Alumni competing in World Masters Tour in Saskatoon

At 30 years old, Michael Lieffers (BEd’10) has already traveled to 16 countries. When asked where the best world adventures take place, he’s quick to respond with hometown pride—Saskatoon. One can imagine Lieffers’ excitement when he found out the sport he loves most—3×3 basketball—would be hosting the World Masters Tour on his home turf.

Michael Lieffers (left) playing against team Ljubljana. (Photo credit:

On July 14-16, Saskatoon Tourism in partnership with Canada Basketball, will be hosting the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters. The tournament will host 12 teams from around the world.

3×3 basketball is inspired by several forms of street-ball and known for its urban, innovative spirit. Loud music, masses of spectators, quirky locations (such as downtown Saskatoon) are paired with a stripped-down version of basketball: a small, three-a-side team, half a court and one net. With over 250 million players worldwide, 3×3 basketball is one of the most played recreational sports. Lieffers credits his experience on the University of Saskatchewan’s basketball team not only for his love of 3×3, but for helping him develop off the court. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Huskies—from the incredible coaches to the solid teammates I had, the Huskies really set a precedence in sport in my life.”

Lieffers and his teammates still connect with the Huskies often scrimmaging together or using their court for practice. In the case of the Saskatoon team, 3 of the 4 members are Huskie alum. It was through playing together as Huskies that Lieffers and his 3×3 teammates Nolan Brudehl (BScKin’13) and Michael Linklater bonded.  Now they’re looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd. “We’re thrilled to have our family, friends, and the university community cheering us on,” he said. “We want to thank everyone for their support and show them what we’ve been a part of for all of these years”.

As 3×3 basketball will be a sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Lieffers is excited for the game to continue to gain popularity and recognition. The Saskatoon Masters tournament will offer an amateur tournament; Lieffers hopes that youth come out to experience the unique quality of the sport. “It’s given me the opportunity to play professionally with some of the people I love most, travel the world, and still manage to start a family and focus on a building an academic career,” he says.

Alumna named vice-provost, Indigenous Engagement

Jacqueline Ottmann (MEd’02, PhD’05) who is Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) and a member of Saskatchewan’s Fishing Lake First Nation, will serve as the University of Saskatchewan’s first vice-provost, Indigenous Engagement beginning October 1. Ottmann is currently the Director of Indigenous Education Initiatives and an associate professor in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary (U of C) while also serving as co-chair of U of C Indigenous Strategy.

Ottmann said she is looking forward to returning to her home province and to the university where she earned her master’s in education (2002) and her PhD (2005) in the Department of Educational Administration in the U of S College of Education.

“I am very excited to be coming back to the University of Saskatchewan and to Saskatoon in general, to contribute to the Indigenous strategy at the U of S. It’s a great privilege,” said Ottmann, who is also a member of a number of national post-secondary organizations including a representative-at-large (Aboriginal) on the executive committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

“Because I am an alumna, I have kept in touch with what was happening at the University of Saskatchewan in terms of their Indigenization and decolonization initiatives and processes and I have been encouraged by the leadership that they have taken in this over the years.”

Ottmann will lead the university’s ongoing commitment to respond to the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action for post-secondary institutions.

“We are extremely excited to bring back Dr. Ottmann to take a senior leadership role in focusing on Indigenous scholarship and student success on campus while also helping us engage and connect with the community,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff.

“We are encouraged to be attracting and graduating more Aboriginal students than ever before, and that certainly is a good measure of success. However, there is much more work to be done and we look forward to Jacqueline’s leadership as we strive to be the best place we can possibly be for Indigenous students and communities in the province and across the country.”

There were 2,831 Indigenous students pursuing degrees at the U of S in the 2016-17 academic year, making up 12 per cent of the total student population of 24,227.

The university has actively been working on building Indigenous content and experiences grounded in Indigenous world views into degree programs, an initiative that will be a priority area for Ottmann to support moving forward.

“Definitely I think Indigenous knowledges and Indigenous content does have a primary place within university curricula and this kind of inclusion will only strengthen the overall fabric of the university,” she said.

Bill Rafoss elected as board chair Amnesty International Canada

After several years dedicated to human rights issues, Bill Rafoss (MA’74, MA’05) has been elected as board chair of Amnesty International Canada.

Rafoss worked for the Legal Aid Commission as a court worker before moving on to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. He remained there for 25 years, starting as an investigator and moving up to chief investigator. He began teaching Canadian politics at the University of Saskatchewan in 2006. His last course was about politics and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Bill Rafoss (photo:

Rafoss has served as president of Global Gathering Place in Saskatoon, an election observer in Kenya and Mongolia, worked with a new human rights commission in South Sudan and the human rights cocil in the Cayman Islands.

In 2015, Bill Rafoss was elected to the Board of Directors for Amnesty International Canada. He was active in the Saskatoon Branch of Amnesty International before his election to the board. His initiatives included pushing the Canadian government to prioritize human rights, providing aid to refugees in crisis and working towards a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Read more

U of S in the New York Times

The University of Saskatchewan is featured in The New York Times showcasing its successes in Indigenous engagement and reconciliation.

