OURA 2023 Awards
This year’s awards were additionally special because they mark the first time they were presented in person since 2019. Thank you to the award review committee, Serge Demers, OURA president, and Heather Lane from the OUAC, for reviewing the nominations and helping select the recipients.
Award of Excellence
This award is designed to recognize the everyday excellence of the employees of OURA member institutions.
University of Guelph
With over 25 years of experience in the university sector, this recipient is no stranger to conferences, having shared her expertise at many throughout her career, including at OURA, ARUCC and AACRAO. Guelph’s award of excellence recipient is Sandra Speller, Associate Registrar, Enrolment Services.
Sandra has been working in the university sector for over 25 years. She started her career at the University of Toronto Mississauga where she held various roles, including the novel position of Associate Registrar, Student Success. She moved to the University of Guelph in 2015 to the role she holds today. She has provided leadership in Student Information System innovation and Academic Policy & Procedure improvement for the sake of student success and student mental health support. She is greatly respected on campus and among her colleagues in the Office of Registrarial Services. She is a very deserving recipient of the OURA Award of Excellence. Congratulations Sandra!
Brock University’s Award of Excellence recipient has spent 14 years working at Brock, but has 20 years experience in the post-secondary sector. She has been described as extremely organized, positive, and a quiet and humble leader who inspires the team. Brock’s award of excellence recipient is Amanda Whitewell, Senior Records and Systems Officer.
Amanda’s contributions to the Registrar’s Office and the Brock community are endless. She is seen as an expert in our Records area by those that she works closely with. She is often called upon for her advice and expertise and is always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs her assistance. Amanda is always one of the first individuals to volunteer to learn new tasks or train her peers on tasks that she is familiar with. She does an excellent job in ensuring knowledge mobilization is happening within her department.
Amanda is a hardworking and dedicated employee who is extremely organized and focused on continuously learning and developing best practices to manage routine activities both efficiently and effectively. She brings a personal touch to everything she does. Congratulations Amanda.
Lakehead University’s award of excellence recipient has been with the university since 2006 as part of the original cohort of students. She started working as a student but transitioned to a full-time permanent position upon her graduation. Lakehead’s award winner is Jessica (Jessie) Clarke, Student Central Professional.
Jessie has held different roles at Lakehead University with one commonality, they all helped to support students. She has helped facilitate workshops on registering new students, counseled students who required additional support and assistance through the Academic Support Access Program (ASAP) and represented Lakehead University on student aid committees.
Her involvement and interest in helping students led her to further her learning and Jessie completed a graduate degree in Education from Memorial University, allowing her to further apply her knowledge and understanding to continue to support students in their academic success.
Jessie has always contributed to the Orillia Campus climate in ways that can only be described as true dedication and commitment to her community. Congratulations Jessie!
Carleton’s Award of excellence recipient has spent her entire 17 years of outstanding work as a leader in the Registrar’s office. Carleton’s recipient is Erika Strathearn, Assistant Registrar, Academic Evaluation, Graduation and Curriculum Management.
Erika started off as the Manager of Operations, and she has worked in every Manager role in the RO: Assistant Registrar of the Student Triage and Registration Team, Central Academic Records, Academic Evaluation and Petitions, and most recently has been the lead on a campus-wide major project to implement a new academic evaluation system for Carleton. Erika brings her expertise, leadership and collegiality to her work each and every day. She is an amazing colleague to work with. Congratulations Erika!
McMaster University’s award of excellence nominee is no stranger to being recognized for her excellent work, having been named as a President’s Award recipient for her involvement on a team that implemented a new Repeat Policy, only ONE year into her tenure at Mac. McMaster’s recipient is Nancy Pandit, Business Systems Analyst.
When implementing the new Repeat Policy, the Repeat Rules team came together with the collective goal of creating a solution with positive implications for students and no negatively impacted student records.
Since then, Nancy has been promoted within the RO twice, as a result of her continuing contributions and growing expertise in the RO.
When Nancy isn’t splitting her time between new innovations and project enhancements, she plays a pivotal role within the RO’s records team, managing critical records processes and schedules. Nancy leads most of the records routine processes and is always looking to collaborate with colleagues on system and/or process improvements. She developed and maintained process documentation which greatly standardized Records processes and improved quality and efficiency. Congratulations Nancy!
Wilfrid Laurier University
The Award of Excellence recipient from Wilfrid Laurier University has spent 25 years in the post-secondary sector and oversees a vast portfolio that requires sophisticated knowledge of systems and academic regulations, an acute understanding of institutional policy and precedent, as well as a deep understanding of the issues facing our stakeholders. Laurier’s recipient is Shelagh Pepper, Associate Registrar, Registrarial Services & Systems and Deputy Registrar.
