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Access Connections Day – Biographies


Photo of Apefa Adijvon

Apefa Adjivon (Breakout Co-facilitator) 

Apefa Adjivon is a University of Toronto student and advocate. Drawing from her experiences as a young black woman and her passion for youth advocacy, she has created two mentorship programs in the City of Toronto, supporting over 100 black youth. In addition, she had brought her insight to numerous organizations, serving as an advisor to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the United Nations as a youth delegate. For her leadership and advocacy, she has been named one of Canada’s top 30 under 30 in Sustainability, A Youth of UNESCO, and one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women. The primary focus of her work is to support youth and women of color, and her aim is to bring an equitable, intersectional approach to every initiative she contributes to.

Photo of Nancy Baker

Nancy Bakker (Access Connections Day committee member) 

Nancy Bakker provides project management, research and administrative support as the Project Assistant to the Provostial Advisor, Access Programs. Her work has helped to actualize a number of Access initiatives over the past year, such as the Support, Engage, Experience (SEE) U of T program, Access Connections Day event, and Access Programs websiteNancy brings many years of experience in event planning, program administration, and communications. She previously worked as the Coordinator, Programs and Strategic Initiatives, at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI), and at the Rotman School of Management, where she was the Program Events and Project Teams Coordinator for the full-time MBA Program.  

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Melanie Blackman (Breakout co-facilitator)

Working in the Department of Community Development & Engagement, Melanie serves a significant role in the field of education. With her expertise in building relationships, her career entails connecting UTSC internal and external community stakeholders in order to foster mutually beneficial partnerships between the community and the university. As a Community Development Coordinator, Melanie is responsible for assisting partners to navigate institutional processes while also facilitating discussions around partnership opportunities to ensure the equitable exchange of knowledge.  The work in the Community Development & Engagement portfolio attempts to humanize the institution through an intentional and ethically responsive approach to supporting UTSC’s strategic mandate of Inclusive Excellence.

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Eleonora Dimitrova (Access Connections Day committee member; Panelist: Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective; Breakout co- facilitator) 

Eleonora Dimitrova graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law with a combined J.D./M.A. in International Relations.  

After her admission to the Ontario Bar, Eleonora worked for Lawyers for Human Rights, an independent human rights organisation with a 40-year track record of human rights activism and public interest litigation in South Africa.   She practiced in the areas of human rights, refugee protection and access to justice in their Durban office. Following her return to Canada, Eleonora joined Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS), Canada’s leading law school youth outreach/diversity pipeline program recognized as a leader in its field across North America.  She spearheaded the program’s expansion in the Jane and Finch and York University Heights communities.  

Eleonora is presently the Executive Director of Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS) and oversees the University of Toronto Faculty of Law Youth Summer Program.  Eleonora is passionate about youth outreach, legal education and civic engagement and has been extensively involved with LAWS in various capacities for over 10 years.

Photo of Cheryl Gibbs

Cheryl A. Gibbs (Access Connections Day committee member) 

Cheryl Gibbs is the Manager, Student Policy Initiatives in the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students (OVPS) at the University of Toronto (newly – as of January 2020). She has fourteen years of experience in university administration and student services. Before joining the Provost’s Division in 2014, Cheryl was the Associate Director, Student Services in the MBA Program at Rotman. In her recent role as Assistant Director in the OVPS, Cheryl was responsible for implementing various projects and coordinating administration of the Access Programs University Fund (APUF). Cheryl holds a B.A. in Art History from Queen’s University and M.Ed. in higher education and leadership from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. 

Photo of Lydia Gill

Lydia Gill (Access Connections Day committee member; Breakout co-facilitator) 

Lydia Gill is a University of Toronto alumna who brings community development experience to her role as the Recruitment Officer, Equity Outreach and Support. During her years working at a nationwide non-profit, Lydia mentored hundreds of students to university and beyond. Since joining the University of Toronto, Lydia has collaborated across campuses and institutions on a variety of equity and outreach initiatives, access programming, and community engagement events. She is actively engaged in recruiting students from historically underrepresented communities, including but not limited to Black students and supporting initiatives for Indigenous students in the GTA, connecting them with resources, services, and mentorship opportunities. Lydia is the Chair, Provincial Equity and Outreach Recruitment Committee and is currently pursuing a Masters of Education at the University of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 

Photo of Martin Kengo

Martin Kengo (Panelist – Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Martin is a forward-thinking professional with over ten years of experience in the creation of policy and program solutions that address race equity, settlement and social development. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from Queen’s University and a Bachelor of Art in International Development and Political Science. Before working at UTM, Martin led the development and implementation of settlement strategies for newcomers across Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods with the Toronto East Local Immigration Partnership. He has also helped foster collaborative relationships with municipalities across York Region in the adoption of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, helping to bring together stakeholders in addressing topics of inclusion and representation.  

