Cassi Smith recipient of literary excellence award

Cassi Smith (BA’13) is the winner of the 2017 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Smith is currently working toward a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing degree at the U of S. Her collection of non-fiction short stories caught the attention of best-selling Saskatchewan-born author Ross King, who was awarded the $25,000 RBC Taylor Prize last month. The prestigious award consists of a mentorship with King, and a $10,000  prize.

Cassi Smith is working on a collection of nonfiction short stories based on her interviews with Saskatchewan’s First Nations Elders (CNW Group/RBC Taylor Prize) .

The RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award was created to recognize and assist a Canadian published author who is working on a significant writing project, preferably – but not limited to – the literary non-fiction genre.

Read more on Cassi Smith’s special recognition.

Do you know a Canada 150 Citizen?

To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the University of Saskatchewan is recognizing members of our community that are making Canada a more diverse, inclusive and environmentally sustainable country. We want to hear from you about our alumni, students, staff and faculty who contribute in significant ways to enriching the province, the country, and the world.

Ten outstanding citizens will be awarded a certificate signed jointly by the president and vice-president research of the U of S. The U of S “Canada 150” Citizens will be assessed under the following Canada 150 themes which closely align with the U of S Values.

We look forward to reading your applications, and commending our U of S community for their inspirational contributions. Please submit your nomination before May 1, 2017. 

Women of distinction

University of Saskatchewan alumni were once again recognized by the Saskatoon YWCA with the annual Women of Distinction Awards nominations.

Kathryn Ford (BA’71) was named the 2017 Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Kathryn Ford (BA’71) who later completed a law degree. Since her admission to the Saskatchewan bar in 1977, Ford has been a force in Saskatchewan’s legal community and has done pioneering work in collaborative law. Her work ensures that all voices are heard and that decisions are made collectively.

Ford is also has been responsible for building capacity for community organizations, including the YWCA and the Prairie Hospice Society, leading expansion and transformation that has strengthened our community and empowered individuals. In 2013, she joined the U of S Board of Governors.

Other alumnae include:

  • Community building
    • Connie den Hollander (BA’85, LLB’91)
    • Judy Hannah (BSHEC’76)
    • Chantelle Johnson (BA’99, LLB’03)
    • Keisha Sharp (MPH’15)
  • Education
    • Claudette Degagne-Ellis (MEDUC’15)
    • Lana Elias (BEd’96 BSc’02)
    • Kelly Van Damme (MFA’04)
    • Chelsea Willness (BA’02)
  • Entrepreneurship
    • Mackenzie Firby (BComm’03)
  • Health and wellness
    • Noreen Agrey (BA’79; BEd’89)
    • Jana Danielson (BComm’95; MBA’00)
    • Dr. Vicki Holmes (MD’73)
    • Haylie Lashta (BSc 2009, MPT’11)
    • Amy Smith-Morris (BSP’10)
  • Leadership and professions
    • Joy Crawford (BComm’93)
    • Nancy Lautner (BComm’95)
  • Research and technology
    • Jacqueline Cook (BComm’13)
    • Erika Dyck (BA’98, MA’00)
  • 29 and under
    • Ashlyn George (BA’09; BEd’10)

View the full list on the YWCA website.

Huskie alumni giving back

From the beginning of the Home Ice Campaign, Huskie hockey alumni knew they needed to be involved and give to this inspiring project.

The group set a lofty goal and by late March of this year had achieved tremendous results from alumni at home and across Canada.

Huskie Hockey alumni present U of S president, Peter Stoicheff, with a ceremonial cheque representing their cumulative giving from hockey alumni across Canada and the USA. Huskie hockey alumni have been fundraising for this project for more than a year.

We celebrate Huskie hockey alumni’s cumulative giving of $2.5 million, which will help fund Merlis Belsher Place – a modern, twin-pad ice facility at the U of S that’s greatly needed for university and minor hockey.

“As a group, we felt it was important to support this significant project,” said Tim Hodgson, chair of the Home Ice Campaign and Huskie hockey alumnus. “This total represents more than a year of hard work for Huskie Hockey alumni across Canada and the United States and we are thrilled it will support such an amazing project.”

Music alumni make historic gift to U of S to honour legacy of David L. Kaplan

Xiaoping (Bob) Xu (MA ’92) and wife Ling Chen (MA ’90) have made another notable contribution to their alma mater. The internationally-recognized investor and philanthropist and his wife have donated $2 million to the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) to create the David L. Kaplan Chair in Music in the college of arts and science. The gift is the largest donation from alumni in the college’s history and a generous follow-up to the couple’s $1 million gift to establish the David L. Kaplan Music Scholarship in 2010.

