Recent Grads: What Are They Up to Next?

Posted: August 09, 2016

Trinity students are a remarkable group – they are intellectually gifted, academically excellent, publicly spirited leaders, and motivated and driven to make a difference. And this year’s graduating Class of 2016 exemplify exactly this, including two Rhodes Scholars and 20 graduates receiving Cressy Student Leadership Awards.

Our 327 graduates from the Class of 2016 are off to tackle new challenges – some will on to graduate and professional programs, including at some of the most prestigious universities throughout the world, some grads will enter the workforce while others will take some time to plan and transition for the next phase of their life. We wish our graduate all the best in their future endeavours!

Over the coming weeks, we’ll chat with several of our newest alumni who are planning a summer of exploration or embarking on unique career journeys. 


Emma BarnabyEmma Barnaby 1T6

Emma is currently finishing a major collaborative project in the field of music history pedagogy with Professor Robin Elliott from U of T’s Faculty of Music. Next year, Emma plans to apply for graduate programs in musicology.

Q&A with Emma Barnaby

Program: Specialist in Music for Arts and Sciences (Music History & Theory)
Hometown: Burlington, Vermont

Emma Barnaby

Q. When did you get interested in music?

I got interested in music before I could talk. I took piano, flute, violin and viola lessons, and have studied voice very seriously since high school. During my undergraduate degree at Trinity, I took organ lessons from John Tuttle, the College Organist, which I enjoyed very much, and have continued playing at home.

My primary musical interest since age eight, however, is church choir. I began singing in my Episcopal church choir at home in Vermont in Grade 3 and was head chorister from Grades 8 to 12. I attended the St. Thomas Choir School Girls’ Chorister Course in New York City several times in high school and now work as a staff member every summer. I came to Trinity primarily because I wanted to work with John Tuttle, and he was one of the most supportive adults in my undergraduate life. I sang as a choral scholar at Trinity and in John’s choir at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church on Huron Street for all four years of my degree.

Q. How did you end up working with Prof. Elliott?

I met Prof. Robin Elliott in my third year when I took his Topics in Romantic Music seminar. He supervised my independent study on the reception history of Beethoven over the summer between years three and four, and then hired me as a research assistant for 2015-2016. Initially, we were doing research on a journal (the Canadian Music Book), and then later, he proposed that we carry out a research project on textbooks as collaborators [in fact Emma is the first author on the paper]. I had come up with the initial project in his graduate seminar in Music History Pedagogy: to trace several case studies in music history textbooks though the past 75 years. The two of us took on the project and spent six months doing the research and writing the paper, which we recently sent in for publication in the Journal of Music History Pedagogy. It was wonderful to have such a supportive mentor as I began thinking about graduate school applications.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

What I will miss most, by far, are times spent with John Tuttle. Choir rehearsals were always fun and productive, and Choral Evensong on Wednesdays was always a rewarding experience. Of course, I loved many other things about Trinity: the Lit debates, life in residence, and being a frosh leader are always things I’ll remember. I even got to sit at the high table twice, with my professors, which was really fun!

Q. Any words of advice for current students?

The hardest thing for me to do as an undergraduate was to open my mind. I came to U of T thinking I was going to study statistics primarily, with music as my second major. Statistics was hard, and in second year, I realized I didn’t find my coursework rewarding enough to continue. It’s hard to quit, but it’s important to keep in mind that the most important thing you can learn in university is how to think critically and learn as much as you can about yourself, and you can only do that in a program you really like. To find what’s right, take as diverse a course load as possible! Also, talk to professors. Even if you don’t have questions about the material, talk to a professor at office hours if you like their class. They’re not scary, and they love talking to interested students! It will benefit you, I promise.

Q. What are your future plans?

I decided to take a year off after finishing my undergraduate degree, since I wanted to spend fourth year working on my research project with Professor Elliott and spending as much time as possible on music history coursework. This turned out to be a great idea, since not only is my writing sample much stronger, but my recommending professors knew me better. I am currently applying to MA/PhD programs in the US, as well as MA and MPhil programs in Canada and the UK, all in historical musicology. I hope to specialize in Renaissance music and English music. I plan to spend my year writing personal statements, revising my written portfolio, and singing as much as I can!


