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

A roundup of awards and achievements by Athabasca University faculty, staff, students, and alumni

At Athabasca University (AU), we find inspiration in our students’ 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!

May Accolades!

AU to award honorary degrees

Two of the newest members of the AU community are being recognized for their work in academia, mental health advocacy, and collaborative architectural design. At convocation on June 16, 2023, honorary degrees will be presented to Wanda Dalla Costa, a respected Indigenous architect who promotes collaborative design with Indigenous communities across North America, and Dr. Austin Mardon, an Edmonton-based academic and mental health advocate.

Athabasca University's 2023 honorary degree recipients, mental health advocate Dr. Austin Mardon and Indigenous architect Wanda Dalla Costa

Read more about 2023 honorary doctorate recipients

National award for IDEA Lab

IDEA Lab, AU’s ground-breaking virtual space that uses cloud computing to power research, has won a National Prize at the Canadian Association of University Business Officers 2023 Quality and Productivity Awards. The prize, awarded May 10, recognizes IDEA Lab as a “strong enabler of excellence in digital transformation.”

“Athabasca University is open and digital in everything we do—and that includes our transformative approach to research and tackling important global challenges,” said Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research. “Technology is the catalyst that allows IDEA Lab to harness the power of people, processes, and cloud infrastructure so that our researchers can work in new and innovative ways.

illustration showing digital connectivity

Read more about IDEA Lab

Map the System finalist to rep AU at Oxford

Karen Fletcher is 1 of 6 Canadian post-secondary finalists who will compete at the global Map the System student competition, held this summer at Oxford University.

Fletcher, a Bachelor of Science, Major in Applied Mathematics student and former AUSU president, earned a spot among the finalists for her presentation, Leaks in the Pipeline: Barriers to Student Success in the Post-Secondary System.

“The post-secondary system in Canada centres ‘traditional students’ who can study full time at conventional universities without needing to miss class,” says a summary of Fletcher’s presentation. “This excludes people who live far from a university, who have caregiving responsibilities, who have to work full time and those who have medical needs requiring many appointments, among others.”

Map the System is a global competition initiated by the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. It challenges students to use a systems-thinking approach to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental challenge.

AU’s Map the System event was co-hosted by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association.

CBC names architect an Asian changemaker

CBC Calgary is celebrating Asian Heritage Month by highlighting the work of several prominent Asian Changemakers in Calgary, including Dr. Henry Tsang, assistant professor of architecture at AU!

Tsang spoke about culture and heritage, and how architecture can promote and preserve the heritage of ethnic communities in Canada.

“No matter if it’s Asian communities or other ethnic communities, it’s important that culture is expressed through the architecture of their buildings,” he said. “I think it’s important for immigrants who come to Canada to be able to preserve their culture and their roots.”

Watch on CBC Calgary

Skyler Todd head shot

Repping AU at 3MT regionals

Fresh off winning AU’s Three Minute Thesis competition, Master of Counselling student Skyler Todd represented the university at western regionals. Todd presented their thesis, What are you having?”: The lived experiences of gender creative parents, at the 3MT Western Regional Competition, held May 25 at the University of Saskatchewan.

Todd spent the bulk of their studies learning how to best support gender non-conforming people in counselling. Their thesis work was influenced by their own pregnancy and wanting to know how to proactively support their child’s gender health.

“How can I parent a child knowing they can be any number of gender identities?” Todd said.

Read more about Todd’s research

Congrats, professors emeriti!

Dr. Pamela Hawranik and Dr. Cindy Ives are earning a well-deserved retirement, and with it, the title of professor emerit.

Hawaranik was AU’s first dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and deeply committed to creating and growing graduate education.

“Students and faculty worked together to create an innovative and unique graduate education that was online and recognized nationally and internationally,” Hawaranik wrote in a message to staff. “Our students competed and were successful in receiving national and international awards.”

As a professor emerit, Hawaranik plans to “continue to advance graduate education and scholarship and strengthen the reputation of AU as a research university.”

Ives’s 40-year career kept learning “at the centre of my practice as an open educator,” she wrote.

“I made opportunities to share and apply this perspective in my roles as director of the Centre for Learning Design and Development, associate vice-president academic learning resources, and interim vice-president academic. I believe that learners have the right to supportive, respectful teaching presences, accessible course resources, and engaging activities that afford opportunities to self-regulate, structure, and demonstrate learning that is relevant to their personal and professional needs.”

AU at Alberta Mathematics Dialogue

AU was well represented at the 20th annual Alberta Mathematics Dialogue, held May 4 to 5 in Calgary. On top of co-organizing the conference, several AU researchers presented research:

  • Andrei Afilipoaei, Bachelor of Science, Applied Mathematics Major student
  • Mojtaba Aghajani Delavar, post-doctoral fellow
  • Junye Wang, Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair in Computational Sustainability and Environmental Analytics
  • Angela Beltaos, academic coordinator
  • Martin Connors, professor
  • Gustavo Carrero, associate professor
Athabasca University at Alberta Math Dialogue
From left to right: Andrei Afilipoaei, Dr. Junye Wang, Dr. Mojtaba Aghajani Delavar, Dr. Angela Beltaos, Dr. Gustavo Carrero, and Dr. Martin Connors.

Congrats on inspiring careers!

Two long-time members of the Faculty of Health Disciplines are enjoying well-deserved retirements: Dr. Sherri Melrose and Donna Clare.

