The Hub AU Accolades! Celebrating awards and achievements of our community

A roundup of achievements by Athabasca University faculty, team members, learners, and alumni

At Athabasca University (AU), we find inspiration in our learners’ journeys toward reaching their highest potential so they can help transform the communities in which they live and serve. We are equally proud of the work of our researchers, who are tackling important challenges in our communities and beyond, and of the efforts of all team members who support AU’s mission.

Do you know a member of the AU community who deserves a high five? Submit an accolade!

AU recognizes three outstanding alumni

AU recognized three outstanding alumni who are helping to drive change in their communities, their families, and their workplaces.

Dr. Wayne Clark (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’20) won the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an AU graduate who brings honour and prestige to the university, based on evidence of outstanding contributions to any field of human endeavour or extraordinary contributions to their community.

Dr. Pawan Chugh (Master of Business Administration ’97) won the Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes an AU graduate who has demonstrated a spirit of volunteerism and community service through active, unpaid involvement in and contributions to their community.

Odion Welch (Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations ’17) won the Rising Star Alumni award, which recognizes an AU graduate who has demonstrated leadership and significant contributions to an area of expertise early in their career.

Read their stories

AU 2021 alumni award winners
AU alumni (L-R) Odion Welch, Dr. Wayne Clark, and Dr. Pawan Chugh.

Research to explore impact of pandemic on teen mental health

A new AU research project aims to understand how COVID-19 public health restrictions have impacted the health and well-being of Canadian teens.

Dr. Gina Martin, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, will co-lead the study with colleagues at Western University and University of Nottingham. The team will survey youth between 13 and 19 years old to learn how the pandemic has affected their health and habits and what coping strategies they used.

The research builds on the team’s investigations into youth mental health during the pandemic. The latest study will also hold focus groups with teens to find out how they spent their time and where they socialized—in-person and digitally. Results will be used to develop resources for youth that focus on building resiliency, and could inform policy, health promotion, and education recommendations for school boards.

The project was awarded $150,000 through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant program on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

teen using a laptop wearing headphones

The politics of placemaking in Chinatown

Dr. Henry Tsang, an assistant professor with the RAIC Centre for Architecture in the Faculty of Science and Technology, received new grant funding to explore how Chinatown communities across North America have adopted cultural planning and placemaking strategies to protect and revitalize their neighbourhoods. Such communities have experienced several challenges from gentrification to demographic changes to anti-Asian racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many racialized attacks towards Asians, particularly the Chinese-Canadian community.

Tsang and University of Calgary collaborator Dr. Matt Patterson were awarded $71,400 from the Social Sciences Humanities and Research Council’s Insight Development Grant program.

San Francisco Chinatown during COVID-19
Japanese Business Operations in an Uncertain World

Business prof. wins award for paper—and publishes new book

Dr. Anshuman Khare, a professor in the Faculty of Business, won Outstanding Paper at the 2021 Emerald Literati Awards for a research article he co-wrote. The article, Digitalizing supply chains potential benefits and impact on lean operations, was recognized for creating an impact and generating change beyond academia and for contributing something new to a subject or body of knowledge. The article was published in the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma.

Khare also published a new book: Japanese Business Operations in an Uncertain World, which he co-edited with colleagues Nobutaka Odake and Hiroki Ishikura. This book looks at Japanese companies in manufacturing and services sectors and how they are trying to emerge from the prolonged uncertainty of the pandemic. The chapters are written by those dealing with Japanese business under the shadow of the pandemic and being influenced by the continuous and rapid adoption of digital technologies in business and our daily lives.

Truth Behind Bars book cover

Poli-sci prof. publishes book on Russian Revolution

Dr. Paul Kellogg, a political scientist and professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has published Truth Behind Bars, which explores the role of workers’ resistance and the failure of democratic governance after the Russian Revolution. Truth Behind Bars was published by AU Press.

Paper chosen for permanent open access

A research article written by Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl, a chemistry professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow, has been selected by the editors of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry for permanent, free, open access. The article, Laboratory activities to support online chemistry courses: A literature review, was chosen because the editors deemed it of particularly high calibre and importance.

