming from Ned’s Café and catering. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of our team members, who worked tirelessly to provide guests with nutritious, appetizing food and to accommodate dietary preferences.” 

Staff, present 24/7 at the main offices in Margaret Addison Hall, also provided accommodations to Scholars in Residence program participants, along with more than 60 students throughout the summer semesters. All four of Vic U’s residencies—Margaret Addison, Annesley, Burwash and Rowell Jackman halls—were needed to host the large number of guests. 

The Residence Services and Events teams did not undertake the task alone, says Bridgemohan. “We are proud to work in tandem with our friendly Security team, who meticulously secure our campus; our Infrastructure and Sustainability team, who keep our buildings well-maintained; our colleagues at Food Services, who provide guests with hearty meals; and our diligent friends at Housekeeping, who prepare rooms so our guests can rest easily after a hot summer’s day.” 

Two young boys stand on the Victoria University campus quad in the evening, holding sparklers that light up the darkening sky.

(Patrik Simunec/MWS Student Camps)

For their part, Residence Services isn’t resting yet after the busy season. They recently hosted incoming Victoria College commuter students for orientation, and are now preparing to welcome all students back for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Four boys pose for the camera while standing in a building on Victoria University campus.

(Elvis Mrizi/Eli Camps)

The successful summer season is good news for the entire Victoria University community, says Ken Chan, chief administrative officer and bursar. “Revenue generated by event and residence bookings is an important source of funding to support Vic U’s academic programs, student services, building upkeep and maintaining #VicsBeautifulCampus.”


Learn more about hosting your own event at Victoria University 
 
The Office of Event & Space Management has a dedicated team of professionals ready to help you plan and coordinate your conference or function, and will make every effort to meet your needs for all academic and ancillary event bookings. Visit our events webpage for application forms, and please contact vic.spaces@utoronto.ca with any additional questions. 

Learn more about booking accommodations at Victoria University 
 
Victoria University’s residences provide comfortable and affordable lodging for up to 800 budget-minded travellers, offering convenient accommodations for your stay in downtown Toronto. Although close to vibrant city life, Victoria’s beautifully kept grounds and park-like setting suit a more casual pace. Vic U is located on the campus of the University of Toronto, also a beautiful place to explore. Visit our accommodations webpage for more about summer bookings, or learn about reserving the Burwash Guest House during the academic year. For further information, please contact our Residence Services Desk at accom.victoria@utoronto.ca or 416-585-4524. 

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