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Homage to family centre of recent grad’s solo art exhibition

Alumni News - 21 hours 42 min ago

Poring over family artifacts, documents, and photographs, recent fine arts graduate Bianca Daher discovered a way to process her grief and honour her family through her artwork.

The loss of multiple family members in a short time frame left her to work through many emotions. As a source of comfort, she began collecting documents and old photographs, digging deeper into her family history.

“I had the chance to go through old family documents while cleaning out their homes and found passports and citizenship cards from the ’60s, which I scanned and organized into binders,” Daher said.

“I did the same for both sides of the family. I sorted through a shoebox of old photos, including my grandmother’s wedding pictures, and scanned them all. I also looked through postcards, noting what was written on them. At the same time, I’m reaching out to aunts and uncles trying to get as many photos as I can.”

She expanded her collection and knowledge through an ancestry website, and with that, Daher decided to make an homage to her family by incorporating the documents and photographs she had found into her art through a blend of materials and methods for her final project.

She will be showcasing her art by hosting a solo exhibition, ‘Tending to Time’ at Artspeak Gallery from June 16 to 22.

“I hope it inspires people to discover their ancestry. I know my ancestry up to my great-grandparents, but beyond that, no one really knows much about our family history,” Daher said.

“Both sides of my family are immigrants, and we’ve lost access to photographs and family documents from earlier generations. Any existing documents would likely be kept by a church in another country, which I cannot access. I hope this encourages people to wonder about their family's documents and origin.”

Going into university, Daher said, she was uncertain about the direction she wanted her art to take. Although she had always had a strong technical talent, she sought to add more depth to her pieces.

“I came in with a lot of skills and I was doing hyper-realistic portraits, but I wasn’t really making anything that truly meant something to me,” she explained.

Over Daher’s four years at the School of Creative Arts, with the help of courses in art history and contemporary art, she learned to take that talent, utilize a range of materials, and create something more meaningful to her.

“I feel like once you learn how to think critically about your work and other people’s work and just the world around you — whether it’s art or politics or anything — it almost changes the way you think,” Daher said.

“There are a ton of classes that I’ve taken that truly did change the way I think and the way that I approach making art, like the mediums that I use, and then how it looks. Not everything has to be hyper-realistic. You can make a sculpture, you can make mixed media. My experience at SoCA definitely changed my practice.”

Daher crossed the stage last week alongside nearly 5,000 other graduates at Convocation, an experience which came with mixed emotions, as she’s excited for the next chapter but will miss the community of artists working alongside one another. She plans to continue her studies at the master’s level in the fall.

The Artspeak Gallery is located at 1942 Wyandotte St. East. Learn more about Daher’s work and her upcoming exhibition.

Bianca DaherStrategic Priority: Research and Creative ActivityAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesCreative Arts

Arts organization honours alumni

Alumni News - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 00:12

Alumna and adjunct professor Bernadette Berthelotte (BMus 1981, B.Ed 1985, M.Ed 1990) has dedicated her professional life to music education. Last Friday, her outsized impact on arts education in Windsor-Essex was recognized with the Windsor Endowment for the Arts 2024 Community Arts Leadership Award.

“It is a privilege for me to advocate for the arts in public education and in the lives of children,” says Dr. Berthelotte. “Not because we are making artists, musicians, dancers or actors, but because we are aiding in the development of human beings and offering them ways to enhance the quality of their lives, throughout their lives.”

Known as “Dr. B,” Berthelotte spent 23 years developing and leading a thriving instrumental music program at W.F. Herman Secondary School. She created the “Reach Ahead” program that allows students in Grades 7 and 8 to participate in their local high school band, which enhances their skills and eases the transition to high school. Her commitment to music education and its impact on the development of young people has not only shaped the futures of her students but also set a high standard for educational excellence within the Greater Essex County District School Board.

In collaboration with local music educators and vendors, Berthelotte founded MusicFest Windsor, a regional festival affiliated with MusicFest Canada. The festival strives to provide an opportunity for students and educators across Southwestern Ontario to share their musical achievements through a performance venue.

She is the creator of “The String Project.” Inspired by Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” it is an after-school program at two schools in Windsor where children learn to play the violin from Grade 3 onward. Berthelotte firmly believes that music education fosters community, confidence, and success in young learners, and is already seeing incredible developments in program participants.

“Thousands upon thousands of studies that utilize the arts as part of a holistic education for all children continue to find that self-efficacy and self-esteem are heightened with these experiences,” she says. “Common sense, in addition to science, tells us that when children feel better about what they do, they will do better in everything.”

