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York's 2022 Top 30 Alumni Under 30

Ambitious. Innovative. Creative. These are just some of the traits that define this inspiring group of leaders who are creating positive change and working to right the future in varied and significant ways.  

At home and abroad, graduates of York University are not only entering the workforce prepared to put their education into practice, but to enact positive, real-world change. Representing every faculty at the University, the 2022 Top 30 Alumni Under 30 are applying the education, skills and experiences they received at York to meaningful careers and community service endeavours, demonstrating a long-standing commitment to the public good. From business leaders championing equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, to social entrepreneurs, environmental advocates and community builders, these young alumni highlight the many career and life paths made possible with a York degree.  

York U alumna Banin Abdul Khaliq

Banin Abdul Khaliq

Community builder and reintegration worker
BA ’16, Faculty of Health

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Banin Abdul Khaliq (BA ’16) is an Afghan-Canadian founder, community builder, and reintegration worker. Since earning her degree in psychology from York University, she has dedicated her efforts to the non-profit sector. At the John Howard Society of York Region, Banin works collaboratively with formerly incarcerated women and those with criminal justice involvement to help with their reintegration to society. Banin also volunteers as a program director with the Afghan Youth Engagement and Development Initiative (AYEDI), where she coordinates and implements various programs with the mission to provide civic engagement, leadership, and social development opportunities to underserved Afghan youth. Most recently, she transitioned into the role of program director for the Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace, where she is the primary liaison between AYEDI and the Canadian government, as well as national news outlets. Banin’s identity as a Hazara-Afghan – a historically persecuted ethnic and religious group – informs her volunteer work at STAND Canada, where she advocates to make ending and preventing genocide a cornerstone of Canadian policy. In 2020, Banin was awarded a $1,500 grant to start Afghan Rising Magazine, an online platform that spotlights the work of Afghan-Canadians.

York U alumna Tarnem Afify

Tarnem Afify

Women in STEM advocate
BSc ’21, Faculty of Science

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Tarnem Afify (BSc '21) is a scientist, leader, and advocate. While pursuing a bachelor of science in biophysics, she worked as a president’s ambassador at York and an advisor as well as representative of the Canadian Association of Physicists in the International Association of Physics Students. She led by example and aimed to be a role model to encourage and inspire female scientists to break any barriers that impede their progress. Alongside being a research assistant, she founded Future Women in Physics (FWiP). As FWiP’s president for three years she advocated for a diverse and inclusive academic environment in the physics field that permits equal access to opportunities, enhances students’ success, and encourages them to reach their fullest potential. She is looking forward to returning to York again as a master’s student this September to study artificial intelligence. Her goal is to continue learning about ways of applying science to serve our society as well as advocating for the social causes she is passionate about.

York U alumna Suzanna Alsayed

Suzanna Alsayed

Tech entrepreneur
BA ’17, Glendon College
MDEM ’20, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies / Faculty of Graduate Studies

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La version française suit la version anglaise.

Suzanna Alsayed (BA ’17, MDEM ’20) has over eight years of experience as an emergency management and security specialist in Toronto where she facilitates multi-disciplinary projects involving internal and external stakeholders. In 2019, Suzanna founded Hilt International Security, her first venture, a holistic security firm with the goal to work with different international platforms to protect people and assets worldwide. In mid-2020, she founded Evolutz Inc., an independent global brand, design, copy, and website development agency. In 2020 she was named #2 for the IFSEC Global Top Influencers in Security & Fire in the "Commercial Security Association Figures/Academics/Thought Leaders" category. Suzanna is one of the Top 25 Influencers within the security industry, as determined by the International Security Journal. She was selected as Security Systems News Top 40 under 40, and most recently awarded the “2021 Emerging Leader award’’ by Canadian Security magazine.

Suzanna Alsayed (B.A. 2017) a plus de huit ans d’expérience en tant que spécialiste de la gestion des urgences et de la sécurité à Toronto où elle facilite les projets multidisciplinaires impliquant des intervenants internes et externes. En 2019, elle a fondé sa première entreprise, Hilt International Security, une société de sécurité holistique dont l’objectif est de travailler avec différentes plateformes internationales pour protéger les personnes et les biens dans le monde entier. Au cours de l’année 2020, elle a fondé Evolutz Inc, une agence indépendante spécialisée dans les marques, la conception, la rédaction et le développement de sites Web. En 2020, elle a été nommée no 2 au classement IFSEC Global Top Influencers in Security & Fire dans la catégorie « Commercial Security Association Figures/Academics/Thought Leaders ». Suzanna est l’une des 25 personnes les plus influentes du secteur de la sécurité, selon l’International Security Journal. Elle a été sélectionnée dans le Top 40 des personnes de moins de 40 ans de Security Systems News, et plus récemment, elle a reçu le prix « 2021 Emerging Leader » du magazine Canadian Security.  