Hana CarrozzaHana Carrozza 1T6

Hana is participating in an archaeological excavation of a Roman villa in Portugal in July! She will return to U of T in the fall to pursue a Master of Information at the iSchool.

Q&A with Hana Carrozza

Program: Double Major in Classics and Classical Civilizations
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Hana Carrozza

Q: How did you get interested in archaeology?

I started to get interested in archaeology while I was in middle school, mainly due to my early interest in Greek and Roman mythology and history. Studying those topics led me to learning about important sites and artifacts, and after many trips to the ROM and independent research I started to become interested in what we can learn about the past through material culture. I have also been on two archaeological excavations previously – I have dug at a small Roman settlement in Menorca, Spain and an Etruscan site in Italy!

Q: What do you hope to learn from your experience in Portugal?

In Portugal I hope to learn more about Roman mosaics, how to conduct archaeological surveys, and hopefully a little bit about what life was like on a Roman villa on the outskirts of the empire. As well, I would like to learn more about the history of Portugal in general and perhaps even learn some Portuguese.

Q. What is your favourite Trinity memory/event?

Conversat was my favourite event at Trinity because it was such a production! The events during the week leading up to it were a lot of fun and I loved seeing Strachan Hall become almost unrecognizable with all the decorations.

Q. Any words of advice to current students?

Study what you love, even if it seems completely impractical or frivolous. You’ll be happier for it and eventually you’ll figure out a way to make it fit into the real world.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming iSchool studies?

I will be going into the Master of Information program at UofT’s iSchool in the fall. I plan on concentrating in Archives and Records Management as well as Knowledge Management and Information Management. I guess there is a connection between my upcoming studies and archaeology in that both aim to preserve information and make it more accessible to the public, which is something I’m passionate about.


Oscar ChenOscar Chen 1T6

Oscar hopes to one day apply artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to advance healthcare services. He’ll be attending the University of Cambridge for his Master’s degree in AI.

Q&A with Oscar Chen

Program: Computer Science, Specialist program with a focus on Artificial Intelligence
Hometown: Burnaby, BC

Oscar Chen

Q. How did you get interested AI technologies?

AI technologies is one of those emerging technologies in modern society that can potentially revolutionize everyday life in very meaningful ways. Just within the last decade, we have seen tremendous progress made in areas such as self-driving cars and virtual assistants, and it is quite likely that we will see very sophisticated implementations of such AI-powered devices within our lifetime. I am very excited about the positive impacts that AI technologies can bring about to society, and I wanted to play a role in helping to develop these revolutionizing technologies.

Q. How will AI impact future healthcare services?

The average life-expectancy of a human being is projected to rise significantly within the next few decades. This places a great burden on the global healthcare industry, whose infrastructure must be adapted to an aging demographic with higher-levels of demand for medical services. The integration of AI technologies in the provision of healthcare services will be crucial in alleviating this burden on healthcare professionals, from the automation of surgical procedures to providing homecare for the elderly. My long-term career plan is to work as an AI researcher to help develop these technologies.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memory?

My favourite Trin memory must have been in my second year, when I was taking part in an AI-themed Hackathon with fellow Trin students, Evan Klein and Rahul Chaudhary. One night, I think we were up past 5 am working on our AI, and we finally submitted our code just a couple of hours before the deadline that morning. I remember there was a silly bug in our program that we just could not fix, despite spending hours working on it! Yet, our AI program still ended up somewhere in the top 5 submissions of the competition. We got treated out to a fancy dinner that night, and that was a lot of fun.

Q. Any words of advice to current students?

It is completely normal to struggle in your courses, especially for ones which are known to be challenging. During my undergrad, I remember there was one particular course I took where I had that experience. I felt like I was the only person who was having trouble following along in class, and I had to spend a lot of time studying the course material outside of lecture. At times, I actually felt quite discouraged. A year later, when I talked to my former classmates in that course, I learned that they had felt the exact same way. So it was kind of funny because each one of us had thought that the rest of the class was having an easy time, but in reality, we all struggled! So don’t get discouraged if you’re struggling in a course, because you’re probably not the only one. In fact, the courses that are challenging are the ones you tend to learn the most from!


