U of T announces winners of the 2023 Arbor Awards: Spotlight on UTSC alumni

headshots of the winners of 2024 Arbor awards from UTSC


Arbor Award is the highest honour granted by the University to volunteers, and is given for sustained contributions to specific academic units, such as faculties, colleges or institutes, or for broader contributions to the University at large.

For over three decades, U of T has celebrated the contributions of exceptional alumni volunteers with the prestigious Arbor Awards. 

The awards are a testament to the unwavering commitment and generosity of these individuals who play a pivotal role in enriching the experiences of students, faculty, staff, and fellow alumni. These volunteers embody the spirit of the University's motto, "Velut Arbor Aevo" – symbolizing growth and endurance, much like a tree through the ages.

This year, we are especially proud to recognize the 2023 Arbor Award winners from the UTSC campus. Their dedication not only grounds us in our rich traditions but also helps in spreading UTSC's message of "Inspiring Inclusive Excellence" far and wide. 

Their stories are not just a testament to their unwavering dedication to giving back to their alma mater, but also an inspiration for the entire UTSC community. Join us in celebrating the remarkable journey and invaluable contributions of these distinguished honorees.

Ramiz's headshot


Rameez Ansari (BBA 2008 UTSC) 

Since 2014, Rameez has been significantly involved in volunteer capacities at UTSC. He has mentored numerous co-op students, advised on a potential student-managed fund, and proposed and created a course on private equity, drawing from his MBA experiences. Most significantly, he pitched, developed, and launched the Leadership Fellows Program (LFP), which supports UTSC Management students aspiring to competitive careers in finance, entrepreneurship, and management consulting.

In addition to his volunteer work, Rameez is a Co-Founder and Partner at Union Software Group and the Co-CEO of AutoLeap, a B2B SaaS startup in the auto repair industry. His expertise also extends to academia; he is a lecturer at the University of Toronto. A proud alumnus, he holds an MBA from Stanford GSB and continues to actively contribute to the UTSC community.


Mirza's headshot


Mirza Celik

Mirza Celik, a dedicated community friend, has devoted his time and expertise to the soccer program at UTSC, serving as a program builder, coach, and mentor. He has played a pivotal role in developing both the Men's and Women's soccer teams. Whether it's a match day or a practice session, Mirza is a constant presence on the sidelines, actively coaching or enthusiastically cheering on the UTSC teams. His commitment extends beyond the field; he has significantly contributed as a mentor, investing in the lives of hundreds of students. Through his guidance and friendship, Mirza has provided invaluable support, helping to shape not only skilled athletes but also well-rounded individuals. His dedication to the soccer program and his unwavering support of student-athletes embody the spirit of community engagement and mentorship at UTSC.



Althea's headshot


Althea Fernandes (BSc 2007 UTSC)

Over the past decade, Althea has made remarkable contributions to both UTSC and the wider U of T community. Her involvement with the UTSC Alumni Association is extensive and multifaceted, having served in various capacities, including as an Advisory Group member, Past President, President, and Secretary. Althea's commitment to student success is evident through her active support of key initiatives aimed at student development. She has played a vital role as an alumni mentor in several programs, including the Women in Leadership Initiative, the Partners in Leadership mentorship program, and the Get Hired initiative at UTSC. Additionally, her dedication to the broader university community is demonstrated by her current service on the U of T College of Electors. Althea's continuous engagement and leadership have significantly enriched the university experience for many students and have had a lasting impact on the UTSC and U of T communities.


Steve's headshot


Steve Lau (BBA 2005 UTSC)

Since 2014, Steve has played a significant role in various volunteer capacities at UTSC, contributing widely to the campus community. He has dedicated his time and expertise to mentoring numerous co-op students and has been an advisor for a potential student-managed fund. Steve's involvement extends to being a keynote speaker at important events and actively supporting the launch of new initiatives. During the challenging times of the pandemic, he uplifted the spirits of graduating students by delivering a heartfelt congratulatory video. His most notable contribution, however, has been in conceptualizing, developing, and launching the Leadership Fellows Program (LFP). This program is a cornerstone initiative at UTSC, designed to support Management students in their pursuit of competitive careers in finance, entrepreneurship, and management consulting. Steve’s efforts have not only enhanced the educational experience at UTSC but have also played a crucial role in preparing students for successful professional futures.


Vania's headshot


Vania Sakelaris (BSc 1990 VIC)

Vania's dedication to empowering both established and emerging leaders is a testament to her passion and commitment. Her approach to mentorship is both personal and impactful, as she engages with students through one-on-one sessions and group events. A key aspect of her mentorship involves leveraging her extensive network to bring industry leaders to the UTSC Department of Management. These leaders share their entrepreneurial and professional journeys, providing students with invaluable insights and real-world perspectives.

As one of the inaugural Executives in Residence in the Department of Management, Vania plays a multifaceted role. She not only serves as a guest lecturer, imparting her knowledge and experience, but also actively develops community-based work-integrated learning projects. These projects are vital in bridging the gap between academic learning and practical application. Furthermore, Vania plays a crucial role in connecting alumni and championing the University's mission, stakeholders, and impact. Her efforts significantly contribute to the Department's success and enhance the overall educational experience for UTSC students.


As we celebrate the remarkable achievements of our Arbor Award winners, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to each of them for their outstanding contributions to the UTSC community. 

Stay tuned for upcoming feature stories that will delve deeper into these exceptional individuals' inspiring journeys and impactful work.