Awards of Excellence 2016 Recipients


The Awards of Excellence celebrate members of the University of Toronto community who, through their individual efforts and accomplishments, have contributed to the University’s vision of becoming a leader among the world’s best public teaching and research universities. Those honoured through the program have stepped up to the challenge of making rich and meaningful contributions to the University, the community, and to the world.

Congratulations to all of this year's Awards of Excellence recipients!

Click on the links below to learn more about the 2016 award recipients.

Faculty Award
Professor Mark Lautens, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science

Northrop Frye Award (Individual)
Professor Andrea Most, Department of English, Faculty of Arts & Science

Northrop Frye Award (Departmental)
Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts & Science

Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award
Professor Judith Poë, Department of Chemical & Physical Sciences, UTM
Professor Elizabeth M. Smyth, School of Graduate Studies

Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award
Richard Chambers, Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice

Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award
Arlene Clement, Student Life
Holly Luffman, Centre for International Experience

Chancellor's Award – Emerging Leader
Kristina Minnella, Centre for Community Partnerships

Chancellor's Award – Influential Leader
Tad Brown, University Advancement

UTAA Graduate Scholars
Mena Abdel-Nour, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology
Liza Futerman, Centre for Comparative Literature
Ekaterina Turlova, Department of Physiology

Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award
Chizoba Imoka, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

UTAA Scholars
Connor Anear, Trinity College
Jordana Lowe, Woodworth College
Pamela Ng, Victoria College
Seth Watt, St. Michael’s College

John H. Moss Scholarship
Theodora Bruun, Victoria College


2016 Award Winners

Faculty Award

Mark Lautens

Professor Mark Lautens of the Department of Chemistry is known for his intriguing research in organic chemistry, his innovative teaching and mentoring methods, and his creative service to the University that has resulted in the glowing worldwide reputation of its chemists.

Professor Lautens, who is also a University Professor and the J. Bryan Jones Distinguished Professor, launched the department’s industrial named lectureships series in 1990. Industry partners provide the funds to bring in guest lecturers and visiting professors each year. In turn, these scholars encourage their students to apply to the University of Toronto and invite U of T researchers to their home countries, creating a global community of chemists. Professor Lautens was also a principal consultant during the design and implementation stages of the state-of-the-art Davenport Laboratories, which have made the University deeply attractive to young scholars. He also raised funds for three graduate scholarships that attract top scholars. He has served in dozens of administrative positions since joining the University of Toronto in 1987.

As an organic chemist, Professor Lautens invents new molecules and chemical reactions. His work has helped industrial labs around the world reduce the environmental impact and waste of producing medical drugs and agricultural chemicals. This groundbreaking research has been acknowledged by more than 30 grants and awards, including a Chemical Institute of Canada Medal and a Killam Research Fellowship. Professor Lautens is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Canada. He co-founded the journal Synfacts, has published more than 350 articles which have been cited more than 15,000 times and presents frequently at conferences around the world. In 2014, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Professor Lautens is a gifted teacher who manages to instill a love of his subject in students. The oral examinations he offers second-, third- and fourth-year students provide personalized attention in even large classes. Colleagues also praise his mentoring of young researchers. Over 25 years, he has trained more than 165 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. These young scholars now work in universities around the world and hold senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry.


Northrop Frye Award (Individual Category)

Professor Andrea Most

Professor Andrea Most came to U of T’s Department of English in 2002 and is cross-appointed to the Centre for Jewish Studies, the Centre for the Study of the United States, the Centre for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. A creative, interdisciplinary scholar, she is also an innovative teacher whose creates immersive classroom experiences to engage students on multiple levels, increasing the depth and breadth of their understanding.

Professor Most’s courses echo her own interdisciplinary research. In an undergraduate literature-and-food course, students participate in “lab” sessions where they prepare food for their classmates in a way that illuminates the book being studied. For example, they might try elaborate new dishes while reading Babette’s Feast, or conduct mock candy focus groups while studying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In a graduate seminar, students map survival resources on campus while studying the interplay of map and narrative in the post-apocalyptic novel The Road.

Her students affirm they have never absorbed academic material so well and also add that her courses are some of the most intellectually rigorous they engaged in. Her colleagues consider her one of the department’s best teachers, thanks not only to her classroom innovations but to the scholarship she shares through her lectures. Her wide-ranging interests allow her to essentially create new fields of research, such as the way she has recently explored the intersection of the sustainable food movement and Jewish culture.