Norman ChungNorman Chung 1T6

In September, Norman will be working towards his LLB/BCL at McGill’s Faculty of Law. And, he will continue to serve as an artillery officer in the Canadian Army Reserve.

Q&A with Norman Chung

Program: Double Major in International Relations and European Studies
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Norman ChungQ. How did you get involved with the Canadian Army Reserve?

I had known I wanted to join the Canadian Armed Forces since my first year, when I realized it would be possible to serve while still pursuing a civilian career as well. Unfortunately I did not think it was possible to join as an officer until after graduating from university; as soon as I realized that I could still join while completing my degree I signed up immediately. November 2016 will mark the end of my first (busy!) year in service as an artillery officer candidate.

Q. What have you learned from your experience with the Army Reserve?

Being a part of the army reserve has probably been one of my most life-changing experiences yet. Through my training courses I’ve learned a whole new meaning of teamwork and leadership; everything we do in training requires everyone putting their 100% into the team effort to be successful, whether it’s preparing for a morning inspection in 12 minutes or doing something as simple as setting up a meal line. It’s experiences like these that I think will most directly translate into my life outside the military. Looking down the road I hope to be able to continue to pursue my civilian and military career goals alongside each other; I am confident that becoming good at the one will only make me better at the other.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

Trinity was by far my favourite part of my time at the U of T. I especially enjoyed my time in residence and being able to really make the most of the College’s small community. Being able to share the space with some of my closest friends, whether it was at the Conversat ball or just eating two-hour lunches in Strachan, these are the moments I already miss the most!

Q. Any words of advice to current students?

For any current or incoming students at Trinity, I would just repeat what was told to me four years ago: make the most of each day with your friends and classmates because it really is a special community that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.


Reid DobellReid Dobell 1T6

Reid will join the Peace Corps’ Community Health program in Cameroon. He leaves for Cameroon in September to serve for 27 months.

Q&A with Reid Dobell

Program: Double Major in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies, Minor in History
Hometown: King City, Ontario

Reid DobellQ. How did you get interested in the Peace Corps?

As an American citizen I’d always been aware of the Peace Corps yet knew very little about it before applying. In September of my final year I found myself unsure of what I wanted to do after graduating and applied to anything and everything that looked interesting. I got quite close to a few jobs in Toronto and elsewhere while my application progressed over about four months. However, the more I learned about the opportunity to go to Cameroon with the Peace Corps and work with their Community Health Program during my interviews, the more right it seemed for me. When I finally got the offer I jumped for it.

Q. What do you hope to learn from your experience in Cameroon?

I have a number of hopes for my service that span the personal and professional. The challenge of moving to another part of the world that is so culturally different from Canada and where one has to operate in French is very compelling. A large part of me is excited to discover how I like the transition and whether a career that involves working abroad is something that works for me.

I have taken a number of jobs in the past several years specifically for the purpose of learning how concepts I was introduced to in the International Relations program translated into the real world (Border Guard, Canadian Embassy Intern). I see this opportunity, working within a well-respected developmental organization, as a chance to do the same with the field of international development. More generally, I hope the experience of organizing and implementing health promotion projects in rural communities will be rewarding and provide me with a highly transferrable skill set no matter what I decide to do.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

We won the D1 Men’s Intramural Soccer Championship against the odds in my first year. We had a great student turnout and when everyone rushed the field after the shootout it was very special. Frosh Parades, Brawls, and the Balls have always proved a hit.

Q. Any words of advice to current students?

Don’t worry about doing things because you should do them to get ahead. Your experiences will be interpreted differently by every person you meet, so there’s no point fretting about it. However, only you can decide what you actually enjoy doing yourself. Think lots about that.

Q. What are your longer-term goals?

After I complete my 27 months of service, I may perhaps pursue a professional MA program in International Affairs before returning to work. At this time last year, I had no clue I would be here now, so I won’t speculate on what the long-term holds. If the path diverges elsewhere I’ll be ready to follow it.


Sonia LiangSonia Liang 1T6

Sonia is spending the next year working as a program management and development associate at International Bridges to Justice, a legal aid NGO, in Geneva. In the future, she plans to apply to graduate programs in public policy and global governance.