Shelagh is a valuable and trusted resource for faculty partners. She is a quiet yet thoughtful leader who possesses incredible subject matter and technical expertise not to mention her uncanny way of simplifying the complicated. In the 7 years since Shelagh joined the Enrolment Services team they have experienced a 19% increase in their total student enrolment. With the core registrarial functions within her scope of accountability, Shelagh has introduced new policies, procedures and standards that have enabled her units to deliver exceptional service despite increased volumes and simultaneous budget operating reductions.
Beyond the work of Enrolment Services, Shelagh participates on various university committees including the steering committee for the creation of an institution EDI strategy. Congratulations Shelagh!
Ontario Tech University
The award of excellence recipient from Ontario Tech University has spent 17 years in the education sector, with a decade of that time at Ontario Tech. No stranger to any of us, the chair of OURA’s PD&E committee and the lead on this year’s OURA conference is Shannon Bracken, Director of Admissions and Recruitment.
Shannon leads a large team of both domestic and international recruitment and admissions professionals. She was instrumental in building out the university’s international recruitment strategy and helped shepherd the university through the enrolment challenges of the pandemic, leading a team that has produced exceptional application increases over the past few years. Shannon leads various committees on campus and spearheaded the digital transformation of our recruitment efforts during the pandemic. She introduced admissions automation for 101 applicants and has developed multiple international partnerships in various countries around the globe. Shannon is a valued leader that is both honest and forthright, and her cool and calm demeanor has helped her develop a truly exceptional team that is empowered to have confidence in the work that they do. Ontario Tech is very fortunate to have Shannon leading the front end of our enrolment strategy. Congratulations Shannon.
Nipissing University’s award of excellence recipient has been working at Nipissing for 6 years, starting his role as a contract staff member in 2016. He has since become an expert in the graduate studies recruitment world, developing new recruitment initiatives and expanding on existing events within Nipissing such as the B.Ed. Expo, the Graduate and Professional Studies Fair, and the Post Grad Information Day. Congratulations to Kyle Anderson, Student Recruitment Officer.
Kyle has continually been a helpful and friendly mentor to new staff within the recruitment office, a reliable and experienced team member at Nipissing University, and a leader in graduate and post-degree recruitment within the Ontario recruitment community. Kyle is also always eager to help others and is currently acting as the secretary for the Standing Committee on Student Recruitment (SCSR), a subcommittee of OURA.
Due to his contributions, our department’s efforts continue to grow and evolve to fit the ever-changing landscape of the unique world of recruitment, and for these reasons, he is highly deserving of the OURA Award of Excellence. Congratulations Kyle.
The Award of Excellence recipient from Queen’s University has more than 3 decades of experience in the post-secondary sector, with 23 of those years spent at Queens. She will be retiring this May and truly missed at Queen’s and within the broader Financial Aid community. Teresa Alm, Associate University Registrar, Student Awards is the recipient from Queen’s.
Teresa Alm has made an incredible impact on the Queen’s community extending to faculty, staff, alumni and students through her passion for ensuring that financial assistance is available for all students in need.
Teresa continuously works collaboratively with the Office of Advancement to contribute to efforts raising millions of dollars to dramatically increase funding available for financial aid while containing costs associated with the University’s operating budget. Teresa is a mentor and advisor to her staff continuously seeking PD opportunities for them to participate in national/provincial conferences, often stepping down from an opportunity to enable a staff member to continue their growth. Teresa’s exceptional support for students is illustrated through her dedication to student refugees through WUSC. To her it is far more than administering a financial aid package; she takes a personal interest in each student and is the center of arrival logistics, working with faculties, Residence services, and Student Services in collaboration with the Queen’s University International Centre to ensure the students settle into both student and local community.
Our next Award of Excellence recipient, from OCAD University, has been instrumental in stewarding OCAD University through the pandemic, in achieving our enrolment goals, and in driving the sector to take a more responsible and sustainable approach to student recruitment generally.
Over the past five years, OCAD U has seen a 20% increase in undergraduate applications, largely due to Sean Baker’s strategic and highly coordinated approach to student recruitment. Sean leads with his values, building partnerships in communities where access to information and support in choosing a creative career may be elusive. His diverse team provides a high touch level of support to learners ensuring they have the information and confidence to apply. And his ability to make meaning of data collected through our CRM has enabled OCAD to make evidence-based decisions that deploy our limited resources in cost-effective ways.
