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Meet the "ON-Cats": Meryl Borato

November 17, 2022

Meet the ON-Cats is a recurring interview series profiling ONCAT’s A-team of transfer experts and aficionados. Grab a beverage, pull up a chair, and get to know the team that’s helping to reduce barriers for students looking to transfer between colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes across Ontario.

Today we had a chat with 
Meryl Borato, Knowledge Mobilization Specialist

What’s your role at ONCAT?

I am a Knowledge Mobilization Specialist. Basically, I help identify research findings, promising practices, and evidence of effective policy related to transfer for Ontario’s postsecondary education sector. I promote these findings through blogs, educational content, learning events, and our annual conference.

What did you do before joining the organization? And what experience did you have with postsecondary transfer prior to working here?

I was a Postdoctoral Fellow for a research innovation lab on youth homelessness prevention. Though not in postsecondary per se, the majority of the youth our demonstration programs supported were in the age range of postsecondary students. Many aspired to attend or return to university/college and were actively working on that goal as they became stably housed.

I have also taught courses at the postsecondary level, at York University and at Seneca College. I enjoy working with people at this age because they are old enough to start asking fundamental, philosophical questions about life and their place in it, but young enough to be flexible in their thinking. My experience with transfer is that I was a transfer student in the U.S. (I transferred from one university to another). Without the help of a caring professor who advocated for me, I would have had to repeat courses. I am very grateful for professors like him, but the system shouldn’t have to rely on people’s kindness.

How does your work advance ONCAT’s mission to improve transfer students’ experiences in Ontario? And why does ONCAT’s mission resonate with you?

By mobilizing transfer evidence to staff and decision makers who can make changes to the system, we are helping students have better experiences transferring in Ontario. For example, research initiatives like the MapIt and Data Pilot projects are bringing information about transfer students’ experiences and their outcomes (such as Grade Point Average, graduation rate) to the people who need it. Many MapIt participants have shared that having an independent organization provide concrete evidence of what they already knew anecdotally helped them make a stronger case for specific changes at their institution, changes like updating their information system or moving fully online.

Transfer students make up a relatively small amount of the Ontario postsecondary student population—approximately 6-9%. Why do you think postsecondary institutions should still focus on improving transfer student experiences?

I think this is the wrong way to think about transfer, as a category or type of student. Transfer is a necessary function that every institution should be able to perform competently. Institutions strive for excellence. If they’re doing poorly in the area of transfer, they’re not excelling. I think most institutions want to do better, and we’re here to help them do that.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about postsecondary education—or student transfer—since starting your work at ONCAT?

I have learned so much! Probably the most interesting thing is that students in Ontario may choose to attend college because it provides smaller class sizes than universities. As an American in Canada, I was not aware of that distinction. I also learned that student life and living on campus is not a huge part of one’s postsecondary experience here like it is in the U.S.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Trying to turn statistical discourse into plain language! I really struggled with the phrase, “net of,” like “net of other variables.” That phrase could lose the audiences we are trying to reach because technical jargon has a way of alienating people who are unfamiliar with it. But is that an important piece of information that we need to communicate somehow? These are some of the questions I encounter.

If you could give any advice to yourself as a student, what would you say?

Believe in yourself. It’s cheesy, I know. But what that really means is believing in your essential value while you seek input and constructive feedback from those you admire. Nobody can determine whether you should pursue something—a career, a life direction—except you. Believe that you are good and that your effort is worthwhile. I would also say, spend more time reflecting on how you want to live “your one wild and precious life.” That’s a question I haven’t grown tired of asking myself.


Just for fun…

What’s your go-to restaurant or recipe?

A go-to restaurant of mine is House on Parliament. They have delicious food and a nice range of options, whether you’re looking for a fancy dinner or a beer and a burger or veggie burger. The décor is also warm and inviting, as is their rooftop patio. It’s a classic spot.

What’s the first place you would want to travel to in a post-pandemic world?

I have travelled a bit, but I would say the next big trip I want to do is in Serbia and Croatia. My dad’s side of the family is from the area, and I’d like to go there with him. After that, I’d really like to visit London, England, since I’ve never been there. I especially want to visit the Globe Theatre.

Cats or dogs?

Dogs, but cats are growing on me.

Any great books or movies you’ve enjoyed recently and want to recommend?

I recently watched Borgen (the older series and the newer one). It’s a fun political drama based in Denmark and taught me a lot about parliamentary governance. I really like how they portray women with demanding careers who are also trying to be in relationships and have families. I also appreciated the depiction of the protagonist having hot flashes and going through menopause. It’s nice to see these common features of female life represented out in the open.

Stay tuned for more interviews in our upcoming newsletters. To learn more about our team and how we’re working to remove barriers to postsecondary transfer in Ontario, visit