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Image caption: The 2021-22 recipients of distinguished research awards are Dr. Gerald McMaster, Dr. Alexis Morris and Professor Ilene Sova.

Three faculty members recognized for outstanding achievements in research

Three faculty members are being recognized for their innovative contributions to research with the presentation of awards that celebrate distinguished and early stage research activities at OCAD University.  

Dr. Gerald McMaster, Canada Research Chair (Tier I) of Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice, is the 2021-22 recipient of the OCAD University Award for Distinguished Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. 

This award recognizes faculty members for their outstanding portfolio of research, scholarship and creative activity, and the impact that this activity has had on the broad spectrum of art and design research and practice internationally. The award also recognizes contributions toward undergraduate and graduate research and scholarly training.  

This year, the OCAD University Award for Excellence in Early Stage Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity is being shared by Dr. Alexis Morris, assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Ilene Sova, assistant professor in the Faculty of Art and Chair of the Ada Slaight Contemporary Drawing and Painting program. 

This award recognizes promising, recently appointed faculty members for their outstanding promise to be distinguished researchers, scholars, artists and designers within a university context. 

OCAD University Award for Distinguished Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity 

Dr. Gerald McMaster

Dr. Gerald McMaster is a curator, artist and Canada Research Chair (Tier I) of Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice. He is also a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and director of the Wapatah: Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge at OCAD University.  

With more than 40 years of working internationally in contemporary art, critical theory, museology and Indigenous aesthetics, Dr. McMaster has worked at institutions that include the Art Gallery of Ontario, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  

He was selected as the Canadian curator to the 1995 Venice Biennale and 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. He served as the Canadian Commissioner to the 2010 Biennale of Sydney and the Artistic Director to the 18th Biennale of Sydney in 2012. His most recent book is entitled Iljuwas Bill Reid: Life & Work for Art Canada Institute (2020). Dr. McMaster is a nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and a citizen of the Siksika Nation.  

OCAD University Award for Excellence in Early Stage Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity 

Dr. Alexis Morris

Dr. Alexis Morris is the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in the Internet of Things and the director of the Adaptive Context Environments (ACE) Lab. His research transforms the way we interact with information, each other and the world by interweaving mixed reality and artificial intelligence.  

Dr. Morris is currently leading the talented ACE Lab team of OCAD U students, local researchers and collaborators in the design of mixed reality human-computer interfaces for the Internet of Things – one of the pillars of exponential change connecting our physical and informational worlds.  

An interdisciplinary computer scientist and a passionate techno-optimist, Dr. Morris hails from the Caribbean (Bahamas) and brings an eclectic international background and expertise in computer science to the OCAD University community. 

Ilene Sova

Professor Ilene Sova is the Ada Slaight Chair of Contemporary Drawing and Painting in the Faculty of Art at OCAD U. She identifies as mixed race, with white settler, Afro-Caribbean and Black Seminole ancestry. She is also an artist who lives with the disability of epilepsy.  
She passionately identifies with the tenets of intersectional feminism and has dedicated her creative career to art and activism. Sova is also the founder of the Feminist Art Collective and Blank Canvases, an in-school creative arts program for elementary school students.  

With extensive solo and group exhibitions in Canada and abroad, Professor Sova’s work has been most notably shown at the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, the Department of Canadian Heritage and Mutuo Centro de Arte in Barcelona.  

In her academic career, Professor Sova has trained educators on diversity and equity in the arts at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Harbourfront Centre. She also presented on decolonizing art curriculum with her colleague Nadia McLaren at Pratt University, the University of the Bahamas and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design conference. In 2020, she was lauded in the national press for her development of a third-year studio cross-disciplinary course entitled COVID-19 Responsive Art. 

News Summary
The 2021-22 recipients of distinguished research awards are Dr. Gerald McMaster, Dr. Alexis Morris and Professor Ilene Sova.
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3 portraits of OCAD U faculty members from left to right, Dr. Gerald McMaster, Dr. Alexis Morris and Professor Ilene Sova.

OCAD University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano is the 2021 recipient of the Crystal Award for Digital Trailblazer, an honour bestowed by Women in Film & Television Toronto (WIFT Toronto). The award recipients were announced on November 2, 2021.

