Sanja Vukosavljevic is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto with a double major in Sociology and Human Geography and a minor in Slavic Languages. After she graduates from university, she hopes to go to law school. Her grandfather taught her chess when she was three years old, but she hadn’t played much until she rediscovered her love for the game at The Hart House Chess Club. Other than chess, she enjoys long walks with her dog, needlepoint, baking cookies and speedcubing.
Hart House 2013–present
- Secretary of the Hart House Chess Club
“I am honoured to be the first female secretary in the Chess Club’s 118-year history. I am also very proud to be a part of a great executive team. We are focused on opening up the Hart House Chess Club to include many more beginners and women.
“We have exceeded our goals and currently have seventy-six members including eighteen female members, plus an additional dozen or so alumni who come to play chess with us regularly. We have almost tripled our membership rates of last year. Before 2013/2014, the Hart House Chess Club had not had more than half a dozen female members in its entire 118 year history. It is very exciting to have a total of eighteen female members in our club in one year! We had to change the set up our room and regularly fill the Reading Room on Fridays. We have made the Hart House Chess Club more active than it has been since the 1980s.
“I felt a lot of responsibility being the first female secretary of the Hart House Chess Club, which is one of the University of Toronto’s oldest and most prestigious clubs. I wanted the Chess Club to be very well run and put quite a bit of pressure on myself. I enjoy chess and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a great Hart House Chess Club secretary. Admittedly, a part of me also wanted to show the chess boys that a woman could be excellent in this role!
“I wanted to make this coming chess year grand and truly did not want to fail. Unfortunately, I became overwhelmed. Thankfully, Day Milman, one of the program coordinators at Hart House, was a great source of support and advice. She helped me see the importance of teamwork to decrease the pressure that I put on myself. Working together, my fellow chess club executives and I had a great deal of fun organizing our first few events including a club fair, a pizza party to unveil our new website, a simultaneous chess exhibition and the first of a series of beginner workshops. I was able to see that by working together effectively, the club’s events were more successful, we were more productive and the stress that I felt was lifted.
“Everyone in the Hart House Chess Club has always been very warm and friendly to me, although it has taken the chess boys a bit of time to fully welcome me into their social group. In the beginning, I was the only female in the club. I felt a bit out of place and had to encourage the other members to play a game with me. I had to invite myself to their weekly dinners and soccer games. Maybe a part of my struggle to become a member of this group was that I had not played chess in a long time. I played as a child and knew the game, but the Hart House Chess Club is historically quite small and strong. I guess, the members were naturally protective of their group, and it just took some time.
“Today, I consider the chess boys among my closest friends. I get really excited on Friday nights as I make my way to the Chess Club knowing that I am going to spend several hours in a place where I feel at home. My general experience is that as one of the only girls in a male-dominated environment, you stand out at first. However, after we all got to know each other, my experience became entirely positive. I hope to continue to play chess with the friends that I have made for years to come, even after I am graduated.”