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People

Meet the many faces and passionate people behind the Digital Media Zone who are dedicated to helping each team of the DMZ achieve success.

Zone Team

VALERIE

Valerie Fox

Executive Director

Valerie Fox is the Executive Director of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University (DMZ). She was responsible for its development and opening in April of 2010. Since then, the DMZ has grown to become one of Canada’s largest incubators and multi-disciplinary co-working spaces. In May 2012 Valerie was presented with the prestigious Canadian Women in Technology (CanWIT) Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and innovation. The annual award is presented to a Canadian woman who has shown the most outstanding technological innovation and corporate leadership significantly expanding the frontiers of Canada’s advanced technology industry.

With more than 25 years of experience in the creative industry, Valerie is an active advocate of the user experience having worked with technology in the university sector for industry, as well as for consumers. Her roles have varied from business development to creative direction and user experience for various digital technologies, including digital media (3-D virtual experiences, video production and animation), portal, e-Commerce, e-Marketing, e-Learning, Kiosk, mobile applications for museums, live events, public, retail and financial institutions.

Before joining Ryerson University, Valerie was the National Practice Lead of User Experience Design for IBM Canada. Prior to that, she made a name for herself as the Creative Director for the Official Sydney Olympics website.

Valerie is a professional coach and an inventor. She holds multiple patents, including one for the concept of the “Universal Shopping Cart” and four patents for the “Synchronized Multi-Tablet Internet/TV System.” Valerie received the Outstanding Achievement award for her role on the IBM Executive Design Consultancy Board, as well as an Award of Excellence for the Sydney Olympics website design.

Fox has a diverse educational past, beginning her academic pursuits in fine arts programs at C.W. Post and Syracuse University in the United States. She then studied Art History at Carleton University and Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. Later, she studied Graphic Design at Algonquin College and Computer Graphics at Sheridan College. She returned to the classroom in 2003 to take Professional Coaching Foundations at Adler International Learning.

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Dr. Hossein Rahnama

Research and Innovation Director

Dr. Hossein Rahnama is the Research and Innovation Director of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ). Hossein leads the DMZ’s research and innovation arm, facilitating and encouraging industry partnerships with DMZ companies and teams while contributing to scientific discovery and dissemination. He is also the CEO Flybits, a spin-off company from Ryerson and MaRS Innovation focusing on context-aware computing.

Hossein has been at Ryerson University for more than a decade, starting with his undergraduate degree and staying through to complete his doctoral degree and postdoctoral work. This long association with Ryerson has given him a deep understanding of the university system, including the academic and scientific research process, which has been invaluable to the DMZ’s development.

A man who wears many hats, Hossein is also the Research Director of the Ubiquitous Computing Group at Ryerson, and an Assistant Professor in the University’s Faculty of Communication and Design. He is an advocate for Canadian-European research collaborations in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, having completed collaborations with more than 14 industry partners across Europe, including close relations with companies in Sweden and Norway.

In the DMZ, Hossein conducts research that combines context-aware computing, artificial intelligence, and opportunistic social networking. With special interests in the transit, transport and security industries, Hossein’s Flybits team specializes in mobile software solutions that respond to situational factors and personal information. Their goal is to use mobile devices to enhance interpersonal communications while conserving power and energy.

In 2010, the Flybits team under Hossein’s direction launched the Mobile Transit Companion for the Paris Metro Authority (RATP) in collaborations with the European Commission’s framework program. This mobile solution provides passengers in transit with live, customized, useful data at their fingertips. The solution was developed as one piece of a larger research consortium that enabled Hossein to work with industry leaders such as Telecom Italia Research, Telefonica (Spain), Appear Networks (Stockholm) and SINTEF (Norway). Hossein is the recipient of ORION Innovation Award, Isadore Sharp Outstanding Graduate Award, an OCE International Scholarship,, Apple Inc. student scholarship, and in 2008, he was a semi-finalist for the business plan competition at Harvard Business School. Hossein has more than 18 publications and patents on Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing.

Prior to starting his doctoral studies at Ryerson, Hossein was the VP of Research and Innovation at Appear Networks in Sweden and prior to that a Mobile Applications Architect at Primus Telecommunications in London, England.

In August 2012 it was announced that Rahnama was recognized as part of MIT’s Technology Review magazine’s annual list of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35. He was distinguished for his work in context-aware and cloud computing platforms that can provide relevant information to mobile users while giving them full control on their privacy. Rahnama was selected as a member of the 2012 TR35 by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, who evaluated more than 250 nominations from around the world.