At UTM, Martin oversees Access and Outreach initiatives within the community of Peel Region. He is tasked with co-creating entry points for youth to see post-secondary as an attainable goal through his Black and Indigenous mentoring programs, Parent and Youth Access Days and Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) initiative. He enjoys developing innovative approaches for meaningful change at the individual, community and systemic levels. 

Professor Ann E. Lopez (Access Connections Day committee member) 

Professor Ann E. Lopez is a faculty member in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is also the Director of the Center for Leadership and Diversity and Provostial Advisor on Access Programs. She has wide experience in public education in Canada as a former secondary school teacher and administrator in the Peel District School Board. Dr. Lopez’s teaching and research focuses on issues of equity and diversity, student engagement, school leadership across contexts, decolonizing educational leadership and education. She has written and co-edited 3 books and published widely in leading journals such as the Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy and the Journal of Cases in Educational Administration. Dr. Lopez is the current President of the National Association for Multicultural Education. She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership and the International Journal of Educational Policy & Leadership and co-Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of School Leadership. She is the 2020 OISE recipient of the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Teaching. Born and raised in Jamaica, Dr. Lopez says her inspiration comes from her grandmother, who instilled in her a passion for education and justice; and dedicates her teaching and scholarship to creating more just and equitable schools, particularly for those who are underserved. 

Photo of Lance McCready

Lance McCready (Panelist – Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Dr. Lance T. McCready is an Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and Director of the Transitional Year Program at University of Toronto. His research explores education, health and the well-being of Black men, boys and queer youth in urban communities and schools. He is the author of Making Space for Diverse Masculinities published by Peter Lang and is Principal Investigator of the Black Student University Access Network and Restorative Justice African, Caribbean, Black Family Group Conferencing Project. He is the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Research Scholar Award from the Ontario Education Research Symposium. 

Photo of Marilyn Mills

Marilyn Mills (Panelist – Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Marilyn Mills is a Ghanaian Canadian committed to equity and anti-racism work. Through her lived experience as a 1.5 generation immigrant, Marilyn developed a passion to empower racialized communities in navigating systemic discrimination. She is an advocate for initiatives that challenge oppressive practices and promote inclusive environments, specifically in employment and education. Since 2016, she has supported Black Youth in accessing post secondary education through the Imani Program. She graduated from UofT with a Psychology degree and was awarded the UofT Scarborough ‘Letter Award’ for her leadership on campus and in the local community. 

Photo of Dale Mullings

Dale Mullings (Access Connections Day committee member; Breakout facilitator) 

Dale Mullings is the Assistant Dean, Students & International Initiatives at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). His portfolio includes supporting the International Education Centre, Centre for Student Engagement and Department of Student Housing & Residence Life. A lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Toronto, Dale is a Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, his research interests include post-secondary access & retention, student development and student success, and the student experience in Canadian post-secondary education.  











Michael Nicholson (Panelist – Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Michael Nicholson is the Director of Accessibility Services (AS), St. George Campus. He oversees a team over 30 full-time staff and over 2000 student volunteers who provide support to 4500 students registered with the office. Mike has been working in various student service roles at the University for most of his professional career at the College, Faculty and Central University level as well as work at CAMH and with the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities.   

Mike is currently leading Accessibility Services through its 5 year strategic plan to improve and expand services, reimagine the service and programming model and fully engage the entire campus community in renewing its commitment to students with accessibility related needs.    This has led to a new on location’ model, a significant expansion in outreach and support programming, several new online initiatives and a greater engagement of students in the work of the office.   

