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Leader-in-Residence Program

The Leader-in-Residence program is designed to bring outstanding and accomplished leaders to share their experience, insights, wisdom and advice to the students of Pickering College.

Drawing from the world of business, the arts, politics, athletics, sciences, not-for-profits, philanthropy, education and the social sector, Leaders in Residence (LIR) are people of outstanding character and accomplishment who can be a model for the students of Pickering College and recognize this as an exceptional opportunity to positively influence young people.

2017-2018 Leaders in Residence

ISAIAS MEDINA '85: Former senior Venezuelan diplomat to the United Nations

Isaias Medina '85 is the former senior Venezuelan diplomat to the United Nations who made international headlines in the summer of 2017 when he broke ranks with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and his ruling Socialist Party, and publicly criticized its handling of months of anti-government protests.

In a video message released in July from the United Nations' New York headquarters, Mr. Medina said:

"I would like to call on this government to stop the killings, to stop the violation of human rights, to reconsider and reflect on their position and think about the importance of the country as a whole," he said. "They (the government) can do whatever they want, but know this: What I am doing is the correct thing to do, and I assume full responsibility for it."

In protest, he then resigned from his post as a member of the Venezuelan Mission to the UN. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in late July, he stated that he will do anything "to free his country and to get back into a democratic state." He has since been invited to participate in the Organization of American States' hearings to declare as a witness of the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Nicolas Maduro's regime, particularly regarding to other inhumane acts during the profound humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Mr. Medina is a lawyer by training and an expert in public and private international law, including space law, oceans and the law of the sea, International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and Counter Terrorism. He graduated from Pickering College in 1985 and was twice elected as the school's Student Committee Chair.

"At Pickering College we work to inspire our students to engage with the world, address complex problems and stand up for what they believe in. Isaias Medina is the personification of the type of citizen we hope our students will become and a role model for our entire community," says Peter Sturrup, Headmaster at Pickering College. "We are proud to have him as an alum and honoured that he will be a Leader in Residence."

DR. ALEXANDER ZETZL '05: Director of Operations for MMIS Inc.

After graduating from Pickering College in 2005, Dr. Alexander Zetzl went on to Guelph University to pursue a BSc. in Food Science and later a PhD in Food Chemistry.

His PhD work on developing a healthier hot dog using canola oil and modified fibre received global attention, resulting in articles in both Maclean's magazine and Scientific American. His published work includes six peer-reviewed journal articles on the applications of structured vegetable oils and their benefits and three published book chapters on the applications of structured vegetable oils, reduction of trans fatty acids, and health. He has also published a book on the microstructure and mechanical properties of ethylcellulose oleogels and their fat substitution potential in the meat industry.

Dr. Zetzl is now the Director of Operations for MMIS Inc., a company based in Aurora, that serves the needs of the food industry by producing packaging materials, equipment, accessories and ingredients. Dr. Zetzl is responsible for all of the company's internal operations including shipping and warehousing, customer service, food safety, and production (spice and ingredient blends).

In addition, he volunteers as the current president of the Food Science Program Advisory Committee at Centennial College and is a guest lecturer for the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph.

DR. IAN VANDERBURGH: Director of CEMC at the University of Waterloo

Dr. Ian VanderBurgh is the director of the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) at the University of Waterloo.

The CEMC is the largest and most prominent outreach organization for math and computing in Canada. In addition to nurturing young math enthusiasts to benefit society at large, it does wonders for the university itself. “The CEMC is the first way that a huge fraction of our undergraduate students hear about the University of Waterloo. They know about us through writing math contests, like the Gauss contest in Grade 7, or working on mathFROG when they were in Grade 5,” Ian says.

Ian is an outstanding educator in his own right, and has been honoured with the 2003 Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student Award during his graduate studies at UWaterloo and the university-wide Distinguished Teacher Award in 2008. According to one of Ian’s former "Algebra for Honours Mathematics" (Mathematics (MATH) 135) students posting on the popular website Rate My Professors, the VanderBurgh effect is “students wanting to wake up and get to class early for an 8:30 am section.”

Ian usually presents his lectures using nothing more than chalk and the blackboard. However, it would be a mistake to think that this traditional approach takes away from his flair. He is a highly animated lecturer, moving around the classroom from time to time. He constantly refers to real-life examples of where the material may be relevant and makes enough hilarious wisecracks to earn him celebrity status in the student-run publication, MathNews.

PETER DOBBS '87: CEO of Enginess - Simplify Wireless

Peter Dobbs is an alumnus of Pickering College and is the CEO of Enginess - Simplify Wireless and President of Moveable Online. He is an accomplished technology innovator and entrepreneur. A deeply knowledgeable e-commerce/e-procurement business builder, Peter designed the e-procurement technology that is the backbone for multiple wireless carrier business-direct ordering systems and the wireless operations management system that operates many large enterprise and government wireless and IoT fleets.

