Three Durham College alumni nominated for 2018 Premier’s Awards

Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce that, in recognition of their outstanding career success related to their college experience and the significant contributions they have made to their community, three of its alumni have been nominated for Colleges Ontario’s 2018 Premier’s Awards.

Lorraine Sunstrum-Mann, who graduated from DC in 1998 from DC’s Registered Nursing program, draws on her passion for nursing and advocacy in her role as chief executive officer of Grandview Children’s Centre, the only children’s treatment centre in Durham Region. There she has championed its unprecedented growth and expanded its service offerings, while also giving back to the community. She has sat on and led both provincial and national committees focusing on children’s rehabilitation, has used her expertise to help develop Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy and has worked in direct care and senior-leadership roles at St. Michael’s Hospital and Lakeridge Health Oshawa. She is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the Health Services category.

Manjula Selvarajah, a 2014 graduate of the Journalism – Print and Broadcast program, works as a technology columnist and associate producer for Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC Radio. There she has appeared on and produced a variety of shows including Metro Morning and Big City Small World. She has also presented on the Live and Learn and Fresh Air shows. Manjula uses her training and voice to help the Tamil community, leveraging media platforms to tell their stories. She co-hosted one of the few English shows on Canadian Tamil television, Crossroads on Tamil Vision International, where she moderated panels on issues that affected Tamil Canadians and has blogged on She is nominated in the Recent Graduate category.

As chief executive officer (CEO) of Bird Mechanical Ltd., Brandon Bird, who graduated from DC in 2012 as a Level 3 Plumber Apprentice, is continuing the company’s three generations of excellence. Since taking over in 2016 as its youngest CEO, he has generated $30 million in sales revenue while overseeing a team of 80, 60 of which are tradespeople. Through strategic expansion and service offerings, the company has worked on projects ranging from $100,000 to $20 million; its clients include the Hospital for Sick Children and Cadillac Fairview. Brandon also chairs DC’s Mechanical Techniques Program Advisory Committee and serves on the Education Committee for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Toronto. He is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the newly-created Apprenticeship category.

Durham College alumnus wins Ontario Premier’s Award

Durham College (DC) alumnus Brent Lessard has received provincial recognition for the leadership role he is playing in revolutionizing the future of transportation. The 2014 graduate of DC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program was announced as the recipient of a Premier’s Award for recent graduates on November 27 at the annual gala that celebrates outstanding graduates from across the Ontario college system.

“I am incredibly honoured to receive the Premier’s Award,” said Brent. “I’ve been able to apply so much of what I learned at DC, including being exposed to diverse thinking during my studies, which has been a source of inspiration in my work. I also continue to draw on the importance of fostering a sense of community, which the college certainly did. It’s something that I have carried with me as I helped create the rLoop concept.”

rLoop, a non-profit, crowd-funded and sourced, online think tank and talent resource, was founded in 2014, a year after Brent graduated, and is focused on the development of a conceptual, high-speed transportation system called Hyperloop. Initially proposed by Elon Musk, chief executive officer at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the system involves the propelling of passenger or cargo-boarded pods in a low-pressure tube using sustainable and cost-efficient energy, in order to transport people from one place to another at the speed of sound.

Within the framework of rLoop’s commitment to innovation, Brent successfully connects and integrates the expertise of his colleagues, who live in various countries and time zones, speak different languages and embrace differing and unique cultures, to lead the development of a technology prototype with the potential to change the way we live and conduct business in Ontario, Canada and around the world.

His dedication has enabled him to propel the rLoop team, which is now comprised of 1,100 members from more than 50 countries, to greatness several times in the last three years.

In January 2016, he proudly guided his colleagues at the first SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition where they were awarded the Best Non-Student Hyperloop Design Award and earned a spot to compete as one of 30 teams at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which took place in January 2017, in California. There, under Lessard’s direction, rLoop had the opportunity to test its Hyperloop prototype on the mile-long SpaceX track before receiving the SpaceX Hyperloop Innovation Award.

Lessard and his team were asked to return to the Hyperloop Pod Competition II in August 2017, where they tested the vehicle in the vacuum of the Hyperloop tube and achieved several Hyperloop firsts, including the first Hyperloop Pod demonstrating static levitation in a vacuum and the first Hyperloop Pod with pressure vessel tested at vacuum, capable of sustaining human life.

“Brent is a cutting-edge thinker who embodies the qualities that make a college education great – collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship and learning through doing,” said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “As he and the rLoop team work toward revolutionizing the way we travel, DC’s students, employees and more than 82,000 alumni are incredibly proud he is representing the college and Canada on the international stage.”

Brent was one of 118 college graduates nominated for this year’s awards, including one other from DC, and is the sixth alumni from the college to win.

Each year the Premier’s Awards are presented to acknowledge the social and economic contributions that college graduates make to the province and throughout the world. Chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario’s 24 colleges, the award recipients have demonstrated outstanding career success related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their community.

For more information about the DC alumni community please visit

Durham College and UOIT to host 6th Annual Charity Cup

For the sixth year in a row, Durham College (DC) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)’s men’s and women’s varsity soccer teams will face off in the annual Charity Cup fundraiser.

The event will take place on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Campus Fieldhouse. Along with the free admission, there will be a raffle, prizes, local youth soccer teams and of course, entertaining soccer.

All proceeds made before during or after the event will go towards Their Opportunity, a local non-profit organization that helps provide underprivileged youths the opportunity to enroll in organized sports by offsetting the sometimes high enrollment fees.

“I think the Charity Cup is the culmination of being an athlete and giving back to the community,” said Erik Petrovic, member of the UOIT Ridgebacks men’s soccer team. “Giving back to the community that gave us an opportunity is something that feels right.”

There will be popcorn donations starting up on Wednesday, March 29 to March 31 and then April 3 to 4 at the Oshawa Campus. Donations exchanged for popcorn will raise awareness about Their Opportunity and the game. The two teams hope to see all staff, students, friends and family out to support this fundraiser and help give a child and opportunity to change their lives.

“Organized sports provided me with so much more than physical exercise,” said Taylor McGee, fifth-year player on the DC women’s soccer team. “Organized sports allows kids to develop valuable social skills, make lasting friendships, improve their self-confidence and so much more. I want others to have the same opportunity that I had and that is why this is such a great cause.”

DC Spring Open House draws a full house on campus

On March 25, Durham College’s (DC) annual Spring Open House quickly became a full house as the college welcomed more than 3,000 prospective students, as well as their family and friends, to DC’s Oshawa and Whitby campuses and Pickering Learning Site. 

Each of DC’s more than 140 full-time programs, and numerous student services, were set-up in rooms and booths across each location to showcase all that the college has to offer. Upon arrival, guests were greeted by DC’s team of enthusiastic volunteers and even had a chance to meet DC president Don Lovisa, decked out in his green DC 50th anniversary necktie as a nod to the college’s milestone birthday in 2017.

Volunteers encouraged guests to ask questions and get answers from the people who know the DC experience best – the hundreds of faculty, staff, alumni and students who were on hand to offer insight into everything from program details, to setting career goals, to what life on campus is really like, and much more.

Information sessions were held on a range of topics, including applications and admissions, career development, how to put accommodations in place through the college’s Access and Support Services, and tips on how to pay for school from DC’s Financial Aid and Awards office who walked students and parents/guardians through the process of applying for student loans, grants and scholarships that can help make the journey through post-secondary education an easier one. Walking tours were also offered throughout the day to allow guests to further explore DC’s state-of-the-art facilities, as well as on-campus housing.

Enterprising members of DC’s Enactus Canada team, comprised of student-entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about advancing the economic, social and environmental health of Canada, and FastStart, an entrepreneurial training partnerships aimed at university and college students, made the most of the extra traffic on campus by holding a barbeque fundraiser in support of the Enactus team’s upcoming trip to Vancouver to compete in a national competition.

Those who missed the Spring Open House are still in luck – tours of the college can be arranged anytime by visiting, emailing or calling 905.721.3000.

DC’s Fall Open House will be held on Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

DC hosts Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S. Poloz speech to students

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, and in recognition of Durham College’s (DC) 50th anniversary, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S. Poloz returned to his hometown of Oshawa to visit the college and speak with students, faculty, alumni and community guests about Canada’s economic history.

During his speech, which was hosted in partnership with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Trent University Durham, Governor Poloz took his audience on an exploration of the events and turning points over the past 150 years, that have helped shape the nation and its economy, as Canada evolved from a colonial outpost into one of the best places in the world to live.

Governor Poloz took care to connect aspects of Canada’s economic past with current issues at stake for the country. “What experience has shown is that the fears of openness are misplaced,” stated Canada’s chief economist. “Protectionism does not promote growth and its costs are steep.” He also noted that exposure to competition can in fact drive innovation.

In his introductory remarks, Governor Poloz also shared his own DC story in celebration of the college’s 50th anniversary, recounting his memory of when the college first opened its doors in 1967. With student residences not yet built, the governor’s family responded to the call for host families and welcomed three students from DC’s first class into their home.

The governor’s speech was webcast live and can be viewed here.

Grads-to-be learn about convocation and alumni benefits at Countdown to Grad

Durham College’s (DC) spring and fall 2017 graduates-to-be enjoyed more than just a free lunch during the college’s annual Countdown to Grad events held at the Oshawa and Whitby campuses and Pickering Learning Site.

The events provided students with a fun opportunity to find out everything they need to know about their upcoming graduation while also learning about alumni benefits, career development services and convocation details. They also enjoyed a free slice of pizza and received a gift from the Alumni Association.

The events, sponsored by the Durham College Alumni Association, were held on March 7 (Oshawa campus), March 9 (Whitby campus) and March 10 (Pickering Learning Site) and over 500 attended.

For more information about DC’s spring 2017 convocation ceremonies, please visit the Spring Convocation page.

DC grads wow audience with their success stories during Alumni in the Pit

On February 7, Durham College (DC) alumni captivated their audience with stories of hover engines and the Canadian Football League (CFL) during the college’s Alumni in the Pit event.

The event, which can be viewed here, saw John Hotts, associate creative director at OneMethod design shop, and Brent Lessard, technical co-ordinator at International Leak Detection (ILD) and co-founder of rLoop, return to campus to share their experiences following graduation. The DC grads also answered questions and provided guidance to students about to embark on their own career paths.

“When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work,” said Lessard, who graduated from DC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program in 2014.

“Failure is okay,” added Hotts, a 2008 graduate of DC’s Advertising and Marketing Communications program. “You will make mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them.”

Although Lessard had already completed some post-secondary education before he began his DC journey, he said it was the applied learning experiences offered at the college that made a difference and kept him engaged in innovation and technology.

It was that engagement that also helped prepare Lessard for his biggest opportunity. When SpaceX, a company that manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft, announced a Hyperloop pod competition, Lessard put his DC training to work and co-founded rLoop, a team of more than 140 people worldwide, to develop a prototype — one that ultimately won the competition’s non-student category.

“It’s like a plane without wings,” said Lessard of the travel pod. “It’s propelled by active magnetic levitation or ‘hover engines’, and moves through a tube at hyper speed.” He added that if implemented in Canada, the pod could transport people from Toronto to Montreal in 22 minutes. “You could live in Montreal, work in Toronto and go to Ottawa for dinner.”

Now recognized as one of Canada’s top creatives under 30 years old, Hotts also had past experience in his field before attending DC. He shared with students that it was the field placement opportunity through his advertising program that helped him break into the industry.

“You have to plan and put together a resumé and a portfolio you are proud of,” said Hotts of the experience. He added that one of his professors helped him and a classmate secure the interviews for their placements – a connection he remembers and is grateful for to this day.

It was at this placement that Hotts learned two career rules he still carries with him to any job: first, check your ego at the door, and second, ask all the dumb questions. Following these two rules combined with his unbridled creativity and talent have landed Hotts projects with big-name brands such as Sweet Jesus, Delissio, World Wildlife Fund, Kit Kat Canada and Coors Light. However, it’s his redesign of the CFL’s logo that stands out among the rest. “It has longevity and has been engrained into Canadian culture,” said Hotts fondly.

Alumni in the Pit is part of DC’s backpack2Briefcase program, a series of events designed to help students and recent alumni make a smooth transition from college to the workplace.

Events and workshops are held throughout the year to offer opportunities for both personal and professional development that will enhance the skills and training students learn in the classroom.

Ontario colleges launch 50th anniversary innovation fund contest for students and alumni

To help mark their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2017, Ontario colleges have launched a new William G. Davis Innovation Fund contest that encourages full-time students and alumni to pitch creative projects and initiatives to compete for cash prizes.

The fund is named after former premier William G. Davis, who served as Ontario’s education minister from 1962 to 1971 and brought in the legislation that established the college system. It serves as a tribute to the bold and creative thinking that revolutionized post-secondary education in Ontario.

Entrants can be a graduate or current full-time student from one of Ontario’s 24 colleges with an idea that could improve Ontario and beyond. Applications can be made in the categories of entrepreneurialism, health and welfare, arts and culture, or community benefit.

The first-place winner will receive $15,000 to help fund the project and the second-place entry will receive $5,000.

For full details about the fund, including a detailed timeline for submissions and voting, full contest rules and regulations, please visit Successful entries must be achievable, sustainable, measurable, original and linked to the individual’s college experience.

Current, full-time DC students as well as alumni will be able to start posting proposals in March. A shortlist of the top applications will be publicized in August and the winners will be announced in November.

Durham College celebrates student achievement and donor generosity

On January 30, Durham College (DC) recognized both academic achievement and community generosity during the college’s annual Student and Donor Recognition Evening.

The event celebrated the accomplishments of DC’s scholarship and bursary award recipients and gave DC the opportunity to thank the countless individuals, organizations and corporate donors who choose to support students and post-secondary learning. It also gave donors the opportunity to meet with the students who benefit from their generosity.

“The support of our donors means that our students can continue to access first-class post-secondary education, which in turn will enable them to gain the skills and knowledge they need to move confidently from college to a successful career”, said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “Whether it’s sponsoring a bursary so a student can pursue their education without the burden of financial limitations, or funding a scholarship, which celebrates a student’s hard work and academic success, we are very grateful for the support of our community.”

During the evening Lovisa paid special tribute to two long-standing donors. The college has enjoyed a decade-long partnership with Ontario Power Generation. Over that period, OPG has invested more than $5-million to support student success, scholarships and bursaries, as well as capital expenditures, new program development and equipment.

In addition, the Roger Anderson Charity Classic, an annual fundraising golf tournament celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was also recognized for being a long-time donor to DC. Funds raised at the event provide assistance to students across Durham Region, including those attending DC. Mr. Anderson was joined by his two sons Warren and Ryan, who also enjoyed the opportunity to meet student recipients of the bursary.

Several new donors were also recognized during the ceremony including:

  • Bowmanville Lions Club – Russell Oke Award
  • David Worsley Bursary
  • Debbie Low Premier’s Award Bursary
  • Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries
  • Kent and Douglas Farndale Culinary Award

2016 Holiday Food Drive a success

The co-chairs of the annual Holiday Food Drive would like to express their sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to this year’s drive. A longstanding campus tradition, the campaign provides hampers and financial assistance to student families at Durham College (DC) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

“Last year we experienced a significant increase in demand for holiday season support, and this year was no different,” said Brad MacIsaac, co-chair, Holiday Food Drive. “Thanks to the generosity of our campus community, we raised nearly $41,000 over the month-long campaign, which will provide assistance to more than 230 DC and UOIT student families–that’s more than 500 people in total.”

“We could not have achieved any of this without the help of everyone who donated food and contributed financially, nor without our wonderful volunteers who joined us on December 18 to pack and deliver hampers,” added Kevin Dougherty, co-chair, Holiday Food Drive. “Once again this proved to be a wonderful opportunity for our campus community to come together for a great cause.”

Some recipients took to social media to express their appreciation:

“I’m blown away by everyone’s generosity. I’m not sure exactly how many people received hampers, but I know it has made a big difference to their holidays. When you have to choose between buying food or Christmas gifts for your children, it’s hard to enjoy the season. All I can say is thank you so much to everyone. When I can, I will be sure to pay it forward.”