alex zaslavskaya

'The university has so much to offer': UTM grad maps journey across U of T campuses

Ty Burke

The University of Toronto is a big place, with more than 120,000 students, faculty, staff and librarians spread across three campuses. It can be hard to wrap your head around it all, but working with the university’s social media team showed Alexandra Zaslavskaya the big picture. 

“There are so many places I didn’t know about,” says Zaslavskaya, who is graduating with an honours bachelor of science with a double major in geographical information systems (GIS) and communications, culture and information technology (CCIT).  

“It was a really cool opportunity," Zaslavskaya says of her work-study role. “I started out doing data work, but got the chance to do videos. I provided input about what students would like to see, and got to know a lot more about the university.” 

Zaslavskaya started out in U of T’s architecture studies program, but found she didn’t thrive. After two years, she decided to switch programs and enrolled at UTM.  

“The decision to switch was a big deal for me, but it’s something I think people should be open to,” says Zaslavskaya.  “A lot of students stick with things they don't actually like, because they’ve already invested their time. But the university has so much to offer.”  

For Zaslavskaya, the most challenging part of changing programs was starting over. Her architecture credits didn’t directly apply to her new path, but she had taken some geography courses during her time at the St. George campus, and that remained part of her educational journey. She hopes to use the geospatial skills she developed as a GIS major to help address climate change. 

“Mapping and geospatial data can help companies make more informed decisions about their environmental impact,” says Zaslavskaya. “It can contextualize spatial patterns and relationships. I really want to leverage technology to improve our relationship with the natural world.”  

Like many other graduating students, Zaslavskaya’s U of T experience was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When she transferred to UTM in the fall of 2020, online learning was initially a significant part of her university experience.  

“A lot of people liked being at home," but not Zaslasvskaya. “And because I had gotten two years completely in person, I really missed it. There's a lot less interaction online. In person, professors can play off student reactions.” 

Once in-person learning resumed, Zaslavskaya found UTM’s Greenbelt setting was much more her speed. 

“UTM feels more like a proper university campus — like what you see in the movies,” says Zaslavskaya. Each campus has its own personality and attributes, she notes. “UTM feels like its own little community. It's really beautiful. I loved walking everywhere, and seeing deer for the first time.”  

Zaslavskaya gained a unique perspective on the campuses by hosting videos in a tri-campus “spaces, places and services” series. These short social media videos help students get to know what’s available to them by showcasing facilities such as Hart House, a historic student centre on the St. George campus where students connect with each other and the broader world through engagement with the arts, dialogue and wellness.  

“I didn’t realize places like Hart House are available to all U of T students, and not only those studying downtown. There’s a quad and a gym there, and great places to study. There’s so much history. I studied downtown for two years, and wish I’d known about places like this when I was there.” 

UTM’s Fall 2023 convocation ceremony takes place at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. Follow Alexandra Zaslavskaya's convocation day Instagram takeover on the @UofTMississauga and @UofT accounts. 

Watch all ceremonies live and on-demand in the video archive