Creating a custom degree

Christopher He
Christopher He
Beginning his time at Waterloo in Global Business and Digital Arts, Christopher He was having a hard time picturing his career path. That all changed at an appointment with his program advisor, where he learned about the Liberal Studies Co-op program - a versatile course of study that would let him explore multiple interests.

Liberal Studies has become a fast-growing program at the University of Waterloo with its focus on flexibility, exploration and unique course plans. And for He, being allowed to pursue multiple avenues made all the difference. "It really fostered my interest in becoming a mixed media artist by allowing me to explore disciplines in broadness and depth, from fine arts to music, English, computer science and geography," he says.

Following his passion for design, He will be graduating this spring with two minors: Digital Arts Communication and Fine Arts. "I was eager to complement my digital skills with traditional artistic disciplines," he says. This combination allowed him to explore art forms like sculpture, printmaking, game design, theatre and more. One of the most impactful classes for him was FINE 201 - Special Topics: Storytelling in Design with Terry O’Neill because as he shares, "It gave me the skills to tell the story behind my works in all my other fine arts courses."

Exploring careers

As a co-op student, He had the opportunity to apply what he was learning outside the classroom, and he started imagining a more concrete career path. "I tried out different positions each term and had glimpses into possible futures," he says. "The hands-on training and working experiences are invaluable."

He spent his first two co-op terms in the Faculty of Mathematics working as an instructional support assistant for an introductory computer programming class. Using his background in both computer science and art, he was able to bridge gaps in understanding and language. "It gave me a fitting platform to help Arts students, who would often have a different approach to computer science problems," he says. The position also helped him realize how much he enjoys teaching.

Through the work-study program, He also gained an entirely different set of experiences. He worked in two positions at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery - one as an event co-ordinator and another as an installation assistant. "It gave me a rare opportunity to work alongside Canadian artists and interact with different professions and trades... and it really helped me to understand the process of transforming an idea into an exhibition," he says.

Looking forward

With his degree and real-world experience under his belt, He is grateful for the change he made at that advisor appointment. "My educational path has been deeply rewarding, allowing me to explore and integrate a broad spectrum of creative fields," he shares.

After graduating, he plans to take a short break to travel and experience the culture and arts in other cities before applying to graduate school. In the meantime, he’ll continue his work as a freelance photographer and designer, building his portfolio with a focus on ceramics, printmaking and sound design. "I’ll also be creating more works in the summer and plan to submit some proposals to open calls," he says.

Amid the crossroads
lost in thought I stand,


Uncertain future
like shifting desert sand.


Left then right,
the choices seem unclear.


Yet in this moment,
I’ll conquer the fear.
Olivia Vanderwal