Prof. speaks in support of Malaysian policy initiative for inclusive, open education resources

Dr. Rory McGreal presented at the recent launch of a new policy initiative in Malaysia aimed at addressing the issue of accessibility in education for those with disabilities. McGreal, the UNESCO/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in Open Educational Resources, presented a video statement in support of the Malaysian government’s inclusive open educational resources policy. He was chosen because of collaborations with Malaysian academics in inclusive open education resources.

PowerED™ partners on launch of Canada’s first micro-credential in AI ethics

PowerED™ by Athabasca University and Ethically Aligned AI have partnered to create a new micro-credential program that addresses issues around the ethical development of artificial intelligence systems.

“AI ethics is an umbrella term that’s come to encompass all the different ways in which AI can create harm,” Katrina Ingram, CEO of Ethically Aligned AI, told CBC News. Ingram is the featured expert in the program.

Vintage robot in front of an old computer with coloured lines in the background

Researcher and grad student collaborate on new paper

Dr. Jennifer Stephens, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Health Disciplines,Faculty of Health Disciplines, and research assistant and Master of Nursing learner Ruby Tano published an article in the Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal. As the number of cancer cases rise each year in Canada, Hemoglobin matters: Perioperative blood management for oncology patients analyzes how health-care institutions can adopt the best practices approach of a patient blood management program for surgical oncology patients to help improve their surgical outcomes.

AU’s Jananee Rasiah makes Top 40 Under 40 list

Jananee Rasiah, an academic co-ordinator in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, has been named one of Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 by Edify magazine.

Rasiah spoke about emigrating to Canada at age 15, co-founding her film and media company, FRAME Productions, and making health data more accessible and engaging.

“For me, growth is a must,” she told Edify. “If there’s a chance for growth, I’ll do it.”

Read the full Edify article

Related: AU researcher embraces arts to reach teens struggling with self-esteem

Learner recognized for outstanding social entrepreneurship

Fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce learner Kira Dunlop has been honoured for her work in building community among sober women, trans, and non-binary folks.

Dunlop was named a finalist for the NU National Student Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneurship for her work as founder of the Boring Little Girls Club. The organization provides a forum that allows sober people to experience social connection without the pressure to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Someone called me a ‘boring little girl’ to my face, and that’s where the idea came from,” said Dunlop, who credits AU’s flexibility for allowing her to continue her post-secondary education after she first got sober. “I was searching support and knew that if I was feeling this way, someone else was too. There was a need for spaces like this, where we didn’t need to do or be in the presence of alcohol or drugs.”

The awards were created in 2021 by the Trico Charitable Foundation to celebrate the best and brightest student social entrepreneurs in Alberta.

New funding to connect Indigenous scholars

Dr. Josie Auger, Dr. Carolyn Greene, Dr. Nisha Nath, and Myra Tait in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have received a $16,400 grant from the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council’s Connection program, along with $17,400 in support from AU.

The research team is organizing a two-day event to connect Indigenous scholars so they can share experiences and discuss the research ethics approval process. They plan to share those collective experiences by publishing a website, webcast, and podcast series.

“Connecting with Indigenous people from around the world is very important to understand Indigenous research experiences based on their unique worldviews, language, customs, heritage, traditions, and ceremonies,” explained Auger, a member of Bigstone Cree Nation.

Information gathered through the project has the potential to inform research policy at AU and other post-secondary institutions, she added.

Related: AU researcher studies the impact of sexual violation on Indigenous women

Contesting Extinctions book cover

New book in extinction studies

Dr. Suzanne M. McCullagh, an assistant professor of philosophy, has co-edited a book, Contesting Extinctions: Decolonial and Regenerative Futures

Many contemporary scientific, literary, and speculative writings warn of an imminent mass extinction event brought on by human-caused climate disturbances. Contesting Extinctions investigates the harmful tendency of such discourses to obscure and erase complex social, biological, and cultural relations. 

“This dynamic book is an exciting and timely contribution to urgent conversations in the environmental humanities and postcolonial and ethnic studies about extinction,” wrote Dr. Carolyn Fornoff of the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, in a recent review. 

Serving community

Two AU team members were elected to public office during October’s municipal elections.