Melrose is wrapping up a 40-plus-year career in nursing education. She started at Foothills Hospital School in 1980 and continued at Mount Royal for 6 years before joining AU in 2005.

During her 21 years with AU, Melrose has been an outstanding teacher, course developer, and course leader. In 2011, Sherri received the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing’s prestigious Award for Excellence in Nursing Education. She received nominations for the Brightspace Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award in 2017 and for the Distinguished Academic Award with the Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2018.

Melrose is now an adjunct professor at AU.

Clare started her nursing career in British Columbia before coming to AU in 2005 as a student. Donna graduated from the Master of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program in 2007 and was hired as an academic coordinator in 2010.

Clare has been a passionate advocate for the role of nurse practitioners in Alberta. She served on the executive team of the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, including a stint as president from 2010-12. In 2014, Clare founded the Alberta Association of NPs in Private Practice, which provides networking and education opportunities for nurse practitioners in private practice from across the province.

April accolades!

MBA grad appointed VP at MacEwan University

Lara McClelland (Master of Business Administration ’13) has been appointed vice-president of university relations at MacEwan University. With more than 25 years of progressive leadership experience, she has held executive positions with the Government of Alberta, NAIT, and the University of Alberta.

Read the announcement from MacEwan University

AU MBA grad Lara McClelland
Lara McClelland. Image: MacEwan University

Student to represent AU at Map the System

Karen Fletcher will represent AU students at the upcoming Map the System Canadian regional competition. Map the System is a global competition initiated by the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. It challenges students to use a systems-thinking approach to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental challenge.

Fletcher, a Bachelor of Science, Major in Applied Mathematics student and AUSU president, won AU’s first-ever Map the System competition for her submission Leaks in the Pipeline: Barriers to Student Success in the Post-Secondary System. In it, Fletcher identifies ways to help students experiencing difficulties in post-secondary education. Recommendations include changes to government policies, re-evaluating disability requirements, and revamping the curriculum to prioritize essential knowledge and skills required for student success.

AU’s Map the System event was co-hosted by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association.

Map the System Canadian finals run May 10 to 12. Winner(s) represent Canada at the global finals in July.

Map the System graphic

New study will examine impact of forestry herbicide on Indigenous tea

Dr. Srijak Bhatnagar, a researcher and assistant professor of computational biology and microbial ecology in the Faculty of Science and Technology, has received $250,000 in federal funding to lead a study on the impact of glyphosate on Labrador tea. Dr. Janelle Baker is co-principal investigator.

Labrador tea is a traditional food and medicine consumed for generations by the Sakawiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree). As part of an ongoing partnership with Bigstone Cree Nation, Bhatnagar is studying the impact of glyphosate on the tea plants and surrounding soil. Glyphosate is an herbicide used in reforestation to eliminate competing broadleaf plants and shrubby heathers.

Bhatnagar will work with a team of Traditional Knowledge Keepers of Bigstone Cree Nation and identify microbes present on plants found in sprayed and unsprayed locations. These microbes can be used as markers to determine the health of tea plants.

“We know from other plants that the herbicide affects the microbial community of the plant that in turn can negatively affect the health of the plant,” he explained.

The funding was part of the New Frontiers in Research Fund 2022 Exploration grant, overseen by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Related: How microbes can help us protect the environment


AU partners with Shad Canada

AU instructors will share their expertise with high school students across the country this summer thanks to a partnership with Shad Canada. The Shad program provides 1 month of learning opportunities for high-achieving Grade 10 and 11 students focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math with an entrepreneurship component. Historically a place-based program, this year Shad is offering a virtual alternative called ShadAnywhere.

Related: High school students across Canada benefit from AU STEAM expertise

student learning to code on a computer

Interim associate dean appointed

Dr. Gwen Rempel has been appointed interim associate dean of research and graduate programs with the Faculty of Health Disciplines. Rempel, a professor of nursing and health studies, takes over for Dr. Steven Johnson, who is interim dean of the faculty.

March accolades!

Business students win at case competitions

Two teams of AU Faculty of Business students took home first and third place at recent business case competitions in Calgary.

Team Interstellar won first at the Alberta Deans of Business Case Competition, held March 16 to 18 at Bow Valley College. The team provided Red Iron Labs with innovative solutions to grow within the virtual reality industry. The team included Bachelor of Commerce students Angel Kassem, Kealey Scott, and Jing Fei Feng, and Bachelor of Management, General student Trudy Slaght.

Team TASK Consulting won third at the CPA Education Foundation Business Challenge, held March 1 to 3. The team included Angel Kassem, Sang Lim, Kealey Scott, and Trudy Slaght.

4 Athabasca University business students pose for the camera after competing at a business case competition
Team TASK Consulting members Angel Kassem, Sang Lim, Kealey Scott, and Trudy Slaght.

Related: 4 reasons to enter a student business competition

Health students sweep 3MT competition

Three students from the Faculty of Health Disciplines won first, second, and third place at AU’s annual Three-MInute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Master of Counselling student Skyler Todd took home first for their thesis, “What are you having? The lived experiences of gender-creative parents.” Jasmine Sheikh, a peer from the same program, placed second, while Master of Nursing – Generalist student Danica Nolette came in third.

Related: 3MT archives on The Hub

Transgender girl and non-binary teen friends doing their homework.