Curtis Norman (Breakout Co-facilitator) 

Curtis Norman developed a passion for access and education during his undergraduate career while working in various community organizations to support young people and adults with disabilities pursue educational, personal and career goals. He began a career in access at Pathways to Education as it launched its Rexdale program in 2007, eventually coordinating mentorship programs for the organization for students in grades 9-12. Curtis joined the University of Toronto Mississauga in 2010, launching the first-generation mentorship program genONE. Curtis’ Master of Education research project, entitled “The First Generation Student Experience in University: Perspectives within a Streamed Curriculum”, completed in 2012, focused on the experiences of success for first-generation university students. In 2015, Curtis joined Woodsworth College – the home of several access programs including the Diploma to Degree Program – a transfer pathway from college to university, and the Academic Bridging Program, which provides an entry pathway to degree studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science.  

Photo of Ike Okorafor










Ike Okafor (Panelist – Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Ike Okafor, a senior officer in Service Learning and Diversity Outreach at the Faculty of Medicine, has been a champion for diversity in medicine. The groundbreaking initiatives he has founded have helped hundreds of students facing systemic barriers get into top-ranked medical schools and graduate programs across the world. Ike also consults with communities and University programs across Canada on enhancing access and sits on the boards of the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and the Dream Legacy Foundation. 

 Photo of Cheryl Shook










Cheryl Shook (Access Connections Day committee member; Moderator: Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective; Breakout facilitator)

As the Assistant Principal & Registrar at Woodsworth College, Cheryl oversees the academic and financial advising for a community of more than 5000 students. In her portfolio are a number of access programs providing alternative pathways to post-secondary education.  Cheryl took the lead for the University in developing articulated agreements with Seneca, George Brown and Humber College to create pathways that transition students from college diplomas to degree studies with significant transfer credit and supports.  One of the most established access programs is Academic Bridging (AB), providing individuals who do not meet the academic requirements an opportunity to qualify for admission to the Faculty of Arts and Science.  Cheryl is also an instructor in AB and has taught various courses for more than 20 years. She is currently on the team developing a full-time AB option to prepare students for admission to programs in the math and sciences.  Most recently, Woodsworth College is piloting the SEE U of T Program, a new partnership with the TDSB that aims to encourage students from communities historically underrepresented at U of T to view post-secondary as a viable destination. 

Photo of Kimberley Tull









Kimberley Tull (Access Connections Day committee member; Breakout facilitator) 

Kimberley Tull, Director, Community Development & Engagement, University of Toronto Scarborough, and Project Manager – Access Programs, Office of the Vice-President and Provost, has over 20 years’ experience in anti-racism, anti-oppression, community development and relationship building work. Her roles involve rethinking traditional, institutional systems of power and privilege, and raising awareness and understanding of the barriers to access to post-secondary institutions by re-imagining and establishing systemic and structural changes to address and remove those barriers. She is a passionate advocate and champion for change, challenging traditional ways of thinking and being through the facilitation of discussions and implementation of practices on inclusive pedagogies; community building; and critical reflection on how our positions in society – as they intersect with race, class, gender, and other identities – impact the ways in which we function.  

Kimberley has received recognition and several highly respected awards for her work in community development, relationship building, race relations and leadership. Kimberley is also the co-founder of The Miss Education Project, Black Pearls Community Services, Inc., Toronto AKA and the immediate past Vice-President of TAIBU Community Health Centre’s Board of Directors.  

Shane Wallace (Moderator: Panel – Those Who Matter: Student Voices on Access) 

Shane Wallace is the Registrarial Administrator – Recruitment and Admissions at the Transitional Year Programme, the University of Toronto’s oldest programme for mature students, which provides access to communities historically underserved by the University.  He holds an HBA from the University of Toronto in Equity studies and Sociology, and an M.Ed in Social Justice Education and Educational Policy from OISE. Shane’s portfolio at TYP includes working with communities and organizations external to the U of T community facilitate pathways for mature applicants enter post-secondary studies. In both his prior community work and current work within the University, Shane has been principally invested in facilitating post-secondary access initiatives for underserved and underrepresented groups, and seeking to better understand their experiences as marginalized persons in the post-secondary context. 

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Brenda Wastasecoot (Access Connections Day committee member; Panelist: Access from a Tri-Campus Perspective) 

Dr. Brenda Wastasecoot, Assistant Professor, Centre for Indigenous Studies, Indigenous Teaching & Learning in the Faculty of Arts & Science at University of Toronto. 

