Michele O’Keefe wins prestigious CICan Award of Excellence

Niagara College’s Director of Athletics and Student Engagement presented with silver award

For the second time in two years, a member of the Niagara College community has earned a prestigious national award recognizing exceptional leadership and significant contributions to student success.

Michele O’Keefe, Director, Athletics and Student Engagement, was presented with a silver Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) on April 30 during its 2024 CICan Connection Conference in Calgary.

Honourable Mentions also went to Niagara College for the Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award, and to Reginald (Reggie) Williams for the Leadership Excellence Award for Students.

O’Keefe, formerly the CEO and president of Canada Basketball, joined Niagara College in 2018—the same year she was awarded the Leadership in Sport Award at the Canadian Sport Awards, Canada’s premier event for national sport achievement and leadership recognition.

In the years since, O’Keefe’s commitment to promoting sport as a tool of empowerment—especially for women—has remained steadfast. At Niagara College, she’s been a constant source of encouragement for students, athletes, coaches and employees who are motivated by her genuine and inspiring leadership style.

O’Keefe, however, credits the college for creating an environment where she can help student and staff flourish.

“I feel very fortunate to work at Niagara College,” she said. “The special environment we have allows me to have influence in building an atmosphere where our students and staff can participate in programs, events and teams that will help them for life. The collaborative nature of Niagara College—combined with the staff we have in Athletics and Student Engagement—naturally builds programs that put our students in the spotlight.

“I’m very grateful to Niagara College for nominating me for this prestigious award,” she added. “To know that the Knights family feels that my leadership is valuable is a tremendous feeling.”

Highly respected in the field of sport, O’Keefe has received numerous accolades and awards for her visionary leadership, including the City of Welland’s esteemed H.L. Cudney Memorial Award for her contributions to basketball, and an Executive Award of Merit in 2020 for her role formalizing a structure for the development of basketball officials. In 2020, she was also a runner-up for the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Awards.

O’Keefe is the past Board Chair of the Ontario Sport Network (OSN) and is among a small group of Canadian athletic leaders to sit on world sports boards. From 2014-2023, she served on the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas Board and the FIBA Central Board, making her a top female policymaker in international sport.

Throughout her career she has played an integral role in shaping sport policy and continues to build capacity for sport excellence at the local, provincial, national and international levels through her volunteer work.

Among O’Keefe’s recent accomplishments is a partnership with the City of Welland to launch the first-ever Girls Sport Day in 2022, which provides girls between the ages of six and 12 the opportunity to try a variety of sports to build confidence and instill a sense of belonging in sport.

She also held a spot on the board of directors and served as Chair of the Legacy Committee for the Niagara 2022 Summer Games.

Niagara College President Sean Kennedy said O’Keefe’s leadership at the College is shaping a legacy of excellence in sport and a passion for community building.

“Michele’s unique ability to bring people together and drive collaboration in support of students is infectious,” Kennedy said. “Like any great coach, she leads by example, nurturing talent and leveraging connections to build people up and bring out their best. Michele embodies Niagara College’s welcoming, passionate and trailblazing characteristics. She is warm, approachable and pragmatic, and her leadership inspires trust and serves as a magnet for new partnerships and connections.”

The CICan Awards of Excellence recognize and promote excellence within Canadian colleges and institutes, while showcasing the extraordinary contributions of individuals to their college/institute communities.

“The impact of the college and institute sector is felt in the success of our students and the partnerships we build across our communities,” said CICan President and CEO Pari Johnston. “The exceptional leaders within our institutions are the key drivers of that impact. Congratulations, Michele, on your Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff.”

CICan’s Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff recognizes an individual or team who has made an exceptional contribution within their institution and within the community it serves.

O’Keefe was presented with the award at the silver level on April 30 at CICan’s Awards of Excellence Luncheon.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Media inquiries, please contact:

Elyse Howarth
Communications Consultant
Cell: 905-329-4910
[email protected]

Niagara College and Willow Arts Community partner on inclusive art project

Inspiring artwork created by Niagara College students and members from the Willow Arts Community will brighten up an on-campus space dedicated to supporting students this spring.

Four large-scale canvases – each created through a diversity and inclusion lens – were revealed on April 22 at an event hosted by NC’s Health, Wellness and Accessibility Services (HWAS).

The artwork was commissioned by HWAS with a goal of making its reception area at the Welland Campus more welcoming for students. As a department within the College’s Student Services division, and one that focuses on the wholistic student experience, it was important to the HWAS team that students feel comfortable and safe when visiting the office.

“We wanted to display lived experience in Health, Wellness and Accessibility Services, so that when students come in, they feel that this is a place for them. We don’t want our space to feel like a clinical setting,” said Dr. Karen Csoli, Director of HWAS at NC’s Welland Campus.

Enter Willow Arts Community, an award-winning charity that provides free peer to peer arts education and social connections for artists and creatives living with mental illness and substance use in Niagara. Bianca Neufeld, NC Administrative Assistant, Wellness and Accessibility, reached out to Shauna MacLeod, Founder and Executive Director of Willow Arts, and together, they developed a plan to commission four 30 by 40-inch canvases for the College.

