Alumni Reflections

Trinity One Summer Program Assistants interviewed graduating Trinity One alumni and asked how Trinity One impacted their undergraduate years. Hear what they had to say below!

June 2021 Convocation - Medicine & Global Health

June 23, 2021

Dante Wong MGH

This past school year has been one like no other and students have had to learn to adapt to a completely new learning style. The uncertainty of the situation we are currently in has only added an additional challenge for students. We recognize this year has been very difficult and so we want to take the time to celebrate our graduates of the class of 2021. 

This past week I was able to speak with one of the 2021 graduates Dante Wong, who studied Immunology and Global Health. Dante, who completed the MGH stream, mentioned how participating in Trinity One influenced the trajectory of his program choice. “A lot of what I learned through the course ended up changing the direction of my degree as it was really interesting to see that epidemiology can extend to so many different societal factors.” Dante expanded by discussing how going into university he thought that it was pure science that had the biggest impact on healthcare and helping others but he learned there was more than just the biological aspects but also the societal aspects as well. As a result, he decided to pursue a degree that allowed him to explore both of these aspects simultaneously. 

Dante also continued to be a part of the Trinity One program in his second year as a mentor. On this topic he mentioned how he appreciated having upper year students who had a similar school experience to him and that being able to ask these mentors questions about not only Trinity One but university in general was super helpful so he wanted to provide that for others.

We later got onto the topic of how different Trin One courses could be from other first year courses. Dante specifically enjoyed the smaller class sizes in Trinity One as it gave him the ability to develop a familiarity with his professor that didn’t exist in other first year courses. Furthermore, Dante really appreciated how the seminar style of Trin One helped him prepare for his upper year courses and how Trinity One courses “stepped up from just the fundamentals and allowed for more significant discussions between students.” He felt that Trinity One offered a quality of learning that you couldn’t find elsewhere in first-year. 

On the topic of advice for incoming students Dante advises students to take advantage of the smaller class size and to try and find students who have similar interests to you as this can sometimes be harder in your larger classes. He found that having that sense of community helped him to develop many skills including study habits that were specific for university. Additionally, Dante learned that the amount of effort you put in was proportional to the grades that you received not only for Trin One but other courses as well.

Dante’s experience in Trinity One highlights how unique of a program it can be and how it can completely shape a student’s university experience. This summer Dante is working at SickKids helping out with a research project related to neonatal vitamin deficiencies. He will be applying for Master’s programs later this year and plans to translate his passion for science communication and sustainability into a career in pediatric healthcare.

We at Trinity one would like to congratulate Dante Wong along with all the other students who are graduating this year. We wish them the best with everything in the future!

Written by: Nicholas Damiano, Trinity One Program Assistant, Biomedical Health ’20

June 2021 Convocation - Policy, Philosophy, & Economics

June 23, 2021

Kate Schneider PPEDisha Nayak PPEHenry Rhyu PPE

Kate Schneider (Left), Disha Nayak (Centre), and Henry Rhyu (Right) completed the Policy, Philosophy, & Economics stream in 2018 (formerly Public Policy stream).

As the end of June draws near, U of T students everywhere are unceremoniously dragged back into planning mode as they think about course enrolment and programs. For those of us worried about the future, it may be helpful to hear and celebrate the stories of the graduates who are moving on to exciting new things. Before today’s Convocation ceremony, I had the pleasure to speak with three alumni from Trinity One’s Public Policy stream (now known as Policy, Philosophy, and Economics) about how their Trinity One experience shaped their undergraduate years and beyond. 

We started by discussing what alumni found unique about the program. “Trinity One really took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to speak up more and engage in class discussions,” says Kate Schneider, a political science specialist who is now going on to pursue a Master of Science Politics Research Program at the University of Oxford. Alumni frequently mentioned how Trinity One helped prepare them for upper-year courses, especially thanks to the self-directed nature of the course, an unparalleled opportunity to discuss ideas with peers and professors, and the collegial academic atmosphere.

For Disha Nayak, the Public Policy stream offered “a lot of eye-opening hands-on opportunities that allowed me to see the value of public policy consultations,” including visits to the Ontario Legislature and Toronto City Hall. Disha is graduating as an International Relations and Economics double major and is starting a full-time job in Online Product Marketing Management at Google this August. She credits Trinity One with exposing her to various policy areas that she will actively be involved in at Google, such as small business policy in the context of COVID-19. 

