Welcome to our SDS Spotlight, where you can learn more about our amazing Social Development Studies Students; past and present.
Coordinator, Student Experience
English Language Institute, Renison University College
What made you choose SDS?
I wanted to pursue an undergraduate degree as a mature student. I had completed a college diploma and two college certificates, but I wanted to pursue an undergraduate degree in a helping skills profession to enhance my work in higher education.
read more about Ryan
The Social Development Studies program was appealing for me because it offered a great variety of courses in Social Work, Sociology, and Psychology – all areas I was fascinated about and wanted to explore. Renison also offered a reputation that was well-respected in the not-for-profit community in Kitchener-Waterloo for delivering graduates who were career-ready with strong skills suitable for any helping profession.
Tell us a bit about your current job.
It’s a happy coincidence that after I graduated from SDS that I was able to transition into a position at Renison as the Coordinator, Student Experience with the Renison English Language Institute. In this role, I support international students in our language programs with building their language, communication, and leadership skills outside of the classroom in co-curricular activities and volunteer programs. We know the more a student uses their language skills outside of the classroom the better they will perform inside the classroom. I love working with students in our language programs as they are highly motivated and eager to perform well in their studies, and many of our students would not have otherwise had an opportunity to learn in Canada within post-secondary education if it weren’t for our language programs. My role is helping to provide support academically, professionally, and personally.
How did your SDS background support that career?
SDS has really helped me in strengthening my helping skills. In the Community Organization I course, it was so great that I could apply many of the challenges I had been experiencing in supporting the students in our English language program, BASE (Bridge to Academic Success in English) and work through the problems using the theoretical perspectives the course offered. It was so fulfilling to be able to use real-world examples in my career as part of the papers I was writing, and to receive such helpful feedback from my professors on how to implement the theory was exceptional.
Any advice for online SDS students?
Online learning can be a challenge for many new to this method of learning. For me, it was ideal as a mature student and someone who already worked full-time. The fact that SDS can also be taken completely online was very appealing as I could remain working while developing my skills professionally.
I would encourage students to remain driven and focused on what your goals are and why you have decided to take the program. I continued to remind myself about how the courses I took would be incredibly valuable for my career, and I always looked for ways in which I could integrate what I was learning into my career. It was so exciting for me to be able to bring up theories I was learning in discussions with my supervisor, and to know that my learning was making the professional work I was doing well-informed and more holistic in its approach.
There were definitely days where I struggled with motivation and perseverance. I forced myself continuously to build a routine in my studies – my weekends, especially, were dedicated times for me to complete my coursework. I also would do much of my schoolwork outside of the home in public places. Some folks may find this distracting but, for me, it forced me to work hard in the timeframe that I was going to be studying, and it wouldn’t tempt me to stop my schoolwork because I knew I had come there with an objective of complete ‘x’ amount of work in a given time, and I would not allow myself to leave until it was finished (or my laptop battery died!). You have to always remind yourself the objectives: why you’re studying and what you want your end goals to be. I was motivated to be able to add an undergraduate degree as part of my credentials – so I wasn’t going to let anything stop me!
Student Rights and Responsibilities Coordinator - Conestoga College
I am a proud alumni of SDS. I wanted a program that was focused on asking questions, exploring social issues, and teaching realistic tools for fostering social change without narrowing me into one field of employment.
read more about Laura
I believe that the education process naturally influences us, which meant that I did not want to put any expectations on where I would end up. I knew that I had a solid foundation with my values of continuous learning and caring dialogue, and skills in planning and organization. I considered being a high school guidance counsellor or a psychologist as a starting point and then realized there is so much more out there!
I currently am the Student Rights and Responsibilities Coordinator in a new office that i researched and developed at Conestoga College. My role encompasses managing student concerns and conduct incidents, and developing, promoting, and facilitating education around student rights and responsibilities at the college. I have the pleasure of connecting students with meaningful opportunities to grow and achieve their potential, while building structures that support this growth through establishing strategic plans, policies, procedures, training and quality processes. I would not be in this position without SDS. My education prepared me to collaborate with diverse individuals, to advocate for those who are vulnerable, to critically review systems, to follow my passion for public education, and to constantly adapt to any situation. I value equity and consideration of the whole person and their environment; SDS shares these same values.
