Vasiliki (Vass) Amanda Bednar • Félix-Antoine Boudreault • Nicholas Chadi • Matt DeCourcey • Sébastien Després • Erin Freeland Ballantyne • James Haga • Steven Kuhn • Alexandra Kuperman • Pauline Ngirumpatse • Marie-Josée Parent • Ben Paylor • Andrew Pilliar • Annie Sabourin • Benjamin Scott • Samira Thomas • Clifton van der Linden
Vasiliki (Vass) Amanda Bednar
Vasiliki Bednar is a graduate of McMaster’s Arts & Science Program (2008) and holds her Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy & Governance (2010) where she now works as the Executive Assistant to the Director. Prior to this, Vass spent two years as a Research Associate at the Martin Prosperity Institute, the world’s leading think tank on the role of sub-national factors in global economic prosperity. Her research explored ways to upgrade low-paying, routine-oriented service jobs by improving monetary and non-monetary compensation, autonomy training, and opportunity for advancement.
Vass cut her policy teeth as a Research Fellow at the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB), a Policy Intern the City of Toronto, and a pro-bono policy consultant at Samara. She contributed research to the Mowat Centre’s Employment Insurance Task Force, and to the book Academic Transformation: the Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario.
Vass is currently the Vice Chair of the Meal Exchange Board of Directors and proud Chair of the U.F.C. “Ultimate Fiction Club,” a book club for women in Toronto. She is currently designing a board game that simulates policy-making in the federation (called “WONX”) and blogs affectionately at: www.vicariousass.com.
Born and raised in Québec City, Félix-Antoine studied civil engineering (B.Eng from Montréal and Paris, and M.Eng from McGill). After an exciting, overseas experience with Canada World Youth, he continued to work in the field of international development and acquired over three years of project management experience in Central and West Africa leading bridge construction projects. In 2003, Félix-Antoine was named Personality of the Year by Forces Avenir, a Québec-based organization that aims to promote the balance of academic excellence and social commitment of university students. The following year, he was named Personality of the Year in the Courage, Humanism and Personal Accomplishment category by La Presse/Radio-Canada, in addition to being chosen as one of 25 “Leaders of Tomorrow” by Maclean’s magazine. In 2005, while living in Paris, Félix-Antoine was recruited by the federal government’s Recruitment of Policy Leaders (RPL) program, a new professional direction that launched an exciting career in the public policy world. Following an educational leave to earn an MBA at HEC Montréal, he joined the Deputy Minister’s Office at Environment Canada as Climate Change and Clean Energy Advisor, and was promoted to his present position as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Minister in 2009. Félix-Antoine continues to be involved with Forces Avenir and with the Recruitment of Policy Leaders program, for which he was the co-coordinator from 2009 until 2012.
Musician, athlete, writer and humanitarian, Nicholas Chadi obtained his international high school diploma in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, in 2004. He then completed a double diploma in jazz piano performance and health sciences at Cégep Marie-Victorin. Nicholas is currently in the final year of his medical degree at McGill University and will begin residency training in paediatrics at Sainte-Justine hospital in July 2012. A recipient of many awards including two Governor General Academic medals and a Canadian Millennium Excellence Scholarship, Nicholas was a top-ten finisher at the Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal half-marathons in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
During his medical studies, Nicholas founded a sustainable multidisciplinary health initiative in Peru. He also served as a student ambassador and member of the board of admissions for the McGill Faculty of Medicine as well as an editor for the McGill Journal of Medicine. Actively involved in research, he was the author of many academic publications on such topics as medical leadership, clinical psychiatry and global health education. Particularly interested in healthcare administration, social paediatrics and youth mental health and development, Nicholas strives to contribute to the improvement of child and adolescent health and the reduction of healthcare inequities both in Canada and abroad.
Matt DeCourcey is a community outreach and engagement specialist, and proud New Brunswicker, who works as Communications, Outreach and Education Coordinator with the New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate.
Among his accomplishments as a progressive champion of youth voice and children’s rights, Matt has established and directed the International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child at the Université de Moncton. This world-class learning and sharing forum brings together over 100 participants from around the globe each summer for an in-depth discussion about children’s rights and well-being. He also established provincial and national Children’s Rights Awareness Week campaigns, and is currently working with UNICEF Canada and educators in New Brunswick to introduce Rights Respecting Schools to the region.
Matt has traveled and volunteered with youth in parts of Western Europe and Scandinavia, South America, and Southeast Asia. He also spent five months working on health-education projects with youth in The Gambia as a Public Engagement Consultant with the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association. Because of this experience he was able to work with the soccer community in Fredericton and his colleagues in The Gambia to develop the Wanderers Friendship Cup, a youth soccer tournament and health-education initiative in The Gambia.
