Alumni News

Subscribe to Alumni News feed
Updated: 10 hours 33 min ago

Alumni among community leaders in arts

Mon, 05/16/2022 - 00:33

The University of Windsor is well represented among recipients of the 2022 Arts Leadership Awards from the Windsor Endowment for the Arts:

  • Clara Howitt (BA 1990, MEd 1998, PhD 2009), a superintendent with the Greater Essex County District School Board, will receive the Community Arts Leadership Award for her work to champion arts education;
  • Sarah Jarvis (B.Ed 2010), president of Literary Arts Windsor, will receive the Community Arts Leadership Award for her contributions as an organizer of BookFest Windsor;
  • Carl Lavoy (BFA 1976, B.Ed 1993), retired director of the Thames Art Gallery, will receive the Visual Arts Leadership Award for his mentorship to artists;
  • Michael K. Potter, a learning specialist in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, will receive the Performing Arts Leadership in Theatre Award for his work as managing director of Post Productions and co-owner of the Shadowbox Theatre; and
  • Tom Lucier will receive the Performing Arts Leadership in Music Award as owner of Phog Lounge, a venue for live music in the downtown core.

They will receive their awards at a ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 20, on the Vision Corridor outside the Chimczuk Museum. The event will also see the presentation of the Mayor’s Arts Awards by Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens (BComm 1996, MBA 1997, JD 2011) and grants totalling $29,000 from WEA to 11 artists and organizations.

Find more information and register to attend on the event website.

Clara HowittSarah JarvisCarl LavoyMichael PotterDrew DilkensAlumni

Video pays tribute to mother’s perseverance

Wed, 05/11/2022 - 00:13

In a Mother’s Day video tribute by the Pennsylvania State University football team, Theo Johnson recalls the day his mother learned she had won admission to the University of Windsor law school.

A single mother raising six sons, Amy Johnson (JD 2015) had been turned down elsewhere. Now Theo had collected an official-looking letter from the family’s mailbox.

“We kind of all huddled up in the living room, opened the letter up, my mom read it,” he says. “We all celebrated and cried together and laughed together. And we kind of knew at that point that our life had changed forever.”

Theo Johnson is a sophomore tight end for the Nittany Lions. The team calls its video a “must-watch story of strength and perseverance.”

The family had struggled and at times found itself unhoused. Amy Johnson decided she needed to further her education to improve the situation for her kids.

“I wanted to be able to have a job where I was going to be making better than minimum wage and was going to be able to provide for them properly,” she says.

After completing undergraduate studies in social work, she was determined to pursue a legal career. She is now a family law litigator.

“I found a law school who said: ‘come on, you’re going to be great’ and they welcomed me with my six kids,” she says.

Dean of law Reem Bahdi says the faculty was impressed from the day the family first walked into its building.

“I have vivid images of the kids sitting in the back row of the Moot Court, colouring while classes or events went on around them,” she says. “She and her children continue to inspire us to strive to do our best regardless of the challenges before us.”

Watch the video:

Amy JohnsonReem BahdiAlumniAcademic Area: Law

Grad puts education to work in translating play

Tue, 05/10/2022 - 00:13

Graduating from the University of Windsor with a major in acting and a minor in French was an excellent base for her career, says theatre artist Katherine Turnbull (BFA 2011).

She has combined both disciplines in her latest project, a translation from the French of Rachel Graton’s La nuit du 4 au 5, which Talisman Theatre will stream online May 12 to 29. The play won the 2017 Prix Gratien-Gelinas from the Centre des auteurs dramatiques du Quebec, and was shortlisted shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for French-language drama.

Night from the 4th to 5th tells of a sexual assault and the young woman who fought back. She tries to remember what happened and the face of her attacker, but she’s plagued with memory lapses and fleeting images.

“Translation … is interpretation, just like acting,” Turnbull told University Players marketing co-ordinator Kristen Siapas. “A lot of the same preparation, research, and analysis applies.”