When taking SDS, challenge yourself to try something new and uncomfortable- whether a course, volunteer role, or striking up a conversation with your desk neighbour! Those are undoubtedly going to be the experiences that shape who you are and where you go next. Plus, these diverse social networks are great for positive support, idea sharing, and career enhancement. I am still developing socially and I love it!
Joel Le Forestier
Why did you choose the SDS program at Renison?
Coming out of high school, I had a vague idea that I was interested in the social sciences but I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with them. Social Work had crossed my mind, as had staying in academia as a researcher or going into the public policy field.
Read more about Joel
Social Development Studies appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, SDS appealed to me because of its interdisciplinary nature. SDS has allowed me to explore Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Social Policy, and more and has allowed me to refine my interests over the course of my academic career. Secondly, because UWaterloo allows me to partner SDS with Arts & Business, the co-op program not only helps me pay tuition, but has also allowed me to explore real-world employment in multiple different fields including as a Policy Analyst for the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and as a Lab Coordinator for Developmental Psychology professors here at the University of Waterloo.
What was your biggest takeaway point form the SDS program?
SDS taught me to look at the world through a critical lens. The diverse faculty in the SDS department have armed me with a wide array of tools with which to understand the world around me — a set of skills that have already helped me both academically and in the workplace, and that I anticipate will continue to help me going forward.
What do you hope to do with your SDS degree/what are your long term plans and goals?
After completing my undergraduate degree in SDS I’m hoping to move on to graduate work in Social Psychology. Eventually, I’m hoping to end up in a university setting, researching attitude and belief development.
How helpful/approachable were your profs?
I cannot begin to explain the amazing relationships I have been able to build with my professors at Renison. Compared to larger institutions where courses are taught in multi-hundred-person lecture halls, Renison offers a more one-on-one approach to learning. The professors play a huge role in this, creating an atmosphere where challenging discussions and student-professor interactions are cornerstones of the classroom experience. This same dynamic is carried outside the classroom as well, where I have consistently found professors to be excited about, and engaged in, their students’ academic careers.
What was your favourite part about the SDS program at Renison?
I know I already mentioned this, but for me it was really its interdisciplinary nature. I don’t know of many other programs that graduate such well-rounded students with such a breadth of both theoretical and applied knowledge. For me, coupling SDS with Arts & Business allowed me to add disciplines such as Economics to the mix, which complimented my SDS courses extremely well. I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to so many schools of thought during my time at Renison and at UWaterloo.
Tell me about what it’s like to be a Renison student.
Being a Renison student means that you’re part of a close-knit community within a world-class university. When I was leaving high school I didn’t want to feel like a number at a gigantic institution, but I also didn’t want to compromise the quality of my education. As a part of the University of Waterloo, Renison is the best of both worlds.
Anything else to say?
Social Development Studies is so much more than a program for future social workers. It's a launching pad for people interested in studying people, communities, and cultures, and its interdisciplinary courses, passionate faculty, and dynamic students make Renison a really wonderful place to study.
Phi, SDS Grad
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that’s why Phi, who’s always been known for talking in class, chose SDS directly out of high school.
"My passion is talking with my friends and helping them with their problems. SDS is allowing me to turn my favourite pastime into a career."
Elisabeth, Arts and Business Grad - majored in SDS
Elisabeth wants to make a change in the world, and she knows that sometimes there’s a practical side to caring. That’s why she chose to major in SDS through Arts and Business.
Not only do I learn how to engage people with developmental disabilities, it also teaches me the skills to work on the business end, like budgeting for groceries in a group home.
Madison, SDS Grad - Joint Honours Psychology
Not everyone knows what they want to study at 17 years of age. Madison certainly didn’t. She enrolled in Honours Arts and spent her first year exploring a variety of courses, then chose SDS as her major in second year.
“I love that the classes are so small. Most of my SDS professors teach by talking about their personal experiences, and you just don’t get that in a larger lecture hall.”