Q&A with Sonia Liang

Program: Double major in Political Science and English, minor in European Studies

Sonia LiangQ. How did you get interested in working with International Bridges to Justice?

As a Political Science student, working at an international organization that works to strengthen democratizing countries’ legal and political institutions after I graduate is something I always dreamed of doing. When I heard about International Bridges to Justice last year, what really appealed to me was their unique approach to tackling problems within the criminal justice system and strengthening rule of law. For me, this was a really hands-on way to apply the skills I learned during my undergraduate degree. I started working for them as an intern last summer, and now I’m thrilled to be back at their Geneva office full-time for the coming year.

Q. What do you hope to learn from your experience in Geneva?

Lots of things, I hope! I’m getting a crash-course in the world of grant management, program implementation and proposal writing. And it’s exciting to see the work of an NGO like IBJ up-close. I’m working primarily on a legal protection project in Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo, so I’m learning a lot about legal rights and access to justice in a very different context than I had learned about in the past. Being in Geneva and working with our country programs in Francophone Africa, I’m also hoping to improve my French. I grew up close to Lausanne, so in a way going to Switzerland for the year is like going back home, albeit with much rustier French than before.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

I always loved Christmas dinner in Strachan and Quad Party. They’re definitely two of the events when I felt that the college really came together, in its classiest and its un-classiest form.

Q. Any words of advice to current students?

Stay open-minded! It’s difficult to know exactly what career you want to have before you get started. Some opportunities may take you by surprise, and you may end up working in a position, or in a place, that you never expected. So don’t be in too much of a rush: if you don’t know if you want to go to grad school, or don’t know what field you want to major in, or don’t know what career you can see yourself having, then take some time to think about it and experience something new. I’ve never regretted taking a year off to work between high school and my undergrad, and now again that I’ve graduated from Trin. On the other hand, I’m grateful to have the time to think more about my long-term academic and career and life goals, because I don’t have those parts all figured out quite yet.


Stephanie Lim-ReindersStephanie Lim-Reinders 1T6

This summer, you’ll find Stephanie at the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta working at the summer camp for children who have been diagnosed with cancer or who have faced significant loss due to cancer. She’ll return to U of T in the fall to start medical school.

Q&A with Stephanie Lim-Reinders

Program: Specialist in Biophysics (Adv Physics Stream), Minor in Mathematics
Hometown: Waterloo, Ontario

Stephanie Lim-ReindersQ. How did you get involved with the summer camp?

I became interested in the summer camp the moment I first heard about it though a friend. It struck me as a placed filled with hope – it’s a place where kids whose lives have been tremendously changed in the face of cancer still have the opportunity of having a great week at camp just like all the other kids who go to camp regularly. They meet friends who understand what their life is like and get to focus on activities that are wrapped around fun, not their diagnosis. In a lot of ways, I became involved because Camp Kindle stands as an absolutely inspiring place for kids to be kids.

Q. Have you always wanted to study medicine?

Interestingly, up until recently, I didn’t want to study medicine. Going into physics in first year, I really wanted to pursue biomechanics or engineering. I loved how concrete physics is and how there is always an answer at the bottom of your question. At the beginning of university, I couldn’t see myself as capable of having the level of responsibility or maturity that comes with a career in medicine. I didn’t think I could make the kinds of decisions doctors are faced with and repercussions physicians must cope with on a daily basis. Across my career at Trinity, I was faced with a number of really personal challenges and losses. At the same time, I was extraordinarily fortunate to be doing research in medical physics on new treatment methods for terminal cancers and I see great hope and success in that field. These moments showed me that while I still have a lot to learn, I had underestimated my ability to make hard decisions, cope with loss and come at challenges with a level head and maturity. In research, I also saw the intersection between physics and healthcare that really drew me in and I was excited at the role I could play in our healthcare system. With a truly humbling level of support from family and friends, it has been a real privilege to come to this realization over the past four years at Trinity and to start gearing up for medical school in the fall.