Grant to fund regional aging centre

Tammy O’Rourke, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, has received $250,000 in funding from the Canadian Frailty Network. The grant will fund the development of a regional centre for healthy aging.

O’Rourke’s Health Aging in Northern Alberta project involves partnering with community organizations led by Sage Seniors Association in Edmonton. Their work will help create a framework that allows Sage to share knowledge and build capacity for seniors’ centres in northern Alberta.

Happy senior woman contemplating at home

Architecture prof. a WISE leader in STEM

Veronica Madonna, an assistant professor in the RAIC Centre for Architecture, graduated from the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Planet 2022 cohort.

WISE Planet strives to create a diverse, inclusive, equitable and just society by training women and other underrepresented groups in STEM to be change leaders equipped to address the major, shared challenges our societies face.

The 1-year change management program offers online and experiential learning in personal leadership, systems and cultures, design for disruptions, and regenerative design.

Watch an interview with Madonna

MBA grad appointed head of AHS

Mauro Chies (Master of Business Administration ’08) has been named president and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS). Chies had been serving in an interim capacity since April 2022. The health-care leader previously spoke with The Hub about AU’s impact on his life and career.

“I needed the flexibility, as I had a young family at the time. I couldn’t quit my job, as I needed to continue working full time,” he said. “I decided that me and Athabasca University were a good fit.”

Related: Online MBA opened doors for health-care executive

Grads honoured with Queen’s medals

Margaret Wing (Master of Business Administration ’07) and Sharlene Rutherford (Master of Business Administration ’20) have been honoured with Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals for their work in supporting the health of Albertans.

Rutherford was recognized for her work as president and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, specifically as a champion of women’s health and research.

Wing earned the accolade for her work supporting pharmacists in the province. She is CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association, which promotes the values of pharmacists in supporting and optimizing the health of Albertans.

The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals were created to recognize Albertans for their significant contributions to the province.

Indigenous research influences art exhibit

Research about the impact of natural resource extraction in northern Alberta on wild berries has inspired the work of an Alaskan artist.

Dr. Janelle Baker, an assistant professor of anthropology, published the paper, Do Berries Listen? Berries as Indicators, Ancestors, and Agents in Canada’s Oil Sands Region, in 2020. The title is a nod to the work of Elizabeth Povinelli and Julie Cruikshank, whose respective research asks if rocks and glaciers listen.

Baker works with Indigenous communities in northern Alberta to study the impact of industrial development on wild foods, including berries.

In her paper, she recalls fondly early childhood memories of picking berries with her grandparents, who are of settler and Métis ancestry. She explores the idea that berries can listen. Her sakâwiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) research collaborators and teachers believe that berries are semiotic agents that listen to how you speak about and to them, and respond accordingly.

Baker’s work influenced the work of artist Katie Craney, who opened an exhibit, for a moment, we exist together, for a moment, at the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. Craney’s multi-sensory work explores the idea of berries and glaciers listening and is influenced by artists research, writers, musicians, and others.

Grad appointed university chancellor

Harriet Thornhill (Master of Business Administration ’04) has been appointed chancellor of Tyndale University for a 3-year term. Thornhill is an experienced business leader with extensive leadership and experience with RBC. Tyndale University is a Christian university in Toronto.

Architecture prof. inducted into RAIC College

Dr. Henry Tsang has been inducted as a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) College. Tsang, an assistant professor of architecture in AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, is 1 of 26 fellows announced this past March.

Fellowship recognizes RAIC members for their contribution to research, scholarship, public service, or professional standing to the good of architecture in Canada, or elsewhere.

Architecture boot camp nominated for award

An architecture boot camp for high school students run by AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture and Edmonton Public Schools has been shortlisted for an international award.

The dual-credit high school architecture boot camp has been nominated for an Institution Award at the UIA Architecture and Children Golden Cubes Awards.

The boot camp allows students to explore a potential career in architecture. They learn about practical examples of architectural design through activities and projects.

The Golden Cubes Awards honour people and organizations that help children and young people develop a better understanding of architecture and the built environment.

Related: High-school students excel in dual-credit course

Vivian Manasc, Principal with architecture firm Manasc Isaac and chair of AU's Board of Governors, gave students a tour of her downtown studio.
Vivian Manasc, principal with architecture firm Manasc Isaac and former chair of AU's Board of Governors, gave students a tour of her downtown studio.

New book about Indigenous well-being

Dr. Leslie Main Johnson, a professor emerit of anthropology at AU, and Dr. Janelle Baker, an assistant professor of anthropology, co-edited Walking Together, Working Together: Engaging Wisdom for Indigenous Well-Being.

The collection takes a holistic view of well-being and includes Indigenous approaches to healing and Western biomedicine. This book, recently published by the University of Alberta Press, “will be of interest to scholars in Indigenous Studies, medicine and public health, medical anthropology, and anyone promoting care delivery and public health in Indigenous communities.”

Authors of book on pioneering women academic leaders present for IWD

Alumni Dr. Norine Wark (Doctor of Distance Education ’19) and Dr. Susan Bainbridge  (Doctor of Distance Education ’13) spoke about their book, The Encyclopedia of Female Pioneers in Online Learning, for International Women’s Day.

The book is described as the 1st volume to explore the lives and scholarship of women who have prominently advanced online learning.

Their presentation was part of the Flexible Learning Association New Zealand webinar, delivered in partnership with ODLAA Open Distance Learning Association of Australia.

