Annual Report / 2018-19


from the President & Vice-Chancellor

Stepping up to face a challenge – whether it’s developing wearable technology for firefighters or advocating for better palliative care in First Nations communities – requires grit and persistence.

The personal determination I see every day in our learning spaces and laboratories at Lakehead Orillia and Lakehead Thunder Bay inspires me in my role as President and Vice-Chancellor.

Our exceptional faculty and staff empower tomorrow’s groundbreakers and change-makers through research and experiential learning opportunities, access to global learning, and pathways for students facing barriers to the university experience.

At Lakehead University, our deep and authentic commitment to our diverse population of students from around the world is evident in all we do, every day.

Lakehead University is guided by a Strategic Plan and Academic Plan. These documents are interconnected and interdependent, akin to the relationships and partnerships we, as an institution, nurture across our campuses and the communities we serve. From expanding academic programming, and industry and research partnerships, to listening to our Indigenous leaders, and establishing alliances with universities around the world, our plans keep Lakehead committed to providing all of our students with the chance to become those who will dare, defy, and discover.

This year, we opened the doors to our Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering and Sciences (CASES). Within CASES is Ingenuity, a place where creativity and inspiration are bound only by imagination. Facilities such as CASES are essential, not only for attracting top students and researchers, but for providing our students with the spaces and labs they need to discover new ideas, and discover their unique potential.

This annual report offers a glimpse of the accomplishments our University community has enjoyed over the past year. I am certain that the achievements of yesteryear, bolstered by the dedication and passion for our University that lives in each of our students, professors, researchers, staff, alumni, donors, and partners, will only further our success.

Lakehead University thanks the City of Orillia, Christopher Britt, and Jill Wheatley for sharing footage included in the Annual Report Video.

Jill Wheatley

Jill Wheatley

BEd'99, Mountain Runner

Jill in the French Alps on a trail that’s part of the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc – an iconic race in the mountain running world. “I remember the climb vividly for finding the gratitude for the strength and energy I once never imagined possible,” she says. Jill built up her endurance at an early age. By the time she was in high school, she spent the majority of the winter months travelling as a competitive alpine ski racer.

Every morning following a sunrise run, Jill Wheatley cycled to work along picturesque farm roads – expertly dodging cattle, sheep, tractors, and impatient commuters – on her way to work at an international high school in Bavaria. She was a health and sport science teacher with an adventurous streak. Since leaving Canada in 2001, she had been to more than 60 countries and had extended work stints in Singapore, Russia, Switzerland, and Germany.

Then in September 2014, her world collapsed. Jill was leading a baseball lesson when one of her Grade 10 students accidentally hit a line drive that fractured Jill’s skull. The bleeding and swelling was so severe that Jill wasn’t expected to live. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused serious behavioural and cognitive changes and the loss of 70% of her vision.

Jill spent the next two years in hospitals in Germany, Canada, and Colorado undergoing a painful and frustrating rehabilitation. She describes herself as a nightmare patient who resisted treatment, tampered with medical monitors, poked holes in feed lines, and repeatedly pulled tubes from her nose. “I remained disgruntled and battled severe, sky-high anxiety about the uncertainty of life ahead,” she explains.

Things finally began to shift when Jill became spellbound by the Rockies outside her hospital room window in Colorado. “The thought of taking my recovery into the mountains lit my fire like nothing else,” Jill recalls. She resolved to run 13 mountain ranges throughout the world in a single year.

My goal was to embrace and accept the ways that my traumatic brain injury had changed me.”

Months later, Jill was competing in the 2017 Manaslu Trail Race in the Nepalese Himalayas while battling post-traumatic stress and altitude sickness. Jill also had to contend with her limited vision and differently-abled body. “I learned to be gracious with myself when physically challenging trail routes slowed my pace or swept my feet from under me,” she says. Although Jill was travelling independently, she discovered that she wasn’t always alone. Strangers were ready to help her traverse rickety bridges and offer her places to sleep, rides, and hugs of encouragement and friendship.

Since beginning her quest “to conquer the mountains of my mind,” more than two years ago, Jill has run in the Alps, the Himalayas, the Pyrenees, and the Italian Dolomites, as well as mountain trails in Iceland, New Zealand, Patagonia, Peru, and the Rockies.

