Meet the Winners of the 2020 IT Awards!

This year, more than ever before, IT professionals were faced with unprecedented challenges. Asked to respond quickly to new ways of supporting clients, and new ways of working due to unforeseen circumstances, IT professionals rose to the challenge. In a short amount of time, we transitioned, discovered, and adapted to this new normal, and vowed to move the University forward. That’s why this year, we are so proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Information Technology Awards!

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Information Services & Technology), the IT Awards celebrate the efforts of faculty, staff, and students who have demonstrated excellence in information technology in the following five award categories: IT Ambassador Award, IT Innovation Award, IT Client Service Award, IT Unsung Hero Award, and IT Distinguished Career Award. Established in 2010, this year marks the awards’ 10 year anniversary!

We are pleased to highlight the winners of this year’s IT Awards, whose efforts were recognized at the IT Awards Ceremony on June 26th.

  • IT Ambassador Award: David Shu
  • IT Innovation Award - Individual (TIE): Dr. David Chorney & Janet Arndt
  • IT Innovation Award - Team (TIE): UASI Project Team & eClass Team
  • IT Client Service Award - Individual: Aaron Langen
  • IT Client Service Award - Team: eClass Team
  • IT Unsung Hero (TIE): Lorraine McCrimmon & Igor Sinelnikov
  • IT Distinguished Career Award: Gordie Mah

IT Ambassador Award

The IT Ambassador Award recognizes a support staff or academic member of the university community for outstanding technology leadership and contributions.

David Shu, Manager, Infrastructure Information Management (VFO)

This year’s winner, David Shu, leads a group of nine IT professionals, and is described as having a great ability to rally his team around new technology. Constantly working on his own learning as well as learning from his colleagues to adapt new solutions, his areas of responsibility include management, support, and administration of several enterprise systems. “He is equally at ease and adept at working with IT counterparts in other units, but more relevantly, he is at home working with anyone who has a problem and needs a solution,” says nominator, Andrew Ng, Interim Director - Planning,Information & Analytics (Strategic Portfolio Services).

Whether it’s a faculty looking for assistance with tracking assets, or other units looking to streamline customer service requests, David is always ready to lend a helping hand. His team has one of the highest scores for employee engagement, and his staff talk positively of his investment in their career progression and skill development. David leads his team with strategic vision, while providing a sense of purpose in fulfilling Facility & Operations and the University's mission. “While it is his technical expertise that makes him qualified, it’s his helpful nature and people-first mentality that make him extraordinary.”

IT Innovation Award

The IT Innovation Award recognizes one support staff or academic member, and one team for their innovative use of hardware and/or software technology to successfully deploy a major IT project with significant impact to research, teaching, administration and/or the University experience. This year, we’re happy to announce a tie for the individual award.

Individual Award
Dr. David Chorney, Associate Professor (Faculty of Education) & Associate Director for the Centre for Teaching and Learning - Instructional Services

Described as a “leader in his innovative application of IT in his courses,” Dr. Chorney believes that incorporating IT effectively goes a long way in making learning dynamic, engaging, and relevant. His work demonstrates leadership, innovation and interdepartmental collaborative skills, as he holds a dual role in the University community. Dr. Chorney’s contributions to IT projects in particular include the three year project collaborating with Technologies in Education to create the brand new iOS and Android app, Any Age Fitness, to help teach fitness concepts to users. He is also dedicated to introducing technologies in the classroom including geocaching for learning and orienteering, GoPros to determine value in teaching and pedagogical practices, video recording for teaching and self analysis, and more.

Co-nominators James Park, Learning Design Consultant and Shane Klein, Coordinator and Media Technician with the Faculty of Education, say that Dr. Chorney’s commitment to solid pedagogy and best practices, “will undoubtedly go on to benefit the campus-wide community in classes, sports, the province’s school boards, and even the world, as his students go out and share their passion, commitment, and dedication to teaching effectively with technology.”

Janet Arndt, Business Analyst (IST - Enterprise Applications)

Nominator Will Cheng, PeopleSoft Technical Manager, speaks for all of his colleagues when he says that Janet Arndt is “deserving of the award for her ongoing passion, dedication and commitment.” But it is also her knowledge, attention to detail, and commitment while rolling out the PeopleSoft Security Requests application in particular, that has earned her this year’s IT Innovation Award. Janet is extremely knowledgeable on PeopleSoft Security, and how it is deployed at the University; there is no one with the same level of expertise, Cheng says.