Following her retirement from the school board, Berthelotte has continued to share her passion and expertise through teaching music education courses in the UWindsor Faculty of Education. She also contributes to the Continuing Teacher Education Program, crafting and instructing additional qualification courses.

She regularly performs with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and freelances in Windsor and Detroit. Her extensive orchestral experience includes performing with the Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Metropolitan Orchestra, the Canadian Chamber Orchestra, the Regina Symphony Orchestra, and other ensembles.

Berthelotte received her recognition from the Windsor Endowment for the Arts during a community celebration May 31 at the Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre.

Other leadership awards recipients with a UWindsor connection included alumni Christopher Lawrence Menard (BA 2012) in the literary arts category, Hugh Leal (BA 1973, BComm 1978) in the performing arts music category, and Arts Collective Theatre, directed by Chris Rabideau (BA 2008, B.Ed 2009).

Bernadette BerthelotteChristopher Lawrence MenardHugh LealChris RabideauStrategic Priority: Partnership and EngagementAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesCreative ArtsEnglishBusinessEducation

Alumni to honour faculty members for innovation in teaching

Alumni News - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 00:00

The University of Windsor Alumni Association will bestow its Alumni Award for Distinguished Contributions to University Teaching on two professors during Spring Convocation ceremonies this week: Pooya Moradian Zadeh of the School of Computer Science and Kevin Milne of the Department of Kinesiology.

The award honours faculty members — nominated by colleagues, alumni, and students — as incentive and encouragement for achieving excellence in teaching and learning at the University of Windsor.

Dr. Moradian Zadeh holds a certificate in experiential learning from the National Society for Experiential Education which has supported his ability to apply these concepts in the redesign and development of several graduate and undergraduate courses. He is known within computer science for his unique and engaging teaching methods, genuine concern for his students, and desire to motivate them.

He describes his teaching philosophy as to help students understand the various aspects of technical concepts and to support them in generalizing their ideas, enhancing their problem-solving abilities, and fostering critical thinking skills necessary for tackling real-world issues.

Moradian Zadeh will receive his award at the 2 p.m. June 5 session of Convocation.

Dr. Milne’s pedagogical approach is summed up in the acronym “ENGAGE”:

  • Explain rather than simply show information,
  • Nourish all ideas, even those that might begin with an incorrect foundation,
  • Generate interest in the wonder of our world,
  • encourage Active participation in classes,
  • be Genuine in my enthusiasm for the learning process,
  • foster an environment where students Enjoy learning.

He has previously received the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance Teaching Award and the Ontario University Student Alliance Teaching Award in 2012; the Faculty of Human Kinetics Student Society Teaching Award in 2013, 2014, 2017; and the Faculty of Human Kinetics Wayne Marino Teaching Excellence Award in 2021.

Milne will receive his award at the 9:30 a.m. June 7 session of Convocation.

Convocation celebrations continue through Friday at the Toldo Lancer Centre; tune in to the livestream on the UWindsor YouTube channel.

Kevin MilnePooya Moradian ZadehUniversity of Windsor Alumni AssociationConvocationStrategic Priority: Teaching and LearningAlumniAcademic Area: Human KineticsScienceComputer Science

Computer studies prep grad for security position

Alumni News - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 00:10

Rahul Banerjee (MSc 2022) became so entrenched in UWindsor’s campus community during his time as a Master of Applied Computing student that he could not wait to return.

In late 2023, Banerjee took on the role of research security co-ordinator on the research partnerships team embedded in the Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation.

“Research security is a new domain that falls under national security, which is guided by federal and provincial policies,” says Banerjee.

“We work hand-in-hand with government agencies to create best practices for university researchers and then we support them to ensure their research is safe and secure.”

The first to hold that title, Banerjee hosts workshops and training sessions to teach faculty protocols and guidelines as well as arm them with the required tools and resources.

“Research security is about safeguarding our University research community from bad actors who hope to gain economically or militarily from work being done in Canadian labs, and the first step is awareness,” he says.

He says the field is so new that they are constantly assessing, prioritizing, and adapting to new practices and models. He loves his new role and says it was Because of Science at UWindsor that he was prepared for such a challenging position.

“MAC helped me gain a lot of these connections through networking opportunities, and these connections have helped me get where I am right now,” says Banerjee. “I’ve met people who are leading the community and many of them referred me to this role.”

As a message to current students, Banerjee says to nurture those contacts you make and focus on creating long-standing relationships.

