Backpack to Briefcase: Alumni help turn an A&S degree into 'a great career'

December 2, 2019 by Sean McNeely - A&S News

‘What do you want to do with your life?’ It’s a question that makes Andrew Gallant cringe.

“It’s hard to answer — I really have no experience in any field,” said Gallant, a member of Woodsworth College, and a third-year student studying criminology and political science.

To help answer this question, he and dozens of other Arts & Science undergrads attended a b2B Industry Night at Hart House on Nov. 21 where students and alumni mixed and mingled while learning about careers in law, and healthcare & wellness.

Part of the Arts & Science Backpack to Briefcase (b2B) program — sponsored by Manulife — Industry Nights give students the chance to engage with Arts & Science alumni who offer valuable advice and insight on career planning and how to best transition from student life to the working world.

People mingling in front of a b2B banner.
Arts & Science alumni field questions from students — sharing their insights on career planning and how to translate their academic skills into getting a job. Photo: Jackie Shapiro.

“Attending events like this and talking with people who are practicing in a field I’m interested in helps me get a better understanding,” said Gallant, who spoke with alumni like Christopher McGoey.

A member of Victoria College, McGoey graduated from the Faculty of Arts & Science in 2016 with bachelor of arts in history. He graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School this past June and is currently articling for a Toronto-based firm.

“I attended similar events as a student, and I thought why not use this as an opportunity to reciprocate,” said McGoey. “One of the things that’s the least clear initially is how legal practice works, by that I mean a lot of people have subject matter interests but they don’t how that is applied in a law firm environment.”

Sheila Rasouli, a member of University College, is in her fourth year studying neuroscience. She attended the event because she’s considering a big career change.

“I’ve been interested in science for a long time and I’ve held different lab positions,” she said. “And I reached a point in my fourth year where I didn’t like what I was doing.”

“I’ve always been interested in politics and Supreme Court cases and I’m here trying to figure out if any of this is actually plausible because it’s a completely different thing than what I was imagining myself doing two months ago.”

Down the hall in the healthcare & wellness room, alumna Sanja Milicic Iafrate tried to lower students’ stress levels.

She is a project manager with the GTA Rehab Network who works with hospitals to look at system issues in rehabilitation and improve access to services. A member of Victoria College, Sanja holds an honours bachelor of science in human physiology and psychology and a masters of health science in health administration, earned 2006 and 2017 respectively.

“I’ve had an unconventional career, so I’m here to share that journey and alleviate some of the students’ anxieties about career planning and translating their academic knowledge into skills that are going to garner them a job,” she said.

People mingling.
Arts & Science alumni and students engage in career conversations. Photo: Jackie Shapiro.

Sabina Freiman, a member of Victoria College, is in her final year of medical school at U of T. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of science with a double major in neuroscience and ethics, and society & law.

“When I was going through, I had a mentor and having someone to reassure me, to give me some thoughts about what I need to think about was really key,” she said. “And as soon as I got in, I wanted to be that person for other people.”

She was also determined to help undergrads understand that U of T offers so many healthcare programs in addition to traditional medicine.

This was likely music to Anika Rueppell’s ears. Rueppell, a member of Innis College, is a first-year life sciences student.

“I think life sciences students, especially first-years, come in and say ‘I’m going to go to med school’ but I already know I don’t want to go to med school,” she said. “I came to see what my possibilities are and see all the options to be in a health-related field but not necessarily be a doctor.”

“We hear time and time again how Industry Nights are a very worthwhile investment for students and alumni,” said Jennifer Wells, A&S manager, alumni engagement, who helped host the event.

“U of T alumni have been there,” added Wells. “Not only do they know how to land that first job after graduation, they know how to turn an Arts & Science degree into a great career. That’s why this event is so valuable and why students and alumni return year after year.”