Learning clicks ambassador Alessandro

This University of Alberta Human ecology student shaped his own degree.


Learning clicks ambassador Alessandro

I was an only child born and raised in Edmonton. In high school I overcame my shyness and became an extrovert, joining student leadership, swimming, and cross-country teams. I also discovered my love of fashion design. I was fascinated by the process of making clothing. I love how personal style sets yourself apart from others. I’ve always felt that trying to fit in is super boring.

When it was time to start thinking about my post-secondary education, I was worried my grades and I almost didn’t apply. But one day in February, I took a risk and sent in my application to the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Science in Clothing, Textiles, and Material Culture program. I knew this program was for me from the very first time I visited their faculty booth at an open house. I literally had goosebumps when I came across it. I was accepted and I had a metamorphosis in my life. I began with a narrow way of thinking, but my first design class ignited my passion.

If I could offer you advice it would be to find a mentor or someone that motivates you to be better everyday. In post-secondary, new experiences and ways of thinking have enabled me to grow and improve as a human being.

When I finish my degree, I plan to work in human-centred design, a general field that’s full of opportunity. Someday I might go to grad school to get my PhD, but I also think it’s important to have a balance between theoretical and experiential knowledge. For the next few years, I want to experience all the world has to offer.

Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.


From fashion to human-centred design

I’ve always thought it’s more important to decide who I want to be, rather than what I want to do. In my pursuit of fashion design, I tried to be open to new experiences, ask why and never settle for less to make it big like Valentino!

I knew I wanted a diverse program that was flexible and offered some freedom for personalization with a good number of electives (options). After attending many open houses for post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton area, I found the Human Ecology program at the University of Alberta. The program fit my interests perfectly and my soul felt at home.

Take it from me, it’s totally worth it to do your research and explore your options before picking a program. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Explore your education options by using the tools on the ALIS website.
  • Complete personality assessments and quizzes through CAREERinsite.
  • Check institutions to see if they offer:
    • campus tours
    • student shadowing
    • student mentors
    • student advisors

As I went through the program, it was my mentors who encouraged me to explore the field of design and learn about possible career paths. As it turns out, the field of design is very broad from industrial, fashion or graphic design to human-centred design.

My mentors gave me the creative freedom to develop my skills and try new things, which helped me define my career ambitions. I’m now working towards developing myself as a human-centered designer, someone who solves problems creatively and designs products and services by starting with the people they’re designing for and tailoring a solution to their needs.

I chose a degree in the Human Ecology program to have more career possibilities and to have the option to pursue graduate school in the future. A degree is the first step to pursuing a PhD or a Masters. In post-secondary programs there are different types of credentials that take different lengths of time (a diploma typically takes 2 years while a degree can 4 or more years).

Research the job you want to ensure you have the required programs. There are many options, but having the knowledge and resources at your fingertips can simplify your decisions to ensure you’re making the best choices for yourself.

I thought fashion was my calling, but as I developed in university, my aspirations changed.

Student life

Benefits of having a mentor

Mentors can be helpful when you’re navigating life after high school, they are people that you can trust for advice. Usually, they would be an instructor or an experienced professional in your chosen field. These individuals can help you find opportunities to explore or build on your talents and interests.

In my life, I had 3 important mentors:

  • My grandfather who introduced me to the tailoring and fashion world.
  • My high school fashion studies teacher who helped me fine tune my sewing abilities and offered me a creative outlet during my struggles to get into university.
  • My design studies professor who I met in my second year of university, and she changed my perspective about design and encouraged me not to drop out of university. She changed my life.

I gained practical real-life knowledge from my mentors; they also helped me build my network. Network connections are super important in a world where it’s all about “who you know”. In some cases, having these connections can provide you with inside opportunities.

My mentors have helped direct and develop my talents by providing me with the resources to become a better version of myself. They treat me like an adult, which reassures me that they believe in my talents and that I can do what I set my mind too.

During my fourth year I was unmotivated with classroom work and losing patience, I thought about dropping out. My mentor design professor offered me an alternative: an independent study where I could get a more hands-on approach to learning. Without her help, I would have given up and regretted it. Having a mentor can put things into perspective by providing another point of view to help with those big life decisions.

A mentor should be someone you look up to for who they are, what they have accomplished or how they represent themselves. To find your mentor ask family, friends or school professors or advisors.

When you find a mentor, set some expectations (time and what you hope to achieve), then soak up all the wisdom they can offer. Trust them with your dreams, be an active listener and ask if you don’t understand. I email my old mentors 3 times a year to stay in touch and see how they’re doing. Not only does this show an effort on my end to maintain the relationship, but it also demonstrates that I care and value the person. If you show your mentor respect and trust, they’ll show you the same!


Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:

Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:

Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.