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‘This recognition is richly deserved’: Meet OISE's 2021 Leaders and Legends Awards recipients

May 28, 2021

By Perry King

Photo of Dr. Daniel Zingaro

Dr. Daniel Zingaro, winner of the Excellence Award, earned his PhD from OISE in Computer Science Education. His academic and teaching work has garnered him many accolades — among them, U of T's Early Career Teaching Award. 


This year’s winners of the OISE Leaders and Legends Awards exemplify OISE’s values and commitment to enhance the social, economic, political and cultural well-being of individuals and communities in Canada and globally.

Six people have been named to six Leaders and Legends awards. They are nominated by their OISE peers and are recognized for excellence in leadership in teaching, research and advocacy – while striving for excellence in academic programs, student experience, research and scholarship.

“Our accomplishments as a community emerge through leadership – in teaching, research and advocacy – and excellence in academic programs, student experience, research and scholarship,” said Professor Glen Jones, Dean of OISE. “This year’s winners went above and beyond to uphold OISE’s mission and those values.

“On behalf of the OISE community, I want to congratulate all of this year’s winners. This recognition is richly deserved.”

Read about our 2020 award recipients

“I want to deeply congratulate each of this year's Leaders and Legends award winners. It is a prestigious honour and they all are more than deserving of it," said Sim Kapoor, director of OISE's Office of Advancement and External Relations. “In their actions and leadership, they have all made OISE a stronger, more cohesive community.”

Learn more about each award and the winners below, including their favourite OISE memories.

Excellence Award

Winner: Daniel Zingaro, an Associate Professor Teaching Stream, University of Toronto Mississauga

The Excellence Award is presented in recognition of the power of leadership, honouring an individual who is committed to pursuing and achieving the highest levels of performance in their field.

This year’s recipient goes to Professor Daniel Zingaro. An OISE alumni who earned his PhD from OISE in Computer Science Education, Zingaro has shown true commitment to excellent pedagogical research and exciting and engaging classrooms.

He has 12 refereed journal papers, 41 refereed conference papers, 24 refereed conference presentations, 6 workshops, and 1815 citations to date. His work has garnered him a UTM Teaching Excellence Award and U of T Early Career Teaching Award, among other accolades.

In the community, Zingaro has served as an OISE Mentor since 2019, organized teacher outreach sessions, reviewed for many journals and conferences, helped many authors improve textbook material, and served as an ambassador for Engage CS-edu, a curated collection of assignments designed to engage underrepresented students in computer science.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

Academic: I remember talking to my PhD advisor Jim Hewitt about a research paper idea that I had (I forget what the idea was). I was feeling that the findings would be self-evident and that the paper would therefore be a boondoggle. Jim said something like, "if the research question matters to people then we need to do the research". You may think something is obvious because you've been thinking about it nonstop – but it may be obvious to only you. You may also be surprised by what the research actually shows. Do it!

Social: Our research group used to go to lunch at the Duke of York restaurant near OISE. (They are not paying me for this advertising. But, Duke of York, got any free nachos?) I don't think it hit me at the time, but how lucky we were to have new students, senior students, alumni, and our doctoral advisors (Jim Hewitt and Clare Brett) all hanging out. I began associating OISE with those nachos. And what nachos they were! After my PhD defense, our group even went there with me to celebrate.

I’m grateful to have been afforded the upbringing, opportunity, time, country, and gobs and gobs of luck to have been able to study my PhD for four years. Still, grad school can come with its share of challenges: self-doubt, imposter syndrome, confusion. In those moments, our research group was there.

What does this award mean to you?

I’m honoured to receive this award because I know first-hand the level of excellence that OISE inspires in its community.


Photo of Janelle Brandy

Janelle Brady, winner of the Emerging Leader Award, is a renowned anti-racist researcher and educator. 


Emerging Leader Award

Winner: Janelle Brady, PhD candidate, OISE department of Social Justice Education

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes an individual who has shown vision, initiative, and great promise in inspiring and organizing positive change in their communities.