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Alan Lysne

Managing Director, Ryerson Futures

Alan Lysne has been a co-founder, CEO, CTO, and COO of a number of technology businesses, and has been working with startups for well over a decade.

Previously, Alan was the CEO of a Canadian venture-backed mobile company that was acquired by Grapple Mobile, an award winning design and development company based out of London. After the acquisition, he served as COO and led the Toronto office.

Prior to that, Alan was co-founder and CTO of Davinci Technologies, one of the first web based bill presentment companies with a global customer base of mobile operators. Davinci was acquired by CSG Systems (now Comverse Technology) where Alan served as an Executive Director and led a global team of over 80 people based in the U.S., Canada, France, India and China.

Alan started his career as a consultant with Accenture, and holds an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University.

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Matthew Saunders

President, Ryerson Futures

Matthew oversees Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI), an accelerator for early stage companies connected to the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University. RFI, through a fund it manages called DMZ Investments, invests seed capital into companies with exceptional founding teams and helps them develop and take their products to market through an extensive global network.

Matthew has over 17 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and executive working with various companies in the technology and service-based sectors. He brings operations, finance, business development and strategic planning experience. Matthew has held progressively senior roles that have focused on managing the day to day operations and finance of companies in the following sectors: hardware/software; telecommunications; HR; and marketing and communications.

Matthew was a founder and co-CEO of NRG Group which he ran between 1997 and 2001. During this period, NRG raised over $30M in financing (including NRG’s IPO) and invested in several startups and early stage Internet-based operating companies.

Matthew has an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Management, and an MBA from Northeastern University.

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Brendan Dellandrea

Marketing & Communications Director

A member of the Ryerson and Digital Media Zone family since January 2014, Brendan oversees the design and management of marketing and communications strategies and materials. He provides creative strategic leadership in all activities designed to promote the DMZ and other entrepreneurial initiatives at Ryerson University.

Prior to joining Ryerson University, Brendan spent seven years in digital marketing and communications at the University of Toronto, providing strategic, technical and project leadership for university-wide initiatives in the areas of alumni relations and fundraising. In his previous role as Director, Online Marketing and Communications for University Advancement, Brendan was responsible for the branding, design and execution of the website and digital outreach for Boundless, the $2-billion campaign for the University of Toronto. Brendan also led the development of several large-scale award-winning websites and oversaw an online services portfolio supporting hundreds of digital marketing campaigns annually.

In 2008, Brendan’s entrepreneurial leanings and passion for application design prompted him to start his own company providing non-profits with robust online fundraising solutions, an initiative that he pursued for several years prior to starting an MBA at the Rotman School of Management.

Musically inclined from an early age, Brendan began producing experimental electronic music in 2001 and was signed to Scotland’s Benbecula Records in 2005. He has produced music for the National Film Board of Canada and played concerts in Canada and the UK.

Brendan holds an MBA (Dean’s List, First Class) and an HBA in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto.

Outside the office, when not enjoying the food, music and theatre that downtown Toronto has to offer, Brendan can usually be found scuba diving historical shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, running along Toronto’s waterfront or adventuring in the backcountry of Ontario’s parks.

CARRIEANN

Carrie-Ann Bissonnette

Manager

Carrie-Ann started her role as the Manager of the Digital Media Zone in May 2011 and also currently serves on Ryerson’s Board of Governors and Presidential Search Committee. Prior to this she was the Special Assistant in the Office of the President at Ryerson University from 2006-2011 where she was instrumental in the success of many initiatives and projects such as the prestigious honorary doctorate celebrations. Her previous positions are an eclectic mix, including a role with the office of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment at Ryerson, being one of the first on-air personalities at CJWL-FM, working as a rock climbing and kayak instructor at Jeunesse en Marche, as well as assisting in studio at an audio production centre. Carrie-Ann also works as an educationalist, mentor and workshop facilitator for la Fédération de la Jeunesse Franco-Ontarienne, a French-Canadian organization which hosts leadership development training and workshops for Franco-Ontarian youth.

Carrie-Ann holds a BA from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design in Radio & Television Arts, and an MA in Communication & Culture.

When she isn’t performing as an instrument of change at the DMZ, you will find her playing beach volleyball, surfing on the West Coast or participating in sports.