York U alumnus Sayjon Ariyarathnam

Sayjon Ariyarathnam

Mentor and volunteer
BA ’16, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
JD ’20/MBA ’20, Osgoode Hall Law School/Schulich School of Business

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Sayjon Ariyarathnam (BA ’16, JD ’20, MBA ’20)is a banking and finance lawyer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. He is actively involved as a board member with the Community Legal Clinic of York Region, a not-for-profit organization serving low-income residents of York Region by promoting universal access to justice and poverty elimination through legal representation, public legal education and information, community development and law reform. Sayjon is involved with the law school youth outreach program Law in Action Within Schools as a mentor to students who face personal and systemic barriers to developing leadership and civic engagement. Through workshops that expose students to law and justice, mentorship, and employment, he is levelling the playing field by helping vulnerable students find a pathway to success. He has been recognized and celebrated as a champion of leadership, diversity and inclusion, and academic governance during his time as a York student and endeavours to continue this into his professional life. 

York U alumna Myra Arshad

Myra Arshad

Social entrepreneur
BBA ’18, Schulich School of Business

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Myra Arshad (BBA ’18) is the co-founder and CEO of ALT TEX – a biomaterials startup creating circular, biodegradable and carbon neutral textiles re-engineered from food waste. Coming from a family background in textile manufacturing, Myra is dedicated to radically disrupting the unethical and unsustainable practices of the $2.5 fashion industry through ALT TEX. Well on their way, Myra and ALT TEX have been recognized amongst the Top 21 New Founders by Future of Good, Top 50 companies to watch by the Cleantech Group, in addition to various other awards totaling over $500,000. Prior to ALT TEX, Myra held corporate roles in sales and marketing at Fortune 500 companies, before founding fluidic – a women’s empowerment social enterprise. With over $2,000,000 in initial funding, Myra is now working with her team to refine the ALT TEX food-to-fabric innovation as they work on taking the polyester-replacement technology global in the coming years.

York U alumna Karissa Barbro

Karissa Barbro

BA ’14, Glendon College

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La version française suit la version anglaise.

Karissa Barbro (BA ’14) recently returned from a Canadian Armed Forces deployment with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). During the deployment, she worked as a Canadian peacekeeper and United Nations staff officer responsible for logistics, administration, and procurement. When not working with the Canadian Armed Forces, her primary career is working as a supply specialist with Public Service and Procurement Canada. Since 2016, Karissa has volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross in emergency and disaster management, having deployed multiple times for provincial emergencies. While at York’s Glendon College, Karissa spent two years as the chair of the Peer Review Board, and as a university tribunal student volunteer. She also held several positions with the International Studies Students Association, including vice-president, and later co-president. Karissa is faithfully devoted to serving others and is steadfast in pursuing humanitarian causes not only in her local community and remote communities across Canada, but also in communities abroad. 

Read Karissa's Glendon alumni profile.

Karissa Barbro (B.A. 2014) est récemment revenue d’un déploiement des Forces armées canadiennes avec la Mission des Nations Unies au Soudan du Sud (MINUSS). Au cours de ce déploiement, elle a travaillé en tant que soldate du maintien de la paix canadien et officière d’état-major des Nations Unies responsable de la logistique, de l’administration et de l’approvisionnement. Lorsqu’elle ne travaille pas avec les Forces armées canadiennes, sa carrière principale est celle de spécialiste de l’approvisionnement auprès de Services publics et Approvisionnement Canada. Depuis 2016, Karissa est bénévole à la Croix-Rouge canadienne dans le domaine de la gestion des urgences et des catastrophes; elle a été déployée à plusieurs reprises pour des urgences provinciales. Lors de son séjour au campus Glendon de York, Karissa a passé deux ans comme présidente du conseil d’examen par les pairs et comme étudiante bénévole au tribunal universitaire. Elle a également occupé plusieurs postes au sein de l’Association des étudiants internationaux, dont celui de vice-présidente, puis de coprésidente. Karissa se consacre inlassablement au service des autres et à la poursuite de causes humanitaires, non seulement dans sa communauté locale et dans les communautés éloignées du Canada, mais aussi à l’étranger.

