This fall, 274 Faculty of Health graduands will celebrate their achievements as students and begin their journeys as alumni of the University of Waterloo. Some will pursue graduate studies, others will be embarking on new careers – but all will be doing what Health graduates do: Improving the health and well-being of individuals, communities or populations.

We asked a couple of graduating students to tell us what motivated them during their studies and what they will miss most as they move on to a new phase of their lives:

Abbie HoAbbie Ho
BA, Tourism Development, Honours

Abbie Ho worked for more than 40 years in the accounting and tax field In Toronto before deciding to step out of her comfort zone and return to university to satisfy her curiosity upon retirement. She enrolled in Waterloo’s Tourism Development program and began to reflect on her experiences as a racialized older adult, wondering how other older adults thought about their lifelong learning pursuits.

“I wanted to raise awareness of the impact of later-life learning on older adults on their health and well-being,” she says. “What do their stories tell us about their experiences of formal lifelong learning? What are the benefits and challenges? How might lifelong learning through post-secondary education constitute serious leisure?”

These questions led her to complete a research study called “Storying Experiences of Post-Secondary Education and Leisure for Older Adults,” for which she received a thesis prize from the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. She says if she pursues graduate studies, she will use her financial background as a chartered professional accountant “to evaluate the financial impact, from the perspective of the educational institutions and the government, when retirees participate in formal post-secondary education.

Ho adds that she will miss the physical activity of walking to campus, which helped keep her healthy. “I also loved the inclusive environment at the University of Waterloo. For example, my academic advisor, Sara Houston, made me feel very comfortable, although I am different from the younger students.”

Michael ParisMichael Paris
PhD, Kinesiology

Michael Paris, a finalist for the Alumni Gold Medal in recognition of outstanding academic achievement in a doctoral program, will be graduating with a PhD in Kinesiology. His thesis focused on characterizing aging-related changes in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue in relation to muscle function and metabolic health.

“Often, muscle and adipose tissue are measured across the whole-body, but age-related changes in these tissues do not occur uniformly across the body,” Paris says. “My thesis demonstrated that the anterior thigh and anterior abdominal muscles are the most impacted by advancing age, and deterioration of these muscles was associated with poorer muscle strength and regulation of blood glucose in older adults.”

This work will ideally help with developing protocols to identify older adults who may require targeted nutrition or exercise interventions.By focusing assessments of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue to those that are more affected by advancing age, we have the potential to identify those older adults sooner and intervene earlier, which may improve functional capacity and independence of older adults,” he says.

Paris adds that he will miss the environment and his colleagues in the Kinesiology and Health Sciences department, but he looks forward to a postdoc position, where he will continue his training and expand his skillset for exploring how skeletal muscle changes throughout the adult lifespan.

Congratulations to all the graduating students at the University of Waterloo this week!