Ronda Frueauff

Dr. Ronda Frueauff

Dr. Ronda Frueauff’s outstanding career in education at all teaching and administration levels, elementary through college, would not have happened if she had pursued her original dream of studying journalism at Eastern Kentucky University. But after completing high school, she lacked the financial resources to attend university and instead studied to be a cosmetologist.

“I worked in a salon for 6 years and loved that job,” says Ronda. The owner of the salon and a fellow cosmetologist, both of whom had earned university degrees, encouraged her to start taking university classes. Ronda enrolled as a part-time student at Miami University in Ohio, focusing on courses in education, business, law and art while working full-time. “I declared my major in Elementary Education and Special Education,” says Ronda. “The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed into law in 1975 and I knew that teachers with expertise in special education would be in demand.”

Ronda’s first job in education was in Cincinnati, where she worked as a teacher for 6 years before shifting to Director of Curriculum. She earned her Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1983 and a second Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Akron in 1988.

Armed with impressive qualifications to work in designing and administering optimal learning environments for all students and a desire to live in a warm climate, Ronda moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she accepted a position as an Assistant Superintendent and Director for Curriculum and Instruction, beginning her 30-year career in education in Arizona.

Ronda received her Doctorate of Education in 1998 from Arizona State University with her dissertation on Organizational Health and the Influences that Enable and Constrain the Development of Healthy Schools. Much of her 40-year career in Ohio and Arizona focused on her thesis work, her personal research and her experience, both in the classroom and as a superintendent. “In 2010, I produced a concept paper on a model for experiential learning based on my years of experience in many school systems,” notes Ronda. “In order to engage students, you have to have an environment that is inviting and engaging. In order for students to learn, each must be the author of their own learning. Everything is part of learning – from the time a child gets off the school bus to the time they leave the school building.”

The concept of a student-centered, project-based STEM middle school outlined in her paper was brought to life in August 2012 when Colonel Smith Middle School (CSMS) opened for students on the Fort Huachuca (FH) Army Base in southern Arizona. Ronda pulled together a non-traditional architectural firm, a creative and talented construction manager and an extremely diverse design team to build this pioneering school. CSMS was the first net-zero school in Arizona, using an electronic dashboard and iPad to monitor all energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines and natural gas) and the water harvesting tanks.

Ronda has led the construction of several schools in addition to CSMS, including a dual language, multi-age primary school with two special centres for creative projects in science and technology; two project-based elementary schools; and six Kindergarten to 12 grade centralized campus schools. And her use of design techniques to engage and enrich educational environments has been implemented in military-impacted schools across the U.S. and around the world through her partnership with the U. S. Department of Defense and the Military Impacted Schools Association.

Ronda’s passion for her work and her academic and career success are a natural result of her love of learning. “I always loved school and spent a lot of time in the library, reading biographies to learn about how successful people had made use of the options available to them. My parents were very focused on education and my mother, in particular, wanted her daughters to have options open to them and not be dependent on a husband for a good life.”

Ronda has continued to serve the education community since her retirement as Superintendent for the Ft. Huachuca Accommodation School District in Arizona in 2013. She served as Executive Director of Arizona ACSD, the premier professional focused on mentoring and coaching teachers and school administrators from 2018 – 2020.
From 2015 to 2018, Ronda worked with the Arizona Science Center as the project manager for the Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN), which connected STEM Resources in rural Arizona by establishing local projects and experiences, and STEM professional development for community leaders to stimulate dialogue, interest, and engagement of children, families, and organizations in the STEM disciplines, their real-world applications, associated career opportunities, and impact on the local economies.

From 2012 – 2020, Ronda worked with the Center for School Reform, which collaborated with the Gates Foundation to assist schools in implementing school reform efforts such as creative scheduling for professional development time and high school reform. She also facilitated a 3-year Active Research Study of Instruction in Mathematics with Math Educators for all levels P-20 at Cochise Community College in Arizona.

Ronda’s current focus is on research on laughter, its impact on five different regions of the brain and how it causes dramatic brain cell growth. “I’ve always studied psychology as part of my undergraduate and graduate work and I’m especially interested in cognition, brain theory and brain development. My plan is to write a book on the subject, using everyday stories from my experience and those of my colleagues and mentees to illustrate the research,” she adds.

Ronda Frueauff has devoted decades to advancing the use of technology in schools, creative work in curricular areas, with a focus on STEM, designing creative learning environments, facilitating governance and operations efficiency, consulting, mentoring and coaching. And her long career in education hasn’t diminished her love of learning. “Always be a continuous learner,” she advises. “Take the risk of learning something you don’t know.”

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Jennifer T. Lee

Jennifer T. Lee
Vice-Chairwoman, Deloitte
Board Member, University Lecturer and Executive in Residence at Rotman School of Business

Jennifer Lee recently participated in an International Women’s Day panel at her alma mater, the University of Waterloo, where she spoke on Three Life Lessons on Inclusivity, which capture her perspective on work, community and life:

  • Accept your identity. Own your heritage.
  • Tell your story. People want to hear your journey.
  • Have a mindset of abundance. Pay it forward and shine a spotlight on others.