Lisez le profil de Karissa, diplômée de Glendon.

York U alumnus Elijah Bawuah

Elijah Bawuah

EDI advocate and mentor
BA ’18, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
MES ’21, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change/ Faculty of Graduate Studies

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Jc Elijah (Eli) M. Bawuah (he/him) (BA ’18) is a practicing urban planner and public consultant with multi-disciplinary experience gained by working in a spectrum of city and community-building roles. He has worked on development applications, master plans, social plans, mobility/transportation projects across Ontario. Eli has co-developed equity initiatives centering the lived experiences and voices of Toronto’s diverse urban stakeholders, while fostering collaborative environments that generate values of reciprocity and sustainability. He is the co-founder of the Mentoring Initiative for Indigenous and Planners of Colour (MIIPOC) which focuses on establishing a national network between experienced planners and emerging planners from marginalized communities. Eli is also a committee member of the City of Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ Council Advisory Body, strategizing policies aimed at removing barriers faced by the queer community. With the goal of advancing diversity and representation amongst city-builders and leadership.

York U alumnus Jonathan Clodman

Jonathan Clodman

Educator and public health advocate
BA ’19/BEd ’19, Faculty of Health/Faculty of Education
MEd ’20, Faculty of Education/Faculty of Graduate Studies

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Jonathan Clodman (BA ’19 BEd ’19 MEd ’20) is an educator and active community member always looking for new opportunities to help others. Now an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board, he has taught students from kindergarten to grade 8, drawing on experience leading and supporting children and youth from preschool to postsecondary. While at York, Jonathan served in a variety of student leadership, recruitment, and governance positions that instilled how service to organizations and communities could spark positive change. Today, his work extends through a variety of classroom, camp, and community experiences, including the boards of two community-based children’s non-profits. Jonathan was previously a co-director of Vaccine Hunters Canada, where he developed onboarding resources, supported volunteer responders, contributed to outreach, and collaborated with a variety of educational stakeholders. Not skilled at quick goodbyes, Jonathan stays connected to York as a member of the York University Alumni Board.

Read Jonathan’s profile in the York U Magazine. 

York U alumnus Kaleb Dahlgren

Kaleb Dahlgren

Author and mentor
BCom '21, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

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Kaleb Dahlgren (BCom ’21) is an inspiring community collaborator, mental wellness leader, and diabetes advocate. In 2021, Kaleb published his #1 National Bestselling memoir Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco. Kaleb’s passion for helping others shines through his selflessness, volunteer work and sharing his story. As an ambassador for STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service), Kaleb donated all of his book’s proceeds and raised an additional $1,250,000.00 for the charity. Kaleb is also the founder of Dahlgren’s Diabeauties, a diabetes mentorship program designed in 2017. Through this program, he raises awareness, supports, and encourages other diabetics to reach their potential. On the global stage, Kaleb’s story captivates each audience - leaving them inspired, uplifted, and ready to enjoy the grind in life. Kaleb is now forging his path as a Doctor of Chiropractic student, international keynote speaker, and philanthropist.

Read Kaleb’s People of YU profile. 

York U alumna Bri Darboh

Bri Darboh

Health equity advocate
BA ’15, MA ’18, Faculty of Health

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Bri Darboh (BA ’15, MA ’18) is a senior doctoral student in clinical psychology and neuropsychology at York, as well as a part-time MBA student specializing in health industry management and organization studies at the Schulich School of Business. Throughout her time at York, she has maintained a devotion to leadership, social advocacy, and outreach, with an emphasis on ethnocultural diversity and vulnerable populations, and her research and clinical efforts reflect this commitment. Among her leadership roles, she serves as the chairperson of the YU-CARE Trainee Network, aiming to bridge academic knowledge and real-world implications. Moreover, she has made a substantial impact among racialized communities as the co-president of York’s Black Students in Psychology organization and the inaugural student representative of the Society for Black Neuropsychology. Bri aspires to employ a special fusion of her clinical and business expertise to contribute to positive systems-level change related to equitable healthcare service delivery.

