Grads at work

Our grads make a difference. 

Laura Black
Laura Black, Coordinator, Student Rights and Responsibilities, Conestoga College

"My education prepared me to listen and collaborate with diverse stakeholders; to understand attitudes, behaviours, and social factors; to advocate for those who are marginalized and to critically research and analyze systems; to practice my passion for public education; to constantly adapt and creatively problem solve. The community and education I experienced at Renison are embedded in every aspect of my career journey."

When Laura began at Renison, she wasn’t sure where her career path would take her. Social Development
Studies (SDS) allowed her to explore many avenues and learn the value of responding to social issues from multiple
vantage points. Laura is recognized for her leadership in community development and inclusive education, which led her to a position as a Student Rights and Responsibilities Co-ordinator at Conestoga College.

Cindy-lou Schmidt, Realtor

Cindy-lou Schmidt

"I initially planned to get into a research field related to my degree. Near the end of my schooling I decided to pursue a different career that would still have a direct influence on the community and I became a Realtor. My work involves much more than a transaction, home sale or purchase – it’s really about building a healthier community."

Cindy-lou is a lifelong resident of Kitchener-Waterloo, and was drawn to Renison’s SDS program because of the flexibility and freedom to build a degree tailored to her interests. Her focus on social and community development, and social policy left her career options open. After completing her degree, Cindy-lou chose to pursue a career in real estate, which allows her to apply the skills and insights she gained in a practical and socially responsible way.

John Neufeld
John Neufeld, Executive Director, House of Friendship

"My experience at Renison was foundational to working in the field of social work. I didn’t really know what social work was until I arrived, but I was fascinated. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me."

John knew he wanted to pursue SDS, and chose Renison because of the wide range of courses. After working in child welfare with foster children, John decided that he wanted to affect change in a different way. He now works as the Executive Director of House of Friendship, an organization that
works to tackle systemic social issues like homelessness and addiction.

Janet Menard
Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and Deputy Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

When I attended Renison Social Development Studies was called Applied Social Sciences. My heart was set on working in human services and I was attracted to the intimacy of a small college committed to social sciences, within the context of a large university with a great reputation. My instincts were right. The offerings within the Renison community were invaluable,  and the smaller classes allowed for lots of informal learnings and discussions. When I attended in the 1970s things were going on in the world that caught our attention, and many students rallied to voice their concerns. This created tension on campus, from those, in particular, who did not want to be distracted from their studies. The tolerance for dissension and difference was pretty low and as a result Renison went through a tumultuous time. It was difficult but quite representative of life and life experiences we would continue to face. And it is an important part of Renison's history. Social activism is critical to democratic society and we need to listen and understand the perspectives of those who take the time to share them. My role as a public servant has taken me down a different path. I remain in this field to make a positive difference. Working within government affords me that opportunity. My time at Renison helped me become comfortable offering a difference of opinion, being provocative, and challenging assumptions. But we only get there through meaningful listening and dialogue with people with lived experience and diverse perspectives. My work in the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services exposes me to a lot. But time spent with people caught in our systems and people who work on the front lines, amongst pain and suffering and who still remain hopeful is the most humbling for me. It is not lost on me that I am a person of privilege in so many ways.

Irene Vassalo
Irene Vassalo,  Investment Manager

I attended Renison right after high school; I wanted to get into social work and stay local, which fit in with what Renison had to offer. I really liked the smaller school experience, but appreciated having access to the UWaterloo campus at the same time. The intimate atmosphere and small classrooms also meant that I was able to get to know my classmates and my professors.

When I began at Renison, my plan was to become a Social Worker and save the world! Then I graduated, in 1992, at the peak of the recession, and there were no social work jobs to be had – I must have sent out dozens of resumes every week. At that time I was working at a bank, and someone drew my attention to an ad for a job at the Investor’s Group, which led to a career path in wealth management. My education in social work has been hugely beneficial in my career. Building relationships is key – wealth management is very personal and often sees people at both the best and worst times of their life. Essentially I took my experience at the bank, and my education from Renison and put them together.

Runqi-Jack Li
Runqi-Jack Li, Coordinator of International Relations

Initially I started investigating Renison because of my interest in beginner Japanese, but I stayed because of the friendships I built with international students, the support I received from my teachers and the welcoming, community atmosphere. I majored in Knowledge Integration with a minor in Applied Languages. I have fond memories of talking with groups of international students in the Ministry Centre, studying in the library, hopping between buildings, striking up conversations with others in the cafeteria – it’s the place where I laughed, learned and grew.

My goal at Renison was to work to become the Coordinator of International Relations with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. This goal just became stronger the more time I spent on campus. My experiences at Renison deepened my determination and gave me confidence. Renison was the launch pad that allowed me to take on a series of rewarding cross-cultural experiences that eventually led me to where I am now. Opportunities such as learning Japanese from the classes offered at Renison, befriending international students, competing in the Ontario and Canada National Japanese Speech Contests, trying out study aboard and homestay in Japan, participating in the Japan Canada Academic Consortium and Japan’s Friendship Ties - Kakehashi Project. Without these opportunities and the people that I have met through Renison, my university life would be nowhere nearly as fulfilling and enriched as it would be. I am forever grateful to the people and the community of Renison.