Abdullah Snobar

Abdullah Snobar

Business Development

Abdullah Snobar oversees Business Development at the Digital Media Zone. He is responsible for providing strong leadership for the DMZ and directs the activities supporting the vision of Ryerson University. In addition, he continues to serve with the Ted Rogers School of Management where he overlooks Student Relations and Development for the Dean’s Office. In this capacity, he sets strategic direction for student engagement activities, builds industry partnerships, manages international experiential learning programs and overseas all finances involving student activity. He also works as a liaison to the President’s Office where he supports university wide projects in the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science as well as the Faculty of Communication and Design.

Abdullah is the advisor and license owner of Ryerson’s TEDxRyersonU, the staff advisor for the business school’s international and most prestigious event, the Ted Rogers Management Conference, a steering committee member for the business specific career centre and the university liaison for the SupaMaasai Foundation.

Abdullah has extensive experience in service delivery, business development, strategy, operations and international development. He previously worked for Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and the Department of National Defence (Canadian Armed Forces). Abdullah has a Bachelor of Commerce in Hospitality and Tourism Management and is currently completing his MBA.

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Mark Patterson

Business Development Advisor

Mark Patterson is an expert in the career development and placement of young professionals from diverse educational backgrounds.

He currently provides leadership in the strategic direction of the Office of Research and Innovation to develop new sources of research funding from industrial, government and community partners to advance Ryerson’s research strategy with a focus on large grants, donations and contract research.

In his current role Mark also leads the implementation of a revolutionary new social media platform for connecting the Ryerson community to both internal and external opportunities. Mark also speaks at conferences and webcasts about career leadership and development for young professionals who are transitioning into the workforce. Mark was the Director of Progress at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone where he worked to ensure the effective progression of over 30 companies that were being incubated within the Digital Media Zone.

Michael Carter

Michael Carter

Program Manager

Michael Carter (Hon. B.A. University of Western Ontario, Post-Graduate Certificate in Computer Graphics, Sheridan College, Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Animation, Sheridan College, M.Ed. University of Toronto) is a Ph.D. candidate in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology at the University of Western Ontario. He has developed and taught college and undergraduate courses in digital media, film & television production, animation and computer graphics, as well as maintained a successful 16 year career in the Film & Television business as a Producer, Executive Producer and Executive.

Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business aspects of animation production. Since graduating from Sheridan College’s Computer Animation Program in the mid 1990’s, he has held a number of progressive positions both locally and internationally which have propelled him to the role of Executive Producer for Ace Lightning II and Shoebox Zoo I, as well as the stop motion series Henry’s World II. Recently, Michael oversaw the series animation servicing of the CGI animated series Handy Manny I & II, and the Gemini Award-winning 2008 2D digital animation series Will & Dewitt.

Nirva Saatjian

Nirva Saatjian

Financial Officer

Nirva’s endeavors at Ryerson started in 2002, when she commenced her studies as a Business Management student. During her academic career, she also worked part-time as a Purchasing and Payments Assistant within Financial Services. Upon earning her Bachelor of Commerce degree, she joined Financial Services on a full-time basis in 2006 as the Purchasing Systems Administrator. This role, along with her temporary assignment as a Business Systems Analyst, enhanced her knowledge of the Oracle Government Financials (OGF) System. Nirva also holds a CMA (Certified Management Accountants) designation. She is excited to bring this experience and knowledge to the Digital Media Zone.

In her off-time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cross-country running, baking, travelling, and volunteering at her local community centre.

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Kristen Heredia

Media Relations Officer

As Media Relations Officer, Kristen shares the Digital Media Zone’s innovations, ongoing projects and success stories with local, national and international media.

From 2009 to 2014, she worked with Porter Airlines in a cross-functional strategic communications and customer relations role, sharing Porter’s story with members of the media and with passengers. Prior to joining Porter, she was with public relations agency, GCI Canada. She worked in technology, consumer lifestyle and public affairs practices, representing brands including Belkin, Mattel, Air Miles and Shell.

Kristen holds a postgraduate certificate in Public Relations from Humber College with Dean’s List distinction. She also earned a Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree from Queen’s University with Dean’s List distinction.

Emily Polla

Emily Polla

Media Relations Assistant

Emily joined the DMZ in September 2013. In her role as media relations assistant, she shares the Digital Media Zone’s ongoing successes and stories with the media. Emily also works in the same role for Ryerson University’s Public Affairs Office, where she interned in spring 2013.

Prior to working in media relations, Emily was a teacher with the Peel District School Board.

Emily holds a post-graduate certificate in public relations from Humber College. She has a bachelor of arts (honours) from Queen’s University, and a bachelor of education from the University of Ottawa.

