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Nobel peace prize winner kicks off Perspectives on Leadership lecture series

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Dr. James Orbinski will speak at U of T Scarborough's Perspectives on Leadership Lecture Series. (Photo by Michael Cullen.)

U of T Scarborough students are used to hearing some accomplished lecturers at the front of their classrooms, but up to this point, none of those lecturers could boast of a Nobel Peace Prize. That will soon change.

Dr. James Orbinski, a founder of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and a recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, will be the first speaker in the department of student life’s Perspectives on Leadership Lecture Series this year at U of T Scarborough. He will speak on Tuesday, November 25 at 7 p.m. in the Academic Resource Centre lecture theatre (Room AC223).

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have an internationally renowned leader like Dr. Orbinski kicking off the Perspectives on Leadership Series,” said Drew Dudley, coordinator of leadership development in the department of student life at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “The passion and dedication he has shown throughout his career have inspired millions around the globe, and we could not be happier to provide our students and the Scarborough community with the opportunity to hear his insights in person.”

Dr. Orbinski's lecture, “An Imperfect Offering – Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-First Century”, is based on the experiences he chronicles in his recently released Doubleday Canada book. Over the course of his 20-year career as a humanitarian, Dr. Orbinski’s incredible dedication to helping others in times of conflict has taken him around the globe, to Somalia, Afghanistan, the Congo, Sudan and Kosovo. 

The department of student life is working with the Scarborough Campus Students' Union (SCSU) to present Dr. Orbinski's lecture. The SCSU is a key supporter of the program, says Dudley.

“As a student union we are privileged to welcome a renowned world leader such as Dr. Orbinski to UTSC,” said Zuhair Syed, president and CEO of the SCSU. “It's part of our mandate to inculcate the spirit of leadership within the students, who are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Currently, Dr. Orbinski is a research scientist and associate professor at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. He is founder of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical research and development entity focused on the diseases of the South. He recently founded Dignitas, an organization focused on community-based treatment, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Dr. Orbinski lectures internationally on humanitarianism and global health.

The department of student life's Leadership Development program began in January 2007, and has undergone tremendous growth since that time.

“It’s hard to believe that the program is less than two-years old,” remarks Dudley. “It began as a series of 30 workshops in that first semester, and we’re offering more than twice that number per semester now – presented by staff and faculty from all three-campuses, as well as alumni and community volunteers.”

The Perspectives on Leadership Lecture Series is a part of the Leadership Development Program, which consists of more than 140 annual workshops, lectures and seminars designed to empower students to have a positive impact on their own lives and the lives of others.

“The foundation of the Leadership Development Program is the belief that ‘when you aspire to be better, you inspire others to do the same’,” Dudley said. “We are committed to helping students recognize the tremendous impact they can have on their communities at a local, national, and international level.”

Dudley credits the program’s expansion to two things: the commitment of students to the program, and the financial support of the program’s partners.

“Over 1,000 students have participated in the program in some way,” Dudley said. “The overwhelmingly positive response they’ve shown, their commitment to supporting our new initiatives, and their constant demand for new opportunities for development has really pushed us to continually grow the program in size and scope.”

Dudley is quick to point out however, that the students’ desire for an expansion of the program couldn’t have been satisfied without tremendous help from the program’s partners.

“To add so many new workshops, and to bring in speakers of the caliber of Dr. Orbinski, we really needed additional financial support for the program,” Dudley said. “That support started right here on the campus, when the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union stepped up as a financial partner of the program. That was quickly followed by the support of an alumnus and former SCSU President, Adam Watson, and then external supporters --, the U of T Bookstore, and the Stratford Festival. Without their help, and the hard work of so many people in the department of student life, none of this would be possible.”

Future plans for the department of student life's Leadership Development Program include a new lecture series where faculty members share their insights on leadership, a specialized program for elected first-year student leaders, a workshop series designed to facilitate community and global engagement, a UTSC Leadership Conference, and a “Financial Empowerment Series” designed to help students develop better financial management skills.

“We have pages and pages of new ideas we hope to add to the program,” Dudley said. “We’re committed to making this the most dynamic leadership program in the country, and with the continued support of our students and our campus and community partners, we’ll do just that!”

If you’re interested in attending the lecture, organizers urge you to get your tickets quickly. They are free, but must be reserved in advance. Tickets are being made available to alumni, community members and local area high schools in addition to students, staff and faculty.

“We anticipate that the tickets will go quickly, especially since every week we’ll be drawing from those who have reserved tickets for an autographed copy of Dr. Orbinski’s book, and the chance for VIP seating at the event,” Dudley said.

For more information on Dr. Orbinski’s Perspectives on Leadership lecture as well as information on the department of student life's Leadership Development Program should visit should visit or contact Drew Dudley at

© University of Toronto Scarborough