BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

2015 – 2016 DiverseCity Fellows

At CivicAction, we believe that there is nothing more important to the future of our cities than preparing those who will lead them and our DiverseCity Fellows program does just that. This year’s cohort brings to the table a variety of experience in business, healthcare, educational, government, and non-profit sectors across the GTHA.

ANITA ABRAHAM

  • Executive Director of Meal Exchange
  • Master of Peace and Conflict Studies and Graduate Diploma in
    Social Innovation
  • Worked on consulting projects across North America, India, Mexico
    and the Caribbean

I am the Executive Director of Meal Exchange (MX), a national non-profit
that works in more than 40 communities to use university campuses as a
leverage point to build sustainable food systems and fight poverty. Previous
to my work at MX, I was the Manager of Knowledge Mobilization at Social
Innovation Generation, a national collaborative addressing Canada’s social
and ecological challenges.

As the Lead Architect for Studio Impact since 2011, I work with vulnerable
youth to teach them about systems thinking and community impact. I have
also volunteered on the Board of the Social Planning Council K-W and Grand
Valley Institution – a federal womens prison.

I have a particular interest in systems thinking, scaling social impact and civic
engagement and I look forward to bringing these passions to the forefront of my
work to create social change.

JONATHAN AZZI

  • Manager for Accenture Strategy’s Sales and Customer Service practice
  • Master of Health Administration from the University of British Colombia
  • Recipient of Accenture’s “Firestarter Award”
  • Passionate about mental health and creating inclusive, connected communities for all Canadians

With extensive experience in the healthcare field, and Accenture consulting experience across a variety of industries, I bring a unique lens on city-building issues.

I am passionate about driving community impact, providing free consulting services to non-profit organizations through Community Seed Consulting and mentoring New Canadian job-seekers through ACCESS employment.

I have a strong interest in helping my clients and communities achieve high performance, through building trusted relationships with their networks. I look forward to bringing my impact-focused approach and skills in relationship management and consensus building to issues facing our region.

ALISSA BARTON

  • Director of Employee Programs at Infrastructure Ontario
  • Founder and Co-Chair, Women at Infrastructure Ontario Engagement Committee
  • Degree in Economics from Queen’s University and a certificate in Human Resources from Ryerson University

Over the last 12 years in the public service, I have held a number of increasingly senior roles covering a range of areas including finance, communications and policy. Currently, at Infrastructure Ontario I design and implement programs that are changing our workplaces for the better. I also have experience in analytics, process improvement and other innovative change practices and programs.

In 2013, I founded and continue to co chair the Women at Infrastructure Ontario Committee. I was honoured to represent Ontario and the public sector at the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

As a native Torontonian, I continue to make my home here and my greatest city-building accomplishment is producing three more civic-minded, nature-loving Torontonians: my kids.

VASILIKI (VASS) BEDNAR

  • Associate Director of the Cities research program at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management
  • Action Canada Fellow
  • Board member of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs
  • Holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy & Governance

In my role at the Martin Prosperity Institute, I work with urbanist Richard Florida to develop and design an academic research portfolio with a journalistic pace. I am a voracious consumer of, and participant in, Canadian public policy debates and believe in using humour to make complicated ideas more accessible.

I root my perspectives in research and am a member of the Banff Forum, Equal Voice, Better Budgets Toronto and Women in Toronto Politics. I have also participated in TEDxToronto as a speaker and former host.

To me, leadership means having the patience to be passionately persistent. I look forward to building my city-building toolkit by being exposed to a range of leadership perspectives and styles.

PATRICK BYAM

  • Senior Manager, Office of the President and CEO at YMCA of Greater Toronto
  • Co-founder of the Young Public Health Professionals’ Network
  • Holds a Master of Public Health from Yale University and a Master of Health Administration from the University of Ottawa

In my current role at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, I work to build healthy communities across the GTHA. Through these experiences, I have developed expertise in non-profit governance, strategic planning, and project management.

