Past Wellness Champions

Wellness happens all around us, and these Wellness Champions have positively influenced university life over the years.

2019 Wellness Champions

  • Faculty of Arts Happiness Campaign
    Donna McKinnon, Cindy Welsh, and Marcie Whitecotton-Carroll created the “Happiness Campaign” to promote student mental health and wellness through happiness. This campaign aims to share the impacts of research that intersect with mental health and wellness, cultivate engagement within the Faculty of Arts, create an opportunity for students to engage in positivity, and an opportunity to share mental health and wellness resources. Through the Healthy University Strategic Plan (HUSP) the Happiness Campaign engages in supporting personal development and strengthening community action. It brings awareness to the importance of mental health among students, staff, and faculty through creating conversations.
  • Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Student Services Team
    Dr. Dion Brocks, Dr. Ravina Sanghera, Mrs. Dallyce Bialowas, and Ms. Angela dela Cruz make up the Pharmacy Student Service Team that has organized various wellness initiatives that has created a powerful bond within the Faculty of Pharmacy. They have championed a mentorship initiative that builds a professional relationship between students and faculty advisors; they embody what it means to work for and with people. They host Pharmily Forums that allows for safe conversations and further sharing of ideas for the betterment and wellness of the students. The Pharmacy Student Service Team has allowed pharmacy students to easily access physical and social supports, and celebrates the success of students and staff.
  • Juanita Gnanapragasm
    Juanita Gnanapragasam is a student who enhances the campus community through food by creating access for all students to continue their ethnic and dietary practices. The relationships that she has built with peers has allowed for her to create initiatives and programs that can best suit them, from initiating the “What Makes You Happy” campaign in 2017 with UofA Compliments to piloting the Grocery Express Bus with the Campus Food Bank, she has found ways to contribute to the overall health on campus. Juanita has built a community where students can thrive and is continually motivated to ensure the student experiences are heard.
  • Maryanne Doherty
    As the Associate Dean in the Undergraduate Student Services in the Faculty of Education, Maryanne Doherty has encouraged her peers and students to find a sense of fun and joy in school and life. She began the first Health and Physical Education Masters of Education Cohort that has impacted students to grow in personal and professional development. Through creating a supportive environment, she has allowed these students to create and maintain a supportive and healthy environment within the faculty.
  • Mason Schindle
    Mason Schindle started the FentaNIL Project which aims to ameliorate the detrimental impact of the synthetic opioid crisis in Edmonton. Through personal experiences, this project is near and dear to Mason. The goal of this project is (1) educate campus and community members on the opioid epidemic and harm reduction strategies, (2) train campus and community members how to identify and respond to overdose, (3) distribute free naloxone kits to campus and community members and (4) reduce the stigmatization attached to drug users. Since starting, their involvement in the campus community has allowed for over 180 Lister Residence Staff and St. Joseph’s College student-staff to be trained in the opioid crisis and harm reduction strategies and thus created a dialogue for students and staff to mitigate the stigma around drug and substance use.
  • Paul Barber
    As a student in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Paul Barber has created a dialogue to decrease the stigma around mental health by creating social spaces outside the medical curriculum and launching podcasts around mindfulness. He advocates for consideration around curricular composition and flexibility to support student wellbeing. “The Monologues of Mental Health” provides a platform for medical students to share their own struggles in efforts to create a much needed dialogue around mental health; the ultimate goal is to support students to reach out for help. He is working towards changing the culture in medicine to be more kind and compassionate toward peers who are struggling.
  • Victor Do
    Victor Do is a student in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry whose leadership within the faculty evolved the learning environment for students. In the past year he has created the Health Promoting Learning Environment Committee which developed a strategic plan that will inform curricular and institutional decisions that support student wellbeing. To reveal the stigma and barriers to mental health, he has encouraged his peers to seek out support. He has inspired both peers and faculty to advance practices and cultures within the learning environment of students in the faculty.

2016 Wellness Champions

  • Aboriginal Student Services Centre

    In the Medicine Wheel, there are 4 aspects that are needed in order to be balanced: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. The ASSC provides services that support mental health by providing free printing, mentor support, academic support through free editing with graduate students, emotional health through elder supports, physical health through providing an interactive work out activity, and spiritual support through access to the ceremonial space where traditional medicines are provided, and social wellness by providing a space in which students have the opportunity to connect with their on and off campus communities. 

