Leaders, innovators, athletes, creators and more!
A quick-sprouting startup
Jonathan Mui’s Agriolabs is undergoing a growth spurt. The Micro, the company’s flagship product, is a tabletop system for growing nutrient-packed microgreens that won third place at the 2020 Innovation Rodeo pitch competition, earning $2,500. Mui’s subsequent Kickstarter campaign, however, earned $42,517, and was fully funded in 20 hours. The Digital Media and IT grad (class of ’20) started Agriolabs when he was a student, with help from the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship.
The photography of Edmonton-based Liam Mackenzie (Photographic Technology ’16) was featured in the September issue of Photo Ed magazine. According to Mackenzie’s website, his “photographic motto is to photograph subjects as authentic as possible. His work explores sexualities, identities, and stories through color, movement, and illustrations.” Mackenzie’s award-winning work has appeared in Avenue magazine (now Edify) and in several exhibitions.
The write stuff
Amy Eversley (Personal Fitness Trainer ’10) has put her energy and talents to new use in writing, most notably dystopian fiction for young adults, a genre in which she is producing several series. Her latest is Evermarked, which begins with characters embroiled in the pursuit of a difficult peace in a terrifying world. All four novels were published in the summer of 2020 by Aelurus Publishing, which also reissued Everley’s previously self-published series, Watcher.
Praise for John, 316
With a screenplay written by local filmmaker Brandon Rhiness (Radio and Television ’00), John, 316 was nominated for five awards from the Alberta Media Production Industries Association: best dramatic feature, director, performance, cinematographer and original musical score. The film, about a psychiatric hospital patient with an uncanny resemblance to Jesus, was shot at locations around Alberta. The awards will be announced on Oct. 8.
And, once again … Stephani Carter!
If there were an award for the most times to appear on this page, Stephani Carter (Interior Design Technology ’01) would win that, too. The founder of EcoAmmo, a sustainability consulting company, is back, now as the 2020 Canada Green Building Council’s Green Building Champion. “Stephani Carter has had an immeasurable impact on green building in Alberta,” says the council. No doubt, this is not the last this page will see of Carter.
Nathaniel Painchaud, Dan Oake and Navneet Kaler (Biomedical Engineering Technology ’18) have been recognized for a final class project to create a smart seeing-eye cane for people with visual impairments.
The cane senses information about the environment and relays it to the user. For their efforts and innovation, the trio was awarded the 2020 Capstone Project of the Year Award by Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta, besting four other finalists from Alberta post-secondary institutions.
The stenographer's secrets
Captioning and Court Reporting student Isabelle Lumsden (and grad: Radio and Television ’18) has caught the attention of Buzzfeed for her explanation of how professionals in her field capture entire conversations in a relatively small number of keystrokes. Among her TikTok posts is “Stenograph Tour,” which has been viewed more than three million times. Buzzfeed featured Lumsden “explaining what goes on behind the keyboard” on Instagram.
Quick – and critical – thinking
“Is there a benefit to having paramedics make decisions on their own?” asks Emergency Medical Technician – Paramedic student Radu Venter in a paper he published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. The alternative, he points out, is to continue with a focus on “prompt transport to a hospital” where doctors can take over. The thought-provoking paper raises the question of how changes might be made to the benefit of patients.
A great new neighbour
NAIT’s neighbour to the west, the upcoming Blatchford community, has won the 2020 Sustainable Communities - Neighbourhoods award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The federation, a national voice for local governments, pointed to the community’s carbon-neutral vision, low-impact development and focus on transit. Blatchford will also be home to future expansion of NAIT’s Main Campus.
A helping hand from Hansen
In response to the onset of COVID-19, Edmonton’s Hansen Distillery shifted production from whisky, gin and other spirits to hand sanitizer, which was in short supply. Owners Shayna Hansen and Kris Sustrik (Welder ’01) donated the sanitizer to front line workers including STARS Air Ambulance staff. The efforts were recognized with an award from the Alberta Northern Lights Volunteer Recognition Program, administered by the Government of Alberta.
