What is your favourite book?
“‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ by James Baldwin. This book introduced me to an author who would later become one of my favourite writers. I think it does an amazing job using symbolism to explore John’s coming of age, as well as explore themes of racial injustice and morality with raw emotion.”
Connor Blakeborough, Health Promoter
What do you want to learn more about?
“‘Everything! I hope I never stop learning and growing. Something that I’m currently very interested in learning about is history – generally speaking, but also my family’s history in particular. My grandparents were Tibetan refugees who settled in Pakistan, and I’ve been discovering the wealth of experience and wisdom they hold in their memories and their stories. The more I learn about them and their lives, the more I learn about myself and the world.”
Zeinab Khawaja, Health Promoter
What’s the best part about your job?
“I love working in a university. I love working with students. It keeps me young quite honestly, and I really like that. These are young people who are at a critical point in their lives where they are making their transition coming from high school to university or leaving university to go out into the world. It is such an honour for me and a privilege to work with them and hear their stories and help them navigate some of the challenges they face. For me, it is why I get up everyday.”
Debbie Nifakis, Psychologist and Associate Director of Counselling
What is your hidden talent?
“I am an amateur singer songwriter, but more than playing solo I enjoy strumming with friends on my front porch or in my living room. I have met with a great group of guys every Monday over the past several years. We spend time talking, strumming, singing, and solving a few of a world’s problems while sharing a few beverages. We have found that there is a John Prine tune for just about every situation we encounter. Music is a tonic for the soul.”
Nathan Cooper, Counsellor
What do you enjoy most about your role?
“I enjoy how much this role has challenged me to grow. As a program support assistant, I have to constantly question the space I take up and the limited perspective I hold. McMaster is an extremely diverse space, and creating resources that address the health needs of students requires me to seek out others’ points of view and incorporate them to the best of my ability. Although we will often come up short, we are always striving to represent those who may be missed by mainstream health resources, and I think that is incredible. The Student Wellness Centre and health resources in general should be accessible for everyone. I have learned so much from my coworkers and the McMaster community. Growing can be uncomfortable, but it is truly worth it.”
Summer Clarke, Program Support Assistant
What’s the best part about your job?
“As my life has progressed, I’ve learned firsthand that my identity is deeply tied into my wellbeing. Whether it be a debilitating heartbreak or the hardships that come with being a first-generation immigrant, my lived experiences shape my mental and physical health. My job recognizes these truths and integrates the nuances of people’s lives into the programming that we create. A prominent example of this is the content that we’ve shared during Pride month—it outlines some of the experiences that many 2SLGBTQIA+ people have and that impact our wellbeing. Not only does this validate my own identity and help me come to terms with my experiences, but it also foregrounds people who are often left out of public health work. Working on these projects continues to instill me with the knowledges that I need to practice more meaningful allyship.”
Shraddha Mishra, Program Support Assistant
What small thing makes you happy?
“It will be the accomplished feeling of finishing a challenging workout after a long workday. It helps me destress and makes me feel empowered and in control of my life. I see this as a small win of the day and always celebrate it with food that I love afterward. It’s amazing what our bodies are capable of when we are determined and committed.”
Savannah Chan, Communications Assistant
What inspires you to keep working here?
“The students absolutely inspire me to keep working here! University students are so passionate about everything that matters including how to live life, be yourself, social justice, and creating a better world for all! Their enthusiasm spurs me on to be a better person by learning about critical issues and injustices, and to continue my passion for life-long learning! I even went back to school over this past couple of years to get my MSN. Something I never thought I could do!”
Cathy Jager, Manager, Nursing/Education
What is a hobby that you enjoy?
“I love photography. I’ve liked it since my aunt gave me a camera back when I was thirteen. I loved it since then. I can drive to work and see something and think “that would be an amazing picture!”. You have to have an eye for it too. I love taking pictures of old barns, just about anything, and taking candid shots of people. My grandkids seem to be the focus of many of my pictures I think I would like to pursue that when I have the time.”
Marina Fleming, Medical Secretary