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This year’s Ryerson Awards honour new approaches to education

Blue and Gold team and individual award winners showcase projects with community-wide outreach
By: Michelle Grady
February 13, 2020
People sitting for a presentation at an open house for the opening of the law school

The Law Startup team’s hard work paid off this past October when they were met with the many faces of prospective students at an open house event. Photo credit: Nikita Ovsyannikov.

The idea for Ryerson’s Faculty of Law stretches back 10 years, but it’s the intensive push over the last few years that earned the Law Startup team the 2020 President’s Blue and Gold Award of Excellence. The award honours employees who demonstrate excellence in leadership or service, and who significantly advance the university’s mission.

The team’s work, which revved up in 2016 when the originating committee was struck by the provost, represents one of the most collaborative projects ever undertaken at Ryerson. The results come this September when, for the first time in over a century, a new law school will open its doors in Toronto – a law school with a path-breaking vision that distinguishes it from all other schools in Canada.

“Ryerson is creating a new vision for legal education in this country, which is something we can all be extremely proud of,” says President Mohamed Lachemi. “We would not be able to open our doors and welcome our first cohort of students this September without the tremendous dedication and fervour of everyone on the Law Startup team.”

Team diversity across a broad range of departments

“This was really a cross-university team,” says Gina Alexandris, director, Law Practice Program (LPP) and special advisor, Faculty of Law, who will accept the award on behalf of the 49-person team. ”We’ve undergone something that is meaningful, I think, and meaningful because we’ve done it differently. We’ve always had that as the goal - how can we do this not just for the sake of opening up a new faculty but doing so creatively and in a way that will really serve the community and the clients that it’s intended for.”

While the award is normally given to teams with a maximum size of 10, the size of the team was a huge benefit to this particular project, says Alexandris. “It meant diversity of experience and diversity of beliefs, which modelled what we keep talking about through the law school at Ryerson. I think being able to draw on that hugely diverse level of experience has been critical - no single person or individual team could possibly know and understand everything that was necessary to pull this off.”

The team’s greatest strengths, says Alexandris, were its creativity, communication and optimism. “This launch has been like a puzzle, and we’re trying to put all the pieces together under a time crunch as well, so just being able to do so in a way that maintained our optimism, creativity and communication was critical.” Because of the scope of the project, the team faced a number of internal and external challenges.

The team has a vast campus footprint, with the originating committee of eight spread across various units, including the Legal Innovation Zone, LPP, Admissions and Registrar’s Office,  Facilities Management and Development, University Relations, the Library, Ryerson International, University Planning Office, University Advancement and the Office of the General Counsel and Board Secretariat.

Ted Rogers Bootcamps makes industry waves

Nelufur Bhasin, selected as the 2020 recipient of the President’s Blue and Gold individual award, is the leader of the Bootcamp team at the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) Business Career Hub.

Her peer-learning model, which sets the bootcamp apart, employs students with expertise to train their fellow students on platforms and tools coveted by industry. Under her leadership, Bootcamp has grown exponentially and engaged more than 11,500 participants. Bhasin says that this peer-based model of learning allows students to feel comfortable because they’re working with students who themselves have recently learned these skills through internships or co-op placements. “Bootcamp is meant to spark interest, to give students more clarity on what they’d like to continue learning and understand what might not necessarily be for them. It allows them to get their feet wet in an environment without pressure of assessment or grades,” she says.

“This award acknowledges that there was a need for this program, and as a school, we responded. This isn’t an award for a single person, I think it acknowledges that this program really does take a village - the students, the faculty, the staff, industry partners, and alumni all came together to respond to the need,” says Bhasin. “We are very responsive as a school to what employers are asking for - that’s what makes us extremely competitive in the market. I’m very fortunate that the senior leadership team recognized the value of this program and the impact that it can have on student success.”

Ryerson Awards Night is part of the larger Ryerson employee recognition program co-ordinated by Human Resources and celebrates the achievements of faculty and staff in teaching, research, administration, service and leadership. This year, 73 individual recipients and 10 teams will be honoured on March 30, 2020. To learn more about all the award winners, visit Recognition and Awards.

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