Double gold for techlifetoday
Techlifetoday was honoured with several awards and nominations at the 2020 Alberta Magazine Awards for its stories that feature NAIT alumni, staff and other members of the polytechnic’s community.
At the online gala on June 25, the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association awarded the publication gold for Digital Presence, for the overall site. Writer Scott Messenger also won gold for profile writing for “Daryl McIntyre, veteran Edmonton anchorman, at the crossroads.” McIntyre graduated in 1983 from Radio and Television Arts.
It isn’t just top scores that matter to the NAIT Ooks; top marks rank right up there with athletic performance. Each year, the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association acknowledges those who excel on the court, rink or field as well as in the classroom with Academic All-Canadian awards, its most prestigious student-athlete honour. In 2020, congrats go to:
- Tyler Walsh, Badminton (Business Administration ’19, Management ’17)
- Eyota Kwan, Badminton (Bachelor of Technology student, Chemical Technology ’18)
- Jonah Tobinski, Curling (Alternative Energy Technology ’19, Construction Engineering Technology ’17)
- Nicholas Dulvenvoorde, Curling (Respiratory Therapy student)
- Sarah Moorji, Soccer (Disaster and Emergency Management ’19)
- Mitch Lewington, Volleyball (Architectural Technology ’19, Millwork and Carpentry ’17)
Each year, the Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators Association recognizes two Water and Wastewater Technician students with the AWWOA - NAIT Achievement Award. Ashley Smith (class of ’19) took the honours and a cash prize for the program’s best marks in the 2019 Winter intake, following grad Jeremy Price’s (class of ’19) win the previous fall.
Alum joins Board of Governors
In May, Andy Neigel (Forest Technology ’81) joined NAIT’s Board of Governors. Neigel’s career in forestry spanned more than 25 years in Alberta and British Columbia, most recently in executive leadership. He is appointed for a three-year term.
“His experience and knowledge of the skilled trades will be extremely helpful to the board and to NAIT,” says board chair Ray Pisani (Management ’84).
Author taps into craft beer boom
Techlifetoday writer and editor Scott Messenger has published his first book. Tapping the West: How Alberta’s Craft Beer Industry Bubbled out of an Economy Gone Flat features the stories, struggles and successes of the people behind the province’s burgeoning beer industry. The book was published by TouchWood Editions in May.
New funding for NAIT applied research
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is supporting innovation at NAIT with a combined $3.65 million in funding for three research projects:
- The Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability received $1.75 million for a new technology access centre that will allow researchers to work with industry on technologies to address oil sands tailings, water treatment, and bitumen extraction and analysis.
- NAIT’s Centre for Boreal Research received $1 million over five years for the renewal of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Boreal Reclamation and Reforestation. This will advance applied research in reclamation on former industrial sites.
- NAIT’s Applied Bio/Nanotechnology Research Chair received $900,000 to help companies reduce and reuse residual materials by adding value to them.
Grads on Fire Masters!
Food Network Canada's Fire Masters pits chefs from across the nation against one another in a three-round barbecue challenge. On season two, these NAIT grads will see if they can handle the heat as competitors:
- Steve Buzak (Culinary Arts '98), executive chef at Royal Glenora Club
- Lindsay Porter (Culinary Arts ’06), owner and chef at London Local
- Steven Brochu (Culinary Arts ’06), owner and chef at MilkCrate
- Paul Shufelt (Cook ’01), owner and executive chef, Workshop Eatery, Woodshed Burgers
- Levi Biddlecombe (Culinary Arts ’11), owner and chef at Why Not Cafe and Bar
CASE studies in excellence
Each year, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognizes the best in communications and alumni relations in post-secondary education. As part of District 8, which includes Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, NAIT and techlifetoday.ca were honoured with several awards, including
- Electronic Blogs, newsletters and magazines: techlifetoday.ca, gold and grand gold
- Feature writing: Spark of Inspiration, gold; Why a Blanket Exercise Made Me Disappointed, Uncomfortable and Angry, silver
- Individual Photographs: NAIT Ambassador Jordan Jolicoeur (above), silver; Ironworker, bronze
- Series of related illustrations/photo illustrations: 5G will Change the World, bronze
- Best practices in digital communications: NAIT’s Holiday Card, Tinsel Topple, finalist
Leaders for a greener future
This February, the Canada Green Building Council recognized one NAIT staff member and one alumna at the Alberta Green Building Excellence and Leadership Awards. Alternative Energy Technology chair Dr. Jim Sandercock earned the Inspired Educator Award for helping to foster a new generation of professionals dedicated to sustainable design, green building and more. Stephani Carter (Interior Design Technology '01) earned the Green Building Champion Award for her ongoing efforts as a council advocate. Carter was behind the formation of the organization’s Alberta chapter.
