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March 12, 2018 | Volunteer & Awards

Celebrating the Winners of the 2018 U of T Awards of Excellence

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The University of Toronto is an amazing place: a global leader in research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the home of extraordinarily talented students. The achievements of our researchers and students are supported by a culture of excellence, where outstanding leaders show what we can achieve when we set ourselves ambitious goals and pull together to achieve them.

To recognize the leaders of this culture of excellence, each year the University community presents the prestigious Awards of Excellence to outstanding faculty, staff and students who exemplify a commitment to high achievements and to enhancing the University experience for their peers.

The teachers, scholars and students who received 2018 Awards of Excellence are demonstrating what it means to be an engaged global citizen. They have championed ethical choices for end-of-life care, spearheaded the creation of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, and envisioned the successful first-year One programs. Many recipients are alumni--former students who have come back to the University to teach, serve or obtain advanced degrees.

Faculty winners

Aisha Ahmad

Aisha Ahmad (BA 2002 TRIN, MA 2003): Northrop Frye Award (Faculty)

Aisha Ahmad, a professor in the Department of Political Science at U of T Scarborough, wins the Northrop Frye Award, given to faculty members whose curriculum innovations enhance the student experience. She is an award-winning scholar of political Islam and international security, and she is deeply committed to helping students become engaged international citizens. Ahmad organizes extra-curricular learning opportunities ranging from lunches connecting students with mentors to events helping students grapple with rising anti-Muslim rhetoric, such as a debriefing session after the 2016 American election. Students love her methods for teaching how to read and analyze scientific research, and the engaging classroom exercises she uses to bring political theory to life.


Jason Foster: Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award

Jason Foster is a professor in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering’s teaching stream. As the creator of the Praxis courses for first-year students, he has helped U of T’s student engineers get involved in civic design projects with real-world impact. Praxis students have helped Toronto communities solve challenges from improving school safety to responding to art gallery visitor feedback. Foster ensures students have the opportunity to showcase their solutions at a public event, where they often receive media coverage. In addition, he has developed several key design courses, created new teaching software to encourage student feedback and founded a group for the faculty’s design instructors.


Andreas Laupacis: Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award

Andreas Laupacis’s research has changed government policy, expanded the clinical vocabulary and engaged the public. A professor in the Department of Medicine, he is also the executive director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. Laupacis pioneered the now-standard practice of using cost-effectiveness studies to make health-care decisions. He also introduced the “number needed to treat,” now common language among clinical epidemiologists describing how to protect public health during serious disease outbreaks. His websites, Healthy Debate and Faces of Health Care, are helping to educate the Canadian public on health policy. He is an advocate for patient voices and a much-respected mentor. Laupacis is also a 2018 recipient of the President’s Impact Award for his research in health services and public policy.


Neil Nevitte: Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize

A professor of comparative politics, Neil Nevitte is an expert in democracy and a top international advisor on effective election observation. Nevitte has served as an observer in more than 50 elections in more than 25 countries. Some countries tried to show observers sham polls with actors casting fake ballots. To detect such frauds, he created a quick yet effective method of comparing on-the-ground voting to final results that is now an international standard. Despite the risks—his overseas offices have been raided and targeted with rockets—Nevitte has expanded his work, developing ways to measure human rights dimensions of the electoral process, such as whether minority groups are actually able to cast ballots.


Robert  Vipond (BA 1975, MA 1977): Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award

This year, the Goel Award honours  Robert Vipond for distinguished University leadership in multiple capacities. An outstanding chair of the Department of Political Science, Vipond built a magnetic, collegiate culture and quadrupled student enrolment. He grew the Centre for the Study of the United States into a vibrant academic unit with expanded course offerings and events. He has championed interdisciplinary studies, from the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies to the Centre for Ethics. He led the development of two signature graduate degrees at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Raising nearly $7 million, Vipond helped the University attract top scholars in areas from geophysics to Asia-Pacific studies. One of his most significant legacies is the creation of a radical first-year course he developed for Victoria College in 1987 that formed the basis for the highly successful One program, now used in colleges and faculties across the University.



The Chancellor’s Awards honour outstanding contributions by U of T staff members – both emerging leaders early in their careers and influential leaders who have an extensive track record of achievement in senior positions. This year, there are four winners.

David Kim

David Kim (BSc 2001 Innis, BEd 2004, MEd 2010): Chancellor’s Award (Emerging)

David Kim is the Dean of Chestnut Residence, where he looks after the well-being of more than 1,000 students. Their testimonials praise him as an adaptable, inspirational leader who treats everyone with dignity and kindness. Kim built connections across academic divisions, enabling him to link his students quickly with support and resources. He initiated professional development programs for residence staff and has been a calm, professional public face for the University during community discussions about planned new residences. Kim also chairs the positive space committee, speaks at professional development workshops, and mentors students and alumni He is also a doctoral candidate at OISE.