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Elise Darmanin

Marketing and Communications Specialist

Elise joined the DMZ in October of 2010 as the social media marketer where she grew the social media channels, and produced web and video content. In September of 2012, she moved into the position of Social Media & Special Projects, and in September of 2013, she transitioned to the Marketing and Communications Specialist.

Prior to joining the DMZ, Elise worked as a real estate agent with MAC Marketing Solutions in Vancouver, BC, as well as a field marketer with Contiki Holidays. She was also a piano teacher to beginner students for 8 years and a crew member of the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner where she sailed the high seas through Europe, the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

Elise is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts School of Media.

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Jaclyn Tersigni

Content Creator

As Content Creator, Jaclyn is responsible for crafting messaging and managing various communications platforms at the Digital Media Zone. She first joined the DMZ as a student blogger in late 2011, and returned in September 2013 as a full-time staff member.

Jaclyn studied at the University of Toronto before transferring to Ryerson University. During her years at Ryerson, she completed internships with ELLE Canada magazine and The Globe and Mail, gaining valuable journalistic experience and building her portfolio. In the winter of 2012, Jaclyn accepted a job with a new division at the Toronto Star where she wrote and edited stories for special sections and assisted with production. She continues to write and edit on a freelance basis.

In addition to the written word, Jaclyn’s passions lie in music, travel, and the great outdoors.

Brittany Edwards

Brittany Edwards

Graphic Designer

Brittany Edwards joined the Digital Media Zone in November of 2012 as the graphic designer. She earned her Bachelor of Design degree from the FCAD program at Ryerson University specializing in graphic design and digital illustration. She recently took additional courses at OCAD U to advance her knowledge and understanding of typography and web design.

At the DMZ Brittany utilizes her technical and creative skills to communicate and enhance the DMZ outreach. Prior to joining the DMZ, Brittany worked as a freelance designer for several local businesses within Toronto.

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Marianne Bulger

Content Marketer & Special Projects

Marianne joined the DMZ in December of 2014 as Content Marketer. Building on 6 years professional experience in partnership cultivation, research, organizational advocacy and program design, she is responsible for managing and growing the DMZ’s presence on social media and the web.

Prior to joining the DMZ, Marianne worked for Right To Play Canada, establishing the Aboriginal Research Initiative and successfully raising $1.4 million in Canadian programming funds. In addition, Marianne has conducted in-field research in both Cambodia and South Africa, evaluating the impact of community driven post-conflict recovery programs. She also acted as Fundraising Coordinator for Toronto’s Stephen Leacock Foundation for 2 years.

Marianne holds a Masters in Applied Human Rights from the University of York, UK and a Bachelors of Arts, Honours in Sociology from Queen’s University, Canada.

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Susan Machado

Departmental Assistant

Susan came onboard as the Departmental Assistant when the DMZ opened its second space in April of 2011. As the DMZ rapidly grew, so did Susan’s role. She now oversees the departmental needs, including management of the front desk staff, onboarding new members, scheduling and all administration.

Susan joins us from many exciting walks of life. She flew the friendly skies as an In-Flight Director for seven years until 9/11. During this fragile period in the travel industry, Susan moved on to manage a travel call centre. Due to the unstable nature of the travel industry, Susan pivoted into the technical world, specifically focusing on web design development. With these new skills, the door to further opportunities opened up and Susan began her career at Ryerson University. She worked in a variety of departments, including Food Services, Computing Communication Services (CCS) and now, the Digital Media Zone.

Susan’s passion lies in teaching others, especially when it comes to sports and outdoor activities. As a former athlete and coach, Susan now enjoys teaching her son a variety of sports.

As someone who was born and raised in Toronto, Susan enjoys escaping the hustle and bustle by camping in Muskoka, painting or escaping to a spa.

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Tamar Svadjian

Scheduling Assistant

Tamar joined the Digital Media Zone in January 2014 as Scheduling Assistant to Valerie Fox and the DMZ management team. In addition to presiding over Valerie’s day-to-day schedule, Tamar also preps DMZ meetings and provides administrative support. Before she joined the DMZ team, Tamar sharpened her organizational and analytical skills at XEROX Canada Ltd., winning awards for proactive communication and collaboration and exceptional customer support. She is a proud alumna of Ryerson University, where she graduated with honours from Commerce in 2008, was a member of AEISEC, the Golden Key International Honour Society, and received the Music Department Award of Merit.

