Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) students at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) participated at the annual Anita McBride Mentoring Workshop on Oct. 20, first-ever virtual offering of the event that brings students and alumni together for mentorship opportunities.
The Anita McBride Mentoring Luncheon is an annual event for EUC students and alumni, historically consisting of a panel presentation and speed networking sessions. McBride is the former director of the FES Office of Student & Academic Services. She began working at the Faculty in 1972 and retired in 1999.
During her tenure, she built relationships with students and continued to engage them post-graduation as a volunteer.
“Anita, your support for me during my time at MES was critical for me. Your particular brand of no-nonsense advice, combined with warm hugs, kept me going,” said Tzeporah Berman, an alumni panelist joining the event from British Columbia.
Prior to leaving her role, McBride had a vision to establish an event that would have graduates return to campus and share their interesting career stories and experiences with current students to serve as an inspiration. Her vision came to fruition and over the past 14 years, MES alumni and students have come together at this event named in her honour.
“I am so proud of all the graduates who take the time to come back yearly to speak at this event,” McBride acknowledged.
The Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change welcomed a diverse panel of alumni from various sectors and fields of work, in addition to several other alumni to participate as mentors during the second half of the event. These alumni connect with first-year MES students about how to navigate their time in the program, how to identify the career pathways that exist post-graduation, as well as tips on navigating the current labour market.
This year’s panelists were:
- Tina Garnett (MES ’16) – human rights and inclusion specialist, Hamilton Health Sciences
- Sean Hertel, MCIP RPP (MES ’12) – principal, Sean Hertel & Associates Urban Planning
- Tzeporah Berman (MES ’95) – international program director, Stand.Earth
- Dan Longboat (MES ’98, PhD ’08) – director for quality assurance, Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council
Dean Alice Hovorka welcomed alumni panelists and McBride, and posed a series of questions which provided insight on the panelists’ personal journeys in the MES program and their current work.
From running a private planning firm to working with Indigenous councils, these panelists highlighted the diversity, possibilities and opportunities that exist with a MES degree. As Hovorka remarked, in an increasingly competitive labour market, and a world in which humanity is facing the consequences of environmental degradation and social inequities, “no longer are environmental and urban change jobs in the peripheral. They are now foundational.”
Emphasis for students to diversify their skills and look at problems from multiple lenses was reinforced as a key way the MES program prepares students for successful career outcomes. Longboat advised students to complicate their skill set. “Think of it like having a tool belt, where you want multiple tools,” said Longboat. “If you only have one tool you can only use it apply it to one thing.”
At the same time, Garnett reminded students to “be kind to yourself.”
The second half of the event included smaller breakout group networking and helped to demonstrate the breadth of careers available to MES graduates. “The workshop was a wonderful illustration of the breadth of careers available to MES students who have graduated from York. As someone who has struggled to get their semester in gear, this workshop inspired me to go out and make a difference by showing me all the impactful pathways my career could take once I finished my degree,” said MES student Lucas Porter.
“Speaking with past grads in the breakout rooms was especially impactful for me because we could interact in a more discursive and casual way that I found really approachable,” added Porter. “This is especially appreciated given that the event was held online this year and creating meaningful dialogue over distance is often difficult. I really appreciated the opportunity to chat with graduates and begin to make connections with fellow MES grads.”
The event also highlighted a donation made by the Faculty to York’s Emergency COVID-19 Student Relief Fund in honour of the alumni attendees as a gesture of gratitude for their time and engagement. This fund looks to help those York students who are currently undergoing tough circumstances due to the ongoing pandemic and need financial support.