Through the project, two NC students, who were chosen out of a pool of applicants, were matched with two artists from Willow Arts, who mentored the students to help bring their concepts to life. The participants were paid for their work and given creative freedom, aside from a few requirements: the artwork had to be colourful and reflective of the HWAS department’s and the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Willow Arts was thrilled to partner with Niagara College to provide meaningful opportunities for artists with lived experience of mental illness and substance use to work with students to create something impactful for those visiting HWAS,” said MacLeod, an NC alum (General Arts and Science University Transfer Option program, 2011) who was supported by the HWAS staff during their time at the College. “Bridging together the arts and community wellbeing is a pillar of our mission and we are so proud of the exceptional work that was created to help enhance diversity and inclusion at Niagara College,” added MacLeod.

All four artists attended the event to unveil and explain their creations, which will be hung in the Welland HWAS office later this spring.

“Art can say so many things that we can’t say – it’s a visual representation of mood, feeling, values,” said Dr. Chris McGrath, NC’s Vice President, Students. “This inspiring collection will help students feel a sense of community and belonging when coming into Health, Wellness and Accessibility Services for care. Thank you to Willow Arts Community and to the talented participants who worked on this special project.”

Meet the artists

Kiran Purohit, originally from India and a student from NC’s Palliative Care graduate certificate program, created a piece drawing on his experience working as a registered nurse in his home country. His canvas portrays the balance between a person’s physical, mental, social and spiritual health.

“It’s important to spend some time with yourself in your busy schedule,” Purohit said when explaining his artwork at the event.

A student points to his artwork portraying a health and wellness theme
NC student Kiran Purohit displays his artwork inspired by his experience working as a registered nurse in India.

Yenis Camargo, a student from NC’s General Arts and Science – Enhanced Language Training for Employment certificate program and a native of Columbia, painted “Together” – a visual representation of an inclusive society that embraces everyone.

“The path is painted with a palette of colours that reflects diversity, intertwining without barriers or limits,” said Camargo. “Yellow butterflies and the warm sign saying ‘Bienvenidos!’ (Welcome) provide identity to Colombian culture, while the clasped hands symbolize the multiculturalism of Canada, emphasizing unity and solidarity among those who are part of this global community.”

Camargo has a background in Social Psychology and is a self-taught artist. She has been involved in other community art initiatives in the Niagara region, including the Art on Welland Bell Boxes project, and runs painting workshops at her home studio in Port Colborne.

a student holds up her artwork that features a brightly coloured pathway
NC student Yenis Camargo painted a visual representation of an inclusive society that embraces everyone.

Psi M’igyver from Willow Arts Community created a whimsical painting of a flowerpot. The artwork was inspired by M’igyver’s conversations with former NC students and alumni, who shared that the College is a special place.

“I wanted to show how Niagara College cradles its students and how it provides them with an environment to succeed; that anyone who lands in the soil has what they need,” said M’igyver.

a community artists smiles beside her artwork portraying a whimsical flowerpot
Willow Arts Community artist Psi M’igyver created a whimsical painting of a flowerpot to represent NC’s commitment to supporting students.

Kim Height from Willow Arts Community drew on her Indigenous ancestry to create a colourful canvas she called “United.” Height incorporated animals with Indigenous significance including a bear, wolf, whale, turtle and thunderbird and describes her artwork as, “Uniting culture and diverse populations in an Indigenous world.” View additional artwork from Height on her Facebook page.

a community artist stands beside her colourful painting featuring animals with Indigenous significance
Willow Arts Community artist Kim Height explains her Indigenous inspired artwork.

Willow Arts Community is an award-winning charity that provides free peer to peer arts education and social connections for artists and creatives living with mental illness and substance use in Niagara. The charity provides an inclusive, non-judgemental space for people to learn new skills and connect with each other and professionals in the arts community. Personal and creative achievements are celebrated through exhibitions, public art projects, publications, and performances.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 11,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Media inquiries, please contact:

Elyse Howarth
Communications Consultant
Cell: 905-329-4910
[email protected]

 

Intergenerational project from Niagara College and Heidehof culminates with industry award

Unique experience demonstrates life-long learning in action

A one-of-a-kind trailblazing project from Niagara College’s School of Community Services and Heidehof – a well-known seniors care community home in St. Catharines – has been recognized with a provincial industry award for its innovative approach to intergenerational learning and social connection.

The project – “A Senior’s Freshman Year: The Intergenerational College Experience” – involved 29 first-year students from NC’s Recreation Therapy program and 10 seniors living at the home in Long-term Care, Supportive Housing and Life Lease units.

The unique experience was delivered during NC’s 2024 winter term from January to April through the Recreation Therapy program’s Applied Positive Strategies in Therapeutic Recreation course, which focuses on strategies for increasing wellbeing through positive psychology.

“The course content lent itself well to the project,” said Heather Vokey, part-time NC Professor and Manager of Life Enrichment at Heidehof who taught the course. “It was applicable to the NC students preparing for their future careers as Recreation Therapists and for the seniors who could take a lot of the strategies and apply them to their own lives, increasing their wellbeing.”

The outcome of the project included three main focuses: foster and sustain relationships between students and the senior participants; learn and engage in self-directed meaningful activities that promote well-being; and instill a sense of meaning and purpose in the seniors through mentoring students.

To accomplish these goals, both the NC students and the seniors – the “Heidehof students” – attended class together at the home on Tuesday mornings for 14 weeks. Each class consisted of a two-hour lecture, a one-hour hands-on activity and “mentor moments” – intentional learning exercises where the seniors shared their life experiences with the NC students.

