Four U of T Mississauga grads reflect on their academic journeys

“I came to learn that ... if I wanted to pursue something – if I wanted to go after something – I could”

Clockwise from top left: Reid Fournier, Loridee De Villa, Scott Warren and Lovelle Pong (all photography and videography by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Graduating students from the University of Toronto Mississauga kicked off the university’s spring convocation season earlier this month, with thousands crossing the stage inside Convocation Hall over the course of five ceremonies.

They were among the 16,000 U of T students expected to graduate this spring. 

Here’s what four of them had to say about their time at the university.


Lovelle Pong was involved in a number of campus clubs and groups, holding executive positions in the pre-law organization, the Canadian Asian Students Association and the UTM Forensics Society.

Yet, joining the extracurriculars initially posed a challenge for Pong, who studied forensic biology with a minor in psychology. 

“Getting involved was really hard because I was just originally really shy and introverted,” she says.

“But I think through these experiences, I got more confident and more extroverted.” 

Her decision to get involved paid off in other ways. This spring, Pong was honoured with a UTM Student Leadership Award.  

She advises new students to get outside their comfort zone, whether it be to join a club, tackle a major assignment or pursue a new academic opportunity.

“It’s always hard to push yourself past the fear of starting something,” she says. “Just take the first step.” 



Reid Fournier says his personal progression sometimes resulted from academic and career setbacks.  

“I had faced a lot of rejection that I think I didn’t anticipate when I was coming from high school,” he says. “It led me to certain things that I would later go on to cherish.”

Fournier majored in criminology and communications, culture, information & technology (CCIT), with a minor in ethics. 

In his first year, Fournier applied to be part of the residence student staff, but wasn’t chosen. “I saw people acting in a leadership role and I sort of resigned myself to think that I could leave that to other people – that it was just something you had to be born with, or just something that came calling.” 

But Fournier ultimately decided to apply again in fourth year and was hired as a Living Learning Community program facilitator.

“I came to learn that if I wanted to be that, I could. If I wanted to pursue something – if I wanted to go after something – I could.” 


Loridee De Villa majored in biology for health sciences with a double minor in psychology and religion and conducted research in a variety of topics related to her scholarly interests. 

For a research opportunity program, she co-produced a 12-part podcast called Fish Outta Water that acts as an “unofficial university survival guide” for students. 

De Villa picked up some survival skills herself when getting used to the hustle and bustle of university life. 

“One thing I learned here at UTM is for me to succeed, I really need to prioritize myself and my emotional and mental well-being.”  

For De Villa this includes a good night’s rest, a solid morning routine and eating properly.  

She says students who worry about making mistakes shouldn’t overthink it.

“Be less self-critical,” De Villa advises. “Everybody makes mistakes and there’s always ways to improve them.”  


Scott Warren travelled far beyond campus during his time at U of T Mississauga: he went on a student exchange to the University of Mannheim in Germany. It was a chance to step away from familiar settings and routines. 

“It’s cool when you’re stuck behind a computer like me, and now you’re kind of thrust into the thick of it somewhere else,” he recalls of the international experience.  

For Warren, U of T Mississauga was a place to push the bounds of his creativity. He was involved in the annual campus film festival as an organizer and a filmmaker. As part of his interest in video game development, he created a single-and-multiplayer game called “Drench.”  

Double majoring in CCIT and technology, coding and society (TCS), Warren explored unconventional writing and presentation styles for his school assignments.

"By the end of school, I feel like I really understood how I could be myself not just in school but in a workplace," he says. 

“If I had to describe my time at UTM in one word it would be ‘rewarding.’ All the times this school let me be myself and to experience new things and try new things – and often times be rewarded for it." 



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