  • Angela Chytracek

    Angela is the student engagement coordinator at the University of Alberta's Augustana campus. Angela has worked tirelessly to create events and activities that support the mental, social, environmental, and emotional health of students. Several of the highlights include her involvement in new orientation activities, the creation of a "Calm Zone" in the First Year Resident Building that is filled with books and supplies related to wellness, the creation of "UniTea," a peer support program encouraging conversations about mental health and peer listening, the coordination of "Eco-move out" in residences for students to ree-cycle unwanted items, a depression support group, a group to teach and practice mindfulness meditation and events that educate about sexual health, healthy relationships, mental health, self-care, leadership, embracing diversity and more.

  • Glen Fairen

    Glen takes an active role in supporting student mental health. He takes the time to help students by giving them time to deal with personal issues and ensuring that they do not influence their academic life, moderates a supportive seminar environment, creates flexible deadlines, encourages students to respect one another and puts academia in perspective.

  • Grace Bellerose

    Grace has gone above her job description as a mini-study group leader to provide both academic and emotional support for the students she mentors. She was more accessible than the TAs and professors, ensured study sessions were paced well to reduce stress around exam time, held extra study groups, and demonstrated unwavering enthusiasm and positivity throughout.

  • Greg Eklics

    Greg has undertaken the opportunity to create a "chill room" for students during peak exam times. The room includes: music, stress release activities and healthy snacks. He also set up a much needed permanent space for undergraduate and graduate students to read and relax. He takes the time to create space and start conversations with individuals around him. 

  • Jamie Boisvenue

    Jamie has worked to create a better university environment for staff, students and others. He actively engages others to be not only more active but to be more aware of mental health and overall health. He brings people together to participate in healthy activities such as lunchtime walks, meditation, health information sessions, blood pressure readings, mind-game activities at no cost. 

  • Kira Arnison

    Kira has been a part of the Peer Support Centre for 1 year and during that time she has ensured that each of her clients leave the centre feeling better about their situation and have a good strategic plan moving forward. What is particularly noteworthy is her efforts to consistently promote self-care within the centre for her volunteer peers, and her role as a part of the self-care of the month initiative where she often describes convenient and affordable ways to ensure self-care as a busy student.

  • Lorraine Leskiw

    Lorraine supports the students in her class and is quoted to be "the most caring teacher I've ever had." She understands the circumstances that surrounds each student and helps them pass the hardships that they are facing. Even after students leave her course, she continued to encourage them.

  • Yasir Iqbal

    Yasir has listened and advocated on behalf of Pharmacy students to get a new water fountain installed in the Medical Sciences Building, help students book spaces, supports student initiatives, and worked to provide supplies for the student lounge such as plastic forks and spoons, feminine hygiene products and office supplies. He has also supporting student mental health by establishing a "Week of Wellness" campaign that included a pancake and PJ day, various fitness classes such as yoga, zumba and dance which have helped students relieve their stress.

  • Yasmin Rafiei

    Yasmin makes an effort to change her own lifestyle to incorporate a variety of healthy activities into her every-day life. She promotes positive social contacts and influences and pushes to have team bonding events, meetings, proper and constant communication, and fun get-togethers for her student groups. She pushes to include elements of self-care and self-relaxation.  She also maintains her own academic success and is always understanding when the individuals around her have to take time away to study for their exams and she does her best to support her. Finally, she personally exhibits a healthy lifestyle by biking to school/work, working out regularly, participating in different activities for relaxation, eating healthy and constantly improving herself. She inspires others to also think about incorporating health into their daily routines. 

2015 Wellness Champions

  • AQUA

    These Wellness Champions provide a positive atmosphere at Augustana for all persons – regardless of membership – regardless of gender or identity. Augustana Queers and Allies (AQUA) is the only gay‐straight alliance at the University of Alberta’s Augustana and works incredibly hard to recognize and support people who identify as gender or sexual minorities. They provide a safe and supportive environment for students who are facing adversity through events such as movie nights, guest speakers, trips to North Campus or Edmonton Queer events, Pride Week, and much more! They sprout awareness during Wellness Week, Spirit Day, karaoke, and general discussions that empower the student body on campus. These Wellness Champions extend their efforts to by cooperating with organizations on and off campus to foster wellness through Sexual health.

  • Brenda Leskiw

    Dr. Brenda Lesikw is an exceptional leader on campus who has created several solutions on campus to promote wellness. As the Associate Dean of Science, she centers her work around student success. For example, she has taken several steps to make mental health a priority on campus including a embedding counselling services right in the Faculty of Science, initiated a mental health strategy, improving policies, increasing student participation, and of course, offering regular pet therapy with her dog Ruby. Her (and Ruby’s!) positive, compassionate and respectful nature makes a great contribution to a culture wellness on campus!

  • Carmen Person

    Carmen Person - an all-round stellar individual with an inspiring zest for life is an instrumental Wellness Champion at U of A Augustana campus. As a counselor on campus, Carmen has been instrumental in helping students out. She works alongside Student Services and Reslife in an early feedback system to keep a look out for students that are 'falling through the cracks’. She even goes above and beyond by facilitating meditation practices for the Mindfulness Club twice every week. The wellness she fosters in student and staff mental and physical health creates a space of non-judgement and self-appreciation throughout Augustana. 

  • Corinne Williams

    As a Student Services Coordinator at the U of A Augustana, Corinne has been instrumental in events that enhance wellness on campus. International Week, International Student Orientation, and Student Success Series, are just a few of the many events Corinne finds a way to impact the social, academic, financial, and mental health of students and staff. Corinne is a phenomenal resource for advice on administrative issues such as banking, visa, and tax information for international and Canadian students alike. Her diligence and admirable approach towards students allows an opportunity of wellness to grow at Augustana. She is a motivational support system for student wellness on campus and a real outgoing, approachable Wellness Champion!

  • David Jennings

    An empathetic fellow student.  A role model. A. passionate leader. A Wellness Champion. That is David Jennings. This president of Association des universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ) is incredibly involved in health and wellness of the university community. He works as a peer support volunteer and is an advocate for mental health services.  He connects with students beyond his role as student president and his positivity and hard work inspires others to promote wellness. It is truly motivational to see and hear the deep connections David makes with his fellow students and his continuous contributions to improving wellness at Campus Saint Jean and beyond in the University of Alberta. 

  • Employment Equity

    You’ve likely been told that that life isn’t fair. But doesn’t everyone deserve fairness? The department of Employment Equity is a Wellness Champion dedicated to ensuring fairness and equity in all of the University’s hiring practices through policy and practices. They’ve helped removing barriers to employment and created richer working environments for everyone on campus. Specifically, they’ve increased awareness of equitable workplaces through their Pink T-Shirt Day and hosting work placements for persons with disabilities. Promoting workplaces that are diverse and inclusive creates a culture of wellness on campus and improve the well-being of many.

  • Interfaith Chaplains Association

    The Interfaith Chaplains Association is composed of Wellness Champions who place the well-being of others as their utmost priority! These 13 Wellness Champions are chaplains from several different denominations on campus. They serves students, staff and faculty who are experiencing spiritual, emotional, academic or physical trauma. Furthermore, they establish wellness through funding the U of A Food Bank, sponsoring Ash Wednesday events, presenting a relevant topic each year at International Week, and having weekly gatherings with students. They too often go unnoticed but are nevertheless always available to support well-being whenever a crisis may occur.

  • Jaynita Maru

    This Wellness Champion can lighten up the darkest of your days with her presence, kindness, and great sense of humour. Jaynita Maru has made a positive and lasting impact on the Augustana campus through her positive attitude, tireless energy and commitment to making students feel welcomed, supported, and represented on campus. This well-respected student leader has spearheaded numerous social, residence and international student programming efforts on campus. These events have all promoted a cultural awareness of different spiritual perspectives and wellness. Furthermore she is a great example of someone who manages to balance a very busy work and school schedule along with providing a great amount of support to fellow and inspire other students.

  • Kerry Rusk

    Wellness Champion Kerry Rusk is very sensitive to the needs of students and understands the stress they face in a highly competitive campus environment. As coordinator of the after degree program with the Faculty of Nursing she has implemented a self care component in some of the clinical courses. Students are permitted to take 1 hour a week out of their course time for personal self care. Not only do students benefit now by more exercise, yoga, reading, spending time with family, or reconnecting with their faith but Kerry's initiative fosters future work life balance for these students. It highlights the importance of self care– a component of wellness much to easily forgotten in our busy lifestyles today.

  • Laura Beard

    You know those individual who go above and beyond to make improve the lives of others? Dr. Laura Beard is a Wellness Champion who truly cares about the well-being of those around her. As the Chair of, and a professor within, the Modern Language and Cultural Studies Department at the University of Alberta, Dr. Beard worked with the Sexual Assault Centre to bring awareness and education about sexual assault to her colleagues demonstrating commitment to a safe, compassionate, respectful and understanding campus community. As well, she genuinely cares for the well-being of her students. Her actions have created a space within the University of Alberta were wellness happens. 

  • Linda

    This lovely lady has proven that a simple smile and kind words make a difference to those around you. Linda is a Wellness Champion who creates a positive environment in a unique setting – Tim Horton’s in the Medical Science Building. She is sought out by customers because of her friendly personality. Some customers would rather wait up to 45 minutes in her line to have a chance to engage with her than just grab their coffee and go. As said by her manager, Linda is “the sugar in a very bitter coffee”.  Her words and actions impact the emotional and social well-being of students, staff, and faculty and make the University of Alberta a better place. Linda demonstrates that we all play a role in creating a healthy, positive campus.

  • Marion Haggarty-France

    Almost every endeavor this Wellness Champion has focuses on most or all of the factors inherent within wellness. Marion Haggarty- France’s leadership within her the University Governance Unit reflects her strong belief in wellness.  Marion organized the Plasma Car Slam, an event that raised over $1200 for the United Way! This campus-wide initiative intended to get hearts, minds, spirits and friendship racing to engage the community in a worthwhile and wellness-based event. Furthermore, she keeps the members of her Unit engaged and healthy through a dedicated focus on organizational wellness and recognizes that wellness is much more than an absence of illness. Marion Haggarty-France is the face of campus wellness at the University of Alberta – she doesn't just believe in the elements of wellness, she lives them!

  • Nick Baxandall

    Improving the overall wellness of a community can be hard, yet this one Wellness Champion appears to make this look effortless. The power of peer mentorship cannot be better demonstrated than through the actions of Nick Baxandall! His patience, kindness, and ability to make international students feel included and welcome have empowered the students around him. The expertise of health, fitness, wellness, and the importance of maintaining a balance in life that Nick shares with his peers has had an incredible impact on those around him. The small acts this Wellness Champion does make the biggest differences. This hardworking, charismatic Wellness Champion has managed to inspire, lead, and mentor others to become better individuals mentally, physically, and emotionally!

  • Relaxation Superstation

    Students don't always remember to de-stress, but when one sees the colourful sign of the Wellness Champion’s Relaxation Superstation or their cute little stress balls, one can't help but smile and remember to take the time to slow down. The Relaxation Superstation has subsequently attended both ProcrastiNite events this year and provides pop up relaxation stations where students and the greater U of A community can stop by for tea, stress balls or massage chairs.  It's a great initiative that allows people a break from the busyness of their lives! This temporary relaxation space has been such a positive influence on the general well-being of students. 

  • U of A Compliments

    Isn’t it great to hear kind words on campus? The U of A Compliments student group is a Wellness Champion who has created a platform to foster positive campus life. They do this through posting anonymous compliments about people at the university and feel good statements. Whether it be a friend, a professor, or even a stranger, they support and sprout relationships between diverse people on campus. Recently, their initiative has extended to several inspirational and heart-warming outreach activities, such as PositiviDay. These Wellness Champions are continuously raising awareness about how important  community spirit and mental health is on campus. U of A Compliments makes wellness happen every day. 

  • U of A Libraries

    Libraries are more than just a hub of information.These underappreciated spaces create a community of wellness for students, faculty and staff. The libraries and all of their employees are Wellness Champions dedicated to supporting healthy, successful, and stress-free (as much as possible) students. They have renovated spaces for students to relax, set up hydration stations, and achieved Green space certification. Without the librarians, Unwind Your Mind would not be achievable. Ongoing collaboration with each other and with student faculty associations, the libraries are continuously improving their service and space to serve you better. If you are going to visit one place on campus where wellness happens, go check out a library. 

  • Undergraduate Research Initiative

    It’s amazing the power of two people: Crystal Snyder and Dr. Connie Varnhagen of the Undergraduate Research Institute are Wellness Champions who create a positive academic environment dedicated to encouraging students to pursue their curiosities through research. Not only do students learn about research and career opportunities at the URI, but Crystal and Connie also enables students to discover more about themselves helping them to find their place and purpose in the world. Their passion for their work has fostered partnerships with faculties, staff, and alumni, strengthening the reach of the URI across campus.  Crystal and Connie demonstrate that you can contribute to wellness in many ways, including the way you approach your job, interact with others on campus and the passion  you show. 

  • Vivian Kwan

    Vivian Kwan is an impressive undergraduate student who engages in several campus opportunities to improve the health of students. She is a Wellness Champion who is involved in many health committees on campus, including the Student Health Committee. She’s created many opportunities for students to gather and collaborate, such as creating the “UAlberta Clubs and Volunteer” social media venture and organizing the Student Health Committee conference. Her actions are widely impacting the well-being of the student body, demonstrating that small acts of wellness do add up.