Awards of Excellence 2.0 Recognizing outstanding COVID-19 response

The past year presented many changes, challenges, opportunities and triumphs as we pushed ourselves to effectively pivot to the “new normal” created by the worldwide pandemic.

To commemorate this truly extraordinary time for our community, our annual Awards of Excellence program for support staff will recognize excellence in our COVID-19 response—those support staff who helped to bring out the very best in the University of Manitoba during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you know a support staff employee or a team of employees who showed innovation and persistence to facilitate learning, maintain business operations, and/or ensure that students and employees in need or transition receive support?

We want to honour support staff employees who demonstrated extraordinary efforts to maintain critical operations, to assist faculty and students in transitioning to online classes, to support critical research or facilitate the shut-down and restart of research activities, and to ensure the safety and well-being of others—all while supporting the academic mission of UM through the pandemic.

President's Award

The President’s Award celebrates support staff who have contributed to the University in significant ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations to the 2021 President's Award recipients!

College of Nursing COVID-19 Clinical Team

Nominated by: Susan McClement

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The College of Nursing has between 700 and 800 students engaged in clinical practice throughout the academic year in the Bachelor of Nursing Program. Most of the students are assigned to work in groups of 6 to 10 in clinical and community settings in Manitoba. The pandemic created immense challenges for the clinical program, as COVID-19 cases started to rise in the province, outbreaks emerged at clinical sites, and student anxiety about the virus and potential delays in their education increased. In this context, the Director of Clinical Education worked with a group of support staff in the College of Nursing to address these challenges. These individuals worked as part of the COVID-19 Clinical Team and demonstrated excellence in their response to COVID-19.  


  • The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated extraordinary disruption for College of Nursing students engaged in clinical practice, with more than 55 clinical groups being affected. When COVID-19 outbreaks occurred in clinical settings, students needed to be removed from affected sites. The support staff members of the COVID-19 Clinical Team worked collaboratively with impacted units to move student clinical groups to different practice settings and develop revised placement schedules so students could recoup lost clinical time. This meant rescheduling groups in HSPnet, a system used for tracking clinical placements in Manitoba, and communication with all involved. The team was tireless in their efforts to ensure regular, clear communication and connection with numerous clinical partners and stakeholders, scheduling weekly check-ins with clinical sites to understand what was unfolding with each site as the pandemic progressed. 
  • To support the Clinical Education Facilitators (CEFs), who supervise student groups in their clinical work and advise them of changes in relation to COVID-19, the team set up regular Microsoft Teams meetings for CEFs and provided ongoing updates via email. Assistance was provided to the Director of Clinical Education to set up a UM Learn site to serve as a repository for all important information and updates for CEFs.  

Critical Operations

  • The impact of the pandemic on students in clinical courses was significant and required attention from numerous support staff team members working as part of the COVID-19 Clinical Team. Student advisors and the registration consultant in the college were involved in providing students with information when clinical courses were cancelled in March of 2020 and as a plan to move the students forward was developed, when clinical courses were disrupted in fall and winter terms of 2020-2021, and when clinical courses were extended in all three terms. The complexities of this advisement cannot be over-stated. 
  • Support staff members of the COVID-19 Clinical Team participated on the Student Absence Working Group, assisting academic staff as contingency plans were developed for winter term building on learning from fall term. 
  • As a result of the pandemic, 5 clinical groups were unable to complete their full clinical rotation time. The team hired an additional CEF to “bridge” students in years 2 and 3 of the program to enable them to make up the lost weeks of practice. Anticipating the occurrence of a second and even third wave of the pandemic, the team proactively and collaboratively worked with clinical partners to develop a plan for students to make up additional clinical hours during the spring and summer.  

Safety and Well-Being

Members of the support staff supporting the COVID-19 Clinical Team:  

  • Helped facilitate N95 mask fit testing for all students and Clinical Education Facilitators (CEFs). This was a monumental task, as the availability of masks kept changing as supply chains evolved.
  • Communicated with CEFs regarding vaccination requirements, N95 mask fit testing, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in clinical settings. As above, guidelines evolved as the pandemic progressed.
  • In consultation with the Director of Clinical Education, acted swiftly and nimbly pulling students off clinical units when outbreaks were declared. 
  • Developed contingency plans with clinical sites experiencing outbreaks to continue clinical practice for students on an alternate unit and developed an orientation for newly identified units regarding student placement requirements and the roles and responsibilities of the CEFs supervising students in practice.  

The dedication, flexibility, and creativity of the support staff supporting the COVID-19 Clinical Team is impressive. They exemplify excellence in the context of the pandemic. 

Karen Meelker, Acting Chief Risk Officer, Risk Management

Nominated by: Rachelle Ross

Nominator’s testimonial: 

Karen has demonstrated immense dedication to keeping the University of Manitoba staff and student body safe throughout the pandemic. Times have been trying on everyone throughout the University of Manitoba during the pandemic, yet Karen's leadership in facilitating the University's COVID-19 response has been of tremendous help to those who have needed it.
Karen has taken the extra responsibilities in stride, helping to monitor suspected cases and to handle and direct the response when a positive case occurs at the University of Manitoba. In her role, she greatly improved the University’s internal reporting structure of COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 cases ensuring, when needed, that University staff and students are made adequately aware of any possible contact with COVID-19 while on campus. In 2020 during the first months of the pandemic, Karen was deeply involved in the work of the COVID-19 Recovery Working Group, providing guidance and advice to balance privacy rights with public health requirements under the pandemic, and she continues to support the current COVID-19 Steering Committee as needed.

Throughout the pandemic, Karen made certain that issues related to COVID-19 took precedence. Due to the safety risks to staff and students, suspected and confirmed cases were always given priority, dropping whatever she was doing to make certain that staff and students were always kept safe and aware. She has been vital to the reporting framework of the University of Manitoba and deserves to be recognized for her efforts.

Additionally, the Access and Privacy Office, under Karen’s direction in 2020, also adapted their workflows and revised priorities to ensure they could provide the best possible support to faculty and students.

The switch to remote learning resulted in a significant increase in the need for additional software to support teaching and learning, all of which required appropriate review and assessment to ensure compliance with privacy legislation through the Privacy Impact Assessment process. Despite working with 50% of their normal staff resources, under Karen’s direction, The Access and Privacy Office was able to triage the requests and ensure supporting faculty and staff were able to obtain the software tools they needed in a timely fashion, while ensuring their use was compliant.

The Access and Privacy Office supported other units in developing tools for staff and students, including IST and The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.
Karen contributed greatly to developing privacy guidelines for remote teaching and in creating guidelines for remote work to support all employees during the transition.

Many faculty members and staff found themselves in unique situations in 2020 due to the pandemic. Karen’s time was much in demand providing guidance to colleagues about video conferencing platforms, how to balance privacy with remote work and learning. Despite the additional workload, Karen could still be counted on to provide timely, compassionate and reasonable advice to all colleagues who reached out for advice.

In her current role as Acting Chief Risk Officer, Karen continues to play a huge role in ensuring the safety of our community as the University begins to reopen. Staff and Faculty regularly reach out to her for advice and guidance related to her new portfolio and know they can rely on her to assist them.


Operations and Maintenance Team

*This team was created as a result of multiple nominations

Nominated by: Andrew Konowalchuk

Nominator’s testimonial:

Operations and Maintenance effectively supported the University of Manitoba throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From day one, O&M remained operational, and has been flexible, reactive, and predictive of the needs that ensure the University continues to meet its academic and research mission.

At the start of the pandemic, O&M identified that they were an essential service to support the University. They immediately pivoted to ensure that their staff were operating safely while maintaining efficiency. Procedures were established to review those tasks that could be performed remotely. Shift schedules were evaluated to adjust start times, breaks, and lunch times to avoid contact with non- essential co-workers. Vehicle policies were adjusted to align to single occupants per vehicle to keep staff safe. Masking procedures were established to ensure that staff were operating in a safe manner. Caretaker assignments were aligned to areas that remained open and were in the greatest need of ongoing cleaning. Enhanced cleaning guidelines were developed to ensure that high-touch areas were cleaned effectively.

O&M provided support by remaining flexible and reactive to the needs of the UM community. They worked effectively with the Registrar’s Office to identify areas that were to be used for in-person classes and student study areas. Caretaking supervisors and staff throughout the campus were aligned to ensure that they were reviewing areas used by students and staff in order to provide the most effective support. The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences was able to remain operational throughout the pandemic because of the extraordinary efforts of the Bannatyne O&M team. They were completely responsive to the needs of the Faculty, whether it was the reopening of the Dentistry program, the assistance in the distribution of vaccines on the UM campus, or the support of critical teaching and learning activities.
Critical Operations were maintained by reducing access to the Central Energy Plant to only the critical personnel who could ensure the continued provision of steam and chilled water to the campus. Trades staff remained focused on maintaining the infrastructure and completing critical preventative maintenance and improvement work orders. Water services were reduced in buildings with low occupancy to ensure that water was safe for consumption but in sufficient supply to react to flush water systems when occupancy increased. Caretaking ensured that cleaning was aligned to high-traffic areas and spaces that were occupied. Low-use washrooms were closed but available to be re-opened upon need. Over 500 hand sanitizer stations were established across campus, and standardized health-related signage was developed and deployed throughout the campus. General Services pivoted to provide a central stores capability that supported the campus with essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer. They also developed a customer-focused approach to mail delivery by centralization of deliveries to the mail room, and a schedule of deliveries to faculties based on when the offices were occupied.

The entire team supported ongoing and restarting research activities through a variety of means that ensured the research could continue. The centralized stores of PPE ensured that the University was able to maintain enough supplies while demands were high across the world.

Throughout the entire pandemic, O&M maintained a focus on health and safety across campus. Safe job procedures were developed for new disinfection equipment such as fogger machines, and guidelines were provided on how to effectively employ PPE during close contact tasks required by the trades. The enhanced cleaning procedures were developed to ensure that critical, high-touch surfaces were effectively sanitized routinely to reduce the transmission of the virus. The centralized mail services limited contacts to only essential personnel. Critical hand sanitizer supplies were distributed across campus to ensure that COVID-19 precautions could be followed. Throughout the pandemic, with over 340 personnel reporting for duty each day, O&M maintained a record of only a minor number of positive cases and no cases of workplace transmission.

Stephen Cumpsty has led the O&M operations effectively throughout the pandemic, including participation (and at times chairing) with the COVID-19 recovery committees and associated sub- committees, to ensure that the campus was able to operate and function effectively. O&M was essential to the successful implementation of the restart and re-occupancy of campus that continues into 2021/22.


Nominated by: Stephen Cumpsty

Nominator’s testimonial:

Bannatyne Operations and Maintenance under the direction of Tom Mirwaldt, with the support of his leadership team of Chris Green, Marco Aguirre (retired), and Ana De Sa Ferreira supported the operations of the Bannatyne Campus and Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS) effectively and compassionately throughout the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire Bannatyne team have sustained a flexible and responsive approach to ensure that the essential teaching at the campus could continue. They are an integral part of the RFHS, whose needs can be unique at times and the team rose to the occasion to support the campus in creative ways. The answer was never “no”, but rather “let’s work together and see what we can accomplish”.
Tom and his staff have worked diligently to ensure that the needs of the faculty were consistently achieved. The caretaking staff aligned to the areas of the greatest need and occupancy to ensure that Enhanced Cleaning Protocols were met. They quickly reviewed additional requirements with departments such as the Dentistry Clinic and Joe Doupe Recreation Centre to ensure that additional caretaking resources were rationalized and resourced to balance safety with efficiency. The trade’s staff clearly understood and articulated the important mission of the RFHS and ensured that systems were maintained and returned to operation quickly. When a critical electrical issue in Apotex risked occupancy of the building, they worked tirelessly to develop a solution to keep the space operational, while allowing necessary replacement of building systems to be accomplished.

The team have been leaders throughout the pandemic, often testing and developing strategies that were later employed at Fort Garry campus. They developed sanitation stations that were deployed across campus to provide necessary cleaning supplies in key areas. They effectively deployed over 100 hand sanitizer stations across campus and maintain them on a regular basis to ensure there is adequate product available to enforce COVID-19 precautions. The team’s dedication allowed the operations at Bannatyne Campus to continue throughout the pandemic with all buildings maintaining allowable occupancy. The team adjusted their procedures to allow critical facilities such as the Simulation lab and other academic support areas to return to operations much sooner than other areas of the University. The team maintained a ‘can-do” attitude and met any challenge or request with initiative and optimism to enable it to continue.

When called upon near the end of 2020 to support the first Manitoba Vaccination Clinic, the Bannatyne O&M team ensured that critical spaces were made available, changed the locks to ensure the security of the vaccine supply, and adjusted schedules to ensure that critical sanitation was performed. The team supported other ongoing research and academic activities at Bannatyne campus, ensuring that seating was identified to maintain the physical separation, and signage was clearly articulated across campus.

The Card Access System supported RFHS by meeting the changing needs of the faculty and community throughout the pandemic. The team provided selective levels of Card Access across varying timelines and adjusted as faculty guidelines evolved. These efforts, which had not been tried before, helped to maintain occupancy at the permitted levels while also allowing for controlled entry of clients to the services provided on Campus such as the vaccination clinic. The faculty was regularly provided data reports to ensure appropriate levels of access were being maintained and effectively monitored. Colin Wootton’s creative efforts helped to maintain access and security for all members of the community.

To ensure the safety and well-being of all faculty, staff, and students at Bannatyne campus, Bannatyne O&M ensured that critical air handling systems were maintained and operated effectively, completing filter changes and maintenance in a timely and behind the scenes manner. They ensured that there was minimal disruption to critical activities and returned systems to operation as soon as possible. They quickly supported the lockdown of the campus, and ensured that faculty, staff, and students had the necessary access to be able to enter the campus through the check points and move around effectively. Bannatyne O&M was essential to the successful implementation of the restart and re-occupancy of the Bannatyne campus that continues into 2021/22.



Nominated by: Sukhjinder Singh

Nominator’s testimonial:

The past year has been a very challenging time for the University of Manitoba. Even though the Caretaking Services of the (Physical Plant) Facilities - Operations and Maintenance Department has been providing services for many years, 2020 has challenged us to learn, adapt and deliver our services differently.

As the front-line workers to the University community our focus is to ensure a safe, clean and sanitized environment for the students, faculty, staff and residents.

Since the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year, the ArtLab and Tache buildings have been in operation with a limited capacity. The caretaking team of these buildings have been committed to providing a clean and safe environment from 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday. Our caretakers thoroughly disinfecting touch points every hour, clean and disinfect the washrooms every 2 hours and disinfect the classrooms between each class. The Art Lab and Tache Caretaking Team are: Mike Gushulak, Vira Kovalevych, Diane Manchulenko, Pam Starr, Marc LaFond, Natalie Lajeunesse, Sani Torrico and Heidi Hutchison.

The Active Living Centre (ALC) is currently operating 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 8pm on the weekend. The day shift caretaking team works hard to ensure we are providing a clean and safe environment to our students, staff and community members. At the ALC the caretakers disinfect the touch points every hour, clean and disinfect the washrooms every 2 hours and disinfect the gym area after each 1 1/2-hour session. The ALC team members are Yury Kupa, Maria Rodrigues and Alberto Sanchez.

Nominated by: Wayne Billing

Nominator’s testimonial:

I’m making this nomination so that there will be recognition for the people who provide Custodial Services at the University of Manitoba; for recognition of their Outstanding Service in the face of a dangerous, quickly changing situation fraught with danger. For persevering in their duties during “covid times” in an area where few people realize and appreciate the service provided when all is working well but where everybody immediately knows when this much needed service has gone wrong.

Dr. Peiqing Wang, Technician, Faculty of Science

Nominated by: Dr. Robert Stamps

Nominator's testimonial:

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Peiqing Wang's efforts have been truly exceptional and pivotal in enabling the Department, and Faculty of Science, to fulfill its teaching and research activities throughout COVID-19. Regarding Peiqing's contributions, one faculty member wrote: "His only apparent weakness is Kryptonite". As explained below, Peiqing’s support has been clearly in the 'super' category.

The examples below contain also special activities associated with COVID-19 that deserve recognition: In concert with enabling the rapid transition to operations under COVID-19 restrictions, limited campus access provided a unique opportunity to make extensive improvements to enable informal student teaching across the Faculty of Science (an initiative from the Dean). This work required full time, in-person presence, repeated on-the-spot emergency response, creative problem solving, and critical judgment.

Peiqing's efforts were Herculean and described under 'Critical Operations' and 'Research'.

1) Community:

  • Peiqing is responsible for the organization and maintenance of undergraduate equipment. These courses are needed for progression and graduation, and Peiqing arranged COVID-19 restriction compliant access for students from the very start so that they could continue their work. This involved a large personal commitment inside and outside normal working hours (including weekends) to ensure that students could progress with minimal disruption.
  • With oversight over all major laboratory equipment in the Department - including nine research labs - Peiqing took upon himself routine checks of experiments to ensure safe and continue operation, thereby reducing interruptions to research by students and faculty unable to be 100% in the labs. He dealt with many small emergencies using sound judgement and calm manner enabling students and faculty to continue their work successfully.

2) Critical Operations:

  • A telescope was relocated to the University's Glenlea observational facility, south of Winnipeg so that students could complete a required Observational Astronomy course under COVID. The telescope required parts that could not be outsourced or purchased. Quickly Peiqing designed and built ingenious new components. Several off-campus trips were necessary, in addition to his other activities-- another testament to Peiqing's dedication and commitment to students and faculty.
  • A great achievement was Peiqing's redesign of all experiments in a required lab to be single- person activities, spread over several lab spaces in available rooms. This enabled an entire cohort of students to progress into their third year on schedule and fully prepared despite COVID-19.
  • •    Preparation for the informal teaching initiative required research efforts to be relocated under tight time constraints, redundant equipment removed, and major equipment relocated for an entire level of the Allen building. The logistics alone were formidable. Problems solved by Peiqing include disassembly and transport of an MRI machine requiring special expertise and provisions for storage, relocation of a teaching and research laboratories and reassignment of study spaces. Nearly all transport of 12 rooms of equipment were done on his own!
  • •    Peiqing, on his own initiative, also assumed tasks needed to keep the departmental office running. This included liaising with Science Stores for shipping and delivery (within the Department, and to other departments in the Faculty), and the printing needs of remote staff and faculty.

3) Research:

  • Peiqing provided essential advice and physical relocation of research equipment in order to maintain continuity of research efforts and meet contractual deadlines. A particularly creative solution was his: a reorganization of supply lines for the gas liquification plant to enable a move of helium storage tanks. This will allow undergraduate student usage of a room that otherwise could be used only for storage.
  • Peiqing has provided continual support for research students needing access to machine shop facilities and expertise. During COVID-19, Peiqing provides training and support safely, in accordance with restrictions, often outside working hours at short notice whenever critical assistance is needed.

4) Safety and Well-Being:

  • Peiqing is responsible for implementation and monitoring of WHMIS compliance for the Allen building. In this regard, he devised an elegant solution enabling students to complete required radiation experiments by re-purposing a space and achieving EHSO certification. The experiments were performed with safe distancing, and students graduated successfully with their full experiential training.
  • Early in the crisis, Peiqing worked with WRHA for PPE donations, and Physical Plant and the Health Sciences Centre for the use of UV measurement equipment for sterilization applications. He provided expertise, instruction and facilitated calibration efforts for the successful application of the measurement apparatus.


Congratulations all the individuals and teams recognized by the 2021 Awards of Excellence!

Ancillary Services Team

Nominated by: Pam Trupish

Nominator’s testimonial:

COVID-19 has had extreme impacts on the University and on Ancillary Services as a whole. Many of the operations are deemed as ‘essential services’ and in many cases the staff have had to work on campus during times when very little was known about the transmission and the risks of this serious virus. There were also team members who had no work as their functions were to support a vibrant on-campus experience. Almost half of this unit’s workforce were laid off or had reduced hours at some point during the pandemic, but they continued to innovate and persevere. Those remaining responded with through full range of pandemic consequences from essential on campus workers, to those who could work at home, to those who work in a hybrid model. The Ancillary team adapted with grace and resilience.


The team’s strong community spirit helped to inspire action to support the evolving needs of the students, faculty, and staff.

  • The Bookstore quickly pivoted with creativity to expand their online offerings, created new payment and pickup/delivery options, initiated curbside pick-up processes, and provided custom courseware printing on behalf of UMSU. The bookstore supported the move to remote working and learning through distributing computer and office supplies as well as playing an integral role to support the “Student Technology Fund Initiative”. To date, this initiative has supplied 580 computers to students in-need.
  • Dining Services focused on maintaining a robust student resident dining experience for those who remained in on-campus residences. Dining Services also stayed open all summer to provide meals to students and essential service staff, while sponsoring special summer events, and dining specials.
  • Parking & Transportation Services offered parking spaces to those who usually travel to campus by transit or other means, recommended innovative ideas such as alternative parking fees, converted most services to online access with increased flexibility, and created an innovative “hold” fee for those working remotely. They also partnered with the CRSC Steering Committee to distribute masks for the University and a pick-up location at the Welcome Centre and the UMSU University Centre.
  • The Pharmacy sourced a variety of personal protective equipment and safety supplies as part of their pandemic preparedness plan and had them available to the community until the University was able to secure their own central supply. The Pharmacy and Postal Outlet also served as a pick-up depot for the Bookstore in Spring 2020 when other areas were closed to the public. In Fall 2020, with no additional resources, the Pharmacy hosted annual flu clinics for our community. They also partnered with Student Residences to supply isolation kits to incoming international students not staying on campus on behalf of the office of the VP (Research).
  • Student Residences implemented policies and procedures to align with public health directives, created isolation plans should they be required and ensure that students in residence were supported during these challenging times by creating virtual residence life experiences. Student Residences also shared pandemic related protocols with the affiliated college residences.
  • University Centre Services acted as a main point of contact for many occupants of the building, organized access to various areas, and updated MCO on operating hours and building protocols.

Critical Operations and Safety and Well Being

  • The Pharmacy and Postal Outlet remained open during regular hours as an essential service, all the while operating with only six staff members. This facilitated uninterrupted distribution of critical medications, the staff delivered prescriptions and other healthcare supplies, and were able to provide curb side pickup. The Pharmacy staff also assisted University Health Services by retrieving prescription orders and liaising with them on patient needs to ensure continuous access to services.
  • Student Residences and Dining Services also maintained continuous operations, housing and feeding an average of 300 students through the pandemic period. Changes to protocols including closing lounge spaces and community kitchens, necessitating a year-round meal plan and additional residence life support. A reusable take-out container program was launched in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability when dining became “to-go”. Over 5,800 isolation meals have been served thus far.
  • The Bookstore evolved into an omni-channel distribution centre, with online and in-person shopping and pickup and delivery services available. They offered print and digital course materials and student supplies throughout the pandemic in a safe and effective manner from the Fort Garry store.
  • All Ancillary areas quickly and efficiently modified operations to align with public health directives and University guidance and participated in the CRSC Steering Committee and its Operations Team.

Through the pandemic period the Ancillary Services has been an adaptable and supportive partner to the university community. They were continuously having to be adaptable and creative in finding solutions to meet the service needs of our students and essential service staff particularly in light of the roller-coaster ride with Public Health Order shifts.

Anny Chen, Lead Community Engaged Learning Coordinator, Student Engagement and Success

Nominated by: Nicki Ferland & Kae Normandeau

Nominator’s testimonial:

While Anny Chen regularly goes above and beyond in her duties as the University of Manitoba’s Community Engaged Learning (CEL) team lead, her COVID-19 response has been over and above. COVID-19 brought out the best in Anny. She led the CEL staff team through the confusing and uncertain early days of the pandemic and has been a source of support as COVID-19 became a normal part of our personal and professional lives over the past year. Anny’s actions demonstrate a careful and coordinated response to the many challenges that staff, students, and community experienced throughout the pandemic, including:

Responsive programming

  • Anny conceived of the COVID-19 Virtual Community Centre, a place where students and community could gather to confront the isolation and monotony of COVID-19. She mentored a staff to run the new CEL program. The mentoring and personalized professional development allowed the student coordinator to create a culturally safe space and confidently facilitate the program. Domestic and international University of Manitoba students joined the virtual program from around the world, including Winnipeg, Saudi Arabia, and India, to access community advocates and mental health resources as well as participate in hands on activities such as cooking, bullet journaling, embroidery, and more.  
  • Anny worked with lived experience staff and volunteers to adapt CEL’s popular Poverty Awareness and Community Action (PACA) workshop for online delivery. This quick response ensured that PACA’s educational goals continued to be met, and that the community members and volunteers involved with PACA remained engaged. Adapting the PACA workshop took several months and involved considerable problem solving, administrative oversight, and creative thinking. The PACA team was able to conceptualize an adaptation that created an engaging and thought-provoking learning experience for students and faculty within the University of Manitoba, while also providing a platform for community members with lived experience to share their knowledge and experiences. Anny took steps to ensure that all PACA members were provided with continual support to volunteers throughout the pandemic.
  • In addition to her own workload, Anny supported the entire CEL staff team in designing new programs and adapting established programs for virtual delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her thoughtful oversight and invaluable experience allowed us to continue offering virtual programming on our regular schedule (such as the Land and Water land-based education program), and to offer new programming, including the Mutual Aid Program (developed in response to COVID-19), and Community Projects.    