Tops in tailings
Dr. Heather Kaminski has been named a SHEInnovator for her work as a research chair in NAIT’s Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability. As part of the UN Women’s strategy, SHEInnovates seeks to address gender inequality in fields concerned with solving some of Alberta’s most complex problems. Kaminski’s expertise focuses on tailings remediation.
Playing with heart
Over the 2019-20 men’s Ooks hockey season, Brendan Jensen was committed to more than just his team. The goalie was also dedicated to helping the Brain Trauma Foundation, motivated by an injury experienced by a friend’s father. For each save he made, he planned to donate $2, expecting to come up with $1,000 to $1,500. Thanks to solid regular season play and extra donations from friends, family and organizations, Jensen’s donation was $4,032.
Each year, Edmonton’s Avenue magazine names the best restaurants in the city. For 2020, the top five were each run by NAIT grads:
- Biera, Christine Sandford (Culinary Arts '07, above)
- RGE RD, Blair Lebsack (Cook ’98)
- Uccellino, Daniel Costa (Culinary Arts '05)
- Bündok, Ryan Hotchkiss (Cook '12)
- Corso 32, Daniel Costa (Culinary Arts '05)
The Alberta craft beer boom has been bolstered by NAIT grads whose passion has led them to join the growing industry. That passion was recognized once again, at the 2020 Alberta Beer Awards. Two breweries with grads among the staff or ownership earned awards for
Each November, Edmonton’s Avenue magazine unveils its prestigious Top 40 under 40. Almost every year, it includes NAIT grads. In 2019, the polytechnic was proud to see the following alumni recognized for their contributions to their professions and communities:
“She educates businesses and policymakers about greener possibilities, one building at a time.” - Avenue Magazine
Related: A tour of EcoAmmo’s offices in the Mosaic Centre, Canada’s first net-zero commercial building
“She breaks barriers and confronts adversity in her community and across the country.” - Avenue Magazine
“She creates a space for people who feel shut out of traditional fitness centres.” - Avenue Magazine
Related: Read about Dube-Lockhart’s work to remove barriers to fitness for people with autism, and about a program she co-developed to help overcome body shame.
From board chair to parliamentary seat
After several years as a chair of NAIT’s Board of Governors, as well as a leader in Edmonton’s business community, James Cumming (Construction Engineering Technology ’81, Distinguished Friend of the Institute ’18) made a successful entry into politics in 2019 as a member of the Conservative party. In the October federal election, Cumming unseated Liberal incumbent Randy Boissonnault.
“I am here to represent all the constituents of Edmonton Centre,” Cumming said following the win. “I’ll do that with all my heart.”
First Nations food writing
Released in fall 2019 and already an award winner, Shane Chartrand’s tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine is rare among cookbooks. As much as it showcases the talents of the chef/author (Cook ’04), it’s an exploration and celebration of his First Nations heritage. The title, explains the publisher, translates from Cree as “Come in, you’re welcome, there’s room.” Given the book's more than 75 tantalizing recipes, it’s easy to accept the invitation.
Praise for PIC
With its soaring atrium, clean lines and tidy, minimalist decor, NAIT’s Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) has stunned visitors since it opened in fall 2018. Recently, it also caught the eyes of award judges.
On Oct. 17, 2019, GEC Architecture earned a silver medal in the institutional category of the third annual MASI Interior Design Awards, which span Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. PIC was also acknowledged with an Award of Excellence in the Showcase Awards from the Consulting Engineers of Alberta for institutional building engineering by Fast + Epp, KFR Engineering and SMP Engineering.