Janelle Brady consistently and graciously extends kindness, mentorship, and excellence to others, modelling central qualities of any good leader and creating pathways that benefit the communities she serves.

The anti-racist researcher and educator has presented at local, national, and international peer-reviewed conferences and meetings. In addition to appearing in, and authoring, numerous edited collections, her publications appear in journals such as the Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education, The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory, the McGill Journal of Education, and Emerging Perspectives.

Since 2016, Brady has spearheaded the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies (CIARS) as the Senior Coordinator and Researcher. She not only leads Centre activities but also mentored undergraduate and graduate studies on community organizing and research practice.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

My favourite OISE memory would have to be co-coordinating and leading the 2018 Decolonizing Conference. This was a pre-pandemic time, and a beautiful coming together of scholars, community members, and activists locally and internationally.

Under the directorship of my thesis supervisor, Professor George Dei, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time working alongside my colleague and friend, Ezi Odozor, an award-winning scholar, writer, and student support specialist who co-led the conference.

We both love good food, bringing people together, and spreadsheets! So, it was during this time that our friendship flourished. We brought together over 1000 people all in the halls of OISE, and this could have been a much higher number if we had not sadly closed registration a couple months before due to capacity limitations.

Scholars such as Gloria Ladson-Billings, Carl James, Marie Battiste came in and gave us the ideas for new possibilities of decolonial education, what it means now, and in future. There were over 400 panel presenters across 70 concurrent panels and each room drew a large engaged and community-oriented audience.

Ezi and I would get to campus around 6 AM each morning of the conference, meeting some of the over 100 New College and Equity Studies and OISE graduate student volunteers, who would be beaming with excitement and energy, which was infectious. In the last evening of the event, we attended a beautiful social event at Hart House where we danced the night away!

To cultivate a memory such as this, it took one year of planning by SJE-graduate students, alumni, staff-members who all met and looked after all the logistics and sponsorship required to put together a large-scale event. Of course, the 2020 conference could not be held due to the pandemic, but I was marvelled at how quickly the CIARS team organized virtual and timely events. Though the 2020 planning was incredibly executed with so much heart, nothing can take away those moments of laughter, jokes, and of course adrenaline of coordinating the 2018 conference which was, hands down, my favourite OISE memory.

What does this award mean to you?

Those who know me, already know that just a few days after I received my admittance to the doctoral program in the Department of Social Justice, my mother passed away. Unfortunately, I did not get to share the good news with her in-person, but I know she guides me each day.

At the hospital where she spent her final days, she would announce proudly to doctors and nurses that I was completing my PhD. I would always retort, “Mom! I’m still in my master’s, I don’t know if I will get into the program!” At this point, I was still on the waitlist and had already thought through plans C, D, E, F, and G. She would only smile knowingly and say, “you will become a doctor.” And a few days after she passed, I received my acceptance letter.

My Mother, Sheryl Brady, passed away very young in her mid-40s after her two-year battle with lung cancer. She left behind her late husband, my three-year-old sister, my aunt, her mother, and me. It was a difficult time for us all to say the very least, but I was determined to make the most of my graduate school experience as school, activism, and community work has always been outlets for me.

My mother’s loss, combined with her community-and-advocacy-oriented disposition are what got me through these hard times, not to mention all the loving people in my life I am grateful to have.

Her efforts in raising and advocating for me in order to advance my education against all odds based on my class, race, and gender were what made me determined to dedicate the focus of my dissertation to her. Not only did she do this for me, but she also spoke out against systemic racism in the school system for countless friends and families’ children. This award means that I am hopefully living up to my mother’s expectations and honouring her sacrifices.

It also means that I can research what I am passionate about while still being engaged and grounded in community without sacrificing my authenticity. During these very difficult times, the award gives me hope for the educational futurity of Black students, their families, and community members.

