Meet the Fall/Winter 2019-2020 Team

Operations and
Communications Team

Julia Smeed – Innovation Hub Projects Officer

Julia is a leader, innovator and “intrapreneur” who specializes in design thinking, collaboration and related methodologies that strive to design programs with students rather than for them. As the Leader of the Innovation Hub at the University of Toronto, she works with hundreds of students, faculty and staff on campus to improve the community’s campus experience.  Julia holds an MBA from the University of Fredericton in Global Leadership and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Western University. Julia is also the Secretary of the Council on Student Services and the Co-Chair of the Student Life Professionals community of practice at the University of Toronto.  She has presented her work at various higher education conferences across North America, and is currently writing a book about the application of design thinking in student affairs. Outside of her work, Julia is a single mom to 6-year-old twins Joshua and Victoria who are in first grade.

Gianina Ramos – Project Assistant

Gianina Ramos is currently a first year Master of Information student at UofT’s Faculty of Information, concentrating in User Experience Design. She graduated with a BA, studying Architectural Design, Urban Studies and Human Geography, also at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about designing impactful solutions that go beyond the deliverables and is committed to her constant self-development. She hopes to bring her energy and student perspective into her work and roles at the Innovation Hub. As Project Assistant, she contributes to communication elements, production of design deliverables and support to design projects at the Hub. Gianina is also excited to be a Design Research volunteer for the KPE Space Redesign project. Outside of school and work, Gianina enjoys sports and fitness, board games, illustration, good food, and listening to the same old 2000’s R&B playlist. 

Gabriele Simmons – Senior Project Assistant

Gabriele is a first-year MA student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in the Adult Education and Community Development program. She’s this year’s Senior Project Assistant with the Innovation Hub, so she supports its overall operations in a logistical, leadership, and administrative capacity. In a former life, Gabriele was a transfer student to the University of Toronto. Her experiences navigating its complex structures inspired her to first volunteer and then, later, take on a Team Lead work study role to engage in knowledge mobilization and resource sharing with the University community that further strengthened the U of T student experience. She’s excited to return to the I-Hub in a staff capacity to continue to explore how we might, with students, reimagine their journeys in post-secondary campus life. When she’s not working, you can find Gabriele doing volunteer grant writing and biking across town for BUNZ trades.

Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant 

Kaitlyn Corlett is a Master of Education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Adult Education and Community Development. As the Senior Project Assistant, Kaitlyn supports the communication elements at the Hub, develops design materials, and supports Team Leads in their unique research processes. Her collaborative specialization in Workplace Learning and Social Change helps to strategize how the Innovation Hub can continue to develop innovate ways to engage in projects by students, for students. Originally from Vancouver, B.C., Kaitlyn likes to be in nature as much as she can. She also loves engaging in new experiences by taking beginners dance classes, going to local arts spaces, and working on her design and visual arts practice.

Shirin Gerami – Senior Research Assistant

Shirin GeramiShirin Gerami is a sixth-year PhD student in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto and has been a member of the Innovation Hub for a year now. Shirin’s PhD dissertation focuses on the changing patterns of marriage and divorce in Iran. Shirin has been a Teaching Assistant in the Anthropology Department for the past 5 years. Last year, Shirin and her team worked with the Family Care Office to capture the experience of students with Family Care responsibilities at UofT. This year, Shirin will be overseeing the fall/winter projects from a research standpoint and providing research support to the teams. In her spare time, Shirin enjoys taking pottery classes, spending time with friends, and binge-watching TV shows.

Charis Lam – Writer

Charis Lam is a PhD candidate in Chemistry. As the Writer, she helps with communications strategy and leads the team of volunteer writers and photographer. She shares the Innovation Hub story and inspires its audiences by curating blog content, polishing final reports, and advertising projects and events. She believes the knowledge being created at UofT should be spread so others can build upon it, whether that knowledge comes from the Innovation Hub’s qualitative, human-centered research or from the lab. Outside of work, she enjoys inhabiting fantasy worlds as both a writer and a reader.


Anusha Arif

Tammy (Yung Hsin) Cheng
Darren Clift
Ahmed Hagar
Eddie Huang
Elizabeth Khvatova
Sophia Kurtz
Zhaoyu Li
Victoria (Tori) Sheldon
Maximus (Max) Yaghchi
Tianyang (Cynthia) Zheng

Data Analysis Team

Danielle Baillargeon – Data Analysis Team lead

Danielle Baillargeon is a 7th year PhD student in the Department of the Study of Religion, whose research focuses on grief and bereavement in ancient religions. Danielle is fascinated by how individuals understand emotions, how they express them, and they use them to articulate their sense of identity and community. This is her second term at the iHub as the Data Analysis Team Lead. Danielle and her team will support the iHub team in the data analysis process.  The data analysis team will also take a deep dive into the data collected for previous iHub projects to gain new insights into the student experience at the UofT. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Danielle loves houseplants and has turned her condo into a tropical jungle.

