Distinguished Award Recipients 2018

2018 Outstanding Student Leadership Award

Moshtagh Mohammadi
Engineering Technologist, McElhanney
Civil Engineering '18

As a child living in Iran, Moshtagh Mohammadi lived in constant fear. Although Iran is home to one of the world’s largest Bahá’i populations and where the faith originated, people of the Bahá’i faith in that country have been persecuted for more than 35 years. It is this persecution—which includes false imprisonment, torture, execution, and denial of civil rights—that prompted Moshtagh’s father to flee Iran in 2002, with then nine-year-old Moshtagh and his younger brother.

They landed in Turkey, where they lived as refugees before Canada accepted the Mohammadis 17 months later. As new immigrants to Canada, life was not easy. His father worked hard to make ends meet while Moshtagh, struggled to learn English, make friends and to understand the subjects being taught in class. But, in math, he excelled.

In 2004, Moshtagh met McElhanney’s John Sorenson (an alumnus of the first graduating class of BCIT’s Civil Engineering program), who introduced him to the career possibility of civil engineering. For Moshtagh’s Grade 11 school work experience requirement, Sorenson mentored Moshtagh on a water drainage project for a regional airport. It was a project that required a lot of applied mathematics, and Moshtagh was hooked.

Moshtagh chose BCIT for its hands-on learning, and completed his Diploma in Civil Engineering Technology in June. He is the first in his family to receive a post-secondary education, as Bahá’is are denied access to higher education in Iran. Moshtagh received the Marshall J. Heinekey Civil Engineering Award. During his studies, he served as Chair for the Schools of Transportation, Construction and the Environment with the BCIT Student Association, co-hosted the Student Space Challenge Design contest with the Architectural Connections club, served on the organizing committee for the Western Engineering Competition; and was a finalist in BCIT’s Presentation Idol competition. Moshtagh is also an active volunteer in the Bahá’i community, through the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, mentoring youth in New Westminster and Burnaby.

Moshtagh graduated in June, and was hired by McElhanney in August, as an Engineering Technologist.

2018 Faculty and Staff Association Distinguished Alumni Award

Tara Wilkie
Part-Time Studies Instructor, BCIT Forensics; Forensic Nurse Examiner, Fraser Health Authority
Registered Nurse '12, Nursing, BSN '14

Tara Wilkie – a Part-Time Studies (PTS) Instructor in BCIT Forensics and a practicing Forensic Nurse – was nominated for her knowledge, expertise, and education in the human trafficking component of forensic nursing in addition to the criteria for the award. Tara’s knowledge has contributed to the work of Fraser Health Authority through the development of a human trafficking awareness model for BC and the CBC has spoken to her about the ‘epidemic’ of human trafficking.

Sheila Early, Tara’s nominator, had this to say: 

“Tara’s qualities include responsibility for her ethical professional practice, integrity to uphold the standards of her profession, strong work ethic to support her colleagues as well as her community, her province, her country. She is also globally aware of the devastating effects of violence in our global world.

Tara has taken a small segment of health care (human trafficking) and made an enormous and unique contribution the knowledge base of health care providers, law enforcement, justice system not only in the Lower Mainland but provincially and nationally. She is a recognized expert in this area. She has educated many individuals in the Forensic Health Sciences course on human trafficking making all her colleagues aware of the dangers and effects of human trafficking.” 

FSA Members had a chance to hear Tara speak at their Oct 2017 General Meeting on a member panel. They had a chance to hear about the importance of her work – not only in industry, but also within the educational environment here at BCIT.

The FSA president has attempted to shine a spotlight on all their members – including those working in (PTS) and it is a great honour to join the FSA board in honouring Tara for her accomplishments, her dedication to education and practice, and her commitment to a better world.

“BCIT has been my foundation for 17 years, and it’s here I am encouraged to create change to help those most in need. My growth is attributed to the incredible BCIT instructors and faculty, and my Forensic colleagues who have mentored me along the way. My strength and perseverance comes from my patients, who inspire me daily to be a better person. Thank you for this recognition.” -- Tara Wilkie

2018 BCIT Distinguished Alumni Awards

Mischa Steiner
Founder and CEO, Awesense, Inc.
Electronics - Wireless Communication & Computer Networks '03

Mischa Steiner is the founder and CEO of Awesense, a Vancouver-based clean tech success story. Steiner has now expanded Awesense across the globe, reaching new heights in its efforts to save energy for their customers while significantly combating climate change.

Awesense’s mission is to optimize humanity’s largest machine - the electrical grid. By harnessing the power of big data, IoT, and AI, Awesense helps electric utilities optimize and modernize the electrical distribution grid by reducing avoidable electricity losses due to existing inefficiency, reduce outages, forecast and plan for the future grid of tomorrow. 

Avoidable electricity losses cost utilities an estimated $200B/year globally and they are responsible for 1.2 trillion tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions. To date, Awesense has saved over 800,000 tonnes of CO2, and in the process identified how to reduce the need for traditional power generation and modernize the grid for the future of renewables.

Awesense received the BCIC-New Ventures 2011 Sustainability Award, was the highest ranked Cleantech company in Deloitte’s Fast50 in 2017, and GE’s Innovation Award in 2018. And for several years in a row, has also been recognized as a Top 100 Cleantech Company.

Mr. Steiner is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry conferences, university programs and government events on smart cities, clean economy, AI and the innovation potential of technology to transform business and society. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Victoria, and a Diploma, Electronics - Wireless Communication & Computer Networks from BCIT in 2003.