“My wish is to guide others towards a place of hope in times of adversity. Though my eyesight has narrowed, my perspective has widened,” Jill says. “I embrace every stride on the trail that is life.”

Jill Wheatley

Jill reaches Everest Base Camp (EBC) at 5,380 metres. During peak climbing season just a few months later, mountaineers who summit Everest spend more than a month there acclimatizing. “I like mornings and was on the trail early enough to reach EBC and experience it alone,” Jill says. “No mountain can challenge me more fiercely than my physical and internal battles since my traumatic brain injury.”

Listen to Jill discuss her incredible journey on the Sparta Chicks Radio podcast “Jill Wheatley on Losing Sight yet Gaining Vision.” You can also learn about Jill’s mountain running feats by visiting her website, Mountains Of My Mind.

Dana Clark

Dana Clark

HBASc’16, Heroic Humans Founder

Dana Clark started a global social impact movement that provides a gathering space for inspiration, celebration, and empowerment. “Heroic Humans seeks to foster acceptance and inclusion in a world wedded to judgmental social norms and constructs,” Dana says. “It is a place that refuses to marginalize and exclude people.”

In October 2017, during a staff development meeting at her part-time job, Dana Clark’s manager asked her, “Who are you on this planet to be?”

The recent Lakehead grad (HBASc’16) and Seneca College broadcast journalism student replied, “I just want to show up for people every single day and be a heroic human.”

Why the phrase “heroic human” popped into her head, Dana couldn’t say, but it spurred her to start a global social impact movement to help other people see the good in themselves and others.

That night, at the encouragement of her mother, Dana registered the domain name Heroic Humans. Soon, she was writing stories about individuals from every walk of life for her new website and social media channels, while at the same time juggling school and work.

I believe that everybody just wants to be seen, heard, and loved for exactly who they are. There are so many marginalized communities who need awareness and a voice.”

Dana focused her attention on creating a space to acknowledge and celebrate their victories.

“It could be a cancer survivor or someone with a physical disability who’s been struggling to feel beautiful or worthy,” she explains.

In addition to her online presence, Dana started holding workshops in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) so that people could talk about their experiences, be vulnerable, and find support.

“I think the more connection and sense of community we have in our own lives, the more fulfilled we’ll be – whether it’s a virtual community like Heroic Humans or an actual community.” She also began enrolling ambassadors to spread Heroic Humans through their own initiatives.

Since starting her movement to inspire, celebrate, and empower heroic community members around the world, Dana has had many milestones to celebrate herself.

Her social media following has grown to over 10,000 and there are 11 Heroic Humans ambassadors – including LGBTQ ambassadors in China and Denmark, a motivational survivor ambassador in Australia, and mental health ambassadors in Canada and the United States. Heroic Humans offers two online programs for personal development and an apparel line. In 2018, Dana won a “Mindful Millennial” Notable Award from the Canadian media conglomerate, Notable Life.

“I’m very passionate about making Heroic Humans my career,” she says. Right now she is working on a Heroic Humans podcast and plans to bring her personal development programs to corporations and businesses.

“Ever since I was a kid,” Dana says, “I’ve known that I wanted to use my voice to be part of something bigger than myself.”

Dana Clark

Dana speaks at the one-year anniversary party for Heroic Humans. “What I really want to do is to get people to notice the good in others, to offer kindness and support to those around them and in their community. I truly believe that with connection, community, and support – anything is possible.”

Dare to inspire

Indigenous mathematics

Engineering innovators

Third Age learning

Dare to inspire

Indigenous mathematics

In May 2019, approximately 200 people from across Ontario, including Elders, knowledge keepers, educators, and administrators, participated in Wiidookaadying Gikinoomaagewin: Gindaaswin Kendaaswin – Relationships and Reciprocity: Indigenous Education and Mathematics Conference. Lakehead Orillia Education Professor Dr. Ruth Beatty received a $44,666 SSHRC Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation – Connection Grant to provide a forum to explore connections between the provincial mathematics curriculum and the mathematics of Indigenous technology, design, and artistry.