Heather Vokey (standing), NC Professor and Manager of Life Enrichment at Heidehof, delivers a lecture for students participating in the intergenerational project.

Through the opportunity, the NC students gained a practical understanding and application of the course theory in a real-world setting, earning a credit towards their diploma in the process, while all participants discovered the value of belonging to a healthy, inclusive, life-long learning community.

“This course really proves that you can never be too old to learn,” said one Heidehof senior student.

“Back when I was in school, mental health was not thought of in a positive way, however by taking this course it provides education on better outlooks that they did not have then,” said another Heidehof senior student.

Meaningful relationships also blossomed between participants, demonstrating that social connection has no age boundary.

“This experience opened my eyes when it came to long-term care because when I first enrolled in the Recreation Therapy program, I wanted to work with children. After genuinely bonding with my Heidehof student, my outlook on my original target population to work with changed and long-term care was my ideal setting,” said NC student Cassidy King.

“This course is something I will never forget and I am lucky that I had the opportunity to meet my resident because she is someone who, even though the positive psychology course is done, I will continue to visit and hold very close to my heart,” King added.

The project was funded through a New Horizons Grant from the federal government, which provided the necessary course materials and iPads for the seniors to learn on. The funding also enabled the team to hire an assistant, Lauren Cooke, who worked closely with Vokey to support the project. Cooke gathered regular participant feedback and helped plan the activities that correlated to the class topic each week. Activities included balloon tennis, exercise classes, bowling, gratitude jars and more.

“The weekly activities fostered a sense of inclusion and belonging, teamwork, respect, and appreciation for one another among the participants,” said Cooke, who completed NC’s Recreation Therapy program in December 2023 and will graduate this June. “The connections made, the relationships they formed, while also learning something new that they can apply to their positive well-being, has been an endearing privilege to watch.”

Cooke also completed her field placement at Heidehof as an NC student, which helped her in her role supporting the intergenerational project.

The initiative exceeded the expectations of Jackie Frail, NC’s Associate Dean, School of Community Services, who worked with Vokey on the funding application and project framework back in 2022.

“I am immensely proud of the collaboration between Niagara College and Heidehof,” said Frail. “This project stands as a shining example of our organizations’ shared commitment to making a significant impact in the lives of those we serve and is a hallmark for meaningful applied learning opportunities for students. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the students from both NC and Heidehof for their unwavering dedication to this experience.”

In addition to learning practical skills through the experience, the NC students gained many valuable soft skills that will help them become compassionate recreation therapists.

“I have learned a lot beyond the class material itself. I have learned patience, I have learned how to better communicate and listen to people when they have things to share, and I have also learned how to be a better friend,” said NC student Annabelle Stephens-Beaudoin.

Participants celebrated their final class together on April 9, which was followed by a surprise luncheon organized by Vokey and Cooke.

Staff and faculty from Niagara College celebrate with project participants at a surprise luncheon at Heidehof on April 9, marking the students’ final class. At the luncheon, the seniors were gifted NC sweaters, while the NC students were gifted Heidehof sweaters. (some students are missing from the photo)

Industry recognition

On April 17, Heidehof and NC were recognized for the project by AdvantAge Ontario, the voice of not-for-profit seniors’ care in Ontario for more than 100 years.

The project received the Innovation and Excellence Community Connections Award, which honours initiatives that build strong, positive relationships to better serve the local community and that profile the organization and its services. Award winners may be distinguished through partnerships with other organizations, program expansion, public relations, community development activities, volunteer programs, or other outstanding community initiatives.

The award was presented on day one of the AdvantAge Ontario Advancing Senior Care Convention in Toronto. The three-day convention is attended by over 1,100 guests from across Canada including healthcare administrators, professionals and executives; government representatives; and sector stakeholders, who come together to connect, network and learn about the latest in seniors’ care.

Representatives from Niagara College and Heidehof accept the Innovation and Excellence Community Connections Award on April 17 at the AdvantAge Ontario Advancing Senior Care Convention, held at Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. L-R: Heather Vokey, NC Professor and Manager of Life Enrichment at Heidehof; Lauren Cooke, Project Assistant; Elena Caddis, Heidehof Executive Director; Jackie Frail, NC Associate Director, School of Community Services; Carol Phillips, NC Dean, Community Services, Justice and Fitness Studies; and a representative from the award sponsor.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 11,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor’s degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Media inquiries, please contact:

Elyse Howarth
Communications Consultant
905-329-4910
[email protected]

 

Niagara College offering occupational testing for future law enforcement personnel, fitness assessments for community members

A new Justice and Fitness Training Centre at Niagara College is expanding access to career-specific fitness testing and advanced fitness assessments.

Located at the Welland Campus, the Centre is part of the College’s School of Justice and Fitness, which prepares students for careers in law enforcement including in policing, border services, corrections and security, and in the fitness industry to support individuals in achieving a healthy active lifestyle.

NC students within these program areas have benefited from the use of NC’s state-of-the-art facilities that are comprised of the latest testing and fitness equipment. Now, future law enforcement personnel and fitness-minded individuals can also access the services, which can be booked online at an affordable cost.

“We are excited to be offering our alumni and community members the testing that is required when applying for a position in law enforcement,” said Sandro D’Annunzio, NC’s Associate Dean, School of Justice and Fitness Studies. “The Justice and Fitness Training Centre is supported by our qualified employees who are helping many individuals pursuing a career in this in-demand field.”

