Seven Conestoga alumni are among the Ontario college graduates who have been nominated for Premier’s Awards this year.
Seven Conestoga graduates have been nominated for Premier's Awards.
Established in 1992 and presented annually, the awards honour and recognize the social and economic contribution Ontario’s college graduates make to the province and beyond.
“Our alumni community is making a difference here in our region and around the world,” said Erin Caldwell, associate director, Community Relations, Government Relations and Partnerships. “We are proud that seven of our graduates will be considered for Premier’s Awards this year. They represent the breadth of our programming and exemplify the difference our career-ready graduates make in the global workforce.”
Nominees are selected in the categories of apprenticeship, business, community services, creative arts and design, health sciences, recent graduate and technology.
Conestoga’s 2023 nominees:
Apprenticeship nominee - Mark Duchesne, Electrician Construction and Maintenance, 1986
From paint shop electrician to CEO, Mark’s career has spanned four decades across five vehicle manufacturers and seven countries. The newly appointed CEO of Sweden’s Northvolt ETT, is a creative problem solver who operationalized Toyota’s first Lexus paint shop in North America; drove a Tesla manufacturing line from zero to target in eight months and at five per cent of new facility cost; and designed, built and launched Nikola’s zero-emissions truck plant in less than a year. A skilled trade innovator and champion, Mark is revitalizing manufacturing workplace culture using the problem-solving skills he learned during his college apprenticeship.
Business nominee - George Vezza, Business Admin Marketing, 1983
George Vezza’s rise through the ranks of food service giant Nestlé started with the top Canadian sales award a year after his college graduation. Over the next four decades, he reinvented Nestlé’s sales and marketing in 35 countries, reviving underperforming markets, injecting sales leaders into decision-making roles and helping Nestlé Europe surpass pre-COVID sales numbers. George’s greatest legacy is the launch of Nestlé’s digital customer relation platform - the first-in-the world, now adopted by the entire global team. He is a champion of next-generation leaders through the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or hospitality competition and a mentor to hundreds of young professionals.
Community Services nominee - Jehan Salim, Bachelor of Applied Technology - Architecture - Project and Facility Management, 2013
Jehan Salim has put her college degree to work on the international stage, using her project and facilities management expertise to lead post-conflict rebuilding efforts and operate the largest refugee camp in the world. She oversaw the reconstruction of Mosul University and 12,000 homes in Iraq; built a 400-bed COVID isolation clinic at Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp; assured the safety of 100 staff and key border assets during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and led the rehabilitation of 250 homes in Syria. From Iraq to Afghanistan, Jehan has prioritized giving marginalized women income, experience and a voice.
Creative Arts & Design nominee - Angela Onuora, Broadcast Performance & Digital Media, 2019
Angela Onuora is a women’s champion for equity and the founder and chief creative officer of This Naija Girl Studios. A first-generation Canadian immigrant from Nigeria, she attended college to gain the training, network and confidence to tell African and women’s stories through the lens of her new Canadian reality. Her award-winning documentary film, “Operation Lights Out,” was created as a result of her college projects. She used the campus Venture Lab to jumpstart Studio D-20, a women-in-filmmaking collective, and The RISE Class, a social enterprise for aspiring filmmakers. Angela’s creative work is being showcased and recognized around the world.
Health Sciences nominee - Laurie Lafleur, Computer Programmer Analyst - Co-op, 2002
In Canada’s growing medical technology ecosystem, Laurie Lafleur is an evangelist for digital transformation. She has built a career by enabling healthcare innovators to commercialize their ideas and providers to adopt new innovations. Laurier has helped 40+ med-tech start-ups secure millions of dollars in investor funding and 15 Canadian, U.S. and European hospital systems drive digital transformation resulting in improved quality, efficiency and scalability. As a Conestoga College professor and founder of a med-tech program she designed and delivers for the National Institutes of Health Informatics Canada, Laurie is educating the next generation of healthcare innovators and providers.
Recent Graduate nominee - Bohdana Tyshchenko, IT Innovation & Design, 2021
An advocate for women in STEM and refugees from her home country of Ukraine, Bohdana Tyshchenko uses her lived experience, expertise and connections to transform lives and workplaces. She developed the “Hire Ukraine” and charity mentorship programs that have helped more than 20 Ukrainian IT professionals secure employment and support the Ukrainian cause. Using the skills she learned at college, Bohdana designed an app that has been downloaded 28,000 times and another used to manage 2,000+ annual applications to Canadian school boards. She also developed and led workplace teambuilding and staff onboarding programs while mentoring 20 aspiring female designers.
Technology nominee - Brett McQueen, Mechanical Technician - Tool & Die Maker, 2008; Quality Assurance, 2008; Industrial Engineering - Basic, 2009
Brett McQueen is challenging the manufacturing status quo and improving lives and our planet. As the North American Director of innovation for Linamar Corporation and head of its Innovation Hub (iHub), Brett has initiated partnerships with three promising, high-tech startups and leveraged Linamar’s manufacturing expertise and global supply chain networks to commercialize world-leading technologies in power electronics, water conservation and electric vehicles. Brett credits his innovative thinking and adaptability to skills gained across three college programs - a cross-training model he duplicates to mentor the next generation of innovators.