I met Gavin in our first Organic Chemistry lab…he said he recognized me from my involvement with the basketball team last year. He didn’t really know what my job was so I told him about my project and why I was in the class. He explained to me that he was working for athletics as an academic mentor this year for……wait for it……the women’s basketball team. When I sat down with him a few weeks ago to interview him for this blog I learned that he was also a varsity athlete last year.
Gavin grew up in Hamilton with parents who he referred to as his role models and the best supporters possible. He is the youngest of three boys and all three of them had success as hockey players. They also, coincidentally, all stepped away from the sport around the same time. One brother played pro hockey, one played university hockey in the US and Gavin played on the varsity hockey team at Ryerson. Originally he was playing Junior A hockey and was planning on also going to the US but had real concerns about the costs. He was given advice at the time to look at a school and think “if you ever got injured or quit hockey would you want to go to that school”. He followed that advice, saw Ryerson as a place with lots of support and lots of opportunities and chose to come to here last year.
Gavin played on the varsity hockey team for only one year. For many reasons he decided that there were other things he wanted to focus on and decided to leave hockey and focus on school. This was especially important since he wants to go to graduate school – he just decided his academic future and academic success were the most important thing. He took all that he learned through sport – discipline, teamwork, commitment etc. and has been able to apply it to other areas of his life. It was a hard decision and while he misses the game and being part of the team he has found lots of great things to get involved in related to his academic work.
He is a Biomedical Science major and told me he has always had a passion for science. He had good science teachers growing up and had some health concerns as a child which all helped to contribute to his interest in science and in using his knowledge of science to help people in some way. He is only in his second year at Ryerson and hasn’t decided exactly what he wants to do. He did say that this class in Organic Chemistry has been a great experience and that Bryan, the professor, is the best prof he has had to date. He described him as interested in interacting with the students, and truly wanting each student to succeed – he drew a parallel between Bryan and a really good coach – someone who is encouraging, challenging, expects a lot from the students, and explains clearly what is needed to be successful.
Even though Gavin isn’t completely sure what he wants to do he talked about getting involved in the Science Discovery Zone at Ryerson, about continuing to pursue more learning opportunities in organic chemistry, interest in pharmacy, and also interest in sports medicine. He has lots of time and I told him I was envious of him – to be young and to have a wide open future with hundreds of options. I have no doubt Gavin will be successful. He said his parents instilled in him and his brothers the value of hard work and the importance of putting your best foot forward.
After a rough first semester last year he got lots of support from a couple of other athletes studying science and from some of the support staff in athletics. His connections with these folks gave him the opportunity to be a support to other new Rams as an academic mentor. In this role he mentors 6 first year athletes, 3 on the Women’s Basketball team and 3 on the Women’s Soccer team. He is there to provide advice and support and he also works in the athlete’s “study hall”, a space in the athletic centre for student athletes to focus on their academic commitments.
We finished our chat by talking about Organic Chemistry. He said first year chemistry classes were more theory based with lots of definitions and calculations. This class has been completely different – no calculations, no definitions – instead we are drawing molecules and memorizing reactions and reagents.
I asked about the specific challenges that science students face and he immediately replied – time management. For each class with a lab it is like taking two classes with what sometimes feels like double the number of hours and volume of work. In this Organic Chemistry class we had lecture for two hours on Monday, a one hour class on Thursday morning where we wrote a quiz each week, and a three hour lab every Thursday afternoon where the students also had to submit a written lab report from the previous week’s lab and a write a quiz at the beginning of each lab. I can only imagine how challenging it is to keep up when this is only one of 5 courses for most of them.
We are all done with the quizzes and the labs now. We write our final exam on December 13 and then the course is over. After lab last week Gavin asked me if I was going to take the 2nd Organic Chemistry class in January. It is also being taught by Bryan and there is no lab component. I actually paused for a moment and seriously considered it…then gave my head a shake. This is the end of my Organic Chemistry career but I really want to thank Gavin for being so friendly to me and so welcoming right from the beginning. I look forward to watching his continued success and where his wide open future opportunities take him.