In the Advanced Fitness Lab, NC offers fitness assessments and training including VO2 Max Testing, Muscular Strength and Endurance Assessments, Body Composition Analysis, Resting Metabolic Rate and Submaximal Aerobic Fitness Tests.

On the occupational testing side, offerings include the PARE (Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation) and the FITCO (Fitness Test for Correctional Services of Canada). Practice sessions are also available for the PARE and FITCO, as well as the PIN (Police Fitness Test) and the PREP (Physical Readiness Evaluation for Police).

The occupational testing aligns with the pre-employment fitness requirements for Royal Canadian Mounted police (RCMP), Canada Border Services (CBSA), Ministry of Solicitor General – the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Correctional Services and Municipal Policing Services.

Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigations student Ryan Potrecz participates in the PREP (Physical Readiness Evaluation for Police) test at NC’s Justice and Fitness Training Centre.

By providing practice testing, Sonya Siebert, NC’s Justice Studies Lab Manager, said individuals planning on applying for a career in law enforcement can familiarize themselves ahead of time with the physical fitness assessments that they will be required to successfully complete for employment, so they know how they measure up.

“There is anxiety in completing the fitness testing,” said Siebert, who noted that people have travelled to the College from as far as Ottawa to use the services. “They can come here, run through the fitness testing and find out exactly where they are at – like a practice run. Our sessions are conducted in a controlled environment, where our qualified staff explain the test protocols and demonstrate the requirements.”

For more information, visit NC’s Justice and Fitness Training Centre website.

All bookings are completed online through the JaneApp booking portal, which includes full descriptions, availability and pricing.

NC’s Justice and Fitness Training Centre launched in November 2023 as one of the College’s Dream Big Fund projects. The fund enables NC to more quickly approve pilot initiatives and activities that further one or more of the College’s Strategic Plan objectives to continue NC on its path of being welcoming, trailblazing and innovative.

Later this year, NC hopes to expand the Justice and Fitness Training Centre offerings with the addition of an interactive simulator that can be used to learn about judgement and police use of force options.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 11,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Media inquiries, please contact:

Elyse Howarth
Communications Consultant
Cell: 905-329-4910
[email protected]

 

Seven NC Alumni of Excellence honourees earn prestigious Premier’s Award nominations

The CEO of a major retail chain has joined a hospital president, a high-tech veteran, a community non-profit leader, a popular drag queen/pop star, a development technologist, and an automotive technical trainer as part of a select group of distinguished NC alumni to be nominated for prestigious Premier’s Awards.

The group represents the first cohort of Niagara College’s annual Alumni of Excellence honourees. Introduced this year, the annual program recognizes and celebrates the outstanding achievements of a distinct group of NC alumni through a series of on-campus programs and events and is the most significant recognition of NC graduates.

The Alumni of Excellence honourees have also been put forward for provincial recognition, as nominees for Colleges Ontario’s 2023 Premier’s Awards, which celebrate outstanding contributions that college alumni make to Ontario and the world.

Nominations are submitted from each of Ontario’s 24 colleges in seven categories: Apprenticeship, Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health Sciences, Technology and Recent Graduate (within five years). NC’s 2023 nominees include:

  • Christine White (Apprenticeship) Lead Technical Trainer, Stellantis N.V. (NC Auto Service Technician grad, 2006);
  • Jason Ofield (Business), President and Chief Executive Officer, Bulk Barn Foods Limited (NC Business, Sales and Marketing grad, 2006);
  • Mark Carl (Community Services) CEO, Habitat for Humanity Niagara (Business Administration – Marketing grad 1997, and International Trade grad, 1997);
  • Mark Suknanan/Priyanka (Creative Arts and Design), Drag Queen, pop star and television personality (NC Broadcasting – Radio Television and Film grad, 2012);
  • Dorothy Urschel (Health Sciences) President and CEO, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Clinical Professor, State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo (Nursing grad, 1991);
  • Jessica Garrett (Recent Graduate) Development Technologist, City of Niagara Falls (NC Carpentry and Renovation Techniques grad, 2015, and Construction Engineering Technology grad, 2019);
  • John Zambakkides (Technology) President and CEO, Z3 Controls Inc. (Power Engineering diploma, 1972).

“From leading health care institutions and building cross-country retail chains, to working tirelessly to solve housing inequities and diversify the skilled trades, NC grads are at the vanguard of making change and leading our communities,” said Gord Arbeau, Niagara College’s Vice President, Advancement. “This cohort of distinguished Alumni of Excellence reflects NC students and graduates who are making the world and our region better places to work and live. They join past generations of alumni impacting our lives today and in the future.”

Colleges Ontario’s 2023 Premier’s Awards will be presented on November 27 at the Sheraton in Toronto. Nominees will be honoured and winners will be announced at an annual gala event, which is part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit.

NC alumni who have won previously include:

  • 2022: Journalist Murray Brewster (Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film grad, 1985), and Founder of Erica’s Embrace, Erica Williams (Social Service Worker grad, 2018);
  • 2014: Royal Canadian Navy Capt. Rebecca Patterson (Nursing grad, 1987);
  • 2012: David Pratt (Greenhouse Technician grad, 2007);
  • 2011: Jerry Howell (Computer Engineering Technology grad, 1988);
  • 2008: Jordan Harris (Winery and Viticulture Technician grad, 2004);
  • 2003: Heather Kilty (Social Welfare Worker grad, 1969);
  • 1995: Carol Alaimo (Journalism-Print grad, 1984).