The Crystal Awards recognize Canadian women who are leaders in the film, television and media industries, and celebrate excellence in creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. Serrano joins Dr. Shirley Cheecho, Jennifer Holness, Anita Lee and Jane Tattersall who will receive their awards on March 8, 2022 at WIFT Toronto’s first in-person gala since 2019.

The Digital Trailblazer Award specifically recognizes a recipient’s innovations in Canada’s digital and interactive media industries.

Since its inception in 1988, more than 150 exceptional women have received Crystal Awards, which also recognize the commitment by recipients to mentoring the next generation of creators and industry leaders. Crystal Award winners have a minimum of 10 years of experience in the film industry and are selected by an independent jury of previous award recipients.

“It truly is an honour to be recognized by Women in Film & Television Toronto and to be among so many distinguished industry leaders and changemakers. WIFT is a critical organization that celebrates and propels the careers of women in media and I’m so pleased to be a part of their ecosystem,” said President Serrano.

Before joining OCAD U as President and Vice-Chancellor in July 2020, Serrano was the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) where she founded CFC Media Lab, the world-renowned and award-winning institute for interactive storytelling.

As CDO, she drove the digital evolution of the CFC, which resulted in its current form as a product and company accelerator and creative production house. In 2012, she launched Canada’s first digital entertainment accelerator IDEABOOST with founding partners Shaw Media, Corus Entertainment and Google.

Throughout her career, Serrano has directed the development of more than 140 digital media projects, mentored more than 70 start-ups and has received numerous awards from the digital media, film and theatre industries in Canada, United States and France.

The 2021 awards are sponsored by major multinational media and entertainment companies, Bell Media Inc., Entertainment One Ltd. and Company3.

This year’s jury included: Mary Bredin, creative development producer, Green Tiger Club Ltd.; Alison Duke, producer/director; and Beth Janson, CEO, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

News Summary
The award recognizes a recipient’s innovations in Canada’s digital and interactive media industries.
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Portrait of President Ana Serrano with dark hair and a dark background.

Image: Detail from the brand storytelling deck for the project Escape by OCAD U 2021 Advertising graduates Sydney Mia Gittens, Nat Smith and Alvin Zheng.

Faculty of Design students receive national graphic design awards

Nine OCAD University current students and recent graduates from the Faculty of Design are among the 2021 recipients of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) Student Awards. 

The juried program received more than 850 entries from students across Canada. Launched in 1998, the awards program annually brings together emerging and established design professionals to promote excellence in the industry and to support the next generation of graphic designers in the country.  

As Dr. Dori Tunstall, Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD U remarked, “The RGD Student Awards help the wider design communities recognize how the worlds of design are changing. The projects that won this year are not the same ones that would have won 10 years ago. Graphic Design is changing and the students’ who are being recognized this year are leading that change.” 

The award-winning work by OCAD U students represents a range of categories including typography, branding, logo development and digital design. Dr. Tunstall continued, “Respectful design is what makes OCAD U’s design students remarkable. In all the winning and honorary mention projects, you see our design students using their creative skills to celebrate culture and different ways of being with approaches that are inclusive, empathetic, and, basically, respectful.” 

OCAD U’s RGD Student Awards Winners 2021

Adel Bechara 

won the Premise Award for Strategic Design with the project Localizing Brands with support from Faculty of Design professor Isabel Meirelles. This project also earned Adel an Honourable mention in the Award for Social Good Design Category. Localizing Brands was Adel's thesis project in the Graphic Design program at OCAD U, in which he investigated and developed strategies (including custom typefaces) to make global brands culturally specific.  

Large Arabic letters stylized to resemble Google's brand identity with their signature blue, yellow, red, green colour palette.Image: A screen capture of Adel Bechara's award-winning project, Localizing Brands.

Sydney Mia Gittens, Nat Smith and Alvin Zheng 

are the recipients of the Forge Media + Design Award for Logo Design with their collaborative project Escape with support from Associate Professor Nick Goso and Assistant Professor Dr. Sugandha Gaur. Escape is a Canadian digital music platform that aims to amplify diverse local artists while encouraging listeners' musical exploration.