“MAC gives you that opportunity to prosper and it is up to you to make the best out of it,” he says.

Those networking skills and opportunities helped him to become a key member on the local scene.

He was invited to be on the Google Developers panel for Windsor and Detroit region and is a member of the Windsor-Tecumseh Youth Advisory Council.

As a graduate student, he was on the student council and held two part-time campus jobs. After graduation, he turned a co-op position with BDO Canada as a data and innovation consultant into full-time employment.

His pride as an alumnus shines through and he has returned to three orientation sessions for the MAC program to talk to current students.

“I’ve become an online cheerleader for UWindsor and the region,” Banerjee says. “I want to promote Windsor as an up-and-coming hub of technology. We are already seeing it happen.”

Rahul BanerjeeStrategic Priority: Teaching and LearningAlumniAcademic Area: Graduate StudiesScienceComputer Science

Director of Institutional Analysis to step down after nearly 35 years with University

Alumni News - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 12:57

After a long and distinguished career as the executive director of Institutional Analysis, Rose Zanutto will embark on a new chapter as she steps down from her role.

With nearly 35 years of dedicated service to the University, Zanutto will transition into retirement, effective July 1.

“Rose is a stalwart champion of the University, a great colleague, and a true expert when it comes to institutional data and the Ontario post-secondary context,” said Beverly Hamilton, chief of staff for the University of Windsor’s president. “We are all going to miss her knowledgeable guidance, but I hope this next phase of her life will be amazing!”

In addition to her administrative role, Zanutto also is an alumna, having graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1983.

The Office of Institutional Analysis plays an important part in facilitating evidence-based decision-making and strategic planning by providing comprehensive analyses and data-driven insights on various aspects of the University’s operations, says provost Robert Aguirre.

“Rose’s portfolio is large and complex, involving data analysis for the University, a key role in budget and enrolment planning, and government relations, among many other important files,” Dr. Aguirre says. “Rose exemplifies the Office of Institutional Analysis’ mission of advancing the strategic goals of the University by providing leadership and direction for institutional data and analyses.”

Her team in the Office of Institutional Analysis likes to call Zanutto the “source of truth,” they wrote in a tribute to her expertise: “Her wisdom, mentorship, and keen ability to make sense of vast amounts of data and information will be profoundly missed yet will continue to inspire us all. Cheers to a richly deserved encore after a lifetime of tireless service.”

A celebration for Zanutto will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 26.

Rose ZanuttoAlumni

Grads honoured for business acumen

Alumni News - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 00:26

The concept of a resumé — reducing a job seeker to a piece of paper — is archaic, says Jordan Goure (BA 2014).

He is president and CEO of Picsume, a tech company with a mission of providing dynamic work profiles that match candidates with their ideal jobs. The company won an Innovation Award sponsored by the University of Windsor Alumni Association at the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards reception Wednesday at the Chrysler Theatre.

“The resumé is the past. Picsume is the future,” Goure says. “Our core values of innovation, efficiency, and meritocracy drive us to create a seamless experience for both candidates and employers.”

The awards honour top businesses, individuals, and organizations in Windsor-Essex in 12 categories.

Other winners with a UWindsor connection include:

  • Professional of the Year Tim Brady (BSc 1996), owner of Brady’s Drug Store, with pharmacies in Belle River, Essex, and Tilbury;
  • ErgoNow office furniture store, owned by Sue Brunet (BHK 1993), Company of the Year with fewer than 25 employees; and
  • Meighen Nehme (BComm 2002), president of the Job Shoppe employment agency, winner of the Athena Leadership Award.
Find more information on the Chamber’s website.Jordan GoureTim BradySue BrunetMeighen NehmeStrategic Priority: Partnership and EngagementAlumni

Partnership brews up front in campaign against disease

Alumni News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 00:44

Three UWindsor alumni have joined forces to give the breath of life.

Daniel Peck (BCS 2003) and kinesiology professor Paula van Wyk (MHK 2008) have been working to build awareness and fundraise on behalf of their youngest son, Jack, who lives with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition which can hamper lung function.

Together they created Jack’s Journey, a family team supporting research into the disease. They registered last year when Jack was less than one year old as participants in the Windsor-LaSalle Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History, but Peck found the fundraising a challenge.

“It can be uncomfortable to just ask people to give money,” he says. “That is when I wondered if it would be possible to sell coffee with proceeds going to charity.”

And the idea for “Jack’s Java” was born.

