Tickets on sale for Niagara College Golf Day, September 21

A group of people wearing bright green t-shirts standing with a mascot outside.

Join us for the Niagara College Golf Day on Tuesday, September 21 at the award winning Peninsula Lakes Golf Club in Fenwick.

Thanks to generous supporters, our 2019 tournament raised more than $55,000 to fund scholarships for student athletes. By supporting our students, you are helping to alleviate some of the financial burden of pursuing a post-secondary education.

Although the ongoing public health restrictions do not allow us to host our usual annual tournament, we are thrilled to invite you to participate in our Niagara College Golf Day.

Golfers will play in foursomes or assigned foursomes (if you register as an individual golfer), registering just prior to assigned tee-off times. Masks will be worn by players sharing a golf cart and physical distancing will be practiced by all on the course. A delicious lunch will be provided and a beverage cart will be available. We will draw for door and raffles prizes.

Although, the format will be different, we hope you will join us for a wonderful day of golf for a great cause. For full details on the day’s events, see the Niagara College Golf Day Format.

The NC Golf Day has consistently sold out for the past several years, so please don’t delay.

For event details visit: niagaracollege.ca/golfclassic

Contact:
Joanne Cousineau
Development and Event Coordinator
905-328-5528
[email protected]

Niagara College alumna Erica Karbelnik devours the competition on Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada

Two chefs prepare a meal in a professional kitchen.

Victory was on the menu for Niagara College alumna Erica Karbelnik (nee Hakien) who dazzled the judges on the finale of Top Chef Canada season nine which aired on June 7 on Food Network Canada. Karbelnik graduated from NC’s Culinary Management Co-op program in 2011, an experience that shaped her as a chef and inspired her love for local food.

Competing alongside her at the finale was Erica’s husband and NC alumnus Josh Karbelnik (Culinary Management Co-op, 2011) who cooked his way into the final four chefs on the Food Network Canada show before being eliminated. The high school sweethearts from Toronto were the first married couple to compete on Top Chef Canada.

“Winning is surreal. It is emotional. It is an out-of-body experience,” said Erica. “You go there with this dream of wanting to win and prove that you’re good at what you do. This industry is so hard, you give up so much. But it is a matter of not giving up and fighting for what you want, with cameras in your face, bright lights, and strangers all around you, you need to perform.”

“Our entire team of chefs at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) at Niagara College are so proud of Erica and Josh for this incredible culinary achievement. We were excited to watch them on Top Chef Canada from week to week,” said Craig Youdale, dean of the CFWI. “Seeing our grads build extraordinary careers and excel in culinary challenges like this will inspire our students to dream big.”

Flashback to 2011 at the start of their journey as aspiring chefs, Erica and Josh were living in Fonthill and attending classes at the CFWI at NC.

“The culinary program is so wonderful. You get to use so much of the local products. You don’t just focus on cooking but the whole culinary experience, from suppliers to produce to wine pairings,” said Erica. “We loved our professors. They shaped us and helped us grow.”

It was an experience at NC that inspired Erica’s creation of a dish for the ‘Eat local challenge’ in episode five of Top Chef Canada. “I made a seared porkchop with apple and wheatberry risotto which was inspired by a field trip to a pig farm in Niagara. I remember feeding the pigs apples and wheatberries.”

After graduating, the couple moved to Vancouver. Josh, classically trained French, began cooking ultra-fine cuisine for well-known Chef Scott Jaegger at The Pear Tree.

“Josh suffered from a tragic accident, losing two of his fingers in an ice cream machine. He thought he would never cook again. Scott Jaegger retrained him and gave him the strength and confidence. Now he cooks circles around people with 10 fingers,” said Erica.

Erica, classically trained French and Italian, explored her passion for pasta making before shifting gears as the operations manager and expediter at Wildebeest restaurant in Vancouver. After five years in Vancouver, Erica and Josh returned to Toronto.

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a hit on the restaurant industry, the couple are looking forward to returning to their respective kitchens; Erica as the executive chef of Terrace Restaurant at Toronto’s Elmwood Spa, and Josh as the chef de cuisine at The Broadview Hotel. For now, the chef duo have embarked on their own catering company for private home events in the Greater Toronto Area.

“A lot of chefs have had to pivot,” said Erica. “Our dream is to have our own restaurant, but unfortunately because of the pandemic, the future is uncertain.”

A man and woman wearing chef uniforms embrace on stage. A man and woman wearing chef uniforms.

After being eliminated in the semi-final round – placing fourth out of 11 professional chefs from across Canada – Josh supported his wife as sous-chef in the final five-course tasting menu challenge.

Along with the title of Top Chef Canada, Erica won a cash prize of $100,000 and a Lexus RX Hybrid Electric SUV. Josh took home $5,000 as the winning sous-chef in the final competition.

The win comes at a special time for the couple who are expecting their first child.

“Winning means everything to us. It is the start of our life, of our future. It’s a college fund for our baby, a house we can call our own, a restaurant we can own,” said Erica.

With their passion for Niagara, Erica says that they have considered moving back. “There is no place like Niagara. I love going to the farmers market, talking to the farmers, going to the wineries, picking out pairings. Not a lot of people know how special Niagara is, it really needs to be celebrated.”

“NC was such a big part of my and Josh’s life. The students who go to NC have to know how lucky they are … the people you are learning from, the wine, beer and horticulture classes – you can only get that at Niagara College. We were not just a number there. We were somebody that someone wanted to succeed.”

The full episodes of Top Chef Canada season nine are available at foodnetwork.ca, and to stream through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or the Global TV app.

Colombian student goes the distance to win Ontario Remembrance Scholarship

“I never thought this could happen to me.”

That was Paula Natalia Gongora Quintero’s initial thought when she spotted an application form for the Ontario Remembrance Scholarship at Niagara College late last year. Fortunately, she applied anyway.