Both Professor Most’s books have won awards: Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical (2004) received the Kurt Weill Prize for best book on music theatre and Theatrical Liberalism: Jews and Popular Entertainment in America (2013) was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She has also won the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature and has won dozens of prestigious grants, including a $90,000 SSHRC award, an American Council for Learned Societies research fellowship, the Jackman Fund for the Arts conference grant and a Connaught Startup Grant. She has held multiple administrative positions at the University; she has also organized several research conferences and supervised graduate students.

In recent years Professor Most has moved into studying the environment; her forthcoming book, on the links between ecology and the human body, is tentatively titled A Pain in the Neck: an Eco-Critical Memoir.


Northrop Frye Award (Departmental)

Department of Anthropology

By integrating original fieldwork into undergraduate courses and volunteer opportunities, the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Science has simultaneously successfully introduced students to research and roused their enthusiasm for the process of making anthropological discoveries.

For example, the first-year course Living on the Water’s Edge in Toronto sends students across the city to research lost and existing waterways; they then submit their projects to a national digital archive launched by their community group partner, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. In the fourth-year ethnographic practicum, students interview Kensington Market residents as part of an original study of one aspect of the city district’s culture. Later, they share their findings in a community presentation and incorporate the feedback. Third-year students work on archaeological digs from British Columbia and Nunavut to South Africa, Jordan, Peru, Israel and Greece. In a fourth-year lab course, students analyze real collected bone fragments and prepare their original findings for academic publication.

The department also offers dozens of volunteer opportunities each year, including microscopic analysis of archaeological sediments in U of T’s Wadi Ziqlab Project laboratory, mapping prehistoric landscapes, and travel to India and Indonesia to conduct ethnographic interviews and observation. The students return home excited to undertake lab work analysis of the artifacts they have found or even commit to anthropology as a career, say the faculty members who lead the projects.

There is nothing like hands-on experiences to make academic concepts come alive, say students. They talk about their research leading to opportunities such as conference presentations while still undergraduates; those who go on to graduate school feel they have been granted a running start.

And of course, the very real skills students develop in archaeology, lab analysis, surveying, observation and more prepare them for a range of careers. Above all, they develop the confidence to think of themselves as anthropologists, with a solid foundation and real work behind them they look ahead excited about a future in their field.


Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award

Professor Judith Poë

Professor Judith Poë of U of T Mississauga’s Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences has given more than 45 years of extraordinary service to the University of Toronto and to chemistry education in Canada.

The breadth of her service work is remarkable. She has served on committees and councils, helped negotiate and shape policies, advised faculty and staff developing new programs, sat on editorial boards, and volunteered for various national and provincial groups that promote her twin passions: chemistry and teaching.

In 1996, she chaired the Teaching Stream Committee of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, where she co-wrote a new policy for Teaching Stream faculty appointments – a policy that created a genuine career path for the Teaching Stream and which has helped elevate the University’s classroom excellence in recent years, by improving the consistency and quality of instruction. This hiring model has since been adopted by universities across Canada.

Other outstanding work includes her service in 2000 to 2001, on the Task Force on Intellectual Property which wrote the University’s policy on copyright. She was also a member of the Ontario Disabilities Act Planning Committee from 2003 to 2009, a project that helped make the university more inclusive. As Vice–President, Grievances of the Faculty Association she helped to forge a collegial relationship between the UTFA and the U of T administration.

Professor Poë’s extraordinary list of accomplishments also includes a time as Associate Chair of her department, another as President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, 15 years of service on the editorial board of the Journal of Science Education and Technology and volunteer work with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. She has served on the Academic Board and as Chair of the Erindale College Council and currently sits on UTM’s Campus Council and chairs its Academic Affairs Committee.

Professor Elizabeth M. Smyth

In more than 25 years at the University of Toronto, Professor Elizabeth M. Smyth (EdD 1990) has served on an astounding array of committees including the University’s Governing Council. She currently serves as Vice-Dean, Programs at the School of Graduate Studies.

Professor Smyth joined the University in 1988 as a tutor at University of Toronto Schools, and became a faculty member at OISE the next year. Early on she began taking on volunteer roles at U of T, such as serving on the National Scholars Selection Committee. Since then she has served as Chair for the OISE/UT Admissions, Award and Program Committee, Associate Chair of the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and Acting Director for the Initial Teacher Education Program. She has also participated on OISE’s Committee on Governance and the Special Joint Advisory Committee on Tenure and Promotion, as well as serving as Vice-Chair to the Faculty Council at OISE.