Jennifer’s world view is largely shaped by her heritage. Her father was born in China, and at age five was instructed by his parents to find a way to Hong Kong to earn money to feed the family. Like many others escaping poverty, he ended up swimming to Hong Kong on a tire despite the inherent dangers of crossing a vast body of water. “My father was the oldest child – he had no choice but to go,” says Jennifer. “He worked in a bakery from age 5 to age 10 before joining another family on a boat to Fiji, where he eventually met my mother, and they found their way to Canada.”

Jennifer’s parents emigrated to Canada and settled in Belleville, Ontario. “I was born in Canada, but am acutely aware that I come from an immigrant background. I have an allergic reaction to privilege and entitlement. When you come from humble immigrant beginnings, you don’t have the luxury of being entitled. All you are taught is resilience,” she says.

Jennifer grew up in Belleville, where she earned a bursary to study at an independent high school and became very involved in martial arts. “From age 14 to 18, I was the captain of the Canadian Martial Arts team and travelled around the world in that role. That experience taught me that I wanted a global life and career which involved solving big problems for the world or business.”

Queen’s University offered Jennifer a modest scholarship, but her final choice of university was determined thanks to information provided by her mother. “She knew nothing about Canadian universities, but opened a book one day, read about the University of Waterloo’s Applied Studies and International Trade specialization and pointed it out to me. I didn’t know about UW or its reputation – but decided that this was the right program for me because it had the world ‘International’ in it. I felt like I belonged there.”

The Bachelor of Arts with International Trade Specialization was a very competitive program where students were accepted in second year. “I worked really hard in my first year to get into the program. In a world where I was always achieving, going to Waterloo was eye-opening because of the calibre of students and competitive internship programs. And my Chinese parents made it clear that failure was not an option!”

Jennifer was successful and, as a second-year intern, was recruited by AT&T in Hong Kong where she worked for a year in Mergers and Acquisitions to build the telecom network in India. While in Hong Kong, she worked incredible hours, met her extended family in China for the first time, and celebrated her 19th birthday.

Her next internship took her to Stuttgart, Germany to work for Hewlett-Packard for a year. Germany became her home base for another two years while she finished her degree. She and her German boyfriend (now husband) met when she was 17 years old in an airport, and had started dating long distance. They lived in Germany together before she moved back to Canada, continuing their long-distance relationship. 

Jennifer’s career at Deloitte started with a position, based largely in New York, in corporate strategy. She left Deloitte after 4 years to move to Universal Studios for a short time before realizing that the position as a national marketing manager for blockbuster movie releases wasn’t right for her. She decided to apply to the Executive MBA program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, but was initially rejected as being deemed too young.  After challenging the decision, she was accepted as the youngest student to be admitted to the Executive MBA program.

While completing the Executive MBA, Jennifer joined Bell Canada in a number of management roles at the company. An opportunity to expand her international business experience to Asia presented itself when she was contacted by a former classmate who was serving as head of USAID in Central Asia. He invited her to apply for a position to restructure microfinance in Azerbaijan and, although she had no experience in the area and was certain that there was no possibility that she would be hired, she submitted a 10-page proposal on how to restructure the banks. She was offered the job, only to learn that it was a non-paid position. She accepted it for a four-month term, with Bell Canada giving her the opportunity to take a leave of absence. “I moved to Azerbaijan and worked on stabilizing 27 microfinance banks and their plan for non-restricted revenue generation. As a result, I became very interested in microfinance,” she adds.

“After Bell Canada, I returned to Deloitte and became a partner. Deloitte allowed me to take short breaks each year to return to work with the Azerbaijani microfinance banks,” she says. Jennifer’s deep interest in microfinance and the impact of empowering women expanded her work with the Asian Credit Fund in Kazakhstan. Her passion for elevating women out of poverty became a core tenant of her personal growth. Her focus on microfinance continues as Jennifer serves as a member of the board of directors of Windmill Microlending, the only national charity that provides affordable loans to skilled immigrants and refugees so that they are able to leverage their skills in order to work in Canada.

At Deloitte, Jennifer led the Global Financial Advisory clients and markets and orchestrated the company’s Global’s NextGen Program, establishing a global pipeline of successful female executives to take on global leadership roles in her business unit. She also led Deloitte Global’s pandemic response and has been recognized for her impact as one of the top Global Future Leaders in Consulting by Consulting Magazine and as the Manulife Mentor of the Year by Ascend Canada. 

Jennifer serves as Executive in Residence and on the faculty at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, where she works with the next generation of executives by teaching “Management Consulting in an Uncertain World” to second-year MBA students.

“There are real problems to be solved in the world,” says Jennifer. She has realized her capacity to work, and wants to balance that with making an impact in the community, both locally and internationally. In addition to her work in microfinance, in Canada through Windmill Microlending, and in Asia through her work in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Jennifer recently joined the board of directors of Trillium Health Partners. She co-leads the investment committee for the GROW Giving Ring of Women, a giving circle dedicated to Canadian charities focused on women, children and poverty reduction.

