How one environment and urban sustainability student transformed her educational narrative.
Jina Rew’s non-traditional educational path may have included a few twists and turns along the way, but it’s helped her become environmentally and socially driven and reduce her ecological footprint. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is, everything you do matters. If you’re recycling, that matters. Most of the time people think if they’re not making big changes, its insignificant, but that’s not true! You’re making a difference, even in a small way,” she says.
After graduating high school, Jina enrolled in a business administration program at a university outside of Toronto, but had difficulty connecting with the program due to its focus on accounting. Like some students, her decision of what to study was influenced by external factors such as family tradition and future career prospects. “My parents had strongly encouraged [business administration], because they’ve been invested in the STEM field. They felt if I studied business there would be a lot of jobs in the field.” Ultimately, she chose to opt out of the program and look elsewhere.
Through an online search of university programs closer to her hometown of Richmond Hill, Jina found Ryerson’s environment and urban sustainability program (EUS). Sparking an interest, Jina applied to EUS as a mature student through the G. Raymond Chang School’s Spanning the Gaps – Access to Post-Secondary Education, a program created to increase accessibility to pathways to post-secondary education for non-high school students.
Once accepted into Ryerson, Jina was faced with two new challenges: persuading her parents to be onboard with her new major, and dealing with her own apprehension about returning to university as a mature student. “It was a lot of convincing because [EUS] wasn’t necessarily a science, technology, engineering or math-related program. But after doing a lot of research and showing them the potential ways I could go about [with her degree], they accepted it, and they’ve been loving Ryerson with me ever since,” she says. “I came into the school feeling that I wasn’t necessarily going to fit in because I was the older one. But throughout my time here, I’ve found incredible opportunities and so many great friends.”
Jina is now in her third and final year of EUS, which she refers to as a “passion program” where students – some that may be in completely different fields – are inspired to bring about change, preserve ecosystems and take a stance on social and environmental issues, such as climate change and waste management. Jina says though the program does place emphasis on ecology, there are more facets including public policy and sustainable design. “I’ve learned a lot about urban sustainability, and different infrastructures to use to make Toronto a more sustainable city, like installing a green roof, where there’s a lack of greenery. You learn about how the environment affects people, and how we impact the environment and what how our actions have consequences,” she describes. “It was interesting to learn how interdisciplinary my studies are; there are sociological and psychological perspectives, as well as environmental science and political.”
For the past two years, Jina has worked for Housing and Residence Life. This year, Jina is a residence advisor (RA) in Ryerson’s newest residence, HOEM. Aligned with the goals of EUS, HOEM also promotes community wellness and sustainable practices, by providing a water conservation system within the building and encouraging bike riding among residents. Jina’s role as an RA has enabled her to be a source of support for fellow students and build a sense of community. “Coming in as a transfer student, I knew how difficult first year could be and figuring out what you want to do,’” she explains. “That’s why I wanted to be in this position, to share my experience with students and help them create their own Ryerson story.”
As a mature student, Jina has learned that there is no one-size-fits-all model to education. By taking the time to discover their areas of interest and choosing a program that resonates, Jina says students excel in their academic careers and find their journeys worthwhile.
“The one thing I found about Ryerson is that there are a lot of transfer students, and students who start their studies later on in life, and it doesn’t matter. They’re great at what they’re doing because they want to do it.”