Now the international student in her second year of the Business Administration – Human Resources (Co-op) program is the proud recipient of the $10,500 award – the highest monetary award be granted to one student at the College and its most competitive with almost 200 applicants. It was also the first time an award has been open to NC’s domestic and international students.

Quintero said that she was so shocked when she read an email notifying her that she had won that she burst into tears. “It felt like a dream,” she said. “I called my family and they were so proud of their little girl and we prayed together.”

After the announcement, she shared the news on her YouTube channel to encourage others who share her Latin American culture that dreams can come true.

Originally from Colombia, Quintero was drawn to study in Canada after researching postsecondary institutions to study abroad and learning about NC.

“What I loved about the NC community was its openness to diversity, inclusion and support tools for international students,” she said. “Leaving behind your home country, family and friends is so dramatic, that I was waiting for a school that could help me with this transition.”

She loves her program at NC and has been excelling academically with higher than a 90% average in all of her classes. Creating a new life in Canada however, has been marked by hard work for Quintero who, along with her husband of two years, now calls Niagara Falls home. She has been working three different jobs to support her education.

As a student ambassador for the College, Quintero works to implement COVID-19 safety measures on campus – checking in students and employees at entrance points as part of NC’s restricted access procedures, and promoting physical distancing practices. She also guides new students to campus services. In addition to working at NC, she is employed as a customer services representative at Intelcom Express and as a cleaner at a local grocery store.

The scholarship, which has been set aside for tuition and fees for the next academic year, comes as a great relief for Quintero, knowing that she is able to pay for her final year of study in full and focus on her career goals. She plans to establish a non-profit to connect newcomers to Canada with employers and community services, help guide them through challenges and contribute towards their dreams.

The scholarship is about much more than the money for Quintero. “It is proof that anyone, regardless of their culture or language, can make a difference,” she said.

This was the first year the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has funded the Ontario Remembrance Scholarship at NC, in memory of the victims of the Ukrainian airliner crash in Iran in January 2020, which claimed the lives of 57 Canadians, including 34 Ontario postsecondary students or staff members.

“We thank the Government of Ontario for supporting student success at Niagara College through the Ontario Remembrance Scholarship,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research & External Relations. “Helping students achieve their dreams is a meaningful tribute to the tragic loss of life from the Ukrainian airliner crash, which was deeply felt by college communities across the province.”

Financial Aid advisor Marissa Ditto noted that it was not easy to select a winner for the award from such a large pool of applicants. The selection committee shortlisted seven students for final round interviews, who all demonstrated a passion for their studies. Academic achievement, community engagement, volunteer experience, and financial need were factors in their final decision.

“Paula was selected because she went above and beyond in her academic achievements, her engagement and involvement in the Niagara College community, and had clear career goals and path to reach those goals,” said Ditto.

Quintero was applauded for being a great ambassador for NC with a positive and realistic attitude. Ditto pointed to her employment as an engaged student ambassador, her volunteer work to assist newcomers to Canada, her involvement with College research projects, and the fact that she created her own YouTube channel to document her experience and assist other international students.

“She wants to be a model of her culture to not only challenge stereotypes, but to motivate others to start their careers,” said Ditto. “Her career goals align perfectly with her values and beliefs, and her involvement and accomplishments thus far on her NC journey also reflect this.”

Knowing that she was selected for the scholarship among so many other applicants fills Quintero with pride and made her feel that “every tear was worth it.”

“This has motivated me to keep high standards, but also to share my experience with other students who think that financial or language barriers are an excuse to give up,” she said. “Everyone has a mission to leave a print that others can use as an example, and my goal is to prove that, as Latins, we have wonderful skills and capabilities to be leaders in our College and communities.”

 

Class of 2020 alumna fashions new dream during pandemic

 When life gets challenging, Courtney Zahara rolls up her sleeves.

The recent graduate of NC’s Event Management program didn’t let the global pandemic stop her from launching her career or even starting her own business. She tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit and launched Rare Collectives: a handmade swimwear and apparel business, which focuses on looking and feeling good – inside and out.

The early success of her start-up has already led Zahara back to NC to share words of wisdom with current students. On April 16, she was the featured guest of NC’s Ask and Alumni Anything series. Presented by Alumni Relations with support from the Student Administrative Council, the virtual series gives students an opportunity to pose questions to successful alumni via Instagram Live.

“My NC experience shaped who am I as an entrepreneur and business owner by helping me learn hands-on through my entire program,” said Zahara, prior to the event. “I look forward to sharing my story in hopes of helping our students through their own journey.”

Zahara spoke to students about how she switched gears from the industry she studied in and stitched together a brand new dream as an entrepreneur. After graduating in June 2020, she built a new business from scratch, by creating handmade clothing from her own home to sell, and founded Rare Collectives. But it’s about more than just dollars or fashion; Zahara’s business focuses on promoting self-love and self-motivation. She strives to help others feel confident.

The mission is personal for Zahara who, like many women, has struggled with body image and confidence. After completing her postsecondary studies, she wove self-love into her life and decided to launch a business to help others feel the same way.

“Courtney is the quintessential example of a Niagara College graduate who had to pivot upon graduating,” said alumni engagement officer Jana Boniferro. “She had an incredible story of learning to sew and starting her business to help women struggling with body image issues which was inspirational to our students.”

Watch the April 16 Ask an Alumni session featuring Zahara here.

NC’s Ask an Alumni series was launched during the Fall 2020 term to help connect current students with successful graduates.

Since the series was launched in November 2020, members of NC’s alumni community who have been featured include Jeff Blay, creative director, Enterprise Canada (Journalism 2011, and Public Relations 2015); Kevin Rempel, multi-award-winning retired world-class sledge hockey Paralympian and founder and CEO of The Sledge Hockey Experience (Event Management, 2009, and Business Administration – Marketing, 2005); Shannon Burns, CHUM 104.5 iHeartRadio Nights host (Broadcasting: Radio, Television and Film, 2013); and Émilie Steckenborn, host of Bottled in China (Wine Business Management, 2011).