Watch their presentation

Accountants honoured with career awards

Stephen Bergstrom (Master of Business Administration ’04) has been named a fellow of CPA Alberta. Fellowship is the profession highest honour in the profession, granted to members who have “rendered meritorious service to the profession or whose career achievements or achievements in the community have brought honor to the profession.”

CPA Alberta also recognized Amy Richards (Master of Business Administration ’12) and Leonard D’Silva (Master of Business Administration ’20) with Early Achievement Awards.

The award recognizes chartered professional accountants who have had their accounting designation for 10 years or less and have made noteworthy contributions or achievements as leaders or volunteers in their communities or within the profession.

MBA alum talks about work in non-profit sector

Helen Knight (Master of Business Administration ’17) spoke about her career in the non-profit sector in a recent interview with CIO Online. Knight is president of her own consulting company for non-profit leaders and boards, and strategic projects director for Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda.

Watch the interview

Dentist and MBA alum awarded honour

Dentist Lex Vides (Master of Business Administration ’19) received a Merit Award from the British Columbia Dental Association at the organization’s 2023 Tooth Fairy Gala. The award recognizes significant volunteer contributions and dedicated service to advance the purpose of the dental association.

February accolades!

Celebrating academic excellence

AU’s General Faculties Council honoured Dr. Lorraine Thirsk and Dr. Wonita Janzen with 2023 Academic Excellence Awards.

Thirsk, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, received the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision, which recognizes excellence in advising, monitoring, and mentoring graduate students engaged in project, thesis, or dissertation work.

“My vision for AU students is that they leave our programs with the confidence to be leaders in their communities and workplaces, a willingness to challenge themselves with new ideas, and a compelling drive to address current and future issues in society,” said Thirsk.

Janzen, a tutor with a background in rehabilitation medicine, received the President’s Award for Tutoring/Mentoring Excellence. The award recognizes excellence in instruction to students by AU tutors and academic experts.

“My goal is to encourage a desire for life-long learning and a confidence to tackle new and difficult challenges,” said Janzen. “My vision is to equip AU graduates with critical thinking skills, knowledge, and character to support and lead in our health-care system and society.”

Dr. Lorraine Thirsk (left) and Dr. Wonita Janzen (right)
Dr. Lorraine Thirsk (left) and Dr. Wonita Janzen
Dr. Jeff Zabudsky

Grad appointed president of BCIT

Dr. Jeff Zabudsky (Master of Distance Education ’99) has been appointed president of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

Zabudsky joins BCIT after serving as provost of American University of Bahrain in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and as CEO of Bahrain Polytechnic. He also held president roles at Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning and Red River College Polytechnic.

“BCIT plays a critical role in economic and community development throughout British Columbia and I am privileged to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading BCIT into this next era of growth,” he said.

Commitment to Calgary youth earns Queen’s medal

Denise Blair (Master of Business Administration ’10) has been honoured with a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for her work supporting at-risk youth in Calgary.

Blair received the medal in February for her work as executive director of the Calgary Youth Justice Society. The not-for-profit provides support to at-risk youth and offers them opportunities that would divert them from criminal behaviour.

The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals were created to recognize Albertans for their significant contributions to the province.

Related: Building business acumen in service to community

Researcher part of team awarded funding to study greenhouse gas

Dr. Eduardo Ordonez-Ponce is part of a team of researchers that received a $4-million grant through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Climate Action and Awareness Fund.

The Net-Zero Action Research Partnership, led by Dr. Amelia Clarke of the University of Waterloo, will support Canadian municipalities in monitoring, measuring, and achieving their greenhouse gas mitigation goals.

The aim is to ensure emissions reduction projects, policies, and programs align with Canada’s national reduction commitments.

Grad earns distinguished alumni honour

Marni Panas (Bachelor of Health Administration ’15) has been named one of NAIT’s most distinguished alumni.

A well-known human rights activist, Panas was awarded the Edmonton-based polytechnic’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned 2 credentials from NAIT, in management and computer systems technology, before her studies at AU. Today, she is a diversity and inclusion leader at Alberta Health Services.

“Working in a place where my role is about removing as many barriers as possible so people can bring their whole selves to their work environment, and for patients and families to be able to bring their whole self into their health-care experience, it is a privilege to be able to do the work that I do, ” Panas said.

Related: Degree of Confidence: How one AU grad found her authentic self

Sociology student shares story of addiction recovery in CBC column

Chris McBain says harm reduction saved his life, and without it, he wouldn’t be on the path to a sociology degree at AU.

McBain wrote about his experiences with injection drugs and addictions treatment in a recent column for CBC. The article is part of a series called The Way Out: Addiction in Alberta.

“When I was at my most vulnerable, volunteers with a needle distribution service in Edmonton gave me hope, and helped me navigate the complex road to recovery. Without harm reduction I wouldn’t have found the path to life,” McBain wrote.

“There’s a lot of anger and rhetoric around this today. Policy makers, advocates and many others are polarizing recovery versus harm reduction. But they’re not mutually exclusive. They’re both essential.”

Read McBain’s article on CBC 

Athabasca University sociology student Chris McBain

Authors of book on pioneering women academic leaders present for IWD

AU alumni Dr. Norine Wark (Doctor of Distance Education ’19) and Dr. Susan Bainbridge  (Doctor of Distance Education ’13) spoke about their book, The Encyclopedia of Female Pioneers in Online Learning, for International Women’s Day.

