November Showcase | Amazing YU Faculty, Alumni & Student Accomplishments

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, publishing books, or receiving grants.

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

Doris MacKinnon

MED Prof Dr. Doris J. MacKinnon Publishes New Book, The Premier and his Grandmother

Master of Education professor Dr. Doris J. MacKinnon recently published her newest book, The Premier and His Grandmother: Peter Lougheed, Lady Belle, and the Legacy of Métis Identity.

Published on Oct. 17 by Heritage House, the 320-page part-political biography, part-historical narrative looks at the connections between Alberta premier Peter Lougheed (1971-1985) and his Métis grandmother, Isabella Clark Hardisty Lougheed, exploring how Métis identity, political activism, and colonial institutional power shaped the lives and legacies of both.

MacKinnon said the inspiration for the book came from one of her earlier books, Metis Pioneers.

“Oftentimes when I’d be sharing about that book, I would find that people were not aware that Peter Lougheed, our former premier of Alberta, had an Indigenous grandmother,” she said. 

“So, I thought that was part of his history that was worthy of exploration.”

The Premier and his Grandmother traces Lougheed’s family history back to 1861, when his grandmother, Isabella, was born into a prominent fur trading family in southern Alberta. There, she was able to establish a distinct role for herself as an influential Métis woman during a time when racial boundaries in the province were hardening and Métis activists established a firm foundation for the Métis to be recognized as distinct Indigenous Peoples.

The book then follows Lougheed’s political career as premier of Alberta at a time when some of that activism achieved both successes and losses. Drawing on his personal papers, family interviews, and archival research, MacKinnon also analyzes Lougheed’s political initiatives in the context of his own identity as a person of Métis ancestry. 

Marilyn Lizee, consultant for the Metis Nation of Alberta, called The Premier and his Grandmother “a fascinating read that tells the story of the adaptability of the Metis and our history during the fur trade and life thereafter.”

“The Lougheeds became a powerful Metis family, and this book speaks to their strength and resilience,” said Lizee, the co-editor of Stories of Metis Women: Tales My Kookum Told Me . “I would highly recommend The Premier and His Grandmother!” 

For more information about The Premier and his Grandmother or to purchase a copy, go to

YU Career Services’ Emma Hartley Named TalentEgg’s Career Coach of the Year

Yorkville University’s Emma Hartley was recently recognized with not one, but two awards for her work as the Career Services team’s Alumni Liaison Specialist.

“I am thrilled to have been the recipient of two career education awards this summer,” she said. “This recognizes and celebrates not only my efforts, but that of the whole Career Services team at Yorkville and Toronto Film School, who work so hard to support our students with the greatest care.”

Back in June, Hartley took home TalentEgg’s Career Coach/Educator of the Year Award during the popular job site and online career resource’s National Recruitment Excellence Awards & Conference.

The award recognizes her efforts to provide YU and TFS’s grads with successful school-to-work transitions and, in doing so, making an exceptional contribution to youth employment in Canada. Hartley was selected for the honour by a panel of judges who evaluated her and her fellow nominees on: 

  • How they help students and recent graduates prepare for their careers
  • The various methods they employ in order to share this information (blogs, articles, videos, in-person sessions, etc.)
  • The effectiveness and impact of their efforts

In August, Hartley was also recognized by the Career Professionals of Canada (CPC) with an Award of Excellence for Outstanding Social Media Strategist.

She was nominated, in part, for her work as the administrator of the Yorkville Alumni Facebook Group, an online community where YU grads are encouraged to share news, resources, inspiration, information and camaraderie with their fellow alumni. 

The CPC also featured Hartley as a Member of the Week, lauding her as a “dedicated career educator who has provided invaluable support to numerous emerging professionals by fostering community, offering career guidance, and assisting with job searches.”

MACP Student Janine Heber Receives Grant for Monarch Research

Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) student Janine Heber recently received a grant from Yorkville University for a research project exploring Monarch butterflies and mental health. 

“As a counselling graduate student, I am interested in studying connections between biodiversity, citizen science and psychology for fostering community mental health and conservation,” she said, thanking her research supervisor, Dr. Andrew Fuyarchuk, and Yorkville University for making her research possible through the Support for Scholarly Activities Fund (SSAF) grant. 