Turnbull said her drama training enabled her to view the text from many perspectives.

“I would even perform my translation up on my feet to get a sense of how it sounded out loud,” she said. “The sheer amount of writing I did during my time at UWindsor — in English and French — helped hone my writing skills and my process.”

To make sure she reflected the playwright’s intentions, Turnbull was in regular contact with Graton.

“It takes a certain amount of flexibility to get the same meaning, thought, or ambience across in English,” said Turnbull. “The two languages are just so different.”

Read more of her interview with Siapas on the website of the School of Dramatic Art.

Click here for the streaming digital performance of Night from the 4th to 5th.

Katherine TurnbullKristen SiapasAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesDramaLanguages

Alumni and friends eligible for savings at Stratford Festival

Fri, 05/06/2022 - 00:36

UWindsor alumni and friends can save 25 per cent on admission to select performances at the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest classical repertory theatre.

To claim the discount, use the promotion code 104349 to log in to the festival’s special offer website.

The company produces classics, contemporary dramas, and musicals, with special emphasis on the plays of Shakespeare.

University of Windsor Alumni AssociationAlumni

Author credits law school with formative international experience

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 00:51

If she hadn’t come to Windsor to study law, her new novel “wouldn’t exist,” says Reema Patel (JD 2011).

Such Big Dreams, which will be released May 10 by McClelland & Stewart, draws on experiences she had during internships in Mumbai, one funded by the Canadian International Development Agency before she started law school, and a second during her legal studies.

“Fellowship money I received from the University of Windsor sent me on my human rights internship,” she recalls. “I wouldn’t have that perspective on the right to housing, on the work being done in human rights law, if it weren’t for that.”

Such Big Dreams tells the story of Rakhi, a former Mumbai street child working a soul-sucking administrative job at Justice for All, a struggling human rights law office where she is constantly underestimated and undervalued. Everything changes for her when she befriends new foreign intern Alex, the family friend of a fading Bollywood star looking to regain relevance by aligning herself with a social cause.

“I think the story is one a lot of us can relate to,” says Patel. “It tells of a very human experience.”

She started writing what became her debut novel when she enrolled in a creative writing program while articling in government in her hometown of Toronto.

“I felt there had to be more to life than this,” she says. “I needed a creative outlet.”

At first, she did not intend to pursue publication, but eventually came to think “maybe someone else would like to read this.”

And while like any author, she hopes her work finds readers, she has no immediate plans to give up her legal career. She works for the City of Toronto after stints in ombuds work and policy development for the provincial and municipal governments.

“I hope that my example shows pursuing education in one discipline doesn’t necessarily mean you should feel bound to a traditional career path,” says Patel. “Windsor Law especially supports students who want more out of their careers than making more money for corporations.”

She will join a panel discussion in advance of the Festival of Literary Diversity with fellow authors Tsering Yangzom Lama and Sonya Singh in conversation with Ann Y.K. Choi on Thursday, April 28. The online event is free and begins at 8 p.m. Register to attend.

Reema PatelAlumniAcademic Area: Law

Grant to help alumna scale literacy programs

Tue, 03/01/2022 - 00:47

Camesha Cox (BComm 2007, B.Ed 2009) is a founder.

While a student at the University of Windsor, she organized the first African Disaspora Festival, AfroFest. Once out in the working world, Cox founded The Reading Partnership, a non-profit organization that delivers literacy programs to some of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Now, armed with a $750,000 grant from TD bank, Cox will be able to say she is helping parents across the country teach their children to read.

Cox’s organization has won a TD Ready Challenge grant to help address predicted learning loss due to the pandemic. The Reading Partnership will use the grant to expand its early literacy programming to new communities across Canada.

“School closures and the shift to remote learning during the pandemic disproportionately impacts certain groups, based on factors like race, ethnicity, socioeconomic stats, and geographic location,” Cox said.