The book is described as the 1st volume to explore the lives and scholarship of women who have prominently advanced online learning.

Their presentation was part of the Flexible Learning Association New Zealand webinar, delivered in partnership with ODLAA Open Distance Learning Association of Australia.

Grad talks leadership, equity, and innovation in interview

Jan Bradley (Master of Business Administration ’19) spoke about her work as chief information technology officer with the City of Calgary in a new interview with CIO Online.

Bradley joined the publication to talk about her work in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in technology.

“We as women have to teach ourselves and support ourselves to be proud of who we are, speaking our voice,” she said.

Watch the interview

Dying to be Seen book cover

Alum publishes book about saving medicare in Canada

Cathy MacNeil (Bachelor of Health Administration ’15) has published a new book, Dying to Be Seen: The Race to Save Medicare in Canada.

A registered nurse since 1976 with experience in health administration and management, MacNeil’s book outlines how public health care is under attack. In the book, she offers a glimpse of what Canadians can expect to happen if we decide not to intervene now.

“For average Canadians, it is a call to arms to save Canada’s universal, egalitarian medicare program from sliding into the cruel, profit-driven system that bedevils their neighbours to the south,” MacNeil’s website states.

MBA grad takes helm of B.C. builder

Philipp Gruner (Master of Business Administration ’17) has been appointed CEO of Paradigm Building Solutions, a homebuilder and manufacturer of sustainable building products. He joins the B.C.-based company with more than 20 years of leadership and corporate management experience in the construction, energy, hospitality, and consulting sectors.

December and January accolades!

Jubilant for Queen Elizabeth II medal recipients

Two members of the Athabasca University (AU) community have been honoured with  Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals.

Dr. Shabnam Inanloo Dailoo, associate dean of strategic initiatives in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, received the medal for her ongoing commitment to advancing heritage conservation education in Alberta. Dailoo is director of AU’s Heritage Resources Management program and the Historical Resources Intern program. Alberta Culture Minister Jason Luan nominated Dailoo and presented her with the medal.

Marni Panas’s (Bachelor of Health Administration ’15) advocacy has helped change human rights legislation in Alberta and Canada to protect 2SLGBTQ+ communities from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley nominated Panas and presented her with the medal.

The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals were created to recognize Albertans for their significant contributions to the province.

Athabasca University professor Dr. Jon Dron

New associate dean learning and assessment

Dr. Jon Dron will lead a number of initiatives across the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) to enhance assessment, course design, learning-outcome assessments, and the student experience in his new role as associate dean of learning and assessment.

Dron has previously served in leadership roles within the faculty and shared his expertise across the university as part of the re-imagining assessment work led by the provost’s office.

“Jon brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this role, with both his research and teaching in online pedagogy,” said Dr. Shauna Zenteno, dean of FST. “Congratulations Jon, and we look forward to working with you!”

Architecture prof. guest curator of art collection

Dr. Henry Tsang, an assistant professor of architecture, is the guest curator of a new AU art exhibit: The Vernacular Architecture of Canadian Towns: People and Habitat in Rural and Regional Communities.

Vernacular architecture is defined as a style of construction specific to a geographical place using traditional rudimentary building techniques and styles. These buildings are often not designed by architects. They reflect trial and error over generations—and the know-how of the local community.

The exhibit includes images from AU’s art collection and includes grain elevators, farmyards, cottages, winter habitats, Indigenous houses, and main streets.

He Loves His Sister by Jim Logan

Student represents Canada in speed skating

Wren Acorn was among 121 student athletes and 10 short-track speed skaters who represented Canada at the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Acorn, from Yellowknife, N.W.T., competed in the 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre speed skating events, and the women’s 3,000-metre relay. The relay team narrowly missed the podium with a 4th-place finish.

“Lake Placid ran an awesome event and they set us up super well. We got to watch a hockey game, played some pond hockey and watched some long-track speedskating,” Acorn told Northern News Service Limited Media.

Wren Acorn (front) represented Canada at the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games. Image: Antoine Saito/Speed Skating Canada

Nursing grad takes on hospital leadership role

Leanne Weeks (Master of Nursing ’20) has been appointed vice-president of clinical and chief nursing executive with the Royal Victoria Health Centre in Barrie, Ont. Weeks’s experience includes more than a decade in health-care leadership, including 6 years in acute care and 4 years as operations director of surgery and maternal, newborn, child, and youth programs.

“I’m excited about this new opportunity and thrilled to be a part of Royal Victoria Health Centre’s plans for the future which will change the landscape of health care in this region,” Weeks said.

Alum digs into leadership role at mining firm

Roger Lemaitre (Master of Business Administration ’11) has taken on a new executive leadership role as vice-president and head of mining at Jourdan Resources. Lemaitre is a professional engineer and geologist with more than 30 years of experience in senior and junior mining companies.

October and November accolades!

AU launches refreshed brand

Athabasca University (AU) is always evolving to meet the learning needs of Albertans and Canadians. That’s why AU has refined our brand identity to better reflect our next-generation online experience and our anyone, anywhere, anytime advanced learning.

The newly refreshed brand, which launched Oct. 24, shifts the focus of AU’s story as Canada’s Open University. That means we’re open to anyone with a desire and commitment to learn. AU removes barriers to create better tomorrows for everyone.

