August 24, 2023 | Alumni
The new warden of Hart House is a passionate advocate for the power of community
By Megan Mueller
Hart House warden, David Kim.
David Kim (BSc 2001 INNIS, BEd 2004, MEd 2010, PhD 2018), was very familiar with Hart House long before he applied to the position of Warden. A proud University of Toronto and OISE alumnus, he has been an active participant in the Hart House Board of Stewards for several years and has had a strong connection to the House from his undergrad years to the present day.
We asked him 10 fun and pithy questions, and David’s responses bring to light his thoughtful approach to life, woven around mindfulness and kindness; his profound commitment to students, collaboration, equity and inclusion; and his incredible generosity of spirit.
what is your history with Hart House?
Hart House has been part of my story for so long. My history at the House goes back to when I was a student. I was part of the homelessness initiative ‒ there was a committee in the 1990s hosted by Hart House. This is an issue that I care about very much and we formed a student committee that organized around collecting donations for the U of T food and clothing bank at the time.
I was also an avid user of the facilities ‒ the Hart House Fitness Centre, the pool – and an active member of the Judo class.
Later, I would bring my family to Hart House Family Sundays. With my kids, we participated in arts and crafts activities and attended the Pride Pub. I’ve also done several collaborations with the Positive Space Committee and the Hart House 5-Buck Lunch.
What attracted you to the Warden role?
What drew me to the role was the individuals that make up Hart House, the team. And by team, I mean not only the direct reports. I mean everyone within the spaces, everyone who animates the spaces, delivers the programming, addresses facilities issues. There’s an all-star team here. To work with such an amazing team means a lot.
I was also drawn to the diversity of programming and partnerships, which you can develop through some of the programming with student-led groups, with community organizations and academic bodies. There’s so much opportunity to build on this foundation and think about how we can continue to strengthen our partnerships.
Hart House is more than a building. I see it almost as an identity or philosophy. I love how we foster a presence, on the three campuses, so students feel like they belong and can find an entry point to their engagement with our activities, spaces and people.
What was your favourite thing about being on the Hart House Board of Stewards?
Student representation. The buy-in of all parties involved in the delivery of an overall program. I love that students are part of that dialogue.
I remember one day during the pandemic. John Monahan (former Warden), myself and the Chair, Terry Gardiner were in a meeting in the Music Room. Others joined online but everyone was so committed. The students, their passion and commitment, never wavered. They found creative ways to engage with their peers and the community, and to continue with the richness of activities.
For me to witness that, to have the privilege to be part of those conversations ... It brings me back to the roots of why I do this work: The students are so motivated, so inspirational. It really feeds that flame of why do we do this?
Do you have a favourite room in Hart House?
The gym and the courts. I also love the nooks. You know the steps across from the Hub that lead to a few chairs right by the windows? That’s not a room, but I love that quiet space. It’s a place where you can pause, have a seat, enjoy the silence.
Do you have a favourite Hart House memory?
There are so many!
U of T Pride Pub at Hart House. I've had my kids running along the path in the Quad, watching the Kiki Ballroom dancers perform on stage and taking in all the energy and great vibes well until after the sun has set.
Judo class. In fact, some of my family members were part of that. I’m still in touch with some of the instructors and I love the community that has developed there. It’s a great example of various individuals from all walks of life coming together to share in a common interest.
My favourite memories centre around community. For example, playing pick-up basketball in the gym. You’d have first-year students, grads, faculty members, staff … I loved the cross section. It didn't matter who you were. When you’re on the court, we’re all equals and there to play ball.
Family Sundays, as mentioned. Many favourite memories revolve around bringing my kids into this space. Why do I say this? Because I am a first-generation student whose parents never had the opportunity and came to Canada about 50 years ago leaving behind their home country due to economic and political instability and conflict. My father passed away almost 25 years ago and was not able to see the campus and all the amazing things that happen here. So, for me to have this opportunity for my kids, an opportunity that I did not have with my parents, is incredibly meaningful. It’s my way of honouring that sacrifice that so many of our students are familiar with and may be living in their own lives.
In our family and culture, there’s a large celebration for a child’s 100-day celebration. I brought my family and my partner’s family to the Gallery Grill to celebrate my daughter’s 100th day. And I thought it was the perfect way to pay tribute to them and their journeys in celebration of this special occasion.
What are your favourite places around U of T?
Hart House! And I’m not saying that just because I’m moving into this role. Some great times in the Fitness Centre on the courts or on the mats or enjoying a good meal with a friend in the Arbor Room. Also, lots of time spent as I waited for the shuttle bus to go to UTM campus (where I spent my first year).
Philosopher’s Walk, I love. It’s a space of transition where there’s a bit of solitude and tranquility amidst the city’s chaos.
UTM’s Davis Building is also a special place to me, where there used to be benches in the main area so you could have a coffee and catch up with friends. It was the main meeting point for students on campus. I love the renovations there and how it brings in natural light and still maintains this sense of a community space where people can grab lunch, do some work and just hang out.
Favourite undergrad memory?
There are so many from the all-nighters at Robarts Library (tip to students now: much better to just get your sleep), then going for late night Pho along Spadina, to intramurals at the Athletic Centre. There is not one memory in particular that stands out as my favourite – if anything, they all centre around the people I met, the conversations we would have into the late-night hours and exploring the city for some good eats after a study session or social event.
Favourite grad memory?
During my PhD, writing my dissertation at my desk, my young daughters would come sit on my lap and start colouring or writing a story. These were really special moments for me.
When I graduated, they asked me what PhD stood for. I said Doctor of Philosophy. They now call me “Doctor Falafel.”
To have my two daughters, my partner and my mother at Convocation was really special for me, the most meaningful moment.
Any advice for students or alumni?
At a young age, I experienced the loss of my father. Although the loss had a tremendous emotional toll on my family, I have gained a lot of perspective over time and a deep sense of gratitude for many things in my life. This is what fuels my response to the question of advice. This question, and these circumstances, really make me think of how I aspire to live.
I would advise students to get out of your bubble, explore beyond your classroom and campus. I’ve asked many students if they’ve been to Kensington Market, the Distillery District or the waterfront and often they indicate that they have not explored very far beyond the boundaries of campus.
I recognize we’re all busy and we feel caught up in the frenetic nature of society, the daily grind. But my advice would be to find your mindful moment. What's yours? It could be a space, a ritual, an activity to really ground yourself.
Extract yourself from that constantly turning wheel to find a place ‒ Philosopher's Walk, for example ‒ to take a moment and to give yourself an opportunity to reconnect with your thoughts. During the pandemic, I took students down to run along the Lakeshore to watch the sunrise. To find those moments of tranquility and introspection, and remind ourselves of what’s really important, I think is incredibly meaningful.
Words for those working at Hart House?
I’m very excited to be joining the team to explore the beauty of our spaces and our activities.
Come by and say hello. If you have an idea or there’s something you’re passionate about, I’d love to hear it! I love to be able to, where appropriate, support and help bring such ideas to fruition.
Yes, I am an administrator, but I recognize that you gotta have fun with your work!
The success of Hart House is rooted in the people, the passion, the commitment. It’s not dependent on a select few; it’s an entire community.
… And you can call me Dave.