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Waterloo alumni live in student residence, support new program for upper-years

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Alumni in Residence chat with students

Faryal Diwan and Torrie William Santucci are members of Waterloo’s vibrant alumni network – with one twist: they live in student residences. While most Waterloo alumni with full-time jobs and a thriving professional network outside of campus would hesitate at the idea of returning to the student lifestyle, that is exactly what they did. 

Faryal and Torrie are the pioneer Alumni in Residence (AiR) team of a new program for upper year students living in residence called Get Ready for: Life After Graduation. In partnership with Alumni Relations and the CentrTorrie William Santuccie for Career Action, the program launched in fall 2017 and has now been confirmed for a second year, beginning fall 2018.  “We started the Life After Graduation program because we know from our experience and from research that our upper-year students (2A and beyond) are in a critical time of personal growth and learning. Our first-year program in residence was strong, but we wanted to try new ways of supporting upper-year students,” said Melissa McNown-Smith, Manager, Living-Learning, Waterloo Residences.

Faryal DiwanAttracted by a shared passion for mentoring and the community they experienced as Dons in residence, Faryal and Torrie returned to mentor upper-year students as they navigate their choices and prepare for the future. We sat down with them to learn about their experience as Alumni in Residence:

What exactly does an AiR do?

Faryal: An Alumnus in Residence is a mentor role designed to support students through educational and professional development workshops, and help them gain skills that they will need for when they graduate.

Torrie: An AiR also aims to connect students to helpful resources and information available at the University of Waterloo (UW) and in the community. I personally try to go above and beyond to help any student looking for advice or access to campus connections.

You both graduated from the Faculty of Environment and are doing some amazing work in your fields. Why become Alumni in Residence?

Torrie: I got involved as a Residence Life Don during the final year of my bachelor's program in Earth and Environmental Science. It was by far one of the most memorable times I've had at UW. When I returned as a Master of Climate Change student, I went right back to the Rez-Life experience as a Don, and it was equally rewarding. When I read the job description for the Alumnus in Residence position, I noticed similarities between this job and that of a Don, and I was immediately excited to apply.

Faryal: I held a number of mentorship roles before becoming an Alumnus in Residence; from donning for Waterloo Residences and Renison College, to mentoring a high school student through the YWCA Community Sheroes program. When I heard about the AiR program, it sounded like a great opportunity to expand my mentorship role to university students again, but this time it was different because I’m on the outside looking in. And like they say, once you’re a mentor you’ll always be one. And I love it!

You support upper years at all stages. How does the support you provide to a second year student differ from what you provide to a fourth or fifth year student?

Torrie: Students at different years in their programs will no doubt be looking for different resources and guidance.

Faryal: Exactly. I’d say a 1st or 2nd year student is still learning the ropes of time management, refining their degree and searching for their next co-op (if it’s a co-op student) or a summer job for a non-co-op student. For a 4th or 5th year student, their main focus is to ensure they do extremely well in their last year, and find their first job after graduation.

Torrie: Our jobs as AiRs is to recognize the varying needs of the students and deliver useful information or connections. For me, this includes sharing my own personal experiences, identifying on-campus resources, and inviting students to share their concerns with me in order to make their residence experience as fulfilling as possible.

At Waterloo, students have access to many supports through their faculties, student services, clubs and societies. Why is the role of an alumnus in residence important?

Torrie: Many on-campus clubs and resources are crucial to students' academic performance, mental health, and social circles. An AiR acts as a liaison to these support channels to make sure students are aware of the opportunities available to them and make sure they can access the help that they need.

Faryal: A unique aspect of this program is that Alumni in Residence are exclusively available for students under their own roof. This means that we’re available in the evenings and weekends when other resources may not be open to them. We currently partner with Alumni Relations and Centre for Career Action, and would welcome the opportunity to work more closely with faculties and other campus partners so we can better advise our students.

Finally, what does success for students in this program look like?

Both: It’s all about meeting goals! Whether a student’s goal is to expand their social circle, get a leg up on the co-op job hunt, or advance their life and academic skill-set, alumni have gone through what most students are currently experiencing and have a lot to share about what the path to success can look like for them. Talk to us!

Contemplating their own lives after the Life After Graduation program, both Torrie and Faryal look forward progressing their careers as environmental professionals, and perhaps, returning to Waterloo (again), for future studies. For more information about Waterloo Residences, on-campus housing and resources for upper year students visit uwaterloo.com/housing or email housing@uwaterloo.ca.

Upper-year housing is still available for fall 2018. Apply here.

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