Meet the Fall/Winter Team 2018-2019

Operations and
Communications Team

Julia Smeed – Innovation Hub Project Leader

Julia photoJulia 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 at the University of Toronto, and has presented at various conferences including the Canadian Association of College & University Student Services and the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers.  Outside of her work, Julia is a single mom to 5-year-old twins Joshua and Victoria.

Kate Bowers – Senior Project Assistant

Photo of KateKate Bowers studied political science at U of T and has been working in leadership and career development within Student Life for over 8 years. As the Senior Project Assistant with the Innovation Hub she will be supporting the work of staff and student teams with training, communications and relationship building on campus. She is excited about the potential of the work of the Innovation Hub to help staff and students navigate opportunities and services on campus more effectively. She has completed training in Appreciative Inquiry, facilitation methods, and a Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, cycling and watching Survivor (yes, it is still on TV).

Kaitlyn Corlett – Project Assistant 

Kaitlyn Corlett Kaitlyn Corlett is a Master of Education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Adult Education and Community Development. As the 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. 

Christina Bondi – Storyteller

Photo of ChristinaChristina is a second-year Master of Information candidate in the Culture & Technology concentration. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, with studies in Classical Civilization, Literature & Critical Theory, and Semiotics. As the Innovation Hub’s Storyteller, Christina strives to craft and uphold consistent, transparent, and accessible mixed media communications with Innovation Hub stakeholders (via blog, photography, videography, and print materials). In her spare time, Christina enjoys exploring Toronto’s architecture, partaking in both arts-and-crafts and creative writing, and snuggling with her cat named Flufe. She also serves as a Social Committee Co-Chair for the Master of Information Student Council and Managing Editor for the iJournal: Graduate Student Journal of the Faculty of Information.


Darren Clift  1st year Master of Information (User Experience Design)

Suzie Kim — 1st year Humanities

Paul Giurgeu — 1st year Commerce

Belen Rios Sialer — 1st year Humanities/Life Sciences

Viona Wambui — 3rd year Kinesiology 

Chanz Valmonte  — 1st year Computer Science

Claire Stevenson-Blythe – Connector

Photo of ClaireClaire Stevenson- Blythe is in her first year of the Master of Science in Planning program at the University of Toronto. She holds the position of The Connector at the Innovation Hub, working to maintain and grow the various relationships on and off campus. Claire is interested in environmental planning; specifically, the ways planning can be used to create inclusive, equitable, and environmentally sustainable communities. Claire has spent the last two years exploring urban and natural spaces around the world and has a deep love for travel and the learning that can be derived from it. 


Roxanne Bai  1st year Commerce 

Christy Liu  — 4th year Commerce 

Sam Zhu — 4th year Humanities

Adrian Huntelar – Volunteer Coordinator

Photo of AdrianAdrian is a fourth-year undergraduate student of Political Science and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies. He will be serving as the Innovation Hub’s Volunteer Coordinator, supporting the work of the Hub’s 70+ volunteers. Adrian has an extensive background in student affairs and on-campus problem solving, having previously served as the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Director representing low-income students, and later as its Vice-President, University Affairs.

Margaryta ignatenko – Training Facilitator

Photo of MargarytaMargaryta is a third-year journalism student. She has been part of various Innovation Hub teams over the past three years and is now excited to collaborate with Mia in the training and facilitation role. Margaryta works for an education non-profit and takes on freelance projects. As a commuter student she welcomes podcast recommendations and fun (easy) recipes.

Mia Sanders – Training Facilitator

Photo of MiaMia is a third-year undergraduate student double majoring in Women & Gender Studies and Diaspora & Transnational Studies and. They are teaming up with Margaryta this year to train volunteers in the Innovation Hub’s methodologies, and support the design teams. Mia works for an education non-profit, is on the editorial board of a youth research journal, and does climate justice activism. They are a fan of playing the piano and drums, biking around Toronto, and hanging out with their human and

animal friends.

Design Research Team

Danielle Lum – Senior Research Assistant

Photo of DanielleDanielle is a second-year graduate student with the Faculty of Information (iSchool), holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, Political Science and Gender Studies. Empathetic and a passionate problem-solver, she is currently specializing in the field of User Experience Design. As project assistant, she plays a supportive role to the Project Manager and all other teams of the Innovation Hub. In her free time, Danielle enjoys indulging in video games, reading pulpy mystery novels, and petting cats.

