Photo of Vahed and Nirula with Alexandra Gillespie in front of a step-and-repeat with the UTM logo

Recognizing Exceptional Volunteers: UTM’s 2022 Arbor Award Recipients

Negin Neghabat-Wolthoff

Our volunteers personify the very best attributes of our institution, serving to spread the highest mission of the university: to meet global challenges and prepare global citizens.

We are delighted to celebrate the contributions of the university's most exceptional and longstanding volunteers with the prestigious Arbor Award, the highest honour granted by the university to volunteers. It is a recognition in honour of sustained contributions to specific academic units, such as faculties, colleges or institutes, or for broader contributions to the university at large.

Two of this year’s Arbor Award recipients are University of Toronto Mississauga alumni and we are very proud to celebrate all the ways in which they have served us over the years.

Ziyaad Vahed (HBA 1999, BEd 2000 OISE, MEd 2003 OISE), is currently Director, Child Development and Specialized Services Branch, at the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

Over the past decade, Vahed has generously volunteered his time to UTM, serving as a member of the UTM Campus Council, the Council of Presidents and the UTM Alumni Association – where he led a two-year term as President. He has also been a mentor to students, speaker at various university events, supported student initiatives and established two academic prizes in comparative politics and the study of political Islam.

He has also generously supported his community beyond the university; for example in serving on the Toronto Board of Directors of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, chairing the committee to select the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor's Medal Of Distinction in Public Administration, as a Course Instructor for the Ontario Public Service, and as the Founder and Vice-Chair for Tomorrow’s Ontario Public Service.

Some of his past honours include being a nominee for the Bravo Excellence Award issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and receiving the Ontario Public Service Amethyst Award, the highest award for a public servant issued by the Ontario public service. As a student, Vahed was also the recipient of the Gordan Cressy Student Leadership Award and the OISE Commendation Award issued by the University of Toronto.

“I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer throughout my life and I believe it has given me many opportunities to learn and grow, which has benefitted me both personally and professionally,” Vahed says. “It is an honour to be the recipient of the Arbor Award, especially from an institution that I’ve continued to feel close to since graduating. That being said, this award belongs to the many people that have supported me along my journey, believed in and nurtured my potential and then provided me with opportunities to serve.”

Jay Nirula (BCom 1983) is currently a Partner at Gera & Nirula Professional Corporation.

Some of Nirula’s generous volunteer contributions to the University of Toronto include serving on the UTM Campus Council, as well as various standing committees, including the Academic and Campus Affairs Committees, the Agenda Committee, and the Nominating Committee. He has also participated as a volunteer in the Backpack-to-Briefcase Alumni Café, and, in 2019, he established the Nirula Cosentino Achievement Award, which is granted to an undergraduate student entering full-time studies in Year 1 on the basis of financial need. Nirula served on the Strategic Planning Task Force to design and implement UTM’s Academic Plan for the next 5 years under the direction of the Vice Principal, Academic & Dean.

Beyond the University of Toronto, Nirula has volunteered in his community in roles such as Guest Lecturer at Huron College and the University of Western Ontario, as a Professional Conduct Committee Member for CPA Ontario, as a board member of the Community Foundation of Oakville, a past volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society, the Red Cross, and Junior Achievement, as well as volunteering at Aim for Seva Canada, which raises funds to build schools and hostels for underprivileged children in India. In 2017 Nirula was awarded his profession’s highest mark of distinction, the Fellows (FCPA, FCA) designation by Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Ontario.

Nirula’s nomination for the Arbor Award was fully supported by UTM’s Ombud Officer, having worked with him since 2016.

“UTM has a special place in my heart. It has broadened my horizons, opened my mind, allowed me to interact with bright students and academics, and provided me with endless opportunities since I graduated,” Nirula says, “Volunteering comes naturally to me as it is my way of giving back to the society that has allowed me to flourish and succeed. I am honoured to be selected to receive the Arbor Award, a truly significant milestone!”

The University of Toronto Mississauga congratulates Jay Nirula and Ziyaad Vahed on being named 2022 Arbor Award recipients, cognizant of the significant achievements and contributions that this award symbolizes. Thank you for being important alumni contributors to the UTM and U of T community!

Photo of Vahed and Nirula
Ziyaad Vahed (left) and Jay Nirula
Photo Credit: Nick Iwanyshyn