Durham College celebrates thousands of career-ready graduates at Spring Convocation

Durham College (DC) celebrated one of its largest graduating classes in its history during Spring Convocation, held this week in eight ceremonies over four days at the Tribute Communities Centre.

Nearly 5,000 career-ready graduates – including the first graduating classes from the Web Development, Cloud Computing and Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science programs –  crossed the stage to receive their degrees, diplomas and certificates, ready to fill the needs of high-priority industries.

The first Convocation ceremony included a significant milestone in DC’s history with the official installation of its sixth President, Dr. Elaine Popp, who began her role on March 1, 2024.

“I’m very proud and honoured to have been officially installed as President this week and to celebrate alongside our impressive graduating class,” said Dr. Elaine Popp, President, Durham College. “The future is bright for Durham College graduates, and I am confident that the quality education they received has equipped them with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in in-demand careers.”

DC’s Class of 2024 includes graduates:

    DC’s 2024 Alumni of Distinction recipients, Shelby Nelson, Class of 2000, and Adam Ruppel, Class of 1997, were also celebrated this week and recognized for their outstanding achievements and contributions to their fields.

    In addition, guest speakers at the ceremonies included notable DC alumni who, since graduating, have made significant contributions to our local and global communities:

    • Chris Cull, DC Alumni, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Techniques, Class of 2007
    • Jenifer Stewart, DC Alumni, Horticulture – Food and Farming, Class of 2021, and Carpentry and Renovation Technician, Class of 2023
    • Brent Colmer, DC Alumni, Music Business Management, Class of 2014
    • Stacey Fox, DC Alumni, Human Resources Management, Class of 2000
    • Shelby Nelson, DC Alumni, Sports Administration, Class of 2000 and 2024 Alumni of Distinction Award Recipient

    For more information about Spring Convocation, visit www.durhamcollege.ca/convocation.

    DC celebrates the Presidential Installation of Dr. Elaine Popp

    Durham College (DC) has officially installed Dr. Elaine Popp as the sixth president in the school’s 57-year history.

    The official Installation was led by the Board of Governors and held during the first Convocation ceremony at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa on Monday, June 17. The formal event officially acknowledged Dr. Popp’s role and was an opportunity for her to deliver the Oath of Office directly to the community she serves.

    Since taking on the role of President on March 1, 2024, Dr. Popp has been guided by her clear vision of DC as a sustainable, future-proof, people-focused, equity-driven and community-connected college that meets the needs of students and anticipates industry expectations.

    “I am deeply honoured to be installed as President, and in this role, I carry a profound sense of responsibility and appreciation,” said Dr. Popp. “As we build upon Durham College’s strong foundation, I am committed to supporting a culture where excellence, innovation and collaboration flourish, as we create a future that honours our past, celebrates our present and embraces our full potential.”

    Under Dr. Popp’s leadership, DC will spearhead the transformation of education and foster an environment where students continue to learn, grow and thrive.

    Funding boost to Durham College’s AI Hub expands capacity

    Durham College (DC) is expanding the capacity of its centre of research excellence in artificial intelligence (AI) – the AI Hub – to provide tangible and transformative solutions to real-life business challenges, thanks to a $172,000 grant.

    The funding, announced by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will support the purchase of two high-performance servers specifically optimized for Generative AI, performance graphics and analytics. These state-of-the-art servers will facilitate large data processing, significantly reducing the time required for data analysis and processing and allowing for increased support of the AI Hub’s diverse external clients across various industries.

    Over the past five years, DC’s AI Hub has partnered with more than 100 multi-sector organizations – with 70 per cent from the private sector – to deliver high-quality research and development and innovation services aligned with their needs.

    “The emergence of AI tools has significantly impacted the industry landscape, introducing new capabilities and reshaping business models across various sectors,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, Associate Vice President, Innovation and Research. “This grant will allow DC to advance its ability to support businesses with innovative services that grow the economy and develop talent, further underscoring the AI Hub as a one-of-a-kind facility in Ontario.”

    In addition, the new tools provide DC students an opportunity for ongoing experiential learning. The AI Hub has a strong track record of engaging students in applied research and more than 250 students have been hired and trained as student research assistants. By using the advanced technology available, students gain hands-on experience, knowledge and enhanced skills to secure meaningful employment post-graduation. To date, 22 students have been directly hired by AI Hub partners, a testament to the skills gained through their on-campus learning.