Alumni also discussed how Trinity One gave them the experience and skills necessary to succeed in their studies and beyond. Henry Rhyu, who completed a specialist program in Criminology, says that his time in the Public Policy stream directly contributed to his acceptance into the University of Oxford’s Master of Science in Criminology program. “Trinity One was my first introduction to law-related writing,” he says, adding that a TRN160 essay about the legal landscapes surrounding corporal punishment in South Korea formed part of his Oxford application.

As for advice for incoming first- and second-year students, alumni had much to offer. “Do what you’re interested in,” says Henry. “Don’t be in a situation where you graduate and realize ‘I did nothing that I wanted’ during your four years at U of T.” He pointed to the numerous opportunities available for personal and academic development at the university, citing his experience with the ROP program during his third and fourth years.

Disha echoed this sentiment and talked about how it’s never too late to explore your interests. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my first year and took a bunch of different courses, like computer science.” Her decision eventually led to an interest in the intersection between technology and public policy, which contributed to her joining Google, first as an intern and later a full-time employee. 

Finally, alumni urged students to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. “You’re in a room full of people who are extremely accomplished,” Henry recalls. “The faster you realize everyone is feeling imposter syndrome and everyone is scared, the easier it is.” 

As my second year at U of T dawns on me, I get the feeling that convocation might come sooner than expected. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and reflect with talented Trinity One graduates who were in this position not too long ago. We thank Kate, Disha, and Henry for their time, and wish the entire 2021 graduating class all the best in their future endeavours!

Written by Jacob Li, Trinity One Program Assistant, Policy, Philosophy & Economics ‘21

June 2021 Convocation - International Relations

June 23, 2021

Keenan KrauseSterling MancusoMohammad_Faaris_Hussain

Keenan Krause (Left), Sterling Mancuso (Centre), and Mohammad Faaris Hussain (Right) completed the International Relations stream in 2018.

In celebration of the Class of 2021’s Convocation today, I interviewed Keenan Krause, Sterling Mancuso, and Mohammad Faaris Hussain, three alumni from the International Relations stream of Trinity One to reflect on their undergraduate experiences.

Each of the alumni enjoyed their time in Trinity One and emphasized the benefits of the seminar environment—namely, the rarity of small classes and direct relationships with professors in first year, a supportive learning community, and exposure to the interdisciplinary nature of IR—as their main motivations to enroll in Trinity One IR.

Keenan called Trinity One an incredibly formative experience. He was able to identify gaps in IR scholarship that, as he said, “really changed how I thought about the world.” This approach played an important role in his decision to minor in African Studies alongside his double major in IR and Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

Due to the focused nature of the seminars, “all [of the experiences] felt meaningful in Trin One and that never really happened again,” said Sterling. He also mentioned that the higher-level assignments, intense reading lists, and general rigour of the program prepared him for his upper-year classes in his IR specialist and Economics minor.

Trinity One also provided unique and fun pedagogical experiences. Faaris recounted a TRN150 class, where he had to think on his feet and work through various foreign policy approaches during the Vietnam War with a series of US presidents, all played by Professor Kislenko. He appreciated how his emphasis on deductive reasoning, logical thinking, and the Socratic method of teaching helped him grow intellectually.

Faaris’s biggest advice to students is to be active listeners because this will help them be deliberate in their remarks and add more insightful comments to the conversation—a mindset he employed in upper-year seminars as part of his Political Science specialist degree. While many people are intimidated to speak up in class, he emphasized, “It’s just a feeling. Just take a leap of faith and trust your gut to participate in the discussion.”

Keenan highlighted the role of the stream mentors and co-curricular events as important opportunities for informal bonding between current and past students, regardless of college affiliation. He also recommended that students go to office hours to foster invaluable relationships with their professors. Faaris likewise enjoyed the co-curricular talks with guest speakers because they were opportunities to see how the IR theories and concepts discussed in class were applied in the field.

 While Sterling noted that even though not all of his peers ended up in IR, he recommended taking the program regardless of your intended major because “you’re only expanding your options with Trin One.” But, he cautioned, “Don’t treat it like another introductory class. You can’t just show up and sit back silently.”