Engineering innovators

Lakehead University’s Engineering Student Society won first place at the National Engineering Month (NEM) Ontario 2018 Engineering Student Outreach Challenge. Held every March since 1992, NEM celebrates engineering excellence in Canada and encourages young people from all backgrounds to consider a future in the engineering and engineering technology professions. Lakehead team members Alex Polyak, Troy Smith, Benjie Policar, and Calvin Ing received their award at the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers Annual General Meeting in Oakville, Ontario.

Third Age learning

Designed to provide creative and thought-provoking educational opportunities to adult learners in Orillia and the surrounding area, Lakehead Orillia and the Third Age Network launched Third Age Learning Lakehead (TALL) in the summer of 2018. At the heart of TALL is the ability to offer seniors public lectures from experts in their field along with an opportunity to socialize and discuss issues and ideas. The Third Age Network exists all over the world, but is particularly active in Ontario. Since its inception, TALL has grown to encompass over 350 adult learners in the Orillia area.

Kathryn Wheatley

Dr. Kathryn Sinden

Kinesiology Professor
EPID@WORK Associate Director & Associate Scientist

Firefighters risk their lives nearly every time they strap on their personal protective equipment, but once the smoke has cleared, who assists these courageous men and women with their mental health?

Thunder Bay Fire Rescue has firefighters who serve on the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) to help fellow firefighters involved in a critical incident while on the job.

Medical calls, fires, hazardous material calls, and motor vehicle collisions are all examples of critical incidents that firefighters contend with regularly.

Although the use of CIRTs is a common strategy in Canada, it’s unclear how effective it is for firefighters dealing with symptoms from a critical incident – symptoms that have been linked to post-traumatic stress.

Regan Bolduc is a firefighter who serves as co-chair of the CIRT team.

“I see how exposure to some of the most difficult situations in our community can really affect the mental health of our firefighters,” Regan says. “I’m hopeful this research will help me better understand what works and doesn’t work for our team.”

Dr. Kathryn Sinden believes she may be able to help. The assistant professor of Kinesiology at Lakehead University is working with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association to determine methods that will assist firefighters experiencing these symptoms.

Not only does post-traumatic stress impact the mental and physical health of firefighters, their families are also affected. We are looking at the impact of this strategy and whether the CIRT team requires resources to support them as well.”

Thunder Bay Fire Chief John Hay said common symptoms after a critical incident include having trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and irritability, but a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress is not made unless firefighters have several symptoms at the same time.

“I believe this research could help in a number of ways,” Chief Hay says, “with resilience, awareness, and strategies that may help mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress in the workplace.”

Right now, many firefighters are dealing with post-traumatic stress, “whether they’re diagnosed or not,” says Dennis Brescacin, President of the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters, the union representing Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.

“It’s hard to come forward when you’ve experienced a traumatic event,” Dennis says. “Most deal with it internally.”

“I think the research Kathryn wants to do would definitely shed light on post-traumatic stress and help determine what we could do about it,” Dennis adds.

Regan, a firefighter for 11 years, says he feels “honoured” to help citizens during what is often the most difficult time of their life.

“At the end of the day, it feels good to be there for people when they need us. That is what the CIRT team is about, as well, being there for our brothers and sisters.”

Kathryn Sinden

Dr. Kathryn Sinden is working with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association to help firefighters combat post-traumatic stress.

Gia Spiropoulos

Gia Spiropoulos

Basketball Player & Co-Coach
Master of Education Student

Gia Spiropoulos is a forward with the Lakehead Orillia Thunderwolves basketball team and the 2018/19 Female Athlete of the Year. “I like the versatility of being a forward,” she says. “I can play both an inside or an outside game, whichever is needed to help my team be successful.”

Gia Spiropoulos is a natural born leader and a serious threat on the basketball court. “My dad got me hooked on the sport,” explains the Lakehead Orillia graduate student from Belleville, Ontario. “When I was a kid, we used to play together.”

Gia was so good that – at the age of 13 – during a family vacation to Greece, she was recruited to play for the Greek national basketball team. She had been shooting hoops in her father’s hometown of Tripoli, attracting the attention of a professional coach. “Basketball is a huge part of my life and it’s shaped me as a person,” she says.

Recently, Gia has been focusing her attention on reenergizing Lakehead Orillia’s basketball team, both as a player and a co-coach, as well as conducting master’s research on climate change.

