New faces, sad goodbyes, big achievements: OISE鈥檚 2023 Year in Review

By Perry King
December 13, 2023
dean walker wishes and welcome event 2023

With the arrival of a new year, OISE looks back on 2023 鈥 a year marked by stimulating research, the introduction of new faces, strengthened connections with the community, and vibrant exchanges of creative and thoughtful ideas. However, it also carried moments of heartache and loss. 

Here is a glimpse into the ongoing endeavors, memories and takeaways from the Institute this past year. As we head into 2024, we wish our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends a joyous, restful, reflective and memorable holiday season. 

Professor Erica N. Walker completed the first year of her first year as Dean.

Professor Erica N. Walker stepped into the role as Dean of OISE in 2023 and she spent her first year getting to know the broader OISE community. Previously, Walker was at the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology鈥痑t Teachers College, Columbia University, where she was the Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education and the Director of the Edmund W. Gordon Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME). 

鈥淎s someone deeply committed to ensuring OISE鈥檚 leadership and visibility around issues of centrality to education and U of T, I am proud to be representing OISE in these important efforts. I look forward to sharing more news on all of these fronts throughout the year,鈥 said Walker, in a community note in September. 

Learn more about Professor Walker 

Our alumni are achieving tremendous things.

Dr. Cindy Sinclair (PhD 2017), a consultant and former president of the OISA Alumni Association, was named by Canadian Immigrant magazine. 

We told the story of Dr. Debby Wilson Danard (PhD 2016) who raised Askaakamigokwe-wigamig (Ah-skaw-kom-ih-goh-kweh-whi-gah-mig, the Mother Earth Learning Lodge) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dalia Ahmed (MEd 2021), along with her fellow U of T alums Alexandra Assouad and Akanksha Shelat, were named in . The trio are co-founders of Mind-Easy, a digital venture that brings culturally focused wellbeing services to workplaces.

Charles Pascal died in April 2023.

We lost many of our greatest leaders and friends. 

In April, Professor Charles Pascal, a treasured friend, colleague and mentor, passed away at the age of 79. Pascal, a renowned global expert on public education, notably in the field of early childhood development, left an indelible mark on education policy in Ontario. Among his many achievements, his most enduring legacy is his role in the creation of the Full Day Kindergarten program in Ontario in 2010. In honour of Charles鈥 death, OISE established to support tomorrow's education change-makers.

Learn more about the late Charles Pascal

This summer, OISE mourned the loss Dr. Keren Brathwaite, an OISE alumna who co-founded the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) at the University of Toronto before her retirement in 2003. Among her many legacies, the access-to-education TYP continues to prepare learners for the academic rigours of University of Toronto life. 

In recognition of her contributions, she was honoured with the City of Toronto Award of Merit and the Distinguished Educator Award from OISE. In 2008, she was inducted as an Officer of the Most Distinguished Order of Merit of Antigua and Barbuda. In 2009, she was conferred an honorary doctorate by U of T.

Learn more about the late Dr. Keren Brathwaite

George and Helen Vari

In March, Madame Helen Vari 鈥 a long-time friend of OISE and the University of Toronto, and an honorary chair of the Defy Gravity Campaign 鈥 passed at the age of 91. Along with Madame Vari鈥檚 late husband, the Honourable George Vari (1923-2010), through the George and Helen Vari Foundation, they established the Vari Scholarships, which have provided life-changing support to Victoria College students intending to enter the teaching profession and students already pursuing teaching qualification at OISE. 

Read more about the late Madame Vari

OISE also mourned the passing of Professor Clive Beck, a cherished member of our community since joining OISE in 1967. Dr. Beck was a source of inspiration to the hundreds of graduate students, as well as pre-service and in-service teachers, whom he taught. Even in 2023, he was still teaching courses at OISE. 

They will all be deeply missed.

OISE In Memoriam entries

We met new faculty in this calendar year.

Dr. Beyhan Farhadi, an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy and Equity in OISE鈥檚 department of Leadership, Adult and Higher Education (LHAE), returned to U of T after earning her PhD in 2019. Dr. Farhadi is a multidisciplinary researcher and a vocal activist for equity. Disciplines like critical policy sociology, social and cultural geography, and surveillance studies, have prepared her for her time at OISE.

Dr. Shozab Raza, an Assistant Professor of Asian and Asian Diaspora in OISE鈥檚 department of Social Justice Education is an interdisciplinary scholar of Asian Studies whose research focuses on racial empire, capitalism, and insurgent epistemologies and practice in South Asia, contributing to debates across South Asian studies, post/decolonial studies, and critical political economy.

Dr. Feng Ji, who arrived to the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development in the spring, has extensive expertise in applying, evaluating, and developing quantitative and statistical methods in behavioral and social sciences research.

Professor Jen Gilbert commenced her tenure with OISE this past summer and will begin to chair the department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning as of Jan. 1 , 2024. Professor鈥檚 Gilbert鈥檚 scholarship focuses on on queer and trans students, teachers, and families; controversies in sex education; and gendered and racialized narratives of risk, sexuality, and youth.

leaders and legends group 2023

Our community is full of award winners. Here is a list of just a few notable honours.