Tayyab Rashid: Chancellor’s Award (Emerging)

Tayyab Rashid is a clinical psychologist in the Health & Wellness Centre at U of T Scarborough, and an associate faculty member in the Graduate Department of Psychological Clinical Science. A champion of strength-based mental health treatments, he views patients as resilient and resourceful. He took the lead in co-ordinating five different student services offices to create Flourish, a mental health program that has helped more than 3,000 students tap into their resilience and well-being since its founding in 2012. Five Greater Toronto Area high schools and one hospital participate in the program. Rashid is also co-chair of the National Campus Mental Health Community of Practice and serves on UTSC’s Campus Council.


Andrew Arifuzzaman (MBA 2008): Chancellor’s Award (Influential)

As Chief Administrative and Strategy Officer, U of T Scarborough, Andrew Arifuzzaman oversees everything from physical structures to finances. In his 10 years at UTSC, he has taken the lead on countless transformative projects, chief among them the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. He negotiated partnerships with municipal, provincial and federal governments while helping to raise funds and generate community enthusiasm. He also led UTSC in developing campus infrastructure and strategic plans, and in building projects (the Instructional Centre, the Environmental Science and Chemistry Building, Highland Hall) notable for innovative funding and environmentally sensitive construction. Arifuzzaman is a champion of community partnerships, including UTSC’s agreements with neighbouring businesses, health centres, and Rouge National Urban Park.


Erin Jackson: Chancellor’s Award (Influential)

Since May 2017, Erin Jackson has been U of T’s first Chief Human Resources Officer. But she has been a leader in HR & Equity for more than 15 years serving as a key member of the team that fulfills the University’s vision of diversity, inclusion and work-life balance, and that saw U of T named one of the top 100 employers in Canada for more than 10 years in a row. Jackson is a champion of innovation. She has launched new professional training for her team, developed a model to investigate workplace harassment complaints, established an analytics unit to make better use of data in HR decisions and supported employment equity initiatives.


Steve Bailey: Northrop Frye Award (Staff)

As Director, Academic and Campus Events since 2001, Steve Bailey ensures a quality learning environment for U of T students. The Frye Award recognizes his outstanding efforts managing engaging events in appropriate spaces. From Orientation to Convocation to community events such as Nuit Blanche, Bailey champions the University's ability to offer a wide range of engaging academic and extracurricular experiences. He offers accommodations to support students with disabilities in writing exams. He ensures the University can fulfill its commitment to free speech while keeping activists and protesters safe. He supports new classroom technologies, oversees complex conference schedules, and hires and mentors about 40 students each year.


The Matus Award celebrates U of T staff members who profoundly improve student life on campus. This year, there are two winners.

Liza Nassim: Jill Matus Award for Excellence in Student Services

As Dean of Students at Woodsworth College for the past 13 years, Liza Nassim has been a key factor in building an inclusive and caring culture at U of T’s most diverse college. A kind, generous and practical champion of 6,000 students, she has initiated a vast range of supportive programming that will positively impact current and future students, such as LGBTQ+ Positivity Day, Woodsworth Inclusiveness (WINC), WINC Mental Health, DiversiTea, the Black History Month Seminar and Indigenous Competencies training for staff. Nassim has been spotted buying groceries for hungry students and organizing workshops on deaf culture and sign language to help students and staff communicate with a new classmate.


Merike Remmel (BPHE 1980): Jill Matus Award for Excellence in Student Services

Every year, 80,000 prospective students apply to study at U of T. As Director of Admissions, Merike Remmel has the massive job of making their experience positive and welcoming. She has succeeded through a combination of innovation and compassion, responding to the 123 per cent growth in applications over the last five years by creating a more efficient and secure document management system, speeding up the process to enable earlier admission offers, and shortening telephone and in-person waiting times. She introduced the practice of giving certificates of congratulation to new admissions, and it is thanks to Remmel that students can now upload documents instead of having to mail them.


Tieghan Killackey

Tieghan Killackey (MN 2015): Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award

Third-year Nursing doctoral candidate Tieghan Killackey wins this $25,000 fellowship in recognition of her outstanding academic excellence and extra-curricular leadership. A registered nurse at Toronto General Hospital, Killackey is investigating the best ways to support people with chronic illness to make end-of-life decisions. As part of this research, she has piloted an advance care planning program at the hospital. Killackey has published three peer-reviewed papers, presented her work at national and international conferences, and co-founded a student research seminar. She volunteers at Kensington Hospice, serves on multiple faculty committees, has been president of the Graduate Nurses’ Student Society and organizes and leads ethics training for health-care professionals.

