Compilation of four grad portraits

A ‘rewarding’ experience: UTM grads reflect on their academic journeys

Shauna Rempel

The spring 2024 convocation has almost arrived, and thousands of University of Toronto Mississauga graduands will soon cross the stage at Convocation Hall in five ceremonies. In all, about 16,000 students will graduate from U of T this spring.   

Here are some of the stories from UTM’s class of 2024. 


For many, the university years are a time of growth and self-discovery. 

For Reid Fournier, 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.” But the rejection had a silver lining: “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 to your calling.” 

However, Fournier applied again in fourth year for a leadership position and was hired on 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.” 

Fournier worked and lived on campus and got to know the surrounding area as well.  

“I'd say a core experience of mine was getting to explore Mississauga.”  

Watch a bonus video with Reid Fournier on Instagram or TikTok. 



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 forensics society. But joining the extracurriculars posed a challenge for her at first.  

“Getting involved was really hard because I was just originally really shy and introverted,” says Pong, who studied forensic biology with a minor in psychology. 

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

The involvement 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.” 

Watch a bonus video with Lovelle Pong on Instagram or TikTok. 



Scott Warren travelled far beyond campus during his time at UTM: 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,” he recalls of the international experience, “when you’re stuck behind a computer like me, and now you’re kind of thrust into the thick of it somewhere else.”  

For Warren, UTM 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.  

Warren, who double majored in CCIT and technology, coding & society (TCS), 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." 

Watch a bonus video with Scott Warren on Instagram or TikTok. 


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 solid morning routine, a good night’s rest 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.”  

Watch a bonus video with Loridee De Villa on Instagram or TikTok