Niagara College has an alumni community of more than 120,000 – and growing. Visit niagaracollege.ca/alumnirelations.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 11,000 students from over 80 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Media inquiries, please contact:

Michael Wales
Director, Communications
Niagara College
905-328-4101
[email protected]

Tawse Winery founder creates scholarship in memory of winemaker Paul Pender

Award-winning winemaker and Niagara College alumnus Paul Pender, who passed away suddenly in February 2022 at the age of 54, is being honoured through a scholarship that will help the next generation of diverse winemakers.

Moray Tawse, founder of Tawse Winery in Vineland where Pender was the Director of Viticulture and Winemaking at the time of his passing, has made an endowed gift of close to $200,000 to create “The Tawse Winery Paul Pender Memorial BIPOC Student Award.”

The donation will fund annual $10,000 scholarships for BIPOC students in NC’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program, which Pender graduated from in 2006.

“Paul’s passion for winemaking was unmatched and his talents directly contributed to our winery’s success early on,” said Tawse. “We will be forever indebted to Paul for his dedication and friendship, and we look forward to supporting Niagara College students in his honour.”

“Niagara College is grateful to Moray Tawse for his generous donation in memory of our inspirational alumnus Paul Pender,” said NC President Sean Kennedy. “Paul was a role model for so many students and a shining example of the trailblazing professionals coming out of our wine programs.”

Pender was known for his easy going and positive nature. The respected organic winemaker gave generously of his time and expertise to mentor aspiring professionals in the industry and was welcoming to everyone.

Through The Tawse Winery Paul Pender Memorial BIPOC Student Award, Tawse hopes to help expand access into the Winery and Viticulture Technician program, especially for people who are underrepresented in the beverage alcohol industry, including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, people with disabilities, first generation Canadians, LGBTQ2S+ and non-binary gender diverse people.

Inspirational NC alumnus Paul Pender

Pender was part of the second graduating class of the College’s trailblazing Winery and Viticulture Technician program. After completing his studies, his career quickly blossomed within the heart of Niagara’s booming wine industry, and he became one of the most celebrated winemakers in Canada.

He joined Tawse Winery in 2005 and became head winemaker in 2006. Under his leadership, Tawse achieved EcoCert Organic and Demeter Biodynamic certification and was named Canadian Winery of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016 – repeat wins that were unprecedented.

Pender was awarded the prestigious title of Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards in 2011 and 2022. Also in 2022, the Ontario Wine Awards introduced a special trophy in recognition of Pender’s legacy called the Paul Pender Memorial ‘Rising Star’ Award, given to recipients who demonstrate the qualities that made Pender a winemaker’s winemaker – talent, selfless generosity, mentorship, and innovation. NC alumni from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program received the award in 2022 and 2023. The inaugural recipient was alumnus Alex Baines (2015), head winemaker at Hidden Bench Estate Winery in Beamsville who spent time working with Pender at Tawse Winery. In 2023, the award went to alumna Brooke Husband (2018), Assistant Winemaker at Domaine Queylus in St. Ann’s.

Through the years, Pender kept close ties with his alma mater, returning to the College on several occasions to speak to students and share his expertise. He also participated in two advisory committees for the Winery and Viticulture Technician program and consulted with the College regarding its Artisan Distilling program.

“Paul was one of our brightest alumni who always had his door open for mentoring the next generation,” said Gord Arbeau, NC’s Vice President Advancement. “It’s fitting that a scholarship in his name will support future professionals in the wine industry.”

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Photos:

Top photo: Moray and Paul: Moray Tawse (left), founder of Tawse Winery in Vineland, with NC alumnus and winemaker Paul Pender. Tawse has donated to NC to create a memorial scholarship in Pender’s name that will support diverse students in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Michael Wales
Director, Communications
905-328-4101
[email protected]

 

Tawse Winery founder creates scholarship in memory of winemaker Paul Pender

Award-winning winemaker and Niagara College alumnus Paul Pender, who passed away suddenly in February 2022 at the age of 54, is being honoured through a scholarship that will help the next generation of diverse winemakers.

Moray Tawse, founder of Tawse Winery in Vineland where Pender was the Director of Viticulture and Winemaking at the time of his passing, has made an endowed gift of close to $200,000 to create “The Tawse Winery Paul Pender Memorial BIPOC Student Award.”

The donation will fund annual $10,000 scholarships for BIPOC students in NC’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program, which Pender graduated from in 2006.

“Paul’s passion for winemaking was unmatched and his talents directly contributed to our winery’s success early on,” said Tawse. “We will be forever indebted to Paul for his dedication and friendship, and we look forward to supporting Niagara College students in his honour.”

“Niagara College is grateful to Moray Tawse for his generous donation in memory of our inspirational alumnus Paul Pender,” said NC President Sean Kennedy. “Paul was a role model for so many students and a shining example of the trailblazing professionals coming out of our wine programs.”

Pender was known for his easy going and positive nature. The respected organic winemaker gave generously of his time and expertise to mentor aspiring professionals in the industry and was welcoming to everyone.

Through The Tawse Winery Paul Pender Memorial BIPOC Student Award, Tawse hopes to help expand access into the Winery and Viticulture Technician program, especially for people who are underrepresented in the beverage alcohol industry, including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, people with disabilities, first generation Canadians, LGBTQ2S+ and non-binary gender diverse people.