The University of Toronto Alumni Association recognizes the finalists for the Sedra Award as UTAA Graduate Scholars.  The UTAA is celebrating three finalists this year:

Samantha Chiu-Yang Chang (BA 2013 TRIN, MA 2016): UTAA Graduate Scholar

Samantha Chang, a professional musician and a scholar of art history is conducting a cross-disciplinary investigation into the intersection of music and painting in the early-modern period. In just the second year of her doctoral studies, she has already won four major scholarships, and is ahead of schedule for finishing her coursework and beginning her dissertation. Chang has presented nearly a dozen conference papers in the last two years while organizing two international conferences and sitting on multiple U of T committees. She has performed flute internationally and is a fellow of the London College of Music.


Locke Davenport Huyer: UTAA Graduate Scholar

Locke Davenport Huyer is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, where he maintains a perfect GPA and has won several prestigious scholarships. A biomedical engineer, he has created a new kind of polyester material for building artificial cardiac tissue, and has already published two first-author papers about his findings, and organized two research conferences. An enthusiastic mentor, he is a volunteer lecturer for the Let’s Talk Science program and co-founder of the IBBME Discovery Program, an enriched science course taught by U of T students to high school students at the George Harvey Collegiate Institute.


Celina Liu (BSc 2014 UC): UTAA Graduate Scholar

Celina Liu is a doctoral candidate in her third year in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, where she is researching effective therapies for patients with concurrent Alzheimer’s disease and depression. She has already published nine academic papers, three of them as the first author. Liu is an outstanding force for community and inclusion in her department, where she is an active volunteer and event planner in the graduate student association. She has been a key organizer of the department’s annual symposium and mentors younger students in the lab. A champion of student mental health and wellness, Liu regularly organizes wellness events for her colleagues.


Riam Kim-McLeod: John H. Moss Scholarship

This award provides up to $16,650 to a final-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Science who plans to go on to graduate study. Riam Kim-McLeod, a double-major in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and International Relations at Trinity College, is planning a career in counterterrorism and a post-graduate professional degree in conflict studies. She has already studied abroad at both Sciences Po (the Paris Institute of Political Studies), and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her professors praise her academic excellence, precise thinking, vision and leadership in student organizations. Kim-McLeod plays rugby and water polo, and volunteers helping refugees through U of T’s Near and Middle Eastern Civilization Cultural Exchange and Support Initiative and at the Red Cross.

The UTAA recognizes the four finalists for the Moss Award as UTAA Scholars.


Jonathan Dick: UTAA Scholar

A student at Trinity College, where he is specializing in English and majoring in Literature and Critical Theory, Jonathan Dick is also a dancer, an artist and a playwright. Not only has he earned multiple scholarships for academic achievement, but his directorial debut, Suzanne, won U of T’s Robertson Davies Playwriting Award. Dick was a scholar-in-residence at the Jackman Humanities Institute and has been a leader in student groups such as the Trinity College Dramatic Society. His professors describe him as a perceptive, sophisticated writer and are enthusiastic about his plans to work for an MA and PhD in English poetry.

Taueen (Sonya) Kim: UTAA Scholar

Medical school is in the future for Sonya Kim, a double major in immunology and neuroscience at Victoria College. Winner of four competitive academic scholarships, she has already taken advantage of research opportunities, helping the Hospital for Sick Children to develop a database of patient care after an organ transplant, and using the data to create a patient-outcome assessment system. Her professors say she’s an exceptional community citizen who fosters inclusion, demonstrated by her volunteer work as a mentor, with the University’s International Health Program, and in organizing the Ontario-Quebec Undergraduate Immunology Conference.


Olivia Rennie: UTAA Scholar

Olivia Rennie has not only won several scholarships for academic excellence at U of T Scarborough, where she majors in psychology and neuroscience, but she has maintained a perfect GPA. She is an award-winning teaching assistant at the campus’s Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre, and volunteers at the Hospital for Sick Children and a community distress centre. Her professors describe her as academically exceptional, with an advanced capacity for critical and creative thought—something she’s demonstrated in original research testing how rats use neural circuits to make decisions, and in brainstorming set ups for an optogenetics experiment. Rennie plans to study medicine, with a specialization in genetics.


Danning Zhang: UTAA Scholar

Danning Zhang is majoring in neuroscience and psychology at Woodsworth College, where she has impressed her professors by the breadth of her studies (which have included Russian and engineering) and her outstanding leadership organizing a one-day mental health symposium and editing the student-run Neuroscience Journal. Winner of several scholarships for academic excellence, she has also completed a research placement at CAMH that led to co-authorship in three peer-reviewed articles. She volunteers at a psychiatric clinic, at a community chess club, and helping Chinese political refugees navigate the Canadian health-care system. Zhang plans to study psychiatry in medical school.