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Rabia Munir

Rabia Munir

Photo of Rabia Munir

Rabia Munir

Associate Development Manager at GWL Realty Advisors

Bachelor in Environmental Studies 2019

[Getting involved within faculty-student programs] can be incredibly beneficial. These programs offer opportunities to build meaningful relationships beyond just academic acquaintanceships. Especially during stressful times, like navigating university life, having a supportive community can make all the difference. It's reassuring to know that others are facing similar challenges and that genuine connections can be formed.

About Rabia Munir

Rabia is currently working as Associate Development Manager at GWL Realty Advisors. She has experience with urban planning, quantitative and qualitative research, and building construction. Rabia draws on past projects and education to develop creative solutions to contemporary projects.

Could you share how you decided on the stream that you’d be focusing on for your major?

My journey has been quite interesting in terms of how I ended up where I am. Initially, I pursued a double major in geography and urban studies, graduating in 2019. My path diverged from my original plan of studying Disaster Emergency Management when I began taking geography-related courses. I found them fascinating, particularly human geography. It became clear to me that this was the direction I wanted to take. So, I decided to focus on urban studies and geography, which I was excited about. Unlike many of my classmates who pursued Bachelor of Education degrees, I didn't have a backup plan. I simply wanted to see how geography and urban studies would unfold for me.

How was your experience in the faculty when you attended?

I had a very enriching experience within my small cohort, and I feel fortunate to have had such a positive relationship with all the faculty members. They were always there to support and assist me whenever I needed help, asking what they could do to aid my progress. One instance that stands out is when Professor Teresa gave me the freedom to choose my own research project in my third  year, allowing me to explore my interests and present my findings in a way that felt authentic to me.

The support from faculty extended beyond academic matters, even as I approached graduation. They were genuinely interested in my future and helped, whether it was connecting me with professionals in the field or discussing potential avenues for further education. I recognize that my positive experience was not universal, as it depended on the mutual effort invested in the relationship between students and faculty.

For me, three professors left a lasting impression: Douglas Young,

Teresa Abbruzzese , and Linda Peake. They played pivotal roles in introducing me to the world of planning and shaping my perspective on city development. Each brought a unique approach to teaching and mentoring. Professor Young encouraged creativity in presenting ideas and designs, while Professor Abbruzzese delved into the theoretical aspects of planning and boosted my confidence. Professor Peake challenged me to think critically and consider the societal impact of urban planning.

Their guidance and influence were so profound that I decided to pursue my master's degree, a testament to the positive impact they had on my academic and personal growth.

Could you share your journey transitioning into the workforce after completing your time at York?

Transitioning into the workforce post-graduation was an interesting experience. Securing an internship with the City of Toronto's buildings department was lucky, but adapting to the professional environment had its challenges. Unlike in school the workplace can sometimes feel intimidating, and regaining my confidence was a struggle. I had to find my footing and seek out mentors who could guide me through this new terrain.

One important lesson I learned during this transition was the value of authenticity. It may sound cliché but being true to myself proved to be crucial. Authenticity not only helps in building genuine connections but also boosts self-assurance. Embracing my true self allowed me to navigate the workplace with more confidence and authenticity. Another aspect of the transition was adjusting to the dynamics of workplace relationships. While friendships may not always form as easily as they do in school, I eventually found camaraderie with colleagues, some of whom were older and served as both mentors and friends. Their guidance and support were invaluable as I navigated the challenges of starting my career. One of the biggest learning curves for me was bridging the gap between theory and practice in urban planning. While my academic background provided me with a solid foundation, applying those principles in real-world scenarios revealed the complexities and obstacles inherent in city development. Despite the hurdles, I persevered, driven by the necessity to adapt and find innovative solutions to overcome challenges.

In hindsight, this journey has been a period of growth and self-discovery. While it hasn't been without its challenges, each obstacle has served as a learning opportunity, shaping me into a more resilient and resourceful professional.