A woman holding a microphone performs in a dark music venue with moody purple lighting. The word Escape is overlaid on the photograph.Image: Escape logo design by Sydney Mia Gittens, Nat Smith and Alvin Zheng.

Maham Momin 

won the Context Creative Award for Storytelling Design with the project A Crooked Line, with support from Faculty of Design professor Keith Rushton. Her project also earned an honourable mention in the 52 Pick-up Award for Typography category.  A Crooked Line is a collective that Momin developed as part of her work at OCAD U in the Graphic Design program, that focuses on South Asian diaspora. For the RGD Awards she submitted a zine that uses typography to visually reflect displacement and fragmentation.  

A grid of images that show each page of Maham Momin's zine project. Images include black and white photos of people in South Asia overlaid with red dots and lines, accompanied by text laid out in a non-linear style.
Image: Spreads from Maham Momin's zine project, A Crooked Line. 

Honourable Mentions

Eldrin Banares 

received honourable mention in the Quake Award for Creative Innovation category for the project Draw Your Loneliness with support from Faculty of Design professor Isabel Meirelles. This project was Eldrin’s 2021 undergraduate thesis in the Graphic Design program at OCAD U and is a digital drawing platform that enables visitors to express feelings of isolation through creativity.  

A screen capture of a website with a digital drawing of two hands reaching towards each other.
 Image: An image submission to Eldrin Banares's Draw Your Loneliness website project.

Emily Lauren Gomes, Lily Hewitt and Jasmin Zhang

received honourable mention in the Entro Award for Placemaking Design category for their project Wear Your KRWN with support from Dean of Faculty of Design, Dr. Dori Tunstall and Professor Ann Urban.  For this project the design team developed a digital branding concept for KRWN, a female-led, Black-owned jewelry brand and virtual design studio which specializes in custom jewelry. Of the success of the project Gomes noted on behalf of her team, "We would like to give a big thank you for the generous time and dedication Ann Urban put into mentoring us alongside and into the completion of this project. Without her guidance none of this would have been possible."

Photo documentation of a poster campaign featuring portraits of young women. Image: Wear Your KRWN brand concept by Emily Lauren Gomes, Lily Hewitt and Jasmin Zhang.

Alvin Zheng 

received an honourable mention in the Award for Editorial Design category for the project Typography is Hard with support from Faculty of Design Associate Professor Richard Hunt. The project is an updated take on a conventional typography textbook, designed with an aesthetic that references risograph printing, a format that is known for its eco-consciousness and affordability.  
Images of pages from typography textbook designed by OCAD U student Alvin Zheng.
Image: Documentation of Typography is Hard, a typography textbook designed by Alvin Zheng. 

In celebration of the awarded students Dr. Tunstall notes, "Proud too poorly defines the depth of the feeling that I have about the creative contributions that you are making in the world. I admire how you are co-creating a place in design where your diverse histories and stories matter. You are the ones leading the decolonization of design."

Professor Isabel Meirelles added, "I am delighted to see the broader graphic design community recognizing the amazing work that OCAD U students are creating. I want to congratulate each and every one and wish them a most happy and fulfilling life as designers. I cannot wait to see what they will design next!"

More About the 2021 Recipients

Adel Bechara graduated from OCAD U in 2021 from the Graphic Design program and is interested in branding, typography and motion design. 

Eldrin Banares graduated from OCAD University’s Graphic Design program in 2021 and has a passion for producing creative coding experiences, publications, motion graphics and kinetic typography. 
Sydney Mia Gittens is a Toronto-based artistic director and designer whose work focuses on amplifying BIPOC voices. Sydney graduated from the Advertising program at OCAD U and was a 2021 OCAD U Medal Winner. 

Emily Lauren Gomes graduated from OCAD U’s Advertising program in 2021 and is a multi-disciplinary freelance art director and graphic designer. 

Lily Hewitt is currently studying Advertising at OCAD University and specializes in art direction and creative strategy. 

Maham Momin is a fourth year Graphic Design student at OCAD U, whose work focuses on design activism, typography and packaging. 

Nat Smith graduated from OCAD U’s Advertising program in 2021. Their work as a creative strategist supports underrepresented communities and empowers emerging artists. 