After Convocation, Keenan is off to the University of Chicago for a Master of Public Policy, with a focus on conflict and development in Africa—a passion that grew out of his work in Trin One. Faaris will be attending the University of Ottawa to study Law in the fall. Sterling is working at a law firm in Toronto this summer, learning about a variety of fields of civil law, before returning to UofT’s Faculty of Law.

I’d like to thank Keenan, Sterling, and Faaris for their thoughtful and engaging conversations this past week and wish them all the best in their future endeavours. On behalf of Trinity One, congratulations to Graduating Class of 2021; we cannot wait to see what you accomplish next!

Written by Tessa Di Vizio, Trinity One Program Assistant, International Relations ‘19

June 2020 Convocation - Biomedical Health, Medicine & Global Health

June 11, 2020

Lilin Tong (Left) and Dorota Borovsky (Right) completed the Anne Steacy Biomedical Health stream in 2017.

This year, we celebrate the virtual convocation of the class of 2020. In spite of the peculiar circumstances that developed over the last few months, our new graduates continue to demonstrate their resilience. Over the weekend, I had the pleasure to connect with a few alumni of The Margaret MacMillan Trinity One program to chat about their unique four-year journeys, and what their next big steps are as University of Toronto graduates.

As the alumni reflected on their first years, we chatted about their experience in the Trinity One program and how it shaped their undergraduate experience. “[Trinity One] was very fulfilling, and the professors did a very good job in not just passing on relevant content, but rather the important skills students need in their upper years to understand the logistics of research”, Dorota Borovsky says, who is starting her Master’s in Applied Immunology here at UofT.

Her sentiments were shared amongst the other alumni as well. From choosing their POSt programs to careers, they all felt that the program gave them a better insight to current-day topics and career fields, especially being first years with little knowledge on what their intended fields were truly like. Lilin Tong, a mentor from the Biomedical Health stream, switched her major after realizing that the material her Trinity One professor, Joy Fitzgibbon, was teaching was the most interesting and engaging to her, and will now be moving to the United States to work as a healthcare consultant before applying for medical school.

We ended our nostalgic conversations with some advice and key tips for incoming students. “It’s easy to have the tunnel vision mentality going into first year. You have to be realistic and have a backup plan. Trinity One helped me explore many career paths, and allowed me to broaden my interests while exploring all avenues and possibilities. It gave me a holistic idea of what medicine is like, along with maturity and insight,” says Rutvij Khanolkar, who will be pursuing his medical degree at the University of Calgary this July.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I am proud to say that my beliefs parallel the recent alumni as well, with the Trinity One program playing a huge role in shaping my undergraduate career. Being wrapped up in the fast-paced lifestyle of a student, convocation is time that has always seemed so far away from my reality. As I enter my third-year at the University of Toronto, I have come to realize it will soon be myself that will be pursuing post-graduate endeavours, and I am excited to grow in yet another chapter of my life. Once again, congratulations to the graduating class of 2020, and all the best from Trinity One!

Written by: Felice Chun, Trinity One Program Assistant, Biomedical Health ’20

June 2020 Convocation - Policy, Philosophy & Economics

June 11, 2020

Christopher Sims completed the Policy, Philosophy & Economics stream in 2017 (formerly Public Policy stream).

For many incoming first-year students, the start of the academic year seems distant enough — graduating from university seems like a lifetime away. Moreover, first-year students can become too focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, forgetting that their lived experience now has the potential to lead to their future success.

This is why Christopher Sims, a 2020 UofT economics, mathematics, and philosophy graduate who completed the Trinity One Public Policy stream (now the Policy, Philosophy, and Economics stream), says that “Everyone should try something like [Trinity One] — because really, once you get to higher levels, that’s what university is really like.” I had the opportunity to chat with Chris this week about what the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program meant to him and how it influenced his studies.

The structure of Trinity One courses is rather distinct compared to what students are familiar with from high school — learning is rooted in rich discussion and written reflection. Chris emphasized that in-class discussions in Trinity One helped him learn how to meaningfully engage with others in a seminar setting and become a more effective communicator. As well, the supportive community fostered in the program among his peers and professors gave him the confidence to regularly make contributions. He noted that these skills served him well in his upper-year seminar courses, where professors often expect students to pose, consider, and respond to complex questions.