It’s a lot to take on, but Gia grew up defying expectations. “My parents were clear that school should come before sports, yet there have always been these two parts to me,” she says.

I’m a student athlete through and through, and I want my teammates to know you can do both school and athletics. Sports gives you a place to be supported and discover who you are.”

Convinced that she wanted to be a teacher, Gia completed a concurrent education and science degree at Queen’s. As graduation approached, however, she shifted direction. She’d been inspired by an environmental science course and decided to look for a graduate program in climate change education instead of taking a classroom job. “Although it took me a while to get here, once I found my path, I knew it was the right one.”

Her search led her straight to Orillia. “There is no other program in Ontario like Lakehead’s Master of Education,” Gia says. “It’s a perfect blend of education, science, and sustainability.”

Tackling the pressing need for updated climate change resources in Canada, Gia’s research combines classroom surveys, observation, and conversations to develop a first-of-its-kind guideline addressing the realities, diverse perspectives, and ethics of teaching climate change in any subject, in any province.

“Teachers have the responsibility to educate students on the facts of the climate emergency and turn that information into action and motivation, not worry,” she explains. “If I can help even three teachers, that’s 90 students – what a way to make an impact on classrooms and communities.”

She’s also had a big impact on Lakehead’s basketball team, which went from the verge of collapse to a slot in two championship finals in the 2018-19 season.

“I’m a student athlete through and through, and I want my teammates to know you can do both school and athletics. Sports gives you a place to be supported and discover who you are.”

Gia Spiropoulos

Gia is completing her Master of Education under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Field, a researcher focused on climate change education curricula in the Canadian school system.

Defying the limits

The amazing race

Courtroom victory

CASES research centre

Defying the limits

The amazing race

Competitors in The Amazing Race Canada – the country’s most-watched summer TV series – tested their mettle in a challenge designed by Lakehead’s Faculty of Natural Resources Management. When the TV show filmed an episode in Thunder Bay, the Amazing Race producers approached Lakehead for their expertise. Forestry PhD Student Alex Bilyk leapt into action and designed a drone course that each team had to successfully navigate before moving on to their next challenge. Watch a preview of the episode, “Another Day in Thunder Bay.”

Courtroom victory

For the first time ever, Lakehead law students triumphed in the Arnup Cup – a trial competition that included teams from the University of Toronto, Queen’s, Ottawa, York, Western, and Windsor. The students went to Toronto in February 2019 to conduct a full-length mock jury trial before a Superior Court judge. Their task was to defend a man in debt to the mob charged with using a handgun to steal $20,000 from a convenience store ATM. The oral advocacy and cross-examination skills of our Bora Laskin Faculty of Law students set them apart from other Ontario law schools.

CASES research centre

A new era in research was launched on November 30, 2018, with the grand opening of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering and Sciences (CASES). The 42,000-square-foot building is LEED Gold-certified and houses four of the University’s Canada Research Chairs, three research support units, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and a business incubator that will foster regional economic development. Lakehead researchers will use state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment – including a new transmission electron microscope and an x-ray photoelectron spectroscope – to develop original solutions to difficult challenges.

Holly Prince

Holly Prince

Educational Studies PhD Student
Project Manager, Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health

The words “palliative care” often evoke images of echoing corridors and stark white walls. This is especially the case in Canada’s First Nations communities where people with serious illnesses are regularly transferred to hospitals far from home.

“There is a lot of guilt because Indigenous Peoples want to care for their own, but there aren’t enough health care resources available in their communities,” explains internationally recognized researcher Holly Prince. “Many are Elders who were forcibly removed from their communities to attend residential schools and suddenly they’re being removed again.”

Holly is a Lakehead alumna, PhD student, and a Project Manager at the University’s Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health (CERAH). She is an Anishinaabekwe from the Red Rock Indian Band, Lake Helen Reserve.

She defines palliative care as tending to the physical, spiritual, social, psychological, and emotional needs of people with chronic and terminal illnesses and the needs of their families. “Its holistic nature resonates with me as a First Nations woman,” she says.

Holly’s palliative care journey began 16 years ago when a 24-year-old friend died of cancer. “I saw him go through radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery and at no point were the words ‘death, dying, or end of life’ mentioned.”