With the return of in-person engagement, Sean advocated for a build-back-better strategy that continued to provide prospective students with the flexibility of digital engagement, while focusing resources on high value in person interactions. He continues to put equity, relationships and community at the forefront of his work and leads his team with courage and commitment. Congratulations Sean.
Toronto Metropolitan University
With over 16 years of experience in student recruitment and admissions, Jeff Capel, Director of Engineering Student Admissions and Recruitment, demonstrates everyday excellence and was described by the nominating OURA member as “one of the most dedicated, positive and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.”
Since Jeff joined TMU’s student recruitment and admissions team in FEAS over 10 years ago, he has become well known throughout TMU for his compassion and energy, high standard of performance, and leadership.
Jeff cares about delivering quality work and strives to integrate both an understanding of big picture strategy and goals (for the university, faculty, and department) as well as attention to detail. He exudes warmth, humility and compassion as he serves others and always expresses appreciation to others for their efforts. Jeff is student-focused and knows the benefits of building a positive, engaged student experience from the point of first contact. He possesses exceptional communication skills, is always professional and appreciates the value of humour in the workplace. He is an effective leader who has earned the respect of those who work with him. Even in stressful times, Jeff is always upbeat, looking for positive outcomes or compromises in difficult circumstances, and focuses on the good. Congratulations Jeff.
University of Ottawa
Our next Award of Excellence recipient comes from the University of Ottawa, where she has spent nearly a quarter of a decade in various roles. Her lovely nomination was submitted in French by nominator Isabelle Mayrand, and rather than leverage my grade 10 French skills to share the words of the nomination from, I’ve asked Serge to share details of the nomination, as he assured me just yesterday that he does indeed speak at least a little French. Please join me in congratulating Ottawa’s award of excellence recipient, José Nadeau, Spécialiste opérationnelle.
José se démarque à bien des niveaux et ses contributions au Service du registraire sont nombreuses. Elle possède une grand capacité d’analyse et une curiosité sans bornes ce qui lui permet de mener à bien et avec efficacité tous les projets qu’on lui assigne. Elle n’hésite jamais à aider ses collègues pour toutes questions et, à leur tour, n’hésitent jamais à la consulter pour obtenir des conseils ou encore des pistes de solutions à des problèmes complexes.
Ayant travaillé dans une faculté au début de sa carrière à l’Université d’Ottawa, elle est très sensible à l’expérience de chaque étudiant et cette facette est toujours un atout lorsqu’elle travaille sur les projets qui lui sont assignés. Depuis son arrivée au Service du registraire, José a travaillé sur plusieurs dossiers importants, en voici quelques courts exemples.
Tout d’abord, elle a participé dans la mise en place du nouveau système étudiant où elle a démontré qu’aucun défi n’était insurmontable en s’appropriant les connaissances du secteur de dossiers étudiants (Student Records). L’an passé, elle a participé activement au projet de la déclaration de la vaccination obligatoire et sa contribution a nettement fait une différence au succès du projet. Plus récemment, elle a travaillé comme consultante interne sur le projet de MesCertif (MyCreds) ou elle a aidé les équipes à bien gérer le projet et cette précieuse aide a fait toute une différence dans l’implémentation du projet pour l’Université.
C’est donc avec grand plaisir et sans aucune hésitation que je nomine José pour le prix d’excellence d’OURA 2022. Congratulations José.
For more than 15 years, she has worked within the School of Graduate Studies at Trent and her commitment to graduate students, faculty, teamwork, and the ongoing evolvement of processes has had a significant impact on the student experience and anyone who interacts with Graduate Studies. Please join me in congratulating Erin Davidson, Records & Registration Officer.
Colleague Sasha Trivett says that Erin is without a doubt, one of the most influential and integral members of the Trent University School of Graduate Studies. She is knowledgeable, supportive and always committed to her role, in its many iterations, over the past 15 years.
Erin brings a level of passion and dedication to her work that very much deserves to be recognized. Positive outcomes for students are at the core of her approach to any situation and she does an excellent job of balancing this with whatever limitations or constraints may be present by looking for efficiencies and working collaboratively with her team and departments across the institution.
It’s even been said by one faculty member that they believe she recognizes by name every one of their graduate students. She has pushed for and lead transition to a digital workflow solution as well as new online academic calendar and continues to push for additional process improvements. Congratulations Erin.
