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Student Spotlights

Alannah Fricker, Ryerson Social Work Alumni, OISE Masters of Social Justice Education Student, and Administrator to the Jack Layton Chair

Alannah has worked as the Administrator to the Jack Layton Chair for over two years. She supports the Chair in conceptualizing, developing, organizing, and promoting community events, talks, and leadership workshops that aim to advance democracy, equity, human rights, and social justice on campus and beyond. 

Alannah Fricker is a passionate community organizer, harm reduction worker, and prisoner justice advocate. She is a founding member and lead organizer with the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project and Abolition Coalition, the president and founder of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Ryerson University, and the Administrator of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance. Alannah is a visual artist, outdoor enthusiast, and caregiver in her personal life.

Lareinea Ryan is a Ryerson Social Work student completing a minor in Psychology. She attended the Jack Layton Leadership School and is a volunteer with the Jack Layton Chair. She is an African-Caribbean woman who migrated to Canada during her late teens, who grew up as an orphan and experienced the struggles of living in a marginalized community.

As a Black woman, she often experiences systemic and social oppression which she uses as motivation for change. She chose a career that allows her to empower others to believe that they are not alone and that there is assistance to seek social inclusion and justice. She wants to wake up each day, go to work and make a positive difference in someone’s else's life.

Graham Berlin, Masters Student in Ryerson’s Clinical Psychology  Program and Arts’ Public Scholar  to the Jack Layton Chair

Graham is the recipient of the Arts’ Public Scholar Award which has allowed him to work with the Jack Layton Chair, Ken Moffatt, where he hopes to address social justice issues and establish greater community connections. 

Graham Berlin is conducting research in the HIV Prevention Lab. Graham’s current research seeks to uncover psychosocial predictors of crystal methamphetamine use among gbMSM and the role of social support in buffering crystal methamphetamine-related harms.

Graham completed his undergraduate degree in Victoria, where he worked with the Couples and Families Lab conducting research on the effects of family-based heterosexism, shame and psychological wellbeing among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM). Graham was also a research assistant in the School of Public Health where he conducted interviews with gbMSM who use crystal methamphetamine. He is doing ongoing work with gbMSM who use crystal methamphetamine in order to inform intervention and harm reduction services. At the HIV Prevention Lab, he works collaboratively on the Engage Study – a large multi-site study of gbMSM in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. 

Aledia Hayes, Masters of Arts Philosophy Student and Public Arts Scholar to the Jack Layton Chair

Aledia is the recipient of the Public Arts Scholar Award which allows her to work with the Jack Layton Chair

Aledia Hayes graduated from the University of Toronto Mississauga with a major in Criminology and Socio-legal Studies and Philosophy, and minored in Society, Law, and Ethics. Seeing so many injustices in the law has sparked her interest in social justice. She is currently doing her Major Research Paper on the ethical impact of using intoxication as a defence in cases of violence/sexual assault. She hopes to one day alleviate some of these inequalities while staying true to the underlying doctrines of the legal system. 

Nancy Hoang, Social Work Student and Placement Student with the Jack Layton Chair 

Nancy Hoang utilizes her experiences with the online world and her education at Ryerson University, as a placement student for the Jack Layton Chair. Nancy is an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Social Work program at Ryerson University. She is interested in online communities where people have the space to express their interests through online personas. Through both anonymous and identifiable personas, she believes that critical thinking and honesty can happen in our digital world. 

MJ Wright, Arts and Contemporary Studies Student and Jack Layton Chair volunteer

MJ Wright is passionate about environmental action, experimental art and music, and emotional support work (the three Es). He plays percussion in the improvisational group The Side Eye and intends to pursue a career in counselling after completing his undergraduate degree. He is an elected student representative to the Ryerson University Board of Governors.


Keith Cole

Artist in Residence, Summer 2019, Ryerson University


Keith Cole is an interdisciplinary artist working in performance, dance, film/video, photography, collage, painting, and installation. For over 29 years he has worked in Toronto's artistic and gay communities. His work has focused on repetition, duration, gayness, humour, analogue technologies, and absence.

The Project: Nothing Is Ever Perfect

Keith Cole's artwork comes from his distrust and resistance to official discourses as well as his need to honour and work through alternative histories and futures. Nothing is Ever Perfect is based on revealing that which is out of focus from many of us on a day-to-day basis. The German's have a word for it - Alltagsgeschichte or "history from below." The work in the residency and eventual exhibition centres on what is not seen even though it is right in front of our eyes. Are we avoiding it? Is what we do not see too precious or too imperfect?