Our 2023 Leaders and Legends award winners, a group of six women, go above and beyond to be impactful leaders and exceptional educators. This year鈥檚 winners 鈥 Dr. Njoki Wane, Dr. Marissa Largo, Dr. Certina Ho, Dr. Kelly A. Gallagher-Mackay, Dr. Francine S. Menashy, and Dr. Agnes Santhosh Thomas 鈥 were celebrated at a May 30 awards ceremony in OISE鈥檚 Nexus Lounge.

Four OISE students 鈥 Diana BurchellKaly LinArva Ezzi, and Lexi Ewing 鈥 were named OISE鈥檚 winners for the 2023 , a longstanding honour that recognizes outstanding student leadership, volunteer service, and commitment to the university.

A number of faculty were named recipients of OISE鈥檚 Teaching Excellence Awards for 2023 鈥 our top internal honours for our globally recognized faculty: 

  • Associate Professor Chloe Hamza, won the David E. Hunt Award for Excellence in Graduate Education
  • Assistant Professor Zachary Hawes, won the Award for Excellence in Initial Teacher Education;
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Wemigwans, won the Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership;
  • Associate Professor, Teaching Stream Leslie Stewart-Rose, won the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Teaching
  • And Heather Friesen, an OISE Continuing and Professional Learning facilitator, won the Award for Excellence in Continuing & Professional Learning

The OISE Staff Excellence Award winners for 2023 recognized administrative and technical expertise, boisterous support of faculty and students and notable achievement. This year鈥檚 winners included:

  • Two co-winners for the Dr. Claire Alleyne Staff Excellence Award:
    •  Biljana Cuckovic, Director, Governance, Policy & Planning, Office of the Dean,
    • Madelaine Panoulias, Manager, Human Resources, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
  • For the Leadership Award, Valene Cardoso, Assistant Registrar, 麻豆传媒集团, Office of the Registrar and Student Experience
  • For the Innovation Award, a plurality of winners:
    • In the Individual category, Azeem Khan, Audio Visual and Business Solutions Architect, Education Commons
    • In the Group category: The Drupal Migration & Early Adopters Team:
      • Education Commons: Jed Dela CruzHentry Mathias, and Andrea Zdzylowski
      • Advancement, Communications and External Relations: Christina AndrewsMarianne LauNatalie Neumann Butler, and Perry King
      • Department of APHD: Sasha David
      • Department of CTL: Alex AndreiAlanna McKnightTerry Louisy, and Michelle Pon
      • Department of SJE: Iman Fouad
      • ROSE: Shamelle Sutton
      • Office of the CAO: Tessa Barclay
      • Office of the Dean: Biljana Cuckovic and Denise Makovac
  • For the Cultivating Community Award,
    • In the Individual category, Tessa Barclay, Executive Coordinator, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
    • In the Team category, Members of the OISE Student Success Centre
      • OSSC Faculty SupervisorLeslie Stewart Rose, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
      • ROSE: Jeananne Robertson, Asst. Dir., Student Experience & Student Success Counselor; and Ghayas Shams, OSSC and Career Coordinator
      • OSSC Teaching Assistants/Advisors: Sana AbuleilDiana M. BarreroGabrielle Breton-CarbonneauStacy Alexandra CostaElena DanilinaVelta DouglasLucy El-SherifHoda GharibSusan HeMichael KoslowskiXimena Martinez TrabuccoClaudio Jaramillo-YanquepeChristos OrfanidisJasmine PhamFiona PurtonTy WalklandWenyangz Shi, and Amina Yousaf

CBSE opening ceremony 2023

The Centre for Black Studies in Education opened their doors. 

On June 9, the Centre for Black Studies in Education (CBSE) at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) officially launched. The CBSE addresses anti-Blackness and inequities in Canadian life. The centre is also designed, among many crucial priorities, to foster and strengthen Black studies research and pedagogical practices in education. It also serves as a safe, accessible, and inclusive space for of University of Toronto professors and students, offering space for critical dialogue surrounding issues of race, racism, African Indigeneity, decolonization and more.

Learn more about the CBSE through this interview with its co-founders, Professors Ann Lopez and Njoki Wane

Mentorship programs headlined how our community came together.

, created by  is a free, extracurricular math program for children from underserved communities that saw a surge in participation in 2023

Meanwhile, OISE welcomed over 555 alumni and students to the OISE Mentorship Program, the largest alumni and student mentorship matching program at the University of Toronto. See pictures from the 2023 launch event.

We invited the Chancellor to OISE to speak about leadership

Joined by OISE alum Dr. Jeff Myers, U of T Chancellor Rose M. Patten spoke about leadership and her new book, 鈥淚ntentional Leadership: The Big 8 Capabilities Setting Leaders Apart.鈥 It was all part of OISE鈥檚 Writers鈥 Roost talk series, where Dr. Myers speaks with his fellow OISE alumni and friends鈥攃hange makers, world class thinkers, movers and shakers鈥攁bout the books they鈥檝e written.

We continued to rank highly among global universities

OISE was ranked 9th in the world by Times Higher Education in its 2024 subject rankings, and 7th by the QS World University Rankings. OISE continues to place as the highest ranked educational institute in Canada across international rankings. 

Community support is helping many students at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School.

Two fundraisers organized by the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School (JICS) have made strides in funding economic diversity and access to the school.

JICS at the Movies, and the subsequent Diana Rankin Muncaster Tuition Support Fund Matching Campaign, raised more than $120,000 that will go towards supporting economic diversity at the JICS Lab School, a leader in the field of child development and education.

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