Outstanding Graduates Nominated for Ontario Premier’s Awards
The Premier's Awards honour the important social and economic contribution college graduates make in Ontario and throughout the world.
The Awards, launched in 1992 to mark the 25th anniversary of Ontario's colleges, are administered by Colleges Ontario. Presented annually, the recipients are chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario's 24 colleges.
Nominees must demonstrate outstanding career success related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their community.
Seneca has a wealth of experienced and accomplished alumni. Seven have been nominated this year for the Premier’s Award for College Graduates.
Dr. Shawna Lee
(Early Childhood Education)
Dr. Shawna Lee is a professor in the School of Early Childhood Education (ECE). Over the course of her nearly 20 year career, she has held several positions in the ECE field, including supervisor of community services for children’s mental health, mental health consultant, child care program supervisor and early childhood educator. A graduate of the ECE apprenticeship programs, Dr. Lee also holds a bachelor of professional arts, a masters in early childhood education and a PhD in applied educational psychology. In 2018, she was the recipient of the best doctoral thesis award from the Canadian Association for Education Psychology.
(Building Construction Regulations Administration)
Neil Hetherington is the CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank — the largest food bank in Canada. Prior to the Daily Bread Food Bank, Neil was the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Toronto and New York City as well as Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services. During his tenure, Habitat accelerated its building program dramatically, increased its social enterprise operations and expanded its community impact and advocacy role. Neil was named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and was also awarded Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.
(Social Service Worker)
A professor in the field of social service work, Phillip Jang is both a passionate teacher and a tireless advocate for marginalized individuals. Constantly inspiring his students to follow their hearts and change the world, Phillip leads by example. Among a long list of successful initiatives, he is founder of the Red Dot Project, a Toronto program that provides menstruation products to people experiencing homelessness. One of Phillip’s longtime colleagues describes him best: “He is not someone who just presents problems with no solutions. He continually offers solutions to initiate change.”
Creative Arts and Design
(Broadcasting – Radio and TV)
Traci Melchor has been an icon on the Toronto entertainment scene for more than a decade. She is currently the senior correspondent for Etalk, Canada’s number one daily entertainment show, and also contributes regularly to CP24 Breakfast, The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel, and 104.5 CHUM FM, Toronto. Traci was also part of the launch of CTV’s daytime talk series, The Social, which she co-hosted for two and a half years. Today, through her work with Bell Media, Traci has become an advocate for reducing the stigma around mental health after speaking publicly about her own struggles with mental illness.
(Biotechnology – Technologist)
A talented researcher with a passion for therapeutic innovation, Jodi Garner is the senior manager of science and industry relations at the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM), a non-profit stem cell institute dedicated to transforming laboratory discoveries into clinical trials—and eventually cures. Jodi’s primary mission is to ensure that Ontario becomes a global leader in stem-cell research and disease treatment. Before joining OIRM, Jodi worked at the Hospital for Sick Children, where her roles included building and overseeing the Embryonic Stem Cell Facility.
(Acting for Camera and Voice)
Isabel Kanaan is a flourishing actor, performer and comedian in Canada. She is a member of CBC’s sketch comedy troupe Air Farce, the Canadian comedy award winning sketch troupe The Sketchersons and Second City’s House Ensemble and Educational Company. Isabel, who is also a Second City alumna, was awarded the NBC Universal Bob Curry Fellowship. Isabel’s big break came in the web series Haunted or Hoax, a program that advocated for LGBTQ stories in the media.
(Honours Bachelor of Aviation Technology)
Dean Sela is an Air Canada pilot, a flight instructor, and co-founder of Canadian Aviation Pride (CAP), a not-for-profit organization that supports and connects members of the LGBTQ+ community who share a passion for flying, while also working to reduce homophobia and transphobia. Now a director at the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA), an international organization that boasts more than 4,000 members, Dean has dedicated his career to promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the aviation industry.