Further, Chris cited the substantial exegesis and argumentation he was expected to complete in Trinity One through a wide variety of written assignments as an intellectually rewarding process that challenged his preexisting ideas, forced him to think and engage with texts in new ways, and become a much stronger writer. 

On top of this, the support of professors who knew him and his individual strengths bolstered his ability to grow as an academic. Trinity One’s small class sizes and ability to engage one-on-one with professors led to relationships that outlasted the program; in fact, some of Chris’ best friends in undergrad were from Trinity One. Chris also ended up doing an independent study (TRN377) with one of his Trinity One professors, Michael Kessler, in his third year.

One piece of advice Chris had for incoming students was to expose yourself to as many different fields of study as you can; he suggests being open to learning something new or unexpected — for him, this was philosophy. In fact, it was his study of such a wide (yet cohesive) array of topics in Trinity One that led him to pursue a philosophy minor. The process of analyzing and critiquing text in his Trinity One courses — and many of the texts themselves — mirrored much of what he was expected to do in his upper-year philosophy courses.

Chris’ story is a testament to the value programs like Trinity One have in setting first-year students up for success in both their upper-year courses and beyond. While Chris does not plan on explicitly studying philosophy or the topics he analyzed in Trinity One when he commences his PhD program at Northwestern University this September, he made clear that the thinking, discussion, and writing skills that Trinity One helped foster will be invaluable to him as he continues his academic career.

On behalf of the Trinity One Program, congratulations on your graduation and we wish you the best of luck at Northwestern!

Written by: Paul Grewar, Trinity One Program Assistant, Policy, Philosophy & Economics ’19

June 2020 Convocation - International Relations

June 11, 2020

Maria Alba Benoit Mariaca completed the International Relations stream in 2017.

From new graduates making plans for entering the workforce or further study, to incoming second year students anxiously awaiting POSt applications, spring and early summer at U of T is a time of both excitement and uncertainty. My time as a first year student in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One program just concluded in April, and the question of “What comes next?” has been at the forefront of my mind. This weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to Maria Alba Benoit Mariaca, a Trinity One alumna who just graduated from U of T, to gain some insight into university life after Trinity One. 

Maria Alba was drawn to the International Relations (IR) stream of Trinity One to learn about the most challenging international issues of our time while simultaneously building a connection with a smaller cohort of students within U of T’s large campus. She was “blown away by the material” in TRN150 and TRN151, which “challenged [her] beliefs and enhanced [her] understanding of what constitutes IR”.

Reflecting on her experience in Trinity One, Maria Alba described the program as “unique and special” in its ability to foster “engaging, critical, and analytical conversations” and bring together “like-minded people wanting to seek truth in academia”. She mentioned her cohort’s diversity of lived experiences, high calibre of students, and supportive environment as particular highlights of her experience in Trinity One. Maria-Alba said that the “level of critical thinking that Trinity One instills is something that sets [its students] ahead of a lot of people throughout [their] university career”.

She advised first year students entering the Trinity One program to “go into class with an open mind and a willingness to learn, without any preconceptions about the courses” and to take advantage of the program’s unique opportunity to build relationships with classmates and professors. She encourages current Trinity One students to maintain these relationships after first year, as several of her Trinity One classmates became some of her best friends at university. 

Her experience in the program motivated her to pursue a specialist in Peace, Conflict, and Justice, alongside minors in Latin American Studies and Human Geography. Maria Alba found that the knowledge and academic skills she gained from the IR stream set her up for success in upper-year courses. 

Maria Alba is spending lockdown at home with her family in Ottawa, and is taking different online courses to expand her skill-set and technological proficiencies. In the context of this global pandemic and increased advocacy for justice, she is writing a “Student View” for ReVista: The Harvard Review of Latin America on the shared experiences of the Latin American communities she is connected to across the broader American continent. Maria Alba plans to continue working in the field of Environmental and Social Policy for a couple of years, before continuing her studies at a postgraduate level.

We would like to congratulate Maria Alba and all of the Trinity One alumni who graduated last week, and to wish them all luck with their future endeavours! 

Written by: Quinn Teague-Colfer, Trinity One Program Assistant, International Relations ’20