Joshua Foster stands beside a weight rack in a gym

UTM grad builds success one connection at a time

Blake Eligh

When Joshua Foster thinks back over his four years at U of T Mississauga, the soon-to-be science grad sees a series of important connections that have helped to shape the person he is now.

Those university connections begin at home. When Foster convocates this month with his twin, Jordan, the brothers will become the third and fourth members of their family to graduate from U of T. Sisters Andrea and Lorena are also U of T alumnae—Andrea earned a master’s degree in industrial relations and human resources in 2013 and Lorena earned her honours bachelor of arts in 2012.

Raised in Mississauga, the Foster brothers chose UTM because it offered them the chance to continue to go to school together, although it wasn’t long before Joshua forged his own path.

“One of my favourite things about being at university was meeting new people who set me on to new ideas,” he says. Foster made a point of connecting with professors by taking advantage of office hours and informal “chalk talk” tutorials. His efforts help to land a coveted spot with the Research Opportunity Program where, working with associate professor of biology Fiona Rawle, Foster compiled data for a project that tracks how first-year science students learn. “Students should see these opportunities as a learning resource for professional development, and to learn more about their own academic and career trajectories,” he says. “Being connected will help enrich your experience. The university has a lot to offer, and I feel I have only just begun to tap into it.”

Another important connection for Foster came at the end of second year when he met fellow student Sean Manezes at the RAWC. It was during early morning workouts that the pair hatched a plan to co-found UTMFit, a club that has grown to about 100 students interested in learning about fitness and accessing health and wellness resources at UTM. “Everything came together very nicely from our initial idea,” Foster says. “We were able to tie all these campus resources together to help others, and it felt really meaningful to do something outside of our classrooms.”

For Foster, the gym also offered employment and a place to make other connections. Foster worked at the gym’s Control Desk and also as a personal trainer. He ran gym activities for Big Sisters Big Brothers of Peel programs and led weightlifting workshops. “Getting involved in campus life made me more aware of the resources that are out there,” he says. “Through working with other students, I learned about programs, resources and other clubs on campus that I hadn’t been exposed to, yet. If you’re not involved, you might miss out on that.”

Foster’s off-campus life has been equally busy, with a part-time job in at a Port Credit grocery store, an eBay collectibles business, and participating in hockey and soccer leagues. Foster adds that he was careful to maintain a balanced schedule so he didn’t feel overloaded. “I took a lighter course load during the year, and classes in the summer,” he says. “That helped me find time to pursue different opportunities.”

Foster will graduate in June with an honors bachelor of science and, like his brother, a double minor in political science and sociology. In the fall, he will begin a law degree at Lakehead University. True to his entrepreneurial leanings, he’s mulling a career in real estate law, but adds that environmental law might offer a way to stay connected to the sciences.

For more Convocation 2016 stories, check out profiles of recent UTM graduands Laura Krajewski, Daniel Jayasinghe, Jordan Foster and Mohamed Sidibé.