Jake Rondot (BHK 2001) and long-time friend Dustin Stewart have a deep appreciation of the Windsor community and for coffee. Wanting to enrich the coffee drinking experience with flavours from around the globe with a proudly local brand, the two formed the RŌ_ST Coffee Company, which offers more than 20 different locally-roasted coffees for purchase online.

Although Dr. van Wyk has known Rondot for years as a sessional lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology, a member of the University of Windsor Alumni Association Board of Directors, and a supporter of the Faculty of Human Kinetics, it took one more link to complete the chain.

“My colleague Jess Dixon (MHK 2003) let me know in the fall of 2023 about RŌ_ST and until then I had no idea Jake had a coffee business,” van Wyk recalls. “I reached out to see if this idea was possible.”

Dr. Dixon is pleased to have played the role of matchmaker: “I love seeing the HK family reach beyond the classroom and make a difference in each other’s lives and the broader community.”

Once they connected with Rondot, Peck and van Wyk sampled different coffee beans and roast types from RŌ_ST, inviting friends and family for taste testing, until they landed on a favourite: a medium roast of Columbian arabica beans described as having “a soft aroma, complex sweet notes of caramel and hazelnut, and subtle hints of a fruity finish.”

Jack’s Java is available in one-pound bags in a variety of grinds; order here. Proceeds from every sale go towards the Jack’s Journey team in the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History. This year’s walk is scheduled for May 26 at LaSalle’s Vollmer Complex. Learn more or donate through the charity’s website.

Rondot says his company is proud to participate: “Dustin and I are incredibly honoured to be asked and able to support Jack’s Journey and the CF community with this simple extension of work we already love doing.”

Cystic fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disease among Canadian children and youth and there is no cure. Jack must undergo at least one hour of therapy each day, and more when he is sick — ranging from chest physiotherapy to nebulizer treatments, nasal rinses, and sprays.

He also takes nutritional supplements and medicines to compensate for his pancreas working insufficiently.

“It is not uncommon for the pharmacist to ask to confirm Jack’s med order with us because the prescriptions he has, and the dosages, are not typical for a one-year-old,” says van Wyk. “Research has already helped identify new treatments and extend life expectancies, but much more is needed to end CF.”

Daniel PeckPaula van WykJake RondotJess DixonStrategic Priority: Partnership and EngagementAlumniAcademic Area: Human Kinetics

Law grad shepherds son to NFL draft

Alumni News - Fri, 04/26/2024 - 00:15

The Sports Network shared a tale of inspiration as Theo Johnson, a prospect in the National Football League draft, drew encouragement from the journey of his mother Amy Johnson (JD 2015) through law school at the University of Windsor.

A TSN feature on the story of her transformation from a single mother of six navigating through adversity to ultimately earning her law degree resonated with viewers nationwide.

When Amy Johnson and her six children found themselves in an unsafe family situation, they were compelled to seek safety elsewhere. It was this pivotal moment that set the stage for her ascent in the legal field, altering the course of her career and, significantly, her family’s future.

The NFL draft continues in Detroit through Saturday. Watch the video, “Lawyer mom inspires NFL dream.”

Amy JohnsonAlumniAcademic Area: Law

Grad publishes creative writing thesis

Alumni News - Thu, 04/25/2024 - 00:30

Jade Wallace (MA 2021), recipient of the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence at the graduate level, has partnered with Palimpsest Press to publish the novel, Anomia. The work is one Wallace, who uses they-them pronouns, wrote and defended as their creative writing thesis in September 2021.

Wallace says the inspiration for the novel started several years prior, as they became fixated on the possibility of writing an entire book free of the constraints of sex or gender.

After completing their thesis in 2021 and continuing with revisions and edits, Wallace saw the work picked up by Windsor-based publisher Palimpsest Press in 2023.

“For me,” says Wallace, “Anomia represents not only an artistic endeavour, but also an act of wish fulfillment. In daily life, we constantly negotiate the fraught dynamics of sex and gender identity, but in the world of Anomia, we are given a glimpse of another life. I am not yet sure whether the novel represents a possible or an impossible world. It is no accident that the title Anomia resonates, ever so faintly, like Utopia.”

Wallace’s book will be released officially June 15, and is currently available for pre-order on the Palimpsest Press website. Wallace will also be present as a special guest with How You Were Born author Kat Cayley during a public event at Biblioasis bookstore, 1520 Wyandotte St. East, Thursday, April 25, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Biblioasis will host a local launch, reading, and signing of Anomia on July 7.

