University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Young Achievers

They're smart, creative, successful and ambitious. Meet the next generation of Canadian leaders

Careers in this postmodern, post-industrial world have become considerably more complicated, and universities have responded by preparing their students to do many things.

Rahnuma Panthaky, Actor
Judd Palmer, Puppeteer
Mark “Dashan” Rowswell, Performer
Camilla Gibb, Author
Ray Hsu, Poet
Jennifer Gould Keil, Journalist
Robert Pontisso, Lexicographer
Kayla Perrin, Romance Novelist
Colin McAdam, Author
Darlene Lim, Paleolimnologist
Vivek Rao, Surgeon
Leah Steele, Doctor
Vuk Stambolic, Cancer Scientist
Erika Raum, Violinist
Barbara Hannigan, Singer
Lina Allemano, Trumpeter
Pamela Strand, Geologist
Hana Zalzal, Entrepreneur
David Ossip, Entrepreneur
Alvin Mok, Program Manager
Michael Zerbs, Risk Manager
Michael Serbinis, Tech Entrepreneur
Jennifer Smith, Marketer
Will Kwan, Artist
Rinaldo Walcott, Culture Critic
Ariel Garten, Fashion Designer
Harley Pasternak, Fitness Trainer
Aphrodite Salas, Reporter
Sharon Lewis, Television Host
Yogendra Shakya, Culture Bridger
Vinay Saldanha, AIDS Worker
John Maxwell, Communicator
Anne Swift, Inventor
Robert Nichols, Political Scientist
Catherine Manoukian, Violinist
Khalid Ahmed, Political Scientist
Maryam Modir Shanechi, Engineer
Samuel Chow, Playwright
Johanna Herman, Advocate

In compiling our list of U of T’s young achievers – alumni under the age of 40 who have attained considerable success in their respective (and often multidisciplinary) fields – we were not only impressed with what they have achieved, but how they achieved it.

How did these high flyers get there from here?

Mars researcher at NASA! Celebrity comedian in China! Fitness guru to Hollywood stars!

Such careers are hardly obvious options for young people entering university. Indeed, some careers didn’t even exist until these young alumni created them. So how did they prepare themselves for the unknowable? How did they find and navigate a path to a “there” that was not yet there?

Mark Rowswell, born in Ottawa and now a TV celebrity in China, had no idea what he would do when he arrived at U of T. After learning some Chinese from an employer at a summer job, he enrolled in Chinese studies and found his passion.

Darlene Lim says she never could have imagined working at NASA. Her marks during her first two years at U of T were hardly spectacular. Then she took a course in limnology (the study of fresh-water lakes) and got hooked – a path that has led her to study ancient lakes on Earth as analogues to ancient crater lakes on Mars.

Ray Hsu, poet and PhD candidate, says he was a slacker – until he realized that many of the authors he was studying in a Canadian literature course were University of Toronto alumni, and that he, too, could be a writer.

Hana Zalzal says that everything she has done – earning an MBA, founding a multimillion-dollar cosmetics business – has been easy compared to completing her U of T engineering degree.

A common theme emerges in the profiles of these young achievers: by taking courses or getting involved in extracurricular activities that caught their interest, they found what moved them. By completing undergraduate or graduate degrees, they learned what it takes to succeed.

Passion and confidence: you can’t take a course in either, yet somehow our trailblazing young alumni graduated with both.

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