50 years on air
CKUA's weekly program Natch'l Blues is how Holger Petersen shines the spotlight on his beloved roots and blues music. Last fall, though, the radio station shone that light on Petersen (Radio and Television Arts ’70) himself, who celebrated 50 years on air. Just 19 years old when he started, the newbie DJ's expectations were modest.
"You're just hoping that you get the show renewed!" says Petersen today. "Who thinks ahead too much, you know?"
Related: Holger Petersen looks back on 50 years of playing the blues on CKUA radio
Little Duchess arrives (with dessert)
Duchess Bake Shop, one of Edmonton’s most celebrated bakeries (and world-renowned, incidentally), has branched out. After years of perfecting their craft at their west end location, Jake Pelletier (Culinary Arts ’07) and co-owners Giselle Courteau and Garner Beggs have established Little Duchess in the Ritchie Market to serve up a smaller selection of the bakery’s top sellers and favourites.
The milestone roughly coincided with the shop’s second publication, Duchess at Home, penned by Courteau.
New leadership for Treaty Six
After being elected the youngest chief in the modern history of Enoch Cree Nation, Billy Morin (Civil Engineering Technology ’11, Bachelor of Technology in Technology Management ’13, Honorary Degree ’19), was recently honoured with additional responsibilities. In January, he was named Grand Chief of Treaty Six by the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.
“It is with balance of humility and pride that I accept the appointment,” said Morin. “I give thanks to all my fellow Chiefs at Confederacy for their belief in me to serve all of our Nations and people.” The one-year term began on Jan. 1.
Grads heat up Edmonton
In January, forbes.com called Edmonton “one of Canada’s hottest destinations” (despite the bone-chilling cold snap). Among the magazine’s reasons to “see this underdog” are restaurants and attractions that owe at least part of their now international appeal to NAIT grads. Here’s a look at who’s helping the capital shed its status as a city unsung:
- The funicular gets a nod for providing access to “some excellent city panoramas.” Completed in fall 2017, that project was overseen by the Jesse Banford (Construction Engineering Technology ’01), the city's director of facility infrastructure delivery.
- Behind every restaurant on the list is a grad who’s elevating the Edmonton food community by setting innovative and flavour menus, including:
Biera, featuring head chef Christine Sanford (Culinary Arts '07) and chef Lindsay James (Cooking '15)
Bundok, owned by chef Ryan Hotchkiss (Cook '12)
Pip, co-owned by chef Nathan McLaughlin (Cook Apprentice '04)
Uccellino, owned by chef Daniel Costa (Culinary Arts '05)
The one to watch (and listen to, thanks to her audiobook)
In some circles, NAIT health and wellness coordinator Amy Eversley (Personal Fitness Trainer ’10) is better known as AJ Eversley, author of more than one series of sci-fi “dystopian” novels. After turning Watcher, book one of her first series, into an audiobook, she earned a 2019 Independent Audiobook Award in the young adult category. Narrators Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell gave voice to her words.
This past summer, the NAIT Board of Governors welcomed five new members, including alum Ray Pisani (Management '84) as its chair.
"This institution has a great role to play in this province and in Canada, and I look forward to working collaboratively with government and the board to promote the kinds of hands-on, technology-focused skills that NAIT provides,” says Pisani, who is also the president and CEO of Alberta Blue Cross. The other new board members are
- Kris Mauthe (Accounting ’95), president and CEO of Argus Machine Co. Ltd.
- Marlea Sleeman, president of Sil Industrial Minerals
- Kristina Williams, president and CEO of Alberta Enterprise Corporation
- Janet Riopel, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
- Paul Verhesen (Honorary Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management '19), CEO of Clark Builders
On the right track
Opened in December 2017, Edmonton’s river valley funicular was honoured with an international design award in July 2019. While the award went to Dialog Design, principal and landscape architect Jill Robertson noted that the project would not have been possible “without the vision of the city.” Among those visionaries was Jesse Banford (Construction Engineering Technology ’01), the City of Edmonton director of facility infrastructure delivery who oversaw the project.