Virtual PR event celebrates student and alumni success

Advice and achievement were in the spotlight during a recent Public Relations Grad Panel.

Students from the College’s graduate certificate program had an opportunity to connect with six successful program alumni and celebrate student awards from their own class during the virtual event on March 25.

Six graduates, invited by professor Emily McInerney, shared their experiences and career advice with soon-to-be graduates from their alma mater. Participating alumni included three repeat Grad Panel guests from the Class of 2008 Dave Mammoliti (De Groote School of Business), Ray McIlroy (No Fixed Address) and Jason Petznick (Blue Mountain); as well as 2011 graduates Steph Porter (Canadian Tire head office), and Kirstin Glover (Herjavec Group).

McInerney noted that the PR Grad Panel is an annual tradition for the program dating back at least 15 years. It is held on the final day of classes before students begin their internships.

“The student response is always 100% positive,” she said. “We deliberately schedule it on the last day of school in the program and many have shared how they walk away feeling really excited and inspired to launch their careers.”

While the event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held virtually – a format which this class of PR students have become well accustomed to over the course of their studies. With the program delivered remotely, McInerney noted that they had dozens of guest speakers visit the class virtually and several attended industry-networking events virtually as well.

“Nothing beats face to face but this was a great opportunity for our current students to interact with some of our amazing NC PR grads,” she said. “It was a great chance for them to ask questions and glean insights and advice before they began their internships on March 29.”

McInerney noted that this year’s class transitioned beautifully to remote studies and were highly engaged and committed to the program. Many of the students had also completed their last month or two of university online last year and were all accustomed to online learning as they began the program.

“I feel they have demonstrated resilience. They have impressed all our many virtual guest speakers with their thoughtful questions and high level of participation,” said McInerney. “Although we would all prefer to be face to face, the students and staff alike made an effort to make this a positive and impactful learning experience. I feel really confident we succeeded based on student feedback.”

Panel participants

Ray McIlroy (Class of 2008)

Ray McIllroy (LinkedIn photo)

McIlroy who is now VP, Public Relations for No Fixed Address Inc. was interested in participating in the Grad Panel because he feels it’s important to help provide knowledge, context and relevant advice after a dozen years of leaving Niagara and entering the PR agency world in Toronto.

“It’s on all of us to help each other succeed and to help foster new talent in PR,” he said.

His key message to students: to know their worth and to not work for free.

“If companies want to bring on junior employees, they need to pay them in more than just experience. Cost of living isn’t going down anytime soon and unpaid internships are an outdated concept,” he said.

McIlroy noted that helping his clients and helping to develop new PR-focused communications professionals is the most rewarding aspect of his career today.

“It’s a small industry so the more we can raise the standard, the better it reflects on all of us,” he said.

Jason Petznick (Class of 2008)  

Jason Petznick (submitted photo)

Petznick, who is currently an account marketing manager at Blue Mountain Resort, is proud of being able to forge a path for himself in an industry that allows him to go snowboarding or mountain biking on his lunch breaks. A snowboarder since Grade 7, he always dreamed of finding a career related to action sports in some way – and he found it in PR.

“My career gives me the opportunity to talk on a daily basis about sports and activities I’m passionate about,” he said.

As a graduate from NC’s Journalism-Print (2007) program, he was drawn to PR by the diversity of the industry.

“Communications is a broad field that allows you to explore classic public relations, along with events, marketing, social media, writing, editing, working with media and much more,” he said. “It seemed like there would be a lot of opportunities available to me after I graduated from the program.”

His key message to the students was that NC’s PR program sets them up with all the foundational skills they need to take their career in many different directions. He spoke about his own career, which began in social media and email marketing and progressed through graphic design, digital marketing and web design, to his current role.

“There was a lot of on-the-job learning involved in some of those positions but there have been direct or indirect ties back to what I learned in the PR program at every step of the path,” he said.

Steph Porter (Class of 2011)

Steph Porter (LinkedIn Photo)

Porter, a communications advisor for Canadian Tire – External – said she was interested in participating in the grad panel because she benefitted so much from NC’s PR program. She now hopes to be a resource for current students making their way through the PR industry.

“I found it was extremely organized and the students were keen and eager to ask questions,” she said.

She recalled that she never knew what PR was until she spoke to a guidance counsellor in university. “I just had this Communications degree that I didn’t know what to do with,” she recalled.

Since graduating from PR, Porter has built up a rewarding career in the industry. She has been part of a communications team at Canadian Tire which has been recognized with several recent notable industry awards including the Canadian Public Relations Society’s International Association of Business Communication Award (2019 and 2020), the Shorty Awards (2020), the CPRS Best Creative Award (2020) and CPRS Best Social Media Influencer Campaign Award (2020).

“I get to be creative, think outside of the box and learn from and collaborate with really smart people,” she said.

Porter’s summed up her advice to students with two letters: TP. “Tenacity plus Positivity will take you far in your PR career,” she said.

Student awards

Two current PR students were recognized for their achievements during the PR Grad Panel event.

Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award

Nicholas Mertens (Submitted photo)

Nicholas Mertens was announced as the recipient of the Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award. Given to the PR student who has shown extraordinary skills as a mentor to their peers and who has actively pursued, cultivated and benefited from the mentorship of faculty and industry partners, this $1,500 award was established by Terry O’Malley, a strong supporter of Niagara College and a long-time friend of Senator Keith Davey.

Mertens, who resides in Hamilton, was drawn to study PR following the results of a career aptitude test and hopes to grow his freelance business after graduation. He said that he felt validated receiving the award.

“I applied to so many jobs with my BA, never landing an interview,” he said. “With the College’s support, I feel confident I will get a good job and build a rewarding career.”