Currently, Professor Smyth is in her eighth year as an elected member of U of T’s Governing Council. She has demonstrated leadership in University governance, chairing the Committee on Academic Policy and Programs and serving on the 2012 Presidential Search Committee that recommended Meric Gertler for U of T’s presidency. She also has served on multiple Governing Council committees, including the Executive Committee, the Committee for Honorary Degrees, the Academic Board and Academic Appeals Committee, and the President's Advisory Committee for several senior appointments.

As Vice-Dean, Programs at the School of Graduate Studies, Professor Smyth represents the School on multiple external committees as well as several task forces across the University, including the Engineering Education Task Force and the Medicine Task Force on Graduate Education. She also served as Acting Director at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.


Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award

Richard Chambers

Under the leadership of Richard Chambers (MDiv 1986), U of T’s Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice has become a vibrant hub where students enjoy deeply enriching learning experiences with their peers from diverse religious backgrounds.

The Centre connects and supports the approximately 100 religious communities on campus. Programming is offered for students of every faith and of no faith as well as for students exploring the intersection of faith and LGBTQ, gender or racialized identities. It offers mindfulness meditation, art space, social justice programs and space for worship. Its mission is to help students explore ways to live lives of meaning and purpose.

Chambers ensures programming is student-led, so that students feel valued and an integral part of the University community. He frequently organizes programming around social justice issues that are not exclusive to any particular faith. Since most students are deeply interested in making a difference for good in the world, he says, the focus on social justice issues launches every interaction on a common ground and promotes mutual understanding. He also acknowledges his terrific team at the Centre, each bringing their own individual strengths and complementary skills that support the diverse programming offered.

Chambers is catalyst for positive relationship-building across campus, say his colleagues. He has the gift of helping students turn community work into learning experiences, and is often the first to reach out when tragedies strike, for example when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013 or when terrorists attacked Paris in 2015, to offer support and resources to grieving students. They praise the atmosphere of trust he has created at the Centre, which diffuses potential tensions and brings people together.

Chambers is also Secretary of the Campus Chaplain’s Association and a teacher with the Religious Diversity Youth Leadership Project’s certificate program. Several other Canadian universities have consulted with him to plan their own religious engagement offerings, and he presents frequently on tolerance, diversity and anti-discrimination initiatives across Canada and the US. He served on the executive of the United Church of Canada for many years, where he developed youth programs, as well as social justice programs in cooperation with First Nations communities.


Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award

Arlene Clement

The initiatives that Arlene Clement (BA 1996 St. Michael’s), Director of Housing Services, has spearheaded have made it much easier for students to register for residence, pay their bills, and even have reduced exam stress.

As recently as 2008, students applied separately to up to 12 different residences if they wanted to be considered for all of them. Clement pulled together a cross-University team with representatives from IT, housing and the various residences to create an easy-to-use, centralized single application method. MyRes is a gateway linked to ROSI that guides students through a one-stop residence application process, lets them pay deposits online and provides updates on their residence application status.

It also enables the collection of demographic data that the University has already used to determine future housing demand and to assess the need for building new residences.

Clement also spearheaded a long-term plan for a single residence management system across the three campuses (StarRez), and the automation of residence fees from that system to Student Accounts to further support a more consistent, easy-to-use process for all students applying for residence. Student ID photographs don’t fall under the Housing brief; however, Clement proactively stepped forward to lead a project to create a secure central repository for official student photos, so that students no longer have to have their photos taken multiple times. This also allows faculty members to access class composites. She is currently working with the NGSIS team to build an exam invigilation tool that will enable proctors to check for forged photos and track attendance, and will allow students who have forgotten their ID to write exams without stress.

Clement has worked at the University since 1997, for most of that time in the division of Student Life, where she has also managed the Health and Wellness Centre. She has a Master’s Degree in Education, completed certificates in conflict resolution, violence prevention and suicide intervention, and finds time to volunteer on the board of a United Way agency and sing in a choir. Her colleagues say she is regularly approached to manage big, complex projects; they also praise her ability to successfully build relationships with disparate teams across the university.

Holly Luffman

Holly Luffman (BA 1994 UC, MA 2008), interim director of students at U of T’s Centre for International Experience, has been travelling the world for more than 20 years, and she deeply understands how valuable the experience is in promoting a better understanding of oneself and others, developing resilience and the ability to deal with life’s challenges.