As seen on HBO
Justin LaChance (Radio and Television - TV ’03) may labour behind-the-scenes at HBO, but his work gets noticed just the same. The editor was honoured with a 2019 Emmy nomination for single-camera editing on the dramatic series Sharp Objects. The nod follows a 2017 nomination for editing on another celebrated HBO drama, Big Little Lies.
Pedalling to Tokyo
Kelsey Mitchell (Instrumentation Engineering Technology ’16, Personal Fitness Trainer ’17) hadn’t been on a bike for 10 years before she tested her skills at an athlete’s training camp in 2017. But she had a knack for it that suggested the sport had been waiting for her to return. With hopes to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, the Team Canada cyclist set a record at the 2019 Pan Am games on the 200-metre track. Mitchell covered the distance in 10.89 seconds, more than a tenth of a second faster than the previous record holder.
A car seat that cares
Rachel Beaudette, Emer Burke and Jennifer Pettem were included among recent finalists for capstone project of the year by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta. Then Biomedical Engineering Technology students (now grads of the class of 2018), the trio presented its plan for the Guardian Angel car seat, which includes an app that alerts caregivers to dangers such as unsafe temperatures and location information. “I thought it was a great idea that would be very meaningful to people if we were able to create this and make it a reality,” says Pettem.
Shorthand for awesome
Jeffrey Weigl (Legal and Realtime Reporting ’05) successfully defended his title as the North American champion at the 2019 National Court Reporters Association shorthand speed contest. Scoring a combined accuracy rate of 97.54% on speeds ranging 220-280 words per minute, Weigl extended his winning streak to three consecutive years.
A link in the lifeline
As an Advanced Care Paramedic instructor, Jennifer McNalley knows the importance of blood donors. After recruiting more than 140 people to give blood following a colleague’s accident in 2017, she’s carried on her efforts by supporting and encouraging her students to promote and volunteer with donation events. In September 2019, her work as a peer recruiter was recognized by Canadian Blood Services at its annual Honouring Canada’s Lifeline ceremony in Ottawa.
Sustainable city living
NAIT Physics chair Jocelyn Crocker doesn’t let city living get in the way of fostering all manner of biodiversity and pursuing what seem like rural activities. Instead, she’s struck a balance. It's obvious in her work to establish community gardens, foster composting efforts, keep bees, raise chickens, turn her yard into a tiny farm. For all that and more, she's been named the 2019 winner of the Sustainable Food Edmonton Golden Wheelbarrow Award for sustainability citizen of the year.
Kings of the kitchen
Canada’s Great Kitchen Party returns this October as one of the country’s top cooking competitions. The Edmonton event will feature nine chefs, three of them NAIT grads:
The winner of the event will head to Ottawa in February to compete against 11 chefs who cooked their way to the top of their regional qualifying round.
2019 alumni award winners
Each year, NAIT singles out a small group of alumni and highlights their accomplishments with alumni recognition awards. This year's cohort represents a class act in community building, though in many different ways:
- Hubert Lau (Computer Systems Technology ’91), president of TrustBIX Inc., earned the Alumni Award of Distinction for efforts to improve national food safety and security
- Ken Jurina (Marketing ’95), president and CEO of Top Draw Inc., won the Alumni Award of Excellence for being a pioneer of digital marketing and helping to build the industry
- Sean Rayner (Marketing ’01), president and CEO of VETS Group, also earned the award of excellence for helming a nearly century-old local HVAC and mechanical company and using its services to support local non-profit organizations
- Justin Cross (Personal Fitness Trainer ’12), personal trainer and owner of Cross Conditioning, was given a Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award for promoting a lifelong love of exercise and well-being among young people
- Linda Hoang (Radio and Television - TV '11), blogger at Linda-Hoang.com and social media consultant, also earned a spirit award for using social media as a community-building tool, and for founding the Edmonton International Cat Festival, which raises funds for shelters and rescue groups
Arlo Maverick (a.k.a. Marlon Wilson, Marketing ’02) has become one of the best-known names in Edmonton hip hop thanks to not only a keen understanding of marketing and the music business but for writing consistently catchy, emotional and smart songs. At the 2019 Edmonton Music Awards that talent was recognized with an award for rap/hip hop recording of the year for his song "Ceiling Fan." The award follows on 2017 accolades for rap recording of the year.
