What factors influenced your decision to pursue the Honours Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (INS) program at Seneca?
I was working in the security sector for seven years and believed I had reached a ceiling. I was ready for a change of pace and a new challenge. I came to the realization that having additional education could help me identify a career that better suited my strengths and interests. A program with an interdisciplinary focus seemed like a great fit for me. I attended a Seneca Open House and met Camille Soucie, the Program Chair. She connected me to Naomi Kestenbaum, Program Co-ordinator. I credit the two of them for convincing me to ultimately pursue the INS program. I immediately admired their passion for education and helping students, as well as their honesty and transparency in terms of what I could expect as an incoming student.
Was attaining a master’s degree always a part of your educational plan?
To be honest, I had no intention of ever doing a master’s degree. When I began studying at Seneca in January 2018, I was a mature student who had been out of school for seven years. For me, returning to school was about self-exploration and discovery. However, towards my second last semester, I realized that I wanted to learn more about information societies after taking the course The Tangled Web, taught by Valerie Lopes. It was at this point that I began considering graduate studies as I was interested in how information was organized and utilized for social concerns. This brought me to apply for the Critical Information Policy Studies concentration at the University of Toronto.
What influenced your decision to continue your education after completing your degree?
Part of it came from a personal interest — I was interested in studying information further and more deeply. The rest came from developing and gaining confidence in my own abilities during my time at Seneca. As part of the INS program, I completed a three-course research project, which allowed me to explore people’s self-reported stories of how they felt religion and spirituality impacted their recovery from alcoholism in the organization Alcoholics Anonymous. One bit of information that stood out in the literature review was that connection appears to the opposite of addiction, instead of what would logically be sobriety. Going through the process of developing my own research and presenting my findings really helped me in not only narrowing my interests but also provided me with a baseline for any academic challenges that I may face during my ongoing studies.
How did you decide which master’s program to pursue?
I considered many but the one I chose to pursue is the only one that has an interdisciplinary focus on information studies. Additionally, I knew I wanted to stay in Toronto due to family obligations, not to mention that the University of Toronto is a world-renowned institution.
How would you describe your overall experience at Seneca?
Amazing. Seneca has invested in quality support staff and programs to help students achieve their goals. It’s really as simple as asking for help, although I feel too few actually do. When I did have free time, I tried to give back to the program as best as I could. I volunteered at Open Houses, welcoming any potential students to the INS degree to speak to me. I was also a SMILE mentor. That experience was the most rewarding of all — being able to help a new student navigate through college life and being able to share some of the lessons I wish I knew when I first arrived at Seneca. My only regret was not doing a few laps at the gym to help relieve stress instead of developing a love affair with cookies ‘n cream flavoured ice cream.
How would you describe your experience at the University of Toronto so far?
I am really enjoying my program but it’s very different from my Seneca experience. It’s a lot more hands-off. The classes are much larger and therefore less conducive to peer-to-peer engagement, which is something I really appreciated while in college. On the other hand, it has been wonderful and enlightening and I am learning so much. Imagine being able to ask any question you can think of and being able to get answers from experts in the field.
Can you share some exciting experiences that you have been exposed to at the University of Toronto so far?
It has been wonderful being able to meet and connect with peers who share similar interests and who show the same level of passion towards learning. Intellectually, it has been stimulating — I am coming to understand different societal frameworks and developing critical perspectives that allow me to question their functions and roles. I was just introduced to the practice of storyboarding. This has been a brand-new learning experience for me and is showing me how to tell compelling stories.
What are you up to now (in life and in work)?
Honestly, I am just trying to balance and keep up with everything. Family and school are big parts of my life. I have a two-year-old son, so balancing parenting and my studies is very challenging. Now that I have completed my first semester, I will begin searching for a summer co-op placement. I am hoping to land one in Toronto.
From experience, what do you think the value of having a bachelor’s degree is?
Life is busy and pursuing further education definitely adds to one’s workload, but one thing I appreciate about being a student is that it provides you opportunities to read, digest and critically engage curated materials relevant to your area of interest.
While in my degree program, I really felt that my abilities were being tested and expanded. During that time, I was also able to develop a network of colleagues, which has opened doors that may not have been otherwise. Also, knowing that I did it — this helped to boost my confidence and believe in myself. I value my education and I know the value of what I have to contribute.
Any words of advice to students who are currently in the program you graduated out of at Seneca, or who are considering pursuing further education?
Follow your passion — if you do that, you will always stay motivated and never be bored. On a more practical level, research and networking is key. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies, reach out and speak with professors from the program(s) you are interested in. Make yourself visible and make meaningful connections with others.
What are your plans for the future — short-term and long-term?
I am seeking a co-op placement. I am really interested in policy that impacts children and families. If given the opportunity, I would like to get some work experience with an advocacy group that is doing great work for families.
Other than that, I am just focusing on developing new skills and expanding my network — trying to meet and connect with as many working professionals as I can.