Q. What do you hope to learn from your experience in Alberta?

I really hope to come home from Alberta with a change in perspective. The resilience and strength that these children show just by having fun at camp is inspiring. Some of the children who come have a parent or sibling who have been diagnosed with cancer, others have a cancer diagnosis themselves. Additionally, starting medical school in the fall, I hope that by spending so much time with these kids where my job is solely to facilitate fun. I have a greater capacity to see beyond an illness. Too often, we define people by their illness or abilities. At camp, we learn to see kids and to see how we can make every activity accessible and fun. I hope to take what I learn from these kids with me home and to medical school.

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

My favourite Trinity memories are the magical moments that I couldn’t have replicated anywhere else. One of the most touching moments I’ve had at Trin was when we planned the first Terry Fox Run we’ve ever had. One of the girls in our graduating class was diagnosed with terminal cancer. To show our support, in second year, we had a Terry Fox Run. At the run, we actually ran out of participant wavers even though we ordered hundreds more than we thought we would actually need, we blew our fundraising goals out of the water and we collected an enormous number of letters for her. So many people who had never met our friend threw enormous support into this event. It’s my favourite memory because I remember being so grateful from the bottom of my heart at how much our community came together.

My favourite traditions at Trin are definitely the Christmas dinner, Bubbly and all the quirky traditions we still keep – like wearing gowns and going to the Lit!

Q. Any words of advice for current students?

My advice for current students is to make time for the things you love. These are four years of your life that have the potential to be the most incredible four years of your life. Education and rigorously studying for exams is, of course, integral to your university degree. More important than studying though is to do what you love with four years of your life because these year you won’t get back later – and you can fill them with incredibly meaningful friendships and moments.


Neil MacAlasdairNeil MacAlasdair 1T6

Currently, Neil is completing a research project he started last summer on the evolution of plant sex chromosomes. In the fall, he’ll call another Trinity College home – Trinity College, Cambridge in England – to begin doctoral studies in genomic evolution.

Q&A with Neil MacAlasdair

Program: Specialist in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Major in Genome Biology, and Minor in Philosophy
Hometown: Toronto

Neil MacAlasdairQ. How did you get interested in genomic evolution?

During Grade 11, I had a fairly comprehensive unit on evolution, and for once, studying became more of a joy than a chore. My astute parents, noticing this, got me a copy of On the Origin of Species, which I enjoyed immensely. From then on, I knew I wanted to study evolution. I decided to focus on genomics at the end of my first year, when it came to selecting a degree program. The Selfish Gene and my first year calculus course really convinced me that I wanted to be involved in a more formal study of evolution, and evolutionary genomics seemed like an area that would, and ultimately did, suit my interest.

Q. What have you learned from your research projects?

My research projects last summer, as well this past year, were carried out under the supervision of Professor Stephen Wright in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at U of T. My projects were focused on investigating the degeneration of the sex chromosomes in the heartwing sorrel, a small plant native to the south-eastern United States. Sex chromosome degeneration is a phenomenon that is hypothesised to occur in all species with heterogametic (XX v. XY or inverse) sex determination. Precisely how the degeneration of the chromosome found only in one sex occurs, however, has not been established, and my research was attempting to shed some light on this open problem. Unfortunately, as is often the case when working with non-reference genomes, most of my time was spent attempting to account for the large amount of bias in the raw genome sequences. However, my research managed to demonstrate that the genome did show signs of degenerative evolution in sex-linked genes, as had been previously established in the transcriptome, but it remains unclear if this is an active or passive process.

Q. What is your favourite Trinity tradition?

My favourite ‘tradition’ at Trinity is the weekly Evensong on Wednesdays. Having been fortunate enough to sing in the Chapel Choir for all of my four years at Trinity, I will remember my experiences singing in it all my life. One particularly memorable Evensong was the last one of my first year, where the choir sang Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale setting of the Te Deum – singing it for the first time, and with incense, was an amazing experience. Other than singing in the Chapel Choir, I think I most enjoyed the uncountably many hours I spent sitting in Strachan Hall when I lived in residence.

Q. Any words of advice for current students?

One piece of advice which I received, that I wish I had taken to heart, was to start seriously making post-graduation plans the summer before my final year. Fourth year was extra-ordinarily busy for me, primarily because on top of all the things I wanted to do in my final year, I had to figure out and make all the arrangements for what I would be doing this coming year. That stress really detracted from how much I enjoyed my studies in my fourth year, and I think it would have been pretty avoidable had I done more, earlier. Thinking so far into the future and trying to make plans can be intimidating, but in my experience putting it off didn’t make it easier, only more stressful.

