Anita McBride luncheon sparks excitement for future environmental professionals

Guests at the annual Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon
Guests at the annual Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon

More than 120 students and alumni from the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) master’s program gathered for the annual Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon on Oct. 13.

Anita McBride
Anita McBride

Now in its 10th year, the event provides an opportunity for master in environmental studies (MES) students to hear from a panel of alumni and mentors who speak about their experiences in the program, as well as their career paths.

The luncheon is named after Anita McBride, a dedicated and now-retired FES staff member.

“I like the fact that we have successful graduates come back to speak at the luncheon,” said McBride. “They tell the incoming class about their career paths and about their time in the Faculty and how it shaped who they are and what they’ve accomplished.”

This year’s panellists included Cara Clairman (LLB/MES ’93), president and CEO of Plug’n Drive; Leo Deloyde (MES ’86), principal, DeLoyde Development Solutions; Barbara Emanuel (MES ’79), manager of Toronto Food Strategy, Toronto Public Health; Steven Pacifico (MES ’07), program director of Energy Exchange; and Brenda Simon (LLB/MES ’91), founder and director of Play by Nature.

Twelve other York graduates also participated, highlighting diverse careers in areas such as climate change, energy, sustainability, planning, food justice, education, social justice, conservation and environmental law.

Guests at the annual Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon
Guests at the annual Anita McBride Alumni Mentoring Luncheon

“FES grads have so many interesting, diverse career choices,” said McBride. “I hope that the luncheon serves as motivation and inspiration for the incoming class. It’s exciting for the alumni to meet the incoming class and encourage them in their pursuits.”

Leesa Fawcett, associate dean of students in FES and an MES alumna, MCed the event while Sandra Yu from Career Services moderated the panel.

Panellists reflected on both the fond memories and the challenges they experienced as students, and spoke to the value of the interdisciplinary and self-directed nature of the program. All commented on how their time at York became a foundation for their various and evolving careers.

Panelist Steven Pacifico (MES '07), program director of Energy Exchange
Panellist Steven Pacifico (MES ’07), program director of Energy Exchange

Steven Pacifico, for example, spoke about how he created an employee engagement tool for sustainable business practices as part of his MES research project, which he continued to use in his career as a consultant.

Barbara Emanuel described how she and a small group of fellow students spent the summer of their program travelling and writing a book on sustainability that would later get published (The sun builders: a people’s guide to solar, wind and wood energy in Canada).

Panellists emphasized the importance of taking the time as a student to find and cultivate one’s passion.

All five speakers also noted how their vocations have changed over the years, confirming that careers are not linear, but an ongoing process. Being flexible, using networks and drawing on passions were some of the keys to success that the speakers used in actively managing their careers.

Following the panel discussion, Fawcett provided closing remarks and thanked both the panellists and McBride, who has continued to support and foster student-alumni connections.

The event concluded with a networking luncheon, where students engaged and connected with alumni.

Emphasizing her pride for the Faculty and its alumni, McBride summarized why this event is so meaningful to her: “I just think that the FES alumni are such amazing people. I really loved my job in the Faculty and loved working with the students. I’m thrilled to be able to reconnect with them many years later and catch up on their lives. It makes me very happy to see them again.”

By David Coulson, graduate assistant, FES