York U alumna Emily Durham

Emily Durham

Content creator and career coach
BHRM ’17, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

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Emily Durham (BHRM ’17) is a senior recruiter, career coach, content creator and public speaker with a passion for making career education accessible. As a recruiter both in the finance and technology space, Emily connected with hundreds of candidates every week and noticed that people early in their careers often felt ill-equipped to answer common interview questions and struggled with the application process. To help prepare candidates for their interviews, Emily began to produce and host The Straight Shooter Recruiter podcast, offering step-by-step support for job seekers. With the growth of the podcast, Emily expanded her mission of demystify all things careers to Instagram and TikTok with a reach of 3+ million. Most recently, Emily has been featured in The Financial Post, Bay Street Bull, Narcity and Canadian Business Magazine for her work around career education. 

York U alumna Basma Elbahnasawy

Basma Elbahnasawy

Social justice advocate
BA ’18, Lassonde School of Engineering

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Basma Elbahnasawy (BA ’18) is an organizer for The Lady Hacks, the first all-women hackathon in Canada, and one of the founding members of Indigenous and Muslim Women for Water, raising funds for clean water accessibility for Indigenous communities. After graduation, Basma moved to New York City to work at the United Nations (UN) headquarters as a news monitoring intern. She uses her experience from the UN to champion women and children's stories through digital marketing and as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at UNICEF Canada. In 2022, Basma was selected as a Youth Management Team representative for UNICEF’s National Committees, currently tasked with leading the digital transformation efforts for staff under 35. As an advocate for women’s empowerment, children's rights, and social justice, she aims to amplify young and diverse voices at UNICEF and around the world.

York U alumnus Ali El-Shayeb

Ali El-Shayeb

Tech entrepreneur and mentor
iBBA ’18, Schulich School of Business

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Ali El-Shayeb (iBBA ’18) is a serial entrepreneur and one of Canada’s Developer 30 Under 30. A graduate of York’s Schulich School of Business, with a specialization in finance, Ali began his entrepreneurial journey as a student after teaching himself how to code. In 2018, he co-founded, an HR Tech start-up focused on matching talent with opportunities globally using proprietary AI technology and backed by decades of scientific research. In 2021, was acquired by PlanetCorp, a Canadian-based holding company. At 40 employees today, Ali continues to lead as CEO – continuously redefining the company’s vision, product, and sales strategy as they expand internationally. In addition to his role at, Ali manages a micro-fund as its principal multi-asset trader, enjoys writing quantitative algorithms, and investing in high-growth stocks and real estate. To combine his passion for technology and investment prowess, he built an automated investing engine that allows anyone to follow his trades in real-time.  

York U alumnus Vito Giovannetti

Vito Giovannetti

Entrepreneur and mentor
BBA ’14, Schulich School of Business

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Vito Giovannetti (BBA ’14) is the co-founder and CEO of Treasured, a 3D web platform and design agency with an online virtual museum that has received global recognition for its impact, featured in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and CBS News. Vito has a thirst for knowledge and a growing breadth of Web3 experience that ranges from product development to crypto investments in NFTs, DAOs, and Metaverses. His passion for business extends beyond technology and building companies. He is a community leader and advocate for entrepreneurial education and an active leader and alumnus within the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Schulich School of Business at York. As lead of the Schulich Entrepreneurial Alumni Association, Vito supports early-stage entrepreneurs through the monthly IDEA JAM Series, which brings together subject experts to strategize with start-up founders. He is a proud York alumnus, with optimism and ambition to change the world for the better.  

York U alumna Victoria Granova

Victoria Granova

EDI advocate
BBA ’15, Schulich School of Business

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Victoria Granova (BBA ’15) is a security technical program manager with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and an instructor for York’s certificate in Advanced Cyber Security. She is the founder of CyberToronto, a community-based organization that holds free training and educational conferences to help lower the barriers of entry for newcomers and young women to enter the industry. As a learner, Victoria is currently a PhD student at Ryerson University’s Cybersecurity Research Lab, channeling her passion about leveraging psychology to strengthen the "human factor" in cybersecurity. She was awarded Canadian Security’s Top 10 Under 40, as well as Canada's Top 20 Women in Cybersecurity by IT World Canada in 2021. She is a community leader, entrepreneur, and passionate advocate for diversity and gender inclusion in the cybersecurity industry. 

