SPPA awards 2022 highlight leadership of students, community partners

The annual School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) Student, Alumni and Community Recognition Awards ceremony was held on Nov. 24.

John Riches, a graduate of the Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law (MPPAL) program, Durham Region paramedics deputy chief, and last year’s recipient of the Foster-Greene Award for Excellence in Public Policy, Administration and Law, served as master of ceremonies.

The event brought into focus the importance of leadership and resilience in public service while dealing with the ever-present effects of the pandemic. The keynote speaker of the event was Orelie Di Mavindi (MPPAL ’19), manager of the Legislation and Adjudication Policy unit at the Canada Pension Plan Disability Directorate, who spoke about courage, “the heart of transformational leadership.” She described her own courageous efforts to launch the Federal Court Centre for Access to Justice pilot project in 2020, which addresses needs from marginalized communities in accessing court services.

Di Mavindi was selected for the Foster-Greene Award this year for her contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the public service. Her commitment to community and social justice, coupled with her continued support and advancement of the MPPAL program, has solidified her status as beyond exemplary and highly deserving of the award.

Professor Lorne Foster, York Research Chair in Black Canadian Studies & Human Rights, made these awards possible through his generosity. He is the director of the Institute for Social Research, which is the leading University-based survey research centre in Canada.

Orelie Di Mavindi accepting her award with her SPPA professors
From left: Naomi Couto, Lorne Foster, Orelie Di Mavindi, Ian Greene and Alena Kimakova

SPPA also recognized Marc Rondeau, associate deputy minister of the Centre for Public Sector Labour Relations and Compensation, with the Practicum Honouree Award for his commitment in providing practicum opportunities for York undergraduate students in public administration.

This year, two Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) program students, Rushell Dissanayake and Rean Pelayo, received the Practicum Excellence Award, commemorating the brilliance that their placement supervisors and course instructors saw in their work.

SPPA presented Udoka Achilike with the inaugural Lorne Foster Award in Public Policy. Achilike joined the specialized honours BPA program in 2021. She is a mature student with an engineering background from Lagos, Nigeria and has a keen interest in public policy. The SPPA Awards Committee was impressed with Achilike’s volunteer engagement with Advocacy Peel. She is currently completing a practicum placement with the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat.

The Undergraduate Student Award was presented to Roberto DiGiovanni, president of the Public Policy and Administration Student Association (PPASA) for 2021-22 and recent member of the Office of the University Registrar’s Student Advisory Committee. DiGiovanni demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and commitment to service excellence both in SPPA and the York University community at large.

Riches and Professor Naomi Couto presented Kiersten Allore-Engel (MPPAL ‘20) with the Emerging Leader Award. Allore-Engel is a manager of community safety and well-being at the Region of Durham. She is a registered professional planner with over 15 years of experience in policy development, project management and community engagement. Her nominator wrote: “Kiersten is an emerging leader who very much represents the ideals, values and abilities of sound, responsible and engaging public policy and administration in congruence with the school’s vision to promote good governance. She is extremely deserving of this recognition.” She exemplifies all the pivotal qualities crucial to this Emerging Leader Award.

Kiersten Allore Engle receives her award from John Riches and partners
John Riches (centre-left) and Kiersten Allore-Engel (centre-right) with their respective partners

Paula Tablon Modica, is the recipient of the Graduate Student Award for her engagement and service to the Graduate Students’ Association of Public Policy, Administration and Law. Tablon Modica was also invited to present her research paper at the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration in Victoria, B.C. in May. She is currently a policy analyst at the Strategic Policy Division Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

The Best Major Research Paper Award was presented to Jennifer Holmes Weier for her article Bursting the Ottawa Bubble: Government dispersal and localization in the context of a diversity strategy, which was completed under the supervision of Professor Thomas Klassen. Holmes Weier is an accomplished, non-profit executive with a diverse portfolio of strategy and leadership experience gained through influencing complex global charities. In nominating her paper, Klassen wrote, “The central conclusion that decentralization of policy staff would not in and of itself increase diversity and inclusivity in the civil service is important and should inform the work of public administrators.”

Asare Kester-Akrofi receives his award from SPPA professors
From left: Fausto Natarelli, Alena Kimakova, Asare Kester-Akrofi and Naomi Couto

The Alumni Recognition Award was given to Asare Kester-Akrofi (MPPAL ‘20). Kester-Akrofi is currently acting manager of Program and Strategic Support in Toronto’s City Manager’s Officer. He entered the public service in 2015 after working in the private sector as a team lead with a strong track-record of customer service.

During the unfolding pandemic, Kester-Akrofi demonstrated leadership by re-focusing his work to provide administrative support to front-line workers and homeless shelters. At the same time, Kester-Akrofi has remained an excellent student in the MPPAL program with strong academic achievement and extensive volunteer engagement with student and alumni associations.