MES alumni offer sage advice at annual McBride luncheon
Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) students and alumni celebrated their Faculty of Environmental Studies pride at the eighth annual Anita McBride Luncheon.
The event was named in honour of former director of the Faculty’s Office of Student & Academic Services, and was moderated by Peter Homenuck, who has taught in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) since the 1970s.
The luncheon featured a panel of four MES graduates who offered their insights, networking opportunities and highlighted their post-grad experience in transitioning from MES into their respective careers.
From left, Bill Mocsan, Chris Ouelette, Miranda Persaud, David Donnelly and Peter Homenuck
David Donnelly (MES ’95), environmental lawyer and founder of Donnelly Law, was first to share his experiences. He led the panel with a presentation showcasing the work he was most passionate about. He discussed his experiences of working in Labrador and the commitment he made to stop the low-level flying over Goosebay.
He spoke fondly about his experience at FES, saying, “I am extremely grateful to the Faculty of Environmental Studies. It allowed me to get my education, which gave me the credibility to put me in the room to fight the big battles”.
Miranda Persaud (MES ’07), senior associate at DPRA, spoke about how she came to be a consultant at DPRA. After her work experience in Japan drew her towards business, and away from environmental studies, her work as a consultant encouraged her to continue her education.
From left, Peter Homenuck, Anita McBride, Bill Mocsan, Noël Sturgeon, Chris Ouelette, Miranda Persaud and David Donnelly
“I chose York because I found that I had a lot more control over what it was I was going to do,” said Persaud. The highly interdisciplinary format of the MES program allows students to create their own plan of study and pursue their research under the guidance and support of expert faculty.
Persauds explained that “as an environmental student, who was studying in Schulich as well, [she] had the opportunity to meet professors from different backgrounds”, exposing her to numerous avenues of knowledge. After stepping into DPRA as an intern, she has worked her way up to the position of senior associate, where she leads multiple consulting ventures in sustainable business, both nationally and internationally.
The most recent graduate Chris Ouelette (MES ’10), head of corporate citizenship at Manulife Financial, had three clear messages to share with the students. First, “get enlightened”, because the Faculty is exceptional and has a broad breadth and depth of knowledge. He encouraged students to take a course that they would not normally take, and benefit from the knowledge of the professors.
Second, “meet your peers”, both on a professional and personal level. He suggested that students ask their peers what they are working on and to take advantage of networking opportunities. Finally, “enjoy your time here”, although it will be stressful, and challenging, try to find the fun in learning.
Ouelette concluded his discussion with the following statement: “I also, at least weekly, work with a ‘MESer’ in one sort of professional capacity or another. We end up being the best at what we do in our fields.”
The final panellist, Bill Mocsan (MES ’84), VP and managing director for Knowles Consulting Services Inc., offered students insights about the soft skills the program equipped him with to succeed professionally. Mocsan prefaced his discussion by stating that his “experience at York was fantastic” and that he “loved it here”. Since graduating, he has acquired over 30 years of experience in public administration, private consulting, policy development, management, finance, and has worked four provincial ministries.
He recalled being asked whether, after seven years at university, he was using what he learned. Mocsan said “My answer was yes. [I learned] not just about the relationship between urban design and energy consumption. I learned a lot about organization skills, I learned a lot about time management, problem solving, team playing, leadership, writing skills, project management, problem solving and research skills.” He encouraged the students not to underestimate those valuable skills as “they will make your transition much easier, they will help you fit in, and succeed throughout your career”.
FES Dean Noël Sturgeon closed the Oct. 15 event, by thanking the panellists and moderator Peter Homenuck, and offering her sincere gratitude to Anita McBride for her dedication and commitment to keeping alumni active and involved with the Faculty. The panel session concluded with a networking luncheon where current MES students had the opportunity to meet the fourteen alumni who were in attendance.