“Mentoring is huge for me,” says Jennifer. “I benefited from mentorship and sponsorship throughout my career, and I feel it is time to pay it forward by elevating women and minorities at Deloitte and in our communities.” She counts Margaret Finney, her high school English teacher, who taught her about literature, how to speak in public and introduced her to ways of thinking, as an important personal mentor. “I credit everything that I accomplished to my martial arts career and Miss Finney. My high school teacher really ‘saw’ me. Through her, I know what it feels like to be included, seen, heard and appreciated.”

Jennifer’s passion for working and contributing internationally is also reflected in her family’s priorities. “I care that my two sons are good people and that they make an impact in the world.” Her family is global and adventurous – she has traveled all over the world with her husband and sons. “I’ve lived in five countries and plan on living in five more!” she adds.

A bold, inspiring leader, Jennifer creates global transformation for her clients at Deloitte and brings her considerable expertise and passion for driving local and global impact through her volunteerism and board work. “There has been a big shift at this stage of my life,” she notes. “I am learning to be careful about how I spend my time so that what I do reflects my values and where I want to make an impact.”

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Zainab Azim

Zainab Azim
Founder, GIVE

Zainab Azim’s interest in and passion for space was sparked at the age of 12. “Some parents read bedtime stories to their children. My father showed us documentaries about space.” 

Currently in the final semester of her Bachelor of Science undergraduate program at the University of Toronto, Zainab designed her studies to focus on a mix of the interests she is passionate about, including neuroscience, astrophysics, public policy, education and society.

“When I was younger, space was everything to me. When I reflected on why I cared about space, it wasn’t just about discovery and exploration. It was about the connection between people, the community and how we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.”

Zainab has made it her goal to inspire girls to study STEM subjects. In 2023, she presented the research she had conducted during high school and in university at the World Space Forum 2023 in Vienna. “This was the first world space forum and not a lot of people were talking about the educational aspect of space. I didn’t meet all of the stated requirements for presenting my research, but decided to apply anyway. They thought my work was interesting and they took a chance on me.”

While in Vienna, Zainab met with representatives from UNOOSA, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, to talk about how to engage young people in space studies. As a result of those discussions, she now serves as a mentor in the UNOOSA Space4Women, a program dedicated to empowering young girls and women interested in pursuing space and STEM fields. The Space4Women program selected Zainab as the Youngest Role Model for Gender Equality and STEM.

“My dream is to help other people’s dreams come true and education is the way to do that,” says Zainab. Education has been a huge part of her life. She attended a Montessori school that was led by Pakistani-Canadian women – people who looked like her. “That experience was foundational in helping me explore my interests”, she says.

High school was a very different experience. Although she participated in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, much of her love for learning came from outside of the classroom. “In my later years of high school, I knew that education was something I wanted to focus on. I wanted to explore how to use neuroscience to develop better ways of delivering education and how to make those opportunities available to everyone.”

To help meet that goal, Zainab founded GIVE (Global Initiative and Vision for Education), an organization that works towards providing access to quality education. GIVE also aims to develop a holistic 21st-century educational model based on neuroscience and psychology research to foster the creativity, curiosity, character, and innovation needed for solving the issues facing our planet.

Zainab works to inspire and mobilize the global community as a speaker at international forums, including the inaugural Space Girls Space Women Exhibition in Paris, the 27th Workshop on Space Technology for Socio-Economic Benefits in Washington, DC and the Campionaria Generale Internazionale in Bari, Italy. In May 2023, she participated in the inaugural Emmy Noether National Virtual Forum as a panelist in Women in Conversation with The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario on The Power of WHY?  Zainab emphasized collaboration, urging Canadian educators and policy-makers to foster belonging, purpose, and excitement in students. “We need pedagogies that connect content to context. We need purpose-based, community-based, collaborative opportunities for learning. When students feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves…we see that that makes a big difference in their motivation, their sense of belonging, and their interest in pursuing STEM,” she says.

While completing her undergraduate degree, Zainab works at NEPC, the National Education Policy Centre, in the US. NEPC provides high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. Her work there contributes to learning how public education can be strengthened centrally in the US and to see if those learnings can be applied elsewhere.

Zainab is looking forward to pursuing her Master’s degree and has applied to graduate schools in the US, Canada and the UK with the goal of conducting research on education policy with a concentration on neuro-education, STEM and space studies.

“I’m most excited to find new ways to continue to expand the work I’ve been doing in mentoring and in the policy space. I have a lot to learn from grad school and the other work that I’m doing with NEPC and UNOOSA,” she says.

“I see myself as giving forward. My driving force in continuing to volunteer as a mentor with UNOOSA to advance the mission of creating greater accessibility to space and STEM for more people, while also working at GIVE to ensure that the systemic changes needed in our education system are developed and implemented allowing not only girls, but all children the opportunity to thrive and have access to their future.”