She’d been about to start a Master of Social Work degree focusing on addictions and mental health when she changed her specialization.

I knew that the Creator had put me on a path to make meaning not only from his life, but also from his death.”

Holly approached social work professor Dr. Mary Lou Kelley and they began to work together to improve the end-of-life care in Indigenous communities by developing community-based education and palliative care programs.

Postsecondary education was a radical departure from the future Holly had envisioned for herself. “After high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Going to college or university seemed so far out of reach for me. All I knew was that I wanted to travel the world.” She rethought this decision when an Elder encouraged her to enrol in Confederation College’s Native Mental Health Worker program.

Holly Prince

In 2010, Holly Prince was a part of a research team that was given a $1.825 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) – the largest Lakehead has ever received – to explore ways to improve palliative care services in First Nations communities.

Since entering the palliative care field, Holly has partnered with many First Nations communities to advocate for resources. “Within the past two years, the federal government has begun providing some palliative care services funding and our research was instrumental in making this happen.”

Equally importantly, she has collaborated with First Nations communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and PEI to provide culturally relevant palliative care education.

“My story has come full circle,” Holly says. “The little girl from Beardmore, Ontario – the home of 300 people and the world’s largest snowman – has now been all over the world to present her research.”

Dr. Daniel Krupp

Interdisciplinary Studies Professor
SALT Lab Director

“I want to know what makes people get along and what makes them fight,” says Dr. Daniel Krupp, the director of the SALT Lab at Lakehead Orillia.

The SALT Lab’s mission is to create a more peaceful world by unravelling the causes of cooperation and conflict. Dr. Krupp’s research looks at the biological evolution of social behaviour in humans, in particular, the connections between violence, inequality, kinship, and ethnocentrism.

“It’s basically using Darwinian thinking to generate hypotheses and predictions about human behaviour. We all have the same basic nature, but different environments get us to behave differently in ways predictable from evolutionary theory.”

His work studying psychopaths in Ontario’s Mental Health Centre, Penetanguishene, led to some surprising revelations. “Most people, including criminologists, assume that psychopaths are developmentally abnormal,” Dr. Krupp says, “but I wanted to test the hypothesis that psychopaths are biologically designed to pursue a selfish evolutionary strategy instead of a cooperative one.” If the theory was true, psychopaths would avoid exploiting their genealogical kin because they share the same DNA. When the study wrapped up, the results confirmed that psychopaths chose to hurt people unrelated to them. “Psychopaths know right from wrong,” Dr. Krupp says, “they just don’t care.”

Psychopaths, however, make up only a small proportion of the population. That’s why Dr. Krupp is especially interested in inequality, something he believes is a widespread source of conflict. “Evolution should have designed species to be sensitive to distributional differences,” he says.

One of the most exciting things I’ve discovered is that competition amplifies the effect of inequality and consequently, may increase homicide rates.“

Vying for parental attention is one of the earliest experiences people have with competition, often leading to fierce sibling rivalry. As children become adults, their competitors become their co-workers, neighbours, and romantic challengers. Dr. Krupp has found that this battle for resources discourages cooperation at the local level and increases conflict.

One way to counter these negative effects, according to his research, is to spread competition over a larger section of the population. Issues such as ethnocentrism further complicate the problem of inequality. In experiments, he has demonstrated that people are more likely to help individuals who look like them and to view those with dissimilar faces as untrustworthy.

Fortunately, this ethnocentric bias isn’t carved in stone. “People raised in ethnically diverse areas tend to be less ethnocentric than people raised in homogeneous areas,” Dr. Krupp notes. “It’s not ethnicity alone, though, it’s the fact that we perceive ourselves to be in competition with them.” Continuing to pursue these kinds of insights is important because they can help decision-makers adopt policies to make our neighbourhoods – and society as a whole – more resilient.

Dr. Daniel Krupp

Visit the SALT Lab online to view Dr. Daniel Krupp’s videos, popular writing, and scholarly publications.

Discover the possibilities

Basketball star

Community champions

Forest research

Discover the possibilities

Basketball star

Leashja Grant is a blistering sensation on the basketball court. During the 2018-19 season, for the second year in a row, the women’s varsity athlete was chosen to join the USPORTS All-Canadian First Team. She also walked away with the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year. Leashja, a forward, led the Thunderwolves to the OUA semi-finals and finished 5th in the country in points per game and 4th in the country in rebounds per game. Leashja played basketball with Texas Tech University in the United States before being recruited by Lakehead.