Université de l’Ontario Français
Our next Award of Excellence recipient comes from Université de l’Ontario Français. This individual began her career at UOF on March 1, 2021. At that time, UOF had no students and was often referred to as a ‘start-up’ university. Before arriving at UOF, she had worked since 2009 at the University of Alberta. Congratulations to Carine Tuekam Kunche, Manager, Academic Services.
Carine’s first major undertaking at UOF was to transfer her knowledge of academic regulations, program structures and student advising to develop the first edition of UOF’s academic calendar. Welcoming the first cohort of students to UOF in September was no small feat and required the entire group of UOF personnel to come together in support of students.
Carine has deep experience with international students, who make up a substantial percentage of the UOF student body community. Her insights, knowledge and experience include Admissions, Enrolment, and Recruitment. As a member of UOF’s Board of Governors and sub-committees of Senate, Carine would like to participate more actively on OURA committees but has not quite found the time – yet!
University of Toronto
Our next Award of Excellence recipient comes from the University of Toronto. An alum of UofT, she is described as having a calm, collegial, high-character approach to her work and colleagues which has yielded great dividends to the University of Toronto during her career. This is also a very special OURA conference for her, as she recently announced her retirement from the University, effective March 1, 2023.
Merike Remmel, Assistant University Registrar and Director of Admissions, a University of Toronto alum and the 2018 recipient of the U of T Jill Matus Award for Excellence in Student Services, has shown outstanding leadership as Director of Admissions. She started her role as a Liaison Officer for undergraduate programs in 1988. Over her tenure, she has been responsible for a variety of areas including registrarial services, client services and supported scholarship and award projects. Merike played a role in the adjudication of several scholarship programs at the university as well as of external award programs both in Canada and the United States
One of Merike accomplishments includes leading the UofT community through the transition from paper-based to electronic offers of admission. To facilitate relationships with divisions/faculties, she introduced service level agreements to help maximize efficient, effective, and equitable service for the 80,000+ first-entry applicants each year. Merike was also a critical force in the establishment of an applicant waitlist, and the Slate implementation. Congratulations Merike.
University of Waterloo
A tireless advocate for process improvement, better data request management, and data analysis to support key performance metrics, this recipient has worked at Waterloo for 20 years in a variety of roles.
As Director, Systems, Technology, and Analytics, Stacey Mahoney’s portfolio provides support for operations and digital innovation to all the other registrarial portfolios. The systems team has been led by Stacey since mid-way through the pandemic when she stepped into the role of director on an interim basis, only two months into her role on the systems team. In that capacity, and in a very short span of time, she led the team through the many technology supports required for the constantly-changing pandemic rules regarding course scheduling and work from home.
Stacey is a terrific team-builder as well as a strong communicator. She rebuilt trust among her peers in the Office of the Registrar and works diligently to understand their needs and pain points so that she is better able to collaborate with them on optimal solutions. Amidst much adversity and multiple challenges, Stacey has guided her team along a promising path forward and realized many successes. Congratulations Stacey.
Finally, our last Award of Excellence recipient is from York University. This recipient has supported the registrarial community at York University for over 30 years and plays a pivotal role in supporting the admission of Ontario high school students. He ensures that the 101 admissions process is seamless, consistently meets timelines, and addresses the different needs required of York’s 100+ programs.
Mike Rose, Management Information Coordinator is passionate about continuous improvement of the admission process. He is a key subject matter expert for the University and is deeply relied on within the Office of the University Registrar, as well as faculties and departments across the university. Mike has created and maintains admission databases that are at the core of the admission operation. He is an exceptional collaborator and contributes and supports university-wide projects and priorities.
Mike is a calming force during a crisis and approaches challenges with optimism. He is a team player and his commitment, knowledge, and enthusiasm is one of a kind. We are very lucky to have him at York University. Congratulations Mike.
Award of Achievement
This annual award honours long-standing members—minimum of 10 years—who have made significant contributions to OURA by participating through active membership on the executive, standing committees and workshops, and active enhancement and development of academic administration within the Ontario university system. We have two recipients of this award this year.
University of Toronto
Our first recipient comes from the University of Toronto. He spent 33 years working in the higher education sector, with 24 of those spent at UofT. This also an important OURA conference for our recipient, as he retired just weeks ago in December 2022. Congratulations to Award of Achievement recipient Don MacMillan, Faculty Registrar, Applied Science & Engineering.