Read more about AU’s brand refresh

woman using laptop with Athabasca University logo

Canada Research Chair renewal

Dr. Mickey Vallee has been renewed as Canada Research Chair in Community, Identity, and Digital Media.

Vallee was first awarded his tier 2 Canada Research Chair in 2017. His research program focuses on sound and recording technologies and how they can help understand a range of biology-related topics, a field known as bioacoustics.

The tier 2 research chair renewal was part of a $139-million federal investment in the Canada Research Chair program announced in November.

Related: Q&A with Mickey Vallee, Canada Research Chair in Community, Identity, and Digital Media

Photo of Dr. Mickey Vallee

AU grad named IT ‘Woman of the Year’

Claudette McGowan (Master of Business Administration ’11) has been named Woman of the Year at this year’s Women in IT Summit and Awards.

McGowan is a nationally renowned cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur. She won the award, which goes to a woman who has demonstrated the highest degree of IT excellence, innovation and leadership over the last 2 years.

Until recently, McGowan was an executive with TD Bank but has since gone on to found her own startup, Protexxa, a business-to-business cybersecurity platform that leverages artificial intelligence.

The Women in IT Summit and Awards recognize and celebrate women, allies, and businesses across the country, highlighting their contributions to the technology industry.

Related: ‘Elevate security now,’ cybersecurity expert advises leaders in open learning

Claudette McGowan
Book cover: Diet, Health, and Prevention

New book about diet, health, and prevention

Dr. Norman Temple, a professor of nutrition in the Faculty of Science and Technology, has published a new book: Diet, Health, and Prevention. The book explores the big picture of how improved health can be achieved across the population through a healthier diet. The work will “appeal to anyone with an interest in diet and health, both those with and those without a background in nutrition,” Temple explains.

Related: 5 healthy-eating tips for the holidays

IDEA Lab earns innovation nod

IDEA Lab, AU’s cloud-based virtual research space, won the Regional Innovation Award at the 2022 ASTech Awards. The awards recognize the best in science, technology, and innovation in Alberta.

The IDEA Lab team includes Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research, and research office colleagues Paul Daniels, MacKinley Darlington, and Stacey Leavitt, with support from AU’s IT team led by vice-president, Jennifer Griffin Schaeffer.

IDEA Lab was developed in partnership with Amazon Web Services and RONIN and ​​represents a first-in-Canada approach to virtual research.

Related: IDEA Lab: Redefining Research

Laurie Wang
Image: Cooper and O’Hara

MBA student among Edmonton’s top 40 under 40

MBA student Laurie Wang is among Edmonton’s top 40 under 40, according to Edify magazine.

Wang was recognized for her work with Legal Aid Alberta in making justice more accessible to everyone. She is executive director of people, culture, and communications.

“I’m able to work with some of the greatest lawyers in the province.” Wang told Edify. “But for me, joining Legal Aid was really about strengthening democracy.”

Read Wang’s profile

Professors publish new AU Press titles

AU faculty Dr. Jon Dron and Dr. Angie Abdou will publish new works through AU Press’s spring 2023 offerings.

Abdou has 2 new titles through AU Press. She contributed to Edmonton author and former AU writer-in-residence Joshua Whitehead’s Indigiqueerness: A Conversation about Storytelling, which releases in April 2023. Evolving from a conversation between Joshua Whitehead and Angie Abdou, Indigiqueerness is part dialogue, part collage, and part memoir.

Abdou and Dr. Jamie Dopp of the University of Victoria also co-edited Not Hockey: Critical Essays on Canada’s Other Sport Literature. With the aim of prompting reflections on and discussions of the boundaries of sport, contributors explore how literature engages with sport as a metaphor, as a language, and as bodily expression. The book launches in May 2023.

Dron’s new book, How Education Works: Teaching, Technology, and Technique, looks at education, learning, and teaching through a technological lens. It focuses on the parts we play in technologies, from language and pedagogies to computers and regulations. The book launches in May 2023.

Related: Knowledge for everyone: How open access expands the reach and impact of the university press

Former staffer publishes new book

Former AU staffer Emma Pivato has published a memoir, And Along Came Alexis.

The retired psychologist and disability advocate wrote about raising her youngest daughter, Alexis, who was born with multiple disabilities, including blindness, an intractable seizure disorder, and spastic quadriplegia. The book describes the story of her life to date from her mother’s viewpoint: its victories and setbacks, its grim moments and its funny moments.

Online Learning Consortium honours retired professor

Dr. Terry Anderson, a professor emeritus and past Canada Research Chair in Distance Education, received a 2022 Class of Fellows Award from the Online Learning Consortium.

The honour recognizes “outstanding qualification, experience, contributions, and leadership in online learning, said Mary Niemiec, a member of the organization’s board. “These experts are leading the way in online learning.”

The Online Learning Consortium is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators, dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences for the  modern learner.

Prof. earns nods for urban design

Dr. Henry Tsang, an assistant professor in AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, earned an honorable mention at this year’s City of Calgary Mayor’s Urban Design Award.

Tsang’s work on the Japanese Cultural Centre in Calgary was recognized in the Conceptual Theoretical Urban Design Category. The project previously earned several other design awards.

The Mayor’s Urban Design Awards celebrate the work of Calgary urban designers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners, and artists.