Jade WallaceStrategic Priority: Research and Creative ActivityAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesEnglish

Award honours student’s volunteerism

Alumni News - Wed, 04/24/2024 - 00:16

In Canada, Halima Mohamed’s parent found a place where they didn’t have to give up their Somali identities and were instead invited to embrace a new culture as their own.

“My family’s immigration story began with the search for a better life, a journey that is all too familiar for many who leave their homelands,” says the fourth-year biochemistry student. “Being born and growing up here, I witnessed the struggles and beauty that come with the immigrant experience.”

She says that experience taught her lessons in “resilience, strength, kindness, and, above all else, the importance of having a community.”

Her determination to give back earned her the Addolorata De Luca Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 award to support first- and second-generation Canadians.

The scholarship founder, alumna Cessidia DeBiasio (BSW 2015, BComm 2018), says Mohamed embodies its mission: “honouring our ancestors while giving back to the next generation of student leaders.”

Among Mohamed’s leadership commitments are founding a UWindsor chapter of Diabetes Canada, and volunteering for the Canadian National Institute of Blind, Breast Cancer Canada, the Canadian Red Cross, and the Hospice of Windsor-Essex.

“Halima has made it her mission to dedicate her time to supporting various organizations around Windsor-Essex,” says DeBiasio. “This allows her to meet people of different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and ages and extend her hand to others who may also be missing close human connection.”

Mohamed hopes to pursue a career in palliative medicine.

“Sometimes the best way to say thank you is through action and dedication,” she says. “Giving back is the ultimate lesson I have learned from my family’s journey, and it inspires me to do as much as I can to help others in the same way that I have been helped countless times before.”

DeBiasio named the scholarship in honour of her grandmother as a way to acknowledge the efforts of her family and other newcomers to Windsor and Essex County. To learn more, visit the Addolorata De Luca Leadership Scholarship website.

Halima MohamedCessidia DeBiasioStrategic Priority: Equity and InclusionPartnership and EngagementAlumniAcademic Area: ScienceChemistry & Biochemistry

Workshop to explore AI-driven animation

Alumni News - Tue, 04/23/2024 - 00:17

This spring, the Incubator Art Lab is hosting Nate Talbot (BA 2020) as its alumni Artist-in-Residence.

As part of his residency, Talbot is hosting a public workshop at the lab on Friday, April 26. Called “Biomorphic AI-driven Animation for Beginners,” it will invite participants to create an animation by combining household items, fruits and vegetables, and AI tools.

Talbot’s work under the name “N8” explores the intersections of technology, spirituality, and cultural identity formation. With a MFA in bioart and a degree in philosophy, he takes a unique perspective that challenges traditional notions of portraiture and explores human-non-human symbioses. Talbot is an expert in a variety of media, including three-dimensional scanning and modelling, virtual reality sculpting, motion design, digital holography, and artificial intelligence art.

Workshop participants should bring fruits and vegetables for use as a base for an AI animation, as well as a smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer. They will be further instructed to download an app before the workshop.

“Participants will take away a deeper understanding of how AI works, some of the ethical issues surrounding it, as well as a practical working knowledge of these tools,” says Talbot. “Participants will learn text-to-image, as well as image-to-video AI tools.”

No prior experience is necessary — this event is perfect for beginners.

Running 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the studio at 144 University Ave. West, the workshop is open to the public and costs $6.66 for ages 16+. Scholarships are available upon request. Participants can register on the Incubator Eventbrite page.

Nate TalbotStrategic Priority: Research and Creative ActivityTeaching and LearningAlumni

Debut documentary now streaming

Alumni News - Mon, 04/22/2024 - 00:26

Emerging filmmaker, UWindsor alumna, and Windsor native Gemma Eva (BA 2019, MFA 2021) presents her documentary directorial debut, Be Taylor, streaming free on CBC Gem as part of season 24 of the Absolutely Canadian series.

The documentary follows a young comedian, Taylor Last, for one year as she emerges into Windsor’s comedy scene. It tells of her struggle as a young queer woman who aims to overcome her mental health struggles and regain her confidence by embarking on a journey of self-love, self-discovery, and stand-up comedy.

“I really want to focus on women and queer people because I feel in the comedy community that I’ve seen, there’s a lack of representation there,” Last says. “I’m newer to my journey as a queer person. I’ve been focusing my sets on kind of embracing that and making it a healing process for me for coming to terms with my true authentic self.”

Eva says she was inspired by Last’s efforts to break into a new community in a very public way.

