Information Technology Services (ITS)

Navi receives 2021 CUCCIO Innovation Award nomination

Published on: June 15, 2021

David Newman and Navi screenshot

David Newman (pictured), Executive Director, Student Experience, U of T. David was part of the team that helped develop Navi, which was nominated for the 2021 CUCCIO Innovation Award.

Since September 2020, “Navi” – the University of Toronto (U of T) mental health wayfinder – has had more than 25,000 conversations with U of T students. The anonymous bot leverages IBM’s Watson Assistant to help students easily find supports, such as contact information and direct links to U of T resources, to address everything from stress and anxiety to feelings of discrimination or loneliness.

CUCCIO nomination
This innovative tool, developed by U of T’s Student Life and Information Technology Services (ITS) teams/departments, in collaboration with IBM (Cognitive Transformation), was nominated for the 2021 CUCCIO Innovation Award. Unfortunately, the team did not win the award during the June 3, 2021 gala (York University’s SAVY took home the prize), however, the recognition was a significant accomplishment.

The Navi steering committee included ITS Chief Information Officer (CIO) Bo Wandschneider and Deputy CIO Cathy Eberts.

“The team was thrilled to learn we were selected as finalists as we knew we were in great company with some other worthy innovations,” said David Newman, Executive Director, Student Experience, U of T. “We are all engaged in such important work that helps support our students in higher education across Canada and it is a true honour to be recognized.”

Benefits of Navi
This project is a unique application of existing technology that addresses a significant need that everyone in higher education is experiencing (student mental health), explained Newman.

“Having based the solution on IBM Watson Assistant, this could be replicated at other universities… We are also exploring future opportunities for integrating the IBM Watson Assistant technology in other areas at U of T, including the ability to have multiple virtual assistants working together to provide a seamless experience for students.”

More about Navi
Navi, short for navigator, is a name that denotes acts of kindness in certain cultures, which seems appropriate as Navi alleviates the stress a student may find in connecting to campus support services, says Newman.

Learn more about Navi on the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students website here. You can also read the U of T News launch story here. To use the tool visit