As interim director of the Centre, she works to fulfill the three aspects of its mission: helping Canadian students travel for work and study, helping international students at U of T locate resources and community in Toronto, and connecting the two groups together to learn from each other.

Luffman has also led the Safety Abroad program at the Centre since 2002. She provides students who have work and study positions abroad with proactive education and resources about safe travel and the culture of the place they will visit. Though the goal is to avoid risk and prevent trouble, she is also there to help students when the unexpected occurs. For example, she promptly located U of T students after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the 2015 Paris terror attacks, helping them get home and arranging for memorial services as well as coordinating community support for students here affected by the disasters.

She founded the Centre’s Intercultural Learning Program in which international students share with Canadian students in workshops that include intercultural theory sessions, experiential activities, reflection sessions and a meeting with a First Nations Elder. The basic model of the program recognizes that each person in the room brings their own strengths and experiences thereby modeling global citizenship in action.

Her colleagues praise her innovative workshops along with her other achievements. Her efforts have doubled enrolment in the Step Up Initiative, which generates opportunities for international students new to the University to make friends and become community involved, and the students she has helped speak movingly of her compassion, respect and understanding.


Chancellor's Award – Emerging Leader

Kristina Minnella

In just over two years as Coordinator, Co-Curricular Learning at U of T’s Centre for Community Partnerships, Kristina Minnella (BA 2007 UC) has organized dozens of quality learning opportunities for students that also foster an excellent relationship between University and city.

Minnella’s success in her job comes from keeping collaboration firmly in mind. The Centre’s goal is to facilitate community engaged learning, which falls halfway between an internship and a volunteer gig – a collaboration where both the student and the community group benefit. To make sure students have a good learning experience, she ensures they get training before they start on a project and take time afterwards to think about what they have learned.

For example, students in a new Youth Mentorship Program act as role models for middle school children who have trouble picturing themselves as going on to higher education. The eight weeks the U of T students spend organizing activities for their young mentees and introducing them to the University are book-ended by training and debriefing sessions. Or doctoral students learn about the place of community engaged learning in pedagogy, then practice their new skills in a community volunteer project.

Minnella has formed a Campus-wide Elections committee, founded a Student and Alumni Advisory Council for the Centre, created two-day leadership retreat, introduced blog posts by student leaders and revived the Centre’s social media accounts, doubling newsletter subscribers. An active volunteer herself, she also practices what she teaches in serving with the student-led Toronto anti-bullying initiative Peace by PEACE, her church, the Student Life Professionals network and various university committees.

The retention rate of volunteer leaders at the Centre has never been higher, say colleagues, thanks to Minnella’s inclusive approach and generous mentoring of the students she works with. They praise her efforts to attend meetings across the university so she can understand her students better and learn from colleagues. And they look forward to what she will achieve in the future.


Chancellor's Award – Influential Leader

Tad Brown

Tad Brown, the University's Counsel, Business Affairs and Advancement, has been an inspiring U of T leader for 20 years. His chief role is to negotiate the significant philanthropic donations that play such a large part in supporting the University's mission. Over the span of his career, Tad has been directly involved in the completion of major gifts that have provided well over a billion dollars in support of the University’s academic priorities including the $25-million gift to create the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the $130-million donation to establish the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, and many more.

Brown began his career practicing tax, trust and corporate law at the Bay Street firm McMillan Binch before joining the University in 1996. He also volunteers generously in his field: he has served on the executive committee for the Ontario Bar Association’s charity and not-for-profit section, chaired the National Government Relations committee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, served as Chair of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Ontario Division and sat on the Minister of National Revenue’s Charity Advisory Committee. He also served for eight years as a Chair of the University’s Academic Appeals Committee.

Brown has worked on many important University gifts and campaigns. His inaugural file in 1996 was to help negotiate the naming of the Rotman School of Management, the first named faculty at the University. He has also been centrally involved in the $1-billion Great Minds Campaign and the current $2-billion Boundless Campaign, renegotiated the Alumni Association agreement in a way where both parties felt the deal was improved, and helped create the Provost’s Guidelines on Donations. Since implementation of these guidelines, U of T has consistently been among the nation’s top fundraisers of philanthropic dollars and is often cited as the exemplar of how to protect academic freedom. He has also been central in many of the University’s innovative matching initiatives, such as the Boundless Promise Program.

