People

2012/2013 Fellows

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.

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Félix-Antoine Boudreault

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 then Senior Advisor to the Deputy Minister (2009-2013). Félix-Antoine is currently Director, Policy and Negotiations in the Climate Change International group, still at Environment Canada.

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Nicholas Chadi

Nicholas Chadi is currently an Adolescent Medicine Fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Raised in Montreal, Nicholas completed a double diploma in jazz piano and health sciences before obtaining his medical degree at McGill University. He completed his core pediatric residency at Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center, where he became chief resident. Striving to provide better health care for vulnerable children and adolescents, Nicholas has worked with marginalized communities in rural and urban Canada, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Passionate about medical research and public health, Nicholas combines his clinical duties with policy and research work in the areas of youth mental health, substance use, social pediatrics and medical education. A sports enthusiast, he can often be found exploring the outdoors or training for his next half-marathon.

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Matt DeCourcey

Matt DeCourcey is a community outreach and engagement specialist, and proud New Brunswicker, who works as Director of Communications, Outreach and Education with the New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate. Among his many 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, provincial and national Child Rights Education Week campaigns, and the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools initiative in New Brunswick. Matt has traveled, worked and volunteered in parts of Western Europe, the Balkans and Scandinavia, South America, and Southeast Asia. He also spent five months working on health-education projects with youth as a Public Engagement Consultant in The Gambia, and has since established the Wanderers Friendship Cup, a youth soccer tournament and health-education initiative in The Gambia.

He is working with community partners to develop a parallel initiative for vulnerable youth in New Brunswick. Matt has 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 youth-serving organizations. He is a Director with the Fredericton YMCA, and continues to pursue his passion for play and active living, playing and coaching soccer with the Fredericton Wanderers, the club he established. He is also a certified basketball referee at the university level.

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Sébastien Després

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.

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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.

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James Haga

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.

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Steven Kuhn

Steve works at the Government of Canada’s Privy Council Office, where he is responsible for advising the Prime Minister on a range of foreign policy issues related to Canada’s relations with Europe and its membership in the G-8 and G-20 processes. He is also a co-founder of Matthew House Ottawa, a local charitable organization that provided shelter and settlement assistance to homeless refugee claimants and distributes quality used furniture and household goods to families in need. Previously, Steve lived in Mozambique, Africa, for a year, where he designed and implemented 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.

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Alexandra Kuperman

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.

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Pauline Ngirumpatse

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 aid effectiveness. Her interest in public affairs notably led her to carry out a research internship at the United Nations Secretariat 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 was a member of the board of the Institut du Nouveau Monde and of the selection jury of Forces AVENIR. Pauline is a past winner of the past winner of several fellowships notably the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship and the Fonds de recherche du Québec –Société et culture

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Marie-Josée Parent

Marie-Josée Parent, of Acadian and Micmac origins, now lives in Montréal where she is the business and public development director at Vox, Centre de l'image contemporaine, a visual arts center. She previously worked as the director of Les Territoires, an art center dedicated to emerging visual art practices. She has been working in the visual art milieu since 2005. Marie-Josée 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. 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 also serves as an invited critic in the context of photography and sculpture classes at Concordia University, as a consultant for the national forum on culture for the agenda 21 C and as a Jury Member for the Montréal Art Council.

Marie-Josée is passionate about the cultural milieu and visual arts. She is on the board of directors of Contraste, an association promoting Canadian emerging art practices in China. 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.

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Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor is currently an associate at McKinsey and Company, a management consultancy, based out of their Toronto office. He focuses on provided strategic advice to large-scale businesses and organizations around the world with a focus on healthcare and public sector work. Prior to McKinsey, Ben completed his post-doctoral studies at Stanford University working on utilizing new media to better improve patient understanding of emerging biotechnologies. Before this, he lived in the forest in Vancouver while studying for his PhD in cardiac stem cell biology at the University of British Columbia, and in the lowlands of Europe for a 2-year Masters of Philosophy at Universiteit Maastricht. During his studies, Ben was very active as a scientific communicator utilizing a wide variety of mediums, including filmmaking, animation, social media, and writing to promote public interest in and understanding of science.

He is also the co-founder and director of the scientific animation studio InfoShots, and 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. An active advocate for normalizing the use of social media by academics, Ben has been highly involved in the development of better tools for translating scientific advances to public and government audiences in Canada and abroad. When not researching or communicating about his work, Ben is an avid curler, pianist, and cyclist.

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Andrew Pilliar

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 PhD at UBC, working to improve access to civil justice by improving how we understand the market for personal legal services.

Originally from Toronto, Andrew holds an honours science degree in biology and physics from Queen’s University, and law degrees from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. 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 has been the board chair of Gordon 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.

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Annie Sabourin

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.

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Benjamin Scott

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.

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Samira Thomas

Samira Thomas is a passionate educator who is completing her Ph.D in Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia. Her dissertation focuses on cosmopolitanism, a mindset and approach to life that fosters respect and compassion at the individual and global level. She is also currently the Academic Director for the Sparks Academies in Afghanistan, six early childhood development schools that promote authentically Afghan education for young children and their communities. Through her academic study and her work with the Sparks Academies, Samira strives to promote positive ways for us to navigate towards understanding in the midst of the discomfort that difference so often brings.

She feels incredibly lucky to have been born and raised in Canada where difference is more often valued than seen as a threat, and it is her hope that through her work, future generations will inherit a world with less violence than the one in which we live today. Samira attended Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, where she completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. She graduated Pi Sigma Alpha from Brown University with honors, and she holds a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Clifton van der Linden

Cliff is the founder and chief executive officer of Vox Pop Labs, a social enterprise best known for developing Vote Compass. Vote Compass is a civic engagement application run during election campaigns and used by millions of people around the world to explore how their views align with the political parties or candidates vying for their vote. Cliff is also a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, where he has served as 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 at the Faculty of Law. He has held fellowships with Massey College, the Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice, as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and was a visiting scholar at the Free University Amsterdam, the European University Institute in Florence, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Cliff is the recipient of the Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award, the Clarkson Laureateship for Public Service, and the McMaster University Arch Award. In 2012 he was named one of Toronto’s top young innovators by Post City Magazine. Cliff has written for The Globe and Mail and Policy Options Magazine, and regularly provides political analysis for CBC News and other media organizations worldwide.

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