Matt has also worked internationally as a recruitment officer with St. Thomas University, and spent two years working on Parliament Hill as an aide for two Members of Parliament.
A native of Fredericton, NB, Matt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Political Science, from St. Thomas University, and a Master of Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University. He is a 2012 Action Canada Fellow.
In his community, Matt volunteers actively as a consultant to many organizations wishing to better engage youth in their activities. He also serves as an adult-ally to several youth-led initiatives, and recently joined the Board of Directors of the Fredericton YMCA. An avid sports fan, Matt established, and now plays and coaches with the Fredericton Wanderers Soccer Club, and is a certified basketball referee at the university level.
A reflexive pedagogue, Sébastien Després’ engagement in teaching and its scholarship is informed by his diverse background as a sailing instructor, dramaturge, music teacher and prize-winning visual artist. His research on teaching and the courses he teaches at Memorial University’s Departments of Anthropology and Geography are academic in nature while being experiential and practical. Sébastien’s hands-on approach to pedagogy allows students and teachers to directly apply the theories and concepts they are learning to their everyday worlds, increasing their ability to transform ideas into action. This methodology has earned him the distinction of receiving every teaching award currently open to him at Memorial, representing recognitions from his peers (the Graduate Students’ Union’s Excellence in Teaching Award), his students (the Memorial University Students’ Union Award for Excellence in Teaching), and the faculty (the Dean of Arts Award for Teaching Excellence). Sébastien works to enhance the level of teaching at his institution through his participation in a large number of committees charged with the direction of its academic programs, and has been profoundly involved in the development of a comprehensive teaching and learning strategy for the university. A Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology, Sébastien’s doctoral dissertation is inspired by his background in Canadian Studies (B.A.), Folklore (M.A.), and Religious Studies (M.A.); it explores the impact of priests on the Canadian pilgrimage groups they accompany overseas.
Erin Freeland Ballantyne
Erin Freeland Ballantyne was born and raised in Sǫ̀mba K’è / Yellowknife on Akaitcho territory and was the first Rhodes Scholar from the Canadian North. Erin holds a BA Honors in International Development Studies at McGill University and Msc in Environmental Policy from Oxford. Her PhD (Oxford) investigated the disjuncture between climate change and its effect on human security and health amidst a regional focus on oil and gas extraction in the arctic. Working with a participatory video research team of youth, the research identified critical gaps in approaches to education as barriers to healthy and sustainable communities. Driven by these findings, Erin began to mobilize support around the decades old concept of a northern university and founded Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research and Learning. Now delivering its third year of programming, Dechinta offers land-based university semesters, intensive field courses and executive training on critical northern issues. Erin has worked as a community organizer for the Arctic Indigenous Alliance, participatory video trainer in communities across the arctic and as a researcher in South America, Africa and Asia. Committed to transformational education rooted in service and intergenerational-equity, Erin is a proud mother, documentary filmmaker, adventure traveler, and steering committee member of Canada’s Three Oceans Northwest Passage research team.
James Haga is the first Director of Advocacy for Engineers Without Borders Canada. Under James’ leadership, EWB has become one of the most respected international development policy organizations in Canada. Recently, he and his team celebrated a major success in shifting development policy, with Canada signing onto the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
Originally from Vancouver, James’ passion for global issues started early, having travelled to over 40 countries by the time he reached high school. These experiences shaped his worldview and the wide range of leadership roles he has assumed in local, national and international organizations. James has served on multiple boards, including ACCES Kenya, Educo Canada, and a term as the President of Watari, one of Vancouver’s most respected addictions and mental health organizations.
James is deeply passionate about evidence-based policy making. In particular, he is driven by a desire to solve complex policy dilemmas through negotiating a balance between an ideal, long-term goal and the realistic, short-term compromise.
James’ commentary on global development issues has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Embassy Magazine and other publications; he has also appeared as a guest on CTV National News and CBC News. He graduated from Simon Fraser University, where he completed a B.A in International Studies and a Certificate in Sustainable Community Development.
Steve serves as Senior Economist, Multilateral Institutions Section, Department of Finance, a position through which his advice to the Government of Canada is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s international assistance spending with a particular focus on the World Bank Group. He also serves as co-founder and Chair, Board of Directors, Matthew House Ottawa, a local charitable organization that helps people establish safe, healthy and dignified homes and community. In 2011, Matthew House Ottawa provided shelter and settlement assistance to 35 homeless refugee claimants from 12 different countries. It also distributes quality used furniture and household goods to over 50 local families each month.
