While graduating from Jamaica’s Campion College was a major milestone on the path to successful adulthood, Naomi Cowan was not fulfilled.
“When I left, I was fun-loving and full of energy as I am still today, but I was just an average student in a learning environment that did not allow me to express my creativity,” she said. “There was no space there for me to grow and be the best version of myself.”
Transitioning with a “C” average, Cowan found her niche at Ryerson University, where she completed her undergraduate degree in radio & television arts four years ago.
While more than satisfied to graduate from a Canadian university, the TV anchor and video blogger was most proud of the fact that Ryerson allowed her to shine and become a leader.
“Coming to Ryerson, I was determined to lead and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this institution nurtured that,” she said. “The culture here stimulates students to become the best they can be.”
Cowan also had the support of outgoing president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Sheldon Levy, who was impressed with her astute leadership as the university students’ union group director, the United Black Students vice-president of finance, the West Indian Students Association vice president of public relations and the Radio & TV Arts Course Union events vice-president.
She also spearheaded Ryerson’s referendum campaign that resulted in nearly 3,500 of 4,754 students giving the university the green light to increase tuition by $126 to support the state-of-the-art Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), which opened two years ago.
While in Texas visiting family members, Cowan received a call from the university stating that Levy had requested that she host a televised press conference in December 2009 to announce the refurbishment and transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens to the MAC.
Levy also chose her to represent the university in the Vancouver Olympics torch relay in Port Colborne a few weeks later.
“Those little things made a huge difference in my life,” said the 2004 Miss Teen Jamaica, who was the second runner-up in the Miss Caribbean Talented Teen pageant in St. Kitts and the 2005 Miss Teen World pageant in Trinidad & Tobago. “Ryerson was the only university that I applied to because I knew from research that it would equip me with the skills I needed and I also saw it as an institution where I would be able to make an imprint. I was right.”
With her undergraduate degree, Cowan returned to Jamaica and started a digital marketing company, worked with challenged young people through her youth mentorship and personal development company, NCouraged, made a few appearances on CEEN TV as a news presenter and was a TV Jamaica Wealth Magazine Business Access anchor before returning to Toronto this year to enroll in Ryerson’s new Master’s of Digital Media 12-month program, which is designed to equip graduates with skills and industry experience.
“I was attracted to this program because it combines business and entrepreneurship with technology and creative thinking,” said Cowan, who won the Dennis Mock Student Leadership and Student Services Leadership Awards four years ago.
Last week, she was the recipient of the Phyllis Switzer/CTV Broadcast Management $2,500 award presented at the annual Ryerson University Radio & Television Arts School of Media awards luncheon. The endowed award recognizes a student who is pursuing graduate level studies.
Cowan comes from a creative family that’s well-established in the entertainment industry. Her mother is internationally acclaimed gospel singer, Carlene Davis, who has a PhD in pastoral counseling and her father is Rastafarian producer/singer-turned-ordained minister, Tommy Cowan, who was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Jamaica last year.
A vocalist and musician, Cowan started playing the piano at age five and is a self-taught guitarist who has been featured on several of her mother’s albums. She’s also a worship leader.
Five years ago, Cowan hosted the 2009 Caribana video series, Feel De Vibe, and was one of three finalists in Much Music VJ search that year. She also made the final 13 in last month’s first-ever Ryerson University “Got Talent” competition.