“I appreciated the opportunities to do self-directed learning within the confines of a course and to be able to package what I learned to hand it in to a professor for grading. What built my confidence and what’s the most important thing to have as a skillset is knowing how to translate what you learn into practical solutions.”
For BES alum, Jeremy Biden discovering the Bachelor in Environmental Studies (BES) program with the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University was a defining moment in his pursuit to create a more sustainable world. Learning early on in his career that the business sector was on the cusp of going green, he decided to forego his full time position in marketing and sales of high-end outdoor equipment in order to return to school to better his skills for this market shift
“I knew that science wasn’t my thing. I wanted to do something that was fairly practical and focused and so after a Google search combining ideas I resonated with, ‘environment’, ‘urban environment’, ‘design’, and ‘education’, I found out about the [BES] degree at York”.
York University’s BES program ended up being the only option he applied to from many across Canada, and he was confident that no other program could better meet his needs. Biden says he appreciated the “opportunities to do self-directed learning within the confines of a course and to be able to package what I learned to hand it in to a professor for grading. What built my confidence and what’s the most important thing to have as a skill-set is knowing how to translate what you learn into practical solutions”.
From humble beginnings living in a small city in New Brunswick to graduating from the BES program and launching a not-for-profit organization, The Planning Clinic, to opening a boutique design firm, RIOT Urbanism, Biden’s drive to innovate towards a more sustainable future developed into a compliment focus of keeping community interest close to mind in all his pursuits for change. This duality of his vision for success, he attributes to the learning and experiential education opportunities he had while in his BES program.
Biden’s community involvement and his current role as Principal at RIOT reflect the FES’s intersectionality. A morning at RIOT consists of him working on the administration side of things – making sure projects are on budget and on-time, filling out permits, and managing relationships with clients. “When working with clients, I try to maintain a really close relationship with them and part of that is knowing what your limitations are. That’s something I learned in the Faculty – it’s good to recognize what you can do well and when you need to take a backseat.”
As a design firm, the rest of his day at RIOT is usually filled with creativity. With his team, Biden has completed projects in various fields and sectors of business. From interior design, graphic design, developing products, working on literature and layouts, and directing photoshoots, Biden and his team are multifaceted when it comes to the services they provide for their clients in relation to planning and community engagement.
When asked what ‘planning’ means to him, Biden replied that it is a chance “to have people be able to put their vision forward. We want to help people communicate in new ways through design and to work with people who traditionally wouldn’t go to designers to accomplish what they’re doing.” RIOT is inspired by a Martin Luther King quote – “A riot is the language of the unheard”.
Biden’s advice for future and current students at the Faculty boils down to two things: taking advantage of York’s many services and opportunities and taking care of your well-being. “You’re a small community within a large institution and there is a lot of internal support in the faculty but there are also a lot of really great services around campus. For students coming into university, there is a lot of pressure, but university is also a great place to make connections to stay healthy”
Written by: Abigael Pamintuan
All photos in this profile are credited to Anoosha Kargarfard.