Heber’s research project, entitled Wings in Western Canada: Monarch Butterfly and Milkweed Monitoring in Albertahas several goals, including: including butterfly surveys, native plant restoration and community engagement. 

Juliana Kaneda
Juliana Kaneda

In February, she and her field co-researcher, Juliana Kaneda, began the creation of a butterfly garden. This past spring, they planted more than 100 milkweed plants in local protected natural areas in Alberta, followed by another 300+ native milkweed and other native wildflowers this fall. Throughout the summer, the pair conducted field research – the data from which will be shared with the national and tri-national databases on monarch and milkweed data.

“Our project uses interdisciplinary knowledge to make butterfly conservation engaging to the public through inclusive citizen science and knowledge mobilization,” she said, noting that field research has historically excluded sexual and gender minorities, as well as people with disabilities. 

“Using an anti-oppressive, community science-focused and social justice-based methodology, our project allowed for a safe, inclusive field research environment with reduced barriers that empowered our team, citizen scientists, and the public.”

Heber said one of the project outcomes will be a butterfly conservation resource book, which will be shared with the community. 

The project also led to the formation of the Friends of the Pollinators Research Lab, which aims to make monarch monitoring in Alberta sustainable. Visit the group’s Instagram page here or contact them at [email protected] for more information. 

Renee Cox and Pandora poster

BCA Student Renee Cox Celebrates Festival Success of Thesis Short, Pandora

Bachelor of Creative Arts student Renee Cox’s thesis short, Pandora, has been racking up accolades on the festival circuit this fall. 

After making its world premiere at the Toronto Indie Horror Fest at Eyesore Cinema on Oct. 5, Pandora was screened again on Oct. 6 at the Great Canadian Horror Film Festival at the Royal Theatre

The film has also brought home several awards nominations and wins – including the award for Best Thriller at the Athens International Monthly Film Festival, nominations for Best Director at the Red Fox International Film Festival, Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller at the Couch Film Festival, and semi-final finishes at the Alternative Film Festival and Paris International Short Festival.

“I had a simple goal with Pandora – to get the film into at least one film festival in October…so to have Pandora reach this level is a blessing,” said Cox, who is also a graduate of the Writing for Film & Television program at Yorkville University’s affiliate, Toronto Film School

“I hope audiences leave Pandora with a smile and that they can relate.”

Written and directed by Cox, the film gives a modern-day twist to the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. It follows a young girl named Nae, who, after an argument with her mother, is sent to her grandmother’s house, where she discovers a hidden box. Despite being told not to, Nae opens the box, releasing evils that possess her grandmother. In order to save her, Nae must learn the meaning of hope. 

“My first inspiration was Alfred Hitchcock movies – I love him – and the second was that I used to love Greek mythology when I was younger,” Cox explained. 

“When I was assigned this thesis project, I thought I would try something new, something I never tried to write before: A thriller. I’ve mostly created music documentaries, so this was a completely different angle for me.”

YU’s University Librarian Paul Graham Named Quarter-Finalist in Final Draft Screenwriting Contest

YU’s University Librarian Paul Graham was recently named a quarterfinalist in Final Draft’s 2023 Big Break Screenwriting Contest – an annual international screenwriting contest designed to help launch the careers of aspiring writers.

Graham, a graduate of Toronto Film School Online’s Writing for Film & Television program, was recognized in the Half-Hour Pilot category for his pilot, Tales From Bear Trap Point.

Based on his real-life childhood growing up in Bear Trap Point, New Brunswick during the ’80s and ’90s, the show is about the dysfunctional-functional dynamics of family life in rural Atlantic Canada, and how family has the potential to embarrass you in a big way, but still be loving and supportive.

“For years I’ve entertained friends and colleagues with all the stories of my whacky relatives. Did your father ever have mall security track you down just to help him pick out the right kind of ‘stretchy pants’ to fit his beer belly? Mine did,” Graham said. 

“He also started every home repair project with a 6-pack of Moosehead beer and a chainsaw. And that’s just my father! Over the years I’ve always been at a loss to know what to do with all that great material, all of the surreal stories…until a friend recommended TFS’s writing program. It was a no brainer – all of this material had to go into TV and film.”