Jasmin Zhang is a fourth year Advertising student at OCAD U with an interest in graphic design, advertising and social media. 

Alvin Zheng is a Toronto-based designer and art director who graduated from OCAD U’s Advertising Program in 2021.  

News Summary
Nine current students and recent graduates from OCAD U’s Faculty of Design honoured with RGD Student Awards for graphic design.
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A streetscape, with the wall of a building cover in 4 posters promoting music events.

Join us for this year’s virtual celebration, recognizing students whose outstanding contributions to student life, leadership, advocacy, equity and social justice, contribute to improving the OCAD University campus community.

Tuesday, March 9
5:45 p.m. ET

Sign in. Virtually mingle.
View the award nominees slide show.

6 p.m. ET
Remarks, performances and presentations.
Duration: 60 to 90 minutes

Featuring special performances by:
Mehnaz Lemia, Poetry Slam
Adrian Liu, O Cappella
Name TBA, Poetry Slam
Margarita Tsetsekas, O Cappella

Thank you to the following for their generous support:
Alumni Relations
Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers
Indigenous Student Centre
K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation
OCAD Student Union
Office of the President
Office of the Vice-Provost, Students & International

Venue & Address
Platform: Microsoft Teams

Celebrating community and excellence.

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Student leadership awards 2021
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OCAD University is proud to recognize student leadership and excellence outside the classroom—acknowledging and celebrating our student leaders—whose outstanding commitment to advocacy, equity, social justice, student life and fellowship, help improve the campus community:


Peer Mentor Excellence Awards recognize two undergraduate Peer Mentors who have made outstanding contributions, in support of new and first-year students and helping build community, while adhering to the mandate of the Student Mentor Program.  


The Diversity & Equity Excellence Award for Students acknowledges an outstanding student whose advocacy and leadership on campus promote and advance human rights, equity, and social justice. 


A Student Group Leader Award is presented annually to a group leader who demonstrates outstanding contributions, commitment and support to their group, its members and the OCAD University community.  


The Indigenous Student Leadership Award recognizes an outstanding Indigenous student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills by actively participating in and contributing to the Indigenous student community at OCAD U in support of its growth and development.  


The Excellence in Student Leadership Award recognizes the contributions of student leaders across the university in a variety of contexts, including representing student perspectives in positions on OCAD U committees, working groups, task forces, governance bodies or through publications, advocacy groups or the Student Union.  


The Student Employee Excellence Award acknowledges the considerable contributions made by OCAD U student employees (monitors) towards the operations of the University by recognizing student employee excellence, achievement, leadership, and skills development. 


Award recipients and nominees will be invited to a special online awards and recognition presentation in March coordinated by the Campus Life office. 




Nominations are due by 11:59 p.m., Monday, February 22, 2021.
(nomination forms can be found through the links above). 


Campus Life extends a huge thank you to our generous contributors for supporting Student Leadership Awards 2021:

  • Alumni Relations 
  • Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers 
  • Indigenous Student Centre 
  • K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation 
  • OCAD Student Union 
  • Office of the President 
  • Office of the Vice-Provost, Students & International 
  • OPSEU 576

Nominations now open! Student Leadership Awards 2021

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Student leadership awards 2021
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Celebrating the recipients of OCAD University’s 2020 Faculty and Staff Awards may have been different this year, but the accolades and gratitude are no less.

Typically, held as annual appreciation events to recognize the achievements of faculty and staff members, this year the University has created a special section on the OCAD U website to celebrate this year’s impressive list of award recipients, due to the pandemic.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the important contributions of our administrative and academic staff over the past year,” said Alan Simms, Vice-President, Finance and Administration. “COVID-19 and the related closures have presented challenges during 2020, and we as a community have demonstrated our resilience, which should be celebrated.”

For a complete listing of awards and acknowledgements, please visit the OCAD U website.

OCAD U Teaching Awards

In her message to faculty members, Caroline Langill, VP Academic and Provost, thanked faculty for adapting quickly, under the challenging circumstances of the last few months.

“With a generosity of spirit, faculty moved quickly so that students could finish their year,” she said. “It is my honour to recognize faculty and to thank all of you for the meaningful work you do with students, to change their lives, to foster their growth and give them the confidence to be successful as artists, design practitioners, scholars and curators.”