York U alumnus Yaakov Green

Yaakov Green

Health equity researcher
BSc ’17, Faculty of Science

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Yaakov Green (BSc ’17) is a fifth-year MD/MBA student at Yale University, dedicated to solving structural issues in healthcare. He recently served as a data, analytics and research intern for the U.S. Federal COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, where he drafted policy recommendations on national data infrastructure and research priorities for mitigating inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. During his MBA, he worked for McKinsey & Company where he consulted on health equity strategy for the private sector. At Yale, he has conducted research on social determinants of health, led quality improvement projects within the hospital and sits on the board of Yale’s innovation center. This year, he will begin medical residency training specializing in psychiatry. 

York U alumna Rizvana Hredita

Rizvana Hredita

Social entrepreneur
BAS ’16, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

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Rizvana Hredita (BAS ’16) co-founded Hydroquo+, Bangladesh's first Hydro-Informatics R&D start-up. Hydroquo+ is dedicated to ensuring water security in Bangladesh and has received United Nations (UN) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers recognition for its endeavours. Hydroquo+ utilizes a unique product suite to improve water quality and reduce losses. Using water data as a service, it harnesses the power of artificial intelligence algorithms and big data analytics to maximize information and data available for leading water innovators, to dramatically improve the quality of water worldwide. Rizvana and her brother Zahin Razeen were both recognized in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list as founders of Hydroquo+. Rizvana is also founder of Lingwing Bangladesh Edtech, an education technology platform that uses artificial intelligence to provide quality personalized education and enables users to develop language skills in an affordable way.

York U alumna Melissa Humana-Paredes

Melissa Humana-Paredes

Olympian and activist
BA ’17, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies  

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Melissa Humana-Paredes (BA ’17) is half of Canada’s most successful beach volleyball team. An Olympian, world champion and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, she is known as the “Smilin’ Assassin” and is one of the most dynamic defenders in the world. Melissa was introduced to the sport at 12 years old and went on to play for the York Lions Volleyball Team where she was captain for three years. Melissa’s love of volleyball extends to her roles on the board of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the PanAm Sports Athlete Commission, as well as the International Beach Volleyball Players' Association. She is spearheading the sport and sustainability initiative on the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission, engaging elite Canadian athletes in the fight against climate change. She is also an ambassador for Sea Going Green, a sustainable tourist consultancy and a member of EcoAthletes, a community of climate-active athletes. Melissa is pursuing a Certificate in Business at Smith School of Business while she starts out on the road to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

York U alumna Fatou Jammeh

Fatou Jammeh

Human rights and EDI advocate
iBA ’15, Glendon College

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La version française suit la version anglaise.

Fatou Jammeh (iBA ’15) is a consultant at the UN World Food Programme in Nairobi. Having lived and worked in Canada, Tanzania, France, Gambia she is fluent in English, French and Mandinka. Over the past six years, Fatou has worked in various capacities for organizations including Doctors without Borders (MSF) Canada, Africans Rising, UNICEF Canada, The MATCH Fund, and the Women’s Legal Aid Centre, supporting the fund development of nearly $5 million. In 2020, Fatou co-founded The Bridge Gambia - Diaspora Platform, where she is fostering connectivity through informed and thought-provoking conversations. Fatou is actively involved in initiatives supporting the development of African and Caribbean diaspora professionals including Afropolitan Canada where she is leading the Women of Diversity Summit and Awards. Fatou is currently pursuing her MSc in Public Policy and Management at SOAS University of London. 

Fatou Jammeh (i.B.A. 2015) est une consultante auprès du Programme alimentaire mondial des Nations Unies à Nairobi. Ayant vécu et travaillé au Canada, en Tanzanie, en France et en Gambie, elle parle couramment l’anglais, le français et le meninka. Au cours des six dernières années, Fatou a travaillé à divers titres pour des organisations telles que Médecins sans frontières (MSF) Canada, Africans Rising, UNICEF Canada, le Fonds MATCH et le Women’s Legal Aid Centre, contribuant à la collecte de près de 5 millions de dollars. En 2020, Fatou a cofondé The Bridge Gambia — Diaspora Platform, où elle encourage la connectivité grâce à des conversations éclairées et stimulantes. Elle est activement impliquée dans des initiatives soutenant le développement professionnel de la diaspora africaine et caribéenne, y compris Afropolitan Canada où elle dirige le Sommet et les prix des femmes de la diversité. Fatou poursuit actuellement sa maîtrise en politique et gestion publiques à la School of Oriental and African Studies à l’Université de Londres. 