Community champions

When the County of Simcoe hosted its sixth annual Newcomer Recognition Awards in 2018, Lakehead students Jessica Dinner (HBSW) and Emily Wolst (HBASC ’19) received the new Youth Community Champion Award. Jessica and Emily both work in student assistance at Lakehead Orillia and the duo played a key role in welcoming and organizing memorable activities for 280 international students from Mexico. Emily is a part-time ESL teacher and Jessica is the co-founder of the World University Service of Canada club at Lakehead Orillia, enabling young refugees to continue their education in Canada.

Forest research

Lakehead is creating new forest science research and education opportunities. On February 26, 2019, the University signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Confederation College and Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service (CFS). This collaboration will also enable the partner institutions to share intellectual and technical resources and develop collaborative research projects, including more competitive grant proposals. Lakehead will also welcome more CFS researchers as adjunct professors who will act as mentors to undergraduate and graduate students.

Susan Waite

Susan Waite

Humanities 101 Champion
Lakehead Orillia Supporter

Susan is always impressed by the Humanities 101 students she meets – including a retired 72-year-old hairdresser. “Her grandchildren told me that when they were older, they were going to their grandmother’s university and that their mom is going to go too – that’s generational inspirational.”

At a Humanities 101 graduation ceremony several years ago, the audience sat spellbound as the class valedictorian delivered her speech.

The woman – in her early twenties and the mother of three children – had walked up to the podium and began, “A few years ago, I was beaten and bruised and absolutely without any self worth. Then somebody asked me if I’d like to take part in Humanities 101.”

The young woman was told that the free 12-week evening course at Lakehead Orillia would introduce her to university life as well as provide school supplies, bus fare, babysitting services, and a food voucher for the cafeteria. As the weeks went by, this outreach initiative for people facing barriers to postsecondary education built up her confidence.

“And I want all of you to know,” the young woman continued, “that I applied for a job and enrolled in three courses at Lakehead because I’ve started to believe that I can do it.”

Two longstanding Lakehead Orillia supporters and donors were in the audience that night – Susan and Bruce Waite.

Tears were streaming down my face. From then on, I got behind the program.”

Susan is now an integral part of the Humanities 101 fundraising committee and recruits other community members to help out. In November 2018, she took the lead in persuading prospective guests to attend a donor event that raised more than $17,000 for Humanities 101.

Susan also regularly drops by Lakehead’s cafeteria to meet the students and chat. “Everybody is a little awkward at first, but by the end, they’re cheering each other on.”

It reminds her of another Humanities 101 ceremony she attended. “A grad ran out giving the Rocky salute and shouting, ‘23 months, 18 days, and four hours.’ His classmates yelled ‘Sober!’ And he said, ‘Yes! By God I’ve done it.’ You could see the ravages of life on his face, but his smile was joyous.” This student, Susan remembers, credited Humanities 101 with helping him keep his sobriety during a difficult winter.

Dr. Linda Rodenburg, who coordinates the program out of Lakehead Orillia’s Office of Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning, says, “Humanities 101 wouldn’t be here without people like Susan. Her passion is unquestionable. When she talks to donors and potential and current students, people listen and get excited.”

Discovering new ways of understanding the world profoundly affects the students. “They learn that Humanities 101 isn’t a hand out – it’s a hand up,” Susan says.

“I think every community is like a scarf,” she adds. “Each strand is important and if you cut one, the whole thing comes unravelled. That’s why Humanities 101 is so life changing – it helps knit the strands together.”

Susan Waite has become one of Humanities 101’s strongest advocates, taking on roles as a fundraiser, donor, and volunteer. “The program teaches people that they have value,” she explains.

North American Palladium

North American Palladium

Research Partner
Lakehead University Supporter

Victoria Currie barely had time to attend her university commencement ceremony for her Bachelor of Science degree before packing up her belongings and leaving Newfoundland for the heart of the Canadian Shield.

The geology grad’s destination was Lac des Iles, Ontario, where one of the rarest metals on Earth – palladium – is mined. “It’s a heavily forested terrain with lots of lakes,” Victoria says.