Coordinator Award of Excellence

Brier Barclay (Submitted photo)

Brier Barclay, of Smithville, was honoured with the Coordinator Award of Excellence. This award celebrates a PR student who has demonstrated a strong work ethic combined with a high level of engagement and professionalism. With a positive attitude, a collegial spirit and constantly striving to learn and improve, the recipient is recognized as a future ambassador for the program.

Barclay was grateful to be recognized with the award.

“I had such an amazing experience in this program and am so thankful that I chose to enrol, even in a virtual year,” said Barclay. “Overall, this award shows me that the hard work and dedication I put into this year was seen and appreciated by my peers. I will forever be an advocate for the NC PR program.”

Barclay entered the program with a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and a minor in Communication Studies. She felt the PR program was the perfect opportunity to expand in an area she is passionate about.

“As COVID hit, jobs relating to sports were somewhat off the table so I believed now was a good time to expand my knowledge and I’m happy I did,” she said. “I am truly excited to see where I go – whether it be working in sports-related communications or starting my own public relations business.”

She found the panel speakers “insightful and passionate” and noted that her main takeaway was to continue to grow as a professional and ensure that she truly loves what she is doing at the end of the day.

“I hope to see myself and my classmates in one of these panels in the future,” she said.

Virtual PR event celebrates student and alumni success

Advice and achievement were in the spotlight during a recent Public Relations Grad Panel.

Students from the College’s graduate certificate program had an opportunity to connect with six successful program alumni and celebrate student awards from their own class during the virtual event on March 25.

Six graduates, invited by professor Emily McInerney, shared their experiences and career advice with soon-to-be graduates from their alma mater. Participating alumni included three repeat Grad Panel guests from the Class of 2008 Dave Mammoliti (De Groote School of Business), Ray McIlroy (No Fixed Address) and Jason Petznick (Blue Mountain); as well as 2011 graduates Steph Porter (Canadian Tire head office), and Kirstin Glover (Herjavec Group).

McInerney noted that the PR Grad Panel is an annual tradition for the program dating back at least 15 years. It is held on the final day of classes before students begin their internships.

“The student response is always 100% positive,” she said. “We deliberately schedule it on the last day of school in the program and many have shared how they walk away feeling really excited and inspired to launch their careers.”

While the event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held virtually – a format which this class of PR students have become well accustomed to over the course of their studies. With the program delivered remotely, McInerney noted that they had dozens of guest speakers visit the class virtually and several attended industry-networking events virtually as well.

“Nothing beats face to face but this was a great opportunity for our current students to interact with some of our amazing NC PR grads,” she said. “It was a great chance for them to ask questions and glean insights and advice before they began their internships on March 29.”

McInerney noted that this year’s class transitioned beautifully to remote studies and were highly engaged and committed to the program. Many of the students had also completed their last month or two of university online last year and were all accustomed to online learning as they began the program.

“I feel they have demonstrated resilience. They have impressed all our many virtual guest speakers with their thoughtful questions and high level of participation,” said McInerney. “Although we would all prefer to be face to face, the students and staff alike made an effort to make this a positive and impactful learning experience. I feel really confident we succeeded based on student feedback.”

Panel participants

Ray McIlroy (Class of 2008)

Ray McIllroy (LinkedIn photo)

McIlroy who is now VP, Public Relations for No Fixed Address Inc. was interested in participating in the Grad Panel because he feels it’s important to help provide knowledge, context and relevant advice after a dozen years of leaving Niagara and entering the PR agency world in Toronto.

“It’s on all of us to help each other succeed and to help foster new talent in PR,” he said.

His key message to students: to know their worth and to not work for free.

“If companies want to bring on junior employees, they need to pay them in more than just experience. Cost of living isn’t going down anytime soon and unpaid internships are an outdated concept,” he said.

McIlroy noted that helping his clients and helping to develop new PR-focused communications professionals is the most rewarding aspect of his career today.

“It’s a small industry so the more we can raise the standard, the better it reflects on all of us,” he said.

Jason Petznick (Class of 2008)  

Jason Petznick (submitted photo)

Petznick, who is currently an account marketing manager at Blue Mountain Resort, is proud of being able to forge a path for himself in an industry that allows him to go snowboarding or mountain biking on his lunch breaks. A snowboarder since Grade 7, he always dreamed of finding a career related to action sports in some way – and he found it in PR.

“My career gives me the opportunity to talk on a daily basis about sports and activities I’m passionate about,” he said.

As a graduate from NC’s Journalism-Print (2007) program, he was drawn to PR by the diversity of the industry.

“Communications is a broad field that allows you to explore classic public relations, along with events, marketing, social media, writing, editing, working with media and much more,” he said. “It seemed like there would be a lot of opportunities available to me after I graduated from the program.”

His key message to the students was that NC’s PR program sets them up with all the foundational skills they need to take their career in many different directions. He spoke about his own career, which began in social media and email marketing and progressed through graphic design, digital marketing and web design, to his current role.

“There was a lot of on-the-job learning involved in some of those positions but there have been direct or indirect ties back to what I learned in the PR program at every step of the path,” he said.

Steph Porter (Class of 2011)

Steph Porter (LinkedIn Photo)

Porter, a communications advisor for Canadian Tire – External – said she was interested in participating in the grad panel because she benefitted so much from NC’s PR program. She now hopes to be a resource for current students making their way through the PR industry.

“I found it was extremely organized and the students were keen and eager to ask questions,” she said.

She recalled that she never knew what PR was until she spoke to a guidance counsellor in university. “I just had this Communications degree that I didn’t know what to do with,” she recalled.

Since graduating from PR, Porter has built up a rewarding career in the industry. She has been part of a communications team at Canadian Tire which has been recognized with several recent notable industry awards including the Canadian Public Relations Society’s International Association of Business Communication Award (2019 and 2020), the Shorty Awards (2020), the CPRS Best Creative Award (2020) and CPRS Best Social Media Influencer Campaign Award (2020).