Graham and his dad, Charles, at his childhood home in Bear Trap Point
Graham and his dad, Charles, at his childhood home in Bear Trap Point

For the Tales From Bear Trap Point pilot episode, Graham said he chose to recreate an actual event from his family’s history – the day his father refused to accept that he’d missed out on a sale of a new dining set he wanted at the local mall. 

“He made our family sit in the chairs in the middle of the store while he protested to the manager,” Graham laughed. “Spoiler alert: we left with a deal on the table and chairs, but not without a major standoff between my father and the part-time weekend manager.” 

Graham said the quarterfinal recognition he received from Final Draft for his pilot episode speaks volumes to the quality of teaching at Toronto Film School. 

“This is my first time submitting a professionally prepared script to the Final Draft writing contest, and on my first attempt I made the cut of thousands of entries,” he said. 

“Besides just adding it to my resume, I think it really gives me the motivation to keep on finding ways to get my writing noticed. As the program reminds students, it’s a business as well as a creative process, so you must keep on submitting work, finding ways to grow your network, and keep looking for opportunities.” 

Next up on the creative front for Graham is finding a way to merge his favourite genre of film – the road trip – with his ongoing ambition to bring his favourite childhood memories to the screen. 

“I think I have a great story to write up. As a youth in the mid ’80s my family went on a massive road trip to Rhode Island to visit our U.S. relatives. It involved two carloads of family members in massive 1970s style cars chugging down the I95 with no GPS and no maps,” he recalled. 

“We got separated. We took wrong exits. We got lost (and found by the police). But we had fun. I’ll give it my best attempt to translate that whacky adventure into something worthy of more Tales from Bear Trap Point.”

Kate Carder

BCA Prof Kate Carder Awarded Ontario Arts Council Grant

Bachelor of Creative Arts faculty member Kate Carder was recently awarded an Ontario Arts Council Project Creation Grant for a proposed project that seeks to answer the question, “how to prevent a haunting.”   

As part of the project, she plans to design and construct “historical” costumes based on specific garments from her past that were captured in family photographs. These garments will then be worn during video performances, in which she will re-enact those scenes that were frozen on film. 

By re-entering moments from her childhood when she was her true, full self, Carder hopes to re-embody that confidence and thereby construct a “protective spiritual forcefield.” She said the joy and laughter these re-enactments will inspire are the ‘Achilles Heel’ of the specific ghost she seeks to block from her life.

This childhood picture of Carder is one of the photos she will be re-enacting as part of her project.

“When I think about ghosts, I think about the residue of trauma. I do not see them as floating apparitions who make things go bump in the night. They are the scars left on our emotional selves that, if ignored, will continue to haunt our daily lives,” she explained.

“This project is a way for me to process a difficult and complicated loss, and also a way to propose a re-frame of how we collectively allow the past to influence the present.”  

The project builds on Carder’s previous work, which used textile tools and handknit garments as transmitters for speaking to the ghosts of family members who have passed away. 

Carder said the OAC’s support of her new work not only makes its creation over the next six months possible, but also affirms her sense that she’s not the only one struggling to make meaning from grief.

Robert Giardino

DCP Student Robert Giardino Wins Villa Charities Scholarship

Doctor of Counselling and Psychotherapy student Robert Giardino recently won a 2023 Villa Charities scholarship.

Giardino, who works as a Counsellor at the University of British Columbia, was one of four recipients of Villa Charities’ $5,000 a Graduate Student Scholarship, which is awarded to full-time students who demonstrate leadership through community involvement or volunteering. The scholarships are open to students of any heritage who help further the registered charity and non-profit organization’s mission of enriching lives through experiences and services that honour Italian culture and heritage.

“I am so grateful to have been awarded this amazing scholarship from Villa Charities, in which I share so many specific values, including generosity, volunteerism, food security, cultural humility and more,” said Giardino. “I hope that my grandparents would be proud, may they rest in peace.”

As the first person in his family to attend university, Giardino said he’s “so proud’ to be working towards completing his doctoral studies at Yorkville University. 

“My education journey has been a long, non-linear pursuit of my passions, which includes my undergraduate work at Toronto Metropolitan University, and my two master’s degrees from The University of Toronto and the University of Northern British Columbia,” he said. 

“However, I feel that all my experiences are finally culminating into the work that I am supposed to be doing.” 

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