May 9, 2023
Natasha Walli is the Employment and Placement Relations Manager for the Master of Urban Innovation Program at IMI. She has extensive experience in career development and external relationship management. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Natasha launched her career working in not-for-profit in settlement, employment and youth programs at the Centre for Education & Training, now known as Achev. In 2012, she joined U of T as an Employment Specialist working at the Career Centre, where she worked with UTM’s diverse student populations one-on-one and through workshop delivery. She then moved to the Department of Management where she launched the Professional Development & Learning Centre and led student career development and employer engagement tailored specifically for undergraduate business students. In 2018, she joined IMI’s Global Leadership & Development Program (GLDP), a new international executive program partnering with the biggest bank in the world. Natasha is currently the Placement & Employer Relations Manager with the Master of Urban Innovation. She oversees the professional development, experiential education and career development for the MUI Program. The best part of her job is working with the entire MUI team (students, staff, faculty) to build and evolve its programming year after year to ensure it is fun, engaging and meaningful. Natasha is passionate about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion issues and was a recipient of the Principal’s Staff Award in advancing these issues.
You’ve held a number of diverse roles within the University, and you were once a student here yourself. What do you love most about U of T, and specifically, about your current role with MUI?
I am so genuinely lucky that I look forward to (most) Mondays and coming into work. There are so many reasons why I love UTM, IMI and specifically MUI. Generally, the culture within all of these places align so well with what makes me happy. UTM is a beautiful space and the sweet spot in terms of ideal size for me. I love that while getting a cup of coffee, on my way to a meeting or walking to the parking lot I can see a familiar face or chat with a friend from another department. IMI itself is a place that I enjoy calling home. I’ve been here for a while, in multiple roles and IMI has felt like somewhat of an anchor over the years. It’s a place where we collaborate, share and build each other up while we grow as a collective. Being part of IMI’s journey as a leading Institute has been exciting. Finally, I think MUI is the coolest program out there- it is unique, truly innovative and overall fun! I love the inter-disciplinary nature of the program, I love the neat experiential opportunities that I get to build and experience but most of all, as a city-girl, I love how we are developing young, talented city-builders. Our students tackle real life problems and are making a difference in the local community as early as their first year and certainly as they graduate as MUI alum.
Your students graduate with an incredibly unique degree and skillset. In what types of roles/organizations are they landing post-graduation?
The neat thing is an MUI degree can really take you anywhere! Many of our students work in government at all levels, in not-for-profits and even in private companies. The roles they hold within these organizations are equally diverse ranging from policy, research, economic development, consulting, strategy and project management. In their first year, our students get a broad introduction to what Urban Innovation means but we also work with them one-on-one to understand what that means for them and where they see themselves. Over the two years that they are with us between their coursework, professional development and experiential opportunities they can pinpoint where they want to be and thanks to intimate class sizes, we can really support them to get there. Our first year cohort had 100% employment rate within two months of graduation and 50% of graduates had job offers secured well before they graduated. This year that number looks to be even higher. I get all the feels when I am speaking to an employer or industry partner about the program and they say ‘wow, I wish they had this program when I was in school’. The program truly sells itself and I’m lucky enough to get to talk about it.
Outside of work at IMI, you’re very involved in community/volunteer work. What causes are you most passionate about?
Volunteering is a huge part of my identity and gives me immense meaning. I volunteer within my community with the Aga Khan Centre in Halton as a Senior Lead helping to manage over 100 volunteers for the day-to-day operations. In addition, I contribute my skillset volunteering with the Aga Khan National Education Board working with youth. Otherwise, a light in my life has been volunteering for a Catholic-funded centre called Our Place Community of Hope in Toronto which is a community hub for people living with mental illness. I’ve been volunteering here since 2010 and through the Centre I have found lifelong friends who show me so much love and friendship. Some of my happiest moments have been spent at the Centre.
You are a founding member of the IMI book club! This may be a tough one, but...what is your favourite book of all time?
You can’t ask me this question! One of my earliest favourite books was written by a UofT alumnus and was named Oprah’s Book Club pick called A Fine Balance. It was also an IMI book club pick (not my month) and everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Other notable favourites are Call Me By Your Name, The Reader, Daughters of The Deer, A Place for Us, and Behold the Dreamers (but really the list can go on). I love reading diverse books by diverse authors! I’m currently reading Viola Davis’ autobiography and it’s looking to be my top read for 2023. OK let me stop here because otherwise I won’t be able to. My Instagram where I review books is @booking.up.