Based on this interest of alternative discourse and histories, Keith Cole's works show how mistakes were made. His finished art pieces often are the result of responding to those mistakes. Cole is intentional in avoiding consistency or working to a singular standard of perfection. A central question for Keith Cole is how are things made in the spirit of something? A key focus of Nothing is Ever Perfect is absence. The beauty of this artwork is found in its abstract nature and its willingness to be ephemeral and illusive as opposed to solid or concrete.

Keith Cole's work is made in a rapid-fire method. Each artwork is provisional and could break down or fall apart at any second.  Nothing is Ever Perfect embraces variations and inconsistencies to recognize the range of style and intentions in his body of work. He continues to create in the spirit that nothing is ever perfect.

This artist in residence elaborates a thread in the artist in residence program focused on the everyday object, its meaning, and its history. The focus of the residency is on Keith Cole's collage, installation, performance, and painting. It will result in an art show in the fall of 2019 and a work commissioned for Ryerson University.

Images of Keith Cole Jumping
Art installation on a brick wall that reads "closed" and "all the things that go unnoticed that want to be noticed, nuit blanche"

Past Artists-in-Residence

Tara Farahani, Faculty of Community Services and Faculty of Arts Artist-in-Residence


Tara Farahani

What are the experiences that shape how we move in the world? Why do we find it so difficult to talk about them? What can sharing our stories do for our connection and healing? These are some of the important questions that Tara Farahani, the Jack Layton and John C. Eaton Chair’s newest Artist-in-Residence, will explore with Ryerson students, faculty and staff. In short, she will examine what it means to honour our lived experience.

Having showcased and performed numerous creative writing pieces across the city, Farahani has a deep understanding of the fears that keep people from sharing their stories, and the beautiful relationships and community that emerge when they do. Her latest project, From Under the Rug, examines the duality of gaining strength and resilience when speaking one’s truths.

Informed by her lived-experience as an Iranian-Canadian Diaspora, Farahani carries a desire to challenge norms, ignite thoughtful dialogues, and engage in continuous learning in all walks of her professional and personal life. 

When she isn’t working in the non-profit sector, you will find the Toronto-based writer and researcher tucked away in the corners of cafes across Toronto crafting creative non-fiction prose, typing away on her blog,, external link, or or in her home office working on her co-founded zine project, ‘not for you., external link

Farahani is the successful recipient of CUE’s 2018 Writing Program bursary to work on her upcoming non-fiction prose book, I Had a Very Happy Childhood, and has been featured on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning program, CBC News, external linkFlare Magazine, external link, Ryerson Alumni Magazine, external link, and the Toronto Star, external link for her poetry and advocacy work. 

Artist-in-Residence Tara Farahani speaking.
Artist-in-Residence Tara Farahani speaking at a Canadian Federation of Students rally.
A bracelet with hand-made clay beads by Artist-in-Residence Tara Farahani.
A hand-made ring with a one-of-a-kind clay design by Artist-in-Residence Tara Farahani.

Sarah Amato

Sarah Amato is the Faculty of Community Services and Faculty of Arts Artist-in-Residence, Summer 2018.

Sarah Amato has a doctorate in history from the University of Toronto (2008). She has taught courses on material culture and modern British History at the University of Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design University, and Wilfred Laurier University (Brantford Campus). Her book Beastly Possessions: Animals in Victorian Consumer Culture was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2015. Past participatory art projects include: "Pothole Possibilities," Nuit Blanche Edmonton and "Dishing it Out" in the curated show Voices for the Vote, Borealis Gallery.

Amato's current project titled Is This Yours? documents objects that are lost and found. This artwork asks us to imagine all the mittens, tools, keys, and other items we've left behind, forgotten or lost along the way. What happens to these items after we lose them? What happens to us after we lose these things? How do lost objects change the people who find them? What do lost things tell us about the lives we have lived?

Website:, external link 

Taien Ng-Chan

Hamilton-based artist Taien Ng-Chan, was the Faculty of Community Service’s first artist-in-residence. As a writer and media artist, Taien’s work melds cinema, poetry, cartography, objects, found and digital art to interrogate everyday urban life.

Website:, external link, opens in new window