NAIT community award winners, achievers and community builders – Spring 2023

Leaders, innovators, creators and more!

Four times a year, we share news of the winners of awards, earners of acknowledgement, and builders of community among NAIT alumni, students and staff. Please join us in congratulating them!

(Know of someone we're missing? Let us know.)

Best in (all) class(es)

brian phelps, winner of the 2023 governor general medal at NAITAs a student, Brian Phelps (Magnetic Resonance Imagining 1st Discipline ’23) was driven to understand a subject as deeply as possible – so much so that he achieved a PhD in genetics by his late-20s.

The effort paid off during his follow-up studies at NAIT, where earned the 2023 Governor General’s Academic Medal for having the highest overall average.

Edmonton’s best restaurants


A post shared by Edify Magazine (@edify_edmonton)

One of our favourite issues of Edify once again featured a number of talented grads from Edmonton’s culinary scene. Every spring, the city magazine names top restaurants in a variety of categories. Here’s where chefs and owners with polytechnic credentials ranked in this year’s roundup.

(Incidentally, several of the judges had NAIT connections too, including CBC host Min Dariwhal, Radio and Television Arts ’92, and food writers Linda Hoang, Radio and Television – TV ’11, and Phil Wilson, Power Engineering Technology ’97.

Best overall

  1. Uccellino, Daniel Costa (Culinary Arts '05)
  2. Rge Rd, Blair Lebsack (Cook ’98)
  3. XIX, Andrew Fung (Cook ’01, Baking ’98)
  4. Bündok, Ryan Hotchkiss (Cook '12)

Best new

3. Pals sandwiches, Nathan McLaughlin (Cook ’04)

Best date night

  1. Tzin, Kelsey Danyluk (Marketing '02), Corey McGuire (Cook '07)

Best tried and true

  1. The Next Act, Nathan McLaughlin (Cook ’04)

Best steak

2. Hayloft Steak and Fish, Paul Shufelt (Cook '01)

Check out our guide to restaurants owned or operated by NAIT grads

2023 honorary degree recipients

 2023 nait honorary degree recipients hubert lau, sharla king and jason gregor

Each year, NAIT selects members of the community as recipients of honorary degrees as part of convocation. They’re accomplished locally and beyond, represent the polytechnic’s mission, and are dedicated community builders.

This year, those recipients are

“Congratulations to Jason Gregor, Dr. Sharla King and Hubert Lau on receiving honorary degrees from NAIT,” says Peter Leclaire, NAIT vice-president, academic.

Business hall of famers

yasmin jivraj, chair of the nait board of governors

The Junior Achievement Alberta Business Hall of Fame recognizes those whose achievements over the course of their careers qualify double as outstanding contributions to the province and its economy, positioning it for success in the future. The 2023 inductees include Yasmin Jivraj, chair of NAIT’s Board of Governors and a long-time member and innovator of Edmonton’s tech entrepreneur community.

Read more about Yasmin Jivraj’s aspirations for NAIT

Stamp of approval

Senator Thelma Chalifoux commemorative stamp

This June, Thelma Chalifoux was recognized with a commemorative stamp released by Canada Post. The Métis activist and trailblazer was the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate of Canada. Chalifoux was also a long-time Elder in residence at the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre at NAIT, where she mentored students and supported staff. She passed away in 2017.

Outstanding safety student


A post shared by CCOHS-CCHST (@ccohs.cchst)

Occupational Health and Safety student Jacklyn Olson was one of two national recipients of the 2023 Dick Martin Scholarship Award. The $3,000 prize is granted by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety to learners in the field who meet a criteria that includes submitting an essay on injury prevention or research on a hazard and risk.

Picture perfect wedding (photographer)


A post shared by Railene Hooper (@rai_hooper)

After wins earlier this year from the Professional Photographers of Canada for Alberta wedding photographer of the year and best in class for photojournalistic wedding, Railene Hooper (Photographic Technology ’16) took the top spot nationally this April. Hooper works with her mentor, Robert Bray (Photographic Technology '79), at his studio in Edmonton.

Best in baking

judy lan, nait baking and pastry arts grad and worldskills 2024 competitior

After making her way through the recent SkillsCanada Alberta and SkilsCanada competitions with gold medals, Judy Lan (Baking and Pastry Arts ’23) will represent Canada in baking at WorldSkills 2024, to be held in Lyon, France.

“I always want the best,” says Lan, who recognizes that she habitually holds herself to a high standard. “I just wanted first [place], and then I got it. So that made me happy.” The 20-year-old baker currently works at Brio Bakery, a sourdough specialty shop owned by Todd Barraclough (Management ’17).

Read more about how Judy Lan rose above the competition

Strong showing at SkillsCanada Alberta

While Lan came away from SkillsCanada Alberta as the big winner, NAIT had a strong showing at the annual event. Each year, roughly 700 youth gather from across the province to participate in competitions based on their chosen trade or educational program.

NAIT had 52 registrants at the recent installment in May, and more than 50% of those received a medal, while several others also received safety awards. Eight of those medals were gold, admitting the winners to the SkillsCanada competition in Winnipeg, MN, where Lan earned her spot at WorldSkills 2024.

Mavellous management

NAIT Ovintiv Applied Research Chair in Energy Dr. Paolo Mussone

In April, NAIT’s Ovintiv Applied Research Chair in Energy Dr. Paolo Mussone took silver at the Colleges and Institutes Canada 2023 Awards of Excellence. The program recognizes best practices and individual achievements from colleges and institutes across the country, and includes the Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff.

Mussone leads the Clean Technologies Team, which focuses on the emerging circular economy.

Canada’s best restaurants

Three NAIT grads were highlighted in the annual Canada's 100 Best list of the country’s best restaurants. Edmonton’s two entries are Biera at #84 (Davina Moraiko, Culinary Arts '05, and Duncan Gommerud, Cook ’16) and Rge Rd at #89 Blair Lebsack (Cook ’98). Toronto’s Edulis, which placed fourth, is co-owned by Michael Caballo (Cook ’02).

Even more QE2 medal winners

queen elizabeth ii's platinum jubilee medal

Our list of recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal continues to grow, with the additions of

The medals were awarded to those who’ve made exceptional contributions to the province.

See the full list

Banner image Sgt-Mathieu-St-Amour,-Rideau-Hall-©-OSGG,-2022

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