Brown’s colleagues praise his professionalism, judgment, values and empathy. All have stood him in good stead in his other achievements as well: streamlining departmental processes, forging relationships with alumni groups around the world, representing the University on freedom of information and privacy matters, managing the University affinity relationships and providing institutional oversight in the areas of gift planning and corporate and foundation relations.


UTAA Graduate Scholars

Mena Abdel-Nour

A third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP), Mena Abdel-Nour (BSc 2011 UTSC, MSc 2013) is a star student with a bright future in research, and a leader in departmental student life. His intriguing, cutting-edge work focuses on the therapeutic potential of immune responses to bacterial infection, with the goal of finding a replacement for antibiotics.

Abdel-Nour, who holds an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, has identified two enzymes that work to sense stress in cells. This discovery has exciting implications, say his professors: it may shed light on many neurodegenerative disorders in addition to its potential for fighting bacterial disease. He has published a first-author review on this work in Immunology and Cell Biology, as well as publishing his master’s research and presenting at several conferences. His supervisors speak enthusiastically about his research productivity and the high-quality experimental data he is generating.

Abdel-Nour has taken an active role in student governance. As president of the 180-member strong Confederation of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Students, he created a new award honouring community outreach, led the organization of the 2015 LMP Graduate Student Conference, designed and launched an information-sharing portal for LMP students, organized an alumni networking event and worked with colleagues on Canada’s first ally blood donation drive, where people donate on behalf of gay men who are not eligible to give blood themselves.

He has also served as a Graduate Student Ambassador for the Faculty of Medicine and volunteered for the University’s Peer Mentorship Program, organizing a panel on issues that affect science students, such as funding and pressure to publish. He is an infectious disease specialist for Sci Chat, an outreach group, and also finds time for community work, having raised more than $1,000 for an Out of the Cold campaign in 2013-2014.

Abdel-Nour’s professors praise his insight, curiosity, precision, collaborative skills and work ethic, and they are confident that he is on his way to a fruitful academic career. He plans to become a policy-maker, promoting public education as one of our most effective weapons against infectious disease.

Liza Futerman

As a cultural critic at the Centre for Comparative Literature, second-year PhD candidate Liza Futerman’s approach to Alzheimer’s disease is unique: she sees it as a cultural phenomenon as much as a medical state. Through her interdisciplinary research and practical outreach efforts, she aims to challenge the default assumption that living with Alzheimer’s disease is a tragedy, and to improve the lives of families living with dementia through promoting more constructive language in policy and educational materials.

Futerman’s scholarly work touches not only on literature, but also medicine, photography, social work and psychology. She also is working six months ahead of the normal grad student schedule, say her professors.

In her first year at U of T, Futerman launched the MemoryLoss interdisciplinary research group at Wilfrid Laurier University, an effort which led to a speaker series and an interdisciplinary conference, which she chaired in 2015, MemoryShift. She is editing a forthcoming book which collects the group’s research. She is now co-organizing an Alzheimer’s disease conference in Israel that will hopefully lead to the implementation of Israeli national dementia strategy and the opening of additional Alzheimer’s Association branches across the country. Futerman has also presented at an extraordinary number of conferences across Canada, the USA, Israel and Europe. As a research assistant at Baycrest Health Sciences hospital, she is working with a music therapist to test how singing is helpful in palliative care, and she is co-producer of a forthcoming documentary film on memory and identity among immigrants to Toronto.

Futerman puts her findings into action: she is designing a course that will examine Alzheimer’s as a case study to challenge our worldviews. She hopes to create an improvisation workshop for people with dementia and their caregivers and while aspiring towards the creation of the workshop, she has founded (and is now developing in partnership with TAGlab) a website,, that offers ways to help caregivers and people with dementia engage meaningfully through arts. She sits on the Jackman Humanities Institute’s working groups Playing Age, Neurocultures, and Humour, Siriously; represented the Centre at the Graduate Students’ Union and founded the U of T Connaught and Vanier Scholars community group. And she finds time to volunteer with the Centre for Jewish Studies, the Toronto Sustainable Food Co-op, Women’s College Hospital and Hart House Theatre.

Futerman’s professors praise her creativity, energy, intellectual perceptiveness and above all her originality, and are excited about how her work promises to break new ground. She plans an academic career in the medical humanities field.