Victoria Barclay – Data Analysis Assistant: Division of Student Life – Strategic Planning

Victoria Barclay is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Sociology and double minoring in Political Science and Equity Studies. Victoria has been involved in the U of T community through a variety of other roles but is thrilled to try something new with the Innovation Hub. She wants to contribute to the Innovation Hub through her role as a Data Analysis Assistant, strengthening her understanding of design thinking and anti-oppressive practices. When not working or studying, Victoria likes to binge watch movies on Netflix.

Leyla Cheng – Data Analysis Assistant: Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education – Student Space Enhancement

Leyla is a second year student in Master of Information program, concentrating on User Experience Design. Leyla holds a bachelor’s degree in Law from National Taiwan University. Prior to pursuing her master degree, Leyla worked as a market researcher at Kantar Insight. As a data analysis assistant, Leyla applies what she has learned from UX and her research skills to Innovation Hub and hope to create positive experience to the University of Toronto communities.

Leyla likes to travel in different countries, so far she has been to several countries in Asia, Europe, Central and South America. She is hoping to set foot on Africa soon. And in the long term, Leyla wants to work in non-profit organization using design thinking approach and bring more positive designs in social justice system.

Yuan (William) Gao – Data Analysis Assistant
: I-Think & Family Care Office

Yuan (William) Gao is an MSc candidate in Pharmacogenetics in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. His research focuses on exploring the role of genetics in smoking cessation and how differences in individual drug metabolism play a large role in an individual’s ability to quit smoking. William completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario with studies in Interdisciplinary Medical Science. His past research experience has given him strong critical thinking skills and enhanced his ability to conduct and assist with data analysis. As a design research assistant, he hopes to help support various teams and provide input throughout the data collection and analysis process. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and coming up with new recipes!

Sharon Lam – Data Analysis Assistant: Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health

Sharon is in her second year of a Master of Information program focusing on Information Systems and Design and User Experience Design. She has a B.A. in English and History from Huron University College, and also completed a B.Ed at Western University, after which she worked in education both teaching and coordinating programs. She began to recognize her passion for designing human-centered solutions after completing an information management project for the government. In her data analysis role, Sharon is excited to draw insights from the Innovation Hub’s vast collection of interviews. Sharon plays violin with the U of T Campus Philharmonic Orchestra, and also takes pleasure in biking around the city, camping backwoods, and reorganizing storage spaces.


Yuk-Yung (Anita) Cheung
Yu-Chun (Gingin) Chien
Minyi (Monica) Ma
Olivia Mazzurco
Daniel Stoilescu
Lovely Juson
Amal Yusuf

Division of Student Life – Strategic Planning

Sujaya Devi – Design Research Team Lead

Sujaya Devi is a Master of Information candidate focused on culture and technology studies. As a Design Research Team Lead, Sujaya implements an empathetic research approach on the Division of Student Life Strategic Planning Project. She previously worked with students as an Instructor for the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design at Sheridan College. Sujaya also works as a library assistant at University College Library. She is an author, poet, and photographer who has been recognized for her art through RAW Artists Toronto. She’s the author of “Write Left,” a memoir about her experiences as a Canadian Trinidadian woman published by Life Rattle Press, Toronto and is currently working on her second book. 

Rhea Makund – Design Research Assistant

Rhea is going into her second year of her Master’s program at the iSchool completing two concentrations: User Experience Design and Human-Centred Data Science. She completed her Undergrad in Anthropology and Economics. In her role as a Design Research Assistant at the Innovation Hub, she conducts empathy-based research on the Student Life project to gain insight into how we can better the student experience on campus. This design work bridges two things that she loves – culture and design! She also volunteers part-time as a mentor helping newcomers adjust to life in Canada. In her spare time, Rhea loves to stay active. She plays rec soccer in the spring/summer, and she plays volleyball on the SGS Faculty of Information team during the school year.

Deborah Nimoh-Design Research Assistant

Deborah is a Master of Education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education specializing in Community Development. Her role as the Design Research Assistant at the Innovation Hub involves supporting research projects, meeting with partner organizations and presenting findings to key stakeholders. Complimenting her background in Community Development, the Innovation Hub is an exciting new role which allows her to navigate the process of ideation and strategic implementation. A Toronto native, Deborah loves to bring together young adults in the city through different activities. Whether it’s singing in her choir, or through panel discussions, she enjoys learning and sharing new experiences with newcomers and natives alike.