I am driven to find creative solutions to build healthier and more equitable communities. I have built a global career addressing health disparities in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. I have co-authored five peer-reviewed publications on strengthening primary healthcare to improve health outcomes. I’m also involved with the Police Literary Initiative – a youth-driven public education and advocacy group focused on policing services and community safety in Toronto – and co-authored a report on policing and public safety in Toronto.

I look forward to collaborating with members of the public, private and non-profit sectors to develop sustainable solutions to the complex challenges facing the GTHA.

TYLER FERGUSON

  • Founder of The Farm Network
  • Chair of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs and Professionals Division
  • Holds a Master of International Public Relations from Cardiff University

I am the founder of The Farm Network, a distribution company that works with small farmers and artisan producers in Ontario and parts of Canada. Our mission is to increase the convenience and affordability of items made by our great, local and domestic producers.

Prior to launching The Farm Network, I led a management consultancy, worked with several Hamilton Business Improvement Areas and executed campaigns for global brands and international government organizations.

I believe that most great cities in the world have a pedestrian-only, commercial area within their city core. That is why I am proud to have helped coordinate Complete Streets programs in both the Ancaster Village Core and Downtown Hamilton.

I look forward to bringing my cross-sector experience and entrepreneurial background to drive innovation and collaboration in our region.

LISA GEORGE

  • Program Manager, Diversity & Mentorship at BMO
  • President of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto
  • Board member of the Aboriginal Professionals Association of Canada

I am Mi’kmaq from Corner Brook Newfoundland, raised in the East Coast and in Ontario. I have a keen interest in urban Indigenous issues, social innovation, relationship management and community relations.

In my former role at CIBC, I oversaw the national Indigenous and LGBT portfolio and was responsible for thought leadership in the development of strategic plans by identifying opportunities for improvement in Diversity and Inclusion projects.

To me, leadership is about inspiring others and building a vision that others can achieve as a team. I look forward to bringing my unique perspectives to the city-building dialogue.

GRACIE GOAD

  • Manager, F&B and Training, The Drake Hotel
  • Recipient of the 2015 Ontario Hostelry Institute’s Top 30 Under 30 Award and a member of the selection committee for the 2016 awards
  • Recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award
  • Queen’s University graduate and proud Toronto native

Working for The Drake Hotel, I found passion and purpose in the exciting world of hospitality. At The Drake Hotel, I am surrounded by the industry’s best and brightest every day which drives me to do better.

To me, leadership means helping to make room at the table for others to shine alongside you. As part of this philosophy, I believe in the power of great mentors and each day try to pay forward all of the time and energy that has been invested in me thus far.

At The Drake Hotel, one of our service standards is “The Art of Hospitality.” To me, this means that the guest is considered in everything that we do and that the end result is fun, engaging and innovative. I look forward to applying this model of putting people first to city-building and the issues facing our region.

KWESI JOHNSON

  • Sponsored Employee, United Way of Toronto and York Region
  • Recipient of the YMCA Peace Medallion, Harry Jerome Award, Ryerson Gold Medal, Centennial College Alumni of Distinction & Lincoln M. Alexander Award for Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • Master of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from University of Toronto

As a 10-year-old dyslexic student, my journey from new immigrant to finding my way in the fourth largest city in North America was a daunting task to say the least. Having now worked with some of the largest public and NGO institutions in the region and going the distance academically, I continue to demonstrate a commitment to tackling some of the systemic issues that persist.

I currently work with United Way Toronto & York Region and am an active community leader, volunteer, public speaker and a budding entrepreneur. I believe my 14 plus years of experience supporting youth living in complex socio-economic communities has been my most rewarding accomplishment to date.

My mantra is simple: we are all born students and teachers. The truly fulfilled among us never lose sight of this critical balancing act.

RITESH KOTAK

  • Advisor to Public Safety Agencies
  • Degree in Business Administration from the University of Toronto
  • Internationally recognized cyber security expert and spokesperson on social/cyber/digital issues

In my current role as an advisor to Public Safety agencies, I research and provide training in the areas of social media analytics, cybercrime, internet investigations, emerging technologies and collaboration to both the public and private sector.

