University of Toronto undergrad Emily Hurmizi has been bolstered by her experience as Co-Chair in the Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee. The soon-to-be graduate describes her work with the Committee as a rich experiential learning opportunity, foundational to her personal and professional development.

On the cusp of a Spring 2022 graduation, Faculty of Arts and Science student Emily Hurmizi, double majoring in Philosophy and Art History, has an impressive amount of experience under her belt: She is Co-Chair of the Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee (HHSL&LC); Editor-in-Chief for Noēsis, the journal of undergraduate philosophy at U of T; Co-Editor-in-Chief of Goose, an annual review of short fiction; and she has written for The Varsity.

Emily Hurmizi

Emily credits Hart House for helping students like her to explore who they are and who they aspire to be.

She first became interested in literature at a young age. “I was a very imaginative child. Books bring you into their world; they stimulate your mind. Literature was this nice kind of reprieve into an imagined world.”

Emily's appreciation of reading led, naturally, into her own writing. “I was like ‘I'm going to be a writer,’ although I don't think I had a clear understanding of what that meant. It seemed very romantic to me as a child.”

She did not opt for an English degree but, instead, focused on extracurricular ways of engaging with literature and people who were interested in writing.

A Friend Recommended Hart House

A friend, who had applied to become a part of the Hart House Student Art Committee encouraged Emily to also look into the possibility of joining one of Hart House’s student-led Standing Committees.  “All of them are really interesting. They all do wonderful things [but] something pulled me towards Lit and Lib,” Emily explains. She joined the HHSL&LC when she was in second year.

Now, as Co-Chair, she enjoys pulling together the programming on behalf of the Committee and overseeing three to six major events each year. “The Chair is responsible for organizing events, inviting speakers, doing all of the logistical work to get the events off the ground and moderating the events if it’s a panel discussion. We have a lot of subcommittees, and different people in different roles, and so as the Chair, you're also responsible for organizing those roles.”

One of the events organized by HHSL&LC, this one on food narratives.

She sums up the benefits of the role. “It gives you two interesting opportunities: On the one hand, you get to be creative, come up with event ideas and see what interests you, how you can engage with different people in the literary world as well as people who attend your events. This was really satisfying for me.

Participants in “Food Narratives”: Top left clockwise: Emily Hurmizi; Trevor Lui, Author, Chef Food Entrepreneur, Storyteller; Ann Hui, Globe and Mail’s National Food Reporter; Suzanne Evans, Food Narratives Panelist; and Ify Ogbue, Food Narratives Panelist.

“On the other hand, it gives you experience managing people, being in a leadership role where others depend on you for guidance, support and resources, as well as to keep the Committee functioning,” she says.

The Importance of Arts Education and Arts-Based Programming

Being part of HHSL&LC made Emily see things differently. “Before I was on the Committee, I didn't realize the importance of arts education and arts-based programming; or how important it is for emerging artists, students and community members to have access to a place where they can explore, meet other people and get advice.”

Participation in HHSL&LC also helped her to realize possible careers: “If you're interested in the arts, but you don't want to be an artist, supporting artists is a viable future pathway.” She’s particularly interested in making arts education more creative and inclusive.

After the Committee’s events, she says, “I feel like I'm on a high because I've had wonderful engagement with people and made an impact. It’s really fulfilling.”

“A place where you can grow as a person”

Such experiences were unprecedented for Emily. “Hart House opened a new avenue of thought for me. I think that's really what the House is all about.

“What makes Hart House a very special place? It's where you can grow as a person and explore different options that you would never find in a classroom setting. It opened my eyes to new movements, new things happening in our world.”

Hart House Library, desk under window with laptop and backpack.
Hart House Library

She describes, for example, how Hart House’s Hip Hop Education Program led her in completely new directions: “I didn't know about the Hip Hop Education Program or what Hip Hop Studies were at the time. Then, as I started to engage with the topic at Hart House, I thought this is really interesting … Now it's one of my primary academic interests in Art History.”

She envisages the House as more than a building: “Hart House is a student centre, but it's much more. It’s a concept for exploration and education outside of the classroom. A community for the community. It does a wonderful job at allowing different groups to find their space and grow. It's given me community and the opportunity to build communities.”

Finding Like-Minded People to Enrich Experiences

While Emily is interested in pursuing a Masters in Art History, writing will always be part of her life. “I could see myself doing academic writing or journalism. Who knows? One bucket list goal for me was to write a book. It's definitely something on the table.”

As graduation approaches, she has some sage advice for undergrads: “It's more fun, more interesting when you find passionate, like-minded individuals. When I'm with my Committee members, for example, we can go on hour-long tangents about really obscure literary or arts-based topics […] It’s very good to have people that you can talk to, rely on and share stuff with because it reignites your interest. Ideas and thoughts are always expanded upon when you're with other people. It enriches the experience.”

To learn more about Hart House StandingCommittees, visit the webpage.