“While numerous school subjects have been impacted, reading is of particular concern.”

Together with the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, The Reading Partnership will expand its Reading Partnership for Parents program, which helps parents teach their children in kindergarten and Grade 1 to read. The first program Cox designed when she launched her organization 10 years ago, Reading Partnership for Parents has been offered to families in the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community in East Scarborough. The area has a high poverty rate and is home to the highest concentration of social housing in Toronto.

Helping children in “low-income, high-potential neighbourhoods” reach their potential is the idea of the program, said Cox.

“Parents need to be empowered to help their kids,” she said. “We need a safety net in place for kids not being adequately supported in schools.”

Cox graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Education programs at UWindsor and later earned a Master of Education from the University of Toronto and a post-graduate degree in social innovation from the University of Waterloo.

She said a year of teaching in London, England inspired her to focus on children being left behind in the education system.

In the east London borough of Hackney, Cox developed a literacy program for students in Grades 7 to 9 who before her intervention were reading at a primary level.

“I knew what was happening in London was happening in my community back home.”

Cox wanted to focus on prevention.

With a $12,000 grant from the United Way, she launched The Reading Partnership with programming to help 12 families.

It has grown each year, and now has three signature programs. One, called 360 Stories, helps children aged 9 to 12 bring their ideas for a book to life. They get one-on-one support to write, illustrate, and publish their stories. More than 100 children can now boast they are published authors, their stories included in one of eight anthologies created through The Reading Partnership in collaboration with Story Planet, another Toronto-based literacy organization.

During the pandemic, Cox launched Kids Read TO, a virtual reading program offered throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Children work their way though a chapter book together through weekly online sessions.

“There’s a social element that was important during the pandemic,” said Cox. “They’re neighbourhoods apart, but they’re brought together because they are reading the same book.”

The Reading Partnership offers free books and literacy kits to families. The organization collaborates with Toronto-area colleges on programs and receives funding through the United Way and the provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

A registered charity, The Reading partnership holds fundraising events and relies on donations to offer its programming. This year, Cox hopes to open a new revenue stream by offering The Ready Partnership literacy kits for sale.

“It’s been a beautiful journey,” said Cox, of how her organization has grown.

She credits Cecil Houston, the late UWindsor dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies, for helping give her the skills for success.

When she organized the first AfroFest, Cox asked Dr. Houston’s faculty for money. Houston set up a meeting, where he not only gave her money, but marked up her proposal with revisions to improve her chances of getting funding elsewhere, too.

“I learned so much in that one meeting,” Cox said. “He was so encouraging.”

When Houston died in 2016, his family asked that memorial donations be made to UWindsor’s African Diaspora Empowerment Fund, a scholarship fund Cox helped him establish.

Cox said her commerce degree helps her run the business end of her organization. Her teacher training has helped her develop materials and deliver the programing.

“Many of the skills I’m using I developed right there on campus,” she said.

The funding through the TD Ready Challenge is a watershed moment for her organization.

“It’s been incubating in one community for 10 years and now we can scale it,” she said. “It’s a blessing to be able to do this kind of work.”

—Sarah Sacheli

Camesha CoxAlumni

Alum attributes success to strong Black male mentorship and ancestral strength

Mon, 02/28/2022 - 00:23

UWindsor alumnus Bryan E. Walls (BSc 1969) is a man of many talents. Dentist, historian, griot, husband, consultant, deacon, professor, author, mentor, father, grandfather, Order of Ontario recipient, Order of Canada recipient, Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal recipient… the list goes on.

Dr. Walls, who is now retired from dentistry and founded, owns, and operates The John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum, graduated from the University of Windsor with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1969. He went on to complete his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree at the University of Toronto in 1973. As a licensed member of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, he joined the only a handful of Black dentists to practise in the Windsor-Essex area.