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Anton Feitelberg

Manager, Member Relations

Anton’s career has spanned several sectors. He has worked in commercial fisheries, real estate development and has consulted in the opening of several successful small businesses. He holds an undergraduate degree in English from Dalhousie University and an MBA from Ryerson University. Anton is an avid sailor and surfer, and has traveled throughout the world.

Shane Flynn

Shane Flynn

Members Relations Coordinator

Shane joined the DMZ in the fall of 2012 — his last year as a Ryerson University student — as a member of the student dispatch team. After graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson, Shane moved on to the business development side of the DMZ and took on the role of Member Relations Coordinator. He works closely with the entrepreneurs of the DMZ to ensure that they receive the most out of their experience while in the Zone.

During his time at Ryerson, Shane was actively involved in the school community. He volunteered with the Office of the President, became a student representative, and was also president of the student group ARRG! —The Association of Ryerson Roleplayers and Gamers! — for two years. In his spare time, Shane likes to catch up on his ever-growing backlog of games, attend concerts in the city, and play and watch his favourite sports.

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Kristin Davis

Membership Resource Coordinator

Kristin joined the Digital Media Zone in May 2013. As a Membership Resource Coordinator, Kristin is involved in building engagement and partnerships with the advisory network through the implementation of programming & services offered at the DMZ.

Having worked previously at a creative enterprise in the corporate world and a fast-paced startup, Kristin leverages her diverse business acumen to create innovative programming that serves evolving business needs. By collaborating with entrepreneurs, advisors and DMZ staff, Kristin works to foster the growth and business development of the diverse community of companies within the DMZ.

In her spare time, Kristin enjoys hunting for the next best Americano in one of the many independent coffee shops in Toronto and, as an aspiring writer, supports the Canadian film and arts scene.

Kristin holds an Honours B.A. in English and Criminology from the University of Toronto, a diploma in Broadcast Journalism from Seneca College and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management from Ryerson University.

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Kirstyn DeVries

Events & Tours Coordinator

Kirstyn has been working in the role of Event and Tour Coordinator for the Digital Media Zone since February 2012. She began working at the DMZ in June 2011, as the Tours Ambassador, to help with growth and connections within the rapidly expanding ecosystem of startups.

In her day-to-day, Kirstyn is connecting with new and interesting people from various countries, organizations, educational institutions, careers and backgrounds.

She works very closely with the DMZ and Ryerson University Executive teams to ensure introductions to industry connections are smooth, cohesive and mutually beneficial. She collaborates with the international office to ensure the DMZ is showcased strongly on an international academic level, and assists with delegation visits to campus. She also works to ensure event requests and content are relevant and informative to the DMZ community.

Kirstyn has worked part-time for Ryerson University in a variety of positions since 2008, including: Residence Advisor (2007-2009), Reception for the Ryerson Student Housing Department (2009-2010), usher for the Ryerson Theatre, TIFF, and Events Assistant in the Office of the President (2009-2011).

She holds a bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance production from Ryerson University and has completed a two-day intensive masterclass in festival management, with Paul Gudgin, Festival Director for the city of London.

Kirstyn stays involved with the Toronto downtown arts community through volunteering. She is the Board Secretary for a youth-focused community arts council called UrbanArts Toronto (2011-present). She is also a weekly volunteer at C3 Church Toronto.

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Idil Omar

Events & Tours

Idil joined the Digital Media Zone as the Scheduling Assistant to Valerie Fox in 2013. While providing assistance to the DMZ’s office organization, Idil mainly handled Valerie’s day-to-day schedule and prepping DMZ meetings. In January 2014, Idil joined the Events and Tours team of the DMZ. While scheduling various events for internal and external clients, Idil also assists Management & University Executives with facilitating tours.

Prior to joining the DMZ team, Idil finished a Post-Graduate Certification in Human Resources Management. In addition, Idil graduated from the Arts & Contemporary Studies Program at Ryerson in 2011, making her a proud Ryerson University Alumni.

During her time at Ryerson, Idil was extremely involved. She sat on the organizing committee for the Mattamy Athletic Centre’s Referendum, she was elected as the RSU’s Student Groups Director in 2009-2010 and then as the Faculty of Arts Director in 2010-2011 and also sat as the Chair of the Faculty of Arts Course Union. Her involvement continued as she worked for the Faculty of Arts as the Special Projects Assistant and sat on the University’s Senate Board and Senate Appeals Committee.

Idil is also the recipient of the Viola Desmond Day’s Marie-Joseph Angelique Award and the 2011 Dennis Mock Leadership Award.