She acknowledged this particular period of struggle for the University’s Black and Indigenous faculty, staff and students: “Anti-Black racism has no place at OCAD University or beyond our own community … the pandemic has brought with it incredible challenges to the University and to our personal lives. It is important in times like this to recognize how we have come together as a community and to acknowledge our collective achievements.”

Meet the recipients of the teaching awards below:

Natalie Waldburger – Faculty of Art Teaching Award

With her empathic, intuitive, and encouraging approach to teaching, Natalie creates powerful learning environments. Highly respected by students and colleagues alike, Natalie has, with amazing persistence, brought forward new initiatives and programs at OCAD U - from Life Studies to the Celebration of the Body Exhibition.

Peter Coppin  ̶  The BLG Faculty Equity Award, sponsored by Borden, Ladner & Gervais Law Firm

Peter, Graduate Program Director for Inclusive Design and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Design is an inclusive designer, visual artist, and cognitive scientist. His work seeks to improve information inclusion through understanding how diverse perceptual-cultural-motor capabilities interact with interfaces and designs (such as diagrams in problem-solving and auditory alternatives to graphs and maps).

Sarah Tranum – Faculty of Design Teaching Award

Hailed as a teacher who builds community in very real ways, Sarah strives to make her teaching accessible and applicable to real life/real-world situations. She takes design thinking outside of the walls of the institution, and, while she is helping her students immerse themselves in these experiences, she is there with them wholeheartedly.

Michelle Miller ̶  Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences Teaching Award

Michelle has a clearly engaged and refreshing approach to pedagogy. She curates her course material and structure to suit the diverse needs of her students. Her ongoing effort to engage with her students, gather and implement feedback enhances the learning experience for both current and future students.

Suzanne Stein  ̶  Graduate Studies Teaching Award

Suzanne is an educator who fully embodies her teaching philosophy. In the classroom, she builds relationships through group work and motivates her students to learn and engage, not only with the course material, but with each other.

Josh Elliott   ̶   Teaching Assistant Award

A well-rounded teaching assistant, Josh is valued for his enthusiasm, dedication, and genuine love of teaching. With an ability to deeply connect with students and support an engaging learning environment, he has significantly contributed to students’ learning experiences at OCAD U. 

Marissa Largo  ̶  Continuing Studies Teaching Award

Marissa is a knowledgeable, dedicated, and progressive educator. She employs student-centered teaching methods and promotes inclusivity and collaborative idea exchange between students both in and outside of the classroom. She is valued for her vast experience and ability to attune to each of her students' needs. 

Nick Goso, Faculty of Design  ̶  Price Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Price Award for Excellence in Teaching is given in memory of Mamie and JH Price and the Non-Tenured Faculty Teaching Award is supported by the Office of the President.

Nick champions equity and inclusivity for faculty, staff and students and led his team with much passion, understanding and care, fostering a culture of collaborative professionalism where all voices were valued, appreciated and incorporated.

Derek Liddington, Faculty of Art  ̶  Non-Tenured Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Price Award for Excellence in Teaching is given in memory of Mamie and JH Price and the Non-Tenured Faculty Teaching Award is supported by the Office of the President.

Derek successfully reaches all members of the classroom, making everyone feel motivated to succeed, no matter their experience level. As a drawing-based artist, he reflects regularly on mark-making as a classroom tool for decolonization. These become resources he develops and shares with colleagues.

Lori Riva, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences  ̶  Non-Tenured Award or Excellence in Teaching

The Price Award for Excellence in Teaching is given in memory of Mamie and JH Price and the Non-Tenured Faculty Teaching Award is supported by the Office of the President.

Lori constantly strives to engage students inside and outside the classroom. She is currently collaborating with other faculty members on a Seed Grant funded project she initiated, to create a podcast exploring the lives of artists and designers through a focus on the end of their lives. She has focused her research for this project on women and marginalized artists and designers and incorporated it into her classroom.

OCAD U Employee Awards

Meet the recipients of these awards below:

Employee Excellence Awards

Adam Wiendels, senior marketing manager and Darrell Currington, technician, Rapid Prototyping (RP) lab received the 2020 Employee Excellence Awards.