You can see more about Zainab’s education and impact in the visualization below.

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Lara Zink

Lara Zink
Co-Founder, Women Funding Women

It was serendipity that brought Lara Zink from Vancouver to the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) and the keen interest she developed in politics in grades 11 and 12 led her to study political science. “I visited a great aunt in London while in high school and thought the Western campus was amazing,” says Lara. 

Lara’s journey, from graduating with an Honours BA degree in political science to working as part of the federal government team that negotiated the NAFTA agreement to a long and successful career in finance, was a non-traditional one. Her experience makes her a role model dedicated to helping women overcome barriers to entry and to ensure that leadership, representation, and gender equity exist within the finance industry.  

Lara’s degree in political science and experience working with the Young Conservatives as a teenager led to a role as political assistant to federal Member of Parliament Michael Wilson, then Minister of International Trade and Industry Canada. “I loved my two years working in Ottawa,” says Lara. “I was able to speak with members of Parliament and their staff about the benefits of NAFTA to Canada and traveled to Washington for the final stages of negotiation of the agreement.”

After two years on Parliament Hill, Lara wrote the GMAT exam and applied to business schools, including the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto where she ultimately earned her MBA. Although she had hoped to return to Vancouver after graduation, job opportunities were more plentiful in Toronto. After considering options in marketing and private wealth, Lara chose to enter a corporate lending training program with RBC in Toronto. She started in business banking and moved to another lending group in RBC’s financial institutions group before embarking on a 20-year career in global equity sales and trading on the trading floor at RBC Capital Markets.

When she left RBC in 2019, Lara paused and considered her next career move. “While exploring job opportunities during the pandemic lockdown, I threw my name in the hat for the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Women in Capital Markets,” says Lara. She joined WCM, the largest network of women in finance whose mission is to accelerate equity, diversity and inclusion in finance, in 2021. Lara led WCM in developing programs to unite the finance industry in supporting EDI in capital markets and delivering research, programming and strategic value to the organization’s sponsors, members and stakeholders. 

Lara left WCM in September of 2023 to join a woman-led asset management company, Delaney Capital Management, where she currently serves as Vice President of Client Service and Development.

Lara’s commitment to embracing equity and helping women succeed, both in the finance sector and as company founders, is reflected in her role as a member of the board of Canadian Women’s Network, where she will work to help Canadian female founders grow and secure funding. She recently joined Sherry Shannon-Vanstone and Deborah Rosati to create Women Funding Women (WFW), a collective aimed at addressing the persistent funding gap faced by women founders in North America. 

WFW, which will launch on February 7 in Toronto, brings together organizations and resources committed to empowering women, offering gender equality, and catalyzing economic growth by increasing access to seed funding for women-led ventures. Lara’s vast experience in capital markets and her passion for driving change and ensuring women’s success is key to the work that WFW will do to increase access to funding for women founders. 

Lara’s professional success in the finance sector, her belief that strategy and culture differentiate organizations, and her work as a leader and mentor for women – as entrepreneurs, funders and investors – have made her an influential champion for equity, diversity and inclusion, and a powerful initiator of change for women’s access to venture funding.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Leigh Zachary Bursey

Leigh Zachary Bursey
Community Advocate
Young Leader Impactful Actions Award Finalist

International best-selling author, loss prevention officer, research consultant, supportive housing program coordinator, community organizer and journalist. Through these roles, Leigh Zachary Bursey has engaged with vulnerable people and worked to amplify their voices to produce social change.

Leigh has never shied away from tackling challenging social topics such as homelessness, mental health, harm reduction and allied support for the LGBTQIA – and for him, this work is personal. “My mother and I dealt with homelessness while I was in high school, giving me an early education in trauma and desperation,” notes Leigh. “As a result, I understood early on that I wanted to help people.”

It was while standing calf-deep in snow at a bus stop in Brockville, Ontario and realizing that this was a daily experience for many people that Leigh decided to run for city council. “I used my punk rock ethos, music background and big mouth to go out and make a difference,” says Leigh.

During his three terms as Brockville city councillor, Leigh participated in important discussions about social justice issues including gender equity, homelessness, mental health, harm reduction and affordable housing. “I was tagged as the punk rock councillor and was called by people in crisis to help. That experience provided powerful, hands-on experience in dealing with the circumstances and traumas of others,” he said.

Leigh’s passion for community development and helping those who are often marginalized and in need of support is reflected in his work. In addition to his role as a city councillor, Leigh has served as Vice-President of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, and as a Child Protection Support Worker for Family and Children Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, and for Cornerstone Landing Youth Services in Lanark County. He has worked in youth homeless shelters and adult warming centres, advocating for naloxone training and increased harm reduction supports, and has been a vocal supporter of increased public transit hours and of adding operating dollars to local library budgets.

A highlight of Leigh’s career was speaking at the International Journal on Homelessness Symposium in Chicago in 2023. “I presented case studies that told the stories of rough sleepers – putting a name and a face to homelessness.  Some of the rough sleepers I’ve worked with are the most incredible people I’ve known. I have come to understand that my lived experience is trivial in comparison,” says Leigh.