Tsang also earned a 2022 American Institute of Architects Canada Design Award – Honourable Mention for the same project. These award recognize best practices, innovative thinking, and design excellence in the work of AIA Canada members.

Related: Dr. Henry Tsang wins Canadian Architect Award of Excellence

Dr. Henry Tsang with an urban design award

Business associate dean honoured by alma mater

Dr. Simon Segué was among several graduates of the École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales-Douala, in Douala, Cameroon, who were celebrated for notable achievements. Segué, an associate dean and professor in the Faculty of Business, was recognized as a pioneer in education for his “exemplary academic career” and for the leadership roles including serving as editor-in-chief of the Journal of African Business and president of the Academic of African Business and Development.

September accolades!

AU opens new Indigenous art gallery, memorial garden

A new memorial garden and art gallery at Athabasca University’s (AU) campus offer spaces for quiet contemplation and reflection to remember the lives lost and Survivors of Canada’s residential school system.

AU’s Indigenous unit, Nukskahtowin, which means meeting place in Cree, hosted the Sept. 27 opening of the Linda Bull Memorial Garden and Bertha Clark-Jones O.C. Art Gallery. The garden honours the legacy of the late Linda Bull, O.C., who was Cree and one of AU’s first Indigenous academics, while the art gallery is named after Bertha Clark-Jones, O.C., a Cree-Métis who devoted her life to advocacy, in particular for Indigenous women and children.

Read more: Nukskahtowin opens Linda Bull Memorial Garden and Bertha Clark-Jones O.C. Art Gallery

people at the opening of the Linda Bull Memorial Garden

VP honoured as emerging entrepreneur

Jennifer Schaeffer, vice-president of information technology and chief information officer, was honoured as an emerging entrepreneur at the 2022 Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Awards.

Schaeffer won the award for her efforts as founder of online learning company Onlea, which produces flexible, mobile-friendly, interactive learning courses, educational experiences, and assessment solutions.

Deputy provost recognized for leadership in digital education

One of AU’s senior leaders has won an international award for leadership. Anne-Marie Scott, deputy provost for academic operations, received the Award for Leadership in Digital Education at the Association for Learning Technology’s 2022 ALT Awards.

The awards celebrate and reward excellent research and practice and outstanding achievement in learning technology. Scott currently serves as co-lead of AU’s Integrated Learning Environment project (ILE). The ILE will combine all aspects of online learning and learner support into a single, integrated ecosystem that’s flexible, scalable, and based in the cloud.

Related: AU’s new Integrated Learning Environment will transform learner experience

New micro-credential in health economics

AU has received $330,000 in provincial funding to develop a micro-credential that will help health professionals and others better understand the impact of their work and decision-making, including the benefits and costs to patients and the health-care system.

PowerED™ by AU and the Faculty of Health Disciplines will develop the 4-course micro-credential in partnership with the Institute for Health Economics in Alberta.

“Health economics is every health professional’s business,” said Dr. Alex Clark, dean of the Faculty of Health Disciplines. “It’s important for Canadian society to focus on health economics as well as health professionals. When it comes to effective health care, we have to think not just about benefits but about costs. That way we can work with government and decision-makers to ensure Canadians get the best, and also the most sustainable health care.”

Read more

A healthcare professional reads a medical document during a meeting with a group of colleagues.


Bucking Conservatism book cover

AU Press wins at Alberta Book Publishing Awards

Two AU Press titles were recognized at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards.

Scholarly and Academic Book of the Year

Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy, edited by William K. Carroll (University of Victoria).

Regional Book of the Year

Bucking Conservatism: Alternative Stories of Alberta from the 1960s and 1970s, edited by Leon Crane Bear (University of Lethbridge), Larry Hannant (University of Victoria), and Karissa Robyn Patton (Vancouver Island University).

“We are filled with pride when our authors receive this kind of recognition,” says Megan Hall, director of AU Press. “A book is the culmination of countless hours spent writing and revising and then doing it all over again! Awards like these acknowledge the commitment and dedication our authors have to making a great book with us.”

Congrats, Canadian Academy of Nursing Fellows!

Two AU nursing professors have been named 2022 Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Nursing. Dr. Margaret Edwards and Dr. Debbie Fraser of the Faculty of Health Disciplines were both inducted into the 2022 class—the highest honour for Canada’s nursing leaders in clinical practice, education, administration, research and policy.

Edwards, a registered nurse, was the founding vice-president of the Alberta Association of Nurses and a former dean at AU. Under her leadership, the Faculty of Health Disciplines developed 3 online master’s programs, which removed barriers to higher education for thousands of nurses.

Fraser, also a registered nurse, is an associate professor at AU with more than 40 years of experience in neonatal intensive care. She became one of Canada’s first neonatal nurse practitioners, a role she still holds at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

Learn more about this year’s fellows.

July and August accolades!

AU podcast earns national nod

AU’s limited series podcast, Go the Distance, has been nominated for a Canadian Podcast Award.

Go the Distance is among 5 podcasts nominated for Outstanding Branded Series. The podcast features the stories of 10 AU students and alumni who have discovered the transformative effect of online learning.

The Canadian Podcast Awards celebrate outstanding podcasts produced by Canadian podcasters, editors, and producers. Winners will be announced online in September.

Listen to Go the Distance on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

Happy birthday, AUSU!

Celebrate like it’s the ’90s! The Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a retro-themed party this past July.