Since 2015, Adam has supported the Marketing & Communications department in various major projects. Most recently, Adam managed the M&C web development team to deliver an immense web migration project and move our legacy content management system to an open source content management system, in tandem with IT.

In addition, Adam is responsible for promoting OCAD University events, news and accomplishments via social media. Adam’s management of the social media accounts has increased the university’s Instagram following by 27 per cent since the 2018/19 academic year. He has consistently demonstrated a strategic and forward-looking vision towards outreach to OCAD U’s extended community and prospective students.

A technician in the Rapid Prototyping (RP) lab for more than 10 years, Darrell Currington has built the RP shop into what it is today: one of the busiest and most exciting studios in all of OCAD U. As part of the fabrication studio renovations, Darrell worked relentlessly to reimagine how RP could be more effective and responsive to evolving student and curriculum needs.

A dedicated member of the community, Darrell recently coordinated the distribution of 3D printers and the production of more than1000 face shield parts for Michael Garron Hospital; a glowing moment for OCAD U that was featured in numerous media stories.

BLG Employee Equity Award

Sponsored by Borden, Ladner & Gervais Law Firm, the 2020 BLG Employee Equity Award was presented to Phoebe Wang, a Canadian writer and educator, who works at the Writing & Learning Centre as a consultant.

Phoebe tutors students with support on writing, speaking and other academic goals. She works with first-generation, ESL and other disadvantages groups at OCAD U ensuring their academic interests are met with a substantive grasp and learning of the English language. Phoebe also manages and facilitates the Mighty Pen - a creative writing circle for Indigenous students and students of colour.

Christine Crosbie Heart of Gold Award

New this year, awarded on behalf of the Marketing and Communications team, is the Christine Crosbie Heart of Gold Award, in honour of Christine Crosbie, who passed away suddenly, in 2019.

A valued colleague and member of the Marketing & Communications team since 2013, Christine was well-known for her generous and collaborative spirit, professionalism, and passion for excellence as Manager of Communications and Media at OCAD U.

The inaugural award was presented to Andrea Hunniford, Manager, Campus Planning & Projects, who joined OCAD U in 2018. An architect and project manager, Andrea was honoured for her professional and conscientious manner and her understanding that success comes through collaboration, planning, outreach and listening.

Since joining OCAD U, Andrea has focused mainly on the Creative City Campus, a complex campus revitalization project, which included the revitalization of the Ada Slaight Drawing & Painting studios, and a complete gutting and rejuvenation of the fabrication studios  ̶  an essential component of the university’s studio-based learning environment.

The university also acknowledged its retiring faculty and staff members, colleagues marking a milestone in their years of service and academic administrators who have completed their terms. Also recognized and remembered were the contributions of our dear members of the OCAD University community that we have lost over the past year.

News Summary
Celebrating the recipients of OCAD University’s 2020 Faculty and Staff Awards may have been different this year, but the accolades and gratitude are no less. Typically, held as annual appreciation events to recognize the achievements of faculty and staff members, this year the University has created a special section on the OCAD U website to celebrate this year’s impressive list of award recipients, due to the pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 10, OCAD University’s most outstanding student leaders for the academic year 2019/20 were celebrated at our annual Student Leadership Awards dinner.

Generously hosted in the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers (CEAD) on the third floor of the Experiential Learning Centre in the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion and catered by Pow Wow Café with Indigenous inspired cuisine, the dinner honoured the contributions of the university’s peer mentors, student groups and other student leaders for excellence in diversity and equity, as student employees, and Indigenous student leadership.  

OCAD U Peer Mentors recognized for their ongoing commitment.
Left to right: Daniel Lugo Travieso, Andres Navas, Patricia Luk, Liz Sullivan, Francis Ho, Mathisan Paramanathan and Daniel Naraindas. Photo: Christina Gapic.