She was instrumental in influencing the design of the project with the vendor, and working through prototypes with faculty representatives. “Her dedication to ensure successes on this project was evident at every stage,” says Cheng. Janet’s attention to detail was crucial throughout the project, making sure every form was tested to prevent the need for manual intervention down the road. The largest success was ensuring the forms were easy to use to help reduce future support costs and enable security administration self service — a critical accomplishment considering current budget constraints. “Janet was key to getting this new feature and process to our new state and has made each member of the team stronger with her knowledge and experience.”

Team Award

We’re also proud to announce that the IT Innovation Award for a team is a tie.

UASI Project Team (IST, Registrar’s Office, Faculty of Arts, Augustana)

More than three years ago, the UASI Project Team set out on a joint effort to find a long-term solution for a new undergraduate admissions system. From the beginning, it was evident that the team aimed to accomplish much more than finding an application — it planned to set a new benchmark for stakeholder engagement, agility, and collaboration. While the solution will bring great administrative and technological advantages, it’s the project’s collaborative approach that makes it so innovative. “Engagement of and collaboration with stakeholders was a cornerstone of this project from the beginning,” says co-nominators Amy Dambrowitz, Associate Registrar and Terry Harris, Senior Program Manager (IST). The core project team and Steering Committee included staff from the Registrar’s Office, IST and Faculties. “This helped ensure that a broader, more comprehensive perspective was considered throughout.”

Other significant accomplishments included the team’s comprehensive approach in identifying and managing risks, the organizational change management strategy, as well as the adoption of an ecosystem approach to student information management. Lastly, their ability to pivot quickly based on new information gained and feedback received from the community was critical to their success.

You can learn more about the UASI project team, here.

(And the winners are...Gail Breum, Christina Caputo, Colleen Mah, Sylvia Warshawski, Deeptha Gopi, Shama Rana, Kim Olson, Talat Shoblak, William Brewer, Amy Dambrowitz, Tim Tang, Judith Odhuno-Were, Jennifer Alabiso, Kristy Wuetherick, Tim Hanson, Chris Brunelle, David Dittaro, Barb Peebles, and Terry Harris)

eClass Team (IST)

Over the past five years there has been a gradual increase in the number of courses that have moved their midterm and final assessments to a digital format. While this is a direction that IST is working to promote and grow, the rising demand has created a lab seat capacity problem. “Without building more computer labs on our campuses, we needed a solution that relied on student owned devices, and did not require a persistent wireless connection,” says nominator Jeff Rawlings, Director Digital Learning Environments (IST).

Utilizing technology in AWS, the eClass team created a serverless application that met an extensive list of requirements, called ExamLock. Following beta testing and the integration of client feedback, ExamLock went into full production in 2019 and has been used in over 25,000 exams to date. “The application is pivotal in our digital assessment strategy and has removed many of the barriers for instructors to administer examinations at the University on student owned devices,” Jeff says. Recently, ExamLock  became a “foundational piece” for instructors as the University moved to remote delivery.

If you’re interested in learning more about ExamLock, read more here.

(And the winners are...Chris Goetz, David Laurie, Asim Aziz, Greg Gibeau, Trevor Jones, Anthony Radziszewski, Dominik Royko, Atridad Lahiji, Sherman Lai, and Matthew Kluk)

IT Client Service Award

The IT Client Service Award recognizes one non-academic staff member and one team for providing a high quality of service to a faculty, unit, or department.

Individual Award
Aaron Langen, Systems Administrator, Student Services (Dean of Students - Administration)

As a System Administrator, Aaron Langen’s work includes supporting the pharmacy in the Dean of Students portfolio. The pharmacy is largely dependent on technology, software, and systems that are specialized and exclusive — no other departments within the University use them, which means that Aaron’s role is unique. His nominator, Aron Walker, Pharmacy Manager, Student Services - University Health Centre, stresses that his approach to his work is unique and dedicated as well. “I am always impressed with how quickly he responds to our calls for IT support, and I am always satisfied with his service and solutions.”

Aaron is described as excelling in looking at a problem from someone else’s perspective and implementing solutions that not only fix the issue, but fix it in a way that suits the client’s needs. Recently, his colleagues were extremely impressed with his assistance in helping with the pharmacy's COVID-19 contingency planning. He worked among the entire portfolio to assist in getting people working from home, and ensuring staff had what they needed to perform their tasks away from the office. “He did all of it efficiently and with a smile,” Aron says. “It makes dealing with IT issues much easier.”

Team Award
eClass Team (IST)

This year’s IT Client Service Award goes to a team that has undoubtedly gone above and beyond over the last year, and specifically the past term as COVID-19 disrupted on campus activities completely. Described as “calm, collected, energetic, optimistic and solution-focused,” by nominator Shannon LaFave, the eClass team has a huge reach as researchers, students, instructors, and support staff contact them daily for technical assistance. “This team does not shy away from a challenge, nor are they afraid of incorporating a technical solution into every possible problem,” says Shannon LaFave, Acting Team Lead, Learning Assessment Centre.

The University would be a completely different university without this team, and their value to campus has never been more apparent than right now. They are always thinking ahead of new ways to innovate, and in light of the COVID-19 situation, they researched new tools, set them up in the environment, thought about ways instructors could use them, wrote how-to-guides, enabled support channels, and ran these new software within a matter of days. “They never cease to find a solution — even for technology and tools they don't support!” Shannon says. “They are absolutely something else!”

(And the winners are...Chris Goetz, David Laurie, Asim Aziz, Greg Gibeau, Trevor Jones, Anthony Radziszewski, Dominik Royko, Atridad Lahiji, Sherman Lai, and Matthew Kluk)

IT Unsung Hero Award

The IT Unsung Hero Award recognizes a non-academic staff member who has made a significant and largely unrecognized contribution to IT at the University of Alberta. We’re happy to announce that there is a tie for this year’s award.

Lorraine McCrimmon, HCM Service Delivery Manager (IST)

Described as the first one in the office, and the last one to leave, Lorraine McCrimmon goes above and beyond by volunteering additional hours on evenings and weekends, sometimes even during her vacation. As the HCM Service Delivery Manager, she completes major tasks that have a significant impact on the University community, without much recognition. “She demonstrates reliability, perseverance, focus and exemplary service within IST-EA,” says nominator Lisa Di Silva, Business Analyst (IST-EA). Even recently, Lorraine has continued to travel into the downtown office in case there is something that staff working from home need from the physical office.

With a commitment to innovation, Lorraine has been working with Human Resource Services and IST’s Business Transformation team on robotic process automation tools, and working to implement many automation processes within HCM to improve business processes and increase end user productivity. Lorraine is also described as a great mentor who likes to share her knowledge and job-related skills. A “jack of all trades,” many people gravitate to her as she has a breadth of application and business knowledge, demonstrated experience, is approachable, and full of personality. “She steps up to help, no matter the size of the issue, or concern,” Lisa says.

Igor Sinelnikov, System Administrator/System Analyst (Faculty of Science)

Nominator Roderick Johnson, Team Lead, Faculty of Science Research IT, has countless positive experiences and things to say about his colleague Igor Sinelnikov. “His energy and commitment to providing an excellent IT experience on campus is without parallel.” Working with researchers to enhance their environment, Igor is characterized as a “people person,” who’s “always bursting with energy.” He’s also a wealth of knowledge, “his head filled with every scrap of machine knowledge he has encountered,” Roderick explains. If Igor fixes something, he will remember every detail, fashioning him as an invaluable piece in the Faculty of Science. The unsung hero title rings true in the fact that he does things for client’s that they don’t even know about — fixing things he notices along the way of fixing other things, because he knows it will help the client.

Courageous and unafraid to make the wrong decision because he sees it as a learning opportunity, Igor is a “superlative team member.” “Igor has become an essential and integral part of ScITech,” says Roderick. “ScITech could not have accomplished what it has, within the last two and a half years, without his knowledge, skills and work ethic.”

IT Distinguished Career Award

The IT Distinguished Career Award recognizes one support staff or academic member for their outstanding contributions to advancing the University of Alberta’s IT agenda over their career.

Gordie Mah, Chief Information Security Officer (IST)

This year’s IT Distinguished Career winner is Gordie Mah, an exceptional IT professional, leader and ambassador for the University. Noted as a “veritable fountain of IT and IT security knowledge and expertise,” Gordie is a well informed and respected voice for best practices in IT security. “I have only been with the University for approximately a year and a half but in that short time I have been nothing short of amazed by his IT security expertise and dedication to this institution,” says nominator Mary Golab, Director, Information & Privacy Office.

An approachable, team player, Gordie helps foster a collegial work environment and encourages direct communication in a respectful fashion. “No question is too simple for him to answer. “He is willing to help whenever asked,” Mary explains. Throughout his 11 years at the University, he has built mentoring into his role and leadership style, mentoring many staff that have moved into senior positions within the institution and beyond. He’s also an advocate for getting involved in University events, and anyone who knows Gordie can attest to the fact that he “exudes positive energy.” “A colleague of mine once said to me, ‘you are very lucky to have him....he is one of the best CISO's in the country’. I think that says it all!”

Congratulations to this year’s award winners! If you'd like to learn more about the IT Awards, or rewatch the recorded stream, visit here.