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Graduate Profiles

Wonder what you can do with your degree? Check out what some of these talented York alumni are up to.

Erica St. Louis"Being a first generation Canadian and the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from university, I feel a great sense of accomplishment," says Erica St. Louis, who double majored in Communication Studies and International Development Studies. "Doors of opportunity have opened up and I'm ready to walk right through. My educational experience has convinced me that anything can be accomplished when I put my mind to it. Setting higher goals, thinking outside of the box, and challenging the status quo are values I gained as a York University student."

St. Louis completed an internship at the CBC in her third year that helped solidify her desire to pursue law school with the hopes of establishing a rewarding career in journalism and politics. "I was able to make the connections between communications theories and the practical use of media," she notes. "My experience also sparked a passion for social justice issues and the importance of being an active citizen."

David PeckPhilosophy graduate David Peck is the closest thing the social justice community has to a jack-of-all-trades. He is an acclaimed sleight-of-hand magician, began his professional life as an electrician well over 20 years ago and today is an innovative social entrepreneur heading up SoChange - a groundbreaking organization that works alongside members of the non-governmental community in areas such as fundraising, activism and capacity building.

A philosopher by nature and degree, Peck believes strongly in the Socratic notion that the unexamined life is not worth living. "We need to remain open, to embrace, to include, to challenge our current assumptions and to think about the way we treat others and the environment," he says.

Derek LettOver the past 17 years, Derek Lett has held a variety of leadership roles in policy development and program delivery in numerous provincial ministries, including the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal. Currently, he is the acting director of Diversity Program Design & Delivery with the Ontario Public Service Diversity Office, where he plays a key role in shaping strategy to create a diverse and inclusive workplace that is reflective of Ontario's population.

He is the president of York's Organization of Public Policy & Administration Alumni. In this capacity and others, he has helped to increase the profile of York graduates within government and been a mentor to dozens of York students through their internship courses. In 2009, he received an Alumni Recognition Award from the School of Public Policy and Administration.

Eugenia PearsonSociology graduate Eugenia Pearson thinks and acts "outside of the box." An advocate for social justice, Pearson has dedicated most of her life to encouraging the government, the court system and individual communities to rethink issues of violence, racism and equality.

Committed to grassroots support at a local and international level, Pearson is an exceptional role model for youth and an admired professional in her community. She currently acts as the director of education for The Whyy Mee Family Counselling Foundation of Toronto. Pearson mentors pre-university students, providing them with experiential learning and awareness opportunities surrounding issues of racism and violence. She also acts as a consultant for Quick Parenting and Resocialization Consultant Services.

Daraius Bharucha What's the similarity between captaining a merchant marine ship and managing a high school class? "More than one would imagine," says Religious Studies graduate Daraius M. Bharucha. "In both cases you get to navigate new and sometimes uncharted waters, as well as experience stimulating challenges and exciting adventures." Teaching has always been a passion for Bharucha who, in his mid 30s, decided to leave his full-time job and pursue his life-long dream. While many mature students attend university part-time, Bharucha - following his nautical training - jumped in with both feet. He graduated having won several prestigious awards, including a Governor General of Canada's Silver Medal and a Millennium Scholarship.

Marion Howell Marion Howell transitioned from struggling single mom to high profile executive coach, thanks to the guidance and support she received while a student at York. A graduate from the Bachelor of Administrative Studies Marketing program, Howell has become a strong volunteer - giving back to what she calls "a unique and diverse community that helped set me on a course for success."

Currently, she partners with her husband in a consulting practice called the Iris Group. "I am an impact junkie," say Howell. "I love helping others achieve their goals and overcome whatever self-imposed or external blocks are holding them back. I believe that life is at its richest and most rewarding when we serve others."

Carla Ionescu She's got three undergraduate degrees, an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies, and if that wasn't enough to satiate her desire to learn, alumna Carla Ionescu is currently pursuing a PhD in Humanities. A compelling lecturer and a budding academic, she is honing in on her skills and expertise - eager to become a permanent fixture in the research and teaching community.

"I always knew I would spend my life conducting research and teaching," says Ionescu. "And what a better place to start than at York! I enjoy the University's multiculturalism and liberal arts origin. I feel that York best exemplifies where Canada is today and where it is going in the future. It is here that I feel most comfortable to expand my knowledge since I am surrounded by academics who view that knowledge through a critical multidisciplinary lens."

Tamara Gordon Tamara Gordon, graduate of the Bachelor of Administrative Studies Management program, was left a paraplegic after sustaining a spinal cord injury and nerve damage to her dominant hand in 2002 while on a skiing trip with her high school. Though confined to a wheelchair, she made it clear that her disability cannot be mistaken for inability - Gordon won an unprecedented number of scholarships and awards as a student, including the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers.

"If you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, get involved and volunteer as often as possible on campus and in the community at large, and if you consistently try to be the best that you can be...then the sky really is the limit," she notes. Gordon hopes to become a family lawyer and establish her own business that will benefit children and families who are less fortunate".

