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Refresh yourself this week at RenewFest

Faculty and staff trying dodgeball, decluttering and deep water running

With students off for the week, you could easily throw a bowling ball through Mac Hall and only risk hitting the ever-present lineup at Tim Horton’s. But just outside in the Taylor Quad, about 200 faculty and staff gathered at a giant bonfire Tuesday to kick off RenewFest, this week’s opportunity for faculty and staff to get to know each other and try something new, from a deep water running class to a decluttering workshop.

“I’m going to try dodgeball on Friday,” says Shannon Franzky, a marketing strategist who helped organize the week’s long list of activities. “Grab your colleagues from your office and come on down and do a fun activity or take a workshop together.” 

Free Active Living membership

As part of RenewFest, every employee’s Unicard is loaded up with a free ActiveLiving membership that’s valid until March 5. James Murphy is eyeing a yoga or learn to swim class. “There are lots of different activities,” says the information specialist at Libraries and Cultural Resources near a hot chocolate station in the quad equipped with chocolate chips, whipping cream and gold sprinkles. “It’s nice to have a chance to chat, meet new staff and relax a little bit when the students are away.”

RenewFest is aimed at helping create positive work environments and a culture of caring on campus as well as support the Campus Mental Health Strategy. “When you bring people together here at the fire or at a workshop, you have the opportunity to have a conversation about where you work and what you do and meet people from across faculties,” says Franzky.

Activities filling up quickly

“I am planning to try Zumba and snowboarding 101,” says Taoting Li, a research assistant in the Office of Diversity as she stands around the bonfire. “But some of the events have filled up pretty quickly so I will see what I can sign up for.”

Karen Cook, senior communications manager with the Faculty of Nursing and another RenewFest organizer, is looking forward to trying snowshoeing. “I am third on the wait list,” she says. “We have had such an amazing response to the classes, many of them have filled up.”

Creating a new ‘common coffee room’

RenewFest was inspired, in part, by the university’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. As part of that project, Franzky interviewed professors emeriti who reminisced about the university’s early days when it was only a few buildings and they’d get to know each other in a common coffee room.

“They talked a lot about how that helped build a little university family; people from the chemistry department would chat with people from the English department, for instance, and that wouldn’t happen without the coffee room,” she says. “This is one of the things were doing to bring that back and give people from across campus the opportunity to talk to each other.”

Hundreds of faculty and staff are turning out this week to enjoy new conversations and try out new activities — from stand-up paddle boarding in the pool to sipping hot chocolate with gold sprinkles around a bonfire in the middle of campus.

See the full schedule and links to register for events through to Feb. 24.  

First published in UToday, February 21, 2017

By Jennifer Allford for University Relations 

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