Brenda is Cree from Churchill, Manitoba and a registered Indian with York Factory Cree band. She is a mother and a grandmother. Ms. Wastasecoot holds a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education from Brandon University, where she taught in the First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling Degree program for nine years. She completed her PhD in OISE/UT’s Adult Education and Community Development, where she used arts based auto-ethnographic research methods. Her thesis, “Showing and Telling the Story of Nikis” speaks to the residential school policy of removal and separation of families, bringing light to contemporary challenges faced by Indigenous communities.    

Student Panelists


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Ruth Belay

Ruth Belay was the former Student-Lead for the Imani Academic Mentorship Program but continues to support the program as Co-Chair of the Imani Legacy Council. She is currently completing her MSc in Planning with a specialization in Community Development and Social Planning. Inspired by her experiences with the Imani Academic Mentorship Program, Ruth’s research focuses on community-university partnerships. Her research explores UTSC’s relationship with local communities and anchor strategies.

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Miguel DaSilva

Started out specializing in English but switched to a double Major in English and Professional Writing. I first encountered the Centre for Student Engagement at UTM in my third year by volunteering as mentor for a program called the Indigenous Spirit Journey. It led to an interview for one of the work-study assistant roles with the Access and Outreach team at the CSE and the focus of my position was the Indigenous Spirit Journey. After graduating high school, it took me two years to actually enroll in University but that time spent between secondary and post-secondary actually made my transition into University much easier to handle. My experience with Access opportunities at UTM reshaped how I understood my University education. Moving from a strictly theoretical and in-class experience to seeing my ideas and work make a direct and immediate impact on the community was when I realized the invaluable resources the University works to give students access to. I also love Formula One Racing and published a poem cycle about racing in one of UTM’s creative writing journals. 

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Farjad Elahi

Farjad Elahi is a third-year student from UTM who is currently specializing in Finance and majoring in Economics. He is an Access and Outreach Assistant at the Centre for Student Engagement, promoting post-secondary education and making it more accessible to youth through access days. He has vast experience interacting with youth through his Teaching Assistant position and his mentorship position at the IMI Business Association. Farjad has been involved in many Access days and has performed a variety of roles such as facilitating STEAM workshops, MCing, and coordinating volunteers to make Access days as engaging and impactful as possible. His passion for mentoring, teaching, and inspiring others has been a driving factor in the positions he holds as a student leader.










Dorian Grey

Dorian Grey is a University of Toronto Alumni who holds a Bachelor of science degree. Dorian was the first in his family to attend post secondary education. Dorian studies both Human Biology and Theatre at the University of Scarborough campus.  While a student, Dorian was part of and led many programs designed to encourage and aid students to get into University. He was also part of numerous theatrical and film productions.  Currently, Dorian is pursuing a career in theatre and performance.   He hopes to use his talents as a performer to encourage and spread messages of positivity and hope to the youths of tomorrow.

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Andrea Johns

Andrea is an Indigenous (Mohawk/Turtle Clan) fourth-year undergraduate student specializing in Indigenous Studies and double minoring in Book and Media Studies and Creative Expression & Society. 

Andrea entered through the Millie Rotman Shime Academic Bridging Program in 2016 as a mature student who had been away from academia for over 10 years. Andrea has thrived during her time at U of T, most recently winning the Peter Bronfman Leadership Award 2019/2020, the President’s Award for Outstanding Indigenous Student of the Year 2019, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship for completing research abroad in New Zealand in 2018. She is the founder of Indigenous Languages Club on-campus and active in Indigenous initiatives and the urban Indigenous community. Andrea hopes to support other students who are on their respective academic paths and roads to success. 

Photo of Tushar Sharma

Tushar Sharma

My name is Tushar Sharma. I am a first-generation Canadian of Indian descent, and the first male in my family to graduate from a post-secondary institution. I graduated from the University of Toronto – St. George Campus in 2015 with a double-major in Criminology, and Ethics, Society, & Law. Practicing law has always been at the forefront of my mind from a young age, but this profession did not seem attainable as a youth due to the seemingly complex process and high associated costs, so I focused my efforts into maths and sciences. It was not until I received entrance into the LAWS Program in Grade 10 that I began taking a legal career seriously, because this program made legal institutions more accessible for low-income minority youths. Through the experiences of this program, coupled with various other associated access programs, I was able to focus my efforts into pursuing a legal education and will be attending law school this September! 

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