To many, Saturday 29 February 2020 was no more than a leap day. For over 80 students in McMaster’s Arts & Science Program, the leap day brought with it the unique opportunity to engage with Artsci alumni at the third annual New World of Work Forum.
Inaugurated in 2018, the New World of Work Forum is made possible through a generous donation by Mr. Bruce Miyashita (Artsci Class of 1984) in honour of his late parents, Tom and Nancy Miyashita. The Forum is organized by a Student Project Management Team who carry out Miyashita’s vision to introduce Artsci students to the vast postgrad world of work that awaits them.
Perceiving the potential for new ways of connecting business and non-business challenges and opportunities, Miyashita is convinced of the need for “the kind of cross-disciplinary thinking exemplified by the Arts & Science Program.”
This year, the Student Project Management Team consisted of Emma Yim (level IV), Gillian Young (level III), Julia Menezes (level II) and Ryan Edwards (level III).
At their first meeting in early October, the Student Project Managers were struck by a desire to challenge the typical conceptions of career as a linear trajectory. “We wanted to emphasize that many Artsci grads don’t choose just one pathway,” said Emma Yim.
After speaking with Miyashita about his experiences in the business world, the team decided to incorporate the idea of “breaking down career silos” into their vision. “It was as much about learning about the people behind the careers as it was the careers themselves,” said Julia Menezes, “We really wanted to learn from alumni, not simply about what they’ve done.”
Four months and many hours of planning later, the team welcomed an enthusiastic crowd of current students and graduates of the Arts & Science Program to join them at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre in downtown Hamilton. After some powerful introductory remarks from Miyashita, attendees heard from keynote speaker Dr. Nisha Thampi (Artsci Class of 2002).
Thampi delivered a thoughtful and inspiring talk about the five key skills from her time in the Arts & Science Program that continue to shape her work as an educator, mother, and pediatric infectious diseases physician today. She acknowledged that all the “clicks” in the track of her life have only become clear in retrospect and advised students to make decisions with intent.
Second-year Artsci student Daniela Pantusa remarked: “Dr. Thampi’s talk was not only engaging but extremely timely, especially with reference to needing multiple perspectives when planning for challenges like COVID-19.”
Students then had the opportunity to engage in various small group activities, which included an alumni panel, a risk-assessment workshop, a discussion about financial ethics, and an interactive consulting case-study. Interviews with far-flung alumni were featured in a special video presentation. Over the course of the day, Artsci grads at the cutting edge of medicine, risk-management, business, and public health shared their experiences about moving through the world of work.
The afternoon’s keynote speaker, Dr. Kerry Scott (Artsci Class of 2007), eloquently articulated how the skills from her interdisciplinary education have influenced her current work as a social scientist—how, for example, she used these skills to find accurate data collection methods for qualitative research regarding expectant mothers in India. Scott’s talk also addressed some of the Forum’s recurring themes, such as the challenges of finding a work-life balance and the importance of mentorship.
Arts & Science Program Director Dr. Jean Wilson and the Student Project Management Team brought the day to a close by offering final remarks and thanking all those in attendance. They expressed special gratitude to all the student volunteers and alumni who generously donated their time. “Although it was up to the project management team to plan the conference, in the end, it was the fantastic alumni and volunteers who made the conference a success,” said Project Manager Ryan Edwards.
Gillian Young added: “We are particularly grateful for the willingness of alumni to give back to the Artsci community, in some cases years and even decades after they have graduated. As Dr. Wilson noted, alumni participants ranged from the very first cohort of Artsci grads (Class of 1984) to the most recent (Class of 2019).”
One month later, the Student Project Managers say that reflection and feedback on the experience have solidly confirmed the significance of Miyashita’s gift, and they reiterate their gratitude for his continued support of the New World of Work Forum and the Arts & Science community.