A great friend of NAIT
For more than a decade, Kerry Brown has contributed to the growth of NAIT as a member of its Board of Governors and adviser on several committees. On June 5, he was recognized for his support and guidance by being named the 2019 Distinguished Friend of the Institute. Brown is an accountant and angel investor who has helped companies and entrepreneurs succeed in several areas, including telecommunications, fuel cells and biotechnology. "Being aligned with NAIT, I’ve been part of an organization that is playing an integral part in evolving business and technology in Alberta," said Brown.
Praise for poetry
NAIT English instructor Kelly Shepherd is the winner of the 2019 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize for his collection Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems. The award was announced at the Alberta Literary Awards in June. Shepherd was also nominated for the the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry. "This is all very overwhelming," he says. "Just to be nominated for these is a real honour."
The best way to say it
NAIT's marketing and communications team caught the attention of two major awards programs for internal and external messaging and storytelling. IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Edmonton Capital Awards recognized
- Michael Liu with a Capital Award of Excellence for safety communications behind the campaign to promote NAIT Alert, an on-campus emergency notification system
- Katie McLaughlin and Tracy Niven with a Capital Award of Merit for the communications strategy for Respect at NAIT, a program designed to foster a respectful workplace
- McLaughlin again, with an Award of Merit for work on a blog for the polytechnic's executive director of human resources
The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE), an organization dedicated to advancement and fundraising in post-secondary education, awarded
Tops in trades
Muhammad Afzal, a fourth-year Auto Body Technician apprentice, will represent Team Canada in Kazan, Russia this summer at the 2019 WorldSkills, an international competition for young tradespeople. The 21-year-old had represented Alberta at skills competitions for two straight years, including last year’s provincials and nationals where he won silver medals. Among those who may one day follow in Afzal's footsteps are NAIT-educated winners of the 2019 Skills Canada Alberta competition:
- JJ Crowder, silver, architectural technology and design
- Cornelio Loewen, gold, autobody repair
- James Schurek-Banack, silver, autobody repair
- Levi Stephani, bronze, autobody repair
- Shannon Paluch, gold, car painting
- Dorien Lozeau, silver, car painting
- Thomas Marchand, bronze, car painting
- Warren Ference, gold, CNC machining
- Jerome Pallasigui, silver, culinary arts
- Peter Viersen, gold, electrical installations
- Jordan Ammar, bronze, electrical installations
- Laina Vanderwell, silver, graphic design
- Maileen Mabuyo, bronze, graphic design
- Damion Dinius, bronze, heavy equipment services
- Daniel Eyestone, gold, industrial control
- Nolan Ulliac, silver, industrial mechanics millwright
- Alex Slobodian, bronze, industrial mechanics millwright
- Peter Estephan, gold, IT Network Systems Administration
- Nicole Kroetsch, gold, mechanical insulation
- Sky Haspeck, silver, mechanical insulation
- Justine Dodds, bronze, mechanical insulation
- Aurabelle Gaudreault, gold, mechatronics
- Erin Wilson, silver, mechatronics
- Avleen Passi, bronze, mechatronics
- Brock Shabada, gold, mobile crane
- Jerrad Ullock, silver, mobile crane
- Jesse Lunam, bronze, mobile crane
- Anastasiia Maksakova, gold, painting and decorating
- Zachary Mutlow, silver, painting and decorating
- Kyle Howard, bronze, painting and decorating
- Christopher Antoniolli, silver, refrigeration
- Michael Aleniuk, bronze, sheet metal
- Trevor Bizicki, gold, steamfitter/pipefitter
Excellence in entrepreneurship
Business leader and philanthropist Ashif Mawji (Computer Systems Technology ’92) was named a 2019 inductee to the Alberta Business Hall of Fame by Junior Achievement Northern Alberta and NWT.