Dolores Montavez-Ruz "To live a life of service, learning, creativity and courageous choices," is the personal mission statement Dolores Montavez-Ruz goes by. A sociology graduate and a graduate of the Certificate in Refugee Studies and Certificate in Anti-Racist Research and Practice, Montavez-Ruz carries out her mission by teaching, training, mentoring and creating opportunities for personal and professional growth for women and underprivileged social groups.

A "Renaissance" woman of sorts, Montavez-Ruz has been an ESL instructor, a career counsellor, a personal growth workshop facilitator, a legal clerk and a court interpreter for the Immigration and Refugee Board. Currently, she acts as manager of the Life Skills Training, Coaching, Publications and Career Assessment and Planning programs at YWCA Toronto.

Anees Tobaccowala Looking back on his years at York, IT grad Anees Tobaccowala notes: "Students are given all the tools necessary to excel in the real world. York is on the cutting edge of excellence in innovative education. When I graduated, I felt confident and thoroughly prepared to succeed in my career and in life."

Tobaccowala is working for a real estate company in Houston Texas putting his IT skills to work on various web-related projects. He recently took the lead on the creation and management of a brand new website, overseeing all of the design, content, development and web marketing initiatives. Tobaccowala plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and is involved with a local hockey league in his spare time.

Nicole Phillips Social Work graduate Nicole Phillips is helping work towards an end to violence against women. Using the skills she gained as a student in York's Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, she is raising awareness in her community while lending her ear and expertise to women dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. Phillips works at Athena's Sexual Assault Counselling and Advocacy Centre in Barrie, a program of Huronia Transition Homes. She completed her fourth-year practicum at the centre and secured a job as a crisis counsellor a few months later. Phillips is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work at York part-time.

"I love how I can continue to work full-time while earning a master's degree," Phillips says. "I also really appreciate that I can pursue additional studies in the area that I am interested in, while gaining new skills that I can apply immediately to my current position."

Cheryl Lemaitre Cheryl Lemaitre long harboured a dream to go to university. The secretary and homemaker from Newmarket left her family one evening to attend her first session of York's Women's Studies Bridging Program. She never suspected that 18 years later she would earn a PhD in Women's Studies from York.

She notes, "Success comes in different packages. We all experienced the program in different ways. When you talk about success, it doesn't necessarily mean finishing a degree. For many it was simply finding the courage to go to the Bridging Program after having been away from education for so long."

The subject of her thesis was the very program that launched her academic career. Her research of Bridging participants revealed that a lot of women studied in the evenings at the dining room table with their school-aged children. "They were saying to their children, 'I stuck in there. I'm a role model. Anything is possible if you want it hard enough,'" she says.

Shernett Martin "First I was told I'd live to be 17 years old; then the doctors told me 21. I've been given so many sentences of when I should be gone, but I just keep on going," says Shernett Martin. "I won't let this disease define me." The teacher, librarian, workshop developer and author has been battling sickle cell disease all her life, but refuses to allow the incurable blood cell disorder to slow her down.

Instead, she has become a visible spokesperson for sickle cell sufferers, a community activist in the fight against poverty and inequity and a mentor to others also infected with the disease. She states, "I would encourage anybody with a disability or illness never to short-change yourself. Everyone is created for a purpose and it's your job to find out what skills, gifts and talents you have, and use them. Whatever your heart's desire is, go after that goal." Martin published a children's book My Friend Chantal Has Sickle Cell Disease and was recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award for Community Service in 2005.

Rabya Mya Imtiaz Rabya Mya Imtiaz graduated with a BAS in Marketing and a Certificate in Human Resources Management. She is currently an analyst for direct marketing with branding in the Loyalty and Communications Department at Suncor Energy. She remains very involved with the York community as the current President of the Atkinson Alumni Chapter.

"What a combination: Marketing and HR! Employers were floored when they heard I was able to pursue both fields through my degree," notes Imtiaz. "I appreciate that students are given the opportunity to build expertise in diverse areas at York, giving them the competitive advantage to truly succeed in today's job market."

Arijit Bhattacharya "Studying at York was one of the most challenging and fruitful endeavours of my life," says Arijit Bhattacharya, who graduated with a BA in Business Economics. "The professors were engaging and really involved in educating and training us for the real world. The courses were designed to bring out the best in us. After graduating, I found that a multitude of opportunities and a wide array of doors have opened. I find comfort in knowing that my education at York has prepared me for what lies ahead."

Bhattacharya is currently working at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as an Insurance Advisor. He plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a project management designation.

Fausto Natarell Fausto Natarelli was the first ever recipient of the School of Public Policy & Administration's Alumni Recognition Award. The award recognized him for the contributions he has made to public policy and management and for his role as a mentor to students and new professionals.

Following his studies at York, Natarelli joined the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in 1984 and has been there ever since. He has held a variety of positions, including leadership roles in policy, strategic and business planning, communications and issues management. For three years he was the executive assistant to the associate secretary of cabinet in the Centre for Leadership at Queen's Park.

Natarelli has remained active at York through the Public Administration Alumni Association, and on many occasions he has been a guest speaker in upper year York classes.