“As an emerging filmmaker, I felt a parallel in our creative journeys as she was also a young woman trying to enter a predominantly male-dominated field,” Eva says. “I became interested in Taylor’s story, learning that stand-up comedy was not only a fun way to entertain her community, but it is also a tool that helped her make light out of dark times.”

Besides Eva, who directed, produced, and co-edited, a number of UWindsor students and alumni worked on this project. Among them were:

  • director of photography and co-editor Calum Hotchkiss (BA 29018, MFA 2021)
  • MFA student Raquel Graston as camera operator and assistant editor
  • camera operators Armend Bajrami (BA 2018), Luca Cunial (BA 2019, MFA 2022), and Benjamin Cheer (BA 2022)
  • development editor Alysha Baker-Dias (BA 2017, MFA 2020)
  • sound recordists Sikandar Saleem (BA 2020) and Steven Boere (BA 2023, B.Ed 2023)
  • production accountant Noah Rocheleau, a business student

“GeminiFilms Inc. is a small production company that I started after graduating,” says Eva. “I primarily spearhead projects with my fiancée Calum Hotchkiss and my twin brother, Luca Cunial.”

Through GeminiFilms, she has the opportunity to work with local emerging talent and UWindsor alumni. She is keen to show Canadians that Windsor has a film community worth talking about.

“While working full-time in Toronto, Calum, Luca, and I always return to Windsor to produce our film projects — there’s no place like home!”

Be Taylor will debut on CBC TV this summer, and its film festival run is projected to begin later this year.

Gemma CunialCalum HotchkissRaquel GrastonArmend BajramiLuca CunialBenjamin CheerAlysha Baker-DiasSikandar SaleemSteven BoereNoah RocheleauAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesCommunications, Media & FilmCreative ArtsBusiness

Event honours excellence of alumni

Alumni News - Mon, 04/15/2024 - 00:21

The Alumni Awards of Excellence dinner, April 11 in the Alumni Auditorium, demonstrated the impact being made by UWindsor graduates in a number of fields of endeavour, says Kelly Gosselin.

Acting director of alumni affairs and donor communications, she touts the community engagement of the six 2024 honorees.

“I feel our alumni are our greatest achievement as a university,” Gosselin says. “The exceptional alumni award winners represent the talent, perseverance, and determination of the UWindsor community.”

She extends congratulations to the award recipients and thanks to the Alumni Association, staff members, and award nominators who made the ceremony a “fantastic” experience.

Alumni Award of Merit winner Jennifer Jones (BA 1991) served as president of Rotary International in 2022-23 and has chaired the University of Windsor board of governors, Maryvale Adolescent and Family Services, and the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Alumni Ambassador Award winner Beth Ann Prince (BA 1991) represents the Alumni Association on the UWindsor Board of Governors and has served as president of the Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation, and on the boards of Transition to Betterness Comfort Care Tote Program and the Windsor Yacht Club.

Alumni Odyssey Award winners Franklin H. Ezenwa (BSc 2015) has authored three self-help books to assist other students achieve their goals while navigating life in Canada, Trevor Fairlie (BA 2015) co-founded the Canadian Association of LGBTQ2S+ Lawyers and serves on the board of Start Proud as chair and Orchestra Toronto as vice-chair, Domenica Mediati (BFA 2015) is lead creative and intellectual collaborator on educational outreach programming for the Incubator Art Lab, and Hakeem Subair (BComm 2016) founded 1 Million Teachers, dedicated to creating a world with enough high-quality teachers to ensure all children can access a proper education.

Learn more about the Alumni Awards of Excellence, awards categories, and recipients on the event website.

Kelly GosselinJennifer JonesBeth Ann PrinceFranklin EzenwaTrevor FairlieDomenica MediatiHakeem SubairUniversity of Windsor Alumni AssociationStrategic Priority: Partnership and EngagementAlumni

Program perfect preparation for profession, says science grad

Alumni News - Thu, 04/11/2024 - 00:24

UWindsor alumna Maheen Arshad (BSc 2020) discovered joy by taking the lesser-known career path of genetic counselling.

“Genetic counselling is a really rewarding profession and I wish everyone could learn about it because I absolutely love what I do.”

After receiving her honours BSc in Behaviour, Cognition and Neuroscience (BCN) through the Department of Integrative Biology, Arshad went on to complete a two-year master’s degree in genetic counselling at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Genetic counsellors are health-care professionals with specialized training in medical genetics and counselling. They work directly with patients and families at risk of genetic conditions. Arshad currently works in the fields of cancer, prenatal, and preconception genetics at Henry Ford Health in Detroit.