Ekaterina Turlova

Outstanding academic excellence and a deep involvement in community outreach are the hallmarks of Ekaterina Turlova (BSc 2011 Victoria), a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Collaborative Program in Neuroscience. Her superb communication skills, inquisitiveness and analytical ability are launching her on a promising research career, according to her professors and supervisors.

Turlova has already published 10 peer-reviewed articles, including two as first author, and has presented 17 talks and posters at conferences in Canada and Brazil. She has developed her own experimental model for her work on understanding how ion channels contribute to neuronal development as well as their role in disease, particularly neonatal stroke due to oxygen deprivation. She has already made a new discovery, linking a specific protein blocker to axon growth.

In addition to working as a TA in the Department of Physiology, Turlova mentors undergraduate and junior graduate students in the lab and supervises undergraduate research projects. The undergraduate mentorship program she established for the Collaborative Program in Neuroscience offers shadowing opportunities and career workshops.

She co-chaired the Collaborative Program’s Research Day in 2015, organizing a one-day conference with 300 participants from 15 U of T departments. She has also been a project leader for Alternative Reading Week since 2013, volunteers for the Graduate Association of Students in Physiology and works with the Peers Are Here group that supports graduate students with mental health issues. She teaches basic neuroscience to high school students through the NeuroSci 101 program, and is a judge and organizer for the Toronto Annual Brain Bee competition, a neuroscience competition for high school students. She plays intramural field hockey, lacrosse and soccer.

Turlova has won numerous awards, including a Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship from CIHR, two Ontario Graduate Scholarships, the Margaret and Howard Gamble Research Grant, the Hilda and William Courtney Clayton Paediatric Research Fund, the Mary Gertrude l’Anson Scholarship and the Dr. Joe A. Connolly Memorial Award. Her goal is a research career with a focus on creating meaningful learning opportunities.


Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award

Chizoba Imoka

Chizoba Imoka, a doctoral student at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, has ambitions to change Nigeria’s school curriculum, which is currently based on Western knowledge systems, and does not take into account indigenous knowledge(s), the socio-political context and the history of Africa. She sees the need for the country’s education system to become culturally relevant, reflective and responsive to the democratic aspirations of Nigerians as the first necessary step in a wider social reform. This, for her, is one way to provide young Nigerians with the context and feeling of engagement they need to tackle inequalities and socio-economic difficulties. “I think this education reform that I’m pushing for would contribute to the democratic transformation of the country.” she says.

Imoka’s scholarship and leadership on this issue has already been impressive. In 2006, she founded Unveiling Africa, a non-governmental organization that provides a platform for African youth to effect change through civic engagement, political advocacy and community service. Her work won her the Selfless Hero Award in 2013 from the nonprofit Selfless4Africa. In 2012, she was also nominated for the Nigerian Future Awards.

Imoka wrote her U of T master’s thesis on the successful African-centered curriculum used at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. Her current professors praise not just her passion and determination to tackle big, important issues, but her ability to think clearly and critically and understand alternate points of view.

At U of T, Imoka served on OISE’s Comparative International Development Education Student Association and is a Junior Fellow at Massey College where she is the co-chair of the Diversity Committee. Imoka has provided leadership for diversity efforts at Massey College since April 2014. Among its mandates, the committee works to create more inclusive admission policies and programs at the College, and has paved the way for Massey’s first Black History Month celebration among other achievements. She also founded Massey’s International Development Symposium, which has opened the college up for critical engagement on international development and Canadian foreign policy issues. In January, Imoka received Massey College’s highest honor, the Clarkson Laureate in Public Service, for her work with Unveiling Africa and for her pivotal role in promoting diversity at the College.

Outside the University, Imoka is helping design a civics curriculum for youth at the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Civic Participation. Last summer, she organized a conference; Advocacy for Inclusive Education Summit in Nigeria, whose recommendation to make the education system more student-centered, reflective of the social diversity of the country and include Nigerian history in school curricula was presented to Nigeria’s Ministry of Education.

For her doctoral research, Imoka is developing a framework that Nigerian schools could use to become more inclusive of social differences amongst students while enabling all students to become culturally competent, democratically engaged and to pursue their passion. After she graduates, she plans to continue pushing for reform using the network she’s developed as a researcher and community mobilizer. Her goals are to create a research institute for the study of African educational systems, and to establish a teachers’ training college in Nigeria. These projects will have their basis in an African-centered educational framework, and the principles of inclusion, social justice, and equity.