Alysha

Alysha D’Souza

Events Coordinator External

Alysha joined the Digital Media Zone in September of 2012 as Internal Communications and Admissions Intake. This role stemmed from her volunteer experience in Enactus Ryerson, helping educate and empower aspiring entrepreneurs. Facilitating Idea Consultations at the Digital Media Zone enabled Alysha to provide valuable experience and exposure to entrepreneurial students at Ryerson.

After completing her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Ted Rogers School of Management, Alysha has since taken on the role of External Events Coordinator. This position entails the facilitation of conferences, networking opportunities and tours. Alysha is able to promote and publicize the Digital Media Zone’s startup companies through these events, assisting in making valuable connections.

Throughout her years at Ryerson, Alysha has been involved in several student group initiatives through Enactus Ryerson, Ryerson Marketing Association and the Ryerson Entrepreneurship Institute. Alysha has also decided to further her education in Entrepreneurship, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Digital Media. This is one of Ryerson’s newest programs, and classes are also held at the DMZ, allowing students to gain hands on experience in digital media technology and entrepreneurial innovation.

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Rachel Miadovnik

Project Coordinator

Rachel joins the Digital Media Zone from Jamieson Laboratories where she held the position as Web Specialist. In this role, she managed the development and maintenance of the company’s digital platforms and concurrent strategies. Over the course of two years, she oversaw the launch of a new corporate website, several mobile applications and a number of e-commerce projects.

Prior to Jamieson, she was the Communications Specialist for Merrithew Health & Fitness Corporation where she worked closely with the web designers and programmers to enhance the company’s web presence and grow their database of consumers.

In 2007, she graduated from the University of Toronto at Mississauga where she studied Visual Culture and Communication. She concurrently earned a Digital Communication Certificate from Sheridan College. Before entering the workforce, Rachel was a writer and contributor for Shedoesthecity.com, a Toronto-centric online magazine covering fashion, music, nightlife and events.

In her off-time, she likes to cook, watch films and see her favourite bands perform in the city.

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Stacy Woloschuk

Special Projects, Recruitment & Outreach

Stacy joined the Digital Media Zone in April 2012, to coordinate Prince Charles’ visit to Ryerson University in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Currently, her role includes building awareness and facilitating meaningful connections between Ryerson student innovators and opportunities in the DMZ, and Zone Learning.

She began working for Ryerson in 2008 as projects & events assistant in the Office of the President, where she coordinated a wide range of events and functions hosted by President Sheldon Levy. In 2011, she joined the Undergraduate Admissions & Recruitment team where she liaised with students, faculty and parents across Canada.

Stacy holds a bachelor of commerce degree in marketing management & professional communications from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson.

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Sherif El Tawil

Coordinator, Information Systems & Infrastructure

In April of 2012, Sherif joined the Digital Media Zone to coordinate the international fellows program. Sherif is now leads all information systems and facility infrastructure initiatives in the Digital Media Zone. He builds and maintains a scalable information system to support our startups and collaborates with DMZ staff and entrepreneurs to improve existing systems such as the application and operations database, as well as to design new systems. Sherif is also responsible for facility infrastructure and maintenance projects in the DMZ. Sherif’s background as an industrial engineer allows him to balance his information systems and infrastructure expertise.

Sherif is a proud Ryerson Alumni who served on senate and lead various student organizations. He was awarded the Dennis Mock Award for his leadership in the Ryerson community.

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Dianna Chu

Research Administrative Assistant

Prior to joining the DMZ team, Dianna was the Program and Customer Services Coordinator for 3+ years with TAPE Educational Services. TAPE is a provider of Continuing Education programs and consulting services for professionals and organizations working in the Social Services and Healthcare sector.

Her personal interest for digital media landed Dianna her current role as a Research Departmental Assistant for the DMZ, which involves working closely with the Flybits team.

Student Team

DMZ Steering Committee

Randy Boyagoda

Randy Boyagoda

Chair and Associate Professor of the Ryerson English Department

Writer, critic and scholar Randy Boyagoda is Chair of the English Department, Associate Professor of American Studies, and the Faculty Advisor for Ryerson Experiential Learning. He is involved in a series of special projects around Ryerson that involve digital innovation and entrepreneurship. He has written for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, Harper’s Magazine, and, closer to home, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and The Walrus. He is also a regular voice on CBC Radio, discussing literature, culture, and current affairs. His first novel, “Governor of the Northern Province,” was long listed for the 2006 ScotiaBank Giller Prize. His current novel, “Beggar’s Feast,” was recently long-listed for the 2013 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and has been published around the world to critical acclaim.