Mawji is well-known, successful entrepreneur in Edmonton’s tech sector, as well as a past member of NAIT’s Board of Governors, an honorary degree recipient, Top 50 Alumni and a winner of the Alumni Award of Distinction. In 2017, he and his family donated $1 million to establish the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship.
What a workplace!
For the eighth year in a row, NAIT has been name one of Alberta’s Top Employers, thanks in part to its focus on the physical and mental well-being of its staff.
“I say this year after year, but I really do believe that it’s our people who make us a top employer,” says Clayton Davis, executive director of human resources. “It’s people who make you feel supported, respected and valued. It’s people who support you in achieving your goals, and it’s people who celebrate with you when you’ve accomplished them.”
Alberta’s Top Employers is an annual competition that in 2019 recognized 75 of the province’s exceptional workplaces.
High honours in human resources
NAIT Human Resource Management students took the top spot at the HRC-West student competition. The annual event invites student groups from across the region to apply classroom knowledge to an HR business case.
The NAIT squad – which included Aleksandra Jaruga, Alyson Howey, Aslanowicz and coach Laurie Pisesky – placed ahead of competitors including Mount Royal University and the University of British Columbia. Teams presented their solutions in front of a three-member panel of industry professionals.
A spotlight on dark matters
For decades, author Joan Marie Galat (Biological Sciences Technology - Environmental Sciences ’84) has turned science into great stories for kids and young adults – and won awards for it. Recently, she was recognized with a 2018 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in the category of non-fiction chapter book for Dark Matter: Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution. Informed by Galat’s own experiences with nature, the book sheds on an important but often overlooked ecological issue in a way that is informative and entertaining.
Fourth-year Electrician apprentice Mateo Berrio is one of the world’s fasted electricians. The title was tested and validated in late 2018 at Ideal Industries’ National Skills Competition, held in Orlando, Florida. Berrio finished first in the category of Canada West.
The event opened the NAIT student’s eyes to the true potential of his chosen career. “These guys here are the most passionate,” he said. “We don’t just want to be an electrician, we want to be the best one. It’s a lifestyle.”
Hurrying hard into the hall of fame
“It’s kind of surprising,” Jules Owchar said of being inducted in March into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame. It really shouldn’t have been. Over a career that is approaching four decades, he’d seen 17 Briers, including those where he coached Kevin Martin (Petroleum Engineering Technology ’87) and more recently, when he coached the Gushue squad. Owchar continues to coach the NAIT Ooks curling teams.
Culinary Arts student Tasha Tologanak has created a recipe for the success of her community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, with the key ingredient being giving back. Last Christmas, she organized a hamper program, gathering and distributing winter clothing. She also collected donations for turkey dinners. The efforts added to community building work earlier in the year, including a drive for household items for people affected by local emergencies such as fires.
“I feel like I should help,” says Tologanak. “It’s not a lot of effort and people are so appreciative of those little things.” For that effort, Tolaganak was recognized with an Outstanding Young Woman’s Award through the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council in March.
Cheers to great beers
Town Square Brewing, owned and operated by Brandon Boutin (Steamfitter/Pipefitter ’05), Tyler McNaughton (Architectural Technology ’05) and Sterling Nordin (Heavy Equipment Technician ’02), ranked high among Alberta’s best breweries at the 2019 Alberta Beer Awards. In fact, of the 76 that entered the competition, Town Square placed third, on the strength of awards for four of its craft beers:
- Gold: Pond Surfer California Common
- Silver: Forged Rye Amber
- Bronze: Prairie Fire Rauchbier
- Bronze: Beets by Sinden Sour
The south Edmonton brewpub opened in September 2017.
In February, techlifetoday.ca, NAIT’s online magazine, was honoured to win grand gold for best external newsletter or blog from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII. The award builds on a gold medal the site earned in 2018. In addition, CASE recognized several other NAIT projects:
- Youth and Duty, a profile of grad and Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin, won silver for feature writing (it also won silver at the Alberta Magazine Awards)
- For use of user-generated content on social media, digital communications specialist Liz Pittman won silver
- The Essential Effect: 100 Reasons to Celebrate, documented the impact of NAIT’s most successful fundraising campaign, and won a bronze medal for innovation and another for web design
- The Rainmaker, a story about a storm-chasing grad and his custom weather forecasting business, won bronze for feature writing
NAIT’s communications and web team was also recognized in other recent awards programs.