Steve has applied his interest in community building and his business acumen in Mozambique, where he spent a year designing and implementing a community-based savings and loan initiative run by local workers. Through this experience, he developed a passion for leveraging Canada’s diverse assets for the benefit of the poor and disenfranchised at home and abroad.
Steve began his career in 2001 as an economist in the Ontario Ministry of Finance. He holds a Masters degree in Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business, York University, and is married with two young children.
Alexandra Kuperman is passionate about turning good ideas into reality. While studying for her Bachelors of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, she launched a non-profit organization called Shoresh. Starting this enterprise fueled her interest in learning about the best practices of non-profit management and resulted in her decision to pursue a Masters of Public Administration at New York University. Upon completion of her graduate studies, Alexandra worked as the Assistant Director of the Teva Learning Alliance (a leading American environmental education center). While at Teva she tripled the organization’s program reach and helped launch multiple new initiatives. Upon her return to Canada she continued her work in experiential education as a Project Leader for Katimavik in Ottawa. Now the Director of Operations at Macro Properties, Ms. Kuperman strives to improve the energy efficiency of properties located across Canada. Meanwhile, she remains committed to supporting innovation in the non-profit sector and is Director of Genesis: UJA Federation’s Center for Jewish Innovation which provides capacity building support and office space to emerging Jewish social entrepreneurs.
Pauline Ngirumpatse holds an M.A. in Political Science (International Relations) from the Université du Québec à Montréal and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Human Sciences, Université de Montréal. Her Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the issue of ownership by developing countries of their development policies, a principle at the core of the new approach to international development cooperation. Her interest in public affairs notably led her to carry out a research internship at the United Nations in New York.
Also interested in social transformation and the functioning of our public space, she has worked for six years in the Transcultural Research and Intervention Team affiliated to McGill on research-action projects around questions of the expression of plurality of world visions within the public space of a culturally diverse society. Since 2006, she has also developed a media experience having worked as an intern-reporter at the CBC French television and as a host in different Montreal community radios (CIBL Radio-Montréal, Radio Centre-Ville). She also co-founded and manages Human Above All, an organization devoted to genocide prevention. Pauline is a member of the board of the Institut du Nouveau Monde and of the selection jury of Forces AVENIR.
Originally from Acadia, Marie-Josée Parent now lives in Montréal where she is the general director of Les Territoires, an art center dedicated to emerging visual art practices. She has been working in the visual art milieu since 2005. She completed a Masters in art history at the University of Montréal in 2008 as well as a joint bachelors degree in philosophy and art history in 2005 at the same university. She has worked as an assistant curator at Art in General, a contemporary art centre in New York, and as an assistant to the director at the Morgan Lehman Gallery, a private New York gallery. Marie-Josée has also served as an invited critic in the context of photography classes given by professors and artists Marisa Portolese and Jessica Auer, as a revisor for portofolio reviews at Les Territoires and as a consultant for the national forum on culture for the agenda 21 C. Marie-Josée is passionate about the cultural milieu and visual arts. She works to put in contact and bring together the arts sector and the business world to give an impetus to both. She has organized several exhibits and mediation activities in collaboration with the Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal and is a volunteer for the Montreal leg of the organization Business for the Arts.
Ben Paylor is a passionate scientist who is dedicated to engaging and educating the public about science. A PhD candidate researching cardiac stem cell biology at the University of British Columbia, his previous education involved a 2-year MPhil at Universiteit Maastricht, a 1-year academic exchange to Umea University, and a BMSc at the University of Western Ontario. Ben is currently highly involved as a student representative and blogger for the Stem Cell Network and he is also a 2011 graduate of the acclaimed Banff Centre’s Science Communication program.
Ben is dedicated to promoting public interest and understanding of science, utilizing a wide variety of mediums, including filmmaking, animation and writing, to facilitate this process. He is the Vancouver lead organizer as well as a founding member of the National Advisory Committee for StemCellTalks, an award-winning Canadian stem cell outreach initiative. He is also the director of the scientific animation studio InfoShots, a graduate mentor for the BC Future Science Leaders program, and a genetics instructor at the Michael Smith Labs.
As a filmmaker, Ben has written and directed several award-winning short films. His 2011 film, “A Natural Selection”, is currently featured in numerous high school genetics workshops, on science websites and in American Sign Language textbooks.
When not researching or communicating about his work, Ben is an avid pianist, cyclist, and sailor.
Andrew believes in reinvigorating Canada’s legal system to ensure that it is accessible for all Canadians. After clerking at the BC Supreme Court, Andrew worked as a lawyer – both at a boutique firm and at one of Canada’s major law firms – and saw legal access problems first-hand by representing many pro bono clients. Andrew is currently completing a Master of Laws degree at UBC, working to improve access to civil justice by developing new entrepreneurial approaches to legal practice.
