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Voices of Experience

Persons of Colour

March 24th 2016 | 5:00PM to 7:00PM

Does racism still exist in the workplace? As a student of colour, do you sometimes feel you need to work harder to achieve the same level of success as your peers? Hear stories and lessons learned from professionals of colour to help guide your entry into the workforce after graduation.


Launch Zone - Ryerson Student Learning Centre - Level 3

2 Gould St, Toronto, ON M5B

The Student Learning Centre building and Launch Zone space are both fully accessible. An elevator is located on the east side of the building, next to the stairs/ramp.

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Jen Gonzales - Moderator


Jen Gonzales is currently serving as the Director, Student Life at Ryerson University. Jen is a first generation student being the second in her large Ecuadorian-Canadian family to graduate from post-secondary education. During her years as an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, Jen got involved as a student leader in residence and began to discover a passion for teaching, building community, coaching, and midnight visits to the cafeteria for hamburgers.

After course correcting her career path from medicine to Student Affairs, Jen started her career in Housing & Residence Life, earned her Masters in Teaching from OISE/UofT, and is a Past President of the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers.  Today in her portfolio Jen connects the work of Student Life Programs, International Student Services and the Tri-mentoring program to the wider Ryerson community. Jen and her team work diligently to empower people to reach their infinite potential.


George De La Rosa


George has over 20 years of experience in the Credit Union system, and has held various positions.  Currently he serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Luminus Financial, a position he has held for the last 10 years. Since taking the position, the company’s assets have grown by over 300%.  He also has the distinction of becoming one of the youngest Credit Union CEOs, whose leadership helped the company receive the prestigious International Image Enhancement Award, the Concentra emPOWERING Your Communities Award, and most recently the launch of the Financial Hub at 1 Yonge Street.


George received his Accounting Diploma from Centennial College and his Bachelor of Commerce – Business Management and Marketing Management with a minor in Human Resources from Ryerson University.  Following this, he pursued his Fellowship with the Credit Union Institution of Canada through Dalhousie University.

Mr. De La Rosa is fluent in both English and Spanish.



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Kathy Cheng



Kathy Cheng is President of WS & Co., one of Canada's leading full-service apparel manufacturers. She is also the founder of WS's in-stock promotional apparel line, Redwood Classics Apparel, which provides promotional and retail distributors with trending garments that are handcrafted in North America.

Kathy is a mentor and member of the Board of Directors for Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), which is an innovative, non-profit, small business centre dedicated to supporting and nurturing new fashion entrepreneurs. She also sits on the Program Advisory Council of Ryerson’s School of Fashion; George Brown’s School of Fashion Studies; Seneca College’s School of Fashion; and Centennial College's Fashion Business & Management Program.

In 2014, Kathy was one of three Canadians inducted into The EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, a North American competition and executive leadership program. In 2013, she won a position on the Women’s Executive Network’s list of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. In 2012, she was named a Winner of the PPPC Inc. Momentum Award, which was established to recognize the promotional product industry's unique, dynamic leaders that continue to demonstrate the initiative and skill required to propel the promotional product industry forward. In 2008, she was honoured in Toronto's Mille Femmes Exhibition (Luminato), a tribute to 1,000 artistic, creative and inspiring women from Toronto


Medhat Mahdy


Medhat Mahdy is the President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto and President of YMCA Ontario. Medhat has an extensive background in charitable sector leadership and strategy – as well as a 38-year relationship with the YMCA, as a member, volunteer, donor and leader. He brings a deep understanding of the social determinants of health, and a conviction that we owe every one of our kids the opportunity to grow stronger every day in spirit, mind and body.

As an immigrant to Canada, Medhat was welcomed by the YMCA as a young man. He believes strongly in the power of social inclusion to promote healthy development and success among children, teens and young adults of every background.

Medhat has served in a variety of leadership capacities at both the YMCA of Greater Toronto and YMCA Canada. An architect of the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s current 10-year strategic plan, Strong Start, Great Future, Medhat is committed to building 10 new YMCA Centres of Community across the GTA in order to help advance the Y’s vision that “our communities will be home to the healthiest children, teens and young adults.”

Medhat has been recognized with a number of designations from York, McGill, University of Toronto, Harvard and Queen's Universities. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto. Additionally, he has served on a number of high profile task forces, including the Government of Ontario’s Healthy Kids Panel.

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Karlene who originates from Kingston, Jamaica is an advocate for LGBTQ people internationally and comes with over 14 years of experience in social justice activism. She served in the volunteer roles of co-chair and chair respectively of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG) and the lesbians & bi women group Women for Women (WfW) for over seven years and was a visible advocate/activist for the human rights of LGBTQ Jamaicans. Karlene left Jamaica for Canada in December 2009.

While her professional training is in Business Administration and she spent most of her working life in the Corporate (Financial) industry, Karlene decided to forget about corporate world and followed her passion to continue working with the LGBTQ community and entered the social work arena shortly after arriving in Canada. 

In the last 6 years Karlene has worked at The 519 Community Centre as the Coordinator, LGBT Newcomer Community Services, overseeing and expanding the Centre’s refugee support program, creating a cohesive and welcoming atmosphere within the program. She currently serves as the Manager, Direct Services, providing leadership and support to their direct services and drop-in programs. 

Karlene is also a member of the Board of Directors of Rainbow Railroad, a not-for-profit organization which assists LGBT people around the world facing persecution based on their sexual orientation/gender identity. She is also the 2013 Pioneers for Change – LGBTQ Initiative honouree.

Sandeep Tatla


Sandeep is a senior diversity and inclusion leader with experience advising both private and public sector employers.  Currently as the Chief Diversity Officer for the Ontario College of Trades, Sandeep leads change in the trades industry in Ontario by focusing on developing transformational strategies to address systemic barriers and advance diversity. Prior to joining the College of Trades, Sandeep established Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC) Office of Inclusion and was responsible for developing and implementing the firm’s national diversity strategy, including any related policies, programs and initiatives.

Before delving deep into the diversity and inclusion sphere, Sandeep practiced labour and employment law where she specialized in human rights and regularly provided organizations with proactive and strategic advice on issues of inclusivity and human rights.

As a lawyer, advisor, strategist, educator, and mediator Sandeep brings a multidisciplinary approach to the practice of diversity and inclusion.