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‘Anything worthwhile takes time’ says award-winning U of T Scarborough undergrad

U of T Scarborough recent graduate Karen Young with Professor Gerry Cupchik. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Karen Young has done the research papers, the reports and the assignments, but it was her projects outside the classroom – some of which took several years – that she found most rewarding.

“Anything worthwhile takes time,” says Young, who celebrated convocation with her family and friends on November 8th. 

“Not only do these projects help develop grit, you get to learn so much about yourself while also having a fundamental impact on your community.”

Young was heavily involved in several projects during her time at the University of Toronto Scarborough. During her first two years she co-chaired the TEDxUTSC conference – the first-ever TEDx event held at U of T Scarborough. She also helped bring the C3 Inspire Conference to Toronto and also served on the board of directors for The Varsity.

After a series of powerful personal experiences, observations, and conversations with fellow students, she founded Minds Matter Magazine, U of T’s first student-run mental health magazine and the first interdisciplinary one in Canada. The magazine remains a community platform focusing on student perspectives relating to mental health. And while the magazine addresses campus well-being, it also emphasizes student research on mental health.

“A lot of people get caught up by what is visible, but mental health can be invisible,” says Young, who majored in psychology and health studies. 

’Minds Matter is a mantra – everyone should be helping. Students often get caught between the cracks and Minds Matter is an extension of that in that it’s a way to broaden the honest conversation around mental health.”

The positive impact of the magazine struck a personal chord when she was personally thanked by a fellow student who had read an article about ADHD in Minds Matter. She recognized the symptoms, was eventually diagnosed and sought treatment before feeling better. The student would go on to be the editor of an upcoming e-issue of the magazine.

Young received several accolades for her work including the prestigious 3M National Student Fellowship Award and McGraw-Hill Ryerson Student Scholarship Award. But it was the mentorship opportunities that came along with her projects that she relishes the most.

“I had mentors from all walks of life, both personally and academically, and I think the most valuable gift anyone can give to you is to help you figure out who you are,” she says, pointing to unique experiences at conferences, independent studies, as well as with advisory members for TEDxUTSC and Minds Matter.

After meeting with documentary filmmaker and U of T alumnus Paul Saltzman she was inspired to invite more alumni to be involved in various projects. The guidance she received from Saltzman was such an inspirational experience, she wrote an article in a peer reviewed journal about maximizing the effectiveness of mentorship in guided experiential learning.

During her studies, Young took two courses and conducted a thesis project on cognitive biases that underlie strategic decision-making, working with Psychology Professor Gerry Cupchik. 

"What stands out for me about Karen is her unique ability to bridge scholarship with application, her appreciation of issues in mental health, along with the need for community outreach,” says Cupchik.

“Karen has made unique contributions to U of T Scarborough during her time here as a student."

Her advice to fellow students is to try out a long-term project, use time commuting to and from school to brainstorm ideas, and to keep those ideas in a journal. She also emphasizes keeping an open mind and to pay forward opportunities to others.

“I think the unique value of a higher education is that you’re exposed to so many different ways of thinking, and that promotes life-long learning,” she says. 

Young was born in Scarborough to Chinese parents who have lived all over the world. She credits them with helping contribute financially to her education which allowed her to pursue extracurricular activities.

“I consider myself very fortunate. I recognize that many students don’t have the privilege and don’t have as much spare time to undertake projects as I was able to do,” she says.

“My hope is that I used that time effectively to create opportunities for fellow students that weren’t there before. One opportunity can dramatically change a student’s life for the better.”




© University of Toronto Scarborough