Previously, I worked with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) where I was the project lead for the TPS Mobile App project and was the co-creator and Project Coordinator of Operation Reboot, which was a TPS initiative addressing social media, open source, technology procurement and cyber related threats and investigations. Keeping the TPS ahead of the curve, my work has been recognized nationally and internationally.

I’m excited to meet and more importantly collaborate with like-minded individuals who are committed to solving some of the GTHA’s most complex challenges. Technology can often bring innovative, new solutions to a problem and I look forward to applying my expertise in this area to city-building projects.

SHARI MACKAY

  • Sergeant, Toronto Police Service
  • Co-chair of the Women’s Internal Support Network at the Toronto Police Service
  • Founder of Toronto Police Services’ “L-School”
  • Recipient of the International Association of Women Police Mary Jo Blahowski Leadership Award and of the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Award

I am in my 18th year with Toronto Police Service where I’ve been involved in front line policing, investigative policing, major crime, strategy management and organizational review. Currently, I am assigned to 14 Division.

As a recent graduate of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, I have a passion for developing leaders, civic engagement, education and creating opportunity for youth. I am committed to making an impact in improving our community and our country and this spring, I will be completing my Master’s Degree from Queen’s University in Public Administration. I plan to start another Master’s Degree at OCAD next fall.

I am a busy mom with an 11-year-old hockey player and a 10-year-old gymnast. I currently live in the Durham Region with my husband and the two athletes.

MRINALINI MENON

  • Manager with the Royal Bank of Canada’s Enterprise Talent Sourcing Program
  • Lived, studied and worked across seven cities
  • Managed a foreign policy research network at the Liu Institute of Global Issues in Vancouver

At RBC, I help globally transform how the bank acquires competitive talent. I have a long history of spotting and recruiting the right people as an executive recruiter with Spencer Stuart, a leading global executive search firm where I served clients in the Education, Non-profit & Government, Consumer and Legal & Compliance practices.

Outside of my professional career, I collaborated on an innovative civic engagement model for the Royal Ontario Museum and co-founded a professional development group for women with international backgrounds and careers.

I am excited to connect with a group of my peers who are similarly oriented to collaborating and sharing our collective hopes and ambitions for the GTHA. I look forward to applying my skills of finding the right people with the right skills to advance projects that enhance our urban experience.

ABIGAIL MORIAH

  • Associate Development Manager of the Regent Park Revitalization Project at Toronto Community Housing Corporation
  • Part-time lecturer at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Board Chair of Weston Frontlines Centre

With over a decade of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, including Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, World Vision and Canadian Urban Institute in Ethiopia, I draw on my diverse background to work across sectors to impact change in my city.

I joined TCHC in 2009, and have worked in a range of management positions contributing to community development initiatives, policy development and organizational capacity building. Currently, I am a member of the Regent Park Revitalization Project management team.

I became interested in exploring innovative and collaborative ways to address complex community challenges, which led me to pursue a Master of Science in Planning at University of Toronto.

I love connecting creative people and remain focused on creating opportunities to achieve diversity and equity in the planning profession and redefining how work is done in communities through practice and research.

PAUL NGUYEN

  • Award-winning activist and filmmaker
  • Recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism, William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations, Heritage Toronto Award, Canadian Ethnic Media Association Award, National Ethnic Press Award and the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship
  • Recognized as 1 of 25 Notable Canadians of Asian heritage by the Government of Canada
  • Board member for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada and York University Alumni Association

I am a passionate advocate, public speaker and media commentator on race, crime and youth issues from the Jane and Finch community. In 2004, I created Jane-Finch.com to respond to negative stereotypes about my community. This project soon became a national success story with my impact recognized by political and community leaders across Canada.

In 2006, I spent a year working with CBC’s The Fifth Estate documenting the lives of gang-involved youth in the Gemini nominated Lost in the Struggle. I look forward to continuing to use my voice to highlight important issues and work alongside a group of talented rising leaders to find new ways to uplift my community.

