Convocation ‘20: Cynthia Ziwei Wang

Building Sustainable Communities through Art and Design

Erik Einsiedel - 2 June 2020

Cynthia Wang found a way to blend her passion for design with her desire to help build healthy, sustainable communities. While completing a double major in Art & Design and Human Geography, Cynthia was inspired to learn more about the impact of human behaviour on the environment, and how to leverage art and design to positively impact that behaviour and mood, strengthening the community in unique and positive ways.

She credits her time with the Faculty of Arts as having taught her the skills to work independently and manage her time, enabling her to find that much needed balance between work and life. These skills will come in handy as Wang sets her sights on a possible career in communications or market research where she hopes to apply her creative ideas towards building more sustainable communities.

What drew you to the area of your study?

I chose my two majors for very unique and personal reasons. I started my studies in Human Geography which piqued my interest in better understanding the relationship between humans and nature. I was also very interested to learn more about the significant role human behaviours have on the environment.

My other passion was in understanding human interactions with others, which can be influenced by many factors. I am very passionate about the building of sustainable communities as well. I later discovered the importance art and design have on building healthy, sustainable communities and my interest rapidly grew to learn more. I am very passionate about how art and design strongly impact our mood, emotion, binding us together as a society and strengthening each community in a unique way.

What is the most remarkable thing you learned while you were a student?

The most remarkable thing I learned as a student was my ability to learn independently and manage my time. The pressure from assignment deadlines and upcoming exams can be very stressful, but at the same time, it forced me to start scheduling my time properly in order to balance my life between studying and other areas of importance.

Did you face any significant challenges, and if so, how did you deal with it?

Yes, I did face significant challenges during my academic career. In fact, I think there are always challenges at different phases of our lives, because when we overcome an existing challenge, we enter a new stage of our life, one step further away from where we were and we inevitably face a new challenge.

How I dealt with the challenges was by staying positive, focusing on making daily progress and appreciating all the improvements in myself, big and small, instead of worrying too much about the final result. This sounds more complicated than it is, but if you can keep moving forward and do not expect instant results, you will be surprised by your huge improvements over time.

In my opinion, having a positive mindset is the first step and also the key solution to overcoming challenges. The negative thoughts in our minds can make significant impacts on how we deal with challenges as they will inactive our enthusiasm and motivations to achieve our goals.

It is also important to give yourself more compassion, meaning it is okay to fail and sometimes we will fail more than one or two times. When I experienced a failure, I tried my best to remind myself that since the past is immutable, I should simply make the best out of the existing situation. I treat failure as a gift, a motivational tool to improve. I identify the reasons behind the failure, so that I can prevent myself from repeating the failure in the future and to me, that is success.

How did you manage the challenges of navigating student life under COVID-19 restrictions and remote learning?

At first, it was challenging and it took me two weeks to fully get used to remote learning. What helped me was to create a new schedule that I tried to stick to, in order for me to still separate school and private life while being home. Since I do not have to commute to school daily, I had some more flexibility in my schedule. I spent my extra time taking care of my health because a busy academic schedule sometimes makes it hard to find the time, or even remember, to take care of your health. A healthier daily routine allowed me to have more energy and a greater ability to focus when studying. Some days, when I felt down, I talked to my family and friends about my struggles. We encouraged each other and found ways to support one another remotely from our respective homes, which helped immensely.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you started?

The advice I wish I have received during my university years is to start preparing for my career as early as possible. If you start focusing on career planning right away you can accumulate more internship opportunities, attend more networking events and have a strong resume build before you graduate.

What is next for you?

Since the length of time we will have to socially isolate still being up in the air, I have created a list of things I could learn and improve on during my time at home. After being students for so many years, I want to challenge my identity as ‘just’ a student and gain some work experience before I start with my postgraduate studies. When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are reduced, I hope to start my career in the fields of communication and market research in either the private or the public sector because I enjoy being creative with my thinking and sharing my ideas.


The Future is Arts! This story is part of a series celebrating our graduates. Please join us for a virtual convocation, Friday, June 12, at 10 a.m. MST. at Registration is not required.