Three members of the Western community are being recognized for their commitment to academic excellence, service and empowering leadership.
Faculty of Education professor Kathy Hibbert, and PhD candidates Effie Sapuridis (Media Studies) and Olivia Ghosh-Swaby (Neuroscience) have been announced as recipients of 2023 Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada (SWAAC) awards.
Hibbert is being recognized as an influential leader, earning SWAAC’s top honour for senior women in higher education leadership.
Linda Miller, vice-provost (graduate and postdoctoral studies) said the student recipients were selected from “a tremendously strong pool of outstanding nominees from across Western’s campus and three University colleges,” before being judged against candidates from around the country.
The awards will be presented at the annual SWAAC conference, held this year at Western, May 4-6.
Kathy Hibbert, professor and associate dean, Faculty of Education
Recipient of the annual Angela Hildyard SWAAC Recognition Award, recognizing an influential leader who has continually demonstrated innovative and impactful leadership in advancing the mission of, and achieving outstanding contributions to, their institution and/or to higher education.
Prof. Hibbert has served in a variety of leadership roles at Western, including wearing two hats as acting dean and associate dean, teacher education, during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s also served as chair of an academic research cluster, course and program coordinator, director of a research centre and as director of continuing teacher education, while also holding high-level external roles.
What sets Hibbert apart, “as the most influential, exceptional and deserving candidate,” her nominators write, “is her humbly distinguished manner, in every aspect of her contributions as a faculty member, researcher, teacher, colleague and leader.”
Hibbert, who holds cross-appointments with the department of medical imaging at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and affiliate memberships within the faculties of Arts & Humanities, Social Science and Health Sciences, has attracted millions of dollars in funding for her research which has had “immense, global reach.”
But, foremost, “at her heart, Kathy is a teacher,” earning teaching awards in both undergraduate and graduate courses in every year she was eligible. She has supervised and/or served on committees for 83 graduate students, “giving her time to nurture their talent and to develop their capacity as scholars in their own right.”
Hibbert said she was humbled and surprised to receive the award.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with really strong leaders in my career and to have the women I’ve admired recognize me in this way is heartwarming,” she said.
Effie Sapuridis, PhD candidate, Media Studies, Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS)
Recipient of the SWACC Graduate Award of Merit, which is awarded annually to the women graduate students demonstrating outstanding leadership in the university or general community while maintaining exemplary academic records.
When Effie Sapuridis was “promptly introduced to service work,” as a young Scout and Girl Guide, it ignited a spark she carried throughout her childhood and into her years at Western.
“Eight-year-old me didn’t understand, but I recognize now that was a lightning strike,” Sapuridis said.
By the time she was 20, Sapuridis was volunteering for the international philanthropic organization, Order of AHEPA. While completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she went from being a chapter member in Montreal to ending her tenure as national vice-president.
As a newcomer to London and Western in 2019, she co-founded the FIMS Peer Mentors program, which partners current graduate students with incoming ones to ease the transition to grad school. The virtual manual she created for the program is now used widely.
Sapuridis was elected as speaker for the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS), before becoming SOGS vice-president of student services.
While serving her graduate community at Senate, she helped organize a walkout to bring attention to gender-based violence, and subsequently co-founded Safe Campus Coalition, an incorporated, not-for-profit provincial program. This work launched her into the national spotlight as an advocate for sexual violence support.
In June 2022, Sapuridis began her term on the Western Board of Governors.
A supporter of the SWAAC award nomination said Sapuridis demonstrates “leadership in spades,” while also lauding her “exemplary research,” which focuses on the ways fan-produced fiction serves as a key medium for marginalized people to write themselves into popular culture.
“Sapuridis’ project is penetrating and fresh ─ and poised to have a significant impact on a wide variety of fields,” they write, “with the quality of her work recognized with a Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards given to doctoral students in the country.”
Olivia Ghosh-Swaby, PhD candidate, department of neuroscience, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Recipient of the Student Award in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, given annually to a woman university or college student who advances equity, diversity and inclusion within and/or outside their institution through outstanding dedication and excellence or community outreach and activism.
Olivia Ghosh-Swaby came to Western after earning a national scholarship, which recognizes all-round excellence, based on outstanding academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community service.
She has continued to soar in all of these areas throughout her time at Western, and now, despite the heavy demands pursuing her PhD in neuroscience, she “dedicates her leadership work to supporting equitable academic and sport spaces that foster personal growth and development.”
Since 2017, Ghosh-Swaby has been the quarterback and captain for Western’s women’s football club. Beyond leading the team to provincial championship titles, she has creatively persisted in raising funds for basic equipment and its $17,000 annual budget, while spearheading the push to recognize Western’s women’s football with official club status.
Her leadership in advocating for the sport to be recognized more fairly and to remove barriers for women athletes was recognized in 2019, when she was appointed executive director of the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association. In this role, she oversees the board of directors and has created a new rule book and new infrastructure for organized tournaments.
Among her other accomplishments has been creating a comprehensive EDI survey and EDI-D training module that is now mandatory for incoming graduate students and founding the Black Professional Graduate Students’ Network. She also sits on the board of directors and is a co-creator of the Garden Initiative, a student-run program that provides underprivileged youth with subsidized support and leadership training, as well as nutrition and wellness education.
Ghosh-Swaby embraces her platform as a doctoral student in educating and advocating for change. As the student representative for the neuroscience graduate program, she created a neuroscience learning bootcamp to better support students of non-science backgrounds and promoted the need to “diversify faculty within the department to better reflect scientists of colour.”
Using her passion to embody and develop leadership in sport and education through an equity lens has become “second nature” to Ghosh-Swaby. “You don’t think about recognition or any accolades that could come with that,” she said. “It can be tiring and overwhelming, so to be recognized and supported through this award means a lot.”
Miller sums up the value of Ghosh-Swaby’s contributions, noting, “Olivia helps others to be seen, to push forward, to push through, and to succeed in an environment in which she herself, as a female Black scholar, has not had an easy time of it. Her interpersonal and leadership skills are exemplary, but it is her compassion that outshines it all.”