For graduates of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), as well as the larger York cohort, the completion of one’s academic studies is met with both celebration and anxiety. The entrance into the “job market,” often sardonically referred to as the “real world” by students, can feel like limbo.
Last Tuesday afternoon, FES hosted the annual “Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon,” aimed at establishing networks between graduates of FES programs and current students. The event’s namesake, Anita McBride, who perhaps best exemplified the ethic of mentoring during her time as director of student and academic services, was in attendance.
The event was attended by nearly 130 students, faculty and FES community members, 42 of whom were alumni. Of the alumni, four individuals were chosen for a panel discussion regarding their experiences at FES and in their respective careers. The panel was comprised of: Chris Gates, senior manager of climate change policy in the Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario; Peter Longo, director of strategic sourcing and logistics at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto; Ruth Rendon, senior natural heritage planner with the City of Markham; and Bruce Lourie, author, consultant, director of the Ontario Power Authority, and president of the Ivey Foundation.
The group of speakers, who had all graduated in different decades and taken different career paths, stressed a singular, unifying point – the key to success is networking. They praised events such as the “Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon” for giving current students the opportunity to make connections with individuals in their fields.
Panellists also reminded students of the importance of creativity and outgoingness. Each of the speakers tied their success back to their education at FES, noting that they learned how to synthesize information, recognize the interrelatedness of the world and challenge dominant thinking throughout their studies at York.
After the panellists finished speaking, several other alumni in the audience prompted the speakers with questions and gave advice to the students in attendance.
Following the panel discussion, lunch was provided by Aramark and students had an opportunity to have intimate conversations with the alumni in attendance, allowing for networking between current and former students. This portion of the event was particularly successful, with many current FES students engaging with the mentors over sandwiches.
For many, it was an extremely comforting and humanizing experience to learn that even these successful individuals had encountered difficulties with their essays, readings and Plans of Study, yet persevered.
By the end of the luncheon, after all of the sandwiches were gone and connections were made, it seemed as if the fear of the “real world” was, at least for a moment, alleviated.
By Dylan McMahon, Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate assistant