JAY PARISEAU

  • Senior Diversity Recruitment Consultant at CIBC
  • Launched one of Canada’s first national Indigenous mentorship programs
  • Passionate about promoting youth success within the Aboriginal community

At CIBC, I ensure that the organization’s workforce reflects the communities it serves, helping to further strengthen CIBC’s client relationships.

As an Indigenous person I often bring a unique and important lens to the table. I am also committed to supporting Indigenous students’ transition into the workforce and designed and launched a national Indigenous mentorship program that that has paired hundreds of senior students with mentors to help guide students’ transition into the world of work. I have also worked with the United Way to develop their Aboriginal Education Initiative, which year-over-year has increased and supported Indigenous student success.

I have had the opportunity to work in various industries across both the private and public sector and look forward to bringing my cross-sectoral expertise to advance the community building agenda.

AMANDA PENRICE

  • Special Assistant to Councilor and TTC Chair Josh Colle
  • Passionate about advocating on behalf of the youth and child sector
  • Co-Founder of Project Ukulele Gangsterism

I’m passionate about communities and the individual stories of justice, ambition and resolution that shape them. Helping define and share these stories of anguish and triumph, struggle and success, revolution and redemption is what I do best.

I currently work with Councillor Josh Colle on a number of a projects, including the Lawrence Heights Redevelopment & Oakwood Vaughan Revitalization, Reggae Lane and other social policy portfolios. I previously spent a large part of my career advocating in Toronto’s child and youth sector as the Managing Director for Middle Childhood Matters Coalition in Toronto, assisting in the creation of 16 new After School Recreation Care programs, 612 new childcare spaces, a Middle Childhood Strategy and a $21 million investment from the Province of Ontario.

I look forward to bringing my local, community knowledge and my advocacy background to move our region forward.

IRENE QUARCOO

  • Acting Senior Manager, Transformation, Civil Law Division, Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
  • Award winning communicator and co-creator of Toronto’s critically acclaimed Sail-In-Cinema™
  • Co-Founder of Civic Tech Toronto

I am a communicator and third culture kid who’s lived in five countries on three continents. A great believer in building up communities by equipping people to effect true change, I’m a bit of a workhorse and have a knack for creating inclusive spaces that facilitate innovation and collaboration.

I have spent much of my career working as a communications professional in the public sector – having worked at three levels of government – providing strategic advice to senior officials, managing corporate and marketing communications, leading change and spearheading large initiatives.

When I’m not at work, I offer up my expertise to startups, small businesses and not-for-profits as a pro bono communications consultant. I am also very active in CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network as a member of the executive and Co-Chair of ELNstudio 2015.

ALICIA ROSE

  • Managing Director of Framework
  • Recipient of a 2014 Vital People Grant
  • Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the School for Social Entrepreneurs
  • Ontario Board Member of Cultural Pluralism Arts Movement Ontario

I have worked for 15+ years in corporate sponsorship, which has been a valuable in moving ideas from concept to reality. I enjoy sinking my teeth into a new challenge, which gives me the opportunity to strategize, develop and execute.

I developed the 40 Voices Summit in 2014, which engaged young leaders to address issues facing the arts sector. I was also one of the founders of Inspire Together that encouraged volunteerism locally and abroad.

I am an avid reader and though I love technology, I say no to e-books. I’ll travel anywhere for a music festival and am guilty of listening to Purple Rain by Prince on repeat.

PAM SETHI

  • Health Design Lead at the Canadian Centre for Aging & Brain Health Innovation
  • Holds a Master of Public Health from University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health
  • Co-creator & Director, Lean In Canada
  • Director, City Shorts, Black Lane Studios

With over a decade of experiences in healthcare and public health, I draw on my diverse background to bring innovation to public health using a mixture of evidence-based research, policy and creativity. I currently work in health policy, system planning and strategic development with the Ontario government and previously worked with the World Health Organization and as a front-line nurse in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

In 2013, I co-founded Lean In Canada, a non-profit organization geared towards creating a community for women to improve gender equality in the workplace. I recently produced/co-wrote a health-related documentary about a patient’s lived experience navigating the transplant system, using storytelling as a form of engagement. I also co-created a community-building project making meaningful improvements through storytelling and film in the GTA.

