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10 years later: Andrew Kaszowski looks back

The Gold 10: Graduates of the Last Decade — Andrew KaszowskiTen years ago this May, Andrew Kaszowski walked across a stage and joined a small group of his classmates. After four years of study they were the first of a group that now numbers in the thousands. They were the first alumni of the University of Guelph-Humber, and this summer they’re coming home.

Andrew had been at university for a year when he realized his program wasn’t the right fit. He was studying English Literature, Communications and Business, which sounded good on paper, but didn’t offer what he wanted.

“Together they were the components of public relations, though I didn’t know it at the time,” he says. “I discovered I wasn’t fond of the English Lit. aspect and that I wanted to write more, and write professionally.”

After meeting with advisors, they suggested he look at switching to a public relations program. During his search he chanced upon a new university that quickly caught his eye.

“When I read about UofGH, I liked everything I found out about it. The opportunity to get a degree and diploma in four years and be in Toronto sounded great,” Andrew says. “I liked that it was going to be small, hands on and career-focused.”

After ironing out the details of transferring, Andrew found himself enrolled in Media Studies at UofGH, specializing in Public Relations, just as he’d hoped. The first school year was underway before UofGH was finished construction though, so more than 200 students and faculty of the new university bundled into “B Building” and got to work.

“It was small — the building had just one lecture room and computer lab — but what an amazing chance to have such an intimate university experience,” Andrew says.

As the next year rolled by, the University of Guelph-Humber officially opened its doors, and Andrew quickly got involved in the growing student life on campus. When a student leadership committee was created, Andrew decided to run for a position — and was named UofGH’s first student president.

“Its newness was one of the best things about UofGH,” Andrew says. “My classmates and I were always the most-senior students, so there were lots of leadership opportunities which really helped me grow.”

As president, Andrew worked to build a relationship with the Humber Students’ Federation, plan UofGH events and generally build a student community on campus. Despite these responsibilities, he still found time to dive into his studies. One of his 3rd-year classes in particular stood out. It had the students organize for public relations professionals to visit the class, speak about their industry and field questions. After doing some research, the students began cold calling potential visitors, and together they built a list of industry leaders. When the Vice President of Communications from Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital came to the class, Andrew found himself completely drawn in.

“Hearing her speak made me understand why communications is so important,” he says. “The ability to tell a compelling story about a patient or family’s health care journey is essential to the work they do, and I decided I totally wanted to do that.”

Through the chance meeting in the class, Andrew lined up his field placement and began working at Mount Sinai in his 4th year. Though he didn’t know it at the time, it would lead to a career in healthcare communications, one that would bring him back to his roots after graduation. As a newly minted public relations graduate, Andrew returned to his hometown of London, Ontario and was hired to work in communications at the city’s hospitals. As part of his work at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, he helped redevelop the hospital’s web presence, a project that included creating the “I was born at St. Joseph’s” campaign, which collected the stories of people who had been born at the hospital, as well as nurses and doctors who had worked there. It was a subject that was familiar to Andrew — he himself was born at St. Joseph’s in the 1980s.  

“That was the epitome of my career so far,” he says. “Commemorating the long history of that birthing unit and telling all those stories was really powerful.”

Andrew says the drive to tell stories is what animates him to work each day.

“The ability to connect with the purpose of an organization and share that story with the public, it makes going into the office each day meaningful.”

Though his career has mostly seen him working in healthcare, Andrew has also worked freelance, spent time with United Way, and even had a stint on a cruise ship. For five months as the vessel travelled around the globe, Andrew edited the guest newsletter and restaurant menus.

“That job was like winning the lottery,” he says. “I got to see 32 countries, go to shore and explore them. It was immersive, and I got to experience the people, the culture and food of places around the world.”

Since leaving the University of Guelph-Humber in 2006, Andrew has put his education to work doing what he loves, and he’s gone far across the Earth to do it. Though he’s since come back to Canada, and is living in the town where he grew up, this summer, Andrew is making a different trip.

This summer, Andrew is coming back to UofGH.

This summer, Andrew is coming home.

What have you seen change in the 10 years since your graduation?

One thing that’s changed, and that’s been really awesome, has been to see how the interconnectedness of social media allows us to reach out, care for one another and stay connected. In the last three years, I’ve experienced a mental health journey and learned I have bipolar disorder. It’s been an interesting challenge to face and my classmates and everyone have just been so supportive as I’ve worked to overcome it. Social media are powerful tools, and it’s been awesome to see how they help us care for one another. 

This story is part one of a series about UofGH's first class.
Read Part Two: Paula D'Souza: When risks pay off