UTAA Scholars

Connor Anear

A strong ethical compass has pointed Connor Anear, a fourth-year student at Trinity College, to undertake an extraordinary body of volunteer work in student government and the social justice arena. Academically outstanding, Anear has made the Trinity College Dean’s List and won the Chancellor’s Scholarship each year. He is completing a double major in Ethics, Society & Law and Criminology, with an additional minor in Psychology.

Anear came to the University of Toronto on a Loran Scholarship. An experience in high school, where he researched a mental health strategy for a provincial court, set him on his current path to work through law to create a more equitable society. He has been an integral part of recent equity and diversity reforms in the Trinity College student government, where he took the lead in developing a comprehensive survey to generate useful data that is already driving change.

He has served as Trinity’s Male Head of College as well as on the college’s Senate and Board of Trustees, where he worked on Trinity’s new strategic plan and mental health and wellness initiatives. He is a volunteer tutor and mentor at the St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club and has worked for the charities Right to Play and Lawyers Feed the Hungry. Through Soccer Without Borders, he spent a summer teaching and coaching urban refugee children in Kampala, Uganda. He spent another summer researching and developing systemic advocacy initiatives for a community legal services clinic in his hometown of Saskatoon. He has played trumpet in both the Hart House Symphonic Band and the Hart House Orchestra, and plays intramural soccer for Trinity.

Anear’s professors praise his sophisticated legal thinking and intellectual rigour. In his third year, he published a paper on the effect of the absence of Aboriginal jurors in trials of Aboriginal accused persons in the University of Toronto Undergraduate Criminology Review; the following year he joined the journal as senior editor. He has also been editor of U of T undergrad ethics journal Mindful. Anear will be returning home to Saskatoon in September to pursue a JD at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law.

Jordana Lowe

Jordana Lowe, a fourth-year honours student at Woodsworth College pursuing a double major in Physiology and Molecular Genetics, is an outstanding Dean’s list scholar in the top three per cent of her class. She is highly engaged in an impressive variety of extracurricular programs and plans to continue contributing to and advocating for an equitable health care system by being a researcher and medical practitioner in service of the least fortunate.

Lowe has devoted more time to research than most undergraduates. She has won grants from NSERC and U of T’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program that allowed her to work full-time in labs within the departments of Physiology and Molecular Genetics. Her supervisors praise her maturity, skill and thoughtfulness. As a member of the research team of Dr. Mikko Taipale and past team member of Dr. Brain Cox she has investigated liver cancer pathogenesis, evolutionary placental gene network co-option and trophoblast stem cell gene networks. Her work has been presented internationally at conferences, poster fairs, published in the journal Placenta , and continues to be studied.

Lowe has mentored her peers and served the broader community through countless programs and organizations including Woodsworth College’s E-mentorship program, Woodworth College’s First-year Mentorship program, ASSU’s high school tutoring program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, SickKids hospital and U of T’s nonprofit Sol Music where Lowe teaches piano to students from low-income families. She has also served as the undergraduate representative on student governance and Faculty of Arts and Science committees. True to her commitment to equitable access to health care, she has volunteered in the Dominican Republic and Uganda to break down health-care barriers and has shadowed workers at a Toronto Community Health Centre serving vulnerable populations. She raises funds and organizes events as both International Services Director of the service club Rotaract and as campus representative for Friends of Médicins Sans Frontières.

Lowe's professors praise her passion, curiosity and sincere desire to help others, and have confidence she will succeed in her goals.

Pamela Ng

A musician, scientist, artist, athlete and social activist – fourth-year Victoria College student Pamela Ng is an outstanding student researcher determined to contribute significantly to the public health field. A double major in Nutritional Sciences and Psychology, minor Physiology, she is an award-winning scholar who has also assumed several impressive leadership roles in multiple volunteer activities.

A Dean’s List student and Arbor Scholar, Ng has won multiple scholarships, including the Anna Howe Reeve Prize in Nutritional Sciences, the University of Toronto Arts Engagement Award and the Dr. Lorus Milne and Dr. Margery Milne Research Award. She has worked in two U of T labs as a research assistant; working on a study of the links between physical activity and hereditary breast cancer prevention and on another on neural plasticity. In addition, she is currently developing preventive and psychosocial educational materials for women at high risk of breast cancer for her independent research project. Her supervisors say Ng’s resourcefulness has helped her excel in research. They praise her critical thinking and balanced perspective, and the interpersonal skills that mean she draws together interdisciplinary groups very successfully.