I look forward to bringing my combined background in healthcare, creative arts, public policy and community-building to develop innovative ways to enhance our region.

STAS UKHANOV

  • Community Relations and Issues Specialist, Metrolinx
  • Winner of 2015 NXT City Prize: Energy and Sustainability Category
  • Programming Coordinator for Open Streets TO festival
  • A first generation immigrant who has lived in six countries

Cities are my greatest passion, and I strive to understand what makes them tick. I believe that creating quality public space in a rapidly growing region is essential in addressing our social and environmental challenges.

Through my role at Metrolinx as a member of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT community relations team, I’m honoured to help deliver one of the largest transit infrastructure projects in North America.

I am an action-oriented urban enthusiast and founded the project Kensington United to promote the use of shared and inclusive streets in our city. I’ve also contributed as a programming lead on a number of community initiatives, including Jane’s Walk, 100in1day and Open Streets TO.

I believe that the urban agenda needs an inter-disciplinary coalition to lead the GTHA into the 21st Century, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

KEVIN VUONG

  • Head of Municipal Partnerships at Magnet, Ryerson University
  • Co-Chair, Toronto Youth Equity Strategy
  • Member of the Poverty Reduction TO Steering Committee
  • Named Canada’s top under 30 Pan-Asian leader
  • Serves on Western University’s Council of Presidents as Chairman of the DAN Management Alumni Advisory Council
  • Contributed to key city files including the Billy Bishop Airport Expansion, the Police Chief consultation and reversing a $0.537 million funding cut for Youth Spaces.

In my current role at Magnet based at Ryerson University, I manage relationships and build partnerships to combat unemployment and underemployment among individuals facing barriers.

As a former at-risk youth and 2nd generation immigrant, I recognize the importance of giving a voice to disenfranchised groups. Through my roles on the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and Poverty Reduction TO, I represent the voice of over 330,000 young Torontonians. I have represented Canada at international forums such as the G8 (2010) and G20 (2010, 2013) Summits, and a diplomatic mission to the Asian Pacific. I also serve part-time in the Royal Canadian Navy as an Intelligence Officer at Naval Reserve Division – Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship YORK.

The GTHA is one of the best regions in the world and I look forward to bringing my cross-sectoral and consensus-building experience to make it even better.

GEORGIA WHITEHEAD

  • Manager for the Strategy Management Office at Trillium Health Partners
  • Certified Health Executive with the Canadian College of Health Leaders
  • Master of Business Administration from the DeGroote School of Business

I believe the communities in which we live are constantly evolving and that each one of us is capable of fostering environments that support health, opportunity and innovation.

At Trillium Health Partners, a 1200+ bed hospital in Mississauga and West Toronto, I have the privilege of working every day to create a new system that works for patients and their families and a system that supports community health. Passionate about the client and patient experience, I supported the creation of a leadership development institute for 270 medical and administrative leaders that is designed to drive engagement and service excellence. I currently lead our corporate planning processes to align service delivery and performance with strategy.

To me, leadership requires courage, tough decisions and a tenacity to do what is right. I look forward to using my experience in governance, change management and organizational development, as well as my philosophy on leadership to create a more supportive and community focused region.

ENLOE WILSON

  • Manager of Faith & Community Development, Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area
  • Member of the Toronto Area Interfaith Council; Interfaith Council of Peel; Sukkahville Steering and Events Committee, Kehilla Residential Programme; and University of Toronto Steering Committee, Black Religious Scholars Group
  • Master of Journalism & Mass Communication from Kent State University and Master of Theological Studies from the University of Toronto

Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I made my first visit to Toronto at age seven and moved here for graduate school in 2006. As an expatriate, a person of faith and a member of the Pan-African and LGBTTIQQ2SA communities, I offer a multilayered critical perspective actively attentive to those living on the margins or at challenging social intersections.