Operated by North American Palladium (NAP), Lac des Iles has been flourishing under the leadership of NAP President and CEO Jim Gallagher. “We are currently ramping up to 12,000 tonnes per day to become one of the largest underground mines in Canada,” he says.

Palladium is used in catalytic converters to reduce the pollutants in vehicle exhaust fumes, and the demand for it has doubled over the last 10 years. As a result, NAP is a key player in Northwestern Ontario’s economy and the employer of more than 700 people.

They have also become a crucial Lakehead University donor, supporter, and partner. “We see the faculty and students at Lakehead as our ‘go to’ destination for leading-edge research in engineering and the geosciences,” Gallagher says.

We are really excited to be working with NAP on what we hope will be the first of a long series of collaborations. NAP is also contributing more than $88,000 of in-kind support to this project.”

In April 2019, NAP signed a memorandum of understanding enabling a Master of Science student to conduct field research to better understand how the Lac des Iles palladium deposit formed. This is part of a $50,000 research project with Lakehead’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration Director, Dr. Peter Hollings.


NAP’s generosity will help Lakehead University’s non-profit group, Superior Science, deliver STEM programming to elementary and junior high students. Funding for Superior Science summer camps, girls club programming, community events, and Indigenous outreach will be enhanced.

Jim Gallagher

North Palladium CEO Jim Gallagher says that, “We pride ourselves on sharing some of our insights with research students who can then tackle very specific problems.”

Victoria became aware of this career-making opportunity when she came across a posting outlining the Lac des Iles project and asking prospective master’s students to apply to Lakehead. She hasn’t looked back since. “I’ve quickly gained a lot of knowledge you don’t learn in school,” she says.

NAP’s contributions go beyond fostering innovative research and launching the professional lives of university students. Recently, they made a $20,000 donation to Lakehead University’s Superior Science – a program that introduces children in grades 1 to 8 to the science, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields.

“Superior Science stimulates kids’ curiosity about the physical world and we all know that kids learn best when they DO things rather than simply read or hear about them,” Gallagher says.

North American Palladium’s vision has made it one of the “Top 40 Canadian Mining Companies” and a place that pushes people to discover their potential. “I’m very thankful for the training I’ve received,” Victoria Currie says. “It was an amazing first industry experience for me.”

Design the future

Water sustainability

DNA discoveries

Surveillance technology

Design the future

Water sustainability

In January 2019, Lakehead Orillia joined a chorus of universities and colleges across the nation and eliminated single-use bottled water on campus. As well as no longer selling bottled water, access to free drinking water has been improved by installing three water bottle refilling stations, in addition to five existing water fountains equipped with bottle fillers. “As Canada’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum university campus, Lakehead Orillia is committed to comprehensive sustainability management and responsible sustainability practices,” said Principal Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans.

DNA discoveries

Lakehead’s Paleo-DNA Lab, run by alumnus Stephen Fratpietro, attracted international headlines with its recent findings. The Lab conducted the first genetic analyses of skeletal remains of the doomed crewmembers of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, helping create a DNA database to be used for future identification. Fratpietro also assisted researchers trying to determine where the 1770s American Revolutionary war hero, Count Casimir Pulaski, was buried. Fratpietro extracted and sequenced DNA from a relative of the Count to confirm that the bones the researchers were studying did in fact belong to Count Pulaski.

Surveillance technology

In 2018, the Durham Regional Police Service brought in Dr. Alana Saulnier as an independent reviewer to help evaluate the effectiveness of body-worn cameras for the police, partner agencies, and the community in a one-year pilot project. The Lakehead Orillia interdisciplinary studies professor received a SSHRC Insight Grant to examine whether or not body cameras worn by police make a difference, and if the benefits justify the investment. This is a pressing issue since body cameras are now being adopted in Canada and public policymakers need a clear understanding of this new surveillance technology.

Facts and Figures
The Employment Rate of Lakehead students
two years after graduation
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of Students are First Generation
(Neither parent has a degree)
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in Total Gifts
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Research University
(Undergraduate Category)
for five consecutive years by Re$earch Infosource
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The Total Impact of Lakehead University
on Ontario’s GDP
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of our Alumni
live in Ontario