Peter was instrumental in the creation of multibillion-dollar Fanatics.com where he architected the business model and technology for the start-up that led to the rapid growth of the largest online retailer of licensed sports merchandise on the planet.

Through class visits, seminars, public presentations, group conversations, and online discussions, they provide insights into the nature of leadership and the implications of serving as leaders in their chosen field. Their work will have the potential to inspire students to follow in their footsteps.

Addressing vital issues of the day, this unique program provides an opportunity for students, staff, alumni, parents and the community to meet with and work with leaders in an intimate setting. The LIR shares their personal and professional thoughts and feedback in a highly interactive way about how they would address key issues that face the school, the students, the community and the world.

The responsibilities of each Leader In Residence vary according to individual circumstances, but may include:

  • Working in the leadership class
  • Working with classes in the LIR’s area of expertise
  • Delivering an address in Morning Meeting
  • Conducting a seminar with a group of day/boarding students and/or members of the Student Committee
  • Hosting/facilitating an open forum (drop-in coffee or tea) with all students, staff and parents
  • Making an evening presentation to the broader PC and local community
  • Conducting a radio program or interview
  • Being interviewed as a foundation for a reflective summary of their work and their overview of the program
  • Potential mentoring program with selected students

Thank you to our past Leaders in Residence:

Dr. Jason Wilson: Juno Award-winning musician

Dr. Jason Wilson is a Juno Award-winning jazz musician, author and historian from Downsview, Ontario.

During his visit he spoke about his experiences as a musician and shared some music from his new album, which features our very own Mr. Barbachon on trumpet.

Learn more:


Dr. Walid Hejazi: Associate Professor of Economic Analysis & Policy

Dr. Walid Hejazi is an Associate Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy, and Academic Director, at the Rotman School of Management.

He has researched, advised, and testified extensively on global competitiveness, and is currently working on a series of studies which shed light on the competitiveness and productivity of Canadian firms.

He teaches Macro and Global Economics in Rotman’s MBA and EMBA programs, and has also delivered lectures in over 30 countries. Walid has also developed and teaches a successful MBA course in Islamic Finance, the first such course in Canada.

He is extensively involved in enhancing the prevalence of Islamic Finance in Canada and is currently writing a book on Islamic project finance, and has several ongoing research projects in the area.



Dr. Louis Charland: Professor, Department of Philosophy

Dr. Louis Charland is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. He has a joint appointment with the Faculty of Health Sciences and a cross appointment in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. He is a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, based in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.


https://www.uwo.ca/philosophy/people/charland .h...

Alex Mazelow '02: Entrepreneur & Business Owner

Alex Mazelow graduated from Pickering College in 2002. He attended McGill University and is a graduate of the MBA program at Ryerson University. He has worked as Vice President of Retail for Winston Collective & Associates and prior to that, the Director of Customer Experience for the Hudson's Bay Department Store Group in both Canada and the U.S.

Alex started a designer mens' and ladies' clothing store, Carbon, which has since grown to three locations across Toronto. He is currently opening a new store for 'tweens' called Carbon Copy.

He continues to work as a consultant for retail and fashion businesses. Alex and his wife have three children, live in Toronto and work together managing the retail locations.

Antonia Edwards: Marketing Director, Clean River

Antonia Edwards, the Marketing Director at CleanRiver Recycling Solutions, was interviewed by the Junior School students about the advancements in recycling. She also participated in an interview on CHOP FM.

Since 1990, CleanRiver (based in nearby Aurora, ON) has been leading the way in innovative recycling products and programs. They help companies to create and implement a successful recycling program that works for their needs, diverting waste from landfill, today and into the future.

More: https://cleanriver.com/

Radha Bhardwaj and Stephanie Lau: Blue Door Shelters

Radha Bhardwaj and Stephanie Lau from Blue Door Shelters spoke about some of the innovative practices it uses to target the root causes of homelessness.

Blue Door, located in York Region, provides safe and supportive emergency housing, and housing services and supports for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Learn more: http://bluedoorshelters.ca/

Rebecca Shields: CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association

Rebecca Shields began her tenure as the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association for York Region and South Simcoe in May 2012. Her model of transformational impact leadership has focused on responsive and innovative solutions to individual and community needs. She has over 18 years’ experience in senior leadership in a variety of social profit organizations, including the Executive Director of CMHA Vancouver Burnaby Branch and Deafblind Services Society of BC, and Director of Development for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society. The recipient of numerous accolades for her innovative leadership, Rebecca is a mental health advocate, philanthropist, and committed community builder who, after many years, has figured out that great planning inspires hopes and dreams and not the other way around.