    Regional Chair’s Classic celebrates Roger Anderson’s legacy, raises money for community

    Durham College (DC) students in financial need will benefit from the great generosity shown at the 2024 Regional Chair’s Classic in Memory of Roger Anderson.

    On Thursday, June 13 at Deer Creek Golf and Country Club in Ajax, 200 golfers and generous sponsors joined Regional Chair John Henry for the 26th tournament, which also supports students at Ontario Tech University and patient-focused programs at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.

    With $260,000 raised this year, the total amount of funds raised since the tournament’s inception is now more than $7.9 million.

    “Every year, this tournament raises money for our students in need and for Ontario Shores Centre’s invaluable youth programs,” said Regional Chair John Henry. “I can think of no better way to honour Roger Anderson’s legacy of service than by spending a beautiful day on the golf course in support of these great causes.”

    DC President Dr. Elaine Popp joined Henry; Tracy Clegg, CEO, Ontario Shores Foundation; Sarah Rasile, Director, Alumni and Donor Engagement, Ontario Tech University; and Roger Anderson’s son Warren for the cheque presentation to share their gratitude on behalf of their respective institutions.

    Next year’s event is set for Thursday, June 12, 2025.

    Durham Dragons paddling for a good cause

    This weekend, 25 members of the Durham College (DC) community will take to the water at the Port Perry Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, June 15.

    The Durham Dragons team is comprised of DC staff, students, faculty, and alumni. Some of them are veterans of dragon boating, while others are picking up paddles for the first time. But they’re all determined to have fun, represent DC and raise funds for the Port Perry Hospital Foundation and Scugog Lake Stewards.

    “The feedback has been fantastic. People are loving it,” said team captain Lori Wilson, Test Centre Coordinator and a long-time dragon boater who regularly competes with the Pickering Dragon Boat Club.

    In a dragon boat race, the drummer sits at the front and keeps the paddlers in sync, while another member of the team steers from the back. The remaining team members paddle the boat as hard as they can in the hope of outpacing their opponents.

    A joint team of paddlers from DC and Ontario Tech University competed until 2019, but this will be the first race for the Durham Dragons. They’ve been getting a crash course in the sport from their experienced coach, Catie Sahadath, a para-athlete on Canada’s national dragon boat team and Associate University Librarian, Scholarly Resources at the DC and Ontario Tech Campus Library.

    “Dragon boating is my very favourite thing, and it is very special to me to be able to introduce the sport to new folks, especially to my colleagues here at DC,” she said. “Each practice I am amazed at how energized and fun the group is. They have taken to the sport really quickly, and everyone has such a positive, supportive attitude.”

    With hard work, the guidance of their coach and expert steering from DC alumna Rola Elbayrakdar, Wilson and team are ready for the race, and guests are welcome to attend the event at Palmer Park in Port Perry.

    “It will be a fun day to come out and cheer us on.”

    Durham College graduates prepared to fill industry needs in Durham Region

    Nearly 5,000 students will cross the stage next week at Durham College’s (DC) Spring Convocation and are prepared to enter high-priority fields including healthcare, skilled trades and information technology (IT).

    In one of its largest graduating classes, more than 30 per cent are connected to these key career paths, underscoring the college’s commitment to being a future-focused institution and preparing career-ready graduates for rewarding jobs in in-demand fields.

    “Our role at Durham College is to ensure the skills demanded by employers and those we are preparing for the workforce, are aligned,” said Dr. Jean Choi, Vice President, Academic. “We play a vital role in addressing the shortage of skilled workers, contributing to Durham Region’s economic resilience and growth. Our graduates are prepared with the knowledge and hands-on experience to be the next generation of leaders across key sectors.”

    The skilled trades sector has one of the highest labour shortages, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Business Confidence Survey, with the construction boom expected to require 72,000 new workers to build 1.5 million homes by 2031. Nearly 800 skilled trades students will graduate this June from DC’s signature skilled trades programs, helping to fuel growth in this critical industry.

    Of the top 15 jobs most frequently advertised in the Greater Toronto Area, eight are IT-related, according to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. As artificial intelligence shapes the demand for jobs and skills of tomorrow, DC responded with the development of new programs including Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, and Artificial Intelligence Analysis, Design and Implementation. Together, 240 students will graduate from these programs ready to take on careers in new and evolving fields.