Inspirational NC alumnus Paul Pender

Pender was part of the second graduating class of the College’s trailblazing Winery and Viticulture Technician program. After completing his studies, his career quickly blossomed within the heart of Niagara’s booming wine industry, and he became one of the most celebrated winemakers in Canada.

He joined Tawse Winery in 2005 and became head winemaker in 2006. Under his leadership, Tawse achieved EcoCert Organic and Demeter Biodynamic certification and was named Canadian Winery of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016 – repeat wins that were unprecedented.

Pender was awarded the prestigious title of Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards in 2011 and 2022. Also in 2022, the Ontario Wine Awards introduced a special trophy in recognition of Pender’s legacy called the Paul Pender Memorial ‘Rising Star’ Award, given to recipients who demonstrate the qualities that made Pender a winemaker’s winemaker – talent, selfless generosity, mentorship, and innovation. NC alumni from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program received the award in 2022 and 2023. The inaugural recipient was alumnus Alex Baines (2015), head winemaker at Hidden Bench Estate Winery in Beamsville who spent time working with Pender at Tawse Winery. In 2023, the award went to alumna Brooke Husband (2018), Assistant Winemaker at Domaine Queylus in St. Ann’s.

Through the years, Pender kept close ties with his alma mater, returning to the College on several occasions to speak to students and share his expertise. He also participated in two advisory committees for the Winery and Viticulture Technician program and consulted with the College regarding its Artisan Distilling program.

“Paul was one of our brightest alumni who always had his door open for mentoring the next generation,” said Gord Arbeau, NC’s Vice President Advancement. “It’s fitting that a scholarship in his name will support future professionals in the wine industry.”

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Photos:

Top photo: Moray and Paul: Moray Tawse (left), founder of Tawse Winery in Vineland, with NC alumnus and winemaker Paul Pender. Tawse has donated to NC to create a memorial scholarship in Pender’s name that will support diverse students in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Michael Wales
Director, Communications
905-328-4101
[email protected]

 

Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero receives Honorary Diploma in Health Studies during third day of Convocation

The third day of Niagara College’s 2023 Spring Convocation ceremonies celebrated more than 1,000 students from the schools of Justice and Fitness, Nursing and Personal Support Worker, Technology and Trades as they received their diplomas and took the first steps towards their futures providing care and specialized services for industries that are in high global demand. Graduates from the School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker also received their pins during the ceremony, a symbolic welcoming of newly graduated nurses and PSW’s into the profession, one which has been practiced for generations.

Graduates from the School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker received their pins during Wednesday’s Convocation ceremony.

“This ceremony marks the achievement of a goal, through much hard work and determination,” said Vice-President Academic Fiona Allan as she welcomed graduates to convocation. “May you never forget or underestimate the magnitude of this accomplishment.”

Addressing graduates from the schools of Justice and Fitness and Nursing and Personal Support Worker during the morning ceremony, Niagara College President Sean Kennedy acknowledged the important role these individuals will play in serving our communities.

“We have much to celebrate this morning as we honour graduands from our School of Justice and Fitness and School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker,” said Kennedy. “We recognize that our graduands will have vital roles providing care in their communities and that many of them have already been putting their sought-after skills to work during their studies with us. We take great pride in your critical contributions to your fields.”

During the morning ceremony, Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero was presented with an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies in recognition of her leadership and community collaboration in Niagara and within the Ontario healthcare system.

“While this diploma has my name one it, it is truly a reflection of everyone on the team at Niagara Health who play their own role in caring for the people of this fantastic region,” said Guerriero. “As you’ve likely heard, our healthcare system is facing challenging times and a shortage of skilled healthcare workers is the biggest of our challenges.”

“Thankfully, we know that part of the solution is sitting right here in front of me. No matter what program you are graduating from or what your specialty might be in the future, Ontarians need you,” continued Guerriero.

“On behalf of the entire Niagara Health team, I want to say thank you to everyone at Niagara College for this honour.”

At the afternoon ceremony, nearly 600 students from the School of Trades and the School of Technology were proudly conferred as Niagara College graduates.

Wednesday’s ceremonies also saw four outstanding graduates receive the Dean’s Academic Awards. These awards are presented to individuals who have reached outstanding academic achievement by earning the highest GPA in their academic school.

Kaleigh Keeping from Fort Erie, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program, received the Dean’s Award from the School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker. When asked about receiving the Dean’s Award, Keeping shared, “receiving the Dean’s Award is a remarkable accomplishment that fills me with pride. I surpassed my own expectations.”

Kaleigh Keeping received the Dean’s Award from the School of Nursing and Personal Support Worker.

Since completing her studies at Niagara College, Keeping has joined the team at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Hamilton Health Sciences as a Registered Practical Nurse.

The Dean’s Award recipient from the Mechanical Engineering Technology program in the School of Technology, Samantha Woodstock, shared, “I have worked very hard over the past four years, and I am incredibly proud that I was able to achieve this award. I had high aspirations when I started the program, but I never believed I would achieve an honour like this.”

Ottawa native Becket Buskin, a graduate of the Carpentry and Renovation Technician program, earned the Dean’s Award in the School of Trades and is already putting the skills he learned at NC to work as a building technician for the City of St. Catharines.