Don MacMillan started his higher education career at Marianopolis College in Montreal in 1989 as the Registrar. After six years of supporting students he became the inaugural registrar and director of learner services at the, then, newly created Royal Roads University in 1996. Don spent over two years establishing the office and setting up the student services portfolio. Don then transitioned from BC to Ontario where he began his 24 year career at the university of Toronto, first as the Campus Registrar and Director of Enrolment for UTSC from 1998 to 2009, then as the Faculty Registrar at OISE from 2009 to 2013, the Director Student Services in the School of Graduate Studies from 2013 to 2015 and most recently as the Faculty Registrar, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering from 2015 to December 2022.
During his time at U of T, Don co-founded the innovative UTSC Green Path program, bringing hundreds of excellent students from China to UTSC. Don also advocated for the highest possible level of service to students through the use of technology, staff development, and the implementation of policies and procedures that reduce unnecessary bureaucracy. As Chair of the Initial OISE Teacher Education Admission Committee, Don was a strong advocate for the elimination of barriers for students not well represented in the teaching ranks.
University of Waterloo
Our second Award of Achievement recipient comes from the University of Waterloo. Jody Berringer has been working in recruitment at the Waterloo since her first contract as a Liaison Officer in the early 2000s. Since then, she has progressed to Manager, Liaison, a role she held for over 15 years, and is currently the Interim Director, Undergraduate Recruitment, a role she has held since January 2022.
Jody’s contributions to undergraduate recruitment in Ontario have been immense. During her 20+ years in recruitment so far, she has held the following positions on provincial committees:
• Vice-chair, Chair, Past chair, Steering Committee for student recruitment in the early 2000s
• Vice-chair, Chair, Past chair, OUF-Steering committee : 2017-2019
•And again during the pandemic, Co-chair, Past chair, OUF-Steering committee: 2022-23
• Member, Equity and Outreach Committee: 2020-2022
During her time on these committees, her accomplishments include significant contributions to the data collection project for the OUF, which has become a key initiative within our recruitment efforts; leading the return to a successful in-person OUF after a two-year hiatus; and contributing to collective professional development as a speaker and organizer for events such as workshop and the OURA conference.
At Waterloo, Jody’s achievements are many and varied. Notably, she spearheaded the re-envisioning of Waterloo’s presence at the OUF, both on the exhibit floor and in the presentation room; she has overseen the training and development of Waterloo’s Ontario recruiters for over 15 years; she was a key player in the expansion of domestic recruitment to include students from other provinces, transfer students, and Indigenous learners; and her advocacy for equity in our field has led to the creation of roles in Indigenous recruitment and partnerships, as well as outreach and enrichment, at Waterloo.
One innovation award is available every second year, or at the discretion of the OURA Executive, and is valued at $5,000 to be given to fund a student scholarship at the winning institution.
This award program is designed to recognize, reward and share university achievements in improving the quality of, and reducing the cost of, academic administration in the following areas: admissions, registration, examinations, scheduling, transcripts, systems, records, calendars, scholarships and awards, secondary school liaison, and other activities or undertakings that may be deemed appropriate by OURA.
This year, the award will be given to a team that launched “AskRegistrar,” a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was conceptualized, developed, tested, and launched for students within a 5-month period to modernize services, improve students’ experience, and create a more efficient workflow for staff.
I’m thrilled to honour our recipients of the Innovation Award, Loretta Neebar and the “AskRegistrar” project team from the University of Toronto!
University of Toronto – Loretta Neebar and the “AskRegistrar” project team
As you can see there are many contributors to this project.
- Lorretta Neebar
- Vladimir Soloviev
- César Mejia
- Michelle Kraus
- Sandra Ngan
- Lynne Hsueh
- Bridgette Arrindell
- Olha Fihol
- Nia McCash
- Lovedeep Grewal
- Johnny Chung
- Erli Fan
- Guilherme Jose Dos Reis Henriques
Leveraging the ServiceNow platform, AskRegistrar supports over 15,600 undergraduate students and 300 graduate students on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. AskRegistrar has streamlined the workflow of over 60 staff members in the Office of the Registrar and enabled UTM to capture a more accurate account of student interactions and demand on services through live statistical reports.
The AskRegistrar project demonstrates both qualitative and quantitative results with clear evidence of outcomes that reflect at least 12 months of measurable data. Their approach has positively impacted productivity and has the potential for use at other institutions. The use of AI is original and unique, and we know today that AI is a tool we must explore in higher ed. And much of the success of this initiative comes from deep consultation with staff, faculty, and students to ensure broad acceptance and use of this tool.
Congratulations to the University of Toronto team behind this innovative project, and recipients of the OURA Innovation Award!