“I get to be creative, think outside of the box and learn from and collaborate with really smart people,” she said.

Porter’s summed up her advice to students with two letters: TP. “Tenacity plus Positivity will take you far in your PR career,” she said.

Student awards

Two current PR students were recognized for their achievements during the PR Grad Panel event.

Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award

Nicholas Mertens (Submitted photo)

Nicholas Mertens was announced as the recipient of the Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award. Given to the PR student who has shown extraordinary skills as a mentor to their peers and who has actively pursued, cultivated and benefited from the mentorship of faculty and industry partners, this $1,500 award was established by Terry O’Malley, a strong supporter of Niagara College and a long-time friend of Senator Keith Davey.

Mertens, who resides in Hamilton, was drawn to study PR following the results of a career aptitude test and hopes to grow his freelance business after graduation. He said that he felt validated receiving the award.

“I applied to so many jobs with my BA, never landing an interview,” he said. “With the College’s support, I feel confident I will get a good job and build a rewarding career.”

Coordinator Award of Excellence

Brier Barclay (Submitted photo)

Brier Barclay, of Smithville, was honoured with the Coordinator Award of Excellence. This award celebrates a PR student who has demonstrated a strong work ethic combined with a high level of engagement and professionalism. With a positive attitude, a collegial spirit and constantly striving to learn and improve, the recipient is recognized as a future ambassador for the program.

Barclay was grateful to be recognized with the award.

“I had such an amazing experience in this program and am so thankful that I chose to enrol, even in a virtual year,” said Barclay. “Overall, this award shows me that the hard work and dedication I put into this year was seen and appreciated by my peers. I will forever be an advocate for the NC PR program.”

Barclay entered the program with a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and a minor in Communication Studies. She felt the PR program was the perfect opportunity to expand in an area she is passionate about.

“As COVID hit, jobs relating to sports were somewhat off the table so I believed now was a good time to expand my knowledge and I’m happy I did,” she said. “I am truly excited to see where I go – whether it be working in sports-related communications or starting my own public relations business.”

She found the panel speakers “insightful and passionate” and noted that her main takeaway was to continue to grow as a professional and ensure that she truly loves what she is doing at the end of the day.

“I hope to see myself and my classmates in one of these panels in the future,” she said.

Virtual PR event celebrates student and alumni success

Advice and achievement were in the spotlight during a recent Public Relations Grad Panel.

Students from the College’s graduate certificate program had an opportunity to connect with six successful program alumni and celebrate student awards from their own class during the virtual event on March 25.

Six graduates, invited by professor Emily McInerney, shared their experiences and career advice with soon-to-be graduates from their alma mater. Participating alumni included three repeat Grad Panel guests from the Class of 2008 Dave Mammoliti (De Groote School of Business), Ray McIlroy (No Fixed Address) and Jason Petznick (Blue Mountain); as well as 2011 graduates Steph Porter (Canadian Tire head office), and Kirstin Glover (Herjavec Group).

McInerney noted that the PR Grad Panel is an annual tradition for the program dating back at least 15 years. It is held on the final day of classes before students begin their internships.

“The student response is always 100% positive,” she said. “We deliberately schedule it on the last day of school in the program and many have shared how they walk away feeling really excited and inspired to launch their careers.”

While the event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held virtually – a format which this class of PR students have become well accustomed to over the course of their studies. With the program delivered remotely, McInerney noted that they had dozens of guest speakers visit the class virtually and several attended industry-networking events virtually as well.

“Nothing beats face to face but this was a great opportunity for our current students to interact with some of our amazing NC PR grads,” she said. “It was a great chance for them to ask questions and glean insights and advice before they began their internships on March 29.”

McInerney noted that this year’s class transitioned beautifully to remote studies and were highly engaged and committed to the program. Many of the students had also completed their last month or two of university online last year and were all accustomed to online learning as they began the program.

“I feel they have demonstrated resilience. They have impressed all our many virtual guest speakers with their thoughtful questions and high level of participation,” said McInerney. “Although we would all prefer to be face to face, the students and staff alike made an effort to make this a positive and impactful learning experience. I feel really confident we succeeded based on student feedback.”

Panel participants

Ray McIlroy (Class of 2008)

Ray McIllroy (LinkedIn photo)

McIlroy who is now VP, Public Relations for No Fixed Address Inc. was interested in participating in the Grad Panel because he feels it’s important to help provide knowledge, context and relevant advice after a dozen years of leaving Niagara and entering the PR agency world in Toronto.

“It’s on all of us to help each other succeed and to help foster new talent in PR,” he said.

His key message to students: to know their worth and to not work for free.

“If companies want to bring on junior employees, they need to pay them in more than just experience. Cost of living isn’t going down anytime soon and unpaid internships are an outdated concept,” he said.

McIlroy noted that helping his clients and helping to develop new PR-focused communications professionals is the most rewarding aspect of his career today.

“It’s a small industry so the more we can raise the standard, the better it reflects on all of us,” he said.

Jason Petznick (Class of 2008)  

Jason Petznick (submitted photo)

Petznick, who is currently an account marketing manager at Blue Mountain Resort, is proud of being able to forge a path for himself in an industry that allows him to go snowboarding or mountain biking on his lunch breaks. A snowboarder since Grade 7, he always dreamed of finding a career related to action sports in some way – and he found it in PR.

“My career gives me the opportunity to talk on a daily basis about sports and activities I’m passionate about,” he said.

As a graduate from NC’s Journalism-Print (2007) program, he was drawn to PR by the diversity of the industry.

“Communications is a broad field that allows you to explore classic public relations, along with events, marketing, social media, writing, editing, working with media and much more,” he said. “It seemed like there would be a lot of opportunities available to me after I graduated from the program.”