Leigh has shared his research findings as a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Canadian Rural and Remote Housing and Homelessness Symposium, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention National Conference and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association National Congress.

The focus of Leigh’s work has been to represent marginalized people in order to communicate their challenges and share their ideas for change to develop scalable solutions that can be replicated across borders. He has challenged stigmas and amplified the voices of the people he works with through outreach and engagement. “When asked what I do, I often say that I love people who are sometimes hard to love,” says Leigh. “I encourage people to make better decisions.”

Leigh’s dedication to advocating for the most vulnerable in the community is exemplified by his philosophy in life: “Kindness is free and a very underutilized form of currency that we should all exhaust.” Profound Impact is honoured to share the story of Leigh’s work and its impact and to recognize his accomplishments as an Impactful Action Awards finalist in the Young Leader Category.

You can see more about Leigh’s career and impact in the visualization below.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Lynn Smith

Lynn Smith
Regional Planning Coordinator
Lifetime Achievement Impactful Actions Award Finalist

Lynn Smith has fond memories of walking through the jack pine forest of the Peavine Métis Settlement in northern Alberta, of which she is a proud member, with her grandmother to pick blueberries and of camping with her family in those same forests. In her current role as Regional Planning Coordinator within the Consultation Department in the Settlement, developed in partnership with NAIT (the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology), she is leading her community through a significant change to take control of monitoring the impact of climate change on their land and waterways. 

“Indigenous people have been stewards of the forests and waterways for generations,” notes Lynn. “I am now in a position to make changes to bring things back, as closely as possible, to the way they were when I was a child, when my cousins and I could drink directly from the river and streams in our community.”

Lynn works with compassion and perseverance in collaboration with community members to build knowledge and achieve data sovereignty in order to better hold industry and all levels of government accountable for how their actions impact Indigenous lands. She has developed an environmental monitoring program managed by a team of community-based environmental monitors and data technicians that deliver real benefits to the Settlement. This mentoring model ensures that the skills of those monitors and technicians are retained within the community.

Lynn regularly initiates, enables and sustains collaborations with a broad range of stakeholders, including Elders, traditional hunters and fishers, NAIT staff and students, all levels of government, and companies from the energy, forestry, and environmental consulting sectors. She reaches out to people and organizations with different experiences and expertise and enables her team to weigh in on decisions to achieve her community’s goals – all while demonstrating her compassion and strong interpersonal connections.

Although Indigenous peoples own, occupy, or use about a quarter of the world’s surface, they safeguard 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Attempts in the past by those communities to set up environmental monitoring programs have suffered from a lack of knowledge, thereby hindering the development, sustainability, quality and viability of the programs. Lynn has developed innovative partnerships between the Indigenous community and Western scientists, to teach Indigenous ways of knowing and to share Western-based methods of doing science with professionals who create environmental monitoring programs in her community. Lynn is also breaking new ground by communicating her learnings in setting up environmental monitoring programs to the scientific community by participating in the upcoming Chemical Society of Canada conference – a first for a non-traditionally trained scientist.

The sharing of knowledge and learnings with other Indigenous communities suffering from similar environmental challenges is a vital element of Lynn’s work. She works with communities to build competencies in their consultation teams to autonomously monitor their land, generate and interpret data, and implement management programs. 

Lynn has been recognized for her achievements by being asked to represent her community on the Board of Directors of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council, which works to improve and maintain a healthy watershed through education, planning and implementation of shared initiatives supporting communities and ecosystems throughout the region.

Lynn is mother to three young adult children and, when not working for the Settlement, owns and operates, along with her husband, Jesse Smith, three businesses: P’J’s Eavestroughing, Lynn and Jesse Grain Farm and D’Vine Trap Range. The trap range evolved from her love of the sport of trap shooting, where she was named the 2019 Canadian Ladies Champion. She is currently and has been, for the last 5 years, the reigning Alberta Provincial Ladies Champion.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer,” says Lynn about her work. “This is the best job I’ve ever had!” 

Profound Impact is delighted to showcase Lynn’s important work and its incredible impact on the Peavine Métis Settlement and across Indigenous communities.

You can see more about Lynn’s career and impact in the visualization below.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Tabatha Laverty

Tabatha Laverty
Vice-President, Marketing and External Relations, Accelerator Centre
Young Leader Impactful Actions Award Finalist

It was during a Grade 8 field trip to a television station where a classmate’s father worked that Tabatha Laverty decided that she wanted to be a journalist. “I really didn’t consider another career until I graduated from Seneca College’s Television Broadcasting program, just as journalism as a business model was changing,” says Tabatha. “I realized that there wasn’t as broad of a variety of career options as I would have liked and ended up at a Big Four accounting firm, working in administration and marketing.” She was drawn to the storytelling aspect of journalism and discovered that marketing and communications would offer her the opportunities to tell those stories.