Q. What are your future plans at Trinity College Cambridge?

I’m still in the process of making the arrangements for my graduate degree, but I’m obviously hoping to continue singing in a chapel or church choir during the next four years. I am also looking forward to living in college again, at least for my first year in Cambridge. As for what my research will be on, I am fortunate to be in a program where I will go through rotations between various groups at the Sanger Institute for the first year before beginning my thesis work thereafter.


Paul PoirierPaul Poirier 1T5

Since convocating in November 2015, Paul has continued to focus on his athletic career. He is an ice dancer on the Canadian team and has represented Canada at seven World Championships and one Olympic Games. Paul and his partner are now training for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. He remains active in research with the Linguistics Department at U of T, gaining important experience should he choose to pursue graduate studies post-retirement from sport.

Q&A with Paul Poirier

Program: Linguistics (specialist)
Hometown: Unionville, Ontario

Paul Poirier with skating partner on the ice

(photos supplied: right image by Victoria Sha)

Q. How did you get involved with the Linguistics department?

While I had applied to U of T for International Relations, I had decided before course selection that the program was not the right fit for me. With no plan in mind, I took Introduction to Linguistics as one of my courses and loved both the object of study (language) and the analytical approach. Throughout my undergrad, my interest in research developed through coursework and lecture material, discussions with peers and graduate students in the department, long digressions during office hours and presentations from visiting professors. I began spending much of my time in the department.

Q. What research are you are working on?

My final two years were capped with an independent study project, and a year-long undergraduate fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, where I transitioned from a mere consumer of research to a rudimentary scholar, digesting and synthesizing. After graduation, I wanted to remain engaged in the dialectic, and joined a research group called CorpusMiners, digging through corpora of historical English and mapping out development of the English verb system from Old English to the present. This allows us to better understand the mechanics that drive language change, as well as gain insights on the current structure of the language.

Q. How did you balance life as both an athlete and a student?

I’ve always been vigilant with staying on top of my school work, trying to keep ahead of schedule, using those long commutes to complete readings, and trying to get work done while abroad. I made sure to constantly keep in communication with my professors (who were fortunately all understanding and encouraging) and warn them of absences ahead of time.

Most of the challenges in balancing my sport and studies came from “missing out,” e.g. being unable to take classes I wanted because they conflicted with training, missing on additional opportunities for learning (extra lectures, discussion groups with peers, etc.). My concern was not that I wouldn’t survive university, but that I wouldn’t live it fully, wouldn’t thrive. I tried to balance these things as best as I could; for me, that meant a good deal of extra effort, but altogether, a much more satisfying experience.

Q. Do you have any favourite Trinity memories?

Many of my fondest memories are built from the activities that wove themselves into my day-to-day life: the sobremesas (hours of conversation, post meal) at Strachan long after the kitchen had closed, afternoons reading in the quad (weather permitting), and the friendships developed between the walls of both Trinity and St. Hilda’s. I carry fond memories of my time at Trinity as to me it was a forum for learning, conversation, ideas, and new relationships – things that still impart richness to my life post-graduation.

Q. What are your future plans?

I’m still unsure as to how long I’d like to continue competing. For now, I’ve committed myself to this Olympic quadrennial, ending in 2018, at which point I’ll have to re-evaluate my motivation and see if I’d like to continue skating in the competitive arena or move on and perform professionally in shows. Much depends on which of my goals I’ve accomplished, the state of my body, and most importantly, the state of my heart. These are things, I’ve found, that are impossible to plan for. In recent years I’ve managed to not be in such a rush to get to the “next chapter” of my life, which has allowed me to find a deeper enjoyment in the creative and athletic process I’m currently living. Eventually I would like to get back to school and pursue graduate degrees in linguistics. While I learned so much in my undergrad, I feel it also uncovered so many more questions I’d like to provide answers for. I’m interested in how different syntactic systems codify and organize information, and the consequences on thought, conversation, literature and translation. I’d also like to remain involved in the skating world as a judge.