Emceed by Campus Life Coordinator Brent Everett James, remarks were given by the President, Dr. Sara Diamond and Vice-President, Academic & Provost Caroline Langill. OCAD U’s student representatives on governance bodies, peer mentors, peer wellness educators in the Student Wellness Centre, and student group leaders were all acknowledged for their great work. Peer mentors Patricia Luk and Daniel Naraindas were recognized for serving four years, while Francis Ho, Daniel Lugo Travieso, Mahpara Mobin, Andres Navas, Mathisan Paramanathan, Liz Sullivan andBecky Wu were recognized for three years, all receiving a special commitment pin. 

2020 OCAD U Student Leadership Award Winners
From lett to right: Rahul Bagdai, Patricia Luk, Natia Lemay, Kaya DaCosta, Emma Klassen-Brule and Ahmad El Sarraff. Photo: Christina Gapic. 

Additionally, awards selected through a nominations process were given out in several categories: 

Ahmad El Sarraff - Student Group Leader Award
Roshan Thiruchelvam, Executive Director, OCAD SU and Sarah Mulholland, Manager, Student Communications & Campus Community announced Ahmad as the recipient the Student Group Leader Award, supported by David Holland, for his work leading OCAD U’s Muslim Student Association (MSA). This award is presented to a group leader who, through facilitation and involvement, demonstrates outstanding contributions, commitment and support to their group members and the OCAD University community.

Ahmad is a dedicated, diligent leader who has strived to improve OCAD U Muslim Student Association for the next generation of new, incoming students. Monthly meetings have become bi-weekly and Ahmad has made successful strides to collaborate with other student groups, OCAD U programs and services, and outreach programming with MSAs from across the province that have raised awareness and motivated others to get involved on campus. 

Jihyun (Jessie) Lee and Patricia Luk - Peer Mentor Excellence Awards
The awards were supported by David Holland and presented by David Thomas of OCAD U’s Alumni Association and Brent Everett James, Campus Life Coordinator.

Jessie was recognized for her outstanding patience, timely and inclusive approach, and warm and friendly attitude, helping new students navigate new information, new social relationships and new expectations. Her advocacy, guidance and encouragement truly help make OCAD U a welcoming and supportive community.

Patricia was recognized for her commitment, inclusive and reassuring approach, and the wealth of knowledge and insight she shared with any new students, her assigned mentees, and fellow peer mentors. Patricia’s energy and positive attitude shines through her many roles on campus – from providing enthusiastic support during Peer Mentor recruitment and training, through remarkable leadership at O-DAYS!

Natia Lemay - Diversity & Excellence Student Award
Supported by OCAD Student Union and the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students & International, this award acknowledges an outstanding student whose advocacy and leadership promote and advance human rights, equity and social justice. 

Natia is an advocate, facilitating tools for social change. Through her art practice, she encourages and contributes to change by reflecting on the negative imagery and communication that perpetuates myths about communities of colour and contributes to racism and social injustice. Her leadership role in the coordination of human rights initiatives and projects such as Common Collective, a network of fellow BIPOC students who work together to work and exhibit their work, evolved into TINT, a group show. Natia took a very active role as student representative on the Search Committee for Associate Chair, Drawing & Painting, and again on the OCAD U Working Group for combatting sexual- and gender-based violence. She has served as a Peer Note Taker in the Writing & Learning Centre for the last two years, specifically as a scribe for students with disabilities. Her involvement with off-campus charities and underprivileged communities is equally impressive—ensuring that diverse voices have an opportunity to be heard.

The award was presented to Natia by Kais Padamshi and Roshan Thiruchelvam of the Student Union, with Cathy Cappon from OCAD U’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Sustainability Initiatives. Other students nominated for this award were Adé Abegunde, Kadine Lindsay, and Nicole Hull.

Kaya DaCosta - Indigenous Student Leader Award
Supported by K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, this award recognizes an outstanding Indigenous student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills by actively participating in and contributing to the Indigenous student community at OCAD U.

Kaya DaCosta is a multi-disciplinary Afro Caribbean Indigenous artist whose work focuses on healing, transcending ancestral knowledge and creating dreamscapes rooted in spiritualism from the lands of their ancestors. A fourth-year Indigenous Visual Culture student, Kaya is involved in both the Indigenous Student Association and Black Student Association and is at the forefront of work produced by these groups, which along with their Student Monitor role in Indigenous Student Centre, fosters a supportive environment and safe cultural space for dialogue and production. In 2019, Kaya take an active role in Our Stories Our Truths, an art-as-healing program dedicated to   creating safe space that links various medicine people, educators, knowledge keepers and artists from diverse Indigenous nations across Turtle Island to urban Indigenous Youth, to connect with and build meaningful relationships with Mentors in the Indigenous Community and share teachings that ultimately aid in healing, reconnection and decolonization.