Tabatha’s career journey from project management, marketing, communications and community engagement to her current role as an acclaimed non-profit leader and award-winning marketer has seen her develop a passion for workplace equity and inclusion and an understanding of the vital importance of mentorship.

As VP of Marketing and External Relations at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario, Tabatha has spearheaded the organization’s EDI Action Plan, resulting in significant progress in creating a more inclusive and equitable innovation organization and tech community ecosystem. Most significantly, when women-led start-ups account for approximately 17.5% of all private-sector businesses in Canada, over 63% of the Accelerator Centre’s most recent program launch are women-led businesses, with 26% being led by newcomers to Canada, and 5% by indigenous entrepreneurs.

Tabatha was also instrumental in developing the Accelerator Centre’s cleantech incubation program, a first for Waterloo Region. In 2020, the programming was expanded to support all entrepreneurs working on solutions that support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adding resources for med-tech, ed-tech, smart city and social innovation-focused start-ups and supporting nearly 100 start-up companies.

Tabatha’s commitment to the advancement of women in the workplace includes her participation in the Waterloo Region Chapter of Women in Communications and Technology (WCT-WR) as a board director. “I love this community. The Kitchener Waterloo area has been such an incredible place for my family to live and work, and I’m passionate about giving back. Serving on the WCT-WR board is one way I can do that. I look forward to doing amazing things with this incredible organization and increasing access to networks, mentorship, and community for women across the region,” says Tabatha.

In addition to her role on WCT-WR’s board, Tabatha serves as a mentor in the organization’s Mentoring Circles program. She participates in monthly meetings with a fellow mentor and 5-6 mentees in similar career stages to share stories, provide guidance and help build mentees’ skill sets. “Mentoring is very important,” notes Tabatha. “It’s essential to reach out to people who have accomplished something you want to accomplish. And it’s important to get out of the echo chamber by including mentors from different backgrounds. For me, that was learning about finance, strategy, and EDI from people more accomplished in those areas than I am.”

In addition to the wisdom gleaned from her mentors and career champions, Tabatha has broadened her skill set through post-graduate certificates in social media management, fundraising, digital marketing, stakeholder management and non-profit and voluntary sector management. As a wife and mother of three, Tabatha prioritizes making time for herself and her family. “I wouldn’t say I am an expert in work-life balance, or that I have it figured out,” she says. “But I am lucky to work at a place that values flexibility, and I do my best to find a balance that works for me and my family.”

In 2021, Tabatha received the Global Women in Leadership Award issued by the Global Council for the Promotion of International Trade and, in 2022 was nominated for DMZ Women of the Year Award. Profound Impact is proud to have designated Tabatha as a finalist in the Young Leader category for this year’s Impactful Actions Awards in recognition of her work as an accomplished leader and active community champion.

You can see more of Tabatha’s career and impact in the visualization below.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie Thompson, P. Eng
General Motors
Lifetime Achievement Impactful Actions Award Finalist

“Be a ladder, be a lamp or be a lifeboat.” This is Stephanie Thompson’s motto in her work as a passionate engineer and community leader who increases awareness for engineering, manufacturing and skilled trades careers for young women.

Stephanie grew up as the oldest of four children in Ottawa. Her interest in a career in science was sparked by an invitation by Mrs. Williams, her Grade 11 physics and chemistry teacher, to an overnight trip to the Chalk River Laboratories in Deep River, Ontario, where she saw nuclear physicists at work. “My teacher had a profound effect on me by recognizing my potential in science,” says Stephanie.

Stephanie liked chemistry and chose to study chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo after doing her research and learning that engineers had the best capacity for earning. Although successful at the traditional model of learning in high school, she found university to be humbling. “I had to figure things out. How to be creative and inventive and how to learn. And this prepared me for work after graduation,” she notes.

During her 22-year career at General Motors in St. Catharines, Ontario, Stephanie has worked in a range of engineering roles, including Launch Process Engineer, Process Engineer and Production Group Leader, and was the first woman to serve as an Engineering Manager. “I have been most successful when surrounded by talented and smart people, allowing me to find my space in a way that nobody else was doing.”

Through her extensive community outreach, Stephanie promotes engineering and other STEM fields as a storyteller, problem solver and a breaker of barriers. It is through these skills that she allows others, especially women, to see what they do not see in themselves. 

In 2019, Stephanie launched the social enterprise STEM by Steph. STEMbySteph.com offers a range of activities, including a workshop series that brings women together to explore STEM careers. These workshops are led by women and focus on topics including Chemistry, Automotive, Environment, Space, Robotics, and Electrical. STEM by Steph also offers pro-bono career coaching for high school students.

Stephanie believes that a major barrier for girls pursuing trades and STEM fields is the lack of female STEM role models. In response to that need, STEM by Steph workshops offer a frequently sold-out social event where other female STEM professionals join Stephanie to teach young women and their mothers in a fun, camaraderie-filled atmosphere. “If you want more young women to be interested in non-traditional roles, involve their mothers,” notes Stephanie. “You cannot be what you do not see, and a major influence in every girl’s life is her mother.”

