Staff members demonstrating exceptional performance, from residence halls and research institutes to the Indigenous Student Centre and Western International, are being honoured with the highest level of campus-wide recognition: The Western Award of Excellence.
The 2022 awardees, nominated by faculty, staff, students and alumni, are being celebrated for their exemplary service, creativity and innovation. They were also selected for their ability to share knowledge and expertise and for their capacity to foster their values of integrity and respect across campus.
While this year’s recipients come from a variety of different roles and departments, one theme was constant across all successful nominations: an innate ability to make others feel valued and seen. The summaries below are based on the submissions.
The Western community will formally celebrate the 2022 recipients at a ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at 11:30 a.m. in the Great Hall, Somerville House. To register to attend the event, follow the steps outlined here.
J.D. (John Derek) Clarke
Executive director of programs (recruitment and admissions), Ivey Business School
Ask incoming Ivey Business School students what stood out in the recruitment process and, repeatedly, you’ll hear one name: J.D. Clarke. The individual attention Clarke extends to potential recruits paints him as a celebrity in their eyes, with one candidate eager to “get a picture with J.D.” when visiting campus. His genuine interest in applicants continues after the admission process, with Clarke offering to provide constructive feedback to those who don’t get into the school. His “approachable, kind and patient manner” is also appreciated by his team, who laud him for providing a safe, positive, engaging work environment where authenticity is encouraged. His weekly personal and performance-based conversations with his staff have earned him a reputation as a “one-of-a-kind leader.” As one new hire was told during their first week on the job, “You’ll never have a better boss than J.D.”
Manager, administration and finance, departments of anatomy and cell biology and medical biophysics
One of the first things Jennifer Devlin did when she took on the challenging role of leading two diverse departments at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry was to meet with each administrative staff member individually. This curious and open approach helped her learn more about their lives, skills, aspirations and concerns, and assign roles that best suited them. This improved operational efficiency and produced a much more productive team. As a passionate advocate for self-improvement, “Jenn inspires all of us to do better at work and in the community by leading by example,” one nominator wrote. “She is constantly taking courses and attending workshops to hone her leadership skills.” In addition to Devlin’s administrative acumen, her department chairs appreciate her as “a breath of fresh air, exuding positive energy and friendliness while efficiently dealing with any challenges that come along.”
Indigenous Student Centre team, Office of Indigenous Initiatives
Amanda Bragg, Kylie Bressette, Marisa Geris, Ashley Kewayosh Samuel, Arbor Morris, Kelly Nicholas, Donna Noah, Joel Persaud and Paul Porter
Without the support of the caring staff at the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC), many students echo the sentiments expressed by one undergraduate who shared, “I doubt I would have made it to my third year of studies. Their guidance, support, open ears and tutor support program played a huge part in my success.”
Through a variety of initiatives – from mini-university and community and land-based programming to the Indigenous Transition Program, and the Circles of Support and Mentorship program, ISC director and nominator Amanda Myers credits her team for exemplifying both Indigenous ways of building relationships and community and Western’s core values. They merge both in a manner that “brings Indigenization and reconciliation to life,” she said.
“The staff of ISC fulfill the dreams of our ancestors each day. They walk in pride and truth, knowing who they are holds value in this space of learning. This is the ultimate form of healing; this is the model for the Indigenous student that comes through the gates of Western. They find within the ISC a home, a family and a healthy way of living.”
Senior director, Western International
“Lise’s collaborative and strategic approach to fostering partnerships across campus and beyond make her an invaluable leader and team member in promoting internationalization as part of the university’s strategic plan,” her nominators write. Laporte’s achievements include developing the Global Opportunities Awards and the International Learning Awards (Boarding Pass) program to support students in their dreams of going abroad. With these initiatives and other projects, she always makes time to work with, and on behalf of, students, providing thoughtful support to address their many issues and inquiries. Throughout a series of leadership changes, the tragedy of Flight 752, which claimed the lives of four graduate students, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Laporte has been “an incredible leader, sounding board, a trusted friend, wise sage and ally,” one of her team members writes. “These are not isolated incidents. This is what Lise models for our team daily.”
Director, Western Research Institutes
In her more than 20 years of research and managerial experience at Western, Jann Paquette-Warren has pursued a high standard of excellence – recently as the manager of research innovation at the Bone and Joint Institute (BJI), and currently as the director of Western Research Institutes (BJI, Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Institute for Earth and Space Exploration and Western Institute for Neuroscience). Part of Paquette-Warren’s strength is her talent for “demystifying seemingly large problems and breaking them into manageable components,” and “using her knowledge and experiences to benefit any conversation,” her nominees write. Exuding integrity and respect while promoting innovative methods, she has advanced many transdisciplinary research activities. Her commitment and enthusiasm have impacted a series of standard operating procedures, including the BJI strategic plan. Her passion for equity and inclusivity saw her co-drive the “Get Everyone Started – Indigenous Training Initiative,” promoting Indigenous ways of knowing, land-based learning and research approaches.
Manager, information security, Cyber Security and Business Services
Through his main role and on various committees at Western, Dominique Perreault has championed and quarterbacked efforts to bring innovative technologies to Western that make campus systems and networks more secure. In a high-stress field, Perreault stands out for creating a cheerful work environment and for patiently educating others about all things related to cyber security. His efforts to safeguard the Western community include being the first to respond with a clear, detailed and professional response at all hours of the day and night. Perreault’s calm leadership and communication skills are credited in helping to prevent frightening cyber incidents. In his previous roles, he successfully led large internal and external projects, including the implementation of Sabretooth, the migration of GroupWise to 035 and Novell to Microsoft AD. His nominators underscore his consistent “pursuit of excellence, caring and supportive leadership and unswerving commitment to the education and well-being of everyone.”
Animal care technician, Western Research
Described as humble, polite and “an overall great person to be around,” Darren Pitre is credited for consistently showing an exceptional level of dedication and attention to all details supporting animal husbandry and environmental enrichment. During the past 20 years, he has helped establish a critical foundation for research programs at Robarts Research Institute, “going above and beyond in every aspect of his job.” He also fosters genuine relationships with his colleagues. “Darren takes the time to get to know everyone’s names, even staff he only sees periodically. Every person in the building knows Darren because he is friendly and takes an interest in everyone’s lives.” He happily assists teammates with their workloads, “always one step ahead of us, completing tasks before we even ask for help.” Pitre also improves his colleagues’ days by “offering jokes, a yummy dessert or funny little notes.”
Manager, culinary training, Hospitality Services
Beyond her successful onboarding of hundreds of new staff members in Hospitality Services, trained chef Carrie Schnurr has built a reputation for providing an exceptional residence experience for first-year students. Her creativity extends from orchestrating traditional holiday-themed events to making donut walls and turning the dining hall into a scene out of Game of Thrones, single-handedly sourcing and sewing costumes for the staff. She painstakingly reviews each menu item, regularly changing options, while also preparing ingredient lists to ensure food allergies are identified and communicated broadly. Last month, she cheerfully worked through the night, baking 370 pies for Western’s United Way campaign. Schnurr also regularly ensures excess food gets delivered to London’s most vulnerable populations. With a “magnetic personality and flair for fun,” her nominators say, “If you haven’t met Carrie, you should. She is possibly one of the most creative and unique individuals at Western.”