Student advocacy

  • Along with her Gaa wii ji’i diyaang colleagues, Anny took part in spearheading new initiatives, including a letter writing campaign to the president’s office as part of the Council’s response to the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous students. Gaa wii ji’i diyaang is comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff and students who advocate for Indigenous Achievement at the University of Manitoba. She also took on a regular facilitator role and was part of the creation of a special COVID-19 working group focused on advocacy for students from equity-seeking groups.

Community building

  • Anny’s commitment to community-building is also evident is her approach to CEL team building and to the close-knit PACA community. Anny instituted a series of weekly and biweekly team meetings, team building exercises, and professional development sessions within the Community Engaged Learning department. Despite working remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our student staff reported a greater sense of camaraderie than ever before. She also ensured that the PACA community had regular opportunities to interact and spend time with each other through meetings and online chat environments, ensuring the strong relationships that had been built were maintained. Anny understands and values the impact of community and a sense of belonging on student success and mental well-being.  

These are only some of the ways that Anny has responded to COVID-19. She is truly deserving of a 2021 Awards of Excellence and it is my pleasure to submit her name for consideration. ​

Arfa Khan, Biological Technician, Faculty of Science

Nominated by: Dr. Margaret Docker

Nominator’s Testimonial:

Arfa Khan has demonstrated extraordinary efforts over the past 13 months to support critical research in my lab in the Department of Biological Sciences. Arfa’s hard work, dedication, and compassion have been instrumental in ensuring that the research programs of at least seven graduate students, two postdoctoral fellows, and ten undergraduate students were not derailed by the pandemic. As illustrated by the examples below, she has represented the “heart and soul” of our research team, and she has tirelessly managed the day-to-day operations of the lab in a way that has prioritized everyone’s physical and mental well-being.

  • In April 2020, Arfa volunteered to finish extracting DNA from ~300 sea lamprey so that it could be sent off for whole genome sequencing at the Toronto Hospital for SickKids. These samples were central to two MSc, one PhD, and three postdoctoral fellow projects. If we had waited until labs started to open up again in late summer, there would have been a long queue (>8 months) for sample processing, and the progress of all six trainees would have been delayed by almost 1 year. Instead, the trainees received 3 TB of data by midsummer, and each has been able to work remotely on data analysis ever since.
  • Arfa has been instrumental in reconfiguring lab space and working out scheduling and training with four undergraduate and three MSc students to ensure that, when appropriate, they could work safely in the lab and field.
  • Arfa helped me design work-from-home projects (e.g., literature reviews, data and sample organization efforts) that undergraduate students could participate in, and she has worked hard to ensure that all the students felt connected and valued during this time. Several of these students had previous employment plans fall through due to COVID-19, so it was important that they were still able to gain valuable work experience and have paid employment.
  • Arfa has also helped three students in the labs of other professors when they ran into COVID-related difficulties (e.g., completing critical lab work for them if they were unable to work on campus themselves).
  • Arfa helped me design and deliver a special topics course (BIOL 4890 Using Environmental DNA to Monitor Aquatic Organisms) online in the Fall 2020 semester, when several upper-level students in Biological Sciences were having trouble finding meaningful courses to take.

All the above is even more remarkable when one considers that Arfa has done this after taking on the role of Research Coordinator for a Genome Canada Large-Scale Applied Research Program grant that I am a co-lead on. Our former Research Coordinator passed away tragically and unexpectedly from a brain aneurism at the end of July. Arfa has very generously taken on both Sara’s workload and the emotional job of helping the team deal with Sara’s loss on top of COVID. The Genome Canada team consists of 23 Principal Investigators from 13 universities across Canada, and Arfa efficiently and compassionately helps coordinate our research activities. Her greatest accomplishment has been to be a central point of contact for all the students across these universities. Many of them are struggling with the impact of COVID-19 on their projects, and Arfa has helped ensure that the students do not feel isolated.

With Arfa’s tireless and selfless efforts over the past 13 months, I feel that she is very deserving of an Award of Excellence Recognizing Outstanding COVID-19 Response. She has shown excellence in three of the four criteria: community (demonstrating incredible compassion in support of students and colleagues); research (providing assistance to ensure that student research programs would not be seriously derailed); and 4) safety and well-being (showing responsiveness to the physical and emotional well-being of the entire research team).

Betty McGregor, Administrative Assistant, Economics

Nominated by: Francis Dzikpe

Nominator’s Testimonial:

Betty McGregor works as the Administrative Assistant at the Department of Economics. Having known the nominee for the past three years and having observed firsthand her contribution towards the smooth transition to the online learning environment over the past one year, I strongly believe that Betty stands tall among her peers and deserves recognition for her contribution towards the overall operation of the department of economics over the period.

Betty takes strong interest in student’s welfare beyond expectations. She is the first point of contact for all graduate students (new and old), sessional instructors and faculty. She responds to emails, calls and request in time, and was helpful in linking new students with continuing students if the need arise. From registration to settling in the university, Betty was always at hand to help new faculty and students. Her exemplary organizational skills and interest in the welfare of students and faculty for example was instrumental in the smooth transition of both students and lecturers in the department to the online learning environment. She was a link between all instructors and students in sharing ideas on experiences with the various virtual online class platforms. She helps with solving problems encountered in the online class environment and shares emails containing the best practices and experiences of other instructors with the online class platforms for others to benefit from.

Betty was also a major motivation behind re-forming the University of Manitoba Economics Graduate Students Association (UM-EGSA) that has been dormant since 2017. Her motivation and help in providing information on past executives, activities of UM-EGSA resulted in re-forming the UM-EGSA at a first meeting of all graduate students in the department and election of leaders of the association. The meeting also provided a good atmosphere for the interaction of continuing students with new students most of whom are new to the University and to Winnipeg. New students, for example, indicated how the meeting helped them reduce the feeling of being alone and excluded prior to the meeting.

Aside her interest in students, Betty also played a large role in research and other activities at the department. She was instrumental in helping organize the departments weekly virtual seminar series where students and lecturers alike present their studies. She again was able to help provide virtual access to the computers at the department’s computer lap in the school where graduate students can access software’s remotely to do their research and was also instrumental in managing the use of the computers remotely so as to avoid conflict. Betty is always friendly and courteous in her interaction with students and faculty which helps tremendously in making students and faculty feel at ease when dealing with her or any situation. Her strong work ethic and patience make Betty one of the best that many of us have ever worked with in our short working life.

As a recognition for her exemplary behavior and interest in the welfare of students, the entire graduate student body of the economics department met and decided to nominate Betty for this prestigious award. It is our hope that her award will act as a motivation to others in the quest to create a unique and comfortable working and learning environment for everyone at the University of Manitoba especially at the department of economics. 

Carlos Ericastilla, Facilities Coordinator, Libraries

Nominated by: John Burgess

Nominator’s testimonial:

I had the privilege of working with Carlos Ericastilla closely last summer. I have known and dealt with Carlos for several years and have always found him to be a hardworking, kind man with an awesome sense of humor. He has always been respectful to everybody he encounters. Carlos makes himself available no matter what the situation is or what time of the day he is needed. Carlos cares about people to the extent that he knew who was remaining on campus and would make it a point every morning to email us all to let us know he was here. He would also contact us just to see how we were doing and how we were feeling. He was concerned for our health.  

Carlos cares about people! I find that no matter what the situation, I can completely rely on Carlos to either come up with a solution to the problem or he knows someone who can.

At the beginning of the Covid Pandemic, Carlos helped and/or organized several initiatives surrounding the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses. For instance, when the end of the exam period in April of 2020 came upon us one of the main concerns was what can we do to help the students who needed to return the items they had borrowed from the libraries. Carlos was a key staff member in the organization and implementation of selecting where and how the students could return their material and setting up the return bin/drop off box.

He is truly a “jack-of-all-trades” as he has helped fix a lot of broken items in the libraries. Even to the extent of designing hinges to reattach the plastic covers covering the wiring on our public computer tables. Additionally, Carlos is always ready to show someone how to do something on their own. I have had the privilege of being able to learn from him how to fix a number of items around the library which also comes in handy for home items as well.

I remember during one of our Teams video chats, Carlos would take his tablet around the Dafoe Library to show everybody what was happening and how things were becoming “COVID Friendly”. This was a tremendous help to visualize and see how we were progressing. Throughout this pandemic, Carlos always makes sure we have enough personal protective equipment, such as cleaners, masks, and gloves in stock and would quickly replenish any supplies we would be running out of or were out of. When the staff and the libraries needed to be protected from the virus, Carlos went out of his way to organize and distribute the proper personal protective equipment for all onsite staff as quickly as possible. Even those needing to return to campus for short periods did not go unnoticed by him, and provisions were made to ensure everybody was “sanitized”.

There were a few times last summer when Physical Plant would not be able to go to the different libraries to either deliver or remove the blue bins of library material. On these occasions, Carlos would call me, and we would go to all the Libraries on the Fort Garry campus, using his own vehicle, and pick up the blue bins ourselves. I truly believe Carlos is the most deserving of this award.  


Chemistry Lab Stewards

Nominated by: Dr. Joe O’Neil

Nominator’s testimonial:  

Critical Operations

Laboratory experience is arguably the distinguishing feature of an education in science. The importance and critical nature of this part of the learning experience for our students cannot be overstated, as it allows students to put theory into practice, master essential skills for future employment, and engage in hands-on discovery. The pandemic made this exceptionally difficult, and yet, with the crucial support of our lab stewards, the Department of Chemistry trained approximately 3000 undergraduate students in our laboratories in the Parker Building in the Fall term of 2020. In the Winter term of 2021, we trained another 1 900 students in our building. This was an enormously challenging task during the pandemic and would not have been remotely possible without the dedication, hard work, attention to detail, perseverance, and adaptability of our team of Laboratory Stewards. As is always the case, our Laboratory Stewards are the first people in our Teaching Labs in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. During the pandemic, morning and afternoon lab preparation and lab take-down were far more laborious and complex owing to the requirements for high-touch surface disinfection, social distancing, and the requirement to wear a mask for nearly the entire day. Add to this a massively increased workload, owing to the requirement to minimize student movement throughout the laboratories. This required the preparation of, in some cases up to one hundred times more individually portioned chemical reagents, placed at each student’s workspace along with assay equipment and glassware.

To make matters even more challenging, owing to construction renovation delays, the department lost the use of 1/3 of our 1st-year laboratories. Combined with the requirement to reduce the density of students in the laboratories owing to the pandemic, this meant that 1st-year laboratories were running all day, every day over 3 different floors of our building. This made stocking the laboratories from the main floor preparation room very challenging, requiring careful planning and teamwork. Our Stewards more than rose to this challenge.

Safety and Well-Being

But their diligence and planning went even further. On several occasions I received an email from a Lab Steward reporting that they were unwell and would not be able to work the next day as required by the pandemic directives. Knowing how challenging keeping things running would be for the Lab Stewards left to work shorthanded, I immediately went and spoke with the other two Lab Stewards who told me not to worry, they had already put a plan in place to share the work of the missing Steward. This incredible adaptability and teamwork was vital to the smooth running of our teaching labs, and contributed to the high-value education our students received during this difficult time.


The Laboratory Stewards clearly had a much higher workload and accompanying stress level during the pandemic. Notwithstanding, our Lab Stewards were a model of calm efficiency for the rest of our teaching staff - the Instructors turned to the Stewards when they were overwhelmed! For example, as part of course requirements, students were required to complete a minimum number of in-person laboratories. If a student missed a lab - more common this past year owing to an abundance of caution and isolation requirements - they were required to re-schedule that session for the end of the term. Normally, this would have been done by the course Instructor but in several instances the Stewards stepped up and helped the Instructors with the rescheduling. In addition, by rigorously following all pandemic protocols they showed students and Graduate Student Teaching Assistants how to work safely in a Chemistry laboratory during a pandemic. They daily exemplified a dedication to the educational goals of our institution that is worthy of recognition and I am deeply grateful to them. Recognizing their incredible efforts with an Award of Excellence is the least we could do to say thank you.

Clinical Learning and Simulation Program Team

Nominated by: Rhonda Usunier & Marie Edwards

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Clinical Learning and Simulation Program (CLSP), part of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS), provides services that are vital for hands-on clinical learning for students in RFHS. The CLSP team also provides services for staff from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) for continuing education, hands-on skills learning, and learning through simulation. The CLSP team has demonstrated excellence throughout the pandemic to maintain connections and critical operations, ensure students were not delayed in their learning experiences, and support colleagues in the WRHA, all while creating an environment that ensured safety for all involved.  

Community and Connection  

Operating out of space in the Brodie Centre and the Basic Medical Sciences Building, the CLSP team held its last on-site session on March 18, 2020, before closing as instructed due to the pandemic. Prior to closing and during lockdown, the CLSP team loaned manikins and supplies/equipment to the Critical Care Department at the Health Sciences Centre, the Emergency Department at St. Boniface Hospital, and the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. The manikins were imperative for staff from critical care and emergency areas to learn the logistics of how to care for patients with COVID-19. Due to restrictions, the CLSP team was not permitted entry into the hospital for in-situ simulations. The team instead ensured staff knew how to operate the manikins and assembled supplies necessary for their simulations. The technicians were on call, meaning they could be contacted if troubleshooting with the manikins or equipment was needed. This support of colleagues and learners providing patient care through the pandemic is one of the ways the team demonstrated commitment to on-going learning, quality patient care, and connection to the community.  

Critical Operations  

The CLSP was one of the first areas to open after the initial shutdown from COVID-19, resuming services on June 11, 2020. The CLSP is essential for RFHS student learning. Aspects of the curriculum of various health profession programs rely heavily on simulation to teach students about patient care, including Undergraduate and Post-Graduate Medical Education and the Physical Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Pharmacy, and Physician Assistant programs. Through hard work, innovation, and creativity, the entire team has found ways to ensure operations and student learning continue in the face of this pandemic. Delays in learning could mean delays in graduation. Challenges were present in relation to everything from scheduling to procuring supplies. Team members have adapted continually to ever-changing rules and public health guidelines. Bookings, in some cases set a year in advance, needed to be revised to ensure appropriate space was available, particularly for larger groups. Given the room capacity restrictions (i.e., 50% in the CLSP), additional rooms were booked in the Basic Medical Sciences Building.  

This has meant increased footwork and hauling of equipment and supplies. The supplies coordinator had to come up with ways to order supplies that are now difficult to procure. This area could not have been opened and continue to run without this excellent, dedicated team.  

Safety and Well-Being  

Safety for staff and learners is a major focus of the work of the CLSP team. In order to re-open, it was vital for all staff to change their ways of thinking and working. It was about how to be safe and still accommodate simulation activity and learning. The CLSP simulation team have worked tirelessly to achieve this. The technicians set up the rooms for the sessions and always ensure that the placement is optimal for physical distancing. They have found innovative ways to accomplish this, such as the use of Zoom between rooms. This has enabled larger groups to continue to hold their sessions while following best practice guidelines (including personal protective equipment). The technicians do extra cleaning and disinfecting between groups and during a session. In normal times, one clean up at the end of the session would suffice.  


In summary, the dedicated staff of the CLSP have demonstrated excellence in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, ensuring maintenance of community connections and uninterrupted student learning opportunities. Safety of all involved has been a primary focus. Their work has an impact on the learning of students and health care providers and on patient safety, and the team is most deserving of this award. 

Colin Wootton, Bannatyne Card Access Coordinator, Operations and Maintenance

Nominated by: Tom Mirwaldt

Nominator’s testimonial:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bannatyne Campus of the University of Manitoba has required modifications to campus access and egress to suit the varying faculty activity levels and needs of our campus community.

The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences reached out to Operations & Maintenance to provide a method of securing the campus from unauthorized access while providing a user-friendly approach to gaining access for those required to continue working on site.  

Colin Wootton is the Card Access Coordinator for Bannatyne O&M and has many years of experience in this position. Colin responded quickly to each request for changes in access, often requiring him to coordinate the installation of new card readers and door hardware. Colin worked tirelessly to re-program access to ensure only those allowed on site could gain access. The requests for changes were often on short notice and Colin worked whatever hours were required to accomplish the task.  

Colin also worked in a very dedicated and creative manner to provide a secure location for vaccination storage related to the initial COVID 19 vaccine clinic held on campus and then followed these efforts by making necessary changes to Campus access and egress so members of the public could receive their vaccinations.  

In addition to the above, Colin has also created protocols and sanitizing measures so that staff and students can still receive in-person service related to Card Access. These efforts include a sanitizer bath for the cards, service provision while maintaining social distancing and remote service provision where possible.  

Colin Wootton has worked hard throughout the pandemic to enhance safe access to campus, upgrade site security and provide safe and healthy customer service, his efforts have been appreciated by our staff and our clients.

Colin is strongly recommended for an Award of Excellence as one of the top performers in Operations and Maintenance. 

COVID-19 Recovery Steering Committee (CRSC)

Nominated by: Dr. Todd Mondor

Nominator’s testimonial:

The COVID-19 Recovery Steering Committee (CRSC) was formed to lead the UM response to the pandemic. The CRSC Team accepted that challenge without hesitation and has helped support UM’s continued operation in a safe and measured way. The Team represents a mix of staff, administrators, faculty, instructors, librarians, and students. It would be remiss to identify staff only as everyone has truly worked together as a team and all were fundamental to the success and management of a truly exceptional and unprecedented threat to the very foundations of UM.

Specifically, the CRSC Team was critical in creating structures, processes, and recommendations that supported a basic commitment to maintaining health and safety while also supporting a continuation of the academic and research mission of the university.

Meeting these goals was no small task and everyone involved demonstrated their care and compassion for UM and its community in every conversation and decision, and worked selflessly to support the UM community despite the demands of their day-to-day duties. As Chair of the CRSC I am tremendously proud of the work of the team and it would give me great pleasure to see that these individuals recognized by the University.

The CRSC represents a true Team – coming together regardless of traditional employment boundaries to support the UM in an unprecedented and ongoing emergency.

On review of the criteria for this award, it is clear that the Team contributed in all areas identified – community, critical operations, research and safety and well-being.

Specific examples:
- The team members were able to ignite a community of engagement and empowerment and create spaces where ideas were welcomed, supported and considered. A sample of ideas include:

  • moving to mandatory masking (and 3 ply masking) before it was mandated by the province (safety and well-being and research);
  • identifying a system to understand our COVID capacities in our learning spaces (critical operations);
  • creating an online system to track our building occupancy to ensure that shared buildings were not operating at over capacity or unsafely (critical operations);
  • developing a more robust and user-friendly website and communication strategy (community and critical operations); 
  • safely supporting the continuation of research activities (research);
  • providing safe study spaces for students when their situations did not allow for quality remote learning (critical operations, health and well-being);
  • signing agreements to provide researchers and students digital library materials (research and critical operations); 
  • recommending a safe return for some faculty and staff to return to offices, and establishing a system for controlling activity on campus (community, critical operations, research and health and well-being); and
  • allowing the deans and administrative unit heads the flexibility to make choices and defining which activities needed more controlled measures (community).

The pandemic, although a truly extraordinary disruption, has been instrumental in bringing together our campus community in ways not seen before.  Students, staff and faculty across the university responded with compassion and pride to support the UM mission “To create, preserve, communicate and apply knowledge, contributing to the cultural, social and economic well-being of the people of Manitoba, Canada and the world”.  The members of the Steering committee provide a particular impressive example of this.   

It has been a privilege for me to work with all those who came together to create the CRSC team.  I am humbled by their dedication and compassion, and by the profoundly important role they have played in supporting UM through the pandemic.  I strongly support their recognition through this program for their outstanding efforts.  


Department of Community Health Science Support Staff

Nominated by: Sharon Bruce

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The Support Staff Team for the Department of Community Health Sciences (CHS) is highly deserving of an award of excellence for their commitment in supporting students, faculty, and staff within the department, and to maintain critical operations both in the department and in the wider community during COVID-19.  

CHS is a large department with 48 full time faculty, 124 part time faculty, and 14 core support staff. The pandemic necessitated a fast transition to working remotely. The CHS IT Team and Managing Director transitioned all CHS faculty and staff, and Ongomiizwin and Institute for Global Public Health staff, to remote working, including distributing specialized equipment, addressing hardware/software needs, and providing support with in-home set up and ongoing operation and maintenance. This responsive IT support was critical to maintaining the department’s essential teaching, research, and administrative operations in a safe and secure way.  

CHS offers multiple educational programs at graduate and undergraduate levels for 115 graduate students, 1200 undergraduate students (FMLY course enrolment), 400 undergraduate medical students, and 8 postgraduate medical residents. Rapidly adapting to online learning was an enormous undertaking. CHS Educational Support Staff coordinated the transition of thesis and dissertation proposal defenses to the online environment; supported faculty in the development, revision, and refinement of online teaching and assessment; and assisted in creating new modes of online student supports. Importantly, CHS faculty with expertise in public and population health were pulled away from their teaching responsibilities to address urgent pandemic needs. In addition to supporting the transition to online teaching, CHS Support Staff demonstrated incredible flexibility and innovation to fill emergent teaching gaps that arose in light of the pandemic and prioritized the continuity of excellent educational programming.  

CHS is a research-intensive department, and administration of research funds is coordinated and overseen by the CHS Finance Team. The Finance Team also manages departmental payroll and reconciles departmental expenses. CHS Support Staff have efficiently transitioned to supporting essential tasks for research to continue, such as online processes for the review and submission of ethics approval, funding agreements, and tracking and managing requests to return to work “on site”. Many CHS faculty are engaged in public and population health initiatives; the critical research that has been sustained by CHS faculty throughout the pandemic would not have been possible without the dedication of the CHS Support Team.  

Other essential and complex administrative operations have continued throughout the pandemic due to the commitment of the CHS Support Team. Support Team members have coordinated virtual meetings on Zoom, such as Department Council with up to 250 invitees, weekly COVID update meetings at the start of the pandemic, and organized and facilitated an online Departmental Retreat. In the past year, Support Staff worked with department leadership to facilitate five new recruitments for the department, involving the facilitation of search committees, virtual presentations, and interviews online. Similarly, Support Staff members have successfully transitioned tenure and promotion applications to efficient online processes.  

Finally, a hallmark of CHS is a longitudinal and active commitment to community. CHS Support Staff have demonstrated dedication to maintaining and strengthening collaborative relationships with community partners, even in the face of a pandemic. Support Staff at the WISH Clinic developed innovative approaches to continue to support the Point Douglas community, such as coordination of food deliveries to the homes of WISH clients when in-person clinic operations were suspended. Support Staff involved in the UGME Service-Learning program have followed up with community partners to identify emerging community needs, and to identify new or modified Service Learning opportunities such as students volunteering at WRHA COVID-19 testing sites, and participating in vaccine administration training.  

The CHS Support Staff Team has demonstrated innovation, commitment, and a seemingly limitless capacity to adapt and creatively address any challenges that arise. Through their varied roles, their commitment to the success and support of students, faculty, and staff has been particularly evident throughout this last year. They have demonstrated principles of social accountability and community-building both within the department and in relationship with the broader community. Across the board they have leaned in and excelled in the challenging and unique circumstances of COVID-19. In closing, this Support Staff Team really is the “community” in the Department of Community Health Sciences. 

Darlene McEvoy, Services Coordinator, Physical Plant North Zone

Nominated by: Terry Wolowiec

Nominator’s testimonial:

The pandemic was a stressful time for most people at the University, but in particular for the Custodian Staff. They were hit by lay-offs and re-organizations as the weeks went on. They were also the people who were tasked with keeping the University clean and inhabitable through the pandemic. In the Faculty of Science, we were lucky that we had a hard-working staff of cleaners, led by Darlene McEvoy that were able to look after our buildings through this tough time. Buildings were open, then closed. People were coming in at different times. Someone had to clean labs that may have had someone who tested positive had occupied.  

With all this going on, Darlene was able to manage to get people where they needed to go, and help whenever someone from our buildings needed something cleaned or replaced. She was able to do it with such a pleasant demeanor that sometimes we felt bad to ask her. One example of Darlene’s care and commitment was when she was notified that the Cold Room in Parker may have been inhabited by a student who had tested positive for COVID-19. She and her staff needed to clean common areas. However, there were several pieces of Scientific Equipment in the room. Darlene wasn’t sure if her people could clean them or should clean them. She politely asked me to come take a look at that lab. She didn’t want to tell me why they were cleaning the room (confidentiality), although she asked me not to touch anything. I explained what the pieces of equipment were used for, which parts were likely to be in contact by the students, and whether they could be cleaned. Darlene thanked me, and ushered me out, again reminding me not to touch anything. Only someone special would take that degree of care to perform their job with understanding and compassion.  

Earlier in the pandemic, before the shutdown, my team was notified that a contractor who may have been in contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive had been working in our storeroom area. When I announced this to my team, there was the usual degree of consternation. One of them went to Darlene and asked what we could do. Darlene explained what they had been instructed to do in the event of a contact. She was able to lend our people buckets and some cleaner so that they could clean the areas that they thought had been contaminated. She kept checking on us, with concern for my people who were so worried about what was happening. Again, Darlene was good as gold. 

Debbie Young, Managing Director, Department of Pediatrics

Nominated by: Pediatric Administrative Team; Danielle Lang, Angie Horrock, Sheryl Dayrit, Krista Wiebe, and Darcy Childs

Nominators’ testimonial:

Debbie started in the Department of Pediatrics in January 2020, two months before COVID-19 became a reality. Her accomplishments in guiding the Department through these tumultuous times are only further highlighted as she herself was just learning her position. She has made a tremendous impact on the Department through her compassion, strategic thinking, and strong work ethic.  

From the very beginning, Debbie advocated for her team. She sent the team home to safety and in turn took on running the day-to-day office duties herself ensuring faxes, mail, and deliveries were handled in a timely fashion.  

She has supported the physician population remarkably during this time ensuring they received regular communication regarding changing COVID-19 policies, billing changes, remote access requests, and facilitating University of Manitoba access cards. She even personally collected the access cards from the physicians and brought them to Brodie Centre for approval.  

Debbie embraced technology and began daily team meetings with the Pediatric Administration team and the Education Team. She made these virtual meetings engaging – asking how we were doing, sharing trivia to brighten our days, and ensuring we were up to date with constant changes within the University and Children’s Hospital. In the early days when job security was unsure, she kept us apprised of any new information that was coming forward. This in turn helped curtail the growing anxiety in her team. With these daily check-ins, she kept the lines of communications open and reiterated that if anyone was feeling overwhelmed to reach out to her.  

From a Finance perspective, Debbie stepped in to ensure year-end processes were completed accurately and on time while the finance team was working off-site. She brought in a wealth of knowledge from previous roles that allowed her to work with the finance team in making improvements and focusing on compliance to university and department policy - always empowering staff by seeking their input and expertise in these changes. She was able to accurately forecast changes in department revenue due to decreased billings during the pandemic which helped in planning activities that would keep the department within budget.  

The government asked the University to cut costs. Debbie utilized her strategic thinking. When the Education team had less work due to the shutdown of student learning, she reallocated a staff member with another Department thus creating a collaboration while recouping some salary costs. She also lent her time to her previous position in Personal Care and was able to recoup some of her salary that way.  

Debbie has shown extreme compassion to all her team members during the pandemic but in particular, during the Fall of 2020 one of her team members experienced a personal loss and took a medical leave. Debbie ensured that she was able to take as much uninterrupted time as needed by stepping in to complete the financial tasks. She demonstrated compassion and commitment to the Department during this time. She checked in on this person regularly to see how they were doing, and even after returning she communicated regularly with this person and allowed them the flexibility to gradually return despite the challenges of being short-staffed in other areas. We feel like our Department is more like a family than merely a workplace and this has been cultivated by Debbie’s leadership style.  

Debbie has been an integral member of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health COVID-19 Incident Command team since it was created in March 2020. This team has been awarded the Pediatric Chairs of Canada 2020 COVID Leadership award–recognizing their outstanding leadership during the COVID-19 crisis.  

In Debbie’s short time as Managing Director of the Department of Pediatrics, she has made a lasting impact on the people she works with, manages, and supports. Debbie illustrates the best qualities of a Managing Director, whether in a pandemic or not. As such, we cannot think of a more worthy recipient of this award. 

Desautels Faculty of Music and School of Art Support Staff and Technicians

Nominated by: Dr. Edward Jurkowski

Nominator’s Testimonial 

The change to remote delivery of classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic has presented enormous challenges for both Art and Music—two academic units whose experiential studio courses play a fundamental role to their programs. Despite all these challenges and stress associated with the pandemic, our students have been positive about their educational experience this year. This acknowledgement is the result of the outstanding and dedicated academic staff who worked tirelessly to deliver their respective courses. That said, our support staff played a significant role to ensure the infrastructure that supports our academic units operated beyond expectations throughout the academic year—no mean statement, given the complexities of two programs.  

For instance, in the School of Art (SOA), a significant portion of the program relies on in-person studio-based instruction. Many of these studio courses were taught remotely, necessitating substantial support from the studio technicians to ensure the faculty could deliver these courses with course content as similar as possible to an in-person experience. This necessitated that our support staff and technicians constantly communicated with both faculty and students alike to ensure their needs were consistently being addressed. However, some courses by their nature of medium cannot be taught remotely—ceramics, printmaking, and darkroom photography are three examples—introducing significant challenges in ensuring appropriate safety measures and social-distancing protocols for these in-person studio classes, given the health expectations outlined by the provincial government.  

Turning to the Desautels Faculty of Music (DFOM), any remote delivery of a class or performance—whether a private lesson, a small chamber group, or a large ensemble—faced herculean challenges from the reality of inherent time latency and quality issues with the audio due to the limitations of such software learning environments as UMLearn or Zoom. Much work was done by our support staff to achieve appropriate solutions to address such this fundamental requirement. A further complication is that the size of our performance ensembles had to be reduced because of social distancing restrictions. This meant that a rehearsal might have both in-person and remote students at the same time. Our staff and technicians took this in stride and created very effective solutions. One noteworthy illustration of the success from this support is all the summative performances by our large ensembles. Here, outstanding live music making was made in a safe and socially distant manner. For instance, our annual opera used a limited cast and a greatly reduced orchestra to perform an eighteenth-century opera (everyone was masked and performed at an appropriate distance from each other). Thanks to the commitment and talent of our recording technician and support staff, all aspects of the performance were addressed for the faculty and students and the opera was recorded in both audio and video formats and mounted on our DFOM YouTube channel. It is a sterling display about how exceptional art can be created during adverse situations.  

Simply put, a true team effort by the support staff and technicians created a stellar and supportive learning environment for our students, whether the experience was remote or if they were on campus for these classes. Without question they played a critical role with faculty to minimize the difficulties as much as possible of the many challenging expectations of program delivery. Yet if the challenges to support the faculty and students during a pandemic were not enough, it is absolutely remarkable that the above activities were done in a year when the DFOM and SOA began a process to integrate support staff operations between the two academic units. They have done an extraordinary job under such a stressful situation to support our students, faculty, and themselves, and have done so with commitment, grace, and empathy throughout the year.  

Doug Hamilton, Financial Aid and Awards Officer, Financial Aid & Awards

Nominated by: Tammy Boutet

Nominator’s Testimonial: 

Doug Hamilton has been an integral part of our team throughout this pandemic. He has gone above and beyond to assist staff with the transition to work remotely. He created instructions for the whole team on how to connect to both our phone system and our computers. He has always been there to help trouble shoot with a friendly and non-judgmental attitude. His support has continued as the University implemented new processes while working remotely and educated our staff on the ins and outs.  

For the frontline team, his creativity led him to create digital signatures for each staff member so that forms for students could be completed in an efficient manner. He showed great initiative in creating fillable forms for us to use for all our multiple Provincial and Federal government forms. This has allowed us to save the completed forms electronically, something we will continue to do once back in the office. This has not only kept us organized, saved costly supplies but most importantly, kept our students information confidential and secure.  

Doug has been a great listening ear for the challenges of working remotely and provided suggestions on how he might be able to help. He has been compassionate and generally cares about the well-being of his colleagues.  

I can honestly say that without him we would have not been able to provide our services to students as quickly or with such ease. 

Emily Turner-Brannen, Research Technician, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences

Nominated by: Tammy Boutet & Dr. Adrian West

Nominator’s Testimonial: 

The closure of the Bannatyne campus for 12 weeks in March, 2020 created a need for an essential team to respond to critical aspects of operations within the research labs. Emily quickly volunteered to take on this leadership role for the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) site on John Buhler Research Centre (JBRC) 5th and 6th floors. Emily attended site daily to ensure equipment along with chemical and biological safety was maintained. Emily was responsible for ensuring the safe storage of priceless tissue and cell samples for Child Health and coordinating delivery of liquid nitrogen for more than 10 labs to ensure they did not lose their irreplaceable research samples. Once we began mobilizing to return to on-site activities, Emily played a significant role in contributing to the COVID-19 mitigation procedures developed for the return to work on our site. Emily has been consistently involved in updating and improving our safety standards to ensure all essential research staff on our site have up-to-date information for a safe work environment as working remotely is not possible for much of the research staff. In addition to Emily’s role within Dr. West’s research lab and her institutional support role, Emily has taken on a lead position to support and increase COVID-19 testing capacity in Manitoba. In the fall of 2020, Diagnostic Services Manitoba (DSM) put out a call to the research community for additional help for COVID-19 testing to bolster the shrinking capacity needs in the province as COVID-19 infections continued to rise. Since November 2020, our site has become a satellite testing facility for COVID-19, for patients in the hospital setting for DSM. Emily has stepped up to take on a coordination role for this support. This role has required Emily to help develop protocols for testing as well as running extracted samples to test for in patient exposure to COVID-19. We continue to support this work today and project our partnership with DSM will last well into the fall.  

Emily is an integral component of the child health research community. Without Emily’s commitment to the community, contribution to health and safety and willingness to work with all levels of experience within our site, we would not have had the ability to smoothly and safely continue research within our site affecting 31 on site investigators and easily 100’s of projects. Emily is an outstanding candidate for an Award of Excellence at any time but particularly during our response to this pandemic where she has gone above and beyond all expectations. 

English Language Centre (ELC) Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Alicia Franco-Espinosa

Nominator’s testimonial:

The English Language Centre’s support staff graciously and positively supported the ELC and its students with the rapid transition to remote learning in March 2020. They are flexible in approaching situations, and finding appropriate methods to support students, staff, instructors, and hosts.  

This team has demonstrated resiliency, flexibility and adaptability in the areas of community, critical operations and safety and well-being.  


  • Despite the uncertainty and constraints presented by the pandemic, the ELC support staff team remained resilient, calm and focused. They worked in the office until the shutdown with a positive attitude supporting staff, instructors and students to ensure a smooth transition to working remotely.
  • The team has maintained a sense of community by collaborating with all ELC staff and other units such as Admissions, Student Recruitment, and Extended Education (EE). For example, they have gone above and beyond to connect with potential students and follow-up on students' applications. They don't hesitate to reach out to different units to find ways to optimize processes and provide guidance and quick responses to students.  
  • The team has also supported the ELC Director and Student Recruitment staff by participating in virtual fairs and webinars. They have expanded the way they communicate with potential students by using various virtual platforms.  
  • The team collaborated with EE to develop ways to better prepare students for their transition from the ELC’s Intensive Academic English Program (IAEP) to EE Intensive Programs, which helped alleviate students’ stress. This collaboration also helped build and strengthen relationships between units.  
  • The team actively participated in information sessions for students to help build community and connections. They continue to be involved in remote presentations and workshops to welcome and support new students.  
  • The team accepted additional tasks and responsibilities to support staff and students. For example, they have helped students develop video testimonials promoting the benefits of our remote delivery programming.  

Critical Operations  

  • The ELC support staff team shifted to remote services with no disruption to ELC services. Prior to Covid, students were unable to pay for some tuition and program fees online. During the transition to working remotely, the team worked with Financial Services to figure out a plan, and within a few hours, a new online payment system and process was developed.  
  • The team improved processes to help students with the new challenges faced in the remote environment. They worked together to determine what information students needed. They established new deadlines and communications to ensure clarity and quick responses, so that students started the term successfully.  
  • To continue with the admission process, a team member dropped off documents to colleagues' homes to facilitate document return to students and ensure that the IAEP Level 5 students' admission to university process would run smoothly.  
  • The team has encouraged students to take advantage of the academic English courses the ELC offers. In order to meet minimum enrolment thresholds and offer additional classes to continue supporting UM students, the team actively reached out to students and switched classes/transferred registrations when needed.  
  • The ELC transitioned to Drupal at the very beginning of the UM shutdown. The team was involved in writing and reviewing new content for the website, training on Drupal and creating new webpages. The result is a webpage that is more accessible to current and future students.  

Safety and Well-being  

  • Homestay-ensure safety of students, hosts

The COVID-19 pandemic presented numerous challenges to the Homestay Program. The most difficult being the adjustment for hosts and students to the public health orders and the hosts' own house rules regarding the students' behaviour during the lockdown, and their reluctance to go grocery shopping. Staff worked with hosts and students to find solutions such as online shopping and promoted communication and cooperation.  

In the end, all students either accepted the Public Health Orders and their host's house rules, returned home to their home country or moved to a private accommodation safely.  

In summary, the ELC support staff team brought out their very best during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their resilience, adaptability, responsiveness, initiative and care for student success helped students, staff and instructors’ transition to remote learning. They ensured the safety and well-being of students and hosts, and assisted in maintaining critical operations while working remotely.

Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management Team

Nominated by: Karen Meelker

Nominator’s testimonial:


In March 2020, the Risk Management team implemented the University’s Emergency Response Plan and coordinated all meetings of the Incident Command System Team to make decisions and coordinate efforts to respond to the pandemic.  

The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Risk Management Team have worked on campus from the onset of the pandemic. This was necessary to ensure the continuous operation of on-site systems and equipment. All staff were involved in risk mitigation by conducting multiple checks, daily, on all labs that house freezers at both the Bannatyne and Fort Garry Campus. This action ensured vital research was not compromised or lost. All staff further assisted in the prevention of loss to UM by checking for Fire Safety hazards, flooding issues and reporting suspicious activity to Security Services while conducting their lab /building checks. Additionally, some N95 mask fittings were conducted by EHS. This all took place while the majority of University staff had been directed to work from home. Initially EHS/Risk Management staff remained on campus full time, in later months this transitioned to a cohorting approach, as some research resumed on campus, eliminating the need for daily lab inspections.  

It has been extremely challenging for this team to successfully manage a hybrid work environment. That said, they have demonstrated professionalism, grace, and even at times, a sense of humour. The team worked to maintain a level of customer service and community that ensured continuity, and a safe work, learning, and research environment for the University.  

Critical Operations  

The day-to-day work of EHS and Risk Management continued, uninterrupted over the past year and critical services were provided.  

  • Provided support for continual operation of critical UMSU U-Centre businesses during fire restoration (Pharmacy).
  • Adapted to rapidly changing requirements for insurance policies (COVID-19 exclusions).
  • Responding to critical Workplace Health and Safety incidents:  
  • U-Centre Fire/Restoration, Serious Workplace Injuries, Continuous operation of Hazardous waste removal program, Air Quality Testing, and the Bio Safety Program.  
  • Provided virtual training for various programs (Fire Warden, Transportation of Dangerous Goods, Safety for Supervisors, Radiation Safety Training).  
  • Provided ergonomic workspace assessments and hearing testing for staff that require it.  
  • Provided consulting on insurance matters for the University during an unprecedented time and renewed all insurance policies, some of which contained new information related to COVID-19, creating possible insurance coverage challenges. The team worked with legal counsel to overcome these challenges and ensure critical insurance coverage was maintained.  


  • The EHS & Risk Management team initially helped to facilitate the shut-down of research activities. During the shutdown EHS/ORM staff attended to and monitored labs and freezers to ensure research data was not comprised.  
  • EHS played an important role in ensuring critical research continued during the closure and aiding in the restart of research activities and facilities through extraordinary efforts and attention to the unique demands of the workplace imposed by the pandemic.  
  • Safety program delivery was moved to online formats to safeguard the continuity of grant funding release to support research and staff appointments during the shutdown.  
  • Due to previous investment in web-based platform program delivery in the year leading up to the pandemic facilitated EHS was able to effectively transition to assisting all safety program clients working remotely.  
  • When labs reopened EHS staff were there to support safety, incident response, and environmental management for lab-based research.  
  • Established COVID-19 Research Biosafety Subcommittee to accelerate approval for research related to COVID-19 at UofM.  
  • Provided consultation on insurance matters related to COVID-19 and other clinical research.  

Safety and Well-Being  

  • During the initial shut down EHS and ORM personnel continued to work on site full- time. All staff participated in daily lab and facility inspections, institution wide. This was necessary to observe and prevent incidents in labs/buildings in the absence of research staff. EHS/ORM staff were in contact with lab supervisors to advise them if trouble arose.  
  • EHS staff worked as part of the early COVID-19 recovery safety and health committee to offer advice and expertise to the committee.  
  • EHS and Risk Management experienced significant staff losses during the pandemic and management to very successfully restaff and retrain new staff members to continue to deliver health and safety, as well as consulting services (Occupational Health, Chem Safety, Rad Safety, Risk Management).  


Department of Family Medicine Program Administrators Team

Nominated by: Kim Le

Nominator’s testimonial:

Our Program Administrators (PA) Team has demonstrated extraordinary and ongoing efforts, compassion, integrity, commitment, dedication, collaboration, positive attitude and supports to maintain critical daily operations, and to also assist our learners and faculty, Programs and Department throughout these unprecedented times. In many amazing ways, they have risen to the challenges to bring and maintain stability in the face of chaos.  

  • Our Family Medicine educational program is diverse and distributed across Manitoba. The PAs team has given unselfishly of their commitment, time, and energy to the outstanding service in medical education meeting our department strategic and educational initiatives. From scheduling rotations, educational activities, requirements for our learners, coordinating site meetings, supporting our Education Directors and preceptors/faculty to handing daily questions or requests, our PA team has been going out of their way to provide the significant supports. COVID-19 has brought many difficulties, but our PA team does not shy away from the tough challenges. With constant last minutes changes, or cancellations to the residents’ rotations. The team has worked tirelessly to ensure that the schedule is intact, and all residents meet their training goals and requirements to complete the program. This great work is also to ensure the critical operation of the clinics, hospitals and sites.
  • Together with our program coordinator, the PA team plays a key part in supporting our virtual Canadian Resident Matching Services (CaRMS) to ensure that the process operation is robust, efficient, standardized, fair assessments of all candidates and Residents and our Family Medicine Streams/Sites feel supportive to have their assistance. Our PA team provides crucial supports to our programs. They greet learners through orientation and support them throughout their training program with many different aspects (such as rotation scheduling, meeting training requirements, exams, graduation, just to name a few)  
  • They look out for their residents/leaners to ensure everyone’s well-being and safety. They listen to the leaners’ needs and assist (such as time-off requests, rotations schedules changes, other needs and questions).  
  • The team has worked quickly and hard to help transition our Academic Days, sessions to online/virtual format. They diligently and continuously support our faculty to use the new virtual tool.  
  • They work collaboratively together to provide assistance in maintaining mission critical operations; adapting to the situation with resiliency, creativity in problem solving, and initiative. The team show support for one another in various ways such as sharing knowledge, expertise, ideas, and best practices with each other (via verbal open discussions, regular meetings or emails), willingness to help when team members need, and connecting with each other especially during unprecedented times. The team fosters a spirit of teamwork and a sense of collaboration.

It is without hesitation and with much pride that I nominate the Family Medicine Program Administrators team for the 2021 Awards of Excellence.


Farhana Begum, Histology Technician, Medicine, Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science

Nominator's testimonial:

Our Core Platform was categorized as an essential service at the beginning of the pandemic. We immediately began a new working routine, adjusted schedules and procedure modifications to accommodate the changing restrictions. Our facility did not miss a day of operation, largely because of Farhana. Farhana continued to adapt to all regulations to continually provide critical operation service to our core platform clients. As our histology staff began working separate shifts to maintain distance in our office and lab spaces Farhana continued to work as if full staff were present. On her off-campus days Farhana continued to work from home, as well as care for her family. Her husband was also working from home, and during the school closure she was also home-schooling her son. Our core platform went from 2-3 staff per day to 1 resulting in longer times for processing client requests. Farhana has been steadily working through requests and going above and beyond to provide for her clients within her reduced on-campus hours.  

Farhana maintained ongoing research activities, as well as supporting students and other departmental members in their research by assisting with samples, training and equipment use. Farhana has helped adapt hands on training for staff and students to be socially distant or as safe as possible to keep the researchers safely using our facilities. Farhana has also been a valuable support for other platform members by providing feedback and suggestions as we move many services, teaching and training online. Farhana has taken time to review new online material for a website, online teaching, online equipment booking and tutorial videos which are outside of her regular tasks, but ensure our university community has the resources they need.  

Farhana has helped put in place all safety practices for distancing, sanitizing, signage, and safe use of spaces and equipment. Farhana has had to change how she consults with clients as well as accepts and returns samples to reduce contacts and keep everyone safe. Farhana was also accommodating with scheduling changes for co-workers requiring specific shifts for childcare. Farhana has continued to have an incredible work ethic in making sure all required work is completed within the ever-changing guidelines. Farhana has not complained as many tasks became more difficult, but instead has been a great example how to be productive and safe during this year. Her willingness to work hard regardless of the situation deserves recognition. She is a valuable asset to our core platform, our department, and our university community in the services and supports she continually offers. 

Front and Centre Campaign Wrap Team

Nominated by: Suzanne Harden

Nominator’s testimonial:

Raising more than $625 million, the UM Front and Centre fundraising campaign is acclaimed as the largest fundraising campaign in the province’s history. Gifts from 62,075 donors will have an enormous impact for years to come, supporting emerging areas of research, outstanding student experiences, and the revitalization of learning spaces. They will also ensure our province becomes a centre of excellence for Indigenous education and research.  

The campaign wrap event on April 2, 2020 was originally planned as a live celebration. The goal of the event was to be a vital thank you to the campaign’s donors that would also build upon philanthropic partnerships and inspire further giving to the university.  

When COVID-19 restrictions made gathering 2,000 people together impossible, the Front and Centre campaign team pivoted, and without precedent, transformed this key event into an overwhelmingly successful digital experience.  

Having just three weeks to create a powerful virtual event was a significant challenge because the team was new to working remotely. In addition to doing their positions remotely, they were faced with learning new technology to offer a high-quality event and experience for the donors.  

How the team adapted their planning  

The virtual wrap was a success due to the team’s outstanding efforts, which included:  

  • Collaborating in new ways across departments and embracing a new philosophy of adaptability.  
  • Re-examining the original event’s strategic goals—to thank donors, celebrate the philanthropic achievement, and share the transformational impact on the institution while quickly adapting the themes and storytelling to resonate across digital platforms.  
  • Re-envisioning the audience experience. The team examined every element, reduced the number of scheduled speakers, sourced video footage, edited the musical score and reworked the entire storyboard to streamline key messages.  
  • Finding new ways to show gratitude to donors when they couldn’t be thanked in person.  
  • Engaging stakeholders beforehand to mitigate the risk of backlash from having a celebration during a global pandemic. More than 70 key donors from around the globe were gathered and met on Zoom to discuss. It was agreed that the event would go on, as it would be a physically distant way to bring the donor community closer together.  

The reimagined event  

  • Three weeks of initiative and hard work led to a successful campaign wrap – on the same date as originally planned – consisting of a virtual experience streamed globally with various supporting media, digital and print materials and outreach. The digital strategy was no longer a supporting player as originally planned; it was the primary platform.  
  • Working with internal team members and external vendors, a video presentation was created to bring to life emotional visuals from the five-year campaign. The video wove in the foundational tenet of UM’s new brand story—collision—to show how passion and giving collide to create transformational change. It featured stories that reflect UM’s strategic pillar areas supporting graduate students, Indigenous excellence, places and spaces, research and outstanding student experience.  
  • It was important the momentum build toward the reveal of the final tally in the streamed presentation. In a stunning explosion of colour, the final number – surpassing the goal – was revealed: $626,260,909.  
  • The video was shared across social platforms, targeting alumni, donors and students. To reach the broader community, a full wrap-up was created for the Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, filled with inspiring storytelling. The newspaper also shared the final video on their website and printed an op-ed by UM President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Barnard and Campaign Chair Paul Soubry.  
  • A special gratitude issue of UM Today the Magazine landed in more than 130,000 mailboxes one week later. The magazine was expanded by 16 pages and printed weeks early to coordinate the timing. The publication served as the campaign’s final report with bold storytelling, design and photography.  

The results  

  • The campaign wrap video was one of UM’s most viewed in 2020 with 8,803 views across institutional and alumni social media channels.  
  • Total reach across all social media platforms (organic and paid posts) was 42,035, with an engagement rate of 34% on the original Facebook video post, exceeding the account’s average of 4%.  
  • The video reached 11,146 on Instagram—59% over the account average (7,000).  

Overall, the virtual campaign wrap-up thoughtfully and joyfully celebrated and thanked campaign donors. This resulted in deepening relationships with UM’s donor and alumni community by ensuring they felt valued and set the stage for future donor relationships. 

Governance Team

Nominated by: Jeff Leclerc

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Governance team has a comprehensive mandate for governance decision support and processes, providing strategic advice to the President, Chair of the Board and members of the university community, policy, procedural and regulatory matters and student appeals. In the pandemic year, this team has fulfilled this mandate in innovative and creative ways and in doing so has excelled in two of the award criteria areas: Community and Critical Operations.  

The Governance team created and sustained community connections throughout the pandemic year, ensuring continuity of operations, connections among members of the University community, a complete shift in operations, and all the time ensuring and promoting good, collegial governance practices at the University of Manitoba. The team supported each other and the university community in a myriad of ways throughout the year. Specific examples of these contributions include:  

  • Working as a team to design processes to ensure necessary approvals through Senate and the Board were able to happen quickly in the early stages of the pandemic. This included both new approval processes, and channels, but also new meeting modalities.  
  • Supporting the work of Board, Senate, and Committees through the quick turn to remote work, including developing new meeting protocols, technology set ups, and supporting community members as they navigated the change.  
  • Ensuring that members of the University community continued to have access to governance records, archives, and information with prompt responses to questions.  
  • Collaborating to move approval authorities back to the full Senate, and ensuring the ongoing, transparent, and collegial governance of the University.  
  • Supporting the work of the Senate, Senate Executive, Board, and Board Committees through extra meetings, regular updates, and close contact.  
  • Supporting the orientation of many new Board members, and the transition of a new President and Chair of Senate.  
  • Supporting fair processes for student appeals and ensuring timely, fair appeals for students.  

All members of the team approached the challenges of the last year with determination, professionalism, and a commitment to sustaining and stewarding the governing bodies of the University. The team came together, collaborated, problem-solved creatively, and supported each other and other offices at the University as we navigated times that were truly, and procedurally, unprecedented. In particular, the support and outreach they provided to Board members, Senate, and Committee members has been acknowledged time and again with appreciation and respect.  

This team came together to provide outstanding service to the community, and to support each other through the pandemic. The volume and quality of contributions they have made collectively is a testament to their individual character and their unwavering commitment to their work and the University of Manitoba. 

Graduate Studies Awards Office Team

Nominated by: Aleeza Gerstein

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) Awards office is a busy place in normal times. The portfolio of graduate student awards they oversee and manage ranges from relatively small institutional awards through to the top international awards. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, this office sprang into action, adding many additional tasks on top of their existing (already substantial) workload. Their rapid response and ensuing initiatives came at a time when most of the university community was still dealing with the rapid switch to working from home and moving courses rapidly online. For many of our students, particularly those away from home, this was an incredibly stressful time. The FGS Emergency Pandemic Fund was launched extremely quickly, providing much needed monetary support to full-time graduate students (a $1 000 bursary) and part-time graduate students (a $500 bursary) who were impacted by the pandemic. The existence of this fund was announced on April 3rd, 2020, indicating the incredibly short-time period from conception to realization that the staff of the Awards Office had to organize and implement this critically important resource available. In all, almost $600 000 was distributed in the first round. The creation and rapid distribution of funding exemplifies a commitment to community, critical operations and safety and well-being. It provided our students with required (and critical) resources and demonstrated the commitment of the university to their well-being.  

In addition to this fund, I understand that many additional COVID-related initiatives out of this office have since been carried out:  

  • A second round of the Emergency fund further distributed $900, 000 in January 2021.  
  • Award extensions to the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (UMGF), Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (MGS), and Tri-Council Master’s Supplemental Awards (TMSA) were offered and awarded. Similarly, award extensions to tri-agency awards were also distributed.  
  • A U Pass Bus subsidy was developed to subsidize the cost of Winnipeg Transit bus passes for graduate students required to attend campus for research or in-class course work for the Fall 2020 term and ongoing.  
  • The office contributed to a UM Technology Fund support program to assist graduate students with purchase of technology to facilitate remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic (administered by the UM Bookstore)  
  • A new award called the Virtual Conference award was created to provide scholarships to students attending virtual conferences throughout the pandemic.  
  • A Faculty of Graduate Studies Program Completion Scholarship competition was created and administered in January 2021, with over 250 applications received, resulting in disbursement of $550,000 in Program Completion Scholarships to over 200 eligible Master's and PhD students who have completed their thesis defense or 2/3 of the course work required for their program (for course-based Master's programs).  

This type of work often goes unacknowledged by the university community. Yet, it is precisely these types of initiatives that have enabled students to continue thriving in their graduate programs during these unprecedented times.

Faculty of Graduate Studies Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Dr. Kelley Main, Dr. Michael Czubryt, Dr. Stephen Kirkland, Dr. Randall Jamieson

Nominators’ testimonial:

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many challenges on over 3 700 University of Manitoba graduate students. Critical decisions were made to support current and future students academically, financially, and personally that ensure the prosperity and well-being of our graduate students. These decisions were addressed collaboratively within FGS and required flexibility, creativity, and commitment by all staff. At the forefront of all decisions was ensuring the critical operations administered by FGS that support our community of graduate students not only continued but adapted and thrived to ensure exceptional graduate student support in the face of COVID-19 challenges.  

Admissions Team

The critical operation of student admissions saw a 39% increase in admission deferrals due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. In addition to administering that unprecedented number of deferrals, admission provisions and deadline dates were extended to support future admissions. Newly admitted graduate students faced difficulties in obtaining required documentation from their prior universities or testing centers. We adapted processes to allow them to complete applications and register for their programs, but also ensured maintenance of proper official documentation. This process required the team to add and remove holds on student accounts that allow program progression and records maintenance. These large administrative undertakings ensured the recruitment of future graduate students as vital members of the university community.  

Awards Team

New financial awards were created due to the pandemic and administered in response to students’ financial needs. These awards were implemented over and above those that are typically administered by the Awards team. Many had to be administered quickly and efficiently to address immediate need. The new awards required the creation of rules of eligibility and review of all applications. Specific examples include:  

  • Pandemic Relief Fund  
  • UPass Support Subsidy  
  • Mitacs Research Training Award  
  • Tri-Agency (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) Extensions for CGS-Master’s, CGS-Doctoral, PGS-D, and Vanier Awards.  
  • UMGF, MGS and TMSA extensions  
  • GETS extensions  
  • FGS Virtual Conference Award  
  • FGS Virtual Conference Award

Programs Team and Program Coordinators

Challenges for students to continue and complete their programs required problem solving and process adjustments. Discussions, consultations, and program management were required to ensure academic rigour while allowing students to successfully continue and complete their studies. COVID-19 resulted in a large increase of leave requests for students unable to progress in their programs. Blanket COVID-19 time extensions were processed, and policies developed regarding compassionate grading. Another critical operational support was the deadline extension for the submission of progress reports to allow more time for committees to meet and assess student progress. Timelines to appeal academic decisions were increased to ensure sufficient time for students to access required resources. Committee meetings and appeal hearings had to transition online quickly to ensure decision making could continue. FGS developed a virtual oral examination guide and worked with units to put processes in place to ensure students had opportunity to complete the penultimate degree requirement.  

Communications Team

Innovative ideas were required to ensure communication and connections with the graduate community continued. Despite being in the midst of a planned transition into a new systems software for university applications (Slate) and updated web page content under the NGWE project, the following were developed and delivered in an on-line interactive format:  

  • New student orientation  
  • GradSteps Workshops  
  • Tri-Agency Award Workshops  
  • Graduate Administration Workshops  
  • 3MT and MT180 Finals  

Reception Team

Telephone support was transitioned to Cisco Jabber to ensure domestic and international phone calls from future and current students would be answered live. Providing immediate, empathetic, knowledgeable support to individuals by phone is a priority, particularly at this high stress time, ensuring a continued sense of community and connection while remote.  

FGS staff fully supported the constant changes and unprecedented decisions made to ensure exceptional support of graduate students at this critical time. The past year has presented an overwhelming number of complicated challenges and we are extremely fortunate to work with the staff in FGS who have exhibited and continue to exhibit an impressive and award-worthy practice of professionalism, dedication, innovation, determination and commitment to providing exceptional student support despite the challenges caused by COVID-19. It has never been more apparent how important and excellent the FGS staff are to the function of our university’s contributions to Manitoba’s intellectual and professional infrastructure.

Greg Sobie, Manager of Student Services, Faculty of Arts

Nominated by: Heidi Marx

Nominator’s testimonial:

Greg does remarkable work under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has created all kinds of novel and difficult situations for students, faculty, and staff. Greg has consistently gone above and beyond to help us manage those in the Faculty of Arts. His support for all three groups – students, staff, and faculty – has been exemplary and deserves official recognition. Moving our entire student advising process to remote and online was a significant challenge. The workload associated with the shift was immense, and this was made even more urgent by increased student demand for advising services resulting from the switch to remote learning. The Arts advising inbox often had 500 emails in queue. I know for a fact that Greg kept a constant eye on these, monitoring the flow, but he also frequently assisted in clearing backlogs, sometimes working until 9 or 10 p.m. at night to do so. At the same time, he regularly checked in with advising staff to ensure they were managing both professionally and personally. As a result of the increased demand on student advising services in Arts, there were times when students were less than patient or respectful to Greg’s direct reports. He always took responsibility for these situations, resolving them with diplomacy while protecting his staff from further conflict.

The shift to online learning has also exacerbated academic misconduct in most units on campus. This has meant additional workload for everyone, but especially for Heads. Greg worked with me to put in extra supports for instructors and Heads to deal with the additional workload issues. This work included creating a handbook for Arts to streamline the preparation of discipline allegations with letter templates and links to important university level documents and procedures. A pilot in Arts to allow instructors to deal with minor infractions while still recording instances of academic misconduct is also in the works. In addition to dealing with the all the extra work resulting from COVID-19, Greg has continued to move important initiatives forward in our unit. He has done extensive work on entering program information into the new Degree Audit software; he has taken full responsibility for entering information for the new calendar; he always plays a critical role in our curriculum and timetabling processes in Arts; he is working with me on the Bachelor of Integrated Studies program to improve it based on a recent review; and we are also working to bring our progression rules into alignment with U1 and Science. All of these are immense projects.

Greg is the engine who keeps them moving forward by taking initiative and working on creative solutions to problems, both small and large. Nothing falls through the cracks or off the side of his desk. He is one of the most organized, responsible, diligent, and efficient people that I know. Finally, he is a kind, caring, wonderful human being. He is a delight to work with, and he is one of those people who makes the workplace better for everyone.

Gross Anatomy Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Sabine-Hombach-Klonisch

Nominator’s testimonial:

It is my great pleasure to nominate the gross anatomy team at the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science (HACS), Mrs. Jacki Armstrong and Mr. Jason McMillan, for the 2021 Awards of Excellence. The anatomy staff team demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the academic mission of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS) and provide essential support to allow the continuation of a body donation program and high-quality gross anatomy education in professional programs of the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, and Rehabilitation Sciences. The continued anatomy education throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic would not have been possible without the tremendous commitment and dedication of these gross anatomy staff team members.

Jason McMillan, our gross anatomy lab technician, provided leadership and essential technical support in managing the anatomy laboratory facility during COVID-19. At the beginning of the lock-down, when in-person teaching was discontinued, Jason made sure that all anatomical specimens in use were properly stored and preserved to ensure their further use for teaching once in-person teaching would resume. Importantly, Jason made sure he was on-site for new intakes and proper embalming. He braved the risk of additional exposure at a time when the nature of the viral transmission was not well understood. When selected in-person teaching sessions for professional programs were approved, the gross anatomy lab sessions were one of the few in-person teaching events considered essential for the training of students in the health professions. Classes had to be restructured to facilitate capacity restrictions and physical distancing. Jason took on the logistical challenges in the lab, facilitated attendance records, coordinated student turnover between classes, and made sure to direct student groups safely to avoid that students had unnecessary exposure. His dedication was critical for the implementation of our educational mission. Jason spared no effort to implement and maintain additional sanitation measures in the facility. He embraced physical challenges when specimens needed to be moved quickly between labs or change the set-up of teaching stations on short notice to facilitate morning and afternoon student group sessions. Throughout all of these demanding times and tasks Jason remained calm, friendly, highly professional, and always provided help to others when needed.

Jacki Armstrong, our lead administrative assistant at the department, is responsible for the body donation program. She communicates with donors and their families and handles all administrative needs related to our body donation program. Jacki’s consistent presence for the program during all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic was essential to keep this unique and essential teaching support program operational. Her exemplary dedication gave donors and mourning relatives comfort, provided them with advice at a difficult time in their lives, and created a sense of normalcy during turbulent times. Despite government restrictions in place, Jacki communicated with families, clergy and funeral services, and organized a burial service that allowed for family members to experience a dignified service. This also provided selected students the opportunity to express their personal respect and gratitude for the body donors and their relatives. With her continuing presence in the department, Jacki also provided invaluable support for the students and faculty who worked from home, returned to their research labs, and contributed to on-site teaching. During the times of pandemic-related capacity restrictions, Jacki’s dedication was second to none. Her personal leadership in implementing critical tasks and organizing the daily operations at the Anatomy department ensured that students, staff, and faculty found their way to back to work feeling safe and being part of a caring community. Her inspiring attitude, thoughtful actions, and high level of professionalism greatly contributed to the positive team spirit which is essential to fulfill the academic mission of our unit.

The anatomy staff team demonstrated an invaluable support to the department and the RFHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their outstanding contributions to the daily operations of the anatomy department were essential in supporting several professional programs at the RFHS. We are fortunate to have outstanding employees like Jacki and Jason. I whole-heartedly believe that these two colleagues deserve to be recognized as role models having shown exceptional dedication in providing continued critical services for the faculty during these difficult times.

Heather Prior, Lead Data Analyst, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Manitoba Centre for Health Policy

Nominated by: Gilles Detillieux, and MCHP Staff

Nominators; Testimonial:

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) would like to nominate Heather Prior for the Award of Excellence. Heather is Lead Data Analyst at MCHP, where she oversees a team of Analysts and dozens of research projects simultaneously.  

Listed below are just some of the ways she has helped turn isolation into cooperation:  


  • Heather has been consistently supportive, kind, and understanding. Whenever asked a question, she always has a helpful response – from data whereabouts and analysis techniques to comfortable hoodie suggestions.  
  •  Heather has shown that she cares not only about work productivity but also about the individuals doing that work. She regularly checks on the mental and physical well-being of those she supervises, despite being extremely busy with her own tasks. Heather has helped others deal with anxiety about COVID-19, making their jobs easier through her overall presence and availability in addition to her direct support of data and research.  
  • Heather has both recognized and acted on the importance of staying connected. Last summer, she organized a safe, physically distanced get-together at Assiniboine Park. Many staff benefited from her efforts, as the normal activities associated with shaking off winter isolation were largely suspended.  

Critical Operations  

  • Heather has provided superb leadership for the analytical staff at MCHP, often going beyond expectations. Over the last year, with the anxiety associated with moving to home offices, she worked hard at keeping in touch with people and making sure they were connected.  
  • Heather has been a consistent voice of advocacy for her team of analysts. As an example, during the setting up of home offices, she represented the analysts to the Centre’s leadership to ensure physical needs were answered.
  • Heather’s support for others has extended beyond those under her immediate supervision. She provides guidance on technical issues to many analysts inside and outside of MCHP. She is also a connection for technical, data, and systems support for students.  
  • Heather has acted swiftly to adapt to sudden changes. With the loss of a Principal Investigator and one analyst for one deliverable, Heather facilitated the continuation of that project by reviewing the other analyst’s code to provide answers to questions about methodology. She went beyond her regular duties in the project. Her clear communication, enthusiasm, and dedication have been exceptional and much appreciated.  


  • Heather has managed rapid workload changes. As Lead Analyst at MCHP, Heather has always been a keystone in the unit. The pandemic sent analysts into their homes, but even while separated, their workload increased: suddenly, research grants pivoted to focus on COVID -19, with an ensuing rush of proposal writing and review. Moreover, there is now a weekly influx of COVID-related data that requires analyst support. Heather has risen to the challenges associated with these exciting new research opportunities at the Centre with grace and poise. She takes the lead on reviewing proposals. She organizes supporting data so that quick-turnaround projects can be carried out swiftly. With Heather’s guidance, the Centre has been able to provide quick and relevant answers to pandemic-related research questions.  
  • Heather has shown a management style that is respectful and empowering. The influx of COVID-19 related data and projects has required Heather to schedule new, fast-turnaround projects without compromising the timelines of analysts’ existing work. This is always done in a respectful manner and in a way that puts the unique abilities of each MCHP Analyst to the best use in every project.  
  • Heather has demonstrated leadership in continuing education. As a Data Analyst herself, Heather recognizes that keeping up with new research trends and skills training is important to keep MCHP at the forefront of health-care research. With that in mind, she notifies her staff regularly of online courses, webinars, and tutorials. Distance learning keeps the team safe, smart, enthusiastic and competitive.  

Safety and Well-Being  

  • Heather has fully supported the University’s efforts to keep personnel safe while also recognizing and demonstrating that well-being is more than physical. Heather puts special emphasis on communicating with each Analyst as a person and not just as a role. She has made periodic ‘touch-base’ phone calls to her team members and colleagues, sharing ideas on how to make the home office more comfortable, and keeping up with how they are doing generally. 

John DiNoto, Administrative Assistant, Science/Mathematics

Nominated by: Shaun Li

Nominator’s testimonial:

John definitely went “above and beyond” in the past year in order to keep things running smoothly when COVID-19 hit. The following are some examples.  

  • He procured and/or delivered laptops, headsets, Wacom tablets and other office supplies to faculty, graduate students and office staff at their homes.  
  • He gave office access and delivered key cards to faculty, graduate students and Faculty of Science staff during the lockdown.  
  • He was always on call, delivering mail and paperwork to sign when urgent.  
  • Two of our post doctorates came during the pandemic and John helped them with compliant accommodations.  
  • A couple staff members were in difficult personal positions, but John was able to help them and make sure they were able to continue working.  
  • Mathematics recently secured funds to purchase a high-tech Lightboard which can be used for online teaching and seminars. He set up the entire Lightboard and studio mostly in one weekend for the benefit of the faculty during the pandemic and beyond. The transport of the Lightboard into the studio in Machray Hall was quite difficult because it did not fit inside the elevator. He carried it up all by himself.  
  • He participated in the weekly mathematics admin meeting even during his time off. His advice and knowledge have been invaluable to the Department.  

In summary, Mathematics has been able to continue to operate during this pandemic largely due to the extraordinary efforts of John. He has been a very loyal staff member, always putting the Department’s best interests first. Below are some supporting statements from colleagues:  

  • Dr. Susan Cooper wrote: “John played an instrumental role in the courses MATH 2090 and MATH 3320 transitioning to a 100% remote instructional setting. John met with me a number of times in Summer 2020 to aid with the initial recording of lectures. John hired a TA to help with these recordings once classes began. Multiple students in the courses expressed that it was these recordings that significantly helped them to complete the courses. John's support played a crucial role in my ability to successfully teach these courses in a remote and stressful time.”
  • Dr. Karen Gunderson wrote: “John was a tremendous help to me in making arrangements for my American postdoc to travel to Winnipeg in summer 2020. John worked tirelessly helping me to discuss with the HR department and the university’s immigration consultant. He researched options for the postdoc’s quarantine, which was challenging because at the time, many places would not accept guests from out of the country. When the postdoc tried to cross the land border, John was on the phone with him, giving information and negotiating many hurdles. I don’t think that the postdoc would have successfully made it to Winnipeg without John’s help. It’s clear that John always goes above and beyond. He answers messages immediately (even after hours) and is always working to find the best solutions for us.”  
  • Dr. Padmanabhan wrote: “Recently I lost access to all my emails. Most university services and offices were closed due to the COVID-19 closure. So, I asked John. He contacted the computer services, found the nature of the problem and sent me a clear list of “to-do’s”. I followed his instructions and bingo, the problem got resolved and I got all my emails back. Later when I thanked John for his timely and unique technical help, he gave the credit to the IT department. When we got new office furniture, it was overwhelming for me but John showed up and helped me to organize my books and files and set up the new furniture all within a span of one hour. Later when I thanked him for his time and help, he politely replied in his own unique way, ‘Pad, it was worth the trip just to see you again’. It is this unique human touch which characterizes and singles out John.” 

Karen Donald, Administrative Assistant, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Nominated by: Prof. Melanie Martin

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Magnetic Resonance Microscopy Centre is part of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and located in the basement of the Chown Building. It requires regular maintenance called cryogen fills to be done approximately three times per week. Missing any cryogen fills could cause millions of dollars in damage to equipment. When the pandemic caused the closure of the campus, this Centre needed attention immediately so that the equipment could be safe. Karen Donald stepped up quickly to help with the paperwork that needed to be done to save the equipment.

The personnel who could perform the maintenance fills come from the Bannatyne campus, the Fort Garry Campus, and University of Winnipeg. Some had just graduated so their ID cards had expired. Some did not have UManitoba ID cards. I was truly amazed how quickly Karen could work with the people on campus to get the maintenance personnel access so quickly. I am grateful to Karen and all the people who helped make this possible.

In addition, the pdf files that needed to be submitted for access had issues with different versions of Adobe Acrobat. Fully filled out forms would appear blank or partially blank to some people and we could not figure out the cause, especially because even with the same updated versions, the forms were still not properly visible. Karen was able to take the forms and convert them, so they were visible to all and available for signatures. This delay was truly difficult given how quickly Dr. Fernyhough and I were trying to get everything submitted. I am grateful for Karen’s innovative persistence and for Dr. Fernyhough’s patience and persistence.

As we changed through the different phases of the pandemic, and the different levels of openness of campus, and the different restrictions, these processes had to be repeated and rushed so that the continued maintenance could be provided. Karen was always on top of the procedures and would alert me when forms would be needed. She saved the Centre. I am grateful to her and Dr. Fernyhough for all their extra effort to keep the Centre going. The Centre is a user facility. When limited research could begin in the Centre, more nightmares about getting access for the people who needed to use the equipment could have occurred, but once again Karen’s knowledge of the system made the process as smooth as it could be. With some users and students finishing up their terms, and other ones starting, Karen’s amazing tracking skills to keep the list of approved people for access updated, and their access cards updated, allowed all the graduate students and users to perform research projects safely.

When PPE became available Karen was able to help us calculate what we needed, get it ordered, and delivered to the Centre.

Karen has a “can do” attitude and always thinks outside of the box to find creative solutions to problems that arise. With signatures needed and when money for deposits for cards needed to change hands, Karen made a special trip to campus to meet me to get things done. She truly cares about all members of the Department and throughout the pandemic she was always working to make sure we all could succeed. Karen Donald is someone who brought out the very best in the University of Manitoba during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed all of us to bring out the best in the University of Manitoba too. I am nominating Karen Donald for this award so she can be recognized for her extraordinary efforts to maintain critical operations, assist faculty and students, support critical research, and ensure the safety and well-being of all of us during the pandemic. I am sure if I told Karen this work was above and beyond what I expected, she would say, “I was just happily doing my job.”

Kim Le, Education Manager, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences

Nominated by: Dr. Sheldon Permack  

Nominator’s testimonial:

Our department leadership team would like to nominate Kim Le, our Education Manger, for this award to recognize her exceptional achievement in pivoting and advancing our academic department. She has done a tremendous job in supporting and mentoring all the program administrators who report through her. Kim was responsible for transitioning staff during the pandemic, keeping her reports safe and supporting the employees to work remotely. She was instrumental in moving the business of the department online and maintaining the quality of work of our staff. There were 10 staff transitioned in this effort. By advancing and supporting all our employees to work from home she was able to meet all the safety parameters for staff while addressing their emotional and work-related needs. This was with the goal of keeping the department running optimally in its educational, clinical and research spheres. A commendable effort was put in by Ms. Le in leading her team to pivot to online learning for our academic day sessions. Similarly, she supported the creation of video snippets for virtual promotion, and coordinated her team in supporting our virtual information sessions and interviews.  

Kim was also intimately involved in the Entrada implementation which is a crucial strategic and educational initiative for the department, ensuring that evaluations were submitted in a safe remote way. Our educational program is diverse and distributed across the province. Ms. Le was critical in teaching the use and modifications of the software to meet the needs of learners, teachers and accreditors.  

Kim created communities within the software to enable remote staff and students to interact and maintain social and educational connections. She has supported our faculty development division by stepping in for absent staff. She was the go-to person for problem solving in this unique environment. She also supported transition to online training for new hires where possible. Kim meets regularly with her staff regarding any changes and supports the Residency Program Committee.  

Public health needed someone to support their residents due to significant admin support challenges. Kim stepped up and learned all the requirements and was able to train other admin staff to support the department.  

Ms. Le was accommodating to staff including those on leave of absence (LOA) and was passionate about keeping our employees informed and feeling supported during the pandemic. Kim does her work with great skill, compassion, and enthusiasm, and is a worthy recipient of this award. 


Kyla Shead, Office Assistant, Faculty of Arts

Nominated by: Dr. Jocelyn Thorpe  

Nominator’s testimonial:

Kyla effectively supports the academic mission of the university. Her indispensability has become even more clear to all of us over the course of the pandemic. Examples of her excellence in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic include:  


  • Dropping off awards to top students at their homes since they could not go to the university to pick them up.  
  • Distributing personalized university sweatshirts to students in a parking lot when the sweatshirts arrived too late in spring 2020 for students to be able to enter the building to pick them up.  
  • Helping a faculty member recovering from a stroke to get settled at home after a hospital stay.  
  • Dropping small gifts off at faculty members’ homes to encourage us to keep working hard at teaching even though our students had been replaced by tiny boxes on a screen.  
  • Ensuring the continuation of a community-building birthday club even when we couldn’t see each other or sign birthday cards at work.  
  • Organizing a bereavement gift for a faculty member who lost a close relative during COVID-19.  
  • When a faculty member had to fly to Vancouver to help an aged parent cope during the pandemic, Kyla offered to deal with problems at the faculty member’s apartment in Winnipeg so that the faculty member would not have to take the additional risk of further air travel.  

Critical Operations:  

  • Moving the operation of two departments (Women’s and Gender Studies, Labour Studies) from the university to her home overnight while not missing a single administrative detail for March 2020 fiscal year end: final grade submission, hiring for summer courses, supporting students and faculty through an instant transition to online learning, and fall planning and budgeting, for example:
  • Acting as the primary support person for a new tenure-track faculty member to Labour Studies who could not access campus due to the pandemic and so relied on Kyla for all forms of knowledge about and direction in navigating the university.  
  • Supporting continuing and new faculty and newly appointed sessional instructors in purchasing what we needed in order to make teaching from home possible.  
  • Going to the university on her own to get necessary items from all our offices and delivering them to our homes so that we would not have too many people on campus.  
  • Assisting a faculty member with a disability to transition to remote learning, which meant printing, scanning and delivering course materials to the faculty member’s home.  
  • Connecting sessional instructors to key resources, such as online learning platforms and tools, and describing to them departmental expectations of course outlines, grading, and student resources  
  • Processing an unusually high number of academic dishonesty cases that arose in first-year Labour Studies courses in Fall 2020.


  • Maintaining the paperwork for a large-scale research project in the case of a faculty member falling ill.

Beyond these specific examples that demonstrate Kyla’s excellence in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, what has made Kyla exceptional in 2020 is the same as what has made her exceptional in all her years at the university. She is a very competent, efficient worker who consistently shows compassion, kindness and a positive outlook. She makes us feel connected to one another, to our work and to our students. She makes students, faculty and staff all feel that we have someone to turn to when we need something and, when we do turn to her, she always finds a way to help us. Kyla’s compassion, integrity and skills are always visible to those who work closely with her, but they have become even more necessary in pandemic times where stress is high and almost nothing is as it was. One thing is as it was: we can always count on Kyla. 

Laura Deen, Senior Budget Officer, Office of the Vice-President (Research and International)

Nominated by: Dr. Digvir Jayas

Nominator’s testimonial:

It is my distinct pleasure to nominate Ms. Laura Deen for her crucial role in the successful implementation, administration, and completion of the Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF). The federal government introduced this four-stage program to assist researchers whose research has been impacted and/or delayed entirely or partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was administered by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) on behalf of the tri-agencies.  

Stages 1 and 2 of the program involved wage support for eligible research-related personnel whose salaries were adversely affected by COVID. Ms. Deen developed an efficient method to determine UM’s notional amount by collaborating with HR in generating a report of all salaries paid on non-government research funds during the period of eligibility. This arduous task required significant manual calculations, with Ms. Deen sorting through 600+ employees’ details across multiple worksheets. She also communicated the message to eligible researchers throughout the process, and responded to frequent questions from researchers and Associate Deans (Research) regarding eligibility, etc. In addition, Stage 1 and 2 of the program required the provision of details of the program to affiliated hospitals, which can be complex given the unique nature of these appointments. Hospital submissions were also reconciled with program eligibility criteria. The conclusion of Stages 1 and 2 of the program ultimately required Ms. Deen to facilitate the transfer of funds through journal entries and adhere to the stringent reporting requirements of the program.  

Stage 3 of the program targeted Maintenance and Ramp-up Costs Support, which was launched in September 2020 with a deadline of December 15. This stage consisted of strict eligibility guidelines and timelines, requiring that Ms. Deen meet with ADR groups to discuss central purchases. An online application form was developed to facilitate direct applications by researchers of their eligible expenses which also required justifying the need for requested funds. This stage required each institution to develop an EDI decision committee and create a website describing the process used in selecting the successful applicants. Ms. Deen was instrumental in meeting the program’s guidelines and requirements for transparent processes, while frequently consulted with SSHRC to ensure that our institution was in line with all requirements. Similar to Stage 1 of the program, Ms. Deen also reviewed 250 applications to confirm eligibility. She collaborated with Research Accounting to process the mass journal entries and communicated the outcome of the applications to researchers.  

The final stage of the program involved funding for additional wage support. This stage related to personnel paid in part or in whole by non-governmental sources from 12 to 24 weeks within a designated eligibility period. Ms. Deen again collaborated with HR to generate a tailored report. She also required reports for Hospital Affiliate staff which needed to be reconciled with UM staff to avoid duplication. As with the previous stages, Ms. Deen processed the mass journal entries, communicated the outcome to successful researchers, and prepared and submitted the report to SSHRC. Ms. Deen is currently preparing and completing the CRCEF Final Report which is due by April 30, 2021.  

I would like to highlight the insurmountable time and effort required to complete every stage of this process in a span of only eight months. Ms. Deen went above and beyond the call of duty with her role in the success of this program. Thanks to her, researchers were able to recoup losses in wages and ramp up costs due to the suspension of their research caused by the pandemic.  

What is most impressive and highly commendable, is the fact that despite these added demands, Ms. Deen continued her duties and responsibilities as the sole Financial Officer for all VPRI units and reporting Centres and Institutions. While she was managing the CRCEF support and the respective requirements with constant uncertainties and tight timelines, she successfully completed and met the deadlines associated with the UM Forecasting exercise for Financial Analysis Reporting, the Research 21-22 Planning and Budget Submission and the UM Research Support Fund process. She also facilitated the UM Transitional Research Wage Support during this time in order to assist researchers who were ineligible for CRCEF and did not receive any COVID-related support.  

Our office (and indeed the entire University) is extremely fortunate to have Ms. Deen. Her unending dedication and diligence made an immeasurable impact in providing support to researchers during the shut-down of research activities. The University of Manitoba received a total of $7 million in CRCEF funding. Without her dedication and commitment, we would not have received these funds and our researchers would not have benefited and consequently, research enterprise would have been negatively affected for a long time. Furthermore, her important role in the successful operation of VPRI continues to be highly valued. 

Libraries Administrative Team

Nominated by: Vera Keown

Nominator’s testimonial:

As the pandemic advanced in early 2020, the Libraries needed to be prepared to move services online and ensure that all staff would be able to work remotely from home. Continuing to provide library services was vital to support faculty and students as they worked to complete the winter term. We needed to ensure the critical operations of the Libraries continued with as little disruption to faculty and students as possible. While many staff had personal computers or laptops at home which they could use, many did not. Members of our administrative team acted quickly and decisively to source and collect all available laptops, tablets, and computers to send home with staff. They worked with IST to ensure that the equipment was upgraded and set up to access the VPN, and secured home internet access for those employees who had none.  

The Libraries’ staff quickly adapted to working remotely; finding workspace in their home wherever they could, learning to use new communication technology, and juggling homeschooling, childcare while attending meetings. Once we knew that staff had the computer equipment, they needed to keep our services running, our administrative team turned their attention to acquiring the equipment necessary to support staff in their new home-based work environment. As we were communicating exclusively virtually, communication equipment became a priority. The administrative team was successful in sourcing headset and webcams for staff, before the worldwide shortage of equipment began.  

This team was also instrumental in supporting staff as they learned to navigate new technologies such as WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and Office 365. They provided training, tips and tricks, and one-on-one support to help staff become proficient in the technologies. They created a learning community where staff felt safe to ask questions and get help without judgment.  

As the year wore on, working from dining room tables, kitchen counters, and sofas began to take toll on our employees’ physical health. Our administrative team worked tirelessly to source, purchase, and deliver equipment and accessories that would allow staff to create a more ergonomic workstation in their home. This work was critical to supporting the safety and well-being of the Libraries’ staff in the remote work setting.  

Later in 2020, the Libraries was ready to re-open some locations to welcome staff and students back to campus, the team did an outstanding job of developing and maintaining the Libraries occupancy tracking information. The Libraries had staff working in the open libraries as well as regularly visiting the closed libraries to receive books for faculty teaching and research and student learning. The administrative team gathered all of the necessary information from each unit, created a spreadsheet for the information, and made it available through Microsoft Teams so that managers and supervisors could easily review updated information. Their excellent organizational skills and attention to detail ensured that the Libraries could accurately monitor the occupancy within each library to keep everyone safe.  

This administrative team was instrumental in ensuring that the Libraries services would continue to be delivered with little disruption. With all staff having access to computers and internet service, the Libraries could continue to offer chat reference service to support student learning, provide physical and electronic resources to support teaching and research, and facilitate the safe delivery of virtual library instruction.  


Libraries Team: Carlos Ericastilla and John Burgess

Nominated by: Lisa Demczuk

Nominator’s testimonial:

Carlos Ericastilla and John Burgess demonstrated outstanding commitment and effort in support of the libraries’ pandemic response. They became our key essential workers remaining onsite during the campus closure. Their activities expanded and shifted beyond their usual roles and included essential facilities support, establishing and maintaining safe working environments, maintaining connections to staff working remotely, and supporting the libraries’ reopening efforts for student spaces and access to physical materials for research, teaching, and learning. Carlos has been on campus as the first point of contact for the libraries. He has been a vital link between the libraries’ physical spaces, campus activity, and staff working remotely. He maintained the critical operations of the libraries’ physical spaces, monitoring each of the 10 closed Fort Garry libraries. Seeing an opportunity to get essential work done, Carlos initiated an extensive cleaning of all library spaces with Caretaking Services. He also coordinated the pickup and drop-off of deliveries and picked up library mail at campus stores. Carlos was key to staff safety and well-being from the start of the pandemic. He was essential to the libraries’ initial pandemic activities for posting signage, adjusting furniture layouts, and obtaining and distributing disinfection and hygiene supplies. After campus closure, Carlos was the contact point for all staff who needed to return to campus and their workspaces for any reason, ensuring that staff were able to safely enter the needed location, maintaining contact with them while on campus, and then verifying their safe exit. He supported staff working remotely by assisting in the distribution of office equipment and supplies, informing staff of critical campus information, and even rebooting staff computers following power failures. Carlos was essential to the libraries’ reopening for staff and for study spaces for students. As a member of the Libraries’ Physical Spaces Pandemic Recovery Committee, he worked to help set up study spaces and procedures that ensured staff and student health and safety. He also supported the libraries’ efforts to provide access to books and other physical materials, assisting with the organization of the curb-side pickup system. In an example of truly going above and beyond his duties, Carlos used his own vehicle to pick up and drop off bins of books from the various libraries when campus delivery personnel were not available, ensuring that faculty and students could get their requested material without delay.  

John was designated a libraries essential worker and has been on campus during the entire pandemic. John has truly been a “go to” person for staff working at home by checking on spaces, rebooting computers so that others could maintain their VPN connections, answering questions that could only be ascertained by being onsite, and generally easing roadblocks to completing projects from a distance. He regularly checked each of the 10 Fort Garry library locations, ensuring spaces were secure and monitoring for issues. On at least two occasions he caught problems and made sure that they were addressed before becoming major issues. He also took on the responsibility of caring for the many plants located in the various locations, especially the extensive collection located in the Fr. H. Drake Library of St. Paul’s College. John’s activities were critical during the first part of the pandemic when the libraries were establishing processes to handle books and other materials to facilitate research activities. He retrieved requested materials from unit libraries to make sure they could be circulated or digitally scanned to support patrons’ research. He oversaw all library returns during the first part of the pandemic, keeping the book returns in all locations cleared, and devising a handling system to safely process and return items to their locations. Once more library staff were able to return to campus, John provided guidance in maintaining those safe processes. Throughout the entire pandemic, Carlos and John have been the libraries’ connection to our physical spaces for over a year, fostering a continued sense of community for Libraries’ staff. They have demonstrated initiative and energy as they focused on many aspects of Libraries’ critical operations, ensuring safety of spaces and well-being of staff. Ultimately, their presence and actions helped to ensure the Libraries’ continued ability to support UM research and learning.

Library Systems Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Wei Xuan

Nominator’s testimonial:

The University of Manitoba switched to online learning and the University of Manitoba Libraries moved to remote working in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. To help students and staff adapt to the new working and learning environment, the support staff team at the Libraries Systems (LS) department developed and implemented various systems and platforms. Their major achievements are:  

  • Developed an online tool for staff to assign library materials to hold lockers: The Libraries uses hold lockers to provide contactless pickup of library materials to students. After receiving pickup requests from students, library staff uses a proprietary program to assign materials to different slots of a hold locker in the system, and then students can come to pick them up. Due to the license limit, the Libraries only has one installation of the program. Consequently, all pickup requests from students must be processed on one laptop on each campus. It became a bottleneck issue for the Libraries to process an increasing number of pickup requests. It also posed a risk of service interruption due to any computer issue. LS staff quickly studied the resources available to the department and developed an online tool that could be used by library staff to fulfill pickup requests. One main advantage is that multiple staff can use this online tool simultaneously. It greatly increases the number of pickup requests that library staff can process and resolved a bottleneck that was delaying the delivery of scholarly resources to researchers and students.  
  • Implemented a reading list management system: To better support instructors on managing reading lists and facilitate online learning, the Libraries worked with the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning to implement the reading list management system, Leganto. LS staff attended training sessions provided by the system provider and quickly acquired knowledge of the interoperability between Leganto, UM Learn, and Alma (Integrated Library System used by the Libraries). LS staff helped configure Leganto to meet the best interest of the University of Manitoba online teaching environment, implemented a procedure to import courses from UM Learn, and provided training to other library staff on how to process reading list requests from instructors. LS staff’s hard work ensured the new reading list management system was implemented as scheduled. So far, more than 70 courses have used this system.  
  • Implemented the institutional authentication mechanism on ORCID: ORCID is an organization that provides persistent digital identifiers to distinguish researchers globally. In the past, researchers created personal accounts on ORCID. Those accounts were not automatically associated with the University of Manitoba. It caused great difficulty to staff from various units at the university to maintain ORCID accounts. This institutional authentication mechanism allows researchers to log into ORCID through the University of Manitoba’s identity system. It ensures the accuracy of user information and makes it much easier for different staff at the university, particularly research support librarians at the Libraries to provide orcid-related assistance to researchers.  
  • Designed and developed an online tool to collect access information for each building on campus: At the beginning of July 2020, Libraries Systems was approached by the Office of the Provost to provide technical advice on an online tool. The Office of the Provost needed to collect access information for buildings. LS staff studied various technical approaches and selected the most efficient path to provide an online tool of quality. LS staff worked intensively on the project. The online tool went live at the beginning of August 2020. It was used by all faculties and other units to submit building occupancy information.  

LS staff should be recognized for their resiliency, creativity, and innovation in supporting mission-critical operations of the University of Manitoba in the middle of the pandemic. 

Library Technical Services Team

Nominated by: Melissa Raynard

Nominator’s testimonial:

It is with great pleasure that I nominate the entirety of the Libraries Technical Services Department for the University of Manitoba Annual Awards of Excellence. The work of the entire department ensured ongoing access to library resources, critical to faculty and student research and student success. The members of this team rallied together to investigate and expand our current online resource offerings to further support the faculty and students. Responding to faculty requests, they worked to find online access to electronic textbooks and streaming video by faculty request. When streaming access to videos in our physical collection was not available, they were involved in the processes to digitize the requested DVD/VHS in our collection, to provide the faculty with a digital copy for use in online classes. Technical Services also helped set up and manage temporary free online resources vendors made available due to the pandemic. In addition, key personnel remained onsite to ensure mailed invoices were scanned and submitted for payment to our financial assistant and financial officer. Our financial services personnel developed new digital processes to replace the usual paper-based processes. This ensured our invoices continued to be paid on-time, ensuring our online access to resources was not interrupted.  

Where some departments may have seen a drop in work during the initial part of the lock-down, work in the Libraries Technical Services department intensified significantly due to the increased demand of online resources from faculty for course teaching. The whole technical services team demonstrated adaptability and resiliency when dealing with the increased workload on top of having to transition to working from home.  They swiftly adopted different technologies such as WebEx and Microsoft Teams so they could continue to work collaboratively together on activities such as problem-solving access issues to online resources.  

As the lockdown continued, and restrictions changed to allow for the borrowing of print material and an increased staff capacity, technical service once again adapted processes to fit the new “normal”. The process for cataloguing print books, which normally was done with the physical item in-hand, was adapted so it could be done remotely by team members working from home.  Select team members volunteered to work on campus (as allowed) to complete the physically process items to get them into faculty and student hands quickly.  

The Libraries Technical Services team worked tirelessly this past year to ensure faculty and students had access to online library resources so the research and teaching activities at the University could continue. With resiliency, adaptability, and creativity they continuously strive to meet the unique demands of the University’s community for both physical and online information resources.

Mail Services/Central Stores Team

Nominated by: Lyle Morin

Nominator’s testimonial:

As the Pandemic closed down the University in March 2020, the current practices and process were completely changed as the campus transitioned to a remote working environment. In order to minimize transmission of the virus by extraneous travel, Mail Services / Central Stores became the main receiving area for the University. John and Gerald have seen a huge influx of parcels and mail, and without anybody to receive these items, they began filling our warehouse. This team did not miss a beat, and immediately started contacting the clients to make arrangements for deliveries of packages and mail. They quickly became the central location for all mail deliveries on campus, and developed a custom service to store parcels and mail, and only deliver it when someone was in the offices to receive it. They also reached out to the campus community to understand when departments were occupied to schedule routine deliveries of mail.

John and Gerald created an atmosphere that clients felt safe when picking up items in Central Stores as they had scheduled no contact pick up times and worked with each group separately. They’re efforts, organization and dedication to team success made the University of Manitoba’s Mail Services and Central Stores seem like it was business as normal. This approach to centralized mail service supported the campus community, and ensured that parcels and mail was effectively delivered to campus, and to the recipient in a timely and secure manner. They were flexible and reactive to the needs of the community. They also maintained the safety and security of all staff by minimizing the interaction with nonessential persons and limiting interactions. They created a safe environment, that had a ready supply of hand sanitizer and masks to ensure any deliveries or pickups were conducted safely. Some great examples of this are; one day, a perishable research related item came in late in the day. This team waited long after regular hours until the researcher could make it onto campus to pick it up. The other example is the countless times they arranged for staff to have program related material dropped off at their residences. John Baillie and Gerald Gagnon went above and beyond in the last year to ensure that the campus community continued to receive their essential mail deliveries. 

Maria Roy, Administrative Clerk, Financial Aid and Awards

I know many employees who have had to work from home but have not seen anyone (besides other people in her department) who devoted so much honest time: taking shorter lunches, skipping breaks. Maria has young children and does not keep them home even though at times it would be much easier. I have seen Maria have to flex her time without much notice due to deadlines, last minutes awards, causing her to work overtime (sometimes not even recording the time). She canceled camping weekends (as well as supper with her little family) that were planned due to unexpected working late, and all this with a 4- & 7-year-old which she has had to leave with others. Honest employees working from home these days deserve to be recognized for their hard work and dedication.


Marni Laurencelle, Executive Assistant to the Dean, College of Nursing, RFHS

Nominated by: Susan McClement

Nominator’s testimonial:

I have known Marni for over two decades; first in her role as Administrative Support to the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research, and most recently in her role as the Executive Assistant to the Dean of the College of Nursing (CON). In my role as the Associate Dean of Research in the College of Nursing and member of the senior leadership team in the College, I work closely with Ms. Laurencelle, and believe that her responses to the impacts of the pandemic over this past year have (and continue to be) outstanding.

I would like to comment specifically on the ways in which Marni has demonstrated excellence in the domain of Critical Operations—both with respect to the scope of things she has done, and the way in which she has done them.

  •  A key element in maintaining critical operations during the pandemic has been to have effective and timely communication processes in place. The shift to working remotely and the need for virtual meetings required Marni to quickly become proficient in using multiple platforms (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams) for scheduling College of Nursing Pandemic planning meetings. Her facility with technology ensured meticulously detailed minutes of daily virtual Pandemic planning meetings, thereby ensuring comprehensive documentation of the critical decision points and actionable items related to such things as, but not limited to, the movement to on-line learning, mitigating impacts on clinical practice, garnering financial and psychological supports for faculty and students, and developing processes to support faculty and staff working remotely. These minutes also formed the basis from which the Dean and wider leadership team constructed clear, accurate, and meaningful communications to faculty, students, and staff within the College of Nursing. Marni also successfully moved all existing College monthly and weekly meetings (Council, Executive Council, Operations Team, Leadership Team and others) to online platforms. Existing appointments for the Dean were also quickly moved on-line. Marni continues to provide outstanding support to the Dean, making herself available after hours to schedule urgent meetings, and procure documents and information as needed.
  • Marni has demonstrated resilience throughout the pandemic and has consistently reframed what others might lament as challenges associated with working remotely into opportunities to improve processes in the College of Nursing. For example, the College hired several new instructors and tenure track faculty this past year. Meetings, presentations, and interviews associated with the hiring process that would have previously taken place on the campus face to face were all arranged and conducted via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, onboarding of newly hired staff would also have taken place in person, with hard copies of orientation materials provided to new staff for review and action. With the shift to working remotely, Marni took the initiative to create a fillable electronic document for onboarding of new staff. The form provides all the necessary information, including links to salient information pertaining to new hires at the University of Manitoba.
  • Prior to the pandemic, the College of Nursing used a hybrid system of storing hard copy and electronic files. With the pandemic necessitating the need to use electronic signatures, Marni identified the opportunity to move to storing filles electronically for all College business—a process that facilitates ease of location and retrieval of critical documents that supports such activities as program accreditation review.
  • Marni’s calm and unflappable demeanor has been instrumental in the maintenance of the College of Nursing’s sense of community and connection during the many challenges and impacts of the pandemic. She recognizes that students and staff are trying to do their best managing the unprecedented disruption they are experiencing and makes a point of responding quickly to requests for assistance, and/or directing individuals to additional resources to help address their specific needs. Research clearly demonstrates that humans are “wired” to share emotional cues. In remaining calm, Marni’s behavior has had a multiplier effect that has engendered positivity, and optimism and has helped all of us in the College of Nursing face challenges more creatively!

Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team’s Operational Leads

Nominated by: Dr. Brian Postl

Nominator’s testimonial:  

Melanie MacKinnon is the Head, Ongomiizwin (Indigenous Institute for Health and Healing) and Melody Muswaggon is the Director, Health Programs, Ongomiizwin. Together, they have been the operational leads of the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team led by Ongomiizwin, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Their work in the last 12 months fits the criterion of critical operations. This team was created to support First Nations community pandemic planning, work collaboratively with partners, ensure First Nations communities are receiving accurate and direct public health information, and track and observe the patterns of viral spread in these communities.

As Indigenous communities have faced alarming numbers of cases and spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic, this team has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the Rapid Response Teams, which have been deployed to First Nations communities to support COVID-19 responses, including in the Little Grand Rapids outbreak. These Rapid Response Teams work collaboratively with community members and the local health system, setting up alternative accommodations in larger centres like Winnipeg and Thompson, where people can be close to hospitals if their condition worsens. During the pandemic, the Rapid Response Teams that have been deployed more than 60 times by the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team to manage the outbreaks of COVID-19.

The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team has demonstrated initiative and innovation in addressing the needs and challenges faced by the communities. Ms. MacKinnon and Ms. Muswaggon have provided leadership that has allowed for collaboration and partnerships, working together to provide the best efforts at controlling the virus in First Nations communities. They liaise with First Nations communities and their leadership, and federal and provincial public health systems to enhance COVID-19 responses.

The work of the Pandemic Response Coordination Team highlights Ms. MacKinnon’s and Ms. Muswaggon’s tireless efforts over the past year that have gone far and above the requirements of their positions. It is important to note that they are part of a larger team at Ongomiizwin including faculty members Dr. Marcia Anderson, Dr. Ian Whetter, and many others.

The federal government has also given Ongomiizwin the responsibility for leading the COVID-19 vaccination project in all 63 Manitoba First Nations. The vaccine rollout is in partnership with the AMC, Southern Chiefs Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak/Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. In collaboration with the federal government, Ongomiizwin’s goal is to deliver the Moderna vaccine to 50,000 people in 100 days by July 15. Ongomiizwin has put together a team of Indigenous health leaders to design and deliver the roll out. Ms. MacKinnon and Ms. Muswaggon have been instrumental in this delivery.

The coordination of vaccine roll-out in First Nations communities has been complex, but as managed by Ms. MacKinnon and Ms. Muswaggon, is demonstrating success in vaccine distribution, and delivery.

Ms. MacKinnon and Ms. Muswaggon are committed to strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities, which has resulted in an enhanced COVID-19 response and the start of the vaccine rollout to First Nations communities. This has been a critical service that has addressed COVID-19-related illness in vulnerable populations. The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team represents a unique solution to an urgent and complex health issue, expertly coordinated by Ms. MacKinnon and Ms. Muswaggon.

Manitoba Centre for Health Policy IT Team

Nominated by: Charles Burchill

Nominator’s testimonial:

IT support are unsung heroes – when everything works no one notices but when it is broken, they get the blame. In March 2020 we were directed to work off site with all the associated anxiety and stress that entailed. The technical shift for Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) staff from working in the office to working from home was almost seamless because of the support from our IT staff. So much of our work is driven by digital requirements that not having a smooth transition would have meant no research, a failure of our critical operations, and lost personal connections. The success of our research unit dealing with the technical challenges around COVID-19 came from the forethought, dedication, and actions of our IT group during the transition and then their ongoing follow-up and support. This is not a small task as our research unit directly touches more than 150 people and involves hundreds of research projects across the University.  

Both Rod and Darrin provide a calm, supportive, and knowledgeable touch point around technical issues including network connections and finding equipment (computers, monitors, cameras, microphones) and software then getting those things to work. This involves understanding individual needs and conditions, connecting online, over the phone, or even making house calls to get everything working. Their calm support and professionalism reduced staff anxiety and made things work.  

The MCHP IT team touches each criterion for the Awards of Excellence:  

  • Community – Keeping in touch has been critically important to our staff. Making sure that equipment was installed and available, especially video and audio capabilities, has kept our office community connected and working. Both Rod and Darrin demonstrated compassion and understanding for the frustrations and anxiety in transitioning, and supported the technical requirements for staying in touch.  
  • Critical Operations and MCHP Research – our research depends on having computers and systems up and running. Over the last year we have had virtually 100% uptime, and when there were issues Rod and Darrin were available to troubleshoot and resolve problems quickly and efficiently. Over the last several years Rod and Darrin have planned and implemented virtual systems for research and administration. This forethought made the transition to remote sites almost seamless.  
  • Safety and Well Being – Working with new and sometimes temperamental technical systems can be very stressful. Rod and Darrin bring to their support role an understanding of the stress and anxiety associated with transitions and technology, and make people feel comfortable with asking questions to resolve technical issues quickly and efficiently.  

Rod and Darrin made things work, and we would be at a loss without their calm and supportive presence. 

Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research (MCNHR) Team

Nominated by: Dr. Susan McClement

Nominator’s testimonial:

The year 2020 marked both the 35th anniversary of the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research (MCNHR) and a dramatic change in research operations due to COVID-19. As the Associate Dean of Research in the College of Nursing (CON), and Director of the MCNHR, it is with immense pride that I nominate the MCNHR team for an Award of Excellence for their extraordinary efforts in supporting research activity and scholarship during the pandemic. At the heart of the MCNHR is an exceptional and highly functioning team of support and research staff who rose to the challenge during COVID-19 in ways that were simply exceptional! Below are specific examples of excellence demonstrated by this exceptional team.

Facilitation of Research:

  • The university-mandated suspension of all in-person research required that the MCNHR team help researchers discover innovative alternative approaches to data collection. In rising to this challenge, the MCNHR team compiled evidence-based practices and research resources for online and virtual data collection to support researchers in pivoting their research programs to online formats where applicable.  
  • Appreciating the need to ensure the successful integration of newly hired tenure track faculty working remotely into the wider faculty research community, the team developed a remote onboarding process and scheduled regular follow-up meetings to foster the development of new faculty research plans, mitigate feelings of isolation, and ensure the provision of relevant and timely supports.  
  • The team also assisted researchers from other faculties and colleges (Medicine, Sociology, Nutritional Sciences) who sought out expertise in conducting data collection through online formats, thereby supporting research activity across the wider university, and further building the MCNHR’s highly valued interprofessional relationships and collaborations.  
  • Anticipating the release of COVID-19 funding opportunities, the team looked for unique research opportunities afforded by the pandemic and were able to support research teams applying to these targeted competitions. In addition to facilitating applications to regular funding calls, this targeted support resulted in the team facilitating the development of 80 grant applications -- double the number from the previous year. Both resilience and herculean efforts were required by the MCNHR team in managing the workflow and communication of this volume of support demands. The team went above and beyond--responding to last-minute requests for grant application support by extending their regular hours. Despite the blistering pace, high volume of work, time-sensitive deadlines and encountering stressed and frazzled researchers whose behavior was not always at its best, the MCNHR team continually remained calm, reassuring, and compassionate in their dealings with others. Considering that all members of the MCNHR team were also having to adjust to working remotely and deal with the impact of the pandemic on themselves and their families, their unswerving commitment in supporting the research enterprise is remarkable!
  • The MCNHR Summer Research Internship Program kicked-off its 10th year in May 2020 with student research assistants working from home for the first time in the program’s history. The team supported 17 students and 13 research mentors to work remotely and offered 11 online training sessions to replace the in-person program. The MCNHR team demonstrated exceptional creativity in fostering a sense of community and connection with students through virtual potlucks and the co-creation of a cookbook containing research pearls of wisdom and favorite recipes. The team also spearheaded the development of new resources for training research staff and students including short videos on using SPSS and voiceover PowerPoints on developing a research poster.  
  • The MCNHR team demonstrated resilience in adapting its own internal processes for grants administration and support. Pandemic-induced delays in study completion required the team to support researchers in navigating new processes and around unexpected grant extensions, budget revisions, new processes for requests to undertake research involving human participants on or off campus and accessing funds through programs like the Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund.  
  • The MCNHR team received an Outstanding Team Award from the Association of Registered Nurses of Manitoba in December 2020–a further testament to the team’s excellence and valuable contributions in supporting research at the University of Manitoba during the pandemic. 

Med IT Team

Nominated by: Raman Dhaliwal

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Med IT team has gone above and beyond to support the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS) faculty, staff, and students as we transitioned quickly to work remotely. In March 2020, the University announced a complete transition to remote teaching over the period of a couple of days. Med IT supports the College of Medicine and Rehab Sciences. I asked them to support all of RFHS as we quickly transitioned everyone to work from home. They stepped up and supported all of this despite only being a team of seven. This included the following:  

  • Assisting with the procurement of 500 Zoom licenses over the weekend to ensure we could support faculty and staff working from home.  
  • Distributing laptops to individuals.
  • Setting up user agreements to be signed by employees taking equipment home so we could track what was leaving the campus.
  • Instruction on many items including setting up electronic signatures, setting up voicemail, Jabber installation etc.  
  • Sourcing out headphones and other equipment required to work from home.  

The team worked tirelessly and on site to ensure staff and faculty had the supports they needed to work from home. As everyone worked from home, this team continued to come onto site to support key functions. As technology needs continued to arise in RFHS, I was able to ask this team to support this work. They always rose to the occasion and worked effectively as a team to allow us to transition as seamlessly as possible to working from home.  

In RFHS, we were familiar with Zoom through our work with Queen’s University and Entrada. We adopted this technology for remote teaching and meetings. When concerns arose about “Zoom-bombing”, I tasked the Med IT team with creating best practices for setting up Zoom to prevent issues such as this. We have gone without incident in our Zoom use as a result of this.  

This team also later was tasked with providing ExamSoft implementation guidance to Nursing and Pharmacy. This was an area they were new to as well but agreed to learn and support this work and have done a great job in doing so.  

Med IT has been critical in ensuring a smooth transition to working remotely and the technology needs surrounding this. Their support not only for the Colleges they have historically supported but for the broader RFHS has been very well received and they are recognized as key players in helping maintain critical operations. 

Myke Kurnell, MultiMedia Technician, IST

Nominated by: Trevor Tomlinson

Nominator’s testimonial:

When the lockdown first began, Myke worked tirelessly with the different Medical Faculties to ensure that we could adapt medical rounds seamlessly to an online format via Zoom. Many of our clients were understandably worried about how things would work and Myke was instrumental in easing their concerns.  

When the circumstances called for staff to be on campus for recordings, Myke was at the forefront, cementing our safety procedures such as wiping down all equipment disinfectant wipes and wearing proper protection both us and the client.  

If staff weren't feeling well, Myke not only was adamant that they stay home, often he would volunteer himself to take their place on campus to make sure no one had any trepidation about passing off their work.  

In the beginning of the pandemic, our equipment setup for medical rounds had to change drastically. In the beginning there was the odd bug that could grind the whole process to a halt. Medical rounds tend to start very early in the morning and when I was operating my first medical rounds on the new system, Myke got up earlier than he was required to and provide support in the event something happened. This would allow us to quickly troubleshoot an issue and minimize disruption to the client. 

NGWE Team and Friends

Nominated by: Paul Lacap

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The launch of the Next Generation Web Experience ushered in a new era for the University of Manitoba’s public website. Previously, the RedDot site offered a poor experience, with its outdated information, difficult navigation, lack of mobile responsiveness and inaccessibility. Our ability during the pandemic to communicate digitally would have been severely hampered without the university’s foresight and planning to execute this university-wide project.  

As the pandemic shut down key channels for connecting with students, the NGWE team and friends (“the team”) was asked to help create urgently needed new digital resources to recruit, welcome, support and retain UM students.  

These solutions:  

  • were new requests beyond the original scope of the project, or  
  • were planned initiatives that were implemented more quickly to meet demand  

The team responded with enthusiasm, creativity and a collaborative approach – launching solutions to overcome the loss of in-person contact with students and ensuring a leading-edge platform to help bring the UM vision to life at a challenging time. Here are their main COVID-related activities. 

1. First-ever online Viewbook  

Pre-pandemic, the UM’s viewbooks were key marketing pieces to prospective students. In 2019, roughly 27 500 printed books were distributed at in-person recruitment events, higher education trade shows and in-school visits.  

When the pandemic shut down these channels, the team quickly stepped in, helping Student Recruitment to launch a beautiful online alternative within a short timeframe of a few months.  


The online Viewbook:  

  • Had 338 000 views between September 2020 and March 2021 – reaching a much wider audience than the printed version  
  • Filled a gap in recruiting caused by loss of in-person contact
  • Ensured a seamless transition from touchpoints with students, starting with marketing efforts and ending with a student applying to UM  
  • Used responsive design and followed accessibility standards to accommodate all audiences  

2. Program Finder  

Part of the same “prospective student” user journey as the Viewbook, Program Finder and program pages are critical for informing students about UM programs and helping them to apply. When COVID began, the NGWE team prioritized these web pages to create a seamless journey for prospective students – a vast improvement over the Reddot experience.  

The new pages provide:  

  • Single-source information connected via faculty and recruitment sites
  • Program marketing highlights
  • Program details, directing students to the Academic Calendar
  • Admission requirements
  • A clear path to apply
  • Link to viewbook pages for more information


  • Program Finder is a clear “one-stop shop” that improves students’ ability to find program information and apply.  
  • Program pages follow a consistent template so students can compare programs – important when students have less in-person contact with UM.  

3. UM Commons  

In summer 2020, with a remote-learning year looming for new students in September, Student Engagement and Success identified an urgent need for a digital experience to provide key academic and personal supports.  

In just three weeks, the team helped launch the first iteration of UM Commons as the new-student information hub. The site was enhanced in November for students joining UM in January.  


UM Commons brings together all offerings for first-year students and is the destination for all first-year/orientation communications. It helps students to succeed during a difficult time.  

UM Commons highlights:  

  • 93,000 page views since inception  
  • Virtual advising help centre  
  • Supports for learning remotely and remote final exams  
  • Information on orientation events
  • Tutoring and mentoring information  

4. COVID updates web pages  

In March 2020, the team helped create a web page in three weeks to deliver university-specific COVID-19 information to the UM community, and then helped expand that web page to a microsite to meet information needs.  


  • Among the most-viewed pages in March-April 2020; 370 000 page views to date  
  • Gives all UM users confidence they have current pandemic information  

5. Website training and support  

To help ensure that faculties/units deliver an optimal user experience during the pandemic, the team has provided hands-on Drupal training to the nearly 600 university staff who maintain website pages.  

The team’s Web Community of Practice, a monthly forum for this group, provided additional training and support.  


Drupal users from over 120 faculty and units now use the new website as their main tool for connecting with students. 

Norma Brown, Receptionist/Building Coordinator, Helen Glass Centre for Nursing

Nominated by: Dr. Susan McClement

Nominator’s testimonial:

I am honored to nominate Norma Brown for a 2021 Award of Excellence in recognition of her outstanding COVID-19 response. I have known Norma in her role as College of Nursing Receptionist/Building Coordinator for more than a decade and have had the pleasure of working with her as both a faculty member, and most recently in my administrative role as the Associate Dean of Research. I offer the following specific evaluative comments. Paradoxically, though she herself is isolated from others being the sole support staff member working on site, Norma has excelled in fostering a sense of community during the pandemic establishing order and predictability in times of unprecedented uncertainty. Specifically:

  •  Norma is the first point of contact for students entering the Helen Glass Building, and they frequently seek her out to ask questions, raise concerns, and voice complaints. Norma’s compassion for stressed students is evidenced by her patience and willingness to listen to them vent their concerns and frustrations, and her initiative in bringing those issues forward to the College of Nursing Leadership team to be addressed on a wider level. Her listening and follow up actions demonstrate support for students, signals that the College of Nursing cares about them and supports the important goal of the College’s Strategic Plan of creating a supportive student learning environment.  
  • Even before the pandemic, Norma was in many ways a central figure around whom the wider staff and faculty of the College of Nursing revolved. She is known as the “go to” person whenever students, faculty, or staff had a question about anything–be it how to secure room bookings, where to take final exams for printing, or how to unjam the photocopier (again!). “Ask Norma, she will know”! Communication is a key component of building connections and driving a sense of community. Norma has remained the “go to” person since the pandemic, responding promptly to faculty phone calls and email about processes for accessing the building, alerting faculty when a package has been delivered for them, and helping to coordinate the delivery of office furniture and equipment to support the set-up of a home office for faculty and staff to be able to work remotely. While valued by all faculty and staff, Norma’s ability to create a sense of community and connection has been particularly invaluable to newly hired faculty who because of the pandemic have yet to set foot physically in the Helen Glass building, or meet their colleagues and students face to face.  

Norma is highly responsive in responding to the safety and well-being of faculty and students, recognizes the essential role that increased communication plays during times of disruption, and is willing to put new organizational strategies and policies in place. Specifically:  

  • Prior to the implementation of formal screening measures and the development of processes to monitor traffic in and out of the building, Norma was rigorous in manually signing in faculty, staff, students, IT personnel, and trades people to track who was in the building. This activity was critical to support the work of public health officials engaged contact tracing procedures in the event an individual who had been on the premises later tested Covid positive.  
  • Norma demonstrated unswerving commitment in keeping the Helen Glass building scrupulously clean and sanitized. She was in constant communication with Caretaking personnel, ensuring that room lists were updated for daily cleaning. She was diligent in constantly wiping door handles, and common surfaces with disinfectant wipes to keep everyone safe.  
  • Norma kept up to date with the frequently evolving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidelines and ensured that an adequate supply of the needed equipment was available for distribution to students and faculty as required. 

Office of Continuing Competency and Assessment Team

Nominated by: Dr. Christine Polimeni

Nominator’s testimonial:  

I would like to highlight the achievements of the educational event coordinators and examination coordinators at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Office of Continuing Competency and Assessment. Over the last year, the staff members, like many have moved into new areas of collaboration and innovation in order to keep the keep the mandate of their programs moving forward during COVID-19. Such deliverables have included:

  • Implementation of a COVID-19 needs assessment for health care learners.
  • Creation of a COVID-19 Resource Page for Health care providers (
  • Support for distribution of important COVID-19 update resources like the Manitoba COVID-19 report- which reached a Canadian wide audience.  
  • Logistical support for 7 COVID-19 just in time COVID-19 webinars.
  • Pivot to virtual learning for multiple Continuing Professional Development (CPD) conferences for health care professionals including Bug Day, which supported a record 3000 learners to the event (
  • Creation of an innovative virtual exhibitor hall for sponsored educational events.  
  • Training for speakers for CPD activities.  
  • Provided support for simulation activities for health care providers eg: Opioid Replacement Therapy 101 ( Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workshops.  
  • Provided in person and online support for high stakes certification exams for pharmacists and physicians to allow health care students to enter the workforce.  
  • Provided remediation and re-entry support to health care providers to continue in providing medical care for Manitobans.  

Many of these events take place in evenings, and weekends to allow just in time training for health care professionals at this very important time. Without their efforts, many of these educational activities that support the enhancement of the knowledge, skills and behavior of our health care professionals would not have been possible. 

Ongomiizwin’s Rapid Response Team

Nominated by: Catherine Spreitzer

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Rapid Response Team (RRT) developed by Ongomiizwin Health Services of the Rady Faculty of Health has been a critical part of the overall response to COVID-19 on reserve in Manitoba.  

Working with the First Nations Pandemic Response and Coordination Team, Ongomiizwin Health Services was early to anticipate the needs for surge capacity in First Nation communities in Manitoba to respond to COVID-19. Once the need was identified, Ongomiizwin worked with partners inside the university and in First Nation organizations to identify a roster of health care providers that could be deployed to First Nation communities.  

This roster is used to create teams of health care professionals, such as physicians, nurses and physical and occupational therapists to provide critical assistance with testing, supporting early identification of cases, and other public health activities including case and contact management.  

To date, the rapid response team has deployed to about 20 communities. They work closely with the health teams on the ground and the Medical Officers of Health to determine and implement effective testing strategies to identify cases as early as possible to support the elimination of outbreaks. The teams are very generous in sharing their knowledge and experience from past deployments to support the staff in nursing stations and health centres.  

In addition to their work on the ground in communities, members of the rapid response teams participate on calls with leadership in all First Nation communities dealing with cases of COVID-19. RRT members on these calls provide valuable contributions and guidance to leadership and other health providers.

The rapid response team has embodied compassion, integrity and resolve in their work and I believe they would be excellent candidates for either the community or critical operations awards. They have brought together partners across governments and communities to resolve issues and have brought patience and expertise to the table, often leading negotiations between governments that have not always worked well together.  

Because the leadership of the rapid response team has extensive experience working with First Nation communities, they demonstrated cultural competency and helped others supporting First Nation communities to do the same.  

The Rapid Response Team has made a significant contribution to the health of First Nations throughout this pandemic and I’m very pleased to nominate them for this award. They have been a key difference maker in the management of COVID-19 on reserve in Manitoba and I’m not sure where we would have been without their foresight, leadership and collaboration. 

Orthodontics Clinic Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Dr. William A. Wiltshire
Nominator's testimonial:
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the entire university community, but none more so, than its Dr Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry, which is required to self-fund all its clinical operations and patient care, generated from fees accrued by treating patients. Accordingly, at least 20 or more support staff were temporarily laid off and another 8 permanently lost their jobs, as the College struggled to cover its support staff salaries during the government and university mandated shutdown of our clinics.  

The Graduate Orthodontic Program temporarily laid off six of its eight support staff and one permanently but had to nevertheless continue patient care of emergency orthodontic patients during a time when the virulence, transmissibility and associated dangers of very close direct contact with patients were still unknown. Orthodontic emergencies, such as aspiration of loose intra-oral fixed appliances could cause life threatening situations which need immediate intervention, whether there is a pandemic or not! Unattended active fixed appliances could also cause irreversible damage in many orthodontic patients. Our clinicians, residents and orthodontic support staff were required to continue patient care, as a result, even during the shutdown period.  

Consequently, the three nominees for this Award of Excellence are being nominated because:  

  • They are placed in probably the highest risk category of any support staff person, having to provide patient care in very close proximity to that part of the human anatomy – the nose and mouth area - where transmissibility of the virus is the most dangerous in terms of being infected, even with use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  
  • They provided compassionate and altruistic support to our patients in need, most who are children and teenagers, as well as daily support to our treating clinicians to alleviate pain and suffering and potential serious health issues if not addressed promptly.  
  • They had to quickly learn to adapt to the “new norms” of donning and doffing PPE, changing requirements of sterilization and disinfection, dealing with patients who may have been Covid positive but not knowing it and with little direction, guidance or science to back up many of the new protocols being put in place on an almost daily changing basis. These three worth nominees all took it in their stride, remained focused, patient, adaptive, positive and with their eyes firmly set on the goals of helping the patients entrusted to their care.  
  • Their responsiveness to the needs of our patients, clinical residents and full-time specialist orthodontists went above and beyond the normal call of duty as they were required to work short staffed due to the layoffs and in situations where their proximity to patients put them in the direct line of infection and harm’s way. In addition, the Graduate Orthodontic Clinic support staff were the first back on site after this was permitted. They were also the only support staff in the College of Dentistry who provided emergency care on-site during the month of July 2020 and the continuation of regular patient care during that time because orthodontic treatment cannot be “put on hold” for extended periods of time due to potential deleterious effects on patient care. Our three nominees, Alison, Erin and Kristen, never wavered for a second, answered the call of duty, true to the Hippocratic Oath and firmly put the patients’ needs and well-being far ahead of themselves in a compassionate and caring way. The University of Manitoba is fortunate to have clinically based support staff like Alison, Erin and Kristen. 

College of Pharmacy Administrative Team

Nominated by: Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms

Nominator’s testimonial:

I am very pleased to submit this letter in support of the College of Pharmacy’s administrative team, whose members have continued to successfully support our College through these extraordinary
times. The pandemic has posed challenges to all of us at the university and has required our students, staff and faculty to take on additional workload under not-so-easy circumstances, while mostly working from home. Through all of this, our administrative team has demonstrated resilience, empathy, resolve and a strong sense of community that has enabled them to support and continue to connect with each other, while ensuring that our programs, students and faculty received the support that they needed for a successful year.  

It has been an exceptionally challenging year for our College due to many reasons. As the pandemic started, we were in the middle of a major curriculum renewal as we continued to transition to our PharmD program. Our support staff worked tirelessly in conjunction with faculty to establish the schedule for the new curriculum, and spent considerable time advising and supporting our students.  

During this period, we also continued to bring in students for university-approved in-person activities and essential research activities. In addition, with many new faculty, we were increasing our graduate student complement, and growing our research programs. All of this required our staff to; create daily scheduling of personnel, design processes and procedures, and ensure the daily availability of PPE, while frequently communicating with myself and our associate deans.  

We also purchased a new exam software (ExamSoft) for our courses. This required a steep learning curve for our faculty and students. Our administrative staff members volunteered to take the lead in assisting the College with its implementation. Our College has successfully administered all of our exams on ExamSoft from October 2020 to April/May 2021.  

As a College, we also prepared our national accreditation progress report for submission on March 31, 2021. Through all of this, our staff supported all of the committee work, kept us on track and worked behind the scenes to ensure that we effectively moved forward.  

Throughout the last year, the quality of work of our staff members has continued to be exceptional, with their focus on ensuring that our students and programs were well supported.  

In summary, as Dean of the College of Pharmacy, I am proud of our administrative staff’s outstanding and important contributions to our College, especially their positive attitudes throughout the pandemic. We would not be able to accomplish all that we do at the College without their support. I whole heartedly nominate our administrative team for the University’s Award of Excellence! 

Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Operations Team

Nominated by: Raman Dhaliwal

Nominator’s testimonial:

The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Operations team is very deserving of this nomination. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba, this team’s role changed from supporting building operations and capital projects to supporting COVID-19 Operations. The team rose the occasion to support Rady FHS in anything that was required to ensure we could continue to train health sciences students and continue with critical research activity. Their efforts have directly supported our ability to graduate health sciences students on time so they can enter the workforce and continue the COVID-19 pandemic response

The COVID-19 operations this team supported included:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ordering and distribution- this seems straight forward but, in a time when the entire world was competing for the same supply of masks, eye protection, sanitizer and wipes, this was a very challenging exercise. Jisselle led our procurement process of all the above and worked tirelessly to line up reliable supply chains that allowed us to return our students back to campus in June 2020 and continue with their in-person training. This PPE allowed us to catch up on missed training form the University shut down in March 2020 and allowed us to graduate all students on time. Any PPE distribution has been organized by Jisselle and Rufaro to ensure the appropriate PPE is being used in all settings as set by Rady FHS.
  • Supporting and staffing entry screening functions- due to the nature of the training our students do, they are back and forth in clinical placement and our campus. We also have patients we are serving in the Dental Clinics and standardized patients that participate in hands on simulation sessions with our students. Not to mention, our faculty are also clinicians at HSC and they are back and forth between HSC and the Bannatyne Campus. Jisselle’s role was to ensure the entry point screening stations were always staffed. When there were sick calls resulting in not enough coverage, she herself stepped up and fill this function to ensure individuals entering the campus were screening no to all the questions and helped to provide a safe workplace and learning environment for all.
  • Setting up N95 Mask Fit testing for over 1100 Rady FHS students- Margaret’s main role is to support capital projects as well as room bookings at Bannatyne. When the health system decided to not fit test our students any longer, we had to establish this on our own. Margaret helped find external contractors who would come in and fit test our students both at Bannatyne and Fort Garry. She set up schedules and helped units order masks from the health system so students could be adequately protected when caring for COVID-19 patients as part of their training.
  • Organizing movers to help move equipment to individuals’ homes to support working from home- As part of our approach to assisting individuals to work from home effectively, we organized movers to help move equipment from offices and load them into individuals’ cars. Margaret and Brenda organized this work at Bannatyne campus.
  • Organizing student volunteers to support critical functions in the health system- In the early days of the pandemic, the health system reached out to us for student volunteers to support several new functions in the health system including screening and contact tracing. Brenda Peterson organized this with all Rady FHS students.

The above are all functions which did not exist in our faculty prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The RFHS Operations team rose to the occasion to support this work and ensure the continued and safe operation of key functions in our faculty. They did so without hesitation and their hard work and efforts are applauded in our faculty. This team has worked incredibly hard in all the above areas, and it is my honor to write this nomination recognizing their remarkable efforts.


Rainer Thalhammer, Assistant Manager, Operations & Maintenance

Nominated by: Derrick Zaharia

Nominator’s testimonial:

Rainer Thalhammer’s list of attributes entails many of the specific criteria mentioned for this award. He has a sense of community, he takes time when needed to show compassion and understanding to employees when required in dealing with issues as they arise, specifically during this pandemic, as he wants to ensure his crews are being safe and following all protocols. He has integrity and resolve, as he will stay on a maintenance problem and ensure it is completed in a most reliable way and will ensure we do not have a repeat failure.

He will take time out of his day to help whoever asks for it or if he sees someone in need of help. He is very selfless in this way and puts the University employees, students, and faculties first to ensure they have a safe working and learning environment. Rainer has been instrumental in maintaining the critical operations of the campus prior to, and more so, through this pandemic. He is always available and willing to come to campus after hours if need be or will stay late if required to deal with an issue until resolved to ensure the campus is ready for the next day and running properly.  

Rainer is a very approachable person, always willing to help, and an excellent problem solver. He will not come to me as a manager and say something will not work without presenting an alternative solution to better address the problem we are solving. Rainer is very safety orientated and truly cares for the well-being of others. He demonstrates this by ensuring consistently that his crews are working safely and will approach them or others on campus if he sees something that is unsafe. If either an employee or individual, being a student or faculty member, is doing something questionable, he will intervene and correct the behavior to ensure they do the task in a safe manner.  

Throughout the pandemic, Rainer has routinely consulted with Faculty and Staff returning to work, and reviewed the requirements for personal protective equipment and safeguards. He has developed a system for installing splash guards at workstations to ensure essential staff are able to continue to work safely. He routinely seeks out deficiencies and corrections across campus, and has been routinely noted making adjustments to door operators and accessibility buttons to ensure they operate correctly. He is selfless in giving his time and advice to any situation that is required.

Raman Dhaliwal, Director of Administration/Operations, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences

Nominated by: Keyur Pathak

Nominator’s testimonial:

Raman Dhaliwal has provided to the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS) using her excellent operational skills and focusing on safety of all cohorts at RFHS during the pandemic. She has displayed an ongoing commitment for ensuring the wellbeing of RFHS faculties and students, while keeping the campus operational. This has significantly helped all RFHS departments.  

Critical Operations - Aided in maintaining mission critical operations; adapting to the situation with resiliency, creativity in problem solving, and initiative.  

  • Assisted all RFHS in technology requirements (Zoom, electronic signature, equipment to work from home, ExamSoft) in March 2020 to support work from home effectively.
  • To support effective communication and clear lines of accountability, created the Rady FHS Incident Command Structure which included weekly meetings with the Rady Dean, College Deans, Associate Dean UGME, Associate Dean PGME, Director Administration/Operations. This group met weekly to ensure all items/decisions related to managing the pandemic were handled consistently across RFHS. Raman also chaired the Operations section of the Incident Command Structure so any decisions/communication at the Command table could be communicated/operationalized effectively in a large faculty.  
  • Created the principles of medical resident redeployment. This was important for both the health system and the PGME program. It allowed an organized approach to redeploying residents in a pandemic when all hands were needed on deck to serve Manitobans that were hospitalized due to COVID-19. She also created the list of residents that were eligible for redeployment which were actioned during the Code Red shut down in November 2020.  
  • Created process flow charts for staff/faculty and students to be used by supervisors/instructors to manage faculty/staff and students that were symptomatic or were a close contact. This would ensure the safety of others on campus and helped provide a consistent, clear approach to managing individuals that potentially could spread COVID-19 on our campus/placement site. These would later be adopted by the entire University. Raman later worked with OESH in the Shared Health and contracted them to manage all our student’s absences/self-isolation to take the pressure of our faculty/instructors from managing this.  
  • Coordinated all in person teaching/research requests in Rady FHS and ensured the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment guidelines were in place for clinical teaching, skills teaching, non- health system placements. Ensured this standard PPE was provided to programs and researchers at no charge to ensure equity of access.  

Safety and Well-Being - With responsiveness to the needs of faculty, staff, students and others took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all in the unit, department/center, division, and/or school.  

  • Ran the non-clinical aspects of the first COVID-19 vaccination clinics in the Province of Manitoba which vaccinated 5000 health care workers. This included physically receiving the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the province.
  • Assisted the College of Dentistry in setting up the Emergency dental clinic including sourcing space and N95 masks.
  • Central point of Contact in Rady FHS for all COVID-19 related enquiries to ensure consistent communication and message.
  • Served on the Central COVID-19 recovery committee as a member. This later became the Central COVID Steering Committee, and Raman is currently a member on this committee. Raman is also the Team Lead of the University wide Health and Safety committee.
  • Stood up entry point screening in Rady FHS at Bannatyne to ensure access to campus was controlled and no one was coming onto campus with symptoms or positive travel history. This was also implemented in College of Nursing.
  • Manage all COVID-19 positive cases with the Health and Safety Committee Chair. Report on all COVID-19 cases to broader University.  
  • Coordinated the onboarding of 200 plus Immunizers for the COVID-19 vaccination efforts in First Nations communities.
  • Coordinated several student volunteer opportunities required by the health system.
  • Worked with Shared Health in creating the COVID-19 outbreak notification process that is now in use by all educational institutions in the health system. 

Rob Ellis & Trevor Fraser, Technicians, Agricultural and Food Sciences

Nominated by: The Department of Soil Science

Nominators' testimonial:  

The Department of Soil Science takes great pleasure in recognizing the team of Rob Ellis and Trevor Fraser (Technicians) for their roles in bringing out the very best in the University of Manitoba during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their efforts over the past year have enabled the department not just to cope with the challenges of adapting the workplace to ensure everyone’s safety but also to thrive through their facilitation of multiple research and teaching activities.  

Trevor and Rob have worked as a team throughout the pandemic. They have made extraordinary efforts to maintain our critical operations, to assist faculty and students in transitioning to online classes, to support critical research, and to ensure the safety and well-being of others while supporting the University’s academic mission during the pandemic.  

The exceptional nature of Rob and Trevor’s contributions falls into two main categories:  

Critical Operations  

They have taken it upon themselves to provide exceptional support and service to the department. Rob has worked tirelessly to make the department safe for everyone who has had laboratory experiments running during this time. He has played a significant role in the preparation and regular updating of our COVID-19 work protocol and has been in the department on most days, while majority of department personnel worked from home. He received ordered packages and has been on standby for anyone who needed to ship or pick up items from Ellis Building. He was also key to the smooth-running of research activities during the COVID-19 pandemic because of his excellent organizational skills.  

Trevor has played a critical role in the preparation of our COVID-19 field work protocols, particularly those that facilitated the use of field equipment and our department’s vehicle fleet. He set up an entirely new online method to book the use of equipment and vehicles. Trevor also coordinated an expanded fleet because the restrictions on the number of people who could occupy each vehicle has meant that additional vehicles were needed to accomplish the field work.  

The steps that both Rob and Trevor undertook in the past year went above and beyond the work they normally do. Their efforts have facilitated the continuation of department research. This has had tremendous value to the university because research disruptions and lost growing seasons for field research would have otherwise jeopardized dozens of research projects.  

Safety and Well-Being  

Since the outset of the pandemic, the university has stressed the importance of safety and well-being of the entire university community while striving to facilitate its ongoing functions. Rob and Trevor have both played a pivotal role in the development and deployment of safety measures in our department that have lived up to the university’s goals.  

Rob has been a guiding force behind the scenes in the department, ensuring adherence to the everchanging COVID-19 protocols. In addition to preparing hand sanitizers and masks for department personnel, he has also monitored building occupancy and coordinated lab and office usage to ensure that we did not exceed the current limits that were in place.  

Trevor has coordinated vehicle and equipment use while monitoring our shed occupancy limit. He developed equipment cleaning and sanitization protocols and trained users including faculty, technicians, graduate students and summer students on following these protocols.  

These activities ensured the safety of all staff and students during this period. Rob and Trevor’s selfless efforts have been greatly appreciated by everyone in the department.  

Rob and Trevor are very deserving of this award. They both are always willing to lend a helping hand despite busy schedules and commitments. Through all the changes and adaptations in the protocols over the past year, they have both stepped up to exemplify the mission of the department, the faculty, and the University of Manitoba. Rob and Trevor have made a real difference to our department. It is with great pride that we nominate this team for The Awards of Excellence.

Sara Smith, Programs Assistant, Faculty of Graduate Studies

Nominated by: Alison Skopalek

Nominator’s testimonial:

Sara Smith has had an enormous impact in making my transition to a new position in March 2020 a positive one – despite the difficult timing of that. Sara went above and beyond her role as a resource for me. Knowing that I was new, she took extra time to explain the background of why and how things work, and to provide me with relevant links for additional information which has helped me put all the pieces together. Sara responds quickly, gets the answers if she doesn’t have them (though she usually does), and is in equal parts personable and professional.


Security Services Team

Nominated by: Karen Meelker

Nominator’s Testimonial:


  • Security Services staff have continued to work 24/7 at Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses daily (365 days a year) during the pandemic. The staff have worked to maintain positive working relationships with all stakeholders who attend campus, including students, faculty, staff and visitors.
  • Despite the challenges this pandemic has brought to the University community, Security Services staff have maintained a positive attitude and have adjusted its operations to meet the ever-changing requirements of the University community. It has often been a very lonely and isolated environment, and this has presented challenges to staff who have continued to work on campus while many of their colleagues have moved to working from home.
  • Security Services staff continue to meet with students, staff and visitors on campus to ensure a sense of safety and community while following all COVID-19 guidelines and regulations.  

Critical Operations  

  • Security Services staff have played a pivotal role in the initial campus closure and have continued to maintain the safety and security of the campus throughout the pandemic. This includes responding to all alarms and issues and incidents of concern on campus.
  • Numerous critical and urgent incidents have taken place on campus during the pandemic (eg. Power failures and critical medical emergencies, etc.). Despite this, Security Services staff have adapted and responded exceptionally well to all these critical incidents and have ensured that the overall impact to the operations of the University was minimal.
  • Security Services staff will be essential in helping the University campuses to reopen and are already discussing their involvement and role in that effort over the summer and fall 2021.  


  • By providing a safe and secure environment, research at the University has continued to take place. Security Services staff have assisted with opening and securing research areas, including labs and offices and have provided regular patrols to these areas to ensure staff and students feel safe continuing their research.

Safety and Well-Being  

  • Security Services continues to respond to all calls for service at both the Fort Garry and Bannatyne Campuses, including medical emergencies, public assistance calls and criminal or suspicious activity.
  • Security Services staff have provided special attention to areas of concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as study spaces and buildings with limited occupancy. Security Services continues to adapt to the changing needs of the University community during the pandemic with poise and professionalism.
  • Security Services continues to monitor both campuses to ensure compliance with existing COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, including mask wearing and physical distancing.  

The global pandemic has had an unprecedented impact not only to the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba but also to the Security Services Department. Despite various challenges including staffing issues and overall (Pandemic) fatigue, Security Services staff have remained resilient throughout the pandemic. The team continues to provide excellent service to the University and all of its stakeholders and have adapted exceptionally well when confronted with adversity and new challenges. I feel the entire Security Services Department is an excellent candidate for the 2021 Awards of Excellence. 

Semira Alekic, Office Assistant, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources/Department of Geological Sciences

Nominated by: Alfredo Camacho

Nominator’s testimonial:

Semira has been the front-line representative in the Wallace building during the pandemic (from the start to the present). During this period, because of reduced staff in the building, she has taken many extra responsibilities, such as being the gatekeeper, keeping track of personnel entry/exit of the building, collecting COVID-19 screening forms, ensuring protocol is followed when entering our office area and building. In addition, she takes full inventory of our stock of personal protective equipment (PPE), ensures that the Instructors, TA’s and staff are supplied with PPEs as needed for in person labs. Moreover, and more tasking is the handling of personnel extraneous, principally couriers, to the faculty to ensure prompt delivery of sensitive material critical to the smooth running of the multimillion-dollar instrumental facilities in the Wallace building. Her initiative, compassion and problem-solving skills have helped our department and the faculty run smoothly, while in the middle of a pandemic. She is always available for that last minute call for help. Semira is very deserving of this recognition.



Department of Sociology and Criminology Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Frank Cormier

Nominator’s testimonial:  

It is my pleasure to nominate Dianne Bulback, Margaret Currie, and Donna Alexiuk (as a team) for the Awards of Excellence. These three individuals comprise the truly outstanding support staff team in the Department of Sociology and Criminology in the Faculty of Arts. Each of them has always brought numerous assets to their respective positions, they have always worked exceptionally well together, and I know that I speak on behalf of the entire department when I say that we are extremely fortunate to have them.

However, it was over the past year of operation under pandemic conditions that I have seen even more clearly how they epitomize the concept of “team.” Unlike a simple collection of individuals with a common task, members of a team work closely, interdependently, and supportively. In the past year, each of these team members has suffered personal crises, including tragic losses of close family members. At those times, the speed and smoothness with which the other members of the team stepped in to pick up the load was something to behold.  

I have worked with excellent support staff over the years, both at the University of Manitoba and in the private sector, so I have always understood the importance of a strong support team during difficult times. However, I don’t believe we would have weathered the COVID-19 storm as successfully as we did with any team other than this one.  

Dianne, Margaret, and Donna have developed and maintained excellent relationships with the academic administrators and faculty members in our department, with other support staff around the university, and most certainly with our students. I have seen no better illustration of the appreciation we all have for these three than yesterday when I asked for feedback from my faculty members that I might weave into this nomination. We are all very stressed and busy right now, but the response to my request was immediate, and it was considerable. I am limited in how much of that feedback I can convey within these limited words, so this is but a small sample:  

“[W]ent above & beyond...never less than collegial and friendly, as they worked with me to keep my research going. Just one example is when they had to scan and process over a hundred forms, remotely, and have been in constant contact with the finance people and the bookstore on my behalf.”  

“[T]hey’ve all certainly gone above and beyond under very difficult circumstances...I support the nomination wholeheartedly! One thing that sticks out in my memory is that Margaret once personally delivered a hard copy of a dissertation to [faculty member] directly.”
“[D]one a LOT to keep the grad program running...provided training, by phone, to faculty who are new on the committee and learning the AppReview software....gone out of her way to get files from the office to look up student records when necessary, bring forms to homes of faculty for signatures when required...brought groceries to one of our grad students who had a baby...put together 'check-in meetings' with grad students to answer questions...emailed students who seemed to be struggling to see if she could assist, and to provide them with necessary resources. These are just a few things, off the top of my head!”

Sport and Recreation Team

Nominated by: Douglas Brown

Nominator’s testimonial:  

Sport and Recreation at the University of Manitoba plays a vital role in the lives and well-being of the UM community. For generations, the Sport and Recreation Team has drawn inspiration from its members. They are attuned to the community’s needs and strive to developed meaningful health and wellness opportunities for students, staff, faculty, alumni and the overall community. It should come as no surprise that amidst a global pandemic, this team adapted spaces and programs to meet the unique challenges of delivering valuable sport and recreation opportunities within strict public health orders. The team’s work reflects their vested interest in the health and well-being of our community. Their work also reflects their professional expertise and creativity.  

When fitness facilities in the province were mandated to close for two prolonged periods, the Sport and Recreation Team created new ways to engage and foster connection with the community. This was accomplished by quickly pivoting the business operation to develop and deliver daily virtual health, wellness and fitness content. This allowed for students, staff and our community members to interact with our Team from the comfort, and safety, of their homes. It was a resounding success; between January and March 2021, there was 155 000 engagements with digital content across social media and online platforms.  

Over the past year, our Sport and Recreation facilities needed to be reconfigured many times to meet the ever-evolving Public Health Orders. Similarly, the business goals of the Team needed to be adjusted and at times reimagined. This included developing new registration processes, automating attendance tracking, changing layouts and floorplans of fitness spaces for physical distancing and occupancy requirements.  

Our front-line staff have, and remain, attentive to the safety of members in the sport and recreation spaces. This dedicated group of staff, which is primarily students, are the face of our operations and are present on campus daily to support student, staff and community members using the facilities. As the Team on the ground, this group of staff work daily to keep everyone safe through educating patrons on mask and safety protocols, cleaning equipment and high touch surfaces, and undertaking additional training on safety and health protocols, such as new CPR/First Aid and AED standards to protect from COVID-19.  

Through the different waves of the pandemic, the Sport and Recreation team have maintained a resiliency deserving of recognition of the UM Excellence Award. From the leadership of the management team, to the front-line staff of the customer service desk and fitness attendants, to the marketing and media team behind the scenes, and everyone in between, this effort relies on the resolve and synergy of hard-working, impassioned and dedicated people focused on the health and happiness of the community they serve. Through its demonstrated commitment and adaptation, the effort put forth by the Sport and Recreation team is a testament, and shining example, of UM’s mission to create and preserve the well-being of the community. 

Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship Team

Nominated by: Zhenyu Wu

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The year of COVID-19 has been a challenging year for all University employees; however, when the impact of the pandemic began to materialize, the team at the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship immediately jumped into action. Recognizing the financial and psychological impact on students, fellow employees, and the community at large, the centre team immediately pivoted to re-envision how to execute the many existing events while at the same time creating new and exciting events and activities to keep students engaged and connected. So how did they accomplish this?  

  • Students from across the university felt the pinch of unemployment so Stu Clark created some contests and events to put dollars in student’s pockets while having fun.  
    • Learn from Home – students shared their tips and pictures on how they planned to be their own boss while learning from home with three lucky winners taking home $500 each.
    • Nominate Your Favorite Small Business – and explain how your nominated business was pivoting during COVID-19 to run their business effectively. Three winners took how $500 each and their nominated businesses were marketed to the entire student population.  
    • Name that Business and Create that Logo – students created a name for a fictitious business and created the perfect logo for it – for three prizes of $500.  
  • The Stu Clark Centre partnered with North Forge and the Asper co-op program to cover the costs of students to do their co-op assignments in start-ups! To date, ten co-op students have now experienced the thrill of working in North Forge start-up companies.  
  • The Stu Clark Centre played an integral role in connecting with small businesses to participate in the Small Business Consulting course, launched to provide expert assistance to 12 Manitoba businesses trying to pivot their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • Finding a new way to stay connected with students and keep them engaged resulted in the creation of the “Stu Clark Webinar” series and the “Stu Clark Library”. What started with one webinar in September 2020 has grown to 20 plus webinars on topics designed to assist students in all things entrepreneurship, building your personal brand, virtual presence, the future of work. This has also blossomed into collaborations with the Faculty of Law and the Business Law Clinic and case study presentations. Not only does this support the students, but the webinars have also been successfully opened up to the community at large.  
  • Pitch competitions are a mainstay of the Stu Clark Centre and this year the centre hosted virtual pitch competitions for students taking both the mandatory Asper entrepreneurship course as well as the parallel course offered to all other university students. Over 500 students took part, all vying for the winner title while learning pitching skills, having fun and enjoying great prizes!  
  • Stu Clark New Venture Championships – The New Venture Championships – Graduate Edition, Under Grad Edition and High School Edition - have all been successfully transitioned to a virtual format. This is a huge undertaking given that they are each two-day events which host 16 teams (60 – 80 students) with 20-25 community judges, including senior Manitoba executive leaders and Stu Clark himself for the final round of the graduate edition. It was a painstaking process to convert these events to virtual, requiring a complete re-visioning of the entire process, new communication methods, enlisting the assistance of marketing companies to create an exciting virtual environment and finally managing the minute-by-minute logistics during the course of each event. Both the Graduate Edition held in March and the Under Grad Edition held in April were great successes, The High School Edition is set to go in May.  
  • Venture Coach – the Venture Coach has successfully transitioned to a virtual coaching format with growing success in coaching students across all faculties from Science and Computer Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Arts, Medicine, Recreational Studies, etc. 

Surgical Residency Program Administrator Team

Nominated by: Dr. Nafisa Dharamsi, Dr. Joshua Koulack

Nominators’ testimonial:  

We would like to nominate the Surgical Education Program Administrator team for the support staff Award of Excellence. This is a team made up of Amanda Fadun, Ingrid Gomez, Karen Lee, Tamara Lewsey, Melissa Stamm, and until her recent move to the Department of Dentistry, Karen Soares, with Laura-Lee Bouchard who is their manager/leader and who has provided thoughtful guidance and has been key to many of their achievements over the past year’s challenges.  

When COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, this group immediately transitioned all teaching online without missing any previously scheduled teaching event. The Surgery Program may have been unique in this particular success.  

Early on, the Surgery Program Administrator group were innovative in developing a tracker for resident COVID-19 exposure, isolation, and N95 mask fitting. This tracker was subsequently adopted and mandated by the Post Graduate Medical Education office for all programs to use. As such, their creativity, vigilance, and hard work extended benefit beyond our own Surgical Residents to all Residents at the University of Manitoba.  

The Surgical Program Administrators ensured they were always up to date with exposure and isolation requirements. They become the main resource for the residents to go to and were able provide them direction regarding the necessary steps for testing and/or isolation. They were always willing to help in any way possible. The Program Administrators made sure all the residents (who were scattered at various sites initially) knew where to get N95 mask fittings done and then subsequently tracked all this information.  

Importantly, the Program Administrators also managed the changes to clinical schedules which were made to accommodate cancelled rotations, taking care that Royal College requirements were still being met. They helped the residents on out of province electives return to Manitoba when dictated by provincial requirements and made certain they were provided for. Any residents arriving from out of province who were required to self-isolate had a support person put in place to assist them during their quarantine if they had no family or other help in the city.  

The staff saw no boundaries in giving of themselves to make sure residents felt supported. Although the clinical day to day work was ever evolving, they sustained as much normalcy as possible in the training programs.  

In addition to all that was done for the Surgical Residents, Laura-Lee ensured that all teaching, including our Surgical Grand Rounds Program (Continuing Professional Development), continued virtually for the Surgeons. She was able to navigate the Zoom/ virtual world so that it educated not only our Surgical GFT group but allowed us to share these sessions to all interested physicians. With her assistance, attendance at the Department of Surgery Grand Rounds multiplied and was brought to more than 1,500 physicians from many disciplines.  

This Surgery Program Administrator group truly functions as a team. They are extremely supportive of each other and have a “chat” group where they answer each other's questions seemingly any time of day or night. They have risen to the challenge of managing during a Global Pandemic, and at a time where important and labour-intensive tasks (rollout of a new residency training format—Competency By Design, and Postgraduate Education Accreditation preparation) have placed extra demands on them, and they have not missed a beat. 

Terry Wolowiec, Head Technician, Science/Chemistry

Nominated by: Krystyna Koczanski

Nominator’s testimonial:

There is no question but what Terry's dedication to the Faculty of Science and the University over the past year has been a key element in making it possible for researchers to continue their work, for undergraduates to attend in-person teaching laboratories, for the distribution of personal protective equipment and for many employees to feel comfortable and even cheerful coming to Campus.  

Terry's basic long-term role is that of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technician responsible for maintaining the suite of NMR machines in Chemistry. He has fulfilled this role throughout the past year allowing continual operation of the NMRs in support of research projects–but that is only a small part of his duties.

Just prior to the onset of the pandemic, Terry took on the new position of Head Technician in the Faculty and Manager of Science Stores, overseeing the activities of several other key employees in the Faculty. For the past year during the lockdown and partial re-opening, in this new role, Terry has a been a beacon around which the research and teaching personnel have oriented themselves, thereby providing stability and focus during an unstable period. He has been on campus almost every day for the past year, always making himself available to talk to people, to fix or move equipment, to receive deliveries, to deliver supplies, to coordinate jobs with internal and external trades, and to repair things when regular servicemen are unavailable. His calm demeanor and everyday presence have allowed him to alleviate worry and to respond to the many and varied demands required to keep research and teaching operations active and productive.  

As Head Technician, he has eight individual technicians and storekeepers across the Faculty reporting to him, all of whom had to come to campus regularly to manage ordering, to maintain instruments and carry out ongoing experiments. Terry has worked hard to maintain a sense of community within this group as they work in semi-isolation in laboratories and instrument rooms. He has made them feel comfortable coming on campus demonstrating by example the importance of masking and distancing for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.  

Terry has been interacting on a daily basis with researchers across the Faculty including faculty members, graduate students and postdocs through his role in Science Stores. His calm and purposeful manner has been reassuring, while at the same time necessary supplies for ongoing research projects and teaching labs have been ordered promptly, received when delivered to Campus and distributed promptly to the appropriate labs. An important part of his role in Science Stores has been the maintenance of a stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for sourcing by the researchers and staff working in the Faculty. He has ensured the continual availability of masks, hand wash solution and face shields to all labs and offices that have needed them. This may have been an important reason for the lack of any spread of COVID-19 within the Faculty despite three cases brought in from outside.  

In addition to these oversight activities, Terry has also taken an active hands-on role in responding promptly to a myriad of requests for help from across the Faculty. These have ranged from picking up or delivering packages and boxes, to moving furniture, to repairing equipment. In one instance, a large growth chamber in Duff Roblin was malfunctioning and it was problematic for service technicians to come on campus promptly. Despite never having worked on the controls of a growth chamber, he and David Davidson attended to the problem and reactivated the chamber allowing the experiment within it to proceed.  

In conclusion, Terry has performed above and beyond all normal expectations one might have for an employee. And he has done so in ways that have been uniquely important for the function of the Faculty of Science and the performance and well-being of researchers and students who have come to campus. I can think of no one who has contributed more importantly to the Faculty and who is more worthy of this award than Terry Wolowiec. 

Tracy Elder, Senior Office Assistant, Asper School of Business

Nominator’s testimonial:

Tracy Elder’s role and performance was pivotal during this year. Tracy promptly answered inquiries, provided orientation and support for sessional faculty like me in a timely manner, being sometimes the only link that I had with the University as a whole and the faculty community as well. She responded to all my needs and took measures to make sure that all teaching requirements would go smoothly, didn’t matter the day of the week and the time that the message was sent and received.  


Tristyn Rodriguez, Patient Care Coordinator Lead, Dentistry – Clinic Support Services

Nominated by: Dr. Trenna M. Reeve

Nominator’s testimonial:

During the first months of 2020 the level of stress was acute as COVID-19 spread throughout the world and ultimately set hold in Canada. Little was understood about the virus, how it was spread, how it was prevented or how we would protect ourselves from illness and possible death.  

In March 2020, as the World Health Organization declared a Pandemic, the University of Manitoba immediately closed its doors and pushed all learning to a virtual platform. For the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry this created a monumental challenge as our College is one of few academic units whose academic curriculum encompasses both a didactic and clinical component that is on site. The College is home to a 65 chair General Practice Undergraduate Main Clinic as well as a Specialty Clinic, Oral Surgery Clinic, Oral Radiology Clinic, Graduate Periodontal Clinic, Graduate Orthodontic Clinic, Graduate Paediatric Dentistry and a Graduate Prosthodontic Clinic. Totaling approximately 100 dental chairs treating thousands of patients within Winnipeg and rural areas. In addition to this vast patient pool the Centre of Community Oral Health also functions under the umbrella of the College. These community-based clinics reach out to more underserviced populations within Winnipeg to provide dental care.  

With the mandated closure, all clinical care ceased both within the College as well as at all community clinics and a huge void in care was created.  

Understanding the urgency of the situation and after exhausting all in house options to create an acute dental care clinic, the Dean of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry collaborated with the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, the provincial regulatory board, Manitoba Dental Association, and formed alliances with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health to develop a plan to provide immediate acute care to the College of Dentistry patient population.  

A united decision was made to use operating rooms within the Health Sciences Centre facility where the safety of staff, clinicians and patients could be optimized. The Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry was then tasked to create and operationalize a plan to provide emergency dental care to the entire population of Manitoba.  

Tristyn Rodriguez, a dental assistant and Implant Care Coordinator at the College, pivoted to fulfill multiple roles to ensure the College of Dentistry provided emergency patient care to patients in the province of Manitoba as well as our internal College patients. Completely outside of her job description, Tristyn was forefront in managing the administrative duties and supporting vital clinical operations by coordinating patients who required emergency dental care at the Health Sciences Centre operating rooms. Her tremendous organizational skills and strategies allowed for the overall scheduling of patients to receive timely care for true dental emergencies at Health Sciences Centre. Tristyn helped create and streamline administrative processes to harmonize College and HSC patient booking, tracking, informed consent, COVID-19 pre-surgical testing and file transferring.  

The Dean of the College made the difficult decision to lay-off dental assistants and support staff due to shut down of full clinical operations within the College of Dentistry. Tristyn was one of two dental assistants working in Clinic Support Services, the operational hub, who stayed on to work in-person to support patient care throughout the clinic closure period. While other administrative staff were working remotely, Tristyn was on-site every day answering phones and communicating with our patients about their dental care. On June 1, 2021, the Manitoba Dental Association allowed private dental clinics to provide dental care under strict PPE guidelines and with this directive, the College of Dentistry re-established a clinic to provide care to our student-based internal patients who were mid-treatment. Tristyn worked under the directive of the Associate Dean Clinics and faculty members to establish and book patients to receive dental care. In addition, Tristyn worked chairside along with faculty dentists in order to complete in-process treatments for our College patients. She provided direct patient care at a potential risk to herself and never once did Tristyn express concern for herself, she was committed to ensuring that our clinic patients received the dental care that was put on hold due to the pandemic. She worked tirelessly with the patients, providing assurances to them that they were not abandoned, that their dental care was a priority at the College, and that the College of Dentistry was taking extraordinary precautions to ensure that all parties were safe in our clinics during this difficult time.  

After clinical care was completed, Tristyn was involved in the restructuring of the undergraduate dental clinics to ensure that the clinics met the strict guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control. This included a complete overhaul of the clinic treatment rooms, dispensary, radiology operatories, the dental supply rooms, and specialty clinics. She embraced these drastic but necessary changes, led other support staff members to follow suit, and Tristyn went above and beyond during this time of crisis, and her dedication to clinical operations was apparent. Tristyn worked on-site every day during the summer months in order to be ready for the dentistry and dental hygiene students.  

On August 10, 2020, the College of Dentistry welcomed our students back with new clinical and preclinical protocols in place to ensure safety and well-being for our students, full-time and part- time instructors, and support staff. Paper charts and all previously used paper-based clinical forms were converted to electronic formats in order to meet the strict clinical guidelines and a new normal was established. Tristyn led the team in all of the above changes and implemented them into the Clinic Workflows.  

We welcomed College patients back to our clinic on September 4, 2020 and despite the challenges of a pandemic, the clinics have been extremely busy this academic year. One year has passed since the pandemic first shut-down clinical care, however, upon reflection, what has been accomplished in one year by support staff such as Tristyn Rodriguez has been extraordinary. Her dedication and focus have consistently been towards optimizing patient care while supporting the clinical learning requirements of our dental and dental hygiene students. Because of outstanding support staff like Tristyn, our clinical operations have surpassed what anyone could have expected for this year. Tristyn is loyal to the community at large, the University, to our students and the patients. It is because of individuals like Tristyn Rodriguez who go above and beyond during times of crisis, where truly great things can be accomplished. An amazing individual and support staff member that serves the University of Manitoba in an exemplary manner. 

Tyrone Hofer, Office Assistant, Price Faculty of Engineering

Nominated by: Janice Tilly

Nominator’s Testimonial:

Tyrone started in the Dean’s Office in February 2020, just shortly before COVID-19 hit and impacted how we work and live our lives in a very significant way. When the university started to open up again last May 2020, Tyrone willingly agreed to return to the office, where he works Monday to Friday responding to the needs of all staff and students who were returning to campus.  

Tyrone has contributed greatly in the areas of community and critical operations as highlighted in the following text.  


Tyrone has served as a central support for our staff and students during this very difficult year. An example of the community support that he has provided is demonstrated in a quote from our Senior Stick for University of Manitoba Engineering Student Society, Braden Ganetsky below:  

“Despite the challenges this year brought, Tyrone always maintained the critical operations required, with professionalism at every step. Any time any of us on the University of Manitoba Engineering Society (UMES) needed anything from him, he was very quick and efficient to respond, whether by phone or by email, and made us feel like the University was running just like normal. If some people felt like there were communication challenges this year, Tyrone did not show it. He kept us in the loop and aware, and we could always contact him with no issues. With a year like this one, the communication channels are much more limited. Instead of reaching out to the student body in the ways we normally can, we have been restricted to a small set of options, including our email blasts which Tyrone controls. We could always count on Tyrone administering the email blasts when we needed them, with no worry of them not reaching the students in time. This was a vital piece to our operations this year, and Tyrone made sure it all worked, keeping our community alive and well in these difficult times.” (Braden Ganetsky, Senior Stick, UMES)  

Critical Operations  

Tyrone played a pivotal role in the critical operations of our Faculty. He was the point of contact for staff and students working in our buildings. He was tasked with monitoring the daily occupancy levels by recording those staff and students who worked in our buildings; either when they checked in/out with him at the Dean’s Office or responding to emails received through a QR Code system we were using. At the end of each month Tyrone generated a report for the Dean, that was submitted to the UM COVID-19 Response Team. Tyrone’s technical skills are very strong, and he was more than capable of generating various types of reports and graphs using Excel that the Dean requested. He generously provided his expertise to those staff who were not as comfortable using the various virtual platforms that were required, and patiently provided instruction to ensure these staff were comfortable and equipped with carrying out their positions virtually.  

He was also responsible for managing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies for the faculty. He coordinated the PPE inventory, distribution to staff and students, and maintaining PPE record keeping and budgeting where necessary. Along with tracking and distributing the PPE, he was also responsible for notifying the Dean when PPE levels were low, and ensuring that more PPE stock was ordered.  

This work supports all of our Faculty operations that continue with some face-to-face/on-campus presence, including teaching- and research-related activities.  

The skill set that Tyrone that has brought to the position has been invaluable as we navigate how to best support our staff and students during this very stressful and difficult time. His communication, organization and management skills are exemplary with every task that has been assigned to him. The professionalism and tact he demonstrates is outstanding. This has never been so important this past year, as we have sadly had some very sensitive situations that have occurred in this past year relating to student and staff issues, and he has shown compassion and tact to all that were impacted by these situations. 

University Centre Pharmacy at the Fort Garry Campus Staff

Nominated by: Chris Rutkowski

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The staff at the University Centre (UC) Pharmacy have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, maintaining essential services to the University of Manitoba community by keeping the UC Pharmacy continually open during the pandemic and while Manitoba was in various stages of lockdown.  

For weeks during the early part of the pandemic in 2020, UC Pharmacy was the only commercial outlet open on campus. They proactively supplied Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essential items (even toilet paper!) for faculty, staff, students, and outside visitors requiring items related to health and well-being. The UC Pharmacy was the first department to source, purchase and install Plexiglas barriers and implement social distancing measures to protect clients.  

As an indication of cooperation with other UM departments, when the UM Bookstore was unable to provide textbook pickup for students, UC Pharmacy staff created a solution to provide textbook pickup in the Pharmacy itself to ensure uninterrupted availability to clients.  

All UC Pharmacy staff have been on “the front lines,” serving clients and consumers, often dealing with those presenting with illness needing advice and medication. UC Pharmacy staff provided curbside pickup as requested and even delivered needed medication to clients unable or unwilling to come to campus.  

UC Pharmacy staff administered flu vaccines in 2020, further evidence of their providing essential services to ensure the health and welfare of the UM community. They have even dealt with clients’ mental health concerns related to COVID-19, and directed them to campus and provincial resources for help.  

UC Pharmacy staff are all very deserving of an Award of Excellence because of their dedication and commitment to the UM community (and others in Winnipeg) during the COVID-19 pandemic. They went above and beyond, knowing the potential risks involved in keeping the UC Pharmacy open and available for health and wellness of all those on campus. 

University Health Services

Nominated by: Don Stewart

Nominator’s testimonial:

On Friday, March 13th, 2020 a small fire broke out near the main entrance to the UMSU University Centre Building.  While the fire had little direct impact, there was extensive smoke and water damage to many offices on the lower level of the building, including the University Health Service (UHS), which was declared a total loss by the insurer.  As the team at UHS was still processing this devastating news, word came down about the University lockdown in the face of the newly-declared COVID-19 pandemic. Already displaced, and with no access to the tools of their trade, the UHS team now had to identify a new way to provide health care services to thousands of patients who rely on them for their health care needs.

Confronted with these ‘dual disasters,’ the UHS team demonstrated outstanding creativity, resourcefulness, and commitment to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their patients and the University at large while they adapted their entire practice to the new realities they were facing. Indeed, even prior to the official declaration of the pandemic, UHS staff were monitoring the emerging situation with the novel coronavirus, liaising with their colleagues at Public Health, and working with Student Affairs, Human Resources, and MCO to put together accurate and complete communications regarding this new public health threat as well as developing safety protocols for the University should a case emerge on campus.

Moving quickly, a new temporary home for UHS was found on the third floor of UMSU University Centre and a new ‘virtual’ clinic was set up in order for the staff to begin providing remote services to their patients.  Many long hours were devoted to organizing and trouble-shooting this new system in order to offer secure and reliable health care services. Eventually, a hybrid model of staff working both on-site and from home on encrypted equipment was devised and implemented.  Challenging as this shift in modality may have been, it was not the only challenge facing the UHS staff, which had to simultaneously compile a complete inventory of all that was lost during the fire (including medical equipment, office supplies, and personal effects) to guide the insurers.  This included many hours of slogging through the sooty, soggy, and smelly mess where UHS used to reside, as well as considerable research to determine values for the losses along with visits to the restoration service warehouse to determine what could be salvaged.

While this was unfolding, work was also continuing on plans for UHS to open a satellite clinic on the Bannatyne Campus.  This involved additional pressure to meet timelines so that this long-awaited new resource for students at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences could progress as planned.  At the same time, UHS was working with its partners in Campus Planning, Architectural Services, and Physical Plant to finalize plans for a temporary clinic on the Fort Garry Campus, given that redevelopment of their former space was anticipated to take 18 months or more.  Initially slated to open in August, 2020, the L-lot trailers housing the temporary clinic were delayed month after month, postponing the UHS staff’s ability to see patients for in-person care at the Fort Garry Campus until February, 2021.

Throughout these travails, the self-identified “Trailer Park Docs,” along with the other UHS team members, displayed an unwavering commitment to meeting the continuing and evolving health care needs of their patients (e.g., serving as a community COVID-19 vaccination site for priority patients), maintaining the compassionate and personalized health care that has always characterized their work, and demonstrating the highest degree of professional integrity in ensuring that all applicable standards for health and safety were being observed in every aspect of their operations.  In addition to ensuring that their patients were not left in the lurch, the team also demonstrated incredible fortitude, concern, and support for their fellow team members as the dual disasters bound them together through other unanticipated challenges, including personal losses and health concerns.

While I have always admired the UHS team, over the past year I have marvelled at their grace, goodwill, and generosity in the face of incredible demands. To me, they are the embodiment of what it means to excel as a team.


UM Central Procurement Initiative Team

Nominated by: Colleen Limon

Nominator’s testimonial:  

In the spring and summer of 2020 when the university was planning the recovery of on campus activities in the late summer and fall, University staff/researchers were attempting to purchase high need items including hand sanitizer and mask, glovers, face shields etc. The supply all around the world was low and prices were more than triple what they would normally be. To assist the university community with procuring these items the UM Central Procurement Initiative was created. Purchasing Services worked hard, using the University’s our institutional purchasing power to procure a variety of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); General Services staff worked hard to find space to receive and hold the PPE; Aurora Finance staff worked hard to create a whole new process within our EPIC system so that units could use this system (which up until then had been used to purchase goods directly from external vendors) to ‘purchase’ these items internally from Physical Plant who would then be responsible for the delivery of the items across the campuses. This included setting up signing authorities so units would experience a seamless process similar to what they have been accustomed to already.

Units were able to take advantage of the volume discounts and not have to waste their time sourcing and procuring these goods, during what was a very tumultuous time.

In the fall General Services staff jumped in once again and led the distribution of the complementary cloth masks that were provided to all staff, faculty and students. They organized an extremely safe pick-up station – held over multiple days in September 2020, in the Quad of Fort Garry campus. It was equipped with fencing, sanitization stations, directional markers and plexiglass barriers. Under the direction and coordination of Leah Naumik – the distribution was a great success! Those staff and student that did come to campus for in person instruction were met with and extremely organized and safe space along with a bunch of smiling faces handing out the masks.

On top of simply setting up the program, these groups continue to work hard today managing this initiative – which never existed before July 2020. General Services staff continue to take and deliver orders, as well as keeping meticulous inventory records, so we know when stock is getting low. Purchasing continues to purchase items that are required, and Aurora Finance is very diligent about making and adjustments to the EPIC system to help facilitate this initiative.

What is really exciting and extremely pleasing to see, is the way in which all of these individuals, all having very different roles and reporting lines, joined together to see this initiative though. Not only with the initial set up of the program but with the ongoing operation of it! The University should be extremely proud to have such dedicated staff. At the end of the day, these staff knew that what they were doing was contributing to the safety and well-being of our campus community. They facilitated a safe return to campus so that our academic mission of teaching, learning and research could be done safely for those in person activities that could not be done remotely. They facilitated this by supplying the necessary PPE in the most efficient way possible.  

One important point to keep in mind is that this was a completely different way of working for many of these staff. We have never had to maintain an ‘inventory’ for resale to the campus community. Our staff pivoted without hesitation to make this happen, knowing they were the conduit to a safe return to campus for our community. I know personally that the staff that continue to monitor inventory, deliver the supplies and source replacement PPE and committed to this initiative and take their responsibilities very seriously.

The University of Manitoba is lucky to has dedicated and committed staff such as these.

UML Mini-Syllabus/Critical Course Information Project Team

Nominated by: Carol Cooke

Nominator’s testimonial:  

The University of Manitoba moved to online only learning in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the Vice Provost (Libraries) & University Librarian, Lisa O’Hara was approached by the Academic Planning Committee (APC) to facilitate a project that would provide critical information for students making course decisions when registering for the Summer and Fall terms 2020.  

Together, a team of volunteers from the University of Manitoba Libraries, worked with the University of Manitoba's Office of the Registrar and with faculty to amend the course schedule for registrations. The project work was to help students navigate the sudden change to online instruction by providing key information prior to registration. For each course, clear, summarized, information was provided about expectations for course participation, synchronous or asynchronous teaching, types of assessments, and required technology, all to aid students in their course selection.  

The initial project was novel, with no existing processes to support it. The Registrar’s Office developed procedures and offered training on using Aurora. The procedures were then modified by the Team to support workflow. With input from the APC, this Team analyzed the project needs, designed and developed an online form for faculty members to fill out to gather information. This faculty-generated information was then used to create short paragraphs describing the new requirements brought about by the pandemic.  

Over the course of the two projects, team members from across several different Libraries' units, many of whom had never worked together before, banded together to become a cohesive project team. Using regular virtual meetings and Microsoft Teams (new to the group) for synchronous and asynchronous communications, team members shared editing skills, questions and solutions for challenges to the efficient completion of this project.  

This Team crafted summary paragraphs, edited each other’s work, liaised with faculty for clarification on a variety of issues and then entered these paragraphs into Aurora prior to registration for both terms. It should also be noted that this work was completed at the same time as team members were also engaged in additional virtual work to ramp up and maintain Libraries' operations and services.  

For the Summer term and within a two-week period, a small subset of five library assistants created 77 paragraphs in 9 days. For the Fall term and within a five-week period, these five volunteered with the larger group and created 1 455 paragraphs which were entered into Aurora in 23 days. Both projects ended with team members engaged and eager to provide support to students and faculty in which ever capacity they could.  

These volunteers should be recognized for their dedication to faculty and students as they took on atypical work in the middle of the pandemic in an effort to support mission critical operations of the University of Manitoba. 

User Services and Fulfillment Unit, and Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library Support Staff Team

Nominated by: Lori Gilles-Smith and Sherry Vokey

Nominator's testimonial:  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Library support staff from the User Services and Fulfillment (USF) unit and the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library (NJMHSL) provided extraordinary service and support to the University of Manitoba community. Specifically, this team worked together to help the faculty and staff of the university by providing critical assistance in the areas of research, learning, and scholarship despite the many obstacles presented by health restrictions. They took unprecedented steps to ensure the health and safety of the university community by quickly adapting to new modes of service provision. This team of dedicated staff has always understood the pressures faced by our community of users. So, when the pandemic threatened access to resources, they stepped up to ensure faculty, staff, and students could continue their research, teaching, and study as safely and efficiently as possible.  

While most people have been working from home during the pandemic, USF and NJMHSL support staff have been on campus providing access to resources integral to the institution's research, teaching, and learning mandate. Staff members returned to campus in June to provide a scanning service for material no longer accessible in print. This meant a small number of people running around campus to retrieve and scan material, and yet, wait times remained low. At home, document delivery staff collaborated closely with onsite staff to provide access to this scanned print material as well as electronic resources.  

When print material began to circulate, this innovative group helped implement a curbside delivery service. When students and faculty made requests through the library system, library staff retrieved the material, packaged and quarantined it, and used a new booking system so that people could drive by to receive their books. Responding to user concerns about overflowing return bins, staff sourced out new and used return bins and placed them on both sides of the Dafoe library. This made returns easy for users and kept books safe from the elements.  

Libraries then transitioned to using hold lockers for contactless pickup, and so staff once again reworked their procedures. They eagerly helped users new to this technology and spent numerous hours filling the lockers to address the backlog of requested print material. To supplement the hold lockers, support staff also implemented a tabletop delivery service to get books into people’s hands as quickly as possible.  

Many USF and NJMHSL support staff worked from home during the pandemic providing virtual reference services through Ask Us. They responded expertly to questions and helped people navigate the systems put in place to respond to the pandemic. They were often the first people to become aware of unmet user needs and offer solutions. As the face of the library, their empathy for our users and knowledge of our resources and services was essential for so many people struggling to make it through the pandemic.  

As provincial directives permitted, additional USF and NJMHSL staff came to work on a rotating basis to provide study space for our students. Often the library was the best, and sometimes the only place, for students to complete their work. Library support staff took on the new responsibilities of distributing masks, Covid screening, monitoring distancing, and sanitizing surfaces to create a safe study space for students. As only a select number of libraries were opened, many staff found themselves working with different people, supervisors, and spaces. The team took this as an opportunity to learn more about each other, creating a new sense of teamwork during this strange and stressful time.  

The tireless efforts of our Libraries User Services and Fulfillment and Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Libraries support staff in responding to ever-changing regulations and procedures allowed our faculty, staff, students and researchers to stay safely at home while continuing to access the resources they needed. We are all indebted to their commitment to the safety and well-being of our community while supporting the research and the critical operations of the University of Manitoba. 

Victoria Warkentin, Faculty Scheduler, Faculty of Science

Nominated by: Teresa Dekievit

Nominator's testimonial:  

As the sole scheduler for the Faculty of Science (FoS), Vicky Warkentin is responsible for scheduling an enormous number of undergraduate courses, across Summer, Fall and Winter semesters. Under the best of circumstances, this is a massive undertaking as we offer courses to 6 600 FoS undergraduate students plus individuals from other faculties requiring Science courses.  

Rapid change from in-person to remote delivery scheduling:  

The onset of the pandemic in March meant that the Summer 2020 Session schedule needed to be quickly recreated to reflect the new remote delivery format. The additional workload and stress persisted into the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters with uncertainty regarding when we would return to campus for in-person classes or if courses would once again be offered remotely. Throughout all these challenging transitions, Vicky was consultative with departments, Associate deans and advising staff. Taking a collaborative approach enabled the best possible solution for everyone involved and reduced stress levels significantly.  

Scheduling in person on-campus activities:  

Many of our science courses have hands-on learning components, which is deemed essential if students are to graduate with all the skills necessary for future employment. As a result, it was decided that there would be in-person activities for several key courses offered in the departments of Chemistry, Microbiology, Biology, and Physics and Astronomy. Vicky was instrumental in scheduling and working with advisors to register students in lab sections that worked with their schedules. This represented an extraordinarily huge task, which Vicky managed with gusto.  

Design and messaging around in-person labs:  

During the initial planning stages, Vicky’s thorough knowledge of the system provided an understanding of what could and could not be done. Vicky’s input ultimately resulted in a new way of coding our in- person experiential “boot camp” offerings. She ensured space was set-aside for the students who needed the labs and helped to devise a means whereby professors could report grades. Additionally, Vicky contributed to the development of language to reflect the on-campus components/January labs, and their associated technology requirements. This was done with thoughtful consideration on her part, so it would be clearly understood by the students.

In closing, over the past 1.2 years Vicky Warkentin has gone above and beyond to ensure course offerings have been well coordinated and smoothly executed. Her holistic approach to scheduling takes into account the impact of decisions on undergraduate students, their ability to register and progress through their degrees, while meeting the needs of departments and faculty. We feel incredibly lucky to have dedicated people like Vicky Warkentin supporting our team, and it is with great pleasure that we nominate her for the 2021 Award of Excellence. 

William Stefura, Lab Manager, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Immunology

Nominated by: Sam Kung

Nominator’s testimonial:


Bill has been a go-to person in the Department for over 30 years. He is friendly, highly committed to his lab management duties, and more importantly, he takes any concerns seriously. He provides orientation and initial training to all new researchers entering the lab ensuring a common base of knowledge on safe lab practices. His consistent presence and support allows everyone in the Department to be able to work safety and effectively. For example, when Bill found out one member in the lab had sustained a minor injury when handling a heavy CO2 tank, Bill filed an injury report even though the member was not prepared to report the incident to either the Faculty or Department. It boosts the morale of the Department as nothing can be more demoralizing when your concerns are not met with any action. Bill has therefore done an excellent job in keeping our community close and comfortable in the lab. The latter is critical at the time of COVID-19.  

Critical Operations

Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to respond smoothly to lockdown, partial opening and policy changes during the high and low of the COVID-19 cases in Manitoba. Bill’s contributions to maintaining these critical operations have been outstanding. Bill has been the key essential staff member within our Department who physically checked to make sure that all the equipment was running properly during the lockdown. He continues to monitor and maintain liquid nitrogen levels to protect precious specimens held by Dept researchers, monitors CO2 tanks, and has dealt with other facility maintenance when needed. Bill always takes these issues seriously and has been proactive in finding a solution either by himself or consulting others. In these recent months, we have for example dealt with broken sink drainage pipe, emergency power switch problem, and -20 cold room repair in addition to the COVID-19 challenges. We have been handling these unexpected incidents well because of the excellent co-ordination and operation plans Bill has provided us.  


Having a committed and reliable employee like Bill maintaining our critical operations has allowed our scientists and trainees to focus on their research and remain productive throughout COVID-19 disruptions. The sense of community, management of lab infrastructure and critical operations that Bill contributed to the Department have been crucial for our Faculty to resume our research activities at the time of COVID-19. In addition, Bill has continued his work in support of the Immunophenotyping Platform, running Mesoscale experiments for other labs at the University of Manitoba and has helped our recent recruit Dr. Deanna Santer (GSK Chair in Immunology of Infectious Disease) to set up her laboratory in the last few months. This was no small feat with COVID-19 restrictions in place, and included helping with organization, ordering (including dealing with multiple month backorders of lab supplies) and assisting with training of new students. It was timely, as Dr. Santer’s Current research projects have direct impacts on novel treatments of COVID-19 patients and also expands COVID-19 research in our department.

Safety and Well-Being

Bill has always been a strong voice in maintaining high safety standards in the Department. Especially during the pandemic, he was proactive in obtaining face shields for everyone, and took over the task of disinfecting high touch areas when other members were primarily working from home. He brought up concerns he had heard from some staff regarding Biosafety and work with human blood samples. He led discussions with Steve Cole and a refresher seminar to clarify biosafety protocols for all members in the Department. He has been a leader in implementing new safety guidelines during COVID-19, making sure rooms are below capacity limits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are available.  

Despite all the challenges COVID-19 has created, our Department has been managing well to balance maintaining research activities while following provisional and institutional guidelines to keep us safe at work. Bill’s contributions in all four of these aspects have been key to our success. 

Selection Commitee

  • AESES Rep: Dustin Luckwell, Generalist, Compensation/Benefits
  • CUPE Rep: Scott Sparrow, Technician, Civil Engineering
  • UNIFOR Rep: Ken Francey, Refrigeration/AC Mechanic, Physical Plant
  • Academic Rep: Krystyna Koczanski, Associate Dean (Student Experience), Chemistry Instructor
  • Bannatyne Rep: Ilana Simon, Director, Marketing & Communications
  • Indigenous Rep: Riley Proulx, Program Recruiter and Advisor, IBEP
  • Darlene Smith, Associate Vice-President, Human Resources