Jennifer McGillivary, a nursing student, was in a program for first-year aboriginal arts-and-science students. Credit: Cole Burston for The New York Times

Stoicheff spoke of the university’s initiatives on campus to bolster Aboriginal success, including involvement with reconciliation initiatives.

“If it’s not going to be us in a province like this, leading the universities’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who is it going to be?” he said. “If not now, when?”

See more at The New York Times.

Strengthening global food security

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) celebrated the establishment of the Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships in Global Food Security, made possible by a $1-million gift from Dr. Patrick Man Pan Yuen (MD’64), a distinguished pediatrician living in Hong Kong.

“This $40,000-a-year award is the largest donor-funded graduate scholarship ever offered at the U of S and we are extremely grateful to Dr. Yuen for making this major investment in young academic talent that will advance our global research collaboration in our signature area of food security,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

The gift will be matched by the U of S Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) through an annual contribution over 25 years. One to two graduate students from either mainland China or Hong Kong will be awarded $40,000 a year to study at the U of S for up to three years under the supervision of a GIFS researcher.

Maurice Moloney, GIFS executive director and CEO, noted that China has become an international leader in the area of agricultural research.

“This very generous gift will ensure that we make the most of productive collaborations and the talents of graduates from both countries working together in pursuit of a common goal—to bring global food security to both developed and developing regions for future generations,” he said.

Back in 1963 at the U of S medical school, Yuen and Baxter co-authored a research paper, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, on age-related neurodegeneration in brain cells.

“I was completely thrilled,” Yuen recalled. “I learned from him the great importance of being meticulous and taking great pride in everything you do.”

Yuen returned to Hong Kong in 1974 and became a pioneer in the fields of pediatric oncology and hematology, serving as founding chair of the Hong Kong Paediatric Haematology & Oncology Study Group in 1993. In 1995, he became the pediatrician in charge of The Lady Pao Children’s Cancer Centre, a leading cancer centre in South East Asia. In 2006, he was elected the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician by the Asian Pacific Pediatric Association.

Baxter went on to become director of the Montreal Neurological Institute where he made a significant contribution to the field of neurology and brain research.

“Dr. Baxter will always be a great teacher to me. I owe him a great deal,” Yuen said.

Yuen’s experience as a pediatrician has led him to believe that food security and nutrition are of utmost importance to the health of future generations.

“Throughout my medical career, I have come to the conclusion a medical doctor can really save relatively few of his patients in his lifetime. By offering to help set up research in increasing food production to combat hunger, far more lives can be saved,” he said. “I cannot think of a better place in the world than the University of Saskatchewan in fulfilling my wishes, since the place is well known as a major player in global food security.”

The scholarships will be awarded to high-achieving graduate students undertaking research at the U of S in areas such as seed and developmental biology, root-soil-microbial interactions, and related digital and computational agriculture. In the event that there are no suitable candidates from China or Hong Kong, the scholarships can be awarded to qualified Canadian students to carry out research in China.

Applications will be accepted starting July 10 through the College of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies.

“I know that my husband would be very honored that Dr. Yuen has named this scholarship after him and that the legacy of their work together at the U of S will be exciting research opportunities for graduate students from China today,” said Dr. Baxter’s widow Anne Baxter, who attended the celebration.

Watch a video of Dr. Yuen discussing his experiences and memories of his mentor here.

2017 Women of Distinction

University of Saskatchewan faculty, alumni and senior leaders were among the honourees at this year’s Saskatoon YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.

Over the past 35 years, hundreds of local leaders have been honoured for their contributions to the community at the PotashCorp YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, which also serves as the largest annual fundraiser for Saskatoon’s YWCA.

Erica Dyck (BA’98, MA’00) was one of five alumnae honoured with a 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Award (photo: Dave Stobbe).


This year, 10 award winners were honoured on Wednesday, May 31 from the 50 final nominees, with five of the 10 winners part of the U of S family of alumni.

The award winners from the U of S were:

Research and technology: Professor Erika Dyck (BA’98, MA’00), a current faculty member in the U of S College of Arts and Science, and Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine.

Lifetime Achievement: Kathryn Ford (BA’71), long-time local lawyer who was admitted to the Saskatchewan bar in 1977 and current member of the U of S Board of Governors since 2013.

Education: Cathy Mills (BEd’77), spent four decades as an educator before retiring in 2008 and serving as a consultant with the Saskatchewan Education Leadership Unit in the College of Education.

Health and Wellness: Dr. Vicki Holmes (MD’73), a family physician for four decades in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the creator of the Mid-Life Women’s Centre.

Athletics: Darlene Danyliw (BSHEC’76, BEd’77), a long-time local volunteer and past president of Curl Saskatchewan and a finalist for the 2016 Curling Canada Volunteer of the Year Award.

For more coverage of the awards ceremony, see the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and