Announcing the recipients of the 1st annual VPS Portfolio Employee Awards

This year marks the first annual VPS Portfolio Employee Awards, created to celebrate VPS employees who have demonstrated exceptional contributions to our community, and in advancing the goals of the Student Strategic Plan.  

All VPS staff were invited to nominate one or more colleagues who, in their view, have achieved excellence in one of the award categories.  

The 2024 VPS Employee Award selection committee reviewed numerous submissions, and after careful consideration, we would like to extend congratulations to the following 2024 Vice-President, Students Employee Award Recipients:  

Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence 

The Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Award celebrates an individual who has made substantial contributions to advancing Truth and Reconciliation, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and/or Anti-Racism related priorities and initiatives.   

Renée’s career with Counselling Services has spanned almost two decades. During this time, she has advocated for change and demonstrated a deep commitment to health equity for Indigenous students. She has worked tirelessly to promote inclusive excellence and to advance Truth and Reconciliation, and Decolonization. 

Renée has represented the needs of Indigenous students in advocating for systemic changes and has educated and provided consultation for counselling staff and leadership. As UBC’s first Associate Director, Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing, Renée and her team have developed a number of initiatives including an Indigenous student peer support group, a professional training practicum program for Master’s level students in mental health professions, and a “life affirmation and suicide prevention” peer support program.  

Renée is warm, approachable, and generous with her time and knowledge, and the legacy of her work will support countless Indigenous students in the years to come. Recognizing Renée with this inaugural award is a fitting testament to her dedicated and visionary work at UBC. 

Enhancing the UBC Experience 

The Enhancing the UBC Experience Award celebrates an individual who consistently provides exemplary service to those they support, and regularly goes beyond the expectations of their role in service to others.   

As Assistant Housekeeping Supervisor, Kulwinder has been a highly valued member of the Building Services Team for over 20 years.  

Kulwinder always steps forward to take on urgent tasks, small and large. She thinks ahead, proactively offers suggestions, and takes initiative to support wherever needed. She consistently goes above and beyond to anticipate the needs of residents, conference guests, and her colleagues. Every year, Kulwinder volunteers to work over the winter break and during a recent snowstorm, she volunteered to stay on campus for 3 nights to help when many staff could not make it in to work. During the pandemic, Kulwinder demonstrated strong leadership by helping coordinate self-isolation units at Gage residence, and supervising the operation, organizing, and cleaning of the units. 

Kulwinder is extremely dependable, efficient in her work, and a personable and fun-loving colleague. Through her dedication and thoughtful actions, Kulwinder enhances the UBC experience for students and staff. 

Exceptional Colleague 

The Exceptional Colleague Award celebrates an individual whose dedication, kindness, compassion, and respect for others makes the workplace significantly better for their colleagues. They are someone you hope never leaves UBC because they are so wonderful to work with. 

In her role as a Communications and Engagement Strategist at UBCO, Katie consistently exemplifies dedication, kindness, compassion, and respect for others. She has personally seen to it that everyone looks forward to coming to work through her community building efforts in the office.  

Whether it’s baking cakes that are uniquely designed to celebrate the birthdays and work accomplishments of her colleagues, or simply always being there to listen to her coworkers, Katie is an integral part of the positive work environment within the AVPS office. She encourages team walks in the sunshine, tells the best jokes, and organizes group activities on and off-campus, building camaraderie in the office through her positive energy and generosity. 

Katie’s role is unique; she works with nearly everyone in the AVPS portfolio. In her role, she has an uncanny ability to support everyone’s best interests in a project while staying true to the purpose and values of our work.  

Student Employee of the Year 

The Student Employee of the Year Award celebrates a current VPS portfolio student employee with an impeccable record of workplace excellence and contributions. They have gone above and beyond expectations, have demonstrated initiative and positively impacted their unit and the university community. 

In her role as a Substance Use Health Project Assistant with the Health Equity, Promotion and Education (HPE) team at UBCV, Thea has been essential in advancing the Wellness Centre’s harm reduction programming. 

In 2022, Thea significantly contributed to bringing drug testing to the UBC campus, leveraging her connections to organizations in the Downtown East Side cultivated through her years of volunteer work. 

As the President of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, she has coordinated multiple events in the past two years to educate students at UBC about drug policy and its many harms for equity deserving people in Canada. As well, Thea and a fellow student convened the Harm Reduction Coalition at the AMS, bringing together students passionate about harm reduction, and ensuring that more than 50 people were trained on naloxone use. 

Beyond her wealth of knowledge and dedication, Thea’s humility stands out as a defining trait that makes her an excellent leader. The students she supervises not only admire her but also feel comfortable approaching her with questions or concerns. Thea embodies the core values of UBC and was wholeheartedly endorsed by her colleagues for the Student Employee of the Year Award. 

Workplace Wellbeing 

The Workplace Wellbeing Award celebrates an individual who has made a significant contribution towards a safe and healthy workplace and champions the social, physical, and/or mental health wellbeing of staff. 

As an Occupational Health & Safety Compliance & Claims System Associate in SHCS, Jessica is a champion of wellbeing across the VPS and SHCS portfolios. Her efforts in both her professional and volunteer roles at UBC directly contribute to enhancing workplace wellbeing for VPS employees.  

Jessica has worked diligently to streamline the injury management process within SHCS. She has helped shift claims and injury management from legal compliance obligations to demonstrate organizational caring for our employees. As well, since taking on a volunteer role as a SHCS Workplace Wellbeing Ambassador in 2023, Jessica has arranged two SHCS wellbeing ‘lunch and learn’ events that created opportunities for employees to increase their knowledge of wellbeing and to form social connection across the SHCS portfolio.  

Jessica has made significant contributions to workplace wellbeing by enhancing the workplace experience through wellbeing initiatives, championing for healthy workplace funds, and making system changes to demystify and humanize the overall injury management experience. She is well deserving of the Workplace Wellbeing Award. 

The 2024 Vice-President, Students Award selection committee was comprised of the following staff from across the VPS portfolio:  

  • Samantha Reid, Associate Vice President Students, Committee Co-Chair 
  • Keith Kawa, Director of HR, VPSO, Committee Co-Chair 
  • Adrienne Vedan, Director, Indigenous Programs and Services (UBCO)  
  • Jose Jimenez, Operations Facilities Manager, Parking (Student Housing & Community Services)  
  • Cara Speakman, Coordinator, HR Administration and Projects (Athletics & Recreation)  
  • Negin Riazi, Health Promotion Specialist (Student Health & Wellbeing)  
  • Nick Thornton, Career Strategist (Career Center)  
  • Teneille Shea, Accessibility Advisor (Student Affairs)  
  • Jen Dowdeswell, Associate Director, Organizational Learning & Development (VPSO) 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate their colleagues in recognition of the amazing work they do. Thank you to the 2024 Vice-President, Students Award selection committee for your efforts in considering submissions and selecting recipients and thank you and congratulations to all the recipients for all that you do, and for your dedication to UBC. 

Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Teneille Shea’s role as ‘Indigenous Education Academic Project Manager.’ Teneille’s correct title is ‘Accessibility Advisor.’