Reflecting on your experience at York University, how do you believe it has influenced your career trajectory? Are there specific skills or lessons from your university days that you find particularly valuable in your current role?

Professor Linda Peake left a lasting impact on me, particularly in her emphasis on critical thinking and presentation skills. She taught me the importance of questioning everything and honing my ability to articulate my ideas effectively. Even now, her teachings echo in the back of my mind, pushing me towards excellence in my work.

On the other hand, Professor Douglas Young's influence was centered around creativity. He encouraged me to think outside the box and find innovative solutions, even if creativity didn't come naturally to me. Through his diverse selection of readings, which spanned global and local perspectives, he broadened my understanding of urban planning, showing me that solutions from around the world could be adapted to local contexts.

As for Teresa, she served as a beacon of support and encouragement. Beyond her role as an educator, she acted as a cheerleader, providing emotional support and teaching students, including myself, the importance of self-advocacy. Her lessons in speaking up for oneself and seizing opportunities have proven invaluable, both in internship roles and in my career beyond academia.

Collectively, these three professors taught me that urban planning is not confined to traditional roles in government or private firms. Rather, it encompasses a diverse range of possibilities, each

offering its own unique opportunities for impact and growth. Their guidance was never prescriptive; instead, they empowered me to carve out my own path and explore the myriad possibilities within the field of planning.

What is something you wish you would have known before you started University?

It's important to realize that graduating within the traditional four-year timeline isn't always necessary. Rushing through your education can lead to added stress and pressure, which may hinder your ability to fully develop important skills. I personally felt the weight of this self-imposed timeline, feeling the need to graduate and immediately secure a job. However, I've come to understand that building skills, both soft and technical, are just as crucial as obtaining a degree. Soft skills like communication and technical proficiency in programs like AutoCAD and Revit are invaluable in today's job market. Looking back, I wish I had recognized this sooner and allowed myself to take a step back to appreciate my progress instead of constantly pushing forward.

Was there any person or program you interacted with at York that you would suggest to incoming students?

I highly recommend connecting with faculty members like Teresa, as her compassionate approach left a lasting impression on me. Professors like her, who prioritize the individual needs of students, can make a significant difference in the academic environment. They ensure students feel valued and understood, rather than merely being another face in the crowd.

Additionally, getting involved in faculty-student programs, such as the Federation of Urban Studies Students, can be incredibly beneficial. These programs offer opportunities to build meaningful relationships beyond just academic acquaintanceships. Especially during stressful times, like navigating university life, having a supportive community can make all the difference. It's reassuring to know that others are facing similar challenges and that genuine connections can be formed.

As a mature student, I understand the potential feelings of isolation, and I found that involvement in such programs helped alleviate loneliness and fostered a sense of belonging. Co-curricular activities, like the Toronto Urban Journal, offer valuable experiences beyond maintaining a perfect GPA, showcasing talents often overlooked in undergraduate studies. In conclusion, embracing opportunities for connection with faculty and peers, as well as exploring beyond academics, enriches the university journey and provides valuable insights beyond the classroom.

Can you walk us through a typical day in your role as an Associate Development Manager at GWL Realty Advisors? What skills would someone need to have to be able to do this kind of position?

Every day is different. The interesting part about being in development, especially in the private sector, for me is on the entitlement side which means that I help attain all sorts of approvals before

its project can get into construction. I manage multiple sites across the Greater Toronto Area, including Richmond Hill and Toronto

But every day is just so different for me, as it's a lot of people , by checking in on everyone and then ensuring projects are moving swiftly. In terms of skills, I’d say one needs to have a soft scale mostly. Being resourceful, particularly knowing when to push back or agree effective verbal and written communication, and the ability to find information independently are all essential. Sometimes, it's a matter of picking up the phone or conducting thorough research online. Understanding zoning regulations and conducting a zoning preview is fundamental in my line of work, making it a recommended skill for graduates entering the field of urban planning or urban studies.

Authored by Shaniah Hutchinson