Adam D’Angelo from the PSI Customs Border Services program was awarded the Dean’s Award from the School of Justice & Fitness Studies.

By the time the College concludes its convocation week on June 16 – each ceremony honouring graduating students from different areas of study – NC will gain 4,500 new graduates. After kicking off convocation on June 12, ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily from June 13 to June 15 and will conclude with a final morning ceremony on June 16.

To view the schedule and list of programs graduating within each School, visit the ‘Ceremony Schedule’ section of NC’s Convocation website.

NC’s in-person Spring Convocation ceremonies are also being livestreamed from the Welland Campus. Visit the convocation website at niagaracollege.ca/convocation to watch. Ceremonies will remain on the site for later viewing.

Niagara College kicks off week-long Spring Convocation ceremonies

The Welland Campus Athletic Centre was filled with excitement when Niagara College celebrated day one of Spring Convocation on June 12, officially ushering nearly 700 new graduates into its alumni community.

The graduates, from the School of Business and Management, were joined by more than 1,400 guests who attended the afternoon ceremony, which included the inaugural graduating classes from the Business Analytics and Supply Chain Management programs.

NC also incorporated new Indigenous elements into the event. As graduates entered the Welland Campus gymnasium, the Strong Water Singers, a local Indigenous-led women’s drum group, drummed songs representing teachings of love, truth, humility, respect, bravery, honesty and wisdom.

Local Indigenous-led women’s drum group the Strong Water Singers, open NC’s June 12 convocation ceremony.

College President Sean Kennedy took to the podium to address the Class of 2023, encouraging everyone to never lose sight of their authentic inner child as they journey through life’s unexpected twists and turns.

“May you always be guided by your inner five-year-old in embracing a world full of possibility, discovery, wonder and joy,” said Kennedy, who was joined on the convocation stage by Fiona Allan, Vice President Academic. “Be responsible adults and citizens but remember your early self, before the pressures of social norms and social media, before you felt the demands and stresses and messes of society and our interconnected world.”

“Think, explore and experiment like a five-year-old to create more, to imagine more positive possibilities of the future, of ways of making our world better, and bigger,” he added.

A highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the first of two prestigious Governor General’s Academic medals, awarded to the graduating student who achieved the highest overall grade-point average from a diploma program.

This year’s Collegiate Bronze medal recipient was Clarysse Go, who achieved a 98% average in the Business – International Business program. A native of Cebu City, Philippines, Go began her career as a Medical Technologist in her home country. After working in the field for two years, she had a change of heart and dreamed about returning to school – this time in Canada – to chart a new career course.

“After months of soul searching, I happened upon an article about studying abroad, specifically in Canada,” said Go speaking to her fellow graduates on June 12.

“And now I’m here, two years later, receiving this award. All the planning, sacrifice, and hard work have been more than worth it. And I am truly so, so grateful because I know I would not have been able to get this far on my own,” she added, referencing her support circle of family, friends, classmates, professors and her boyfriend, Shareef, who is a double NC grad.

“And to all of you, my fellow graduates, congratulations! This is your victory, the world is your oyster – or whatever else you want it to be! Thank you, and mabuhay!”

Governor General’s Academic Collegiate Bronze Medal award recipient Clarysse Go with President Sean Kennedy.

Go also received the Dean’s Award for the School of Business and Management for achieving the top grade in her school of study. Throughout the week, seven other graduating students will also be presented with Dean’s awards for scoring the highest GPA within their respective schools of study.

On June 13 (10 a.m. ceremony), the College will also celebrate Governor General’s Academic Medal recipient Cassidy Baldwin, for her outstanding academic performance in the four-year Honours Bachelor of Business Administration – Hospitality program. Baldwin will be presented with a Silver Governor General’s Academic Medal, marking the first time that a student from NC is being awarded a Governor General’s Academic Medal at the Silver level for a degree program.

As the week continues, NC will also bestow special honours to Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero, who will be presented with an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies on the morning of June 14 (10 a.m. ceremony), and Amy Audibert (Broadcasting – Radio, TV and Film Class of 2012), on-air broadcaster for the NBA’s Miami Heat, who will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award on June 15 (10 a.m. ceremony).

By the time the College concludes its convocation week on June 16 – each ceremony honouring graduating students from different areas of study – NC will gain 4,500 new graduates. After kicking off convocation on June 12, ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily from June 13 to June 15 and will conclude with a final morning ceremony on June 16.

To view the schedule and list of programs graduating within each School, visit the ‘Ceremony Schedule’ section of NC’s Convocation website.

NC’s in-person Spring Convocation ceremonies are also being livestreamed from the Welland Campus. Visit the convocation website at niagaracollege.ca/convocation to watch. Ceremonies will remain on the site for later viewing.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Related media releases:

May 26: Niagara College to host Spring Convocation June 12-16
June 9: Niagara College celebrates two Governor General’s Academic Medal recipients

Media inquiries, please contact:

Julie Greco
Communications Consultant
905-328-2532
[email protected]

Michael Wales
Director, Communications
905-328-4101
[email protected]

 

Niagara College celebrates two Governor General’s Academic Medal recipients

A budding hospitality professional inspired by her hometown and a former Medical Technologist from the Philippines with a passion for business, are capping off their studies as Niagara College’s top grads from the spring Class of 2023.

