Career Stories

New Skills, Practical Experience, and Tremendous Achievement

Leaders in Learning: celebrating our leaders in continuous learning
Dec 13, 2022


The only thing certain is change, and no one knows that better than learners at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, who might be updating their skills for a changing professional landscape or gaining new skills for a second career.

On November 23, 2022, we held our Leaders in Learning awards ceremony over Zoom, to honour hard-working students for their outstanding academic performance and community engagement. According to Dean Gary Hepburn, “Leaders in Learning is an exciting occasion to bring together and celebrate our student award recipients and generous donors. These bold continuous learners have made notable impacts on both the TorontoMet and larger community.” A total of 72 promising learners were given special honours at this year’s ceremony.

Hitting the Right Note

One such learner is Colleen Kennedy, an oboist at the Thunder Bay Symphony for the past 30 years, who enrolled in the Certificate in Fundraising Management last year. In addition to her involvement as a musician, Colleen began doing data entry as a volunteer and slowly worked her way up to become a member of the orchestra’s administrative staff. When she was promoted to the role of Director of Development, she wanted to ensure she had the right skills for the job and looked around for a program that would deliver the practical experience she desired.

As a Scarborough native, The Chang School felt like a natural fit for Colleen. Not only did the school come “highly recommended,” she says, “It’s really great that living in Thunder Bay I’m able to access a university that’s in Toronto.”

Colleen says that the courses in fundraising management have been an immeasurable help in preparing her for her new role. In a marketing course, she used an assignment to create a comprehensive year-long marketing plan for her organization. The program has given her insights on how to run an annual giving campaign and better connect with donors. “It's given me lots of ideas of things I want to accomplish for my organization,” she says.

  Colleen Kennedy
Photo of Colleen Kennedy

The Rivi Frankle Award for Fundraising Management, represents a “tremendous achievement” for Kennedy. “Everything I’ve learned in these courses, I’ll be bringing back to my community and hoping to inspire people here, just like Rivi Frankel inspired me. It’s not just one person benefiting from taking the courses, it's going to benefit my whole community.”

Never Too Late for a Career Change

Maeve O’Connell, winner of the Robert Weaver Award for Editorial Excellence, is similarly chuffed by her big win at the Leaders in Learning awards. “It is a vindication of my decision to change careers in my forties,” she says.

While living in Ireland, Maeve had been working as a marketing professional before moving to Canada in 2014 and taking on a role as transeditor, “My job was to transcribe parliamentary meetings and edit for grammar, clarity, and accuracy at the House of Commons in Ottawa,” she says. Maeve dreamed of becoming a scriptwriter but after meeting fiction editor Sigrid MacDonald, who became her mentor, she decided to pivot paths to become an editor. Now her career goal is to make an impact on the book publishing industry and expand her editing business with a diverse client list.

“Each course that I've taken has enhanced my understanding of the publishing industry and has given me new skills and practical experience,” she says. “I rarely encounter a job that I don't think to myself ‘I learned about that at The Chang School. I'll check my notes.’”

Mauve O'Connell
Photo of Maeve O'Connell

Practical, Flexible Learning

Joseph Mamuric Jr., winner of the Desmond Glynn Excellence in Arts Award, took courses in the Certificate in Economics: Fundamentals while working full-time as an advisor at a bank in Brandon, Manitoba. In his role, many of the clients he sees are newcomers to Canada, either refugees from Syria and Ukraine, or immigrants from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and El Salvador who are working at the large food processing plant in town. He says taking courses like macroeconomics have been “very helpful for [explaining] bank rates and the effects of monetary policy and inflation to clients.”

Joseph says that being able to take Chang School courses while living in Manitoba and working full-time has helped him greatly by mitigating the high cost of obtaining a traditional degree. He’s not only grateful for the monetary compensation that comes with winning the Desmond Glynn Excellence in Arts Award, but he says that the win “validates my efforts in terms of trying to juggle work and learning, especially in such hectic times.”

Joseph Mamuric Jr.
Photo of Joseph Mamuric Jr.

Each of these learners’ story is unique, and the impacts they have on their community are immeasurable – we’re excited to see where they end up next.