Erin Stevenson, marketing manager, was re-elected as a city councillor in Spruce Grove.

Loretta Prosser, an administrative assistant, was elected for the first time as a councillor in the Town of Athabasca.

Congrats Coun. Prosser and Coun. Stevenson!

Municipal elections were held Oct. 18 across Alberta.

AU architect earns national nod, finds international audience

Dr. Henry Tsang, an architect and assistant professor in AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, was named a finalist for the third annual Emerging Leader Awards by Construction Canada. The awards recognize young professionals for excellence in design, leadership, initiative, and/or service to the community.

Tsang is nominated in the “Demonstrates Leadership” category. The awards will be announced Dec. 1, 2021, in Toronto.

Tsang recently spoke internationally, sharing his presentation, Global Trends in Green & Resilient Architecture and Public Design, at the 2021 Public Design Forum (Virtual): Designing Public Value forum held Nov. 9 in Seoul, South Korea.

Watch Tsang’s talk on YouTube, which begins at the 5:09:10 mark.

Can Gap Year Association partner badge

AU renews partnership with Gap Year Association

AU has renewed its partnership with the Canadian Gap Year Association to make it possible for learners to study with the university while still pursuing a gap year.

The association supports learners and their families in planning and executing gap years through coaching, certification, and other free resources.

Related: Fill your gap year with a course from AU

The “Write” kind of partnership

AU’s Write Site is now a member of the newly formed Alberta Writing Centres Association, a regional affiliate of the Canadian Writing Centres Association. The partnership will keep AU connected with institutions across Alberta to share best practices for enhancing the writing support that the Write Site provides to learners.

“The Alberta Writing Centres Association is made up of writing staff at institutions that formerly participated in eTutor Alberta. This move helps to formalize our affiliation,” explained Write Site co-ordinator Sarah-Jean Watt, who was involved in the formation of the provincial association.

paper and red pen

Alum shares academic success story in Edtalks 

AU grad Walter Alvarez (Bachelor of General Studies ’18) shared his experiences in overcoming extreme poverty in Guatemala and learning disabilities, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, in a global education video series. 

Alvarez shared his story in achieving academic success through EDtalks, a free database of video interviews with leading educators and thinkers. Since graduating from AU, Alvarez has earned a master’s of business administration and is now enrolled in a doctorate program in the social sciences at Royal Roads University. 

October accolades

Welcome, Peter Scott!

In case you missed it, on Oct. 7, AU announced that Prof. Peter Scott will be the university’s 10th president. Scott is a respected academic, researcher, and senior executive and comes to AU with almost 30 years of experience working in open and online learning.

Scott is currently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia. He takes over from interim president Deborah Meyers on Jan. 4, 2022.

Read the full article.


Michael Winter named AU’s 2021-22 Writer in Residence

Award-winning Canadian author Michael Winter will join Athabasca University (AU) as the 2021-22 Writer in Residence.

Winter is the author of five novels, including The Architects Are Here and This All Happened.

His work has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the BMO Winterset Award, and has been featured in The Walrus and on CBC Radio.

As AU’s Writer in Residence, Winter will devote most of his time to writing while also serving as a resource to learners, faculty, and the writing community at large.

That includes advising authors on the writing process, from manuscript to publication.

Read the full article.

AU board member Andrew Ko

Andrew Ko appointed to AU Board of Governors

The provincial government has appointed Andrew Ko to AU’s Board of Governors as a public member for a three-year term.

Ko brings considerable experience as an entrepreneur and business leader in the technology sector, specifically in software, devices, and cloud computing. He’s currently CEO of Kovexa, a Virginia-based firm that focuses on improving education and government through AI-powered technologies and data. Previously, he was managing director of global education with Amazon Web Services and has also held leadership roles at Samsung Mobile and Microsoft.

“In this time of transformation and new innovative opportunities, we believe Mr. Ko will be an effective public member on the board of governors because of his experience, but also his passion for improving education through technology,” said board chair Nancy Laid.

Ko’s appointment started on Sept. 28.

Kudos to up-and-coming researchers!