Martin Vroegh: Senior Director, Greenhouse Gas Reduction Technologies

Martin Vroegh has over 22 years experience in heavy manufacturing in the cement industry spanning more than a dozen countries on four continents. At the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), Martin is responsible for implementing OCE's Greenhouse Gas Reduction projects for large scale provincial emitters and the TargetGHG program, including identifying opportunities and developing a pipeline of projects. Martin Vroegh is also a past president of the Clarington Board of Trade and Chair of the Canadian Industry Partnership for Energy Conservation Task Force, a partnership between private industry and the federal Government which aims to promote and improve Canada's industrial energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in the industrial sector.

Angela Tessier: Educator in Northern Iraq

Angela Tessier gave a stirring presentation to the Senior School detailing her positive experiences teaching English in Northern Iraq. Ms. Tessier was working with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Iraq, helping the Mar Qardakh teachers to improve their English and build confidence in using it in their classrooms.

Angela described her experience as “the most amazing teaching experience of my entire life” owing to the students’ spirit, motivation, effort and productivity that remained strong throughout the program. Skillfully applying best teaching practices, the MCC teachers worked hard to provide creative, practical and fun English lessons, modeling methods their students could carry back to their own classrooms.

They also worked with their teacher/students to improve their ability to read, interpret, and use the academic materials required in International Baccalaureate schools.

Rex Taylor: Founder of The Small Project

In 2007, Rex Taylor started The Small Project, a registered Canadian charity. Its goal is to improve education and health care, especially for women, in Kenya.

The Small Project enrolls a number of carefully selected children in better equipped primary schools. These are almost always boarding schools. The immediate goal is for these students to do well on the country-wide final exams at the end of Standard (grade) 8 and thus earn a place in a good secondary school. The Small Project continues to support the student through secondary school and into appropriate post-secondary education or training. The ultimate objective is to afford the student, and thus his or her family, the opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty into which he or she was born.

Pickering College's students raise funds each year to financially support the continuing education of two students in Kenya.

Learn more: www.thesmallproject.ca

Daniele Zanotti: CEO of United Way

With more than 20 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, Daniele Zanotti has earned a reputation as an accomplished, strategic, and energetic leader.

He served as CEO of United Way York Region from 2007 to 2015. During that time, he led an evolution that transformed the charity from federated fundraiser into a convener, mobilizer, and agent of community change. Under his guidance, the charity launched new initiatives to foster community dialogue; invested in more targeted and effective ways; and brought new social services to the communities most in need.

In 2015, Daniele was the catalyst of an historic merger between United Ways in York Region and Toronto. He committed himself and his organization to a broader alliance for community change — and established a new regional organization that is now better positioned than ever before to tackle issues on both sides of Steeles Avenue.

Following the merger — as the new head of resource development and captain of the first-ever United Way Toronto & York Region fundraising effort — Daniele led the 2015 campaign to a record-breaking achievement: $100 million for United Way’s agencies, programs, and initiatives. In this capacity he also played a fundamental role in driving greater alignment between strategies for youth, poverty reduction, and community investment across Toronto and York Region.

Before joining United Way Daniele served organizations like the Rexdale Community Health Centre; the Regional Municipality of York; Family Day Care Services; and Villa Charities Foundation. He is deeply involved in the community outside of his professional career. Daniele has been a member of the steering committee for CivicAction, and has volunteered on the boards of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC); the Human Services Planning Board of York Region; and the Vaughan Community Health Centre.

Dr. Samir Sinha: Director of Geriatrics, Sinai Health System

Dr. Sinha is a passionate and respected advocate for the needs of older adults. Dr. Sinha currently serves as the Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto and was recently appointed the Peter and Shelagh Godsoe Chair in Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital. In 2012 he was appointed by the Government of Ontario to serve as the expert lead of Ontario’s Seniors Strategy.

He is also an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Family and Community Medicine, and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

A Rhodes Scholar, after completing his undergraduate medical studies at the University of Western Ontario, he obtained a Masters in Medical History and a Doctorate in Sociology at the University of Oxford’s Institute of Ageing. After returning to pursue postgraduate training in Internal Medicine at the University of Toronto, Dr. Sinha went to the United States where he served as the inaugural Erickson/Reynolds Fellow in Clinical Geriatrics, Education and Leadership at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. Sinha’s breadth of international training and expertise in health policy and the delivery of services related to the care of the elderly have made him a highly regarded expert in the care of older adults. He has consulted and advised hospitals and health authorities in Britain, Canada, the United States and China on the implementation and administration of unique, integrated and innovative models of geriatric care that reduce disease burden, improve access and capacity and ultimately promote health.

(Taken from http://www.interrai.org/samir-sinha.html)