Originally from Toronto, Andrew holds an honours science degree in biology and physics from Queen’s University, and a law degree from the University of Toronto. Andrew has published research on Parkinson’s disease, worked on federalism matters for an NGO in Sri Lanka, organized a student conference on mental health, studied comparative constitutional law in Hungary, taught downhill skiing at Whistler, and was a Junior Fellow at Massey College.
Since moving to Vancouver, Andrew has been active in a broad range of community groups. He is currently the board chair of a Neighbourhood House in Vancouver’s West End, has served on the board of a non-profit dance company, and was a founding board member of the Vancouver Public Space Network.
Born on Montreal’s South shore, Annie Sabourin is the Institutional Relations Advisor in the office of the rector of the Université de Montréal since 2008, Quebec’s largest university. Previously, she was a senior analyst at the Metropolitan Montreal Board of Trade, working on issues of economic development, international affairs, public finances and culture.
In 1999, Annie completed a bachelor’s degree in political science and East-Asian studies at the Université de Montréal. She received a master’s degree with distinction in international relations and economics from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 2002, as a Canada-United States Fulbright fellow. During her studies, Annie focused on Canada-China relations, and worked for six months at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, China.
Annie is passionate about Canada’s plan to increase long-term prosperity through innovation and the continuous improvement of human capital. She believes in increasing support measures to keep youth in school and strengthening accessibility to post-secondary education. She contributes to the development of her community as a member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the Collège Édouard-Montpetit. Annie lives in Montreal with her husband and daughter.
Hailing from the spectacular Northwest Territories, identifying as a proud Tlicho citizen, and growing up in a family of ten with one brother and six sisters, Benjamin learned the value of culture, diversity and diplomacy at a very young age. He is now etching a dynamic career in public administration with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, Government of the Northwest Territories. Starting out as the Coordinator of Resource Development and Impact Assessment, he quickly moved on to a number of management roles targeted at maximizing benefits for Northerners, closing gaps in the labour market, and ultimately improving the training and employment opportunities for those in need. Benjamin has been responsible for the development of strategic frameworks, establishment and fostering of labour market partnerships and agreements, and the development and evaluation of labour market programming. He has represented the NWT at multiple intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder tables. His connection and understanding of the North translates into his ability to work effectively with stakeholders, Aboriginal authorities, and industry partners. He earned a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of Calgary and has been honing his leadership and management skills ever since. While rooted in Yellowknife, he is often found navigating the shores of Great Slave Lake, fishing under the midnight sun, and embracing the unexpected like a true Northern advocate.
Samira Thomas is currently completing her Masters in City Planning at MIT, with a focus in children’s learning spaces and landscapes. In 2003 she and her family founded the Sparks Academy in Kabul, an Early Childhood Development program that promotes authentically Afghan education for young children and their communities. Samira’s role with this school has been to provide support to the Director in developing materials for built environment programming and teacher training. Since she was three years old, she has had the privilege of traveling with her parents – who were volunteering their medical expertise in various parts of the world – and meeting people from incredibly different backgrounds from her own, particularly in East Africa and Asia. She believes that these experiences have been what truly enriched her own life, and has founded a project, Mightier than the Bullet, that seeks to create learning opportunities through landscape and the arts to encourage meaningful encounters for young children around the world, particularly in areas that are afflicted with conflict and disaster. Currently this project is linking children in disaster affected Japan to those in Afghanistan in an artistic exchange and has been developed with the support of MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero.
Clifton van der Linden
Cliff is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto and a serial innovator working at the intersection of public policy, technology, and data science. At the outset of the 2011 Canadian federal election campaign, he launched an online democratic engagement application called Vote Compass in partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. More than 2 million Canadians used Vote Compass in that campaign alone, and Cliff has since run Vote Compass with CBC for the subsequent Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia provincial elections. He has also developed editions of Vote Compass for several elections outside Canada, working with news media organizations such as The Wall Street Journal and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Cliff holds an honours BA in economics and political science from McMaster University as well as an MA in journalism from Western University. He was previously a reporter for the National Post, founder and CEO of an information technology start-up, chair of the G8 Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Law and International Relations. He is a junior fellow at Massey College and was a visiting scholar at the Free University Amsterdam and the European University Institute in Florence.
Cliff is currently a Beattie Fellow at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and past winner of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, the Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award, and the Clarkson Laureateship for Public Service. In 2012 he was named one of Toronto’s top young innovators by Post City Magazine. He has written for The Globe and Mail and Policy Options Magazine, and appears frequently on CBC News.