In my role as Habitat for Humanity GTA’s interfaith ambassador, I engage our region’s faith communities and develop dynamic cross-cultural partnerships in support of the provision of affordable, sustainable housing.

With nearly half of GTHA residents being foreign born, our region is arguably the premier North American marketplace – and one of the top global marketplaces – of cultures living, working and interacting largely in accord. I look forward to building on this harmony through my collaborative work.

LLOYD WIREDU

  • Platform Engineer at Kinetic Cafe
  • Member of the National Society of Black Engineers
  • Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto

As a product of the Kingston-Galloway community in Scarborough, my experiences have steered me toward youth initiatives and I am always looking for new ways to engage and empower youth. Through the University of Toronto branch of the National Society of Black Engineers, I have worked on various outreach programs (workshops, high school conferences etc.) to promote postsecondary education and interest in STEM fields.

I am also active in the healthcare industry. I co-founded and am part owner of vConsult Services Inc. which facilitates access to healthcare services. I believe technology is an empowering tool, and it must be leveraged more extensively to solve problems in healthcare, as well as other sectors.

I am also very active in the creative arts, producing music and comic strips. I look forward to bringing my diverse background and interest areas to inspire others and create change.

JUDY WITYSZYN

  • Account Delivery Executive, Microsoft
  • As Project Executive at IBM Global Services, led the largest single service initiative for 500+ IBMers in 150 classes focused on innovative thought development
  • Facilitated ‘Taking the Stage’ leadership development workshops across North America to empower 1000+ women

With a ‘down east’ background and sense of humour, my strong work ethic has propelled my career in technology to help customers see how technology can enable their business. Combined with insightful executive relationships, leading-edge business solutions, and a collaborative and strategic approach, I focus on win-win solutions.

As an ADE I am responsible for managing Executive relationships with specific customers and ensuring their satisfaction with Microsoft services.  By understanding their needs and managing the delivery of engagements, my goal is to exceed their expectations.  Through strong collaboration with sales, operations and resource teams, I represent the breadth of one Microsoft team to ensure positive outcomes for both the client and Microsoft businesses.

Whether it was designing a ‘volunteer in a box’ program delivered by 500 colleagues in 150 classes, leading personal development activities for the Cadets program, or establishing a corporate emerging leaders network at IBM, I am always ready to tackle what needs to be done next.

Through my work in the technology industry and a lifelong commitment of community service, my end goal remains to leave things a bit better than I find them. Equally important to me is enjoying my two sons and working with them and other youth to grow innovative thinking, leadership skills and resiliency.

SCOTT YOUNG

  • Has studied at Simon Fraser, Hong Kong, Warwick and Oxford universities
  • Has lived and worked on three continents

As a digital strategy consultant, I am passionate about helping organizations leverage digital tools to enhance their impact both online and offline. Over the duration of my career, I have worked with a variety of organizations both in Canada and abroad across academia, government and the non-profit and private sectors. I firmly believe that leadership requires a steadfast commitment to excellence, and the determination to not ask anything of your team that you are unwilling to do yourself.

I look forward to bringing my eclectic and international experience, digital expertise, and fondness for collaboration to the table. Too rarely do we give ourselves permission to truly think big about the future of our region. That is why I am so excited to connect and collaborate with peers who are willing to share, deliberate and defend their own ideas about the future of the GTHA. My hope is that we will work together to make our region a better place to live and work for everyone.

DAN ZAIONTZ

  • Special Projects Coordinator, Strategic Planning and Public Affairs, Seneca College
  • Member, Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Youth Advisory Council and Post-secondary Steering Committee
  • Council Member, Character Community Foundation of York Region
  • Holds a Master of Communications Management from McMaster University-Syracuse University

I am a professional communicator with more than eight years of experience representing some of Canada’s largest media brands. In my current role, I help others tell the story of how Seneca College transforms the lives of its students and sets them on a pathway to being skilled professionals and engaged citizens.

In spring-summer 2013, I conducted a major research study entitled #FollowTheLeader, which explored social media engagement by higher education leaders. The findings of the study led to my first book #FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEd CEOs, which was published in January 2015.