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Distinguished service awards honour the best of U of T Scarborough

PATRICK PHILLIPS AWARD: Rob Strowbridge (pictured at right) of printing services was honoured with a 25-year service award, given here by Jack Martin of retail and conference services. Strowbridge also won the Patrick Phillips Award for outstanding commitment by a staff member. For more photos, click on the link in the story. (All photos by Eleni Kanavas.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Perfect weather set the tone for this year’s Celebration of Distinguished Service, when U of T Scarborough staff and faculty members gathered for a luncheon and ceremony to honour many outstanding members of the campus community.

The event was held under a summer-white tent on the grounds by the scenic Miller Lash House on June 16. Sunny blue skies and a light breeze made for a delightful June afternoon, and many members of the campus community said they enjoyed the camaraderie of the event and the pleasant summery weather.

Excellence in teaching and research, long years of service, and retirees were honoured in the celebration. As well, special awards demonstrating commitment to the campus community were presented. For more photos of the event, click here. 

Professor Franco Vaccarino, principal of U of T Scarborough, hosted the ceremony. “Today is a celebration of community,” he told the crowd. “Although our campus has grown in recent years, the sense of community here has been preserved. This is one of my favourite events, because we are recognizing a number of individuals today at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and this day is an opportunity to honour the many contributions that our people make.”

Twenty-five year service employees honoured were: Lynn Lardner of the caretaking department and Rob Strowbridge of printing services. Retirees being honoured were: Gillian Long from humanities; Jaan Laniste from physical education and athletics; Professor Marti Latta from social sciences (anthropology); Professor Norton W. (Bill) Milgram from psychology (neuroscience); and Anthony Price from the department of physical and environmental sciences.

AccessAbility Awards were presented to honour members of the U of T Scarborough community who have demonstrated commitment and dedication to issues of accessibility on campus. Awards were presented to students, staff and faculty members respectively. In the student category, two awards were presented. Fifth-year environmental science student Jerry Jien was honoured for his work as a volunteer computer notetaker who supports students with disabilities, his help with sign language interpreters, and his work to organize events to promote and ensure accessibility, demonstrating a “truly inclusive environment” at UTSC. Student Vicky Chong was also honoured in this category as someone who "embodies an altruistic spirit of service, a model of accessibility and a pro-active advocate" for raising awareness for a more inclusive pedagogy. Chong was described as "continuing to model courage and resilience in managing her own disability and fostering a sense of empowerment among those she mentors." Mariam Aslam, academic and career services representative, was named the staff recipient. She was described as a “relentless advocate for students’ rights to accommodations.” Aslam is a former volunteer notetaker, a UTSC graduate of women’s studies and now a staff member in the Academic Advising and Career Centre. She was cited for her demonstrated commitment to creating an inclusive environment. Through Aslam’s involvement with the Get Started Program, she “successfully created an accessible training module – inspiring colleagues to think of inclusion first.” Professor Clare Hasenkampf, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, was the faculty recipient, cited for for her zeal and passion to create accessible learning environments. Hasenkampf was recognized for her “dedication and tireless pursuits to create a rich and accessible learning environment for student, her work to facilitate real change and articulate attitudinal barriers among faculty regarding students with disabilities, and her persistent efforts to provide visibility on issues related to disability.”

Principal’s Awards were presented to various individuals within the campus community in recognition of excellence in teaching, research and staff service. The Patrick Phillips Award for outstanding service and commitment by a staff member went to Rob Strowbridge of printing services. “For anyone who has ever realized suddenly that they need 200 copies of their 10-page midterm available within a matter of hours, and feel they are up the proverbial creek without a paddle … our recipient this year is likely well known,” the citation noted. Strowbridge was praised for displaying commitment, courtesy and concern for others without fanfare or self-promotion, adapting well to many changing technologies, meeting constant deadlines, and consistently maintaining a high level of service and support to an array of individuals at UTSC.

The Principal’s Award for Faculty Teaching went to psychology professor Konstantine Zakzanis, who was described as a noted researcher and scholar in the area of clinical and neuropsychology who has received “uniformly excellent” teaching course evaluations over the years. “His ability to engage and captivate large classes with case studies and stories that bring to life the course material has a way of getting students excited about science, abnormal psychology and neuropsychology. Students are in awe of his knowledge of brain-behaviour relationships, his analytic abilities, his creativity and hard work,” the citation said, noting his mentorship of students. Many students described him as “the best professor they’ve ever had at UTSC, and that they would take any class he instructs.”

A special Principal’s Award for Outstanding Achievements in the First Two Years of Teaching at UTSC went to Professor Katherine Larson of English and women’s studies. This special commendation for a “truly remarkable start” recognized Larson, who joined UTSC in 2007. She was described as having amassed an impressive list of scholarly credentials, awards and publications over the past few years, along with her outstanding teaching. Her citation was supported by stellar student course evaluations, her statement of teaching philosophy, course materials and letters of support. She was also commended for her “mentorship role, which inspires students with love of learning and excellence, the outstanding nature of her teaching dossier, and the degree of effort put into her teaching.”

The Principal’s Research Award went to history professor Daniel Bender, who was honoured for his work in the field of American social and cultural history. Bender is the author of two books and multiple articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals, as well as serving on editorial boards of first-rate journals. He is described as a leading labour historian and his books have examined the history and culture of American sweatshops. His research has been described as being at the “forefront of new directions in the field” with ideas that transform “our knowledge of ideological justifications of industrial society.” His current research focuses on the place of zoos and the exotic in American culture from the late 19th through late 20th Century.

This year’s recipient of the Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award was Elena Maltseva, a PhD candidate in political science. She has served as a teaching assistant at U of T for the past five years, supporting a wide range of courses. According to the citation, Maltseva was “one of the most committed teachers ever” who has been “remarkable in her ability to engage students, to improve their understanding of material, and to devise new ways of presenting this information.” The enhancement of teaching was “always on her mind, and students often commented that she was the best TA they ever had, providing extremely well organized tutorials, excellent availability for help and support, and useful and challenging questions.” According to several letters from her students, “Elena was exactly the TA that every student wanted, and they considered themselves fortunate to have been in her classes.”

The recipient of the Undergraduate Student Teaching Assistant Award was Sean McCurdy, a TA in the department of physical and environmental sciences. McCurdy served as a TA for a variety of chemistry courses, delivered tutorials and organized lab work. “Acting as a TA for undergraduate courses when one is still an undergrad puts an individual in a unique position – that of having to provide leadership, mentorship, sometimes discipline, to a group of individuals who are one’s peers and potentially friends. Based on letters of support received from students, Sean clearly managed to walk this fine line with confidence and grace.” Students described McCurdy as a natural communicator with the ability to deliver knowledge, explain concepts thoroughly to students and make sure they understood the topics, all through a “passion for learning and enthusiasm in sharing knowledge with others.”

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