The undergraduate student body was founded on July 16, 1992, and became AUSU 2 years later. When it was created, it was the first students’ association in the world created to serve the needs of distance education students.

Grads publish book on pioneering women academic leaders

AU alum Dr. Norine Wark (Doctor of Distance Education ’19) and Dr. Susan Bainbridge (Doctor of Distance Education ’13) have written a new book, The Encyclopedia of Female Pioneers in Online Learning.

The book is described as the first volume to explore the lives and scholarship of women who have prominently advanced online learning. It details 30 pre-eminent female academics, including some of the first to create online courses, design learning management systems, research innovative topics such as discourse analysis or open resources, and speak explicitly about gender parity in the field.

Wark won the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal in 2019, given to the AU graduate student with the highest grade-point average. She was interviewed about her experience for Convocation 2019.

Bainbridge is a contract instructor with AU.

Alum earns tenure

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Opara (Doctor of Business Administration ’14) who earned tenure from Texas A&M University.

In a note to his peers in the DBA program, Opara expressed gratitude for the “important contributions to his success made by members of the AU Faculty of Business and the DBA program.”

Opara will be part of a panel discussion about careers in post-secondary education for DBA graduates at the annual DBA orientation in September.

Interview explores professor’s memoir

Dr. Meenal Shrivastava, a professor and coordinator of political economy and global studies, was recently interviewed by the New Books Indian Religions podcast about her 2018 book, Amma’s Daughters: A Memoir.

In the book, Shrivastava uncovers the history of the female foot soldiers of Mahatma Gandhi’s national movement in India in the early 20th century. She weaves together written accounts with archival research and family history, and in doing so, gives voice and honour to the hundreds of thousands of largely forgotten or unacknowledged women who, threatened with imprisonment for treason and sedition, relentlessly and selflessly gave toward the revolution.

Amma’s Daughters: A Memoir was published by AU Press.

Listen to the interview

French professor publishes poetry

Dr. Evelyne Gagnon, an associate professor of French literary studies, has published a new collection of poems, Incidents (et autres rumeurs du temps)—Incidents (and other rumors of the century). The book debuted on Aug. 30 from Montreal-based publisher Le Noroît.

AU education reaches new heights

Learning at AU just reached new heights thanks to a new partnership with the (ALPA).

ALPA is the world’s largest airline pilots union, representing more than 65,000 pilots at 40 carriers in Canada and the United States. Thanks to a new agreement with AU, ALPA’s members can take advantage of the flexibility of AU’s online learning model so they can enroll in programs or courses from anywhere in the world. The agreement means that members do not have to pay application fees and are charged Alberta tuition rates.

“ALPA strives to find resources that strengthen the position of its members and their families in all aspects of their lives. Our partnership with Athabasca provides the opportunity for better positioning personally, professionally and financially for those we represent,” said Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA vice-president of administration.

“Athabasca University takes pride in removing barriers to university education so that our learners can pursue learning at any time and from anywhere in the world,” said Michael Shouldice, manager of partnerships and collaborations. “Educational partners like the Air Line Pilots Association, International, allow us to deliver on our mission so that our learners can succeed at any stage of their lives and careers.”

The 5-year agreement also includes one-on-one support for ALPA members who need assistance with applications or registration.

Learn more

airplane taking off

June accolades!

Congrats to the class of 2022!

You did it. You finally did it! Congratulations to all 1,872 graduates in AU’s class of 2022! If you missed it, AU celebrated the successes of our newest grads throughout the month of June with stories, video, profiles, and tips for future graduating years. You can also test your knowledge of the class of 2022 and AU with this fun quiz!

Check out grads featured during #AthaU22

Take a bow, Governor General’s Academic Medal winners!

A special congratulations go out to Dr. Debra Dell and Danica McKinnon, who were awarded the Governor General’s Academic Gold and Silver Medals, respectively.

Dell (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’22) earned the gold medal as AU’s top graduate student. She now plans to further her work as a leader and educator in addictions counselling.

Read Dell’s story

McKinnon (Bachelor of Management ’22) earned the silver medal as the top undergraduate student. She won the award after an 8-year break from school.

Read McKinnon’s story

Debra Dell and Danica McKinnon
Debra Dell (left) and Danica McKinnon.

Mother-daughter grads featured on CBC Radio

It’s not every day that members of the same family pursue a university degree in the same program at the same time. But to do it twice is exceptionally rare.

Juanita Marshall (Master of Counselling ’22) and her mother, Natashia Marshall (Master of Counselling ’22) spoke to CBC Radio in Edmonton about their experiences as AU students.

Listen to their story

The Marshalls - Juanita, Sarah Jane, and Natashia
Left to right: Juanita Marshall with daughters Sarah Jane Marshall (class of 2020) and Natashia Marshall (class of 2022).

Related: Mother-daughter duo graduate university together—for a second time

7 research projects awarded $3.8M in grant funding

Seven research projects involving AU researchers were awarded a combined $3.8 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through grant awards announced on June 16.

Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research, says AU’s success in securing funding shows that Athabasca is on the rise as a research university.

“More important than that, our researchers are exploring and solving grand challenges through their work,” Perrin says. “From racism to climate change to the impact of the pandemic to privacy, architecture, and inclusion, AU academics are advancing knowledge in areas that are crucial to understanding our past, accounting for the present, and projecting a better future.”

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.