Information Technology Services (ITS)

ITS staff contribute to award-winning projects: Excellence Through Innovation Awards 2021

Published on: February 17, 2022

On Dec. 14, 2021, 349 University of Toronto’s (U of T) administrative staff and librarians received Excellence Through Innovation Awards (ETIA), many of whom were Information Technology Services (ITS) staff members!

The U of T ETIA program recognizes exemplary staff and librarians and provides a platform for sharing outstanding practices across our campuses. ETIA is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate above-and-beyond contributions toward the University’s mission as one of the world’s foremost research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

“Congratulations to all the ITS staff members and their project teams who received an ETIA award this year,” says Bo Wandschneider, Chief Information Officer (CIO). “You should be proud of the solutions that came out of your hard work and understanding of this institution. Each project has contributed to U of T’s current and future success.”

We would like to recognize the ITS staff members who were involved in these award-winning projects.


Communicator 7 appNominated by: Patrick Hopewell, Director, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), ITS

In December 2017, following extensive community consultation and requirements gathering, a complex, large-scale, multi-year project to replace over 13,000 legacy Bell Centrex telephone lines with VoIP phone lines was launched. This migration project was officially completed on Nov. 30, 2020. In addition to the significant per line cost savings that departments now enjoy, this project represents ongoing savings by eliminating long-distance calling charges within North America, as well as the cost of moves, adds and changes for which we were previously charged.

ITS staff members involved:

  • Tony Danas, Manager, Telecommunications
  • Will Hu, Unified Communications Support Analyst, Telecommunications
  • Tom Rygiel, Unified Communications Support Analyst, Telecommunications
  • David Tseu, Unified Communications Support Analyst, Telecommunications
  • Steven Wall, Unified Communications Support Analyst, Telecommunications

“The completion of this project allowed for a smooth transition into the sudden pivot to remote work a few months later.” says Patrick Hopewell, Director, EIS. “Well done to the Telecommunications team for their work on this project and ongoing support for U of T staff.”


Nominated by: Markus Stock, Principal, University College

While honouring its heritage character, a significant part of one of the most iconic buildings on the St. George campus has been transformed. The project has provided entirely new measures for barrier-free accessibility, returned the library space to its original location within the existing building and modernized the building’s function with the ability to support new programming.

ITS staff members involved:

  • Paul Chan, Project Management & IT Network Specialist, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)
  • Vlad Kouptchinski, Manager, Network Design & Implementation, EIS
  • Vivin Thomas, Project Management & IT Network Specialist, EIS
  • Richard Cheng, Project Management & IT Network Specialist, EIS


Nominated by: Maria Kolesnikova, Special Projects Lead, Office of the CAO, Student Life
David Newman, Executive Director, Student Experience
Bo Wandschneider, CIO

Launched during the COVID pandemic, “Navi” – the U of T Mental Health Wayfinder – has had more than 29,000 conversations with U of T students. The anonymous chatbot helps students easily find support, such as contact information and direct links to U of T and community resources, to address everything from stress and anxiety to feelings of discrimination or loneliness.

ITS staff members involved:

  • Cathy Eberts, Director, Enterprise Applications and Deputy CIO

Connect and Learn Program

Nominated by: Gary Raposo, Senior Manager, Enterprise Shared Services, EASI

Connect+Learn sessions are designed to provide training on specific tools or processes in an informal and interactive environment where attendees can ask questions and be part of a conversation. The team has delivered over 90 sessions to almost 5,000 attendees since the shift to remote work. Their work has had a huge impact on team morale and overall engagement within our community.

ITS staff members involved:

  • Kathleen McLeod, Services Engagement Coordinator, Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI)
  • Heather Postill, Senior Information Management Analyst, EASI
  • Vicki Vokas, Senior Manager Client Services, EASI

EASI: Connect and Learn


Nominated by: Jane Harrison, Officer of the Vice President & Provost
Cathy Eberts, Director, Enterprise Applications and Deputy CIO

A uniquely cross-divisional team conceptualized, developed and implemented two enterprise-level solutions connecting to and embedded within the University’s main Human Resources Information system (HRIS).

The Academic Administrative Appointment (AAA) Solution workflow allows the Provost’s Office and Dean’s Offices to bring forward nominees for specific AAA positions for approval and coordinates the on and off-lining of AAAs in HRIS. The end product is the creation of an accessible, consolidated and authoritative list of all Academic Administrators and AAA positions within HRIS.

The research and study leave (RSL) tool consists of changes made within HRIS that allows the institution to track and report on the RSL and administrative leave entitlements of all eligible faculty at the University. These projects have significantly reduced time and effort on these tasks, generated critically important, institutional-level authoritative data that will remain current, and directly supported improved academic planning and risk mitigation.

ITS staff members involved:

  • Barbara Der, Information Technology Analyst, EASI
  • Kelly Gao, Manager, Human Resources Information System (HRIS), EASI
  • Parviz Moinipour, Information Technology Analyst, EASI
  • Michael O’Cleirigh, Senior JAVA Developer, EASI
  • Piyush Tiwari, Information Technology Analyst, EASI
  • Vaishnavi Varadarajan, Information Technology Analyst, EASI
  • Yimei Zhao, Manager, HRIS, EASI

“Congratulations to the EASI team for implementing innovative solutions and advancing U of T’s mission,” says Cathy Eberts, Director, Enterprise Applications and Deputy CIO. “Our Connect+Learn training sessions have engaged thousands of attendees across all three campuses and Navi, the U of T Mental Health Wayfinder, has helped our students find the support they need. In addition, the AAA solution has vastly simplified and streamlined the appointment process. I would also like to recognize the collaborative effort of these projects with the Division of the Vice-President & Provost as well and Student Life. We’re proud to consistently enhance our systems for faculty, students and staff and we look forward to more success in the future!”

Congratulations to all recipients!

For more information about the Excellence Through Innovation Awards, please visit