Mr. Steiner is an innovator. He is a great example to students and alumni of the global impact of a BCIT education, pioneering solutions for complex problems. 

Nigel Bennett
Co-Founder/Principal, Aqua-Guard Spill Response Inc.
Mechanical Engineering Technology '85

In 1992, Mr. Bennett co-founded Aqua-Guard Spill Response Inc. The business’s mission is to protect water, the world’s most precious resource. For over 25 years, the company has designed, fabricated, and supplied marine oil spill response equipment, and provided related services to 3,000+ clients worldwide. Aqua-Guard’s patented oil skimming technology has been used to clean up spills from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and from Egypt to China. Mr. Bennett and Aqua-Guard have received multiple awards for their innovation, business excellence, and entrepreneurialism. Moreover, Aqua-Guard has consistently garnered positive press from sector journals.  

Mr. Bennett has been an active member of MIT’s Entrepreneurs Masters Program for 14 years and of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization for 15 years. To raise money and awareness of the plight of homeless youth, he has brought executives with him to sleep on the streets in his home town of Vancouver, Canada.  

He has travelled the world with his wife Rieko, their daughter, and their two sons to develop themselves as global citizens. The entire Bennett family supports the efforts of the Pachamama Alliance to inspire people to bring forth a “thriving, just, and sustainable world.” As a long-standing volunteer for the YWAM Homes of Hope, he continues to bring his family members as part of his teams of volunteers to Mexico each year to build homes for the homeless.  

Mr. Bennett graduated from BCIT in 1985 with a diploma in Mechanical Engineering Technology. In 2018, he published Take that Leap: Risking it All for What Really Matters, recounting his business and personal adventures, and the insights he’s gleaned. Mr. Bennett was very well received as the keynote speaker at the BCIT Alumni Association’s AGM in June, with 180 attendees.  

Whether he’s talking with business leaders, not-for-profit groups, or a student audience, Mr. Bennett is committed to positive change. As an active philanthropist, he donates all profit from his book sales and speaking engagements to organizations that support poverty alleviation, human rights, social services, and the environment.

2019 BCIT Honorary Doctorate of Technology 

Elyse Allan
Former President & CEO, GE Canada

Ms. Elyse Allan is a passionate champion for Canada’s competitiveness, advancing the country’s science and technology base and competitive fiscal policy. As a female technology leader on the global stage, she sets a strong example for students of BCIT. During Ms. Allan’s thirty year association with GE, executive roles in other technology and manufacturing companies and her current board role at Brookfield Asset Management she has worked across many sectors of BCIT’s strategic focus: training technically-minded workers for the fields of Power and Hydro, Oil and Gas, Aviation, Healthcare, Transportation, and Capital Financing.

She actively engages in developing and shaping public policy through industry groups, research, and advocacy organizations. Elyse Allan has participated on a number of federal and provincial government advisory boards focused on Canada’s competitiveness, energy strategy, economic development, transportation strategy, and access to credit. She works to advance innovation and entrepreneurism through her role on the MaRS Discovery District Board of Directors and the leadership council for Scale Up Ventures. She is or has served on the board of numerous high profile organizations, including the CD Howe Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, where she also served as Chair.

Ms. Allan has been recognized in the Top 100 Women of Influence Hall of Fame by the Women’s Executive Network, the YWCA Woman of Distinction (Business), and by Maclean’s and Canadian Business Magazines as one of Canada’s most influential business leaders. In 2014, Elyse was appointed Member of the Order of Canada for her community engagement and achievements as an innovative business leader.  

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where she studied Biology and environmental studies and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth where she also chairs the Board of Overseers.

Roberta Jamieson
President & CEO, Indspire
Executive Producer, Indspire Awards

Roberta Jamieson is a Mohawk woman who has enjoyed a distinguished career of firsts. She was the first First Nation woman in Canada to earn a law degree; the first non-parliamentarian appointed an ex-officio member of a House of Commons Committee; the first woman Ombudsman of Ontario; and the first woman elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, where she continues to reside with her family. As an accomplished expert in alternative dispute resolution, she also served as a Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario.

Under Ms. Jamieson’s leadership, Indspire has flourished. Indspire is a national Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada. Raising funds from government, corporate, and private sectors, Indspire’s annual disbursements of bursaries and scholarships to support Indigenous students in post-secondary education have increased sevenfold. In 2016/17 Indspire awarded $11.6 million through 3,764 scholarships and bursaries to Indigenous students across Canada.

An innovative K-12 Indspire Institute was launched providing support to educators and communities working to improve educational outcomes with culturally grounded curriculum and techniques. Ms. Jamieson is also the Executive Producer of the annual Indspire Achievement Awards, a nationally broadcast celebration of the successes achieved by Indigenous people. Indspire was selected by the Financial Post as one of Canada’s Top 25 Charities worthy of a donation in 2014 and 2015 and rated as a Four-Star Charity by Charity Intelligence Canada.

Ms Jamieson, a long time advocate for greater diversity on corporate boards, is a member of Hydro One’s Board of Directors and a member of Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency. She has earned numerous awards, including, most recently, YWCA’s President’s Award and admitted into the Women’s Executive Network’s “Canada’s Most Powerful Women” Hall of Fame. In 2015, Ms. Jamieson was recognized by the Public Policy Forum for the outstanding contributions she has made to the quality of public policy and good governance.

She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has been a strong advocate for BCIT.

In 2017, Ms. Jamieson provided a video testimonial for BCIT Honorary Doctorate recipient David Tuccaro. She also attended the 2017 BCIT Distinguished Awards dinner.