“It has the complexity I wanted in a career with a good balance of providing scientific information along with psychosocial counselling to support patients and families — it is the best of both worlds,” she says.

“There’s a lot that is not known so when we do have the answers, we can help patients be proactive and navigate challenges. Whether it is finding out they have an increased lifetime risk of cancer or whether is it a high-risk pregnancy, as a genetic counsellor I can serve as a central resource for my patients at difficult stages in their life.”

Arshad reports feeling prepared for graduate school thanks to the classes and knowledge she gained from undergraduate experience.

“Because of Science at UWindsor and the BCN program I transitioned well into grad school and adapted to the greater courseload along with the clinical rotations," she says.

“BCN was also the perfect program to prepare me for genetic counselling as it was a mix of biological sciences and social sciences, which transitioned well into learning complex medical genetics and psychosocial counselling.”

It was at the University of Windsor that Arshad learned about genetic counselling. She says Windsor is geographically well-positioned to give students the option to go across the border for shadowing, work, and volunteer opportunities.

A self-described shy high schooler, Arshad stepped out of her comfort zone as an undergraduate and quickly landed a student research position in biomedical sciences professor Lisa Porter’s lab investigating the role of a cell cycle protein in the formation of brain tumours.

“It was really cool to get started in research in my first year,” she says.

“What I was learning in the classroom about the cell cycle, I was able to apply that in the lab doing research simultaneously, which helped consolidate the knowledge and provide greater context from what I was learning.”

Arshad also engaged with the BCN student organization by serving as vice-president of finance and co-ordinating its annual fundraising gala. She also attributes her success to being involved in Student Success and Leadership Centre’s LEAD program where she learned leadership skills, professionalism, and communication skills, and developed a sense of university community.

“I really optimized my time in undergrad and I’m so glad I did, because looking back it was so much fun to have all those experiences.”

Maheen ArshadStrategic Priority: Teaching and LearningAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesPsychologyScience

Drama staffer goes from backstage to centre stage

Alumni News - Wed, 04/03/2024 - 00:55

Kristen Siapas (BFA 2005), marketing and public relations co-ordinator for University Players, has been working with community theatre groups as a promoter, stage manager, and producer for almost 20 years since graduating from the School of Dramatic Art, but confesses that she still holds a deep love for performing.

She is getting her turn in the spotlight this month, playing the title character in the Korda Artistic Productions musical farce The Drowsy Chaperone.

The show grew out of the Toronto Fringe Festival and went on to earn 13 Tony nominations and five awards during a Broadway run of 674 performances — and is one of Siapas’ favourites.

“It’s heart-warming, it’s light, it’s funny, and it features larger-than-life characters that are fun to play and fun to watch,” she says. “It’s everything that is campy and fun about musical theatre.”

She is also pleased to be reuniting with others who have graduated from the UWindsor School of Dramatic Art, including fellow cast members Melissa McLeod (BA 2003, B.Ed 2004), Eric Miinch (BFA 2008), and Georgie Savoie (BFA 2023), as well as newcomer Gianluca Ieraci, who will begin his university acting studies in September.

“It’s so nice to be able to go out into the world and work with people who have that shared experience,” Siapas says.

The show will go on April 5-7, 11-13, and 18-20 at the Kordazone Theatre, 2520 Seminole St. Find tickets and more information on the company website.

Kristen SiapasMelissa McLeodEric MiinchGeorgie SavoieGianluca IeraciStrategic Priority: Partnership and EngagementAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesDrama

Mother-daughter musical to enjoy exclusive screening

Alumni News - Wed, 03/27/2024 - 00:44

UWindsor alumna Melissa D’Agostino (BFA 2003) will be on hand for a screening of her musical film Mother of All Shows, Wednesday, April 3, in the Performance Hall, School of Creative Arts Armouries.

D’Agostino co-wrote, co-directed, and stars in the mother-daughter “traumedy” with Wendie Malick, whose television and screen roles included Nina Van Horn in the sitcom Just Shoot Me, which garnered her two Emmy nominations.

The April 3 screening is presented in conjunction with the University of Windsor Alumni Association exclusively for University Players members and guests, along with students of drama and communications, media, and film.

The evening will commence with a reception at 6 p.m.; the screening will begin at 7 p.m. Following the film, D’Agostino will engage in a question-and-answer session, providing a unique opportunity for students and attendees to gain insights into the creative process and engage in dialogue about building a career in film.