York U alumnus Alamgir Khandwal

Alamgir Khandwala

EDI and disability advocate
BAS ’17, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

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Alamgir (Alam) Khandwala (BAS ’17) is a chartered professional accountant (CPA) currently working as a manager, corporate accounting and financial reporting at one of Canada’s unified commerce and payment company, Moneris. Since graduating, Alam has continued to give back to the York community as a young alumni ambassador. As treasurer of Success Beyond Limits, he advocates to improve educational outcomes, expand possibilities and support youth in the Jane and Finch area along their individual paths to success. He has also been an ambassador for Lime Connect, a global non-profit organization focused on rebranding disability through achievement, for the past eight years. Alam continued his efforts to foster a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace through his leadership in the Diversity & Disability Awareness Month task force under the Inclusive Workplace Council at Moneris. Alam is passionate in advocating and empowering individuals from diverse backgrounds and individuals with disabilities to create an equitable and enabling environment for everyone to succeed.

York U alumna Sarah Laframboise

Sarah Laframboise

Women in STEM advocate
BSc ’18, Faculty of Science

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Sarah Laframboise (BSc ’18) is a scientist and passionate science communicator and advocate for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). During the final year of her PhD in biochemistry at the University of Ottawa, Sarah co-founded the non-profit Next Generation Women, an online resource for women entering classically male-dominated industries. By increasing the visibility of women in these fields, Sarah hopes to grow the organization to provide girls with mentorship opportunities and leadership training. Sarah adores spreading her love for science with others and communicates this through published pieces and graphic design; she is chair of the Editorial Committee at the Canadian Science Policy Centre, where she has created the last two editions of the Centre’s magazine. Most recently, Sarah founded the Ottawa Science Policy Network at the University of Ottawa with the goal of promoting the use of science and evidence in decision-making, both at the government and university level.  

York U alumna Taylor Lyons

Taylor Lyons

Non-profit founder
BA ’18, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

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Taylor Lyons (BA ’18) is founder of the non-profit organization, Giving Back Canada. Giving Back Canada shares the goal of promoting unity and helping one another within our communities. A donation-based organization, Giving Back Canada relies on online campaigns to help those in dire need and for the past four years has hosted local and virtual fundraising events to serve vulnerable and low-income individuals and families throughout the Greater Toronto Area who are struggling to get by. Giving Back Canada’s first virtual fundraiser, held in May 2020 early in the pandemic, raised $16,500 in 15 days to provide free groceries to families in emergency situations. This past December, in just 12 days, the organization raised $30,000 solely through their Instagram and Facebook platforms. Currently awaiting charity status, in 2022 Taylor is focused on extending Giving Back Canada’s network and building partnerships that will help take the organization to the national level. 

York U alumna Farkhunda Muhtaj

Farkhunda Muhtaj

Humanitarian and athlete
BSc ’19, Faculty of Health
BEd ’21, Faculty of Education

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Farkhunda Muhtaj (BSc 19, BEd ’21) is captain of the Afghanistan Women’s National Soccer Team and competes professionally in the Turkish Super League. She played an instrumental role in Operation Soccer Balls; the evacuation of over 300 Afghans including the Afghanistan Youth National Girls Soccer Team to Portugal in September and November of 2021. She relocated to Lisbon in September to coach the National Girls Soccer Team and ease the settlement journey of the players and families she helped evacuate. As an Afghan immigrant to Canada at the age of two, she has developed a lifelong passion for helping newcomer, refugee and marginalized communities and impacting the world through sport. She helped develop and run Scarborough Simbas, a non-profit organization that uses sport to help newcomers integrate into Canada and serves as a humanitarian ambassador for Penny Appeal Canada.

Read more about Farkhunda’s story in the York University Magazine.

York U alumnus Osman Naqvi

Osman Naqvi

Non-profit founder
(MMgt ’17), Schulich School of Business

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Osman Naqvi (MMgt ’17) works as an advisor, investor services at Invest in Canada – Canada’s global investment attraction and promotion agency that facilitates global investment into Canada. Prior to this, Osman was the regional advisor for Ontario and parliamentary secretary assistant to Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Osman’s philanthropic journey began at 13 when he founded the Bayshore Youth Council. He continued serving his community through numerous boards and charities before co-founding YOUth Heroes, a non-profit organization that provided mentorship and entrepreneurship education to marginalized youth. In March 2016, with the help of the deputy mayor of Ottawa and attorney general of Ontario, YOUth Heroes had a proclamation passed by the City of Ottawa recognizing “Superhero Week” – a week that rallied Ottawa to highlight local heroes who could act as mentors and educators outside the classroom. Osman has received accolades from all levels of government and various charitable organizations, such as Canada’s 150 award, United Way’s Community Builder award, and the City of Ottawa’s City Builder award.

