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Meet the SWC

Here are some of the wonderful people at our centre!

 


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 small things make you happy? Why?  

“Some of my favourite things (and the things that make me the happiest!) include: slow weekend mornings with my partner and our dog, oat milk lattes, playing basketball or soccer with friends, sitting in my parents’ backyard oasis, going for hikes in the conservation area, creating art and going for dinner or drinks on a patio. 

What makes all of these things so special for me is that I can share most of these moments with my friends and family (and for everything else that is a more solo adventure, it gives me time to rest, and recharge).”

Madison Behr, Health Promoter

 

 


What is one memory that instantly makes you smile?  

“Sitting at the top of Mount Mansfield in Vermont. I was on a road trip with quite a few biking and hiking stops and this was my first experience of ‘rock scrambling.’ Most of the trails that I’ve hiked in Ontario and Canada have been either rolling hills, ascents with wide trails, but this one required a new type of climb. It was new and a little bit of a challenge with such a great view and feeling at the top of the Mountain. I think these moments are the ones that spur me to bring more nature into my life on a day to day basis.”

 

Taryn Aarssen, Health Promoter

 

 


If you had a free plane ticket, where would you go? Why? 

“I would fly to Croatia! In 2019, I visited there for 10 days and wish I had been able to stay longer. My time there was a brief stop on a much longer European adventure, but Croatia ended up being one of my favourite places and somewhere I hope to return to soon. I think I loved exploring Croatia because it had so much beautiful scenery. My favourite spots were a small mountain town called Korenica, the Plitvice National Parks, and the city of Dubrovnik. I also had one of the best meals of my life in Skradin before visiting Krka National Park.”

 

Mackenzie Mercuri-Rivers, Communications Coordinator

 


How has your perception of life changed from when you were a teenager?  

“Although I still technically am a teenager, life from my viewpoint has changed drastically within these past few months transitioning into university, nevertheless since the beginning of my tween ages. Moments of failure, reflection, and growth have taught me the essential lesson that everyone has a different path in life, which is sometimes out of our individual control— an uncomfortable realization for someone who used to have clearly designed plans. Especially for first-years who may be reading this, it’s okay to change your mind, shift direction, and fail sometimes. Life will throw failure at everyone at least once; it does not reflect any limitations of your worth or capabilities, but rather a testament to the tenacity you have to move around the blockades life may put up. And remember, there is no one standard for success— regardless of what academic pressures, social expectations, or other criteria claim. Genuinely explore your passions and interests, and don’t be afraid to move away from the things that don’t ignite curiosity and excitement in you. Spending this past year at McMaster has flown by and made me realize that life is truly too short not to focus on your own path. We each face different circumstances that may prompt detours, fast lanes, or changing your route altogether— and that’s perfectly okay.”

Zenab Gill, Programs Assistant


What does your dream life look like? 

My dream life consists of a lot of things together. For starters, it’s me being happy doing something I’m truly passionate about instead of being stuck in a career field I don’t want. It also has to do with me being able to live a comfortable life, travel, and support my family in any way possible because I have so much gratitude for the things my parents do for me. Lastly, it has to do with me being able to help people to the best of my abilities; I’ve always been involved in social/environmental causes and wanted to be able to invest in and start up programs and shelters to give back to the people who need it. Above all, my dream life is me being truly happy.

Lilainie Adjei – Addo, Communications Assistant

 


What are you most thankful for?

I am most grateful for my parents, particularly for a decision they made several years ago that changed my life forever. In May 2006, my parents uprooted their lives in Korea to immigrate to Canada. They departed their family, friends, and careers, solely for me to pursue Canada’s education. As a 6-year-old child, I recall naively looking on as my parents cried their farewells before boarding the plane. While my young frivolous mind did not grasp the incredible love and selflessness driving their decision, I now recognize the gravity of their sacrifice. Their decision has brought me the ultimate gift of dreams, hopes, and opportunities. For this alone, I am forever grateful and indebted to my parents.

Kyobin Hwang, Programs Assistant

 

 

 

 


Debbie, outdoors, smiling

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

 

 

 


Cathy smiling in an office lined with photos and a lush plant.

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