To attend this exclusive event, contact the University Players box office at uplayers@uwindsor.ca. Find more information, including a trailer, on the film website.

Melissa D’AgostinoUniversity of Windsor Alumni AssociationStrategic Priority: Research and Creative ActivityAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesDrama

Alumna building fitness empire one Instagram follower at a time

Alumni News - Fri, 03/08/2024 - 00:04

Paige Johnston learned long ago that perfection is an illusion.

It’s a message the UWindsor alumna shares with her more than 142,000 Instagram followers and with clients from around the world who come to her for online fitness training.

Johnston (BHK 2018, MHK 2020) is the founder of Push Collective, a personal fitness business she runs from her Windsor home. She is also a brand ambassador for Gym Shark — the holy grail for influencers in the fitness space — and for Reign Energy drinks and Beam supplements. She creates content for these brands from the gyms where she works out and other locales on both sides of the Detroit River.

“I never thought I’d be doing this,” said Johnston, who completed her Master’s in the Faculty of Human Kinetics’ kinesiology- movement science program intent on becoming a teacher. After graduation, she taught in the sports and recreation management program at Lambton College while continuing to post her workouts on social media.

It didn’t take long for the trajectory of her career to take an unexpected and wonderful turn.

Her first Instagram account, @paigejohnston­_fit, garnered 100,000 followers in the first year. The brand deals quickly followed.

Johnston spun her personal training business into a second account, pushcollective. People from around the world started contacting her for one-on-one and group sessions online. Her clientele, mostly women, started buying her services from as far away as Bali and Peru.

“I always wonder, how did you find me?”

The answer: through the power of social media.

Johnston does more than design workouts for her clients. She offers lifestyle advice. She talks about nutrition but frames the discussion in a way that does not categorize foods as “good or bad.”

“It’s about choosing moderation, and long-term results,” she said. “It’s about living a healthy lifestyle. I never say this is the only way to live — to never go out for dinner, to never have dessert, to never travel…. You have to look at everything — mind, body, and soul.”

She says she applies what she learned from her kinesiology professors to her everyday work. And she practises what she preaches.

Back in 2018, she made a conscious effort to start living a healthier lifestyle. She started working out regularly and paying more attention to her nutrition and other daily habits. She lost 50 pounds over the course of a year and felt better.

On her Instagram account, you’ll find photos of her from her pre-workout days juxtaposed with photos of herself now. Hashtags such as #confidence and #sustainableweightloss suggest these are not your usual before-and-after shots.

She features her husband James Caron (BHK 2018, MHK 2020) in many of her posts. He’s a fitness buff, too. She jokes that her dachshund, Puck, is the only couch potato in her household.

When they are not in the gym or being social media darlings, the couple loves to travel.

“I love experiencing new cultures, new energies, and new places,” Johnston said. She was in St. Lucia in December and plans to travel to Africa to do volunteer work later this year.

Push Collective has grown so much, Johnston is looking to hire additional coaches. In the coming year she wants to find coaches who specialize in hormonal health and muscle building.

She thinks back to her initial career plans with astonishment at what she is now.

“I was always searching for that impact piece,” she said. “I guess I’ve found it.”

Paige JohnstonJames CaronAlumniAcademic Area: Human Kinetics

Rhodes finalist grateful for encouragement

Alumni News - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 00:42

Being a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship was a great honour, says UWindsor alumna Aliyah King (BA 2022).

Now studying medicine at the University of Ottawa, she applied for the award, which brings together candidates from around the world to the University of Oxford, and was interviewed as a finalist to represent Canada.

“I felt and continue to feel immense gratitude for all of the people and experiences that have contributed to my story,” King says.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the University of Windsor, my mentors, my family, and my friends for believing in me, encouraging me to explore the world’s possibilities, and being a consistent part of my development.”

One of those mentors was Simon du Toit, who recalls King as a very talented student.

“She was a standout and made a great contribution while a student here in Windsor,” he says.

Tim Brunet, co-ordinator of the Outstanding Scholars program, notes that it has consistently produced high-achieving graduates. He has offered King as an example for current students to emulate: “We are delighted to see an Outstanding Scholar alum be recognized at the national level for their accomplishments.”

For her part, King encourages other students to have the confidence necessary to pursue their dreams.

“Don’t allow the first ‘no’ you hear to come from yourself,” she says. “Listen to the ideas in your mind that spark conviction in your heart to make a beneficial change in the world — and go after them.”

Aliyah KingOutstanding ScholarsSimon du ToitTim BrunetStrategic Priority: Teaching and LearningAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences