January Showcase | Amazing YU Faculty, Alumni & Student Accomplishments

Alumni Success

January 3, 2024

At Yorkville University, we’re proud of the accomplishments of all our faculty, students and alumni, both inside and outside of the classroom – be it winning awards, presenting at prestigious conferences, or publishing books.

Here are some of the good news stories about Yorkville University’s talented community that we’d like to showcase this month:

BBA Grad Anthony Armstrong Lands ‘Dream Job’ at Ubisoft Toronto

Class of 2023 Bachelor of Business Administration grad Anthony Armstrong recently landed his dream job at Ubisoft Toronto

Armstrong, who graduated with a diploma in Video Game Design & Development from Yorkville affiliate, Toronto Film School, in 2018, is now working as a UI Integrator for Ubisoft, a video game publishing giant that owns over 45 development studios and employs over 20,000 people.

“Working at Ubisoft has been a dream of mine since I was a teen and one of the driving factors in enrolling at TFS for me. So, to be here today is truly a dream come true, as well as validating what I always tell the students I talk to: ‘You get out of the course what you put in. Go the extra mile, stay late, learn outside of class, find your passion, and never stop fighting to achieve your dreams,’” he said. 

“This role has been life changing for me, even more than just an amazing job. From day one of the interview process, the team at Ubisoft showed their passion, while being more supportive, open, and caring than any employer I’ve ever worked for, including the army.”

As Ubisoft’s newest UI Integrator, Armstrong is putting to use some of the skills he learned in class – noting that his new role entails many of the duties he took on during his capstone project at TFS, including working as a bridge between the art team and programming team and bringing UI assets to life with Ubisoft’s logic-based visual scripting engine, Snowdrop. 

“The project our team is working on is still very hush-hush, as we are currently in the preproduction phase – but it’s a really exciting, unannounced title in one of the studio’s core franchises,” he said. 

Tommt Mayberry

Director of YU’s Centre for Teaching Excellence and Innovation Wins Lavender Rhetorics Award

Tommy Mayberry, the Director of Yorkville University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, was recently announced as a 2024 winner of the Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship

Presented annually by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the award honours four works (one book, one book chapter or article, one dissertation and one non-traditional scholarly work) that “best make queer interventions into the study of composition and rhetoric.”      

“It is beyond an absolute honour to have my work recognized as being Excellent in Queer Scholarship, especially from CCCCs, which is the biggest professional organization in the world dedicated to writing research, theory, and teaching, and even more so to be recognized and celebrated from my peers who are my leaders and scholarly teachers in this work and field,” said Mayberry, who will be presenting at the CCCC 2024 Convention in Spokane, Washington in April, speaking on and chairing the panel Critically Racing Anti-Racist Rhetorics in Abundantly White(ly) Classrooms.

Mayberry was recognized with the Lavender Rhetorics Award for their book chapter, ‘Teaching Can Be a Real Drag (Show); Or, Move over, Sage! That Stage Is Mine’, which was published in December 2022 in the collection Visual Pedagogies: Concepts, Cases and Practices

The research in this award-winning chapter explores visual pedagogies through a sincere and earnest look at Mayberry’s life as an academic drag queen, one that is congruent of academic and drag cultures, of traditional teaching and dragged-up pedagogies.

“I’ve been doing drag academically – as this chapter actually outlines and explores – since my early grad school days, and this pedagogical intervention of mine has been something I’ve been researching, reflecting on, and developing since I started teaching in post-secondary education,” they said. 

Tommy Mayberry

‘Teaching Can Be a Real Drag (Show)’ reflects on personal stories and anecdotes from Mayberry’s classrooms, and even their audition tape for the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – bringing together a constellation of frameworks, theories, and ideas from transgender visuality, queer phenomenology, and visual performance as they position themself as a social justice leader with an anti-imperialist inclusive pedagogy and practice.

The award’s selection committee lauded Mayberry for their use of transmodalities, visual rhetorics and embodied knowledge of their own experience with drag “to offer new insights into visual rhetorical pedagogies and practices.” 

“In an era where drag performance is increasingly commonplace, Mayberry’s scholarship reminds us of the pleasures of performance and the value of placing embodied, visual rhetorics meaningfully into our learning spaces,” the selection committee noted. 

Mayberry will be announced as a recipient of the Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship’s Book Chapter Award at the CCCC Awards Presentation on Friday, April 5, during the 2024 CCCC Annual Convention in Spokane, Washington. 

MACP Grad Angie Vanderwees Publishes Self-Help Memoir, Fostering Resilience

Class of 2021 Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) grad Angie Vanderwees recently published a self-help memoir, Fostering Resilience: Anecdotes and Affirmations from a Therapist and Fellow Human.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to publish a book one day,” said the one-time English major, who’s enjoyed writing ever since taking a writer’s craft course in twelfth grade. 

“My memoir had been in the works for several years, as when I turned 30 in summer 2018, just before beginning YU’s MACP program, I began recounting my life’s stories. I was fuelled by inspiration to continue one night in Spring 2019, and then in summer 2020, after having to defer my practicum due to the pandemic, I turned to writing again to fill my time.” 

In the 194-page book, Vanderwees, who’s been working as a Registered Psychotherapist in Kingston, Ontario for the past few years, reflects back over her life to recount personal struggles, noteworthy experiences, and remarkable adventures, while embarking on a new journey to become a psychotherapist. She shares valuable lessons from her training and practice, including quotes from various other works, along with healing strategies from her own personal therapy. 

“My book is sort of an autobiography of experiences from earlier in my life, meanwhile recounting my journey through the MACP program and beyond,” she said.

“One of the main themes in my book that I hope readers will take away (that was inspired by Irvin Yalom‘s The Gift of Therapywhich I read during my practicum), is that therapists and patients should be ‘fellow travellers’ on the winding road of life; no human is immune to the difficulties and tragedies that exist in this world. I reference Yalom’s work, along with many other books and trainings that have been influential both in my personal healing and in my professional work.

The book also includes eight positive affirmations, which are expanded on through strategies based in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Positive Psychology. These can easily be adopted by the reader in a self-help format.

To learn more about Fostering Resilience: Anecdotes and Affirmations from a Therapist and Fellow Human or to purchase a copy, click HERE. Follow Vanderwees on Instagram HERE.

MED Alumnus Ashley Bodnar Receives Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Class of 2022 Master of Education in Educational Leadership graduate Ashley Bodnar was recently awarded the Prime Ministers Teaching Excellence Award, Certificate of Achievement

The BC-based educator, who, until recently, taught Grades 6 and 7 at John Henderson Elementary School in Vancouver, was singled out for the award as a result of her commitment to supporting her students through collaborative learning. 

“Ashley provides connections, builds relationships, and creates an engaging learning environment to ensure all students can build skills and confidence in themselves as she elevates their voices, making them seen and heard,” said her former principal, Harjinder Sandhu. 

Bodnar called being recognized for the award “an absolute honour,” especially given all the other dedicated educators in the field. 

“Collaborating with both staff and students has played a crucial role in shaping the educator I am today. What I value most about being a teacher is the continuous learning journey — each day brings fresh insights and new learning that I can integrate into my practice,” she said. 

“The teacher who I was when I first started is completely different to the teacher I am today and will be in the future.” 

Bodnar’s innovative teaching method combines the use of the collaborative learning model with a focus on developing her students’ core competencies – an approach she’s so passionate about, she even devoted her Yorkville Master’s capstone research to the topic. 

Realizing that the provincial core competencies were written for adults, Bodnar translated them into student-friendly language and developed resources for students to understand their competency learning and growth. She also created core competency portfolios for her students, so they could self-assess their core competency skills, develop new ones, or determine which competencies they could work on in the future.

“Yorkville University has truly shaped my teaching practice. My course work taught me to be more intentional and reflexive. and my capstone helped me uncover my genuine passion – the interconnectedness of inquiry-based learning, core competencies, and collaboration,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t be the educator I am today without the help of Yorkville.”

Since receiving the Prime Minister’s Teaching Excellence Award, Bodnar has made the decision to change school districts, but said that all the heartfelt emails she’s received from her former John Henderson students and their families were “powerful reminders of the significant impact of teaching.” 

“The essence of teaching,” she said, “lies in the lasting ripple effect we create on our students.”

Dhvani Savaliya

BID Student Dhvani Savaliya Wins ARIDO’s Gary Hewson Memorial Scholarship

Bachelor of Interior Design student Dhvani Savaliya was recently named one of nine recipients of the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO)’s 2023 Gary Hewson Scholarship

The scholarship, which was created in memory of an individual who touched the lives of many in Ontario’s interior design community, is presented each fall to one student from each ARIDO-recognized interior design school who has shown exemplary peer mentorship, leadership, and volunteerism in their community. 

Savaliya, who’s worked as an Interior Design Intern at Ray Inc. since March, said receiving the Gary Hewson Memorial award and recognition from the industry made her really happy, characterizing it as a “turning point” in her career. 

As one of this year’s award winners, Savaliya was granted the opportunity to attend the 40th Annual  ARIDO Awards Gala, which took place at the Fairmount Royal York in Toronto on Oct. 5. 

“Attending the gala was a great experience. I had the opportunity to network with students and interior designers from various firms. We exchanged ideas that opened my eyes to new possibilities and strengthened my sense of belonging withing our community,” she said. 

“Making connections with like-minded people has not only increased my social circle, but also provided me with new perspectives on Ontario’s design industry.” 

The Gary Hewson Award marks Savaliya’s second time being recognized by ARIDO with an award in 2023. Earlier this year, she was named as one of two winners of the 2023 CTI Working Environments Scholarships. The $500 scholarship awards students who go beyond the written curriculum and who best exemplify dedication and enthusiasm in giving back to their community and volunteering for ARIDO. 

Jax Guillen

BCA Student Jax Guillen’s Short Film ‘Ivory Tulle’ Screens at 2023 CineFAM Film Festival

Bachelor of Creative Arts student Jax Guillen’s short film, Ivory Tulle, recently screened at the CineFAM Annual Film Festival.

The annual festival, which took place in December at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, is a three-day celebration of bold, original film stories by Canadian women and non-binary creators of colour.

Guillen said that, as an emerging filmmaker, seeing her story chosen to be screened alongside those of other underrepresented creators – especially women of color – at the festival was an incredibly fulfilling experience. 

“It’s more than just a recognition; it’s a validation of the stories we breathe life into,” said Guillen, who graduated from the Film Production program at Yorkville affiliate, Toronto Film School, in 2022. 

“I put a lot of heart into this project and this recognition makes me feel seen and understood. I hope that this opportunity inspires creators from underrepresented groups to continue creating meaningful, authentic stories that resonate with their communities, as well.”

Ivory Tulle, which features an all-Filipino cast, follows bride-to-be Teresa, as she struggles to prepare for her wedding day amid pressure from her family and friends to invite her estranged father to the ceremony.

Nominated for Best Picture at the 2023 TFS Festival of Films, the nine-minute film marks Guillen’s first contribution to increasing Filipino representation in film and has been screened at various international film festivals. 

Rosina Mete & Alyssa Weiss

MACP Profs Dr. Alyssa Weiss & Dr. Rosina Mete on Presenting at ACES and ACC Conferences and Upcoming Publication

Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) professors Dr. Alyssa Weiss and Dr. Rosina Mete enjoyed a busy fall – presenting at two international conferences and readying their latest chapter on online counsellor education for publication. 

In October, the pair presented at the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) Conference in Denver, Colorado. Their 50-minute ACES roundtable, entitled Integrating sensitivity and awareness within online education in an imperfect world, presented some of the potential challenges educators face within an online graduate educational environment and analyzed a case study about a student’s reaction to their learning process within the online milieu.

The following month, Mete and Weiss presented again at the Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC) Conference, which took place in Melbourne Beach, Florida from Nov. 2-4. There, they hosted a second roundtable that explored Expanding Creativity in Counseling: How to Support Other Professionals. That 50-minute presentation aimed to show counsellors how to develop their creative skills and abilities in order to better support individuals in other professions and taught them some tangible strategies regarding creativity in mindfulness, stress management and values-based work. 

“Our topic engaged participants, who shared the positive lessons they had learned and plan to implement in the future,” said Mete, noting that they had good turnouts at both the ACES and ACC conferences. 

Balance and Boundaries book cover

“We also learned of further publishing opportunities from ACES and hope to develop an innovative counselling textbook focusing on marriage and family counselling within a Canadian context. At ACC, we learned the importance of integrating creativity within your practice as a clinician and educator.”

By early 2024, Mete and Weiss expect their latest chapter, Challenges with Sensitivity and Boundaries in an Imperfect, Ever-Changing World: Online Counselor Education, to be published in the upcoming new book, Balance and Boundaries in Creating Meaningful Relationships in Online Higher Education.

Written as a resource for counsellor educators, the chapter provides an overview of the online educational environment and its context. It outlines two realistic examples with suggested responses for counsellor educators and features specific approaches developed by both Mete and Weiss.

“It was a great experience collaborating on this chapter and completing the research. We continue to learn and grow as clinicians and professors, and the conferences and chapters help enhance our skills and contribute to the mental health field,” Weiss said. 

“From our chapter, we hope that individuals learn techniques to work with the situations that an online education may present.”

Balance and Boundaries in Creating Meaningful Relationships in Online Higher Education is now available for pre-order HERE.

Geo LaForme

BCA Student Geo LaForme’s Short Story to be Published in Horror Anthology

Bachelor of Creative Arts student Geo LaForme recently had his short story, Digestion, selected for publication in the upcoming horror anthology, Demons and Death Drops.

Soon to be published by Little Ghosts Books – a queer-owned horror bookstore and publisher based in Toronto – Digestion follows the story of a trans male musician and the desperate struggle with vocal dysphoria that leads him to swallow a parasite that gives him a voice of his own. 

“It’s a gruesome body horror that shows the desperation and visceral discomfort of what it is like to live in your own skin as a trans person and the lengths one will go to feel any comfort at all,” said LaForme, who graduated from the Writing for Film & Television program at Yorkville affiliate, Toronto Film School, in 2022.

As a first-time published author, LaForme said the experience of working with Little Ghosts to bring Digestion to life on the page an “astounding” one. 

“I loved working with the publisher and seeing my work transform from idea to reality,” he said, noting that he found the call-out for story submissions for the Demons and Death Drops anthology by following Little Ghosts Books on social media. 

“It was with the confidence I earned from TFS and my fellow writers that I went for it. I’m so proud of myself for making this first large step in my life as a writer and hope to see many more.”

You can follow Geo and his “hijinks as a creative writer, trans and Indigenous advocate and overall frog loving crimes” at @the.best.goblin.boy

Aimee Trafton

YU’s Senior eLearning Specialist Aimee Trafton Publishes Two Books

Yorkville University’s Aimee Trafton published two books in 2023 – a young adult novella entitled The Misfit Crew, and Grief Journeys: A Prose and Poetry Chapbook, a personal account of grief and loss. 

Published in February by The Shortish ProjectThe Misfit Crew is Trafford’s first YA project focusing on teenage mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and grief.

“I wanted to write an honest depiction of a teen who struggled with an anxiety disorder, as I did as a teen, and what it really feels like, so I wrote it in first person through the eyes of the main character, 16-year-old Bay,” said Trafton, YU’s Senior eLearning Specialist on the Digital Design Team, noting that the John Howard Society of Fredericton is currently using the book as part of their Youth Options Program.

 “I do author talks with each class once they have finished reading the novel, and I’m honoured that the teens in this program seem to really relate to this book. It seems to have really connected and resonated with them – and that, for me, is the best part of being an author.”

Trafford’s second book of the year was Grief Journeys: A Prose and Poetry Chapbook – a short book of poetry and stories of grief and loss inspired by her experience of losing several close family members, which she self-published in September 2023.
“I lost my brother and only sibling, grandmother, and mother all within a 15-year period, which was extremely painful, and I turned to writing to help make sense of my grief and loss,” she said. 

“The book is also about the undercurrent of grief that runs through families, invisible and rarely talked about.”

Trafford is now working on a couple of children’s picture books, which she hopes to publish in the very near future.

Learn more about Trafford’s projects on her author website at aimeectraftonbooks.com