His key message to the students was that NC’s PR program sets them up with all the foundational skills they need to take their career in many different directions. He spoke about his own career, which began in social media and email marketing and progressed through graphic design, digital marketing and web design, to his current role.

“There was a lot of on-the-job learning involved in some of those positions but there have been direct or indirect ties back to what I learned in the PR program at every step of the path,” he said.

Steph Porter (Class of 2011)

Steph Porter (LinkedIn Photo)

Porter, a communications advisor for Canadian Tire – External – said she was interested in participating in the grad panel because she benefitted so much from NC’s PR program. She now hopes to be a resource for current students making their way through the PR industry.

“I found it was extremely organized and the students were keen and eager to ask questions,” she said.

She recalled that she never knew what PR was until she spoke to a guidance counsellor in university. “I just had this Communications degree that I didn’t know what to do with,” she recalled.

Since graduating from PR, Porter has built up a rewarding career in the industry. She has been part of a communications team at Canadian Tire which has been recognized with several recent notable industry awards including the Canadian Public Relations Society’s International Association of Business Communication Award (2019 and 2020), the Shorty Awards (2020), the CPRS Best Creative Award (2020) and CPRS Best Social Media Influencer Campaign Award (2020).

“I get to be creative, think outside of the box and learn from and collaborate with really smart people,” she said.

Porter’s summed up her advice to students with two letters: TP. “Tenacity plus Positivity will take you far in your PR career,” she said.

Student awards

Two current PR students were recognized for their achievements during the PR Grad Panel event.

Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award

Nicholas Mertens (Submitted photo)

Nicholas Mertens was announced as the recipient of the Keith Davey Memorial Public Relations Award. Given to the PR student who has shown extraordinary skills as a mentor to their peers and who has actively pursued, cultivated and benefited from the mentorship of faculty and industry partners, this $1,500 award was established by Terry O’Malley, a strong supporter of Niagara College and a long-time friend of Senator Keith Davey.

Mertens, who resides in Hamilton, was drawn to study PR following the results of a career aptitude test and hopes to grow his freelance business after graduation. He said that he felt validated receiving the award.

“I applied to so many jobs with my BA, never landing an interview,” he said. “With the College’s support, I feel confident I will get a good job and build a rewarding career.”

Coordinator Award of Excellence

Brier Barclay (Submitted photo)

Brier Barclay, of Smithville, was honoured with the Coordinator Award of Excellence. This award celebrates a PR student who has demonstrated a strong work ethic combined with a high level of engagement and professionalism. With a positive attitude, a collegial spirit and constantly striving to learn and improve, the recipient is recognized as a future ambassador for the program.

Barclay was grateful to be recognized with the award.

“I had such an amazing experience in this program and am so thankful that I chose to enrol, even in a virtual year,” said Barclay. “Overall, this award shows me that the hard work and dedication I put into this year was seen and appreciated by my peers. I will forever be an advocate for the NC PR program.”

Barclay entered the program with a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and a minor in Communication Studies. She felt the PR program was the perfect opportunity to expand in an area she is passionate about.

“As COVID hit, jobs relating to sports were somewhat off the table so I believed now was a good time to expand my knowledge and I’m happy I did,” she said. “I am truly excited to see where I go – whether it be working in sports-related communications or starting my own public relations business.”

She found the panel speakers “insightful and passionate” and noted that her main takeaway was to continue to grow as a professional and ensure that she truly loves what she is doing at the end of the day.

“I hope to see myself and my classmates in one of these panels in the future,” she said.

BRTF Alumna Amy Audibert to take to airwaves in historic event

Amy Audibert interviews a basketball player from the 2020 CEBL championships

Give Amy Audibert the chance to hold a microphone and stand courtside at a basketball game, and it’s unlikely she’d ever say no.

The alumna of Niagara’s Broadcast – Radio, Television and Film (BRTF) program has taken every opportunity to do just that since she enrolled at the college in 2010 with the hope of marrying her two passions, athletics and communications.

“Every College sports event I could cover, I was there on the sidelines,” Audibert said. “I did everything on the sidelines.”

On March 24, however, Audibert will take centre stage with four other women as part of an all-female broadcast crew for a televised Toronto Raptors game against the Denver Nuggets. Audibert will host and provide analysis alongside TSN host Kate Beirness and reporter Kayla Grey, national women’s team member Kia Nurse, play-by-play broadcaster Meghan McPeak.

It’s a historic event — it’s the first time during an NBA broadcast in Canada that a woman will be in every on-air role in a televised game.

But before Audibert stands in front of the camera, she took to the airwaves in another rarity, calling analysis during the Raptors-Utah Jazz game on TSN 1050 Toronto on March 19. She is the first woman to do that.

Amy Audibert stands on the sidelines of a basketball court with Gareth Wheeler, reporting for TSN.

Amy Audibert reports from the sidelines with TSN’s Gareth Wheeler.

Making History

The significance of either event isn’t lost on the Niagara Falls native, who’s hustled for years on and off the court for such a monumental opportunity.

“I’m this little girl who grew up watching the Raptors. My goal has always been to call NBA games,” Audibert said. “What this means for me, it’s to wake up and obviously inspire young women out there to do this but also, it’s to do a great job. I don’t want people to say this is political, it’s a nice gesture. In one way, it’s a huge moment, it’s Canadian history…. In another way, it’s ‘I’m going to wake up and go to work next (week).’ ”

The importance of what Audibert is about to do is also being felt all the way back to the college’s BRTF labs and by one of her earliest broadcast mentors, program co-ordinator Peter “Dutch” VandenBerg.

“I use graduate success stories as a means of motivation for my current students,” VandenBerg said. “Participation in a historic event empowers female students here in what’s typically a male-dominated industry.”

Still, there was a time when Audibert would wake up unsure of what to do in life.

The A.N. Myer grad who towers 6-foot-2 spent four years playing centre for the University of Miami women’s team while working toward her bachelor and master’s degrees in sports administration.