Melissa General and Reagan Kennedy from OCAD U’s Indigenous Student Centre presented the award. Student Megan Feheley was also acknowledged as a nominee.

Rahul Bagdai - Student Employee Excellence Award
Supported by OCAD U’s Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers (CEAD) and OPSEU Local 576, this award acknowledges the considerable contributions made by OCAD U student employees (monitors) towards the operations of the university by recognizing student employee excellence, achievement, leadership and skills development.

Rahul is a student monitor working with the office of International Student Support & Exchange Programs, and Manager, International Projects & Partnerships. An international student himself, Rahul has taken a pro-active role in helping address gaps in the provision of information and services to international students at OCAD U. He recently completed a major rebranding project to showcase the three areas of the University now under one umbrella: International Projects & Partnerships; International Recruitment; and International Student Support & Exchange Programs. Rahul also took initiative to create a pocket-sized booklet about UHIP, the University Health Insurance Plan, containing important information about healthcare to help students understand enrolment, plan details and the benefits. Written with a student-perspective, the booklet was inspired by Rahul’s participation in a healthcare workshop for international students, where he happily shared his experiences and strengthened the presentation. 

The Student Employee Excellence Award was presented by Shellie Zhang, Community Animator, CEAD and Brian Joe, President, OPSEU Local 576. Other nominees for this award were Annie Chen, Karla Justo, Rachel Morris and Anisa Nagakawa.

Emma Klassen-Brule - Excellence in Student Leadership Award
Supported by David Holland, this award recognizes the outstanding contributions of student leaders across the university in a variety of contexts, including (but not limited to) representing student perspectives in positions on OCAD U committees, working groups, task forces, governance bodies (such as the Senate or Board of Governors), or through publications, advocacy groups or the Student Union.

Emma has a relentless drive and wealth of compassion. Her creative practice, reflective curiosity and optimism are an asset while embracing student-driven initiatives. She contributes her voice to challenging stigma: mental health; sharing the power of lived experience; celebrating body positivity; supporting survivors of gender-based violence; and sharing the power of recovery through her experience. As Peer Health Educator in OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre, her passion for student wellness and innate ability to produce original wellness programming, share experiences and strategic insight offer students novel pathways to personal growth and mental health in her role. As a Peer Mentor in Campus Life’s Student Mentor Program, Emma has a drive to improve student experience. Emma makes tremendous contributions and inspires others—whether it be the success of Journaling Club, a grounding method to focus on wellness; collaborative enthusiasm during PRIDE month, with a special focus on a Pronoun Bracelet Workshop, and event planning with Student Union; or advocating for more queer spaces and trauma-informed, survivor-centered programming on campus.

Caroline Langill, Vice-President, Academic & Provost and Deanne Fisher, Vice-Provost, Students & International awarded the final award of the evening. Other nominees were Charlotte Durnford-Dionne, Roshan Thiruchelvam and Ramsha Zaman.

Thank you!
OCAD U’s Campus Life office extends a sincere thank you to those who contributed to our selection committees: Connie Arezes-Reis, Stephanie Dayes, Kathryn Ellis, Deanne Fisher, Melissa General, Alexandra Hong, Amanda Hotrum, Simone Jones, Nadia McLaren, Jason Northway-Frank, Kais Padamshi, Robyn Shaw, Roshan Thiruchelvam and Monica Zhong.

The event would not be possible without the generous financial support of Alumni Relations, Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers, Financial Aid & Awards, Indigenous Student Centre and Student Wellness Centre 

Watch for the 2020/21 academic year student recognition nominations period to open in the new year 2021, and consider nominating a student you know for these important accolades. 

Peer mentor commitment, student leadership, student monitors and student volunteers celebrated with awards in annual dinner in the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers.
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Image of attendees at the student awards dinner


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