Connecting the PillarsStudent Life

Connecting the Pillars: Empowering Your Professional Narrative

As #RyersonSA gears up for its annual Fall Summit meeting, we’re taking a few moments to reflect on the 5 Pillars that are the values and principles we use to guide our work with and for students. Once a day until the Summit, one of the directors will share how their department supports a pillar “outside” of their portfolio, because in the end, every department, unit, and person in RyersonSA embodies the essence of all 5 pillars.

In the penultimate post, Jen Gonzales talks how empowering students to their infinite potential affects their professional development…


It is critical, in the current climate, that institutions provide opportunities for student leaders, employees, and participants to gain experiences and competencies that will not only make them more well-rounded citizens, but better prepared to enter the workforce and be successful. For student affairs to be sustainable and thrive, finding ways to teach students to understand and articulate the skills gained from employment and involvement in those cocurricular experiences will be essential.

Everyone Wants to Get Paid

Entrepreneur. Doctor. Lawyer. Social media strategist. Environmentalist. Fashion designer. Our students come to our campuses with aspirations for a thriving career. Most know what kind of job they would like, and apply to programs and schools based on the academic path that could lead to their professional fulfillment.

As reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, industry desires competent, capable, and passionate leaders that are able to work in teams, with communication skills and a strong work ethic. This requires students who have explored their values, failed and risen strong, and are able to enter the workforce with the confidence to succeed.

Everyone Wants a (Fulfilling) Life as a Student

Beyond friends to make memories with, and a spirited campus life to be proud, students desire a strong network of contacts to start their career with, and positive employment references to successfully land their first job post graduation.

This outcome is particularly important for students who are from equity seeking groups including first generation students, students studying internationally, students with disabilities, students from low socioeconomic status, and students who are racialized. These students have to work actively to explore their narrative, often ones that contain themes of struggle, oppression, and scarcity, to be able to write a fulfilling student life story, and perhaps most importantly, an empowering professional narrative.

To Empower so that Students Reach Their Infinite Potential

At Ryerson, the mission of the Student Life department is to empower so that students reach their infinite potential. We are relentlessly driven to provide students deep learning opportunities to develop themselves personally and professionally. The following are ways we are continuously evolving our programming to meet the professional development needs of our students:

ConnectRU invites students to get involved in activities and events across campus where they are able to explore issues that they are curious about, build networks of peers and professionals on campus and in the community, while tracking their involvement with reflections to be able to articulate skills gained to prospective employers.

The International Work-Study Program provides students studying internationally with opportunities to work on campus in various capacities, helping them to meet their educational costs and expanding their networks. Students prepare to participate in this program by enrolling in our Glocal Links program, helping connect students studying domestically with students studying internationally via intercultural teaching and learning.

The Last Lecture provides graduating students with resources to help ensure a smooth transition out of the Ryerson community. A collaborative effort with the Career Centre and Alumni Affairs, Student Life focused in on this special group of students, bookmarking their Ryerson experience with an evening of celebration, reflection, and connection.

Tri-Mentoring (TMP) provides students from various equity seeking groups employment opportunities, as well as career mentoring for 3rd and 4th year students who have participated in the program. Emphasis on skill development such as purposeful networking, navigating the workforce from an equity, diversity, and inclusion perspective, and gaining confidence through the exploration of limiting beliefs are key components of TMP students’ professional development.

Experiential Learning = Giving Students Power

Experiential learning takes place when a person involved in an activity looks back and evaluates it, determines what was useful or important to remember, and uses this information to perform another activity.
— John Dewey

The students who work in our department are given power to run exciting educational events, have impactful mentoring conversations, provide excellent customer service, and to execute on initiatives they believe are important to our student body. A theoretical curriculum guides our work, but it is the student voice that makes it come alive.

In turn these students develop key employability skills, including the:

  • ability to work in a team structure.
  • ability to make decisions and solve problems.
  • ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.
  • ability to plan, organize and prioritize work.
  • ability to obtain and process information.
  • ability to analyze quantitative data.
  • technical knowledge of the job and gaining proficiency with computer software programs.
  • ability to create and/or edit written reports.
  • ability to sell or influence others.

These skills translate to developing a career path and learning to extend a fulfilling student life into the creation of a successful life post graduation.

The Professional is Deeply Personal

I love to tell students I work with that I look forward to the day that I work for them. In reality, that day is everyday, as I approach the work of Student Life with their development, ideas, and future employment success in mind.

I invite all Student Affairs professionals to frame their work with the goal of employability for students. Your future self will thank you for having networked with leaders who know their values, are courageous, empathetic, and committed to creating fulfilling lives. Who knows, one day these same students may take a chance—and hire us.


Join us tomorrow for the last article in the Connecting the Pillars series, A Healthy Community by Gaya Arasaratnam.