Thinking Ahead, Giving Back

Posted on Monday, November 5, 2018

Students have a potential new source of funding for projects: the Thinking Ahead, Giving Back program, sponsored by Chartwells, the company that provides food services on campus. Chartwells is aiming not only to provide food, but also, through this project, to enrich campus life by supporting initiatives that promote experiential learning, the student experience and good mental health. To start, Student Life has identified a few projects that Chartwells has funded, either in whole or in part.


Seven initiatives currently supported by Thinking Ahead, Giving Back

International cooperation through sport in Togo

This project is the brainchild of Basket Plus, an organization founded by Gee-Gees women’s basketball team alumni and assistant trainer Rose-Anne Joly. The team travelled to a village in Togo to build a basketball court as part of the LYSD project, which aims to use sport as a vehicle for the personal development of rural youth. Basket Plus is now working on a similar project, this time in Haiti, through the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement. The Haiti project will include several professional athletes, thanks to support from the Thinking Ahead, Giving Back program.

Breaking the Plane

In football, breaking the plane means scoring a touchdown: the ball crosses an imaginary wall between the field and the end zone. For teachers, this expression can also mean reaching out to their students by circulating among them. In June 2018, a one-day camp called Breaking the Plane was held on the University of Ottawa’s Matt Anthony Field to boost the self-esteem and leadership skills of youth aged 10 to 17 through football. In addition to a visit from three NFL players, the day camp featured varsity team players interacting with the 300 youth, mainly from underprivileged backgrounds, who enrolled in this very popular free activity.

Mental health workshop

Three students gave a workshop on what they would have wanted to know in their first year of university. They shared their stories and tips with participants, who enjoyed a smoothie and a healthy snack courtesy of Chartwells. Participants were provided with a USB key containing information on mental health resources, and their names were entered into a draw to win passes to Gee-Gees games and tickets to the Panda game.

Local food on campus

Have you noticed the new shipping container next to the UCU? This hydroponic installation that grows fresh produce is the brainchild of Growcer, a company founded by two students, Corey Ellis and Alida Burke, who are now alumni. The purchase of this Growcer unit, a system designed to grow fresh, local vegetables in isolated locations or food deserts, was fully financed by Chartwells, which will purchase the vegetables produced in the Growcer unit and serve them in the Dining Hall. Each week, over 100kg of ultra-local fresh greens will supplement our students’ menu.

Stairway to wellness

Obviously, taking the stairs is better for your health than taking the elevator. Cue Jessica Whitley, a Faculty of Education professor who was looking to make stairwells more attractive to discourage students from using the elevators. Her project finally saw the light of day thanks to funding from Thinking Ahead, Giving Back, and now she and her students are hard at work collecting data on current stair usage. Once encouraging mottos are posted in the stairwells and in front of elevators, the team will again collect data to measure the impact of these incentives.

Mental health quotes at CRX

In order to destigmatize discussion of mental health topics, students decided to install inspirational quotes on this topic on some of the walls at the Learning Crossroads (CRX). Alumni offered simple yet powerful quotes, describing what they would have liked to have known back when they were students. Their words will be posted in various formats in several areas of the CRX in November 2018.

uOGlobal Recognition

Launched in the spring of 2018, this program that encourages students to acquire skills through cross-cultural experiences is already very popular. However, because the $285 participation fee is too high for some students, the Thinking Ahead, Giving Back program decided to cover the cost of these fees for low-income students. It also provided all participants with food during the program launch in September 2018 and at the three workshops currently required for uOGlobal recognition.


In addition to these initiatives, Chartwells is committed to providing: one million free meals to those in need, both here and elsewhere, through various organizations; 10,000 hours of community support to address mental health and social issues; and 1,000 jobs to students, not only in Chartwells kitchens, but also at their headquarters in areas such as finance, communications and marketing. The Thinking Ahead, Giving Back program could one day be extended to universities around the world.

Students can submit a request to get support for a project that either improves the student experience, aids students' mental health or provides an experiential learning opportunity. Projects can be submitted by email to the office of the associate vice-president, Student Life.

The Thinking Ahead, Giving Back program will be launched on December 4 at the Learning Crossroads (CRX), with Chartwells President Ashton Sequeira in attendance.

Back to top