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University Advancement | November 2018  

 

Ryerson puts higher learning in reach for alumna

Toni Morgan, Arts and Contemporary Studies ’14

Toni Morgan, Arts and Contemporary Studies ’14, found a tailor-made education at Ryerson that fit her life and helped her succeed.

 

For Toni Morgan, her drive to succeed just needed a little kickstart.

One might remember Morgan as the unstoppable Ryerson alumna who went from being a homeless teen to completing her Ryerson degree (Arts and Contemporary Studies ’14) and, when presented with the opportunity to go to Harvard for her master’s degree, crowd-funded her way to the Ivy League school in a short 48 hours.

Today, she is the Managing Director of the Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity at the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. She’s also on the speaker’s circuit and is booked regularly to speak on issues of equity and inclusion, social innovation and leadership — a far cry from the teen who once felt her relationship with education was “fraught with dysfunction.” She credits Ryerson for bringing her back into the fold.

“Ryerson was the first educational space where I wasn’t seen for my deficits, but my assets,” she says. “How could you not want to go to a school that makes you feel valued and valuable?” When she first applied to Ryerson’s Arts and Contemporary Studies program, she met with Mark Lovewell who was the program director at the time. “He assured me that Ryerson was a place for people like me,”
she says.

While studying at Ryerson, she also worked full-time in various roles in the city’s youth justice program, Toronto Community Housing, the Jane and Finch Community Centre and, after graduation, at Centennial College. Any free time she had, she spent studying. She didn’t have the typical “university experience” and missed out on making those peer relationships in university that many carry throughout their adult lives. However, she does remember the people who were in her corner, like administrator Rona Abramovitch. “She was an incredible mentor and thought-partner as I figured out my path,” says Morgan.

As she juggled the responsibilities of working full-time with her class load, Morgan said the administrators of her program made sure that systems “bent” to make room for her unique circumstances.

“Rona said to me, ‘No is never an acceptable answer when yes is a possibility,’”
says Morgan.

Today, she has reconnected with Ryerson as the founder of the Beat Academy, a development hub for new music producers housed at Ryerson’s Transmedia Zone’s Music Den. The new partnership came after the sold-out success of a joint event between the Music Den, the Beat Academy and Post Office Sound. “[Coordinator of the Music Den] Cormac McGee, after learning that I was an alum, met with me to talk about ways for our work to have a more lasting impact on the Ryerson community,” says Morgan. The result is an immersive program, taking applications in 2019, where music meets technology, creating new pathways to education for non-traditional learners.