December 19, 2023 | Alumni
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!
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 neurosurgeon who reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures through music
- The musician who turns houseplants into instruments
- The entrepreneur who turned her love of kimchi into a thriving business in Pakistan
- The new grad whose startup can tell if AI wrote that report
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 fan who wrote a book about Toronto Raptors’ community impact
- The author-illustrator who’s revolutionizing children’s literature
- The neurologist who writes powerful and moving plays
- The writer who won two awards for his debut memoir—and touched readers deeply
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 professor making sure sports events run ethically and protect children
- The litigator who wins landmark cases for the 2SLGBTQI+ community
- The blockchain entrepreneurs helping Ukrainian refugees securely store their documents
- The twin activists who founded a nonprofit to help girls stay in school past Grade 5
- The hit TV producer challenging stereotypes of Muslim women
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 award-winning neuroscience grad who’s generating knowledge about rare diseases
- The Star Trek fan who prepared Canadarm3 for lunar orbit
- The social worker who helps women navigate cancer recovery in their own language
- The curriculum writer who brings emotional learning to our schools
- The activist-educator who creates spaces where equity, mental health and music thrive
The academic achievers
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:
- The Olympic hockey player who became Varsity Blues’ winningest coach
- The award-winning, Oxford-bound climatology student who started university at 13
- The engineer who just earned a degree in history and classics…aged 76