Cassidy Baldwin, who achieved a 93% average in the College’s Honours Bachelor of Business Administration – Hospitality program, and Clarysse Go, who achieved a 98% average in the Business – International Business program, are this year’s recipients of prestigious academic medals awarded by the Governor General of Canada.

For nearly 150 years, Governor General’s Academic Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. They are awarded to the student graduating with the highest average from a high school, as well as from approved college or university programs at four distinct levels: Bronze at the secondary school level; Collegiate Bronze at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver at the undergraduate level; and Gold at the graduate level.

Both graduating students will receive their medals at NC’s Spring 2023 Convocation, June 12-16, and will speak at their respective ceremonies.

Silver Medal: Cassidy Baldwin

For her outstanding academic performance in the four-year Honours Bachelor of Business Administration – Hospitality program, Cassidy Baldwin will be presented with a Silver Governor General’s Academic Medal on the morning of June 13 (10 a.m. ceremony). This marks the first time that a Niagara College student is being awarded a Governor General’s Academic Medal at the Silver level for a degree program.

Born and raised in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, Baldwin was exposed to the hospitality industry from a young age as she watched the area develop into a thriving tourist destination.

“Prince Edward County is known for its wineries, breweries, beaches, and more,” she said. “Growing up, I watched my hometown develop into the tourist hotspot it is today and was given a front-row seat to the impact positive tourism experiences have for both visitors and industry professionals. Because of this, I’ve always known hospitality would be a part of my future and career.”

Inspired by her experiences, Baldwin looked to NC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism to develop her professional skills. After completing her program, she feels prepared to succeed in the fast-paced, ever evolving hospitality industry, which continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Niagara College has provided me with a competitive advantage in the hospitality industry,” said Baldwin. “I have an abundance of hospitality focused business administration knowledge in the form of marketing, financial management, human resources and more. I’m equipped with important skills related to business and I know how to apply it to our industry which will help me in my future career.”

“Cassidy’s passion for the hospitality industry was clear throughout her studies and she is incredibly deserving of this recognition,” said Craig Youdale, Dean, Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies. “I know the faculty team is deeply proud of Cassidy and delighted to hear of this honour. We all look forward to hearing about her future successes as she begins her career.”

Baldwin currently resides in Banff, Alberta where she works as a Regional Tour Sales Coordinator for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts – coordinating across all four Rocky properties (Fairmont Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge and Chateau Whistler).

Collegiate Bronze Medal: Clarysse Go

For the second year in a row, NC’s Collegiate Bronze Governal General’s Academic Medal recipient is an international student from the Philippines.

Clarysse Go, a native of Cebu City, Philippines, is being recognized for her exceptional academic achievement in the Business – International Business program. She will receive a Collegiate Bronze Governor General’s Academic Medal on June 12 (3 p.m. ceremony).

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology, Go worked for two years as a Medical Technologist in her home country before she decided to pursue a different career path.

“I realized that I no longer found happiness in what I was doing,” said Go. “I landed a work-from-home job while saving up and planning my next move. That next move turned out to be enrolling in Niagara College.”

With an interest in business, Go set her sights on NC’s School of Business and Management, first enrolling in the Supply Chain and Operations Management program and later switching into the International Business program, where she found herself in her element.

After completing her first semester online from the Philippines, Go moved to Canada in late 2021 to complete her studies at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Clarysse is an outstanding student who excelled in all areas of her studies,” said Alan Unwin, Dean Business and Environment. “She worked incredibly hard at her academics in a new country, all while holding a part-time job. We are delighted that she is being recognized with such a prestigious honour.”

“This accomplishment is even more incredible, given that this is the first full academic year back after quite some time studying remotely. Clarysse, and so many of our students, have been able to succeed under such challenging, changing and uncertain circumstances,” added Unwin.

During her convocation ceremony, Go will also be receiving the Dean’s Award for the School of Business and Management for scoring the highest GPA within her school of study. Previously, she earned the Keith Segal – guard.me international scholarship for her academic excellence over three consecutive semesters.

Go plans to stay in Canada and currently resides in Niagara Falls, where she is working as a full-time Corporate Accountant at Niagara Casinos – a job she landed shortly after completing her last day of class.

Spring 2023 Convocation

From June 12-16, the Welland Campus will be a hub of activity with eight convocation ceremonies to be held in the Athletic Centre. Over the five days, the College will celebrate 4,400 new graduates from NC’s spring Class of 2023.

In addition to celebrating Governor General’s Academic Medal recipients and Dean’s award winners (eight in total), NC will bestow special honours to two guests: Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero will be presented with an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies on the morning of June 14 (10 a.m. ceremony), and Amy Audibert (Broadcasting – Radio, TV and Film Class of 2012) on-air broadcaster for the NBA’s Miami Heat, will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award on June 15 (10 a.m. ceremony).

To view the schedule and list of programs graduating within each School, visit the ‘Ceremony Schedule’ section of NC’s Convocation website.

NC’s in-person Spring Convocation ceremonies will also be livestreamed. Visit the convocation website at niagaracollege.ca/convocation. Ceremonies will also remain on the site for later viewing.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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Related media release:

May 26: Niagara College to host Spring Convocation June 12-16

Top photo: Graduating students Cassidy Baldwin (left) and Clarysse Go will receive prestigious academic medals awarded by the Governor General of Canada during NC’s Spring 2023 Convocation.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Julie Greco
Communications Consultant
905-328-2532
[email protected]