She returned to Niagara in 2009 with an expired student visa and to an economy that wasn’t rich with jobs. Audibert determined she would take a year to figure out that weighty question of ‘What next?’

She took a serving job at a nearby casino and visited her grandmother every day. It would prove to be one of her best decisions.

In some aspects, it was one of my favourite years of my life,” Audibert said. “I went from playing college basketball to ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ ”

Enter Niagara College. Among Audibert’s strengths is her ability to communicate. She also found television intriguing. So she applied to the BRTF program and got accepted into the second year as an advanced learner.

“Everything lined up. I went to Niagara College and haven’t looked back,” Audibert said.

That could be because she didn’t have time. Audibert was too busy taking every opportunity to work the sidelines of NC Knights games and learning the technology that was covered for her classmates in their first year. (She also took on the role of assistant coach for the college’s women’s basketball team in 2011-12 and the men’s team in 2018-19.)

“She would work so hard,” VandenBerg said. “Part of it is her tenacity, but her work ethic was unbelievable. She’d be here in a Mac lab until 10-11 o’clock at night trying to learn something.”

Audibert put in the time because of a passion for sport but also because of a desire to build on what other women, including Doris Burke, NBA announcer and analyst on ESPN, were doing in sports broadcasting.

“Doris Burke is one of the greatest TV analysts out there, but other than her, there were not a lot of faces out there,” she noted.

Amy Audibert takes a selfie wearing a CBC Sports shirts, standing at the sidelines of a a basketball court.

Amy Audibert takes every opportunity she can to make her mark in sports journalism. She will be joining the college for an Ask an Alumni in the near future.

Doing the Work

After graduating, Audibert continued putting in the hours on the sidelines, reporting or calling analysis at Canisius College, then for five seasons at the University at Buffalo, which took her to the Sweet 16 during an NCAA March Madness tournament.

Those around her suggested she move to Toronto for greater opportunities in sports journalism, but Audibert is certain opportunities like those across the river came her way because she stayed in Niagara.

Still, the big city would eventually come calling and it was because Audibert did the knocking.

“I’m in an industry where you hear ‘No’ a million gazillion times. But every season I’m sending off emails, sending my tapes,” she said. “Even if it’s just a few seconds, I feel it’s important for people to remember who you are.”

She got a sideline reporting gig subbing in with the Raptors 905 in the NBA’s G-league in 2018. After her first season, she was hired at the television colour analyst for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

The night before her last game in Atlanta, Audibert got the offer to do analysis for the Raptors 905. She admitted it was a job she didn’t think she’d ever have.

“When I was at Niagara College not even 10 years ago, I never took one rep as an analyst because I didn’t see it as a realistic job for me.”

But thanks to women like Burke, Sarah Kustok, who’s the first full-time female analyst for an NBA team, and now Audibert and a group of women joining her on air on March 24, that’s changing.

“This is huge. It’s being given the opportunity to be part of something that’s the first, something that didn’t consistently exist when I was growing up” Audibert said. “I don’t want this to be a men versus women issue. This isn’t us taking over. This is us pulling up a chair and saying we can sit at the table, too. It’s not showing anyone is better. It’s showing we can do it, too, and creating that opportunity down the line for others, showing that it’s tangible.”

Virtual speaker series shines spotlight on retail fashion leader Lora Tisi

In the 40 years since she graduated from Niagara College, Lora Tisi has been at the helm of some of the most popular fashion retailers in Canada, but on March 24, her focus will be on sharing her words of wisdom with students from her alma mater.

Tisi, who is the former president of the RW&CO brand for Reitmans Canada, American Eagle Outfitters and the Northern Group, will address students as part of a new virtual speaker series on entrepreneurship hosted by Niagara College’s schools of Business and Management, Hospitality, Tourism and Sport, and Environment and Horticulture. It will be her first College event since graduating four decades ago.

“I was well supported, during my education and career, by so many beautiful people and I am quite certain I would not be where I am today without each of them,” said Tisi. “It is my goal in the next phase of my career to find ways to give back and my alma mater was a natural place to connect.”

Since graduating from Fashion Merchandising in 1979, Tisi has gone the distance from her hometown of St. Catharines and built a successful career as the go-to expert for branding and expanding many of the retail companies popular with Canadians. She helped build Northern Reflections from scratch and ushered American Eagle Outfitters into the Great White North. She was the past president of both companies and a key player in the successes of many more. As president and board director of the Northern Group from 1995 to 2000, she led profit growth which exceeded any other in the Canadian apparel industry, and grew the number of stores to 940 in North America under four banners: Northern Reflections, Northern Traditions, Northern Getaway and Northern Elements – and introduced the former to the U.S.

During the virtual NC event, Tisi plans to convey stories about experiences that helped to shape her career. She hopes to encourage students to dream big, surround themselves with great people, and start with a solid educational foundation.

“It’s so important to find others who believe in you because there will always be times when you will have doubts about whether you have what it takes; it’s natural while you are learning new things and getting to places you’ve never been,” said Tisi. “Those are the moments when you need cheerleaders to let you know you can and will. It’s amazing how far you get with the right support.”

Tisi, who is based in Oakville and New York, recently moved on from her role as RW&CO. president, to reduce travel and focus on retail and Indigenous boards. The shift also enables her to dedicate more of her time to mentoring, including Indigenous companies – a personal passion and part of her life where she has wanted to spend more time.

While much has changed in the industry and the world since she graduated from NC and entered the industry, Tisi is inspired by the qualities she sees in today’s youth as they tackle challenges before them at this unique time in history.

“I have always felt that times of great change bring about great opportunities. Especially with youth; they know what is especially interesting and important to people like them,” she said. “I am blown away by their ideas, their courage and determination, especially in this historic time.”

Dean of Business, Tourism and Environment Alan Unwin looks forward to welcoming Tisi to the event.