    To further meet critical demand and respond to employment gaps in the healthcare and social assistance sectors, DC has expanded enrolment in nursing, paramedic, personal support worker, and Early Childhood Education programs. Next week, more than 480 students will graduate from these programs, ready to enter the workforce, fill labour shortage gaps and support growth.

    “Durham College offers an innovative and forward-thinking learning environment—one that thrives on collaboration and teamwork,” said John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer for The Regional Municipality of Durham. “We see it reflected in their graduates; individuals who are helping to shape local high-demand and high-priority industries. It’s no secret that Durham Region is known as a place where world-class talent comes to live and learn. And it’s the work of these individuals that have helped to earn this reputation. To propel this region into the global spotlight.”

    Dr. Choi emphasized the importance of understanding labour patterns, as they’re essential to maintaining a forward-focused perspective. “DC ensures that students have access to the courses and programs they need to secure jobs employers need to fill – in this fast-changing world,” said Dr. Choi. “I am proud of our quality graduates who are ready to make local, national and global impact and DC’s continued efforts to meet the needs of our rapidly evolving workforce.”

    Learn more about Durham College’s in-demand programs.

    Durham College Board of Governors welcomes experienced senior leaders as Chair and Vice-Chair

    The Durham College (DC) Board of Governors has announced the appointment of two experienced senior leaders as Chair and Vice-Chair.

    Lisa Allen has been named new Board Chair and Peter Pryce is Vice-Chair. Their one-year terms will begin Monday, July 1.

    Both have already served on the Board, and are excited to continue working with President Dr. Elaine Popp and their fellow board members to seize opportunities and navigate challenges, ensuring that Durham College remains at the forefront of post-secondary education.

    “I am deeply honoured to step into the role of Chair of the Board at Durham College,” said Allen, a senior enterprise risk professional and a Chartered Professional Accountant with a Bachelor of Accounting degree from Brock University. “I am incredibly DC proud of this institution’s legacy of fostering innovation, inclusivity, and excellence in education. As we move forward, we will build upon this strong foundation to continue meeting the evolving needs of our students, faculty, staff, and the broader community.”

    A Senior Operations Manager for a large natural gas utility contractor, Pryce is heavily involved in planning and executing large natural gas projects throughout Ontario. His proven ability to shepherd complicated projects to completion will serve him well in his new role as Vice-Chair.

    “My interest in joining the Board was to give back to the community and do all I could to assist the college, and our young people achieve their academic goals, especially those seeking careers in the trades,” he said. “This role will provide me with a further opportunity to support Durham College, the amazing staff, our new Chair, and all the Governors that give so much of their time to this awesome institution.”

    Under the leadership of the new Chair and Vice-Chair, the 2024-2025 Board will continue to support Dr. Popp in executing her vision for the future and launching DC’s strategic planning process.

    “The President’s vision and leadership will be instrumental as we chart the next chapter for Durham College,” said Allen. “By working closely with our dedicated board members, talented staff, and engaged stakeholders, we will realize our vision.”

    The Board is committed to meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and established mandate through collaborative leadership, openness, and transparency. To learn more about the roles and duties of officers, read the Board policy.

    Durham College recognizes 2024 Alumni of Distinction

    Durham College is proud to celebrate our 2024 Alumni of Distinction, two individuals who have launched impressive careers built on a foundation of skill and experience gained at DC.

    Shelby Nelson (Sport Administration – 2000) and Adam Ruppel (Business – Human Resources – 1997) will be recognized during DC’s Spring Convocation which runs from June 17 to 20.

    Nelson joined the Toronto Blue Jays organization shortly after earning his diploma in an entry level position as an account executive. His goal was to work for a professional sports team in a role that would help him grow.

    Over the past 24 years, his career trajectory has seen him rise to Vice President of Florida Operations where he leads a team responsible for Spring Training, the Dunedin Blue Jays, and the Player Development Complex.

    “Durham College was instrumental in shaping my career,” said Nelson. “The combination of the skills I learned during my post-grad diploma at DC and the pivotal internship opportunity not only shaped my skills but also opened the door to my professional journey with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    His proudest achievement was leading the re-development of TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida and the construction of a brand-new Player Development Complex which was subsequently recognized as the best in major league baseball by MLB.

    Ruppel has transformed the events industry in Ontario, launching his career in event management from his home.

    His achievements include producing the largest 24-hour mountain bike event in North America, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, co-founding Mudhero and quickly establishing it as Canada’s largest obstacle race and co-founding the Drive Festival at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, attracting over 30,000 attendees annually.