Brigid Burke – Design Research Team Lead

Photo of BrigidBrigid is in the 6th year of her PhD in the Department of Sociology. Her research applies an intersectional lens to explore how norms around violence and emotional intensity are negotiated through embodied micro-interactions. She has been a Teaching and Research Assistant in the Sociology Department for the past 7 years, and is now a Course Instructor in the areas of sociology of health and gender. Outside of academia she has worked in the public and private sector as a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Project Evaluator. As a Design Research Team Lead for the Innovation Hub, Brigid works with her team to design and conduct empathy-driven design research with the goal of understanding life from others’ perspectives.


Josh Allen — 2nd year Math and Physical Sciences

Alexandra Malinowski — 2nd year Master of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Molecular Biology

Sanjana Patel — 3rd year Specialist in Architectural Studies: Technology of Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism

Kristen Shi — 4th year Economics

Claudia Szabuniewicz — Master of Information, User Experience Design

Matthew Wilkie — 4th year Health Sciences

Rachel Davis – Design Research Team Lead

Photo of RachelRachel is an applied researcher in human-centric design and innovation in her final year at University of Toronto. Her studies in Business Management and Social Cultural Anthropology have given her an understanding of how ethnographic and Design Thinking methods can be applied to creatively solve problems. As a Design Research Team Lead for the Innovation Hub, Rachel will work with her team on a long term project. The team will uncover needs through empathetic immersion in the everyday reality that students face. Rachel is a trained student leader and mentor who has facilitated a First Year Learning Community and volunteered as an Orientation Leader Captain for Innis College. Her interests include arts and literature.


Shubhra Bedi — 1st year Computer Science 

Xiao Fu — 3rd year Applied Statistics and Economics

Henry Guo  5th year Sociology

Hussein Hashi — 2nd year Master of Information, Information Systems & Design and User Experience Design

Janet Huang  — 3rd year Neuroscience, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Statistics

Charlene Jia  — 4th year Computer Science

Tina Keshavarzian — 4th year Neuroscience, physiology, and philosophy of science

Pulakesh Lohiya — 2nd year Computer Science 

Maggie Ma – Transcription and Data Analysis Assistant

Maggie Ma is a second-year undergraduate student double majoring in Statistics and Human Geography. Coming from an interdisciplinary background, she is excited about applying her knowledge in both quantitative and qualitative analysis to improving the undergraduate experience. As the Transcription and Data Analysis Assistant, Maggie communicates across different teams and specializes in providing additional transcription and data analysis support. She is heavily involved with Trademark and Licensing team, generating insights as well as helping out in the data analysis, report drafting, and presentation process. In her spare time, Maggie enjoys being in nature and trying out new things.

Shirin Gerami – Design Research Team Lead

Photo of ShirinShirin Gerami is a fifth-year PhD student in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Shirin obtained her Master’s degree from New York University and her Bachelor degree from McGill University. Shirin’s PhD dissertation concerns emergent notions of normative heterosexuality in contemporary Iran by examining the ways in which changes in patterns of marriage and divorce in Iran has been framed as a crisis. Shirin has been a Teaching Assistant in the Anthropology Department for the past 5 years. As one of the Innovation Hub’s Team Leads, Shirin and her team work with the Family Care Office at U of T to conduct a qualitative research concerning the experiences of students with family responsibilities at University of Toronto.


Vidhya Elango —  Linguistics, Anthropology, and Computer Science

Susie Hu 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

William Gao — 1st year Master of Medicine, Pharmacology

Doris Pan — 1st year Mathematics and Economics

Mulan Li — 1st year Social Sciences

Amanda Liu — 4th year Neuroscience and Cell & Molecular Biology

Laura Windhorst — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Sue Wu

Olivia Zhang — 1st year Master of Information

Samin Khan – Design Research Team Lead

Photo of SaminSamin has a passion for exploring human-computer interaction design. Recently his interests involve using machine learning models to solve problems in health care that range from physical capacities to psychological wellbeing. He is currently a 4th year student in computer science, cognitive science and psychology. Additionally, Samin is the co-founder of smartARM – a bionic arm start-up that is leveraging AI technology to create a cost-effective and highly functional product for the prosthetics industry.


