School of Public Policy & Administration celebrates excellence during annual awards dinner

Left to right: Steve Orsini, secretary of the Cabinet, head of the Ontario Public Service and clerk of the Executive Council, with Professor James C. Simeon, SPPA director

York University’s School of Public Policy & Administration (SPPA) recognized several of its community members during its annual Student, Alumni & Community Awards Dinner on Nov. 12.

The event included the presentation of four awards, the recognition of two special guests of honour and the reflections of several prominent attendees.

Awards were presented in four categories: Undergraduate Student, Graduate Student, Alumni and Practicum Honoree.

This year’s recipients included:

  • Undergraduate Student Award – Kevin Baksh, who served as the president of the Public Policy & Administration Student Association, and since graduating in the spring has been working in various positions and on various projects with the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services.
  • Graduate Student Award – Sadaf Syed, who graduated with her master of public policy, administration and law (MPPAL) degree in the fall. Syed is also the recipient of the Professor Ian Greene Book Prize for academic achievement. As a dedicated mother of two young children, she took a few minutes to thank family members for their understanding and support, as she spent many hours studying or in classes while working to complete her degree.
  • Alumni Award – Corey Davidson, senior adviser, Partnerships & Business Development, ServiceOntario. Davidson graduated from the MPPAL program in 2013 and has served as the president of the SPPA Alumni Association.
  • Practicum Honoree Award – Michelle Leung-Elder, who serves as the manager, Corporate Services Unit, Corporate Services Branch, Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, OPS. Leung-Elder accepted the award on behalf of her entire branch.
Left to right: Adriano Mena, 2014 Alumni Award winner; Professor H. Ian Macdonald; and Professor James C. Simeon, SPPA director

Two special guests of honour were also highlighted at the event. Professor Saeed Rahnema and Professor Haideh Moghissi, a senior scholar and Trudeau Fellow, were both recognized on the occasion of their retirement from York University.

Among the many noted accomplishments and contributions of these two distinguished professors emeriti was Rahnema’s service to the University as the founding director of the SPPA. Without Rahnema’s hard work, effort and dedication, there would not be an SPPA at York.

There to support the event were several prominent attendees, including: York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri; York University Vice-President and Provost Rhonda Lenton; Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi; and Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) Steve Orsini, who is also a York alumnus.

Also in attendance were Master of McLaughlin College, Professor David Leyton-Brown, and the Chair of the Department of Equity Studies, Professor Minoo Derayeh.

The formal portion of the meeting was chaired by Adriano Mena, 2014 Alumni Award winner. It commenced with opening remarks from SPPA Director, Professor James C. Simeon.

Simeon emphasized the importance of highlighting outstanding individual contributions of SPPA, as well as efforts to advance the school and its programs in fulfilling its mission, mandate and values in the furtherance of “good governance” in Canada and abroad.

Those who excel in their field, he said, show us the way forward and inspire us to achieve our full potential – not only as professional public servants, but also as human beings focused on social justice issues and concerns through good governance.

President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

Shoukri was called on to introduce Moridi, and he noted he is extremely well-suited for his dual portfolios having served as the vice-president and chief scientist of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada, as well as a CEO and chair in the electrical industry.

We are privileged, said Shoukri, to have an award-winning scientist, engineer, educator, business and community leader in the province of Ontario as our minister of research and innovation, and of training, colleges and universities.

Moridi shared a few words, offering that the postsecondary educational field is a key sector for Ontario’s economy and is possibly the foremost economic stimulus for innovation and realizing competitive advantage in the province.

He went to on congratulate all of the evening’s award winners and thanked the faculty and staff of the School of Public Policy & Administration for their contribution in preparing those who will be serving in the public service in the years to come – a sentiment echoed by Orsini during his talk.

A highlight of the awards dinner was an address given by Professor H. Ian Macdonald, Schulich School of Business and president emeritus York University (1974-84). Macdonald shared insights from his years as a senior deputy minister in the Ontario Public Service and a resounding call for maintaining a non-partisan public service.

Macdonald was the first chief economist of Ontario in 1965, and later went on to become deputy treasurer and deputy minister of Economics & Intergovernmental Affairs.

During his years in some of the most senior positions in the OPS, he was involved in important public policy issues of the day. His approach – and advice to all public servants and aspiring public servants – was to give the best policy advice in a non-partisan and politically neutral manner.

Macdonald also inspired the OPS’ H. Ian Macdonald visiting economist position in the Ministry of Finance, which is currently held by David Dodge, former governor of the Bank of Canada.

York University Professor Brenda Spotton-Visano took the podium to close the event, remarking on the importance of the awards dinner and recognizing and celebrating excellence.