Congratulations to all the presenters and winners at the 2021 Athabasca University Graduate Student Research Conference! The annual conference, held Oct. 1-2, had a record number of abstract submissions, 71, with 103 online attendees!

The following learners won best graduate abstract submissions:

  1. Dzifa Dordunoo
  2. Ann Celestini
  3. Dana Browne

Congratulations to the five undergraduate students who qualified to present at the the conference:

  1. Catherine Lowe
  2. Pariza Fazal
  3. Peter Gobran
  4. Chelsey Pastershank
  5. Eva Notter

Prize money was sponsored by the AU Graduate Students Association and AU Students’ Union.

AU prof one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40

Dr. Melissa Jay, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has landed on Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 list by Avenue Calgary.

Jay told the magazine that her research is community based and that she integrates forms of knowledge typically excluded from academia.

“Some academics are hesitant to include things like the word ‘spirit,’” she says.

Jay is Nehiyaw-Métis, which she says informs her dedication to the process of decolonization. “The time is now to really use our voices to demand justice.”

Read the full article.

Congrats to AU’s Olympic champ!

Susanne Grainger brought home a gold medal as member of Team Canada’s women’s eight rowing team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

AU’s relationship with Game Plan has allowed Grainger (pictured below, fifth from left) to study Human Resources Management courses—and in fact she finished her last exam three days before leaving for Tokyo! She spoke with The Hub to share insights about her Olympic experience, lessons learned through three university programs, and about preparing for life after sport.

Read the full Q&A.

Canadian women's eight rowing team with their gold medals and holding flowers

Improving sustainability at business schools

Dr. Eduardo Ordonez-Ponce, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Business, recently received a grant from the Association of Commonwealth Universities Higher Education’s Sustainable Development Goals Challenge Grant program. The funding will be used to assess how business schools integrate sustainability into their teaching and research agendas in Canada and Australia, where collaborator Dr. Mehran Nejati of Edith Cowan University is based.

Faculty of Business partners with George Brown College

The Faculty of Business is excited to announce a new partnership with George Brown College.

It’s a collaborative opportunity for George Brown College’s undergraduate learners to transfer into undergraduate and graduate opportunities through AU, with potential for the two institutions to pursue further teaching and research opportunities.

Learner to help tackle online misinformation

Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies learner Dave Blaine has been selected to join a panel that will examine the impact of digital technologies on Canadian society, including online misinformation.

Blaine was selected by the Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression to join the 2021 Citizens’ Assembly that will consider whether spreading misinformation online should carry legal penalties. Blaine says his studies at AU connect in part with digital communications and new media. “This is a huge opportunity for me academically and professionally,” he says.

illustration of person bomarded by misinformation

Learner to help change who writes history

Kristen Van’t Schip, a Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies learner, will join a community of thought leaders, journalists, commentary writers, and activists whose aim is to expand the diversity of voices sharing ideas through opinion articles, or op-eds.

Van’t Schip was one of 20 people selected as fellows for the American Anthropological Association‘s OpEd Project, which aims to “increase the range of voices and the quality of ideas we hear in the world.”

Grad to publish first novel

Bachelor of Administration alum Indra Ramayan will soon release her debut novel, Mud Lilies, about a young woman who transcends the darkness of childhood abuse and domestic violence.

Ramayan, who graduated with distinction in 2004, credits AU’s flexible learning model for helping to spark her writing career.

“I was able to pursue my love of writing thanks to the flexibility of AU’s creative writing courses and the encouragement and support of my professor, Dr. Angie Abdou. As a result, I have realized my dream of becoming a published novelist.”

Mud Lilies will publish in spring 2022 and can be pre-ordered from Chapters or Amazon.

MBA grad pens project management text

AU MBA alum Dave Barrett wrote Understanding Project Management, Second Edition.

The newly updated textbook is a practical, real-world guide for current and aspiring project managers. It equips readers with a solid understanding of why specific processes are used, why certain decisions are made, and how pieces of project management fit together.

Retired faculty member publishes memoir

Author and educational psychologist, Dr. Emma Pivato, who retired from AU in 2015, has published a new memoir, And Along Came Alexis.

The book tells the story the Pivato family’s journey with her 41-year-old daughter, Alexis, and how “together we have grappled with the profound challenges that she faces in order to make a satisfying life for her and for us.”