Completing his education during the era of the civil rights and Black power movements, Walls understands how his Underground Railroad heritage helped him to be acutely aware of his positionality in post-secondary institutions. He attended the University of Windsor during Howard McCurdy’s tenure as a microbiology professor, and credits him with bringing meaningful Black representation at the faculty level.

One of Walls’ strongest mentors and influence was his father, Clifford Walls, who in the latter stages of his career worked at the University of Windsor in the 1960s and ’70s as the project supervisor for construction, which involved him in many campus capital projects. He passed down those agile hands fashioned by years of experience in construction to his dentist son.

Skills Bryan Walls acquired in his profession — “those people skills of mutual respect and reconciliation” — allowed him to shift gears after a car accident left him unable to practise dentistry.

In his 1980 historical novel, The Road that Led to Somewhere, Walls depicts his family’s journey on the Underground Railroad from Troublesome Creek, North Carolina, to Puce, Ontario.

His aunt Stella was revered as the family griot, a West African term for keeper of the oral history or family’s history. When she sold to Walls her property which had been in the family since the mid-1800s, she told him there were artifacts in the attic, including a letter to his great-great-grandparents seeking help for an American seeking liberation from slavery.

This sparked the passion towards preservation and promotion of his family’s legacy that led Walls to found The John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum.

He misses dentistry but saying “I leave it in God’s hands and do the best I can,” he finds contentment in preserving history: that of his family, the Underground Railroad, and Black communities in Windsor-Essex.

—Kaitlyn Ellsworth

Bryan E. WallsHoward McCurdyClifford WallsAlumniAcademic Area: Science

University to discontinue Google Services on April 30

Thu, 02/17/2022 - 00:45

Campus community members will be required to migrate or download any remaining files, documents, or data they may still want from the UWindsor-hosted Google Drive by April 30.

“The move to Microsoft 365 for our students and alumni came in 2020. Since then, some students, and alumni, as well as faculty and staff have continued to use Google Drive as a place to save documents or share files.” says Mike Fisher, manager of web services and systems support, IT Services. “We want to ensure people have a final chance to move their files by the deadline.”

UWindsor students should review their Google accounts and save files elsewhere if they have:

  • received an email listing failed files after the 2020 migration process;
  • used Google products like Sheets or Docs, which save to Google Drive, after the migration process; or
  • continued to use their Google account for storage after the migration process.

A few faculty and staff had also activated UWin Gmail accounts for collaboration purposes. These employee accounts were not part of the May 2020 migration. Any files saved only on Google Drive that faculty or staff wish to keep need to be transferred to OneDrive or downloaded prior to the deadline.

Knowledge base articles are available to aid faculty, staff, and students who would like to migrate their outstanding Google files to their OneDrive, which has one terabyte of storage. Alternatively, information on how to download files to a computer is also available.

Alumni who still have files on the UWindsor hosted Google Drive they want to transfer can download them to their computers for storage in their preferred location.

IT ServicesMike FisherAlumniCurrent StudentsFacultyStaff

Webinar promises info on film funding program

Wed, 02/09/2022 - 00:15

An online session Wednesday, Feb. 16, will offer information on Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program, which supports emerging filmmakers looking to finance the production stage of their first feature film projects.

Mike Stasko, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Media, and Film, will lead the event on Microsoft Teams for UWindsor alumni — especially those recent grads building their careers. It will run 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; email Prof. Stasko for details and a link to the session:

The Telefilm program is intended to support a diverse array of emerging talent, to discover and develop the next generation of Canadian filmmakers, and to allow them to establish their voices and sensibilities. It offers up to $250,000 for fiction feature films and $150,000 for feature length documentaries.

Mike StaskoAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesCommunications, Media & Film

UWindsor alumnus named Officer of the Order of Canada

Thu, 02/03/2022 - 00:55

UWindsor alumnus Robert Small can claim many vocations in his life.