“Having the opportunity to hear first-hand from a member of our alumni community with decades of success and leadership in the Canadian retail industry promises to be a truly inspiring experience for our current students,” said Unwin. “We are excited to welcome Lora back to our College community for this online event and are sincerely grateful to her for providing this valuable learning opportunity to our students.”

The virtual event will begin at 9:30 a.m. on March 24. While it is geared to NC students, the public is also welcome to attend. Registration is available through Eventbrite.

Making a difference on the front lines: NC student, grads share their work experiences in the field of mental health and addictions

head shots of panelists

The following article was submitted by Theresa Anzovino and Jamie Oresar, professors of Sociology and Equity Studies in NC’s School of Liberal Studies:

On March 15, a virtual panel presentation was hosted with NC Community and Justice Services student Grant Hudson and NC Social Service Worker program alumni Kariann Gracey, Christopher Allan and Adam Coleman, who facilitated a transformational learning experience for current students studying diversity and mental health and addictions through NC’s School of Liberal Studies.

The panelists introduced students to their work in community agencies and the issues and trends they are observing with respect to mental health and addictions. NC students had an opportunity to hear and understand what is happening in the community from the perspectives of those working on the front lines and with lived experience. Increased need for support during the COVID-19 pandemic was a common theme and the students listening in were impacted greatly by the experiences of the panelists.

One student shared, “I was so looking forward to today and it did not disappoint. You know when you have an amazing inspirational thing happen in your life, and you know it will never be the same – that was what today was for me.” Another student commented, “today shattered me it was so powerful – in a good way,” while a third student stated, “I was one of those people who did not agree with harm reduction…totally changed my opinion.”

Meet the panelists and find out what they are doing in the field of mental health and addictions

a head shot of student Grant HudsonGrant Hudson is a current student in Niagara College’s Community and Justice Services program. Hudson’s position with Community Addiction Services of Niagara (CASON) is based on his lived experience with mental health and addiction. When he completed a student placement with CASON last term, Hudson was offered the position of youth peer support outreach worker, working alongside the youth team supporting clients and being available for 24-hour support through call or text. Hudson is currently working with the SMART recovery team at CASON facilitating group counselling and support meetings on Wednesday nights. Hudson and NC grad Adam Coleman are both currently working through online training to be certified to run a new project CASON hopes to roll out very soon. This project will be strictly youth smart recovery.

Hudson is also currently partnering with two outside agencies in the St. Catharines downtown area. The first agency is STEPS Youth Resource Centre where, every Monday, he spends time supporting youth, taking part in the programming they offer, building rapport and offering his knowledge on addictions and mental health. The second agency he has partnered with is Positive Living StreetWorks. Every Thursday evening, Hudson accompanies staff in the outreach vans offering clean supplies and supporting clients using the harm reduction model.

a headshot of Adam ColemanAdam Coleman graduated from Niagara College’s Social Service Worker program in 2020 and has an Honours BA in Child and Youth Studies with a minor in Music from Brock University and plays a mean tenor saxophone. Coleman has been working in social services for over three years and currently works for four separate agencies: full-time with Community Addiction Services of Niagara (CASON) as a youth/emerging adult outreach addictions counsellor; part-time casual with Pathstone Mental Health as a child/youth relief worker; in multiple clinical positions at Withdrawal Management Services (detox) as a program worker; and at Canadian Mental Health Association as a safe beds worker.

Coleman is currently with the OCSWSSW as a registered social service worker. His primary work revolves around mental health and addiction ongoing counselling services and providing weekly sessions for folks between 15 to 25 years of age. Coleman also co-leads a Youth Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) skills group and is in the process of training to facilitate youth SMART recovery meetings alongside NC student Grant Hudson.

He writes, “As a queer person, a lot of my interests include exploring addiction/mental health in youth and young adults who identify in minority groups (primarily 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities).” Coleman’s future goals include becoming a registered therapist, obtaining his Masters of Social Work and seeing where this wild world of social work takes him.

a photo of Christopher AllanChristopher Allan is a graduate of Niagara College’s Police Foundations and Social Service Worker Program (2020). While a student at NC he accumulated nearly 2000 hours of volunteer service hours, participated in NC’s Be World Ready program that involved four trips around the world to Amsterdam, Peru, South Korea, and Guatemala and was elected by the student body to serve as NCSAC’s director of Community Services.

Allan is currently the executive secretary for Arid Recovery Homes, which provides supportive housing for those working on their sobriety. Arid was his first placement while in the SSW program. Today, he is employed full-time as StreetWorks outreach worker for Positive Living Niagara. StreetWorks is a harm reduction program that provides safe injection and inhalation supplies to people in the Niagara Region. They work with the individuals they help, providing support with where they are at in their substance use.

a photo of Kariann GraceyKariann Gracey is a graduate of Niagara College (Social Service Worker, 2020) and Brock University. In 2020, she was the recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Medal, one of the most prestigious awards a Canadian student can receive.

Gracey has worked at Family and Children’s Services as a child protection worker since May 2020. She currently works as part of the Indigenous Services Team pilot, a child welfare team that serves Indigenous families to increase collaboration and support families to increase safety for their children with a focus on wrap-around service connection within the community, especially by way of Indigenous programming. This team is working to challenge mainstream child welfare thinking to divert from court involvement and removals wherever possible to keep Indigenous children connected to their families of origin and their culture, working toward considerations outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Gracey also works as a Streetworks mobile outreach worker for Positive Living Niagara since April 2019 and is a strong advocate for harm reduction principles in fostering self-determination in individuals who use substances.

Inspired by the work of the panelists, students asked where they could volunteer to help. The panelists provided the following links:

positivelivingniagara.com/service-provider/volunteer
pathstonementalhealth.ca/volunteer
distresscentreniagara.com/volunteer/
facsniagara.on.ca/become-a-volunteer/