    Ruppel said his work over 30 years has been driven by passion.

    “It’s just been a massive adventure and a tremendous rush and it keeps me active outside and engaged with communities of all types,” he said. “Durham College was pivotal in my entrepreneurial career by providing me those networking opportunities with people that really helped me launch my business and also giving me that structure that really took me to that next level.”

    Ruppel will accept his Alumni of Distinction Award at Convocation on June 18 while Nelson will be honoured at a June 20 ceremony.

    “We are proud to recognize Shelby and Adam, Durham College alumni who have not only left a mark on their industries, but in the communities where they work so hard,” said Linda Flynn, Associate Vice-President, Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations for DC. “These remarkable individuals exemplify the strength of a DC education and they embody the possibilities for our graduating students launching their careers.”

    DC and Durham Catholic District School Board are cultivating the future with ‘Propagation of Vegetables’ dual credit program

    Durham College’s (DC) Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture and the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) have partnered on a unique dual credit program that is giving Ajax high school students a taste of life – and work – on the farm.

    This semester, 15 Grade 11 students from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School have participated in the Propagation of Vegetables dual credit program at the Barrett Centre’s Ajax Urban Farm. The course is a modified version of one from DC’s Horticulture – Food and Farming program, giving students an innovative opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school and college credit.

    Funded by the School College Work Initiative, the program allows students to explore potential career paths in agriculture while earning tangible academic credentials. They spent the winter months in the classroom learning about agriculture before rolling up their sleeves for hands-on experience at the nearby farm.

    “It’s a really valuable program,” said Jennifer Hoban, the Barrett Centre’s Community Engagement Coordinator and the Professor who works with the Notre Dame students. “Whether or not the kids go on to be farmers, understanding what goes into the production of food and seeing the connection between what they’re eating and where it comes from is incredibly valuable.”

    Through a blend of classroom discussions and farm activities, the students have come to embrace the joys of getting their hands dirty – a testament to the program’s transformative power according to Ante Tojcic, a teacher at Notre Dame who also works with the students.

    “The dual credit program has allowed students to experience a whole new level of learning, giving them insights into college and beyond,” he said. “They have learned to propagate their own vegetables, and they’re always in awe at the growth of the plants from week to week.”

    The program has been a great success to date, with the DCDSB being so impressed that they invested in a pair of safety boots for every one of their students as a gift for their great participation.

    “The goal has always been to figure out how we can work with high schools to build a knowledge base and show students that pursuing this career is a viable option,” said Kelly O’Brien, Associate Dean of DC’s Faculty of Hospitality and Horticultural Science.

    As the school year winds down, the students have been reflecting on the unique opportunity the program has given them, and they’ll carry their newfound interest in agriculture forward.

    “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been very different from what I’m used to,” said one student, Akash Anton, who will utilize his new skills to help his grandmother with her garden.

    His fellow student Faith Attigah has embraced the hands-on experience.

    “It’s really fulfilling. This has given me a better understanding of agriculture.”

    Enactus Durham College Celebrates Success in National Competition

    Enactus Durham College (DC) placed second in Canada for the Youth Empowerment Challenge at the Enactus National Exposition for its groundbreaking Founders Drive podcast project. This win comes after their first-place finish at the Central Regional Exposition in March.

    Through Enactus, students use their entrepreneurial skills to lead projects that positively impact society. This year’s ‘Founders Drive’ season focused on telling the stories of Indigenous entrepreneurs.

    “This year, our team was comprised of a most beautiful and diverse group of young people from a range of cultures, backgrounds and communities who came together to create change in the world,” said Danielle Harder, EnactusDC faculty advisor for Founders Drive. “Enactus DC represents the very best of Durham College’s values.”

    In addition to the students’ success, the dedication and mentorship provided by Enactus DC faculty advisors were also acknowledged at the competition.

    K. Jennifer Bedford, Faculty of Media, Art and Design; Sara Mercier-Priebe, Faculty of Business; and Sundar Manku, Manager, Entrepreneurship Services received the prestigious John Dobson Fellowship which recognizes the important role faculty play in mentoring, coaching and teaching students on the Enactus team.

    “To be recognized and inducted into the Fellowship was an honour for all of us,” said Bedford. “We have passion, and we love what we do.”

    For further details about Enactus Durham College, visit www.enactusdc.com.

    Photo provided by Ayomide Kuye.