Emily TsuiEmily Tsui 1T6

Emily has deferred her studies in the JD/MPP program at U of T for a year so that she can continue working on projects related to the Arctic for the Arctic Council’s 20th anniversary and Canada’s sesquicentennial, and to also travel!

Q&A with Emily Tsui

Program: International Relations (Specialist), European Studies (Major) and Political Science (Minor)
Hometown: Scarborough, Ontario

Emily Tsui in the ArcticQ. How did you get interested in Arctic issues?

One of my first memories I have is the creation of Nunavut in 1999 when my Grade 1 class coloured in the new territory’s coat of arms. This drew some of my attention up North, but what persisted was my love for the great outdoors since I was quite young. Winter camping in high school stirred up an imagination for what life must be like for our Northern neighbours. However, it was not until I did a summer abroad (in Europe after second year and visiting many memorials and sites of former concentration camps) that I realized that I wanted to focus my attention on making a positive difference closer to home. I knew from occasional reporting and Facebook groups such as “Feeding my Family” that there were great injustices done in Canada, and I wanted to become more aware of those issues. Taking Professor Axworthy’s seminar in third year on Arctic issues was the most transformational step in my academic career to date, because it got me critically thinking about how life in the North exists and how it can be improved. I remain close with him and he is a constant inspiration for me to continue my focus on this area. One of the best highlights from my undergraduate experience was being able to travel abroad through the International Course Module to Tbilisi, Georgia and through the Undergraduate Research Fund to Anchorage, Alaska.

Q. Tell us about your current Arctic project?

Presently, my colleagues (another recent graduate and two current students) are working to develop an exhibition for U of T’s Canada at 150 Sesquicentennial celebrations in hope that we can inform the university community and beyond of the importance of focusing research and awareness in the Arctic. The 2015 Gordon Foundation survey found that a meagre 8% of Canadians have heard of the Arctic Council, the premier intergovernmental forum addressing Arctic issues. The Arctic Council is no abstract subject; it is the only forum in the world that grants permanent participant status to indigenous groups and has been quite effective at producing results through consensus. It’s one of the very rare examples of a productive international “organization” that continues co-operation despite conflict. Studying the Arctic Council can give students more optimism when looking at world affairs, which is desperately needed if our generation is to suggest long-term plans for cleaning up mistakes of the previous ones and to plan ahead in sustainably developing our future. In particular, I hope to see more students being interested in the Arctic region so that we can collaborate on projects with Northerners to make it a better place to live and work. [Click here to learn about the international conference on arctic governance that Emily organized in September 2015 here at Trinity]

Q. What are your favourite Trinity memories?

After eating pumpkin pie after my first Thanksgiving high table in Strachan (it was recently renovated and re-opened for us, so that was a real treat to be there), I distinctly remember a few of my classmates from our Trinity One class stayed late and discussed the history of the Yugoslav Wars over coffee. I loved my first real experience of being in a community of people with similar, but different enough, interests, which taught me so much more about my studies than I ever could have imagined in a classroom. The high tables are great for meeting people from across different perspectives, and I loved this part of Trinity.

Q. Any words of advice for current students?

Don’t forget in the midst of crunching out a paper or staying up far too late studying for an exam that these will be the best four years (plus or minus a year or few) of your life. Of course, academics are important, but you will find that they will get a lot easier if you enjoy the environment and community around you. Accept any opportunity you can to travel (there is financial support for many programs), join extracurricular activities, find people who make you happy and can count on, take care of your physical and mental health, and remember to enjoy every moment possible. Asides from that, commit to doing good for this world. Use your degree as a way to kickstart making a meaningful impact on our generation and the next. Try to learn as many things as possible to diversify what you know, then try and find a passion that will keep you going for the rest of your life.

Q. What else do you have planned?

I’m taking some time off to work and see more of the world (especially to other Northern areas). Travelling has produced many of my fondest memories of undergrad, and it has taught me a lot about myself and the world around me. When I return after a year, I hope to be able to specialize in a field of law and public policy, and later work in a field that will allow me to keep going North and work with Northerners. They are truly remarkable people and hearing their stories are always a source of inspiration.