Women of vision
On April 4, Global Edmonton celebrated alumni Cecile Bukmeier (Auto Body Technician '15), Marni Panas (Management ’91, Computer Systems Technology ’02) and Veronica Ryl (Emergency Medical Technician ’08) at the Woman of Vision event.
The Woman of Vision program celebrates the accomplishments of women from the Edmonton area.
Bukmeier, NAIT's first-ever female instructor in the Auto Body Technician program, was recognized for her perserverance and advocacy for women in the skilled trades. Panas is a powerful advocate for human rights and the transgender community. Ryl, a former paramedic, was celebrated for her life-saving skills and spirit of adventure.
Coolest award of the season
Ice carving artist and Royal Glenora Club chef Steve Buzak (Culinary Arts '98) and Scott Harrison showed their chops at the Harbin China International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in January. The pair ranked third of 34 teams for their patriotic piece (which features, at its heart, a special nod to their home province).
After taking up mead making just two years ago, instructor David Whitaker (Cooking ’83) won his first award for the hobby this summer.
Whitaker’s “Kilkenny Mead” (made with just honey, water and yeast) earned silver at the inaugural Horde at the Hive competition in Okotoks. Judges were impressed by its clarity, aroma and balance.
Proud to be smoke free
This summer, the Smoke-Free Spaces Committee named NAIT among its Leadership Award winners for Alberta. Criteria include a smoke-free environment, prohibition of smoking materials and support for students and staff looking to kick the habit. The committee includes Alberta Health Services, Alberta Blue Cross and several other health-focused organizations.
JR Shaw School of Business instructor Rhonda Dever earned the 2018 Senator Thelma Chalifoux Award, named for the former Métis Elder in Residence at NAIT’s Nîsohkamâtotân Centre. Dever (left) was nominated by student Morgan Reynolds (Management ’17, right), who was encouraged by the instructor to research her roots in a class project.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for her and the work she does to encourage Aboriginal students to explore our culture,” says Reynolds.
2018 alumni award winners
Each year, NAIT highlights and celebrates the accomplishments of a select group of outstanding grads through the Alumni Recognition Awards. Congrats to the 2018 winners:
Alumni Award of Distinction
Darren Lunt (Marketing ’90, second from right), President, Weldco Companies
Alumni Award of Excellence
Ronda Gras (Chemical Technology ’91, third from left), Associate R&D Scientist, Dow Chemical Canada
Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award
Carolyn Kincade (Bachelor of Technology in Technology Management ’17, Dental Laboratory Technology ’07, third from right), Osseointegration Technologist, Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine
Kathy Le (Radio and Television – Television ’11, second from left), Reporter and Anchor, CTV News Calgary
Better homes for bats
NAIT students made history this fall as one of the first-ever Canadian medallists and winners in the Quarry Life Award in national and international categories.
The competition is held every two years by HeidelbergCement to enhance biodiversity at the company’s mining operations around the world. This year it attracted 317 proposals from across North America. The multidisciplinary group from NAIT took second place for efforts to build better houses for bats, conserving the population at a quarry near Cadomin, 300 kilometres west of Edmonton. Internationally, however, they placed first in the category of biodiversity management.
“The students approached this process in a truly NAIT fashion by identifying an issue and coming up with a solution,” says instructor Dave Critchley (Forest Technology ’99, Biological Sciences Technology – Renewable Resources ’98).
Queen of the kitchen
RGE RD chef de cuisine Davina Moraiko (Culinary Arts ’05) took top honours at Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Edmonton, a 10-chef competition that picks up where Gold Medal Plates left off. Moraiko’s win – for a unique take on blood sausage – earned her a spot at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in February.
Top marks from international students
In a recent national survey, international students at NAIT ranked the polytechnic among the top schools in Canada for quality of education and overall experience.
“I’m pleased that these results affirm our efforts,” says Alison Lewis, associate vice-president Campus Life.