York U alumna Gabriela Osio Vanden

Gabriela Osio Vanden

BFA '16, School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design

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Gabriela Osio Vanden (BFA ’16) is a Venezuelan-Canadian award-winning cinematographer based in Toronto. When crafting images, Gabriela draws from her background in visual arts – primarily painting and dance.  Her York University thesis film, The Rambler (2016), premiered at Camerimage and awarded her an internship with Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC, who she shadowed for the duration of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing. Since then, Gabriela’s work has premiered at major film festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Camerimage International Film Festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, True/False, and Hot Docs. Her directorial debut, the short documentary Nuisance Bear (2021), received Honorable Mention: Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF in 2021 and is currently nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards. Gabriela has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University. 

Read more about Gabriela’s latest film Nuisance Bear in the York U Magazine.

York U alumnus Jason Robinson

Jason Robinson

Environmental and EDI advocate
BA ’17, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
MES ’19, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change/Faculty of Graduate Studies

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Jason Robinson (BA ’17, MES ’19) is an environmental and social advocate and researcher. Jason’s current roles include data analyst for the Rural Ontario Institute, policy specialist for the Community Climate Council, and co-founder/research and data lead for Gradient Spaces. As a data analyst, he is responsible for researching various socio-economic issues affecting rural Ontario residents. As the policy specialist, Jason works to develop and execute strategies to increase environmental awareness and climate literacy in the Peel Region. As a co-founder of Gradient Spaces, a space for BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ people passionate about making tech more equitable, he works on collecting data to address the issues racialized and queer people face in the tech ecosystem. With a passion for sustainability metrics and issues impacting marginalized communities, Jason has led workshops and seminars on the interconnection of human, economic and environmental systems among various demographics. He is the 2021 North American Association for Environmental Education’s 30 under 30.

York U alumna Anna-Kay Russell du Toit

Anna-Kay Russell du Toit

Community builder
iBA ’15, Glendon College 

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La version française suit la version anglaise.

Anna-Kay Russell du Toit (iBA '15) is a public policy professional and community builder on a mission to bridge the gap between policy, equity, and sustainability, to ensure Canada’s future is liveable and socially-just for all. As the co-founder of the Canadian Black Policy Network, and manager of public affairs for WoodGreen Community Services, Anna-Kay has worked to engage historically underrepresented communities in the public policy process to improve socioeconomic and sustainable outcomes for all Canadians. As the director of strategy and governance for Leading Change, Anna-Kay helped to shape the growth and future direction of a nation-wide movement of young leaders and sustainability professionals accelerating action on issues that are critical to attaining a sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future within a generation. Anna-Kay was named a Top 30 Under 30 Sustainability Leader in 2020 by Corporate Knights, and a COP26 Canadian Climate Champion in 2021 by the Canada Climate Law Initiative and British High Commission in Ottawa.

Read Anna-Kay’s Glendon alumni profile.  

Anna-Kay Russell du Toit (i.B.A. 2015) est une professionnelle des politiques publiques et une bâtisseuse communautaire qui se donne pour mission de combler le fossé entre les politiques, l’équité et la durabilité afin de s’assurer que l’avenir du Canada est viable et socialement juste pour tous. En tant que cofondatrice du Canadian Black Policy Network et directrice des affaires publiques de WoodGreen Community Services, Anna-Kay s’est efforcée de faire participer les communautés historiquement sous-représentées au processus d’élaboration des politiques publiques afin d’améliorer les résultats socio-économiques et la durabilité pour tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes. En tant que directrice de la stratégie et de la gouvernance de Leading Change, Anna-Kay a contribué à façonner la croissance et l’orientation future d’un mouvement national de jeunes leaders et de professionnels dans le domaine de la durabilité qui favorise des actions concrètes sur les questions essentielles à la réalisation d’un avenir durable, prospère et socialement juste en l’espace d’une génération. En 2020, Anna-Kay a été désignée comme l’une des 30 leaders de moins de 30 ans en matière de développement durable par Corporate Knights et comme la championne canadienne du climat de la COP26 en 2021 par l’Initiative canadienne de droit climatique et le Haut-commissariat britannique à Ottawa.

