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York’s Environmental Grads Change the World

York’s Environmental Grads Change the World

Many people want to make an impact on the world. York alumni are no exception. Hear from our three of our incredible Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change grads and learn how York was pivotal to their success.

Growing up on the island of St. Lucia, Neave Constantine (BES’19) saw a country with few natural resources and rising sea levels due to climate change. He knew something could, and must, be done.

After coming to Canada and studying civil engineering at Seneca College, Constantine had his eyes set on York. His plan was to complete a degree in Environmental Management to propel his career but he had no idea how holistic and encompassing his learning would be. Now, a graduate of the Bachelor in Environmental Studies program, Constantine credits the program for helping him develop critical thinking skills, acquire fundamental knowledge and have hands-on experiences as catalyst to his success. “From the onset, I realized it was the right decision (to come to York)… I was given the opportunity to direct my own learning”. His studies explored the environment from global perspectives ranging from the effects of carbon emissions by cattle farming in Brazil to his final thesis on the loss of vegetation in Toronto.

Within his current role at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Constantine applies the knowledge and skills he acquired at York everyday. His role includes preparing traffic flow maps to help mitigate the environmental impacts of accidental oil spill on Ontario highways. He proudly shares that “York is a leader in sustainability and is having an impact on the world. As a result of my time there, I am able to have a positive impact on our world, however small.”

Like Constantine, Tristan Costa (BA ’14, MES ’17) chose York to elevate his career. For Costa, York would provide him with the necessary tools and accreditation to become an Urban Planner. Directly from high school, Costa knew his career path and enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts with a combined major program in Geography and Urban Studies. After completing his BA, Costa began his Masters in Environmental Studies degree, where he enlisted in the prestigious Planning program which is accredited with the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI). Within his MES program, Costa took advantage of the experiential learning opportunities and completed several work placements, which helped him transition into the work force seamlessly.

After graduation, Costa took roles in the Township of King and the City of Toronto before landing on his current trajectory with the City of Brampton. Now as a Planner in Brampton’s Nurturing Neighborhoods Program - a project that is designed to connect the community with resources and involve them in the planning of their neighborhoods – Costa recognizes how the MES program truly prepared him to become a successful planner. “There are so many aspects of planning – policy, transportation, the environmental, heritage. You are always learning every day, and you can have niches to focus upon. York prepared me with skills to be a successful planner.”

When Tonya Lagrasta (BA ’04) was planning for her post-secondary studies, she knew she had a firm career path in mind, as well - she wanted to work in the for-profit sector. She also knew she had to find the right University to fulfill her dreams. In addition to her career aspirations, her list of must haves included geography and close to home. York’s Geography and Environmental Studies became her program(s) of choice.

As she completed each year of her program, Lagrasta developed new knowledge on the economic, political and geographic factors that impact policy on both the not-for-profit and corporate sectors. She describes her professors at York as her first mentors, who encouraged her to volunteer for various University committees focused on environmental issues. This experience began to shape her interests in making change in the corporate world. She recalls diverting from the norm and charting her own path, “When we left school to make an impact. I made the intentional choice to work for change from within big business. There is never a dull day”.

Since graduating from York, Lagrasta has worked in various industries from manufacturing to consulting before landing her current role as Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Loblaw Companies Ltd. Lagrasta’s time at York helped infuse and build the resourcefulness she uses today. She has devoted her career to developing strategy and systems whereby big companies can introduce and actualize changes that improve environmental sustainability and benefit society.

Whether you are interested in providing solutions to mitigate environmental disasters or planning to build more inclusive cities or cultivating responsible corporations or simply want to make an impact for a just and sustainable future, York’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change will empower you to do so.

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