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Arbor Awards honour exceptional OISE volunteers

October 16, 2018

By Kaitlyn Balkovec


This year's Arbor Award winners with OISE Dean Glen Jones. From left to right: Michael Sinclair, Peter Liu, Angela Goldman, Dean Glen Jones, Amy Parker, Mark Rosenfeld, and Tamara Mitchell. Not pictured: Aastha Sahni, Aisha Khaja, and Linda White.

This year, nine members of the OISE community received Arbor Awards for their loyalty, generosity, and dedication to OISE and the Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS).

The annual awards recognize individuals who have made an exceptional impact at the University of Toronto through volunteerism.

About the 2018 Arbor Award recipients:

Angela Goldman: dedicated parent volunteer at JICS and fundraiser for OISE. Since 2003, her various efforts have supported arts and diversity initiatives at the Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School. Angela also serves as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, where her invaluable advice benefits all aspects of the School’s operations.

Aisha Khaja: host of the talk show Let the Quran Speak, senior policy analyst with the Ontario government, and member of the OISE Alumni Association. As an OISE Alumni Recruitment Ambassador, Aisha was featured in the “With OISE I Can” video series and alumni and student outreach campaigns. She has boosted outreach success by sharing content with her networks and helping OISE connect with the Muslim community.

Peter Liu: chair of the OISE Mentorship Program and member of the OISE Alumni Association. As a dynamic alumni event volunteer, Peter has played a vital role in OISEʼs student outreach and alumni recruitment efforts, and was featured in the student outreach video campaign.

Tamara Mitchell: elementary school teacher and member of the OISE Alumni Association. As an OISE Alumni Recruitment Ambassador and MEd graduate, Tamara was featured in the “With OISE I Can” video series. Tamara has also volunteered for promotions such as World Teachers’ Day and helped with outreach communications.

Amy Parker: secretary of the OISE Alumni Association. Amy played an integral role in supporting OISE’s 2016 Spring Reunion and Kids Passport to U of T, as well as helping to establish the OISE Leaders and Legends awards.

Mark Rosenfeld: Executive Director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. Mark has played a leadership role in the “Worldviews” lecture series that takes place at OISE every year, and has helped organize two important conferences on media and higher education. He is currently collaborating with OISE on an upcoming international conference addressing critical issues in higher education.

Aastha Sahni: member of the OISE Young Alumni Council. As an Alumni Recruitment Ambassador, she enthusiastically promotes U of T and OISE to potential students and helps with OISE orientation events.

Michael Sinclair: chair of the OISE Alumni Constitution Committee, member of the OISE Alumni Association, and member of the OISE Mentorship Committee. In 2007 he was named one of OISE’s “inspiring alumni” in observance of 100 years of studies in education at U of T.

Linda White: parent volunteer at JICS and member of the JICS Child Study Research Review Committee from 2009 to 2018. Linda is also a Professor of Political Science at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at U of T. She has reviewed more than 50 research studies for JICS, providing insightful feedback and helping strengthen OISEʼs work on best practices in education.

OISE News asked the winners about what it means to receive this award, what led to their success at OISE, and why volunteering is important part of their lives. Read below for their insights and to learn more about their valuable contributions to the OISE community.

What does winning this award mean to you?

Aisha: Receiving this award is an honour and a privilege. This recognition is a constant reminder of what my time at OISE and U of T has reinforced—the importance of giving back and making a difference in your own way.

Linda: I’m absolutely thrilled and touched that Principal Richard Messina and Vice-Principal Chriss Bogert of JICS nominated me for this award. As a parent of children who attended the school, it was a great honour to serve on the JICS research committee. I hadn’t realized how long I served (eight years) until I reluctantly had to step down as my youngest had graduated. I was thrilled to do my small part as the parent representative on the research committee, and to support the research that is a core part of the mission of the JICS lab school.

Mark: The award is not only personally gratifying, but for me is also a recognition of the dedicated and creative work of my colleagues at OISE, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, Inside Higher Ed, and University World News in exploring and fostering a greater understanding of how the diverse worlds of media and higher education influence one another and can continue to do so in innovative and novel ways. 

Tamara: A couple years ago, when I was approached to contribute to OISE’s video campaign, I was surprised and flattered that anyone would be inspired by my, still relatively new, career. I was honoured then, and I am honoured now, to be recognized for the small effort I made to give back to OISE.

Share with us a key to your success at OISE.

Amy: I think the respect I have always held for this university as a place of people who are thoughtful, reflective, intelligent and kind has contributed to my success at OISE. I have always felt a responsibility to contribute to that environment, and continue to promote the values that U of T represents.

Angela: I attribute my success to the great team effort that was part of all the initiatives that I had the pleasure of working on at OISE/JICS. It was a privilege to work with such a dedicated and talented group of individuals. 

Linda: Curiosity about the “lab school” part of JICS drove me to say “yes” when asked to serve– and I never regretted it!

Michael: I emphasized the superb well-known expertise of and support from the late Professor Emerita Cicely Watson, my PhD thesis supervisor. An unrelated key factor was assistance from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities in providing the empirical data for this thesis.

Peter: A key to my success at OISE was making connections with people who supported me in fulfilling my goals, whether this was with fellow members of the Alumni Association or other volunteers.

Why is volunteering important to you?

Amy: For me, volunteering is a way to help others who may feel uncertain and try to bring them out of their shell into the present moment. It is my hope that helping someone in need will create a cycle of others wanting to help as well.

Angela: It is important to me to support an organization that I feel makes a valuable impact on children's education. My children have benefited greatly by being a part of this community, and I attribute a lot of who they are today due to their time at JICS. It's an experience that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. By volunteering, it is my hope that other children will be given the same opportunities for success.

Mark: From the beginning, my participation in the Worldviews conferences has provided me with the opportunity to collaboratively develop a successful lecture and conference series from inception to completion, and to see positive impacts on higher education and the media. This volunteer experience has made it possible to meet and interact with leading edge researchers, practitioners, journalists and editors from across the globe. I am particularly grateful that OISE and the University Toronto supported what began as a novel and untried venture.

Tamara: OISE got me started on my path, and I’m sure it contributed to my teaching in ways I’m not even aware of. It always feels good to give back, and if my very small efforts contributed to OISE’s ongoing success, then I am grateful to have had that opportunity.