Gillian Chen  1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Shunmuga Priyaa Sathiyaseelan — 1st year Master of Information

Vipasha Shaikh — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Alexandra Portolos — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Joseph Youssef – Design Research Team Lead

Photo of JosephJoseph is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at U of T, whose research is grounded in the Anthropology of Religion. He is interested in questions of religious identity and ethical practices. Joseph has several years of experience developing qualitative and ethnographic research overseas as a part of his studies.  He has also worked as Teaching Assistant for various anthropology courses at U of T. As one of the Innovation Hub’s Research Team Leads, Joseph will be working closely with the Multi-Faith Centre at U of T to uncover questions of student involvement and spiritual identity.  


Fatima Ahmed — 3rd year Psychology and Statistics

Effie Chang — 3rd year Psychology and Physiology 

Tess Elkhoury — 2nd year Arts & Science 

Matthew Lowe  1st year Master of MHI

Minh Nguyen — 2nd year Statistics and Computer Science

Caroline Shi — 4th year Psychology

Xinyi Shi — 3rd year Finance and Economics

Yuchen Wang — 1st year Master of Information, Information Systems & Design 

Charis Lam – Design Research Events Lead

Photo of CharisCharis Lam is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry. She started her involvement with the Innovation Hub as a writer for the Storytelling Team, and she has also written for The Varsity. As a long-time student at U of T (eight years and counting!), she is excited about the Innovation Hub’s work to improve the student experience. Outside of work, she enjoys reading fantasy novels and sewing her own wardrobe.


Nur Farzana Izzati Azmy  Part-Time, Life Sciences

Chelsea Chang — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Qi Fu — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Amanda Ma — 3rd year Psychology and Philosophy

Evangeline Procopoudis — 4th year European Studies, History, and Political Science

Yao Yao — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Xinyi Yu — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Summer Zhai — 3rd year, Exchange Program

Zi Zhou — 2nd year Psychology 

Transforming the Instructional Landscape Design Research Team

Nick Feinig – Design Research Lead

Nick has been an active member of the University of Toronto community since 2007, completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Socio-Cultural Anthropology here, prior to starting his doctoral work. He has held several research assistant, project management and committee roles in both the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Department of Anthropology. Nick has acted as a Teaching Assistant for various Anthropology courses and was an Adjunct Professor at Rikkyo University teaching a course in the Ethnography of Japan.

Danielle Baillargeon – Design Research Assistant

Photo of Danielle B.Danielle is a sixth year PhD student in the Department for the Study of Religion. She completed an undergraduate degree in Economics as well as Religion and Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary.  She also has a Master’s in Greek and Roman Studies with a focus on Roman art. Danielle is part of the Transforming the Instructional Landscape project in the design research assistant role. She will help with data collection and analysis.  In her spare time, Danielle is an avid cook and gardener.

Saaili Junnarkar – Design Research Assistant

Photo of SaailiSaaili is a first year Master of Information student at the Faculty of Information, specializing in User Experience Design. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Chemical Engineering and had worked as an entrepreneur for the past few years. As the Design Research Assistant for Transforming the Instructional Landscape project at the Innovation Hub, her work involves conducting and analyzing interviews of the University of Toronto community on their classroom experience in order to improve it. In her spare time she likes to play tabletop games, watch sci-fi & thrillers, and travel.

Zhenni (Jenna) Liao – Design Research Assistant

Photo of Zhenni (Jenna)Jenna is a first-year Master of Information student and currently specialising in User Experience Design. She has completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Sociology and Contemporary Asian Studies at U of T. Her role on the team is to help with data collection and analysis for the Transforming the Instructional Landscape project. In her spare time, she does street photography and drinks loose leaf tea. She’s also a big fan of The xx and HONNE.

Ricardo Menendez – Design Research Assistant

Photo of RicardoRicardo is a second year MBA candidate at the Rotman School of Management with focus on Design Thinking and Digital Innovation. He has a degree in Telecommunications Engineering and has over 5 years of work experience in Peru. At the I-Hub, he works as a Design Research Assistant for the Transforming the Instructional Landscape project, in which he conducts qualitative data collection and analysis using human-centered design methodologies. Ricardo is also an amateur musician and enjoys playing guitar and composing in his free time.


Ryan Ngai — 1st year Material Sciences and Engineering 

Rachel Booth — 1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design

Ruiqi Wang — 3rd year Computer Science and Mathematics

Sicily Shi  1st year Master of Information, User Experience Design