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Amy Casey

Executive Director, Office of the Provost

Amy Casey is the Executive Director to the Provost and Vice President Academic at Ryerson University. Prior to her current appointment, she was Associate Director of Administration at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson, Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult learning. Before joining Ryerson University, Amy held senior positions in educational publishing with McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., including Director of Strategic Planning, International Group, and Vice Presidencies of the school and college divisions. Amy holds an MBA from York University and a M.Ed. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Steven Ehrlick

Assistant Professor, RTA School of Media

Steven Ehrlick is currently an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University in the RTA School of Media. He has developed a number of new courses and in 2012-13, authored the proposal for a new BA in Sport Media. Steven teaches a variety of legal, business, media writing and media studies courses. Ehrlick is also a partner in the law firm, Stohn Hay Cafazzo Dembroski Richmond LLP, a Toronto boutique entertainment law firm that specializes in entertainment, copyright and technology law. Steven has over 25 years of experience in the music business having worked in-house at major record companies as well as having maintained a private practice during that time.

In 2003, Steven co-founded The Orange Record Label, a Canadian independent label distributed and c-owned by Universal Music Canada. Steven has also during his career been the Vice President of Business Affairs and Human Resources at BMG Music Canada, Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs at EMI Music Canada and the Vice President of Business Affair and Human Resources at The Enclave in New York.

In 2007 Steven entered the newly created Master of Media Production program offered by the then School and Radio and Television Arts and received his Master of Arts degree in 2008. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program at OISE, University of Toronto.

Steven holds an BA (Honours Equivalent)  in psychology from the University of Guelph and an J.D. from the University of Windsor. Steven is also a published author. His novel, The Channel, was published in 2000 while Out From The Woods was published in 2011. Steven is married with two sons and makes his home in Mississauga, Ontario.

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Charles Falzon

Chair, RTA School of Media

Charles has had a distinguished career in the entertainment industry and brings global experience in brand direction and commercial strategy to the RTA School of Media. An industry veteran in his home country of Canada, Falzon has managed operations in the U.K., U.S., Japan, Latin America and Malta. His professional experience covers a wide range of management activity, including the production of award-winning television series and movies, distribution, marketing, publishing, as well as live events, theme parks and brand development.  Falzon was responsible for such properties as Thomas the Tank Engine, Guinness World Records and Art Attack.  More recently, Falzon’s credits include Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs and Artzooka.

Charles was the founder and continues to act as co-chairman of CCI Entertainment, a leading Canadian entertainment company.  Previously, he was President of Gullane Entertainment, a U.K.-based, publicly traded media company.  He was the founding chair of the Canadian Media Production Association and is vested in the Order of Malta.

Charles, a graduate of RTA, has been an instructor at Ryerson for over fifteen years, with a focus in media marketing and management.  His education also includes two post graduate degrees at University of Toronto in ethics, theology and spirituality. His academic interests include transmedia marketing and media ethics.

VALERIE

Valerie Fox

Executive Director

Valerie Fox is the Executive Director of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University (DMZ). She was responsible for its development and opening in April of 2010. Since then, the DMZ has grown to become one of Canada’s largest incubators and multi-disciplinary co-working spaces. In May 2012 Valerie was presented with the prestigious Canadian Women in Technology (CanWIT) Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and innovation. The annual award is presented to a Canadian woman who has shown the most outstanding technological innovation and corporate leadership significantly expanding the frontiers of Canada’s advanced technology industry.

With more than 25 years of experience in the creative industry, Valerie is an active advocate of the user experience having worked with technology in the university sector for industry, as well as for consumers. Her roles have varied from business development to creative direction and user experience for various digital technologies, including digital media (3-D virtual experiences, video production and animation), portal, e-Commerce, e-Marketing, e-Learning, Kiosk, mobile applications for museums, live events, public, retail and financial institutions.

Before joining Ryerson University, Valerie was the National Practice Lead of User Experience Design for IBM Canada. Prior to that, she made a name for herself as the Creative Director for the Official Sydney Olympics website.

Valerie is a professional coach and an inventor. She holds multiple patents, including one for the concept of the “Universal Shopping Cart” and four patents for the “Synchronized Multi-Tablet Internet/TV System.” Valerie received the Outstanding Achievement award for her role on the IBM Executive Design Consultancy Board, as well as an Award of Excellence for the Sydney Olympics website design.

Fox has a diverse educational past, beginning her academic pursuits in fine arts programs at C.W. Post and Syracuse University in the United States. She then studied Art History at Carleton University and Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. Later, she studied Graphic Design at Algonquin College and Computer Graphics at Sheridan College. She returned to the classroom in 2003 to take Professional Coaching Foundations at Adler International Learning.

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Richard Lachman

Director, RTA Transmedia Centre

Richard Lachman is Director of the RTA Transmedia Centre and an Associate Professor, Digital Media in the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. The Gemini-award winning producer is also a creative and technical consultant for new media projects, primarily focused on entertainment and transmedia media properties. He holds a doctorate from UNE in Australia, a masters degree from the MIT Media Lab’s “Interactive Cinema” group, and a computer-science bachelors degree from MIT.

His professional projects have included partners such as Discovery Channel Canada, CTV, CityTV, and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and his works in the computer games industry have shipped millions of copies and been featured in the New York Times, USA Today and Time Magazine, as well as being part of an exhibition at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

Richard’s research interests include convergent media, digital documentary, and new forms of storytelling. He teaches classes in digital media, interactive art, animation, digital documentary, virtual environments, and digital culture.

 

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Brian Lesser

Director, CCS

Brian is the Acting Director of Ryerson’s Computing and Communications Services (CCS). He joined Ryerson in 1989 as an instructor for the School of Image Arts and has taught in both the Photography and New Media programs.

Since 1995 he has held several positions in CCS including Manager, Academic Computing and Assistant Director, Application Development, and Support. In partnership with the Rogers Communication Centre, Brian helped create Ryerson’s Digital Media Projects Office to help faculty make effective use of digital tools for teaching and collaboration. Brian has a strong interest in Digital Media and was the lead author of the O’Reilly book Programming Flash Communication Server.

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Dan McGillivray

Centre for Urban Energy

Dr. Dan McGillivray brings over 30 years of experience to Ryerson’s Centre for Urban Energy having worked as managing director of two centres at the Ontario Centres of Excellence: the Centre for Energy and the Centre for Earth and Environmental Technologies. Dan has held several executive positions, including Managing Director, Academic Relations, Technology Transfer Partnerships and Corporate Development, and Director of Business Development and Technology Transfer. He has also worked as an environmental consultant, university professor, physical oceanographer and President and CEO of Environmental Software Consultants Inc. In June of 2011, Dan founded Proxima Innovation, a management consulting business offering innovation services and executive coaching to leaders in the energy and environment sectors.

Dan received his Ph.D. in 1988 from the University of Toronto, specializing in earth and environmental sciences. He joined the Centre for Urban Energy at Ryerson University in August 2011 as a Toronto Hydro Distinguished Fellow. At the Centre for Urban Energy, Dan focuses on energy, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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Cathy Parry

Director, Marketing & Creative Services, University Advancement

Cathy Parry brings over 20 years of marketing and communications experience in the energy, financial, telecommunications and advertising industries. Most recently she was at Toronto Hydro Electric System where she lead a team responsible for the development and implementation of brand and communications strategies across a broad portfolio of  functions including marketing communications, digital & interactive, sponsorships, advertising, community relations, direct marketing and design. She was responsible for the design and development of multiple energy conservation programs, corporate research initiatives and the implementation of a corporate wide Customer Experience Program. Cathy and her team won numerous awards for these initiatives including Canadian Public Relations Society’s Creative Campaign of the Year (2009) and Communications Department of the Year (2010).

In Cathy’s role at Ryerson, she is responsible for developing and executing marketing plans and initiatives to promote the Ryerson University brand, presenting a consistent promise and image to all target audiences.

Cathy is an accredited member of the International Association of Business Communicators and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Waterloo.

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Bruce Piercey

Group Director, Communications

Bruce has had the rare opportunity to be part of the rapid evolution of a great institution. Driven by his passion for good stories and a wide-ranging curiosity, he has spent the past 20 years spreading the word far and wide about Ryerson University and the success of its students, alumni and faculty, at a time of remarkable expansion and development for one of the country’s most remarkable institutions. A graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism and former member of the media, he has held a range of positions at the university spanning just about every aspect of internal and external communications. He has launched and relaunched print and electronic publications, started the first media relations office at Ryerson, handled crisis communications, written everything from speeches to ad copy, and moved progressively through the ranks of management to the senior levels of the University Advancement division.

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Sean Wise

Professor of Entrepreneurship & Strategy, Ryerson University Chair, Ryerson Angel Network

Sean Wise, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, