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December 19, 2023 | Alumni

Alumni who crushed it in 2023

Alumni who crushed it in 2023

Clockwise from top left: Rhona McEwen, Kelly Lepo, Alicia Corbiere, Tina Singh, Taufik Valiante and Kokichi Kusano. Photos by Minh Truong, Johnny Guatto, Krembil Brain Institute and Gak Tanaka.

U of T alumni, you are impressive. You’ve used your brains, compassion and creativity to solve problems, spread knowledge, champion inclusion and achieve remarkable things this year.

You’ve created art that helps us better understand the world and ourselves – like Kokichi Kusano (BA 2005 WDW), whose latest theatrical work adapts Japanese traditions for the modern stage. You’ve made the world more inclusive through innovation – like Tina Singh (MSc 2007), who created a sports helmet for Sikh kids. And you’re helping countless people with your scientific ingenuity – like Taufik Valiante (BSc 1998 UC, PhD 1995, MD 1997), who’s been researching the connection between music and epilepsy with amazing results.

So congrats, U of T alumni. You crushed it in 2023!

Jump to: The innovatorsThe creatorsThe championsThe trailblazersThe academic achievers


The innovators

Photo of little kid wearing Tina Singh's helmet.
Photo courtesy of Tina Singh

The occupational therapist who created an innovative helmet for Sikh kids 

Tina Singh (MSc 2007) had long felt frustrated when trying to find helmets that would fit properly over her three sons’ patkas, or traditional Sikh head coverings. So, she took matters into her own hands. Drawing on her occupational therapy background, she created a helmet that could perfectly accommodate a Sikh child’s hair. 

Read about more innovators who crushed it: 


The creators

Photo from the theatrical and musical work NA.
Photo by Gak Tanaka

The musical playwright who created a spectacular tale of 13th-century Japan 

Kokichi Kusano (BA 2005 WDW) debuted his theatrical and musical work NAE, which translates to “The Rice Seedling,” in Toronto this year. Using elements of traditional Japanese theatre, music and art to tell a story of life in Japan during a 13th-century famine, Kusano’s work was partly inspired by his studies in the Faculty of Arts & Science. 

Read about more creative sparks who crushed it: 


The champions

Photo of professor Rhonda McEwen’s with puppet.
Photo by Minh Truong

The professor who helped create the first Sesame Street muppet on the autism spectrum 

It was Rhonda McEwen’s (PhD 2010) research on touchscreen technology for children on the autism spectrum that initially caught the eye of the folks at Sesame Street Workshop – and soon after that, the president and vice-chancellor of Victoria University was helping to create the first Sesame Street Muppet on the autism spectrum, a red-haired girl named Julia.  

Read about more alumni who crushed it while championing inclusion: 


The trailblazers

Photo of Kelly Lepo.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Lepo

The ‘real-life Lisa Simpson’ who blows your mind with nerdy space discoveries

Kelly Lepo (PhD 2015) likes to joke that she’s a real-life Lisa Simpson – a self-proclaimed nerd who shares her love of science with anyone who will listen. As an education and outreach scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Lepo supports the James Webb Space Telescope by communicating the observatory’s mind-blowing discoveries to the world.  

Read about more alumni who crushed it in science and health: 


The academic achievers

Photo of Alicia Corbiere
Photo by Johnny Guatto

The Indigenous studies major who reclaimed her culture, her language and her power 

Growing up, Alicia Corbiere (BA 2023) says her mother would pull her out of school for first-hand history lessons through her work as a lawyer and executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Now, after graduating with a double major in criminology and Indigenous studies, Corbiere is all set to build on her family’s legal legacy.  

Read about more alumni who grew, learned and achieved big things: