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Manjula Selvarajah

FAST FACTS

• Graduation year: 2014
• Program: Journalism, Print and Broadcast
• Currently: Columnist for CBC Radio and producer for Metro Morning
• Favourite DC campus spot: The Chronicle newsroom

Before coming to DC, Manjula Selvarajah’s career focused on making topics compelling and palatable as vice-president of Toronto start-up software firm Eloqua. A career pivot brought her to the journalism program at Durham College (DC) and she now focuses on finding and sharing the truth about information and presenting it as frankly as possible.

As a Toronto-based freelance journalist, Selvarajah talks to CBC radio audiences across the country about interesting developments in technology. She has guest hosted CBC Radio’s Toronto music show, Big City Small World, and presented a column called Live and Learn on CBC’s Fresh Air. She also co-hosted one of the few English shows on Canadian Tamil television, Crossroads on Tamil Vision International.

Selvarajah is also the co-founder of the volunteer-run organization Tamil Women Rising, and has volunteered extensively with the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre, the Canadian Tamil Congress, and for fundraisers in support of the Tamil Studies Conference and charities in the north and east of Sri Lanka. She is also involved in the DC community, chairing the college’s Journalism Advisory Committee and having returned to DC in February to speak to students during the annual Alumni in the Pit event.


Bryant Wood

FAST FACTS

• Graduation year: 1990
• Program: Electronics Engineering Technology
• Currently: Chief of Port Hope Police Service
• Number of DC grads he’s hired: Three
• Favourite DC campus spot: Fitness area and cafeteria

As chief of the Port Hope Police Service, Bryant Wood is one of 54 people province-wide who currently hold the rank of chief of police. During his 25-year career, he has served as deputy chief and in supervisory roles providing leadership and mentoring. Chief Wood credits the education he received at DC for providing him with technical and teamwork skills that have been valuable in his policing career.

A decorated police veteran, Chief Wood was recognized by the Governor General of Canada with the Star of Courage and Medal of Bravery in 2010, as well as the Police Exemplary Service Medal in 2013. He was also awarded the Ontario Medal for Police Bravery by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 2008.

In addition to his work, he has also given back to the community, sitting on numerous boards including the Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre, which works to free families from domestic violence, and the Ganaraska River Fishery Strategy Committee. He is also the past vice president of the Port Hope Police Association and was a past board member for the Northumberland Domestic Violence Action Committee.

Chief Wood has three sons, two of which currently attend DC. He is a diligent advocate for individuals who have been diagnosed with Autism, including his youngest son Nathan, and was a founding member of the Northumberland Family Autism Support Network.


Brandon Nolan

Nolan has enjoyed a diverse career both on and off the ice. A proud Ojibway from the Garden River First Nation in northern Ontario, he grew up spending the winter months playing hockey on an outdoor rink, beginning his love for the game and eventually earning him a spot with the pros. After a stint in the Ontario Hockey League, he enjoyed a five-year professional hockey career that took him all over the world before being cut short by a serious concussion suffered while playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.

After recognizing a college education would give him the skills he needed to succeed in his posthockey career, he headed back to school.

Upon completing his studies, Nolan began down the path that now sees him running successful businesses with his father and brother, including 3N Clothing Apparel and the 3|NOLANS First Nation Hockey School, as well as the Ted Nolan Foundation, which supports and encourages Aboriginal youth to pursue academic growth for a better future.

He shared his story of graduating from DC and taking jobs that, though not ideal, were integral to getting his foot in the door. He also encouraged students to remember that all the steps they take in their career can lead to their goals, echoing his co-panelist’s emphasis on doing good work and providing good service.


Dominic Rehayem

On April 11, 2015, paramedic Dominic Rehayem would see his training put to the test during a dramatic rescue. A graduate of DC’s Advanced Care Paramedic program, he was working with the Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services when a call came in that a man had fallen into the river after an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident.

Springing into action, Dominic, accompanied by a local who knew the area well, set out by ATV to find the man, who had been helped to a nearby island by a friend. After a 20-minute ride, he spotted two men and the island. One man was lying down and appeared to be freezing. After throwing a rope to the man’s friend, the two used it to create a guideline between two trees. Once the safety line was in place, Dominic waded through the chest-deep water to the island. He immediately completed a full assessment to ensure the man could be transferred. After confirming he was okay to move, Dominic gave the man some of his own clothing, before strapping him to his body and wading back across the river, moving as quickly and safely as possible because he knew the man was hypothermic.

Once back to shore, he brought the man into a nearby cabin to raise his body temperature, providing further care and assessment to ensure he was stable enough to travel. During that time, two Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers also arrived by ATV and provided an escort back to the ambulance.

The man survived and in May 2017, the Ontario provincial government awarded Dominic for his selfless actions with the Ontario Award for Paramedic Bravery, which is given to paramedics in recognition of individual acts of outstanding courage.

For Dominic, he was just doing his job. “I didn’t realize that I would be awarded anything for completing the call. I was just happy that the outcome was a good one. It certainly was exciting for me and included all the elements of paramedicine that I cherish – improvisation, critical-thinking skills and providing patient care with a real impact, while avoiding a potentially disastrous outcome.”

He also credits the training he received at DC for helping him keep his cool during the rescue. “The Advanced Care Paramedic program prepared me by subjecting me to a certain level of stress during labs and in practice scenarios. When you couple that with the coaching and debriefing after the scenarios were complete, it really helped my skills progress. The fact that the instructors were active-duty paramedics themselves meant they were in great position to apply real-world experiences as part of their teaching.”

Of the award, Dominic says, “when I was notified, I felt a little taken aback. To me, doing everything in my power to help that man was only natural. Paramedics everywhere face dangerous and hazardous circumstances during the course of their job so it was humbling for me to receive this. I feel honored.”


Andy Popko

What started as a mentor’s encouragement to attend Durham College (DC) for Public Relations, quickly set Andy Popko on the path to an extraordinary career full of meaning and passion creating opportunities for Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

Beginning his career in 1978 with Calgary-based EnCana, one of the world’s leading independent oil and gas companies, Popko never imagined public relations could be his calling until his mentor and president of EnCana saw his potential and sent the young employee to DC to receive an education in the field.

When he returned to EnCana after graduating in 1987, court cases going through the Supreme Court of Canada were beginning to recognize First Nations’ rights to crown land. These rulings required that First Nations had to be consulted and compensated for any activity on protected land, with strict regulations and processes in place that had to be completed before permits could be released. This created a new line of business that companies like EnCana needed to navigate.

Popko, who jumped at the opportunity to get involved, began to consult, communicate and build relationships with Indigenous peoples in the community he worked, defining partnerships and joint ventures with Chiefs and councils. At the same time, Popko was fighting battles with his colleagues in industry.

Considering the land, and the First Nations peoples’ rights to that land, was a foreign concept to many.

“Back in the late 80s and early 90s you would go into a lot of meetings and people wouldn’t believe that you had to take the rights of the Indigenous peoples into account,” he recalled. “A lot of the battles I fought were internal. We had to educate our employees and senior management about those rights.”

Popko orchestrated a change in thinking across his organization by hosting cross-cultural workshops for employees with Indigenous Chiefs and Elders speaking about their shared history, the impact of residential schools and the challenges they face regularly. “I must have sat through 70 of these workshops and would just watch employee’s faces afterwards – they were stunned. It was so impactful for all of us.”

As the vice-president of Aboriginal Relations at EnCana, Popko’s career followed a unique course that has allowed him to succeed in business while also advocating for Indigenous rights to fair treatment.

Under his leadership, EnCana brought together four northeastern Alberta First Nations to jointly own and operate a new drilling rig in 2001. Two years later, EnCana won the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada/Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative’s Aboriginal Relations Best Practice Award of Distinction—an award that recognizes First Nations work.

Developing beneficial joint ventures and partnerships with Indigenous peoples in industry also led to two unforgettable moments in his career. In 2003, Popko was named an honourary Chief at Heart Lake First Nations – a distinction usually only bestowed upon prime ministers or premiers – and two months later became the first industry representative to win a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribal Chiefs Institute, which is presented on behalf of the Treaty 6 Chiefs.

Only a year later, Popko was selected for an 18-month secondment to consult with Prime Minister Paul Martin, provincial premiers and five national Indigenous organizations on the Kelowna Accord, a $5 billion dollar initiative that aimed to improve government and provincial relations with Indigenous peoples and provide health care, economic assistance, education and housing.

A few years later Popko made the move to Enbridge to work on the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project. As gas prices began to drop, he decided to transition to a new industry and was hired by NC Services Group Ltd. (NCSG) in 2012, one of the largest Canadian crane companies, as their vice president of Indigenous relations – where he still works today. While similar in title to his role at EnCana, working in the crane industry has been a whole new ballgame for Popko.

“I’m on the other side of the table now with NCSG – I go to companies like Enbridge and EnCana to get them to hire our services. They need me in a different way now because they need Indigenous partnerships and no one has ever thought to develop those partnerships with crane companies.”

Throughout his career, it has been the relationships that he has developed and the mutual respect he gives to and receives from Indigenous peoples that have propelled him forward in business and led to so many accomplishments. When he joined NCSG, Popko was asked to deliver five partnerships in two years – instead, he delivered 14 in just 18 months.

Looking forward, Popko hopes to continue on the path he has carved for himself in Indigenous relations.

“I just hope to continue to maintain respect. From the youth and Chief to the council and Elders, I want to be known as someone who treats Indigenous peoples honourably and respectfully. If I could finish my career like that then that would be wonderful.”


Melissa Geurts

For anyone who’s ever doubted trusting their gut, they should look no further than Durham College (DC) alumna Melissa Geurts (Graphic Design, 2008). While she confesses to choosing her program based solely on instinct, Geurts’ career path is proof of just how powerful intuition can be. As the creative director at Good Housekeeping magazine, a monthly women’s lifestyle magazine with an audience of more than 38 million readers, Geurts is responsible for the creative direction of the publication including editorial conceptualization and design execution, overseeing a team of 10 designers. She also oversees all creative for digital, video and event collateral. While it may seem light years away from her days at DC’s Oshawa campus, Geurts doesn’t hesitate to connect her career success to the amazing start she made at the college. “The internship offered as part of the Graphic Design program at DC was crucial to the beginning of my career,” she says. “I was able to take the tools I learned in school and apply them in the real world, while still having the support of my teachers and peers. I learned SO much in those three months and it also confirmed and solidified my passion for editorial design.” Making the most of her internship with Style at Home magazine in Toronto, Geurts parlayed it into her first full-time job. From there she moved to Chatelaine, a Canadian institution if ever a magazine was one, where she worked for five years, contributing to a major overhaul of the glossy and eventually being named design director in 2013. “In that time we took Chatelaine to #1 in Canada in all categories: fashion + beauty, home, health and food,” Geurts recalls proudly. “Now I couldn’t be more excited to work with the amazingly talented team at Good Housekeeping.” Reflecting on her DC experience from New York, where she now lives and works, Geurts does recall some pain points in her student days, particularly when it came to finding her niche in a program as diverse and versatile as Graphic Design. It was a great relief when something finally clicked. “After five minutes in my first editorial design class, I made it my mission to work in magazines,” Geurts recently told the blog This Renegade Love. “I literally wrote it out on the first page of my notebook and that was the beginning of this wild ride.”


Brittany Charlton

Brittany Charlton, graduate of the Law Clerk Advanced program at Durham College, is a vegetarian who also grew up dealing with significant food allergies. This led to her decision to start Ohh Products Inc.: “A lot of the snacks out there use tree nuts or peanuts to get a good source of protein in the product but being allergic to both I found that I was not able to have many snacks so I decided to start a snack line in March 2017.” Brittany credits her education with helping her navigate her startup’s legal territory in those early days.

Brittany also appreciates the help from the FastStart DC team which supported her throughout the business journey. “From developing the logo, to choosing brand colours, designing packaging, and figuring out the correct market for my product, the FastStart DC team provided insight and guidance every step of the way,” says Charlton.

FastStart is an entrepreneurial training partnership aimed at university and college students. It is designed to increase entrepreneurial skills and awareness while also helping students create solid business plans that take their products and services to market – quickly and successfully.

All of Ooh Products snacks are made in Brittany’s commercial kitchen in Oshawa.


Nicole Blackman

Since graduating from the Nursing program at Durham College (DC) in 2004, Nicole Blackman has continued her academic path attaining both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Nursing degrees. She is now working towards completing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

While pursuing continuing academics, Nicole has been the recipient of a number of awards including a Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health scholarship, Aboriginal Health Careers award, and the University of Toronto President’s Award for Outstanding Native Student of the Year.

Following graduation from DC, Nicole worked as a registered nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital on the Medical Radiation Oncology unit. Upon completion of her master’s degree from the University of Toronto, she accepted a position as Director of Professional Practice for Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, a First Nation governed health authority located in the isolated James and Hudson Bay region of northeastern Ontario. After devoting more than five years towards improving Aboriginal health in Moose Factory and surrounding communities, Nicole returned to Durham Region and is currently in a leadership position with the Durham Region Health Department.


Brent Lessard

Brent Lessard graduated top of his class from Durham College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program in 2014. He now works as technical co-ordinator for International Leak Detection (ILD) as well as a project manager for rLoop, an online think tank and talent resource company, which he co-founded.

rLoop is comprised of a team of more than 140 people from 14 different countries who are working to revolutionize the future of transportation. Through open-source and collaborative design, a prototype is being developed for a pod that can travel at hyper speeds, enabling people to get where they need to go, faster – much, much faster!

At ILD, Lessard designs and implements new intelligent building monitoring systems, combining innovative sensor technology with high-performance cloud solutions to produce secure and reliable information on a building’s integrity. He is also involved with developing improvements to technical testing equipment and creating new testing procedures and services.


John Hotts

Since graduating from the Advertising and Marketing Communications program at Durham College (DC) in 2008, John Hotts has made a big impact in the advertising world. His ability to be innovative with technology to create something original has influenced the work of others in the industry within Canada and around the world.

Hotts has been recognized by many different award shows including Applied Arts, Canadian Marketing Awards, AToMiC Awards, Globe & Mail Young Lions, and Cannes shortlist. His reputation has led to iconic brand recreations including being tasked with redesigning the logo for the Canadian Football League prior to the 2015 Grey Cup. Notable clients he has worked with include Delissio, World Wildlife Fund, 7acres, Sweet Jesus, Kit Kat, Coors Light, Haagen-Daz and Iceberg Vodka.

Currently serving as the Associate Creative Director at OneMethod, Hotts oversees and helps to develop quality creative outputs for clients while working with and mentoring other creative employees.

Over the course of his eight-year career, he’s spent time working as an art director in an advertising and design capacity. In this role, Hotts has been a part of teams that have created a wide range of multi touch-point advertising campaigns, digital and real-world experiences, branded content, and even the creation of new brands.

Hotts attributes much of his career success to the education he received at DC and the practical, theoretical and technical skills he acquired while he was a student in the School of Media Art & Design. He continues to contribute to DC’s creative students by returning to campus to speak with students about the industry and his career successes.