Program gives students a TASTE of life after graduation

Fourth-year administrative studies student Volodymyr Viguiliouk was looking for someone who could provide him with an insider’s perspective or a "taste" of what life is like working in his chosen field. York alumnus Les Grober (BA Hons. ’93), a vice-president and director with TD Asset Management, was looking for a way to give back to the University. The two were matched through the Take a Student to Eat (TASTE) program and met over lunch.

For Viguiliouk, the TASTE encounter offered him access to Grober and an unprecedented opportunity to learn more about administrative studies. "Having this opportunity has helped me better understand the career direction I would like to take when I finish university," said Viguiliouk. "TASTE is exactly what every student is looking for and now that I have participated in the program, I will definitely become involved when I become an alumnus." 

TASTE offers students an opportunity to talk face to face with a York alumni about career-related interests. The program is a partnership between the York University Career Centre and the Alumni Office and pairs two students with a York grad over an informal lunch setting. Prior to attending the lunch, the students complete a professional etiquette workshop offered by the Career Centre and outline their interests to the TASTE program and the particular York grad with whom they’ve requested to meet. In turn, the grad takes the students to lunch, which is often accompanied by a tour of their organization. 

“The TASTE program contributes to fostering a strong sense of community by providing wonderful networking for students in a career mentoring setting, as well as an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with York," said Jennifer Bramer, director of the Career Centre.

Since TASTE began as a pilot project in fall 2009, 58 students and 30 York alumni have participated in the program. Students participating in TASTE have come to the program from a variety of programs and faculties and the York alumni involved in the program from diverse backgrounds and industries. Notable TASTE participants include Tony Genco (BA ’88), former president & CEO of Parc Downsview Park Inc.; Catherine Pike (BA Hons. ’76), art director at the Toronto Star; Earle Nestmann (MSc ’71, PhD ’74), president of Cantox Health Sciences International; and Joanne Duklas (BA Hons. ’89, MBA ’99), York University registrar and associate vice-president of enrolment management.

York alumna Vincenza Moir (BA ’78), a guidance counsellor at St. Jean De Brebeuf Catholic High School, recently had lunch with fourth-year English major Tiziana Knox. “I had a wonderful lunch with Tiziana Knox. She joined me for lunch with my guidance department colleagues and fit right in," said Moir. "We took a tour of the school and then spoke at length about education and the future, and her future in particular. I will be speaking about the TASTE program at my next staff meeting because I truly do believe that university students really do profit when they are mentored.”

“Participation in the TASTE program was more than I had expected. I was given a wealth of information and lots of reassurance to move forward on my career goals," said Knox. "I think the TASTE program is an excellent initiative. When you are attending school full time or working full time (as I am) you don’t get a ‘taste’ of the field you are moving towards in the same way you would being in touch with an alumni. The alumni not only can tell you what has worked for her, but also what she has seen work for others, revealing a wealth of information and perspective.”

"TASTE has been a wonderful program for connecting alumni and current students," said James Allan, senior director of the Alumni Office. "Alumni are always looking for ways to ‘give back’ to their alma mater and TASTE gives them the perfect opportunity to do just that."

Given the popularity of the TASTE pilot program, it will continue for the 2010-2011 academic year, starting in August. Students and alumni who are interested in participating in TASTE should visit the TASTE Web site for more details and information on how to become involved.