As a FIRST Robotics Mentor, Stephanie has run FIRST Robotics teams at local schools since 2005 including leading the Niagara FIRST Lego League as Tournament Director. She recently connected engineers and electricians from General Motors with over 200 students from across Ontario for a day-long workshop on Design Thinking about the future of automotive.

In addition to her mentoring and community outreach work, Stephanie is active in the Niagara Region as a member of the Brock University Board of Trustees, a member of the Niagara College Industrial Automation Program Advisory Committee, the inaugural Chair of the Brock University Engineering Industry Partners Committee and Director of Innovate Niagara. 

Stephanie’s professional and community work has been recognized by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce as the 2018 winner of the Women in Business Award for Science and Technology.  She was awarded the 2020 Alumni Achievement Medal for Community Service by the University of Waterloo and was included in the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame 

Stephanie’s impact on the community is perhaps best summarized by Nancy Watt, Advisory Board member for the internationally recognized magazine, Enterprising Women. “When I asked Stephanie to help build a STEM event on behalf of the Young Enterprising Women Foundation, I had no idea she was about to deliver a record-breaking, precedent-setting, multi-media-covered event that garnered an article in Enterprising Women. Stephanie is a connector. She sees potential and opportunities in others, puts them together and watches synergy take hold. She puts forward-thinking strategy to use, analyzing and achieving the best possible outcome for those who know her.”

You can see more of Stephanie’s career and impact in the visualization below.

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Harald Stöver

Dr. Harald Stöver
Founder and CEO, Allarta Life Science
Professor, McMaster University

It was the influence and encouragement of a high school science teacher and the chemistry set handed down by his older brother that first triggered Dr. Harald Stöver’s interest in science. “I had a tiny lab in our house where I carried out chemical reactions and experimented with fireworks – including an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a tree stump. My parents were very supportive of my hobby, except perhaps for that tree stump. My mother even helped me conduct science experiments in the family kitchen,” recalls Harald.

Harald Stöver had completed three years of undergraduate chemistry study at the Technische Universitat Darmstadt in his native Germany when he decided to move to Canada for a year. His plan was to complete his degree at the University of Ottawa and return to Germany. However, his academic advisors in Ottawa noted that Harald’s undergraduate work from Darmstadt qualified him to enter graduate school. He became the first graduate student of the late Christian Detellier and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. “Canada was now my home. They captured me!” says Harald.

During his time at the University of Ottawa, Harald established a connection with Professor Jean Fréchet, a professor in polymer chemistry. When Professor Fréchet moved to Cornell University as IBM Professor of Polymer Chemistry, he invited Harald to join him as a postdoctoral fellow to start research on a new technique. “We did great work together. I felt comfortable setting up new labs. After all, I had practiced in my mother’s kitchen,” says Harald.

Harald is currently a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the Faculty of Science at McMaster University. During his tenure of more than three decades at McMaster, he has established a reputation as a leading researcher in polymer hydrogels, bio-relevant macromolecules and the delivery of biologics. His research and work with industry has been recognized by being named an NSERC/3M Industrial Research Chair, receiving Canada’s National Macromolecular Science and Engineering Award, and his appointment as Director of the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program in Biomaterials.

When McMaster University decided to expand its focus on teaching and research to include entrepreneurship, Harald’s experience and affinity for working with industry made him a clear choice for the university to invest in transferring his research to market.  Allarta Life Science, a pre-clinical life science company that develops next-generation biomaterials for immune-privileged delivery of cells, stem cells and biologics, was launched in 2019 by Harald Stöver and Maria Antonakos, a senior executive with a broad range of experience managing innovation, and with an equity investment by McMaster.

Allarta Life Science’s work is poised to fundamentally change the way that patients with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), a chronic disease that comes with a host of potential complications, including increased risk of stroke and heart attack, receive treatment.

Patients with advanced T1D are eligible for islet cell transplants from the pancreas of a deceased donor.  However, this alternative to multiple daily injections of insulin to manage blood sugar comes with costs to patients’ health. Because the body identifies the transplanted cells as invaders, patients must take immune suppression drugs for the rest of their lives. The solution being developed by Allarta Life Science is an immune-protective polymer gel, not recognized by the body as foreign material, to encapsulate the islet cells while still allowing the cells to receive nutrients and release insulin by diffusion. Harald likens the gel to a diver’s shark cage that protects a human from attack while allowing water to pass through. Ultimately, this therapy will reduce or eliminate the need for current immune suppression drugs that leave patients at risk for infections.

As a vertically integrated company, Allarta Life Sciences also works with partners who develop stem cell-based therapeutic cells that would eliminate the need for donor transplants. Fewer than a dozen other companies work in this area. Some develop new cells not recognized by the immune system, others focus on the immune-protective barrier. Allarta is unique in that their work covers all bases by producing hydrogels that contain islet cells, allow diffusion of insulin and deflect the immune system. “We expect to work with human subjects in clinical trials within two years,” notes Harald. 

In October 2023, Allarta announced news of an award from JDRF, the leading global T1D research and advocacy organization, to fund the company’s ongoing work. “The JDRF award will help us advance these therapies further towards the clinic,” Harald says.

Harald is excited to be part of McMaster University’s evolution of academic focus to include building the entrepreneurial sector. “This brings fundamental science developed in university labs to clinical settings.  It’s good for undergraduate and graduate students and for faculty and gives back to the community,” he explained.

Harald Stöver has come a long way from the experiments he conducted in his home science lab and his mother’s kitchen. His ground-breaking research at McMaster University and the work of Allarta Life Sciences are poised to make a profound impact by improving the lives of Type 1 Diabetes patients worldwide.

You can learn more about Harald in the visualizations below.

Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Mike Farwell

Mike Farwell
Farwell4Hire

2023 Impactful Actions Award Winner – Lifetime Achievement

“Community is my energy. It’s my fuel. It invigorates and inspires me,” says Mike Farwell, a relentless community builder who turned the grief of losing two sisters to cystic fibrosis (CF) into the largest annual fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. The 2023 Impactful Action Award Lifetime Achievement Award winner’s Farwell4Hire campaign has raised over $1.25 million in unrestricted funds over the last decade, supporting research, advocacy, and clinical care for people around the world living with CF, the most common fatal genetic disease in Canada.

Mike was born in Kitchener, Ontario as the middle of five children. He aspired to be a radio announcer, but not believing that this was a real job, he attended the University of Waterloo, earned a degree in Arts and went on to teach high school. “After one year as a teacher, I decided that this wasn’t the job for me,” says Mike. He enrolled in Conestoga College’s television and radio broadcast program and graduated with two career ambitions:  to work as a radio music DJ and as a hockey announcer. He began his radio career in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, where he was a music DJ and also had the chance to report on the local hockey team. Mike moved from Salmon Arm to work in communities across Canada for several years before returning to the Waterloo Region.

Mike’s second dream job, as a hockey reporter and announcer, came about as the result of responding to an open casting call by Rogers for a daytime talk show host position in Kitchener. The casting director noticed that Mike had listed experience in sports reporting on his resume. “We need a sports guy,” she told him. Within a week, he was on camera for the first time as a field reporter for university sports including football, basketball, and volleyball. Mike now has more than 20 years of radio and television broadcasting experience, works with Rogers Radio in Kitchener as the host of the Mike Farwell Show, and is the play-by-play voice of the Kitchener Rangers on CityNews 570.

Mike created Farwell4Hire to honour Luanne and Sheri Farwell, the two sisters he and his family lost to CF. Luanne died in the fall of 1993 at the age of 24 and, just nine months later, Sheri succumbed to cystic fibrosis at the age of 18. “Farwell4Hire was started by accident,” says Mike.  “I’m really bad at asking for things. I’d rather do.” Prior to launching the campaign, Mike had raised money through stunts, including jumping out of an airplane, sitting in (and getting wet) in a dunk tank and participating in a boxing match. The odd jobs Mike has performed as part of Farwell4Hire have ranged from the routine, like washing windows and mowing lawns, to the more exotic, like cleaning a horse’s sheath. 

Farwell4Hire is an excellent example of community collaboration. Small business owners, associations and larger companies across Waterloo Region come together each May in support of Mike’s efforts. The campaign is a fundraiser with absolutely no overhead. Managed entirely through the efforts of volunteers, every dollar donated to Farwell4Hire is a dollar donated directly to CF.

When asked how he finds the time to write, produce, execute and edit his daily radio show, travel with the Kitchener Rangers to do play-by-playing reporting on their games, and run an annual month-long fundraising campaign, Mike again points to the importance of community to his life. He quotes fellow Waterloo Region broadcaster and public speaker, Neil Aitchison: “Community service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy.” Mike continues, “I don’t think I could possibly give back to the community what it has given to me.”

Mike is delighted with the ongoing progress in CF research and with how the $1.25 million raised for research through Farwell4Hire has contributed to massive impacts in extending the lives of Canadians living with CF. When Mike started fundraising as a teenager, the estimated lifespan of a child with CF was less than 12 years. In 2023, a baby born with CF today has a median life expectancy of 57 years. And Trikafta, a new drug with the potential to treat up to 90% of Canadians with CF, doesn’t just treat symptoms. This transformational treatment targets the basic defect from specific genetic mutations that cause the disease.

Mike was struck by a statement made by Roberto Clemente, the late National Baseball Hall of Famer who has an award for sportsmanship and community involvement named for him in recognition of his charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the off-seasons. “Roberto said that a person who can help others and fails to do so has wasted his life. I don’t want to waste my life. I want to help if I can. And the work I do is the way I can do my part,” Mike adds.

Profound Impact is proud to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Impactful Action Award to Mike Farwell, a remarkable leader who has worked tirelessly to build community and to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis research, impacting lives in the Waterloo Region and around the world.

Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!