Ng has also put these skills to good use in her extracurricular endeavours. Instrumental in the development of U of T’s Musical Minds Community Outreach program since her first year, she serves as Executive Director and piano teacher. She leads 20 youth volunteer instructors in providing accessible music education and mentorship to children from low-income communities in partnership with various city service organizations. An enthusiastic public speaker, she has helped raised over $150,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society, leading organizing committees of Relay for Life events (she also founded Relay for Life’s U of T chapter), and has served as an executive of Vic for Cure, a campus group that organizes blood donation and cancer awareness campaigns. Ng is a half-marathon runner, has played competitive soccer and still participates in intramural soccer. Her artwork has been shown at Hart House.

She plans to pursue a medical degree, a master’s in public health and another degree in education. Her ultimate goal is to become a community or pediatric physician to complement work in health policy development – with a special focus on preventive care and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Seth Watt

As a transgender scientist contributing to research on transgenderism, Seth Watt, a final-year student in the Neuroscience Specialist Program at St. Michael’s College, is pioneering a new field. Not only is his research important, but his efforts are giving trans people a voice in the medical definitions and policies that determine health-care resources.

Watt’s passion for equity and for scientific understanding of the psychology of gender diversity have driven extraordinary efforts to conduct original research while still an undergraduate. As a first-year student, he volunteered in a U of T research lab where he suggested his own project: a study of how perceptions of masculinity intersect with quality of life in members of the transgender community. His findings are currently being prepared for submission to academic journals. He went on to work as a research assistant in a second Department of Psychology lab, where he again proposed original research for his undergraduate thesis on the effects of testosterone treatment on cognition in transgender men. His supervisors say he works at the level of a graduate student. He is a Dean’s List scholar with a near-perfect GPA and a winner of several awards for academic excellence, including the St. Michael’s College In-Course Scholarship and the U of T Faculty of Association Tuition Award.

A dedicated volunteer, Watt has shared generously of both his research and his personal experience. He has served as a consultant on high school programs for trans youth and spoken at conferences and public events. He volunteers at U of T’s Centre for Women and Trans People, where he has helped launch a support program for transgender men undergoing transition. In addition, he serves on the executive of the Hart House Singers, as well as singing in the choir. He is also a 2016 recipient of the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award acknowledging his outstanding extra-curricular contributions across the University.

Professors and colleagues say Watt has already helped them identify gaps in transgender scholarship – and begin new projects in this still understudied field. They universally praise his keen insight and originality as well as academic rigour and scholarship. Watt is currently applying to Cambridge University with the goal of completing an MPhil degree in Computational Biology.


John H. Moss Scholarship

Theodora Bruun

Theodora Bruun, a final-year Victoria University student majoring in chemistry and human biology, has conducted multiple impressive research projects in biochemistry, ethics and genetics. Equally impressive are her accomplishments beyond academics – she is also an athlete, student journalist, committed volunteer and linguist fluent in Bulgarian and Swedish – and she’s minoring in Italian.

Bruun’s wide array of extracurricular activities include volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic, helping run a music lessons program for children from low-income families, serving as program coordinator for a health literacy charity, Health Out Loud, and mentoring first-year students through Victoria College Capstone Mentorship Colloquium. She was vice-president of Victoria College International Student’s Association, and has been editor or co-editor of two new student journals: U of T International Health Program and a neuroscience magazine, The Interneuron. A Varsity rugby athlete in her first year, she has also competed provincially in artistic gymnastics.

Exploring both the arts and the sciences is important to Bruun, who is passionate about breaking down barriers between walled gardens of thought. Her multi-dimensionality and her love of learning have helped her become a curious and creative researcher, say her professors – one who is able to drill down to asking important questions in a way that will bring out useful data. In addition to completing research projects in ethics (on environmental issues), organic chemistry (on dual metal catalyzed reactions) and genetics (on sequencing the exomes of newborn babies to identify brain diseases), she has also co-authored two chemistry and one medical science papers (in press) and won multiple awards for conference presentations. All of this while maintaining a stellar GPA.

Bruun has just been accepted to an MSc program at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, where she will use her Moss scholarship to study biochemistry. She plans to then earn a PhD or a joint MD/PhD, either in biochemistry, genetics or some other aspect of biological research.

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