I know that I am only here because of the sacrifices of people like my mother and Black scholars and mentors like Professor George Nana Dei, Professor Njoki Wane, and so many others who have worked hard to create space for graduate students like me, for that I am ever thankful. I am also so grateful to my colleague, friend, and sister, Ezi Odozor for nominating and for always believing in me.

 Photo of Angela Mashford-Pringle

Angela Mashford-Pringle, recipient of the Innovation Award, is the inaugural director of the Master of Public Health in Indigenous Health program at the University of Toronto. 


Innovation Award

Winner: Angela Mashford-Pringle, Assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School for Public Health

The Innovation Award is given to those who have fostered novel ideas, approaches or solutions in their field and celebrates outstanding performance, resulting in new or improved innovations.

This year’s winner, Professor Mashford-Pringle, as the inaugural Director of the Master of Public Health – Indigenous Health program, was tireless, inspiring, and expansive in her drive to create a program infused with Indigenous ontologies and pedagogy. She developed an Indigenous pedagogical approach and applied to create U of T’s first land-based master's program infused with Indigenous knowledges. She is an exceptional, dedicated educator and role model.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

After years of being away from school, I returned to complete my Master of Arts from what was SESE [The Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education]. I remember the first time I walked in to the department before I started classes and meeting Kristen (the Graduate Administrative Officer) and her helping me with picking my courses, reaching out to supervisors for my thesis, and generally making me feel welcome.

I sat down in the couches and watched people come and go for about 30 minutes. I was smiling from ear-to-ear when one of the professors (who later I found out it was Dr. Njoki Wane) said “Welcome to SESE! Hope you enjoy it here.” It was a warm welcome and really set the stage for my degree!

What does this award mean to you?

The MA in Adult and Aboriginal Education taught me about pedagogies, ontologies and, most importantly, curriculum development. Those foundational teachings, coupled with having my very first Indigenous teacher (Dr. Jean-Paul Restoule), taught me that I could make a difference by bringing Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. I am very grateful and excited to win the Leaders and Legends Innovation Award. It indicates that I am truly making a difference as recognized by colleagues, peers, and now the education community!


 Photo of Nizar Ladak

From humble beginnings as a Ugandan refugee, Nizar Ladak, winner of the Distinguished Service Award, has had a profound impact on Ontario's healthcare system and digital research infrastructure ecosystem. 


Distinguished Service Award

Winner: Nizar Ladak, CEO, The New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization

The Distinguished Service Award honours exceptional individuals for longstanding or distinguished service in an area of public importance.

Nizar Ladak, this year’s winner, exemplifies this and then some. From humble beginnings as a Ugandan refugee, to becoming an OISE alumni, to shaping Ontario’s healthcare system and digital research infrastructure ecosystem, Ladak’s leadership journey has had a profound impact.

Ladak’s expertise in healthcare and digital research infrastructure is internationally sought-after. He views digital research infrastructure as Canada’s great equalizer in social equity and economic recovery, and he advances this cause passionately via his thought leadership and the strategic vision of the organizations that he leads – including at the New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization, where he is the inaugural CEO.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

My favourite OISE memory was when I wrote a term paper for “Sociology and the Working Teacher" about a teacher who had influenced me greatly: My Grade 13 mathematics teacher, Mrs. Lee, who mentored me in remarkable ways. As an inner-city youth who struggled with math, Mrs. Lee took me under her protective wing and wrote my reference letter for U of T.

To this day, Mrs. Lee has had a lasting impact on me. My professor read my paper and asked me to recite passages from it to the class. Unbeknownst to me, my professor invited Mrs. Lee (who herself was an OISE MEd grad) to sneak into class and hear my accolades.  It was a touching moment that only an OISE faculty could have pulled off.

What does this award mean to you?

My personal credo is: the price of occupancy on Earth is to serve others. To be recognized with the Distinguished Service award by my alma mater is therefore a personally meaningful honour.

