Group of award winners

The 2023 IMI Awards: A Celebration of Staff, Faculty, and Student Accomplishments

Mashiyat Ahmed

The Institute for Management and Innovation (IMI) Awards, established in 2016, are a celebratory gathering dedicated to recognizing staff, faculty, and students at IMI who have gone above and beyond in their work, and who have truly exemplified IMI’s values of transformational thinking, hard work, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The 2023 IMI Awards celebrated contributions in areas such as research, social leadership, and emerging technologies. IMI deeply values a culture of recognizing both the work of trailblazers in tackling the world’s most pressing problems, and those who have immersed themselves in supporting such people and ensuring their continued success.

For 2023, there were 64 nominees for the 9 IMI Awards. Award winners included staff, faculty, students, alumni and community partners from across the Institute. Sean Kavanagh and Natasha Walli, who are recipients of the IMIvator Award and Staff Award respectively, are featured below - congratulations to all of this year's winners!

  • IMI Faculty Award: Soo Min Toh
  • IMI Research Award: Yue Li
  • IMI Staff Award: Natasha Walli
  • IMI Team Collaboration Award: BIGDataAIHUB Communications Team (Ryan Cerrudo, Sarah Ogbiti, Abdullah Qaisar, Claire Westgate)
  • IMI Alumni Award: Anureet Kaur (MScSM Class of 2016)
  • IMIvator Award: The Energy Network (TEN)
  • IMI Social Leadership Award: Hannah MacRae (MScSM Class of 2023)
  • IMI Emerging Technology & AI Award: HollyTM Team (Imran Rhemtulla, Crystal Valdez & Naina Jain)
  • IMI Campus Partner Award: City of Mississauga, Economic Development Office; City of Mississauga, Strategic Communications & Initiatives
TEN winning their award
Co-founder Sean Kavanagh and Maimuna Hafiz from The Energy Network (TEN) receive their IMIvator Award from Claire Westgate, (Manager, External Partnerships & Communications for IMI)

The IMIvator Award is given to current graduate student(s) who created a product, service, project, event, group, or program that demonstrates innovative ideas, enhances the student experience, or makes an impact on the community. The winner of this award is The Energy Network (TEN), co-founded by Sean Kavanagh, who is a recent graduate from the Master of Science and Sustainability Management (MScSM) program. Kavanagh and his teammates have been awarded this recognition for their work in establishing TEN, a central hub promoting student engagement with the energy sector through a sustainability lens, which the University previously lacked.

After completing his BCom and entering the financial industry, Kavanagh was confronted with the unsustainable nature of his work; he says “we were educated that our role in the financial industry was to grow returns for investors where there isn’t too much regard for how those returns are achieved in the first place, which can be through very unsustainable practices.” In recognizing the lack of sustainability in financial education and practice, Kavanagh says that “it was really important to me that I return to school because I hadn’t come across a role where I was learning that sustainability lens, which I found was desperately lacking.” TEN also aims to increase education, through discussions and workshops, on the sustainable future of energy. As the world becomes more complex, with new and interconnected problems, students and change-makers can feel overwhelmed by climate anxiety. When asked what approach students in sustainability should take to address climate anxiety and continue to find value in their work, Kavanagh states the importance of not being belittled by one’s individuality: “what’s important is that if you have this anxiety, it speaks to the fact that you are thinking about [climate change], and I think that the best cure to climate anxiety is to do your best … my personal recommendation to overcoming climate anxiety is to act on it … then it’s just a question of how do you want to act on it.” In the case of Kavanagh and his partners at TEN, it was necessary to attack climate change through not only education, but also via actionable steps such as establishing TEN as a student organization committed to sustainability education and fostering meaningful industry connections for future leaders in energy.

Natasha winning her award
Natasha Walli receives her IMI Staff Award from Claire Westgate

Equally vital to the culture of innovation at IMI are staff members and educators who dedicate themselves to the success of students. Natasha Walli, a placement and employer relations manager at UTM, won the Staff Award for her enthusiastic facilitation of professional and personal development of students in the Master of Urban Innovation (MUI) program. The IMI Staff Award is given to someone who has greatly enhanced student experience through facilitating student engagement and providing invaluable support. Walli has extensive experience in advising students on career development, building key strategic relationships between students and employers, and her passion for enhancing student experiences always has her pitching new and innovative ideas for program development and dynamic opportunities.

During undergrad, Walli worked at career centers where she was introduced to the value of helping others in navigating their own passions. When asked about why her work is so special to her, Walli remarks that “we are working with students at such a critical time, and I just want to make sure they get the best experience and maximize their learning … I’m lucky to get to work closely with students every day, building connections, and getting to see their journey throughout all their endeavors.” When it comes to working with students during key stages in their professional careers, the most rewarding part, says Walli, is “seeing the development of students and being able to give back.” Professional leaders and innovators like Walli and Kavanagh are the type of people that continue to make IMI a place of success where individuals unite in their mission of navigating the world’s problems and be recognized for their incredible achievements in the process!

A full list of IMI's 2023 IMI Award Winners can also be found here.