Convocation 2018: All in the family

Dario and Cristiana Di Censo
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - 12:09am
Blake Eligh

For the Di Censo clan, celebrating a U of T Convocation is a true family affair. On June 14, U of T Mississauga graduand Cristiana Di Censo will become the fourth member of her family to earn a degree from the University of Toronto. She will be cheered on by her family, including sister MartinaDi Censo (HBA, ’12) and father Tony Di Censo (BComm, ’82) but her ceremony will also feature a very special guest—her uncle Dario Di Censo (BComm, ’88), another fellow alumnus, will serve as an esquire at his niece’s ceremony.

This will be Dario’s second turn as a Convocation esquire. In 2012, he surprised niece Martina at her ceremony. “I was sitting right behind the chancellor, so she was right in front of me,” he remembers with a chuckle. “She gave me a little wave and a smile.”

The Di Censo family has a long association with the Mississauga campus. In the 1980s, brothers Dario and Tony Di Censo attended the commerce program at Erindale College. “I knew, as a high school student, that I wanted to attend U of T,” Dario says. “I knew it was the best, and it was literally down the street from where I lived. I could go out the back gate of our house and walk 10 minutes to class.” He holds fond memories of his student days, particularly the classes taught by accounting professor Murray Bryant. “He was intense and he challenged us, and I loved it,” says Dario, who is now the chief financial officer with Armstrong Moving & Storage. “To this day, what I learned in his classes remains part of my daily work life.”

When it came time to choose a school, Tony’s daughters were eager to become the next generation of U of T grads. Martina majored in English with a double minor in history and Italian, while Cristiana enrolled with a major in historical studies and a double minor in sociology and Italian.

In 2015, Cristiana applied for a semester abroad through the Study in Florenceprogram offered by UTM’s Language Studies program. During her semester in Italy, she took immersive language classes, studied the country’s culture and lived as a Florentine. “It was without a doubt one of the greatest decisions I have ever made for myself,” she says. “It is an amazing way to learn about Italy and the Italian language in a way that no textbook could have allowed me to do, and it forced me out of my comfort zone just enough that I really gained a lot for myself.”

The experience prompted the undergrad to change her minor in Italian to a double major with her history studies. “My study abroad experience really helped me reconnect with my Italian identity,” she says. “I grew up understanding Italian but couldn’t hold a conversation, but there was an immense improvement in my Italian language skills.” She returned to Florence in 2016 as an intern with the program where she facilitated the experience for first-time students. Back in Canada, she built a close connection with the Department of Language Studies, enjoying the academic and personal aspects of the program. “They really connect with their students,” she says.” You can just walk into the department and everyone there knows your face.”

Following her studies abroad, Cristiana took an internship position through the Department of Historical Studies, working with the City of Toronto’s heritage preservation services department. “I’ve become more interested in local history and how cities grow,” she says. She is mulling graduate studies with U of T’s Faculty of Information (iSchool) and a career in archives management. She is also working on finalizing her dual Italian-Canadian citizenship and hopes to live abroad in Rome.

Dario, Martina, Cristiana and Tony Di Censo on the steps at LislehurstAlthough his student days are over, Dario maintains a close association with his alma mater, where he has been an active alumni volunteer since 2004. He served as the UTM Alumni Associationpresident and particpated on the UTAA Mentorship Committeesince its creation in 2011. Dario was recognized for his service to the university with an Arbor Award in 2010 and was recently honoured with UTM's J. Tuzo Wilson Distinguished Alumni Award. “It’s very humbling to receive the award. The past recipients are some well-deserving people,” he says. “To be considered among them is a high honour.”

“Everyone should consider volunteering in some capacity with the school, if they’re able to. It’s a lot of fun and everyone is so welcoming and encouraging,” Dario says, adding that his favourite volunteer role is as a mentor to students. “Of all the pins given to me by the university, the one I wear most proudly is the little acorn given to mentors.I like telling stories and imparting what I’ve learned. If they can learn something that can help their career along, I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

As she prepares to become the latest Di Censo to graduate from U of T, Cristiana is glad to have the support of her family. “It means a great deal to have my uncle there,” she says. “He’s had a long connection to UTM.”

Dario, whose own daughters are currently in high school, hopes to attend future U of T celebrations. "It’s a ways away, but they are currently inclined to pursue an education at U of T,” he says. “You have the best school in Canada practically in your backyard. Why would you go anywhere else?”