He is an artist, father, author, entrepreneur, educator, mentor, and sought-after guest speaker.

And he can now add Officer of the Order of Canada to the list.

Small is one of 38 Canadians on whom Governor General Mary Simon recently bestowed this title. One of the highest honours that can be granted to a civilian in the country, Small’s recognition is for “his long-standing commitment to highlighting the contributions of Black people in all sectors of Canadian society.”

Small joins the ranks of Anne Murray — his mother’s favourite singer — and icons of the local Black community such as Howard McCurdy and Bryan Walls, both UWindsor alumni, in being named to the Order of Canada.

“I look at all these famous Canadians I grew up admiring,” Small said. “I never would have thought I would get recognized along with them.”

Small, 52, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a certificate in criminology from the University of Windsor in 1993, is best known as the creator of The Legacy Collexion, an assortment of posters, prints, T-shirts, and bookmarks derived from his original artwork. His depictions celebrating the accomplishments of Blacks in Canada have become a mainstay of Black History Month celebrations and offers role models for Black children everywhere his posters are displayed.

While he also paints landscapes and seascapes, portraits are his bread and butter. Once a year, he combines several portraits into one work and makes it into a poster, adding text that chronicles the achievements of the people portrayed. In addition to posters for Black History Month, he has created posters for International Women’s Day and Asian Heritage Month.

Over the past 28 years since his Legacy poster project began, Small has sold more than 100,000 copies. They grace schools and BMO banks across Canada, and subway stations in Toronto. One has been transformed into a mural on the downtown Toronto headquarters of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

As Black History Month approaches in February each year, Small’s inbox overflows with media requests for interviews and bookings for speaking engagements. In the coming weeks, he will be omnipresent on television, radio, and social media.

“If I went back and told my 25-year-old self that I’d be doing this, I wouldn’t believe it,” he said.

Small’s artistic pursuits began when he was a child, drawing the characters he saw in his favourite comic books. He recalls struggling with race when drawing his first Black comic book character.

“I was drawing the Falcon, but I was drawing him like other characters, with a small nose and thin lips… I think the deeper conflict was appreciating my own features,” he recalls. “It took practice to learn to draw him with a nose like mine and lips like mine.”

Small had his first artwork published in a newspaper at age 16. He soon abandoned his art for post-secondary studies in sociology, criminology, law, and education, but found it a persistent calling.

“I was always drawing on the side of my papers when I was taking notes.”

He chose to attend the University of Windsor, drawn to its proximity to Detroit and being the “perfect” distance from his home in Toronto.

“Some of the best times of my life were at the University of Windsor,” he said.

Lauding his former professor Tom Fleming with whom he still keeps in touch, Small said his UWindsor education gave him the opportunity to explore topics such as racism, colonization, and the impact of media on Black people.

“Really, the University of Windsor positioned me very well for what I do now.”

He went on to earn a Bachelor of Education from York University.

Small worked for seven years as social worker, then later as a counsellor and a director of a mentorship program for Black youth.

Teacher training was “valuable experience,” Small said. “It makes me think of my products from an educational standpoint.”

This month, Small launches Afrostatic, a collection of learning materials that can infuse Black history into everyday curriculum.

His latest poster is out and he’s already thinking about succession planning for the Legacy Collexion.

“This year’s poster features the artwork of another person, Nigerian afrofuturist artist Komi Olaf,” Small said. The poster is Small’s first to feature QR codes that link to websites with more information about each person portrayed.

“I’ve used it as a platform to showcase the work of a young graphic artist who represents where this project can go in the future.”

Small hopes his daughters — Sade, 16, and Soulé, 20 — will someday continue his legacy. Sade is an artist and Soulé is studying business in college.

“As a father and a community member, I hope that they can take this over and this will still have an impact far into the future.

“I’m trying to create things that will last forever.”

—Sarah Sacheli

Robert SmallAlumniAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesSociology, Anthropology & Criminology