Ayaan Hagar
Lovely Juson

Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education – Student Space Enhancement

Zahira Tasabehji – Design Research Team Lead (KPE Space Redesign Project)

Zahira is in her last year of undergraduate studies in Political Science, Psychology and Education Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. As the Research Design Team Lead, Zahira’s role involves leading a team of volunteers through the Kinesiology and Physical Education Space Redesign Project for the Innovation Hub. Her true passion lies in Educational innovation and transforming education beyond the classroom. She found the Innovation Hub as a steppingstone towards that passion by incorporating leadership and creativity to enhance the student experience. Zahira immigrated to Canada from Syria back in 2010, and she fell in love with the multiculturalism and hearing people’s stories. She is an avid hiker/camper and a pun enthusiast and finds true joy in trying new foods!

Jamie Lee – Design Research Assistant

Jamie is a fourth-year student in the Rotman Commerce program and is excited to be joining the Innovation Hub as a Design Research Assistant. She is passionate about social entrepreneurship, has experience working with and building up early-stage startups, and wants to learn more about how to best understand the needs of project stakeholders. As such, she is excited to play a part in designing initiatives to improve the student experience and looks forward to using the design-thinking methodology to create some new innovative ideas! In her spare time, she likes to learn new languages, read, and play with her dog, Pumpkin.


Yuk-Yung (Anita) Cheung
Xiaoqi (Iris) Gao
Minyi (Monica) Ma
Gianina Ramos

Family Care Office

Celeste Pang- Design Research Team Lead

Celeste is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology. She is a cultural anthropologist with a background in aging and health-related research, and has had the pleasure of supporting a variety of faculty-led social science and humanities projects and student initiatives during her time at the University of Toronto. She is excited to bring her experience in ethnographic research and qualitative methods to support student life on campus as a Design Research Team Lead. Celeste really enjoys long-distance running and aspires to catch up on an ever-growing list of good books.

Fatima Ahmed – Design Research Assistant


Manaal Mirza
Taamannae (Tammy) Taabassum


Ailin Z.W. Li – Design Research Team Lead

Ailin is a first-year Masters of Information student at the University of Toronto, concentrating in Critical Information Policy Studies. She holds an H.BSc. from the University of Toronto in Psychology and Socio-Cultural Anthropology. Prior to this role, she has served as a Design Research Assistant at TD as well as a Project Coordinator for The Grandparent Project at the Asian Pathways Research Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs). As a Design Research Team Lead for the Innovation Hub, Ailin hopes to help enhance student life by applying design thinking to understand the multiple and interconnected factors which shape the student experience. Outside of school, she loves to play board games, read books, listen to podcasts, and eat great food.

Eric Hanson – Design Research Assistant

Eric Hanson is a Master of Information Student at the Faculty of Information concentrating in User Experience Design but also Critical Information Policy Studies. He graduated with a Bachelor of Design in Advertising from OCAD University and is a designer that has worked with a variety of clients to help solve a variety of communication design problems. As a Design Research Assistant, Eric is passionate to bring a human centred, design point of view to solving strategic problems in the realm of the student experience and use his experience in university governance and design to unlock impactful insights that benefit both students and administrators. When not in school, you can find Eric absorbing culture, travelling, being an armchair urban planner and constantly reading biographies of fascinating leaders.


Kathleen Ali
Joelle Girgis
Olivia Mazzurco

Presidential & Provostial Take Force on Student Mental Health

Kate Welsh – Design Research Team Lead

Kate Welsh BA, M.Ed is an artist, community activist and educator. She has led workshops for 10+ years on topics such as mental health and disability, LGBTQ leadership, wellness tools, crafting/art and enhancing accessibility. She received her Master’s from OISE in 2017 and has since worked as a counselor in a women’s shelter, run wellness co curricular programs at Hart House and more recently worked with UofT’s AODA office and the Innovation Hub to lead a design thinking project to center student voices in making Convocation more accessible. Kate is the founder of, and creative mind (and host of) Hart House’s Reframing Difference Podcast. Kate is a community advocate in the areas of disability and mental health and is looking forward to joining the team to gather student feedback as part of the Presidential & Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health.

Ariel Kenny – Design Research Assistant

Ariel employs their background in student mental health research and self-advocacy in their current role as Design Research Assistant for the Task Force on Student Mental Health. As a Sociology specialist at UTSG, they have published independent research on social and emotional distress among adolescents with a focus on using student testimonies to reform school attendance policies. Ariel continues to support student-centred solutions to academic accommodations and accessibility at UTSG as a board member of OPIRG Toronto. They are excited to further practice this empathetic approach with the Innovation Hub by improving campus mental health resources through student consultation and faculty cooperation. Ariel is also an avid writer, Trekkie, D&D player, and proud parent of their toy poodle, Honeybee.

