By: Liam Berti
What do a country music sensation, an international sommelier, a world-renowned digital planner, a green-innovation entrepreneur, a dental hygienist and an award-winning media businessman have in common?
They are all Algonquin graduates that have been nominated for the 2013 Premier’s Awards.
The awards, which will take place on Nov. 18 in Toronto, are presented to six Ontario college graduates to recognize their contributions and positive impact in the province and throughout the world.
Algonquin’s nominees will go up against other highly skilled college graduates in the community services, creative arts and design, business, technology, health sciences and recent graduate categories.
This year, Algonquin has appointed six contrasting but influential alumni.
Jason Blaine- Community services
While the country music star has been recognized for his country songwriting prowess, he is now being praised for his community work in his hometown of Pembroke, Ont.
The Canadian Country Music Association Songwriter of the Year recently established the Jason Blaine Charitable Fund and Celebrity Golf Tournament to help charities in his hometown, along with continuing his work as a spokesperson for World Vision and the Child Poverty Action Network.
“What means a lot to me is this nomination is for community involvement,” said Blaine. “The community work I’ve been doing is really important to me. It’s just the way I was raised in the (Ottawa) valley, just always remember where you come from.”
Blaine graduated from Algonquin’s Pembroke campus in 2002 after studying small business. He insists he has always had the desire to commit time and effort to making a difference where he was born and raised.
“I feel like I’ve been given the gift of music and it’s got to be more than just a chart number on the radio or how many records you’ve sold,” said Blaine. “When you can use the gift of music to give back and make a difference to other people, that’s more rewarding than any award or chart number, that’s where the motivation comes from.”
Véronique Rivest- Creative arts and design
While travelling the globe and being recognized as the first woman to ever be named the world’s second best sommelier is an achievement in itself, Rivest is now being nominated on a scale closer to home, where it all started.
Her work as a world-renowned wine expert has catapulted her to the top of her field, appearing in Le Droit newspaper, Radio-Canada radio in Ottawa and numerous magazine and television shows around the globe.
“Sometimes people get recognition worldwide but not at home,” said Rivest. “Being nominated hadn’t even crossed my mind, so it was a nice welcome surprise.”
Although Rivest was recognized as the world’s second best sommelier in Tokyo this year, she insists that the Premier’s Award nomination is on par with her international recognition.
“I’ve grown up and lived my whole life in the area, so really this is my home community,” said Rivest. “To get this kind of recognition locally is really great.”
Collin Douma- Business
Since graduating from Algonquin’s animation program in 1995, Douma has launched himself into the upper-echelon of social media strategists. His work has enhanced the footprint of such companies as Ford, Coca-Cola and Gillette, while contributing to branding programs for the Olympics and FIFA.
“It reminds you of how far you’ve come, which is something I hadn’t reflected on until this came up,” Douma said of the nomination.
Douma, who now calls New York home, has influenced work around the world and continues to play a vital role as senior vice president and global digital planning director at the international advertising agency BBDO.
Much like Rivest though, the impact and scale of Douma’s work has been brought closer to home thanks to this year’s nomination.
“It’s always good to be recognized from your roots,” said Douma. “Algonquin, to me, was that launching pad for my career and my world got a lot bigger by attending the college.”
Steve Barkhouse- Technology
From humble beginnings as a self-employed carpenter, Barkhouse has evolved his trade and skill into an award-winning home designs and constructions.
His company, Amsted Construction, has won the Greater Ottawa Homebuilders’ Association Green Renovation Project of the Year for four consecutive years and has won Renovator of the Year for three straight years.
Barkhouse’s niche thrives on green innovation and engineering and, while this most recent award nomination is not for a particular house design, it does represent where Barkhouse’s career began; at Algonquin.
Terri Strawn- Health sciences
Strawn’s passion for dental hygiene is evident in her appointment as the new president-elect of the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association.
Along with being a professor and dental hygienist, Strawn has been a tenacious advocate for tobacco cessation and a smoke-free province and has pushed for a tobacco cessation drug coverage plan in college faculty insurance, all within only ten years of leaving Algonquin.
Jith Paul- Recent graduate
Since graduating from the televisions broadcasting program just four years ago, Paul has flourished as the creator of a medium to spotlight the work of musicians and actors, Treepot.tv.
Paul is also the founder of Treepot Media while also continuing to direct and produce short films that have been recognized by the Toronto Independent Film Festival and CBC Television’s Short Film Faceoff.
Algonquin has been represented in the winner’s circle at the award ceremony nine times dating back to 1992, with the most previous honour going to director and film producer John Cassar in 2011.