Lisez le profil d’Anna-Kay, diplômée de Glendon

York U alumnus Mahad Shahzad

Mahad Shahzad

Social entrepreneur
BBA ’20, Schulich School of Business

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Mahad Shahzad (BBA ’20) started his entrepreneurial journey in 2015 as a high school student. He helped raise money for Syrian refugees with a local fundraiser. He loved finding a meaningful cause and rallying people behind a common goal. While studying at Schulich he was co-president of the York Entrepreneurship Society, where his mission was to make entrepreneurship accessible to all students. During his first year, he founded Chatting to Wellness which provides companionship and mental health support to seniors across Canada; a problem Mahad was passionate about after seeing his own grandparents facing isolation and loneliness. He has grown Chatting to Wellness from a local group to a nation-wide organization. During COVID-19, Mahad led the launch of a digital product, Phone Chats, bringing companionship and friendship to isolated, lonely, and/or abandoned seniors across Canada. Chatting to Wellness has provided 15,000+ chats to seniors, has 100+ active volunteers, and numerous corporate partners. Mahad continues to lead Chatting to Wellness while working in technology strategy, mentoring students, and pursuing opportunities to create impact for those in need.

York U alumna Jonelle Sills

Jonelle Sills

Opera singer and EDI advocate
BFA ’16/BEd ’16, School of Arts, Performance and Design/ Faculty of Education

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Jonelle Sills (BFA ’16, BEd ’16) believes that her work in opera can have a social and cultural impact and is proudly a mentor with Opera InReach, a collective of multidisciplinary artists who focus to embody equity, diversity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility to the operatic art form. An active member in her local community in Markham, Jonelle has been a member of The Nubian Excellence Book Club since its inception in 2008. The York AMPD fine arts grad was one of CBC Music’s classical “30 under 30” performers for 2020. Some past roles include Mimì, Musetta (La Bohème), Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Micaëla (Carmen). She is a 2019 Dora award winner for “Outstanding performance of an Ensemble” in Vivier’s Kopernikus with Against the Grain Theatre. Jonelle originated the role of Esther in Prestini’s, Vavrek and Strassberger’s Silent Light as a resident artist at Banff Centre’s Opera in the 21st Century Program. Jonelle is a member of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program at Vancouver Opera for their 2022 season.

York U alumna Emily Wright

Emily Wright

Indigenous advocate and researcher
BA ’17, Glendon College

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La version française suit la version anglaise.

Emily Wright (BA ’17) is an Anishnaabe kwe from Wasauksing First Nation with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from York University’s Glendon campus.  She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario where she works with the City of Toronto on Indigenous engagement. As an Indigenous youth research associate, she helps aid the policy, planning, finance, and administration division on meaningful engagement with Treaty partners and the urban Indigenous population. Relationship building is an important aspect of her position which involves developing an understanding of the needs, interests, and supports the Indigenous population in Toronto is requesting. She is currently working on an Indigenous engagement tool to help support City employees include Indigenous engagement and perspectives in their City of Toronto projects. By assisting the advancement of Truth and Reconciliation in Toronto, Emily is navigating the meaningful steps needed to support Indigenous peoples living in the city. 

Emily Wright (B.A. 2017) est une Anishnaabe kwe de la Première Nation de Wasauksing qui a obtenu un baccalauréat en mathématiques au campus Glendon de l’Université York. Elle vit actuellement à Toronto, en Ontario, où elle travaille avec la Ville sur l’engagement des Autochtones. En tant qu’associée de recherche pour les jeunes Autochtones, elle aide la division des politiques, de la planification, des finances et de l’administration à s’engager de manière significative auprès des partenaires des traités et de la population autochtone urbaine. L’établissement de relations est un aspect important de son poste, qui consiste à comprendre les besoins, les intérêts et le soutien que la population autochtone de Toronto demande. Elle développe actuellement un outil pour aider le personnel de la Ville à inclure l’engagement et les perspectives autochtones dans leurs projets de la Ville de Toronto. En contribuant à l’avancement du programme Vérité et Réconciliation à Toronto, Emily prend les mesures nécessaires pour appuyer les peuples autochtones qui y vivent.

About York U's Top 30 Alumni Under 30

Launched in 2021, York’s Top 30 Alumni Under 30 program seeks to highlight the success and diversity of the University’s young alumni community, while inspiring the next generation of young alumni leaders to make a positive difference locally and globally. For more information on past recipients, click here. Nominations for the next Top 30 Alumni Under 30 list will open this Fall, click here to learn more.