Office of Appeals, Discipline & Faculty Grievances,
Jason has been with the University of Toronto (U of T) for two years.
What do you do off the clock?
I am a big believer in giving back to the community, so a lot of my time outside of the office is spent volunteering for a variety of communities and different causes. You know the Energizer bunny? That’s me, except I sometimes sleep for a few hours each night.
Currently, I serve as vice-chair of the board of directors of Access Alliance Multicultural Health & Community Services, a Toronto-based community health centre; as a mentor in a LGBTQ youth mentorship program (my mentee, a lovely young adult, is also called Jason!); as a leadership team member for Connect the Sector, a small group of policy-oriented young professionals in the not-for-profit sector; and, as a director on the executive of the Beaches-East York Provincial Liberal Association.
I am also an amateur chef (I was shortlisted for the TV show Come Dine with Me Canada in 2009), a recent devotee of kickboxing (Muay Thai), and an avid reader of the New York Times Sunday paper.
How did you first become interested in kickboxing?
It was serendipity. My best friend Kristin started going and said I would love it. My immediate reaction was, “I’m a 5’3″ gay Costa Rican Jew. I’ve never punched anybody in my life!” However, I was hooked (no pun intended) after the first class. A few months into going, somebody in the office remarked (I’m paraphrasing), “I think everybody should have a pair of boxing gloves in their office before a meeting starts!”
You’re from Costa Rica? Why did you come to live in Canada?
My mother is originally from Toronto, so I have a lot of family here. My uncle, Lorne Sossin, a former professor of law at U of T (and currently dean at Osgoode Hall law school) told me U of T would be a terrific experience. And it was.
But he neglected to impress upon me how cold it could be. At one Shabbat dinner, after sitting down at the table, my aunt told me to take off my winter coat. I said I already did! (Yes, I wore two goose down coats that winter.)
There were also other ‘first-world’ shocks like riding a streetcar. Who knew that you had to pull down on the yellow string to signal to the driver to be let off the vehicle? On buses in Costa Rica, you just had to stand up and the driver would pull over. Needless to say, after missing many stops, I managed to figure that one out pretty quickly.
What (or who) inspires or influences your work?
I will answer the ‘what’ first. I always approach a job or volunteer commitment with a strong sense of integrity, a desire to help others, and ultimately, to add value to whatever it is that I’m doing. I have always believed in leaving something better than you found it.
As for who inspires my work, the answer is, literally, everyone I’ve ever met.
A few years ago I was bemoaning to someone that I really wanted a mentor, that I felt I didn’t have one specific person to help me figure out life’s big questions. She replied, “Jay, don’t go looking for one specific mentor. They’re incredibly hard to find, and in any event, they usually find you. But if you listen carefully enough, you’ll find that everybody you meet has something valuable to learn from.” It took me a while to fully appreciate what she said, but it has served me well ever since.