September Accolades

Convocation 2020 earns international award

AU’s 2020 convocation ceremonies won Best Virtual Event at the International Live Events Association’s ESPRIT Awards. The awards, announced Aug. 13, recognize the most successful, engaging, and innovative events and initiatives from the events industry. AU’s events team, led by Jody Paulson, won for its efforts to transform convocation into a fully virtual event—during the middle of the pandemic no less.

“It is truly an honour for the AU events team to be recognized internationally for our work to bring the Class of 2020 the convocation celebration they deserved,” said Paulson. “We are thankful for the support and contributions by the larger AU team in helping make this milestone institutional event a reality.”

Real estate research project to explore issues in rural Alberta

An interdisciplinary team from AU is poised to help rural municipalities address the ongoing challenges they face thanks in part to a $250,000 grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Dr. Douglas MacLeod, chair of AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, will lead the development of design workshops, online learning modules, and open educational resources.

The aim is to help educate related professionals and the public about the role that real estate can play in the economic, environmental, and social recovery of rural and regional Alberta.

MacLeod will collaborate with fellow AU faculty including Cynthia Dovell, Dr. Shabnam Inanloo Dailoo, Dr. Gina Martin, Dr. Hussein Alzyoud, Dr. Lisa Carter, Trevor Butler, and Dr. Henry Tsang.

Farm in rural Alberta with grain bins and building, blue sky and clouds with green grass
Book cover of This One Wild Life

Praise for Angie Abdou’s This One Wild Life

Dr. Angie Abdou is earning accolades for her latest book, This One Wild Life. Abdou, an associate professor of English and creative writing at AU, explores problems of parenting in the digital age in this mother-daughter wilderness memoir.

The inspiration for the book started when she failed to notice her previously outgoing daughter had started to withdraw.

“She didn’t let people in, and didn’t let people see her. She shut down,” Abdou told CBC’s The Next Chapter.

Related: Why write: AU professors and authors discuss Angie Abdou’s This One Wild Life

Funding to help health professions improve workforce planning

Dr. Kathleen (Kate) Leslie, assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, is part of a national team of investigators that was awarded $787,952 in grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The funding will allow the team to develop a standard list of questions to ask health-care workers when they register with their professional regulatory bodies.

The data captured—including diversity data—will help administrators and policy makers plan for the health workforce Canada needs, now and into the future.

Leslie shares insight into one of her other projects in this Q&A on The Hub

Researcher to study impact of COVID on learning

Dr. Faria Sana, associate professor of psychology, received $78,608 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for her research investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, and how to optimize student learning in online and blended environments.

The aim is to improve teacher instructional practices and student learning.

Close-up of hands typing on a laptop

Related: In the News | Relearning to learn for back-to-school success

AU tutor’s new book sheds light on violence in health care

A new book co-written by AU sociology tutor Dr. Jim Brophy sheds light on violence health-care workers experience. Code White is based on more than 100 interviews and four years of research with co-author Dr. Margaret M. Keith.

“Violence is so ubiquitous and pervasive that it now has become normalized and viewed as simply part of the job,” Brophy said in a recent interview with The Hub.

Brophy also discussed his findings on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen, with Global Edmonton, and on CBC’s The Current.

AU joins Research Impact Canada

AU has become the first fully online university to join Research Impact Canada. The pan-Canadian network aims to build capacity for knowledge mobilization and research impact among its 23 member institutions.

“As Canada’s only open and online university, Athabasca University is committed to minimizing barriers to knowledge and maximizing opportunities for research impact and uptake within and beyond the academic guild,” said Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research.

“As a member of Research Impact Canada, our academics and research support roles look forward to drawing upon and contributing to the Research Impact Canada community of practice.”

New text for Canadian nurse educators

AU Master of Nursing alumna Dr. Karin Page Cutrara has co-edited a new textbook for Canadian nurse educators. The Role of the Nurse Educator in Canada was published by Canadian Association Schools of Nursing.

Share your accolade!

Are you an Athabasca University team member, learner, or grad? Tell us about your award, grant, new book, or other praise-worthy achievement.