Johanna Pokorny – Design Thinking Research Assistant

Johanna Pokorny is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She is a cultural anthropologist studying scientists, focusing on how neuroscientists change how we think of our brains, bodies and ourselves. As a Design Thinking Research Assistant at the Innovation Hub, she is supporting the Mental Health Taskforce. In her spare time, she enjoys visit galleries, and always loves a good word pun.

Jessica Thorp – Design Research Assistant

Jessica Thorp is PhD candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Her dissertation is an ethnographic and oral history project investigating performance cultures around neo-burlesque and pop culture fandoms. She also is interested in looking at intersections of disability, chronic illness, and mental health in pedagogy and performance contexts. As a Project Research Assistant, Jessica uses her ethnographic experience to support the research on the Presidential & Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health. Jessica is also a G2G Peer Advisor at the Graduate Conflict Resolution Centre. When not working on her dissertation or rehearsing for shows, she likes to travel, go on photo taking adventures, and spend time in nature.

Sarah O’Sullivan – Design Research Assistant

Sarah is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology with a Collaborative Specialization in Global health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She is a socio-cultural/medical anthropologist with expertise in critical development, humanitarian interventions, and HIV/AIDS. Sarah’s research explores new forms of HIV stigma in post-conflict northern Uganda, where she’s been working since 2011. As Research Assistant, Sarah is excited to apply her expertise in ethnographic methodology towards bettering student-centered programming. In her free time Sarah enjoys biking, climbing, and having a good laugh. 


Jawairia Mohammed
Amal Yusuf

Special Projects

Lily Shaddick – Design Research Team Lead

Lily Shaddick is in her first year of the Masters of Information program, concentrating in User Experience Design. Prior to joining the Innovation Hub, she did search engine marketing for nonprofit and cultural organizations and has professional experience in project management and development. As a Design Research Lead, she will be bringing equitable design and empathetic research to her project at the University of Toronto. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill.

Transforming the Instructional Landscape

Jason Batten-Carew – Design Research Team Lead

Jason is a second year Masters of Information student, focusing on User Experience Design and Human-Centered Data Science. Prior to starting his M.I., Jason received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Carleton University in Ottawa and worked at Apple as a Product Specialist. Jason works as a Design Research Team Lead for the Innovation Hub, combining his interest in design thinking and understanding people.

Beyond studying information and working with data, Jason is interested in game studies, technology and narrative design. Because of a passion for Japanese media and thinking, he is learning Japanese as a second language in his spare time. His life philosophy is ‘everything is connected’.

Natasha Cuneo – Design Research Assistant

Natasha is a Master of Arts candidate in Social Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto.  Her research explores the usage and impacts of social media platforms such as YouTube, through the intersection of YouTuber experience, personas, performance and community.  Natasha completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, with studies in Anthropology, Italian and Classical Civilization.  As a design research assistant on the Transforming the Instructional Landscape project her role will involve supporting her team through data collection and analysis.  Her studies in anthropology have given her experience with ethnographic methods, empathy and data analysis which she will bring to her team.  In her spare time, Natasha enjoys travelling, reading a good fiction book and watching movies. 

Meg Clare – Design Research Assistant

Meg is an undergraduate architecture student at the Daniels faculty, and is going into her third year in the Comprehensive stream. As part of the Transforming the Instructional Landscape team, she hopes to explore the intersections between architecture and human experience in the classroom setting. Through her studies, Meg is very interested in transit, infrastructure, and how to build more equitable cities. She is passionate about Toronto’s history, and enjoys exploring neighborhoods of the city on foot. She also enjoys watching films and designing self-sustaining aquariums.

Anoosheh Ghazanfari – Design Research Assistant

Anoosheh is a first year student in the Master of Information program at the University of Toronto, concentrating in User Experience Design. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, receiving a B.A. in Applied Psychology.  Prior to her work here, she worked as a research assistant in the Empathy and Social Connection Lab and the Digital Health Research Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. At the Innovation Hub, she hopes to continue to do research utilizing empathy and bridge this with her studies in UX to work on impactful projects that improve the experience of people at UofT. Outside of school and work, Anoosheh loves horticulture and trying to grow her own food, hiking, baking, and watching movies.

Jeanne Lee

Jeanne Lee is a Master of Public Policy student at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Her primary policy interests are in technology, especially concerning the far-reaching social and structural implications of Big Data and AI across various sectors. As a Design Research Assistant, Jeanne helps conduct research with human-centered methodologies on the Transforming the Instructional Landscape project, which puts equity, accessibility, and sustainability at the core of redesigning learning spaces and pedagogies. Outside of school and work, Jeanne strives to have a variety of new experiences and fantasizes about travelling around in a camper van. 


Maia Chapman
Yu-Chun (Gingin) Chien
Komal Noor
Daniel Stoilescu