From my arrival in Canada as a refugee, I am evidence that Canada’s social safety net achieves the outcomes it was designed to. Benefiting from government loans and grants, I was able to pursue my graduate studies at OISE. To be recognized for doing what I love seems odd, particularly since I simply tried to live by our OISE values, my favourite of which is to “build our impact through scholarship and collaboration”.  Thank you, OISE, I am honoured and humbled.


 Photo of Chizoba Imoka

Chizoba Imoka, recipient of the Global Service Award, is a regarded global education leader and acclaimed public intellectual and expert on equity and social justice. 


Global Service Award

Winner: Chizoba Imoka, Director of Program Development at Unveiling Africa Academy

The Global Service Award celebrates an extraordinary individual for commitment to addressing the world’s social and humanitarian challenges with notable global impact.

This year’s recipient, Chizoba Imoka, is a well-known and regarded global leader. Imoka, who earned her PhD in Education Policy and Leadership from OISE, has done excellent work with Unveiling Africa (UVA), a youth-led organization she founded.  UVA provides a platform for African teenagers to become grounded in their culture and exposed to social justice issues while acquiring leadership skills.

Imoka is hailed as an acclaimed public intellectual and expert on equity and social justice-based education/social reform, community development and youth engagement. She has also delivered a number of delivered public lectures – including a TEDx talk.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

My favourite OISE memory is taking Professor George Dei and Professor Njoki Wane’s classes on anti-colonial theory and Indigenous knowledges. These courses helped me answer pre-existing questions I had about the state of global development, connect the dots on previous ideas and intuitive truths I had and set me up on a life-long journey of advancing social justice praxis.

What does this award mean to you?

The award affirms that the work of decolonization is needed and must continue. In so doing, it is a source of encouragement to stay the course.


 Photo of Joyce Nyhof-Young

Joyce Nyhof-Young, Mentor of the Year, has mentored hundreds of healthcare trainees, clinical teachers, faculty and community agency staff. 


Mentor of the Year   

Winner: Dr. Joyce Nyhof-Young, Curriculum Evaluation Coordinator, Temerty Faculty of Medicine

This award honours an individual who has offered exceptional support, guidance and encouragement to members of the OISE community. Dr. Nyhof-Young, this year’s winner, has been doing it for 25 years.

The OISE alumna, who received her PhD in Curriculum Teaching and Learning from OISE, has mentored hundreds of diverse healthcare trainees, clinical teachers, faculty, and community agency staff.

Her award-winning teaching and focus on knowledge mobilization and dissemination help mentees to understand the processes, demands, and resources of education scholarship and research.

As a medical education scholar and researcher, she has spent over two decades in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine building capacity in education scholarship and research. Her interdisciplinary MD trainee, clinician teacher, and community teams have built and evaluated numerous novel educational programs, curriculums and resources in the MD Program, hospital clinics, and vulnerable local communities.

What is your favourite OISE memory?

Some of my favourite OISE memories revolve around the people in my wonderful PhD comprehensive examination study group. We reviewed together, exchanged resources, gave each other endless moral support during the grueling exam week, celebrated mightily thereafter, and even published an academic paper on our collaborative study process. The encouragement, educational insights, and diverse study group were just what I needed to get through that examination week, thrive in my PhD program, and establish life-long friendships. 

What does this award mean to you?

I am grateful for this award as it provides such a welcome recognition of my passion for student mentorship, teaching, and advising. While invigorating, mentorship is energy intensive, and supporting students and colleagues often happens slowly, one person or team at a time. This award encourages my ongoing efforts to use mentorship to build capacity in education scholarship and ultimately a more just and equitable future. I am deeply honoured by this award and its celebration of mentorship.

OISE would like to give special thanks to the Leaders and Legends Awards Committee who had the difficult task of selecting the very best from a strong field of candidates.

Thank you to Chair Beth Corcoran, Albert Luk, Belinda Longe, Talena Jackson, Nicole Jolly, Asmita Bhutani Vij, Kristina Leis, Diana Burchell and to OISE Alumni Association Executive Awards Chair Edward Thompson and OISEAA President Matt Stodolak.