President Peter Stoicheff announced the significant gift at the department of music’s annual student scholarship awards event on April 2. “By establishing a strings program, the Kaplan Chair will make our music program a destination of choice for emerging musicians on the prairies. I’m especially pleased this gift will help us contribute further to our local classical music community and deepen our long-term relationship with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra,” he said.

Ling Chen (MA ’90) and Xiaoping (Bob) Xu (MA ’92).

Both Xu and Chen graduated with a master’s degree in music at the U of S. Their ongoing commitment to the university stems from their appreciation for their former music professor and mentor, David L. Kaplan, who taught for more than 30 years. Professor Kaplan also played several instruments, composed numerous pieces of music and conducted orchestras and bands, including the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. In recognition of his influence, David L. Kaplan became a member of the Order of Canada in 2002 and was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2006. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 91.

“He embraced us with profound love and care when we first arrived to Canada from China in the 1980’s as graduate students,” said Xu. “His strength of character, warmth and unconditional devotion to his students serve as the model by which we—and countless others—live our lives. The way he treated us left a deep impression on me, and I thought of him as a role model as I started my own career as a consultant for Chinese students who wanted to study overseas.” Since returning to China, Xu has co-founded New Oriental Education & Technology Group in 1993, the largest provider of private education in China, and established ZhenFund in 2011, to promote and support innovation among youth in China. ZhenFund has been ranked as the Best Early-Stage Investment Firm in China by Zero2IPO Group for the last three consecutive years. Xu’s investment success earned him a spot on Forbes Magazine’s Midas List, as one of the world’s top 100 venture capitalists in 2016.

The Kaplan Chair—expected to be in place by July, 2018—will develop a strings program in the department, to assume a leading instruction role province-wide. Greg Marion, head of the department of music, said the donation will “transform” the department, inspiring students by exposing them to the talents of an accomplished scholar. Additionally, the Chair will foster international relations, with a focus on China, and give music students world-wide travel opportunities not currently available in Saskatchewan music programs. The gift will also preserve two significant instrument collections: the Amati strings, a rare set from 17th-century Italy, and Kaplan’s own historical and indigenous instrument collection, which he donated to the department in 2013.

Marion added, “We could not be more appreciative of this extraordinary gift from two extraordinary individuals, who once again, have honoured the memory of one of our most celebrated and esteemed faculty members.”

USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award winner: Chris Hengen-Braun

The recipient of this year’s USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award, Chris Hengen-Braun (BComm’11) is a staunch ambassador for the U of S and an engaged mentor, coach and community volunteer.

Chris earned his degree from the Edwards School of Business. He began his career as a financial security advisor and is currently the director of business development for Freedom 55 Financial. He is a certified health insurance specialist and membership chair for Advocis North Central Saskatchewan Chapter.

Chris’s journey as a business student was not without trials. In his first year, he applied for the Edwards Business Students’ Society, but was not accepted.

Disappointed but undeterred, Chris remained resolved to be an active member of the business student community. The following year, he got involved with JDC West, a western Canadian student business case competition.

“JDC West was the saviour that kept me in commerce,” said Chris. “School became a lot of fun.” He also credits his experience with JDC West for learning more about public speaking and time management. “It’s one of the best things that gets you suited for the work world.”

Chris Hengen-Braun is the recipient of the 2017 USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award.

The JDC West experience was so valuable for Chris that he returned to the competition as a coach after graduating, leading the entrepreneurship team and the non-profit team. “I love it,” he said. “I try to give the students the lay of the land; it’s going to be one of the most difficult things you’ve done, but you’ll feel so exhilarated when you finish your final presentation.”

One criterion for a student to be considered for the USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award is that they must be actively involved in their community; Chris has embodied this condition in exemplary fashion. Like many volunteers, Chris is inspired to give back to causes and organizations about which he is passionate.

The Edwards School of Business remains close to his heart. In addition to serving as a coach for JDC West, Chris coached the Edwards team for the Royal Roads Case Competition, conducts “lunch-n-learns”, and participates in Resumania and the annual Edwards networking event. Through Freedom 55, Chris also supports the annual Edwards School Business Formal.

Football has also long been a passion for Chris. He played for five years with the Saskatoon Hilltops, and now coaches high school football, as well as the Saskatoon Valkyries Western Women’s Canadian Football League. “Coach H-B” led the Canadian national team at the 2013 Women’s World Cup in Finland. Chris also works as a commentator for the Hilltops games on CJWW radio and supports with their annual golf tournament.

Outside of business and football, Chris also volunteers with the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, supporting its radiothon.

In the spirit of his coaching background, Chris hopes that others will follow his example and give back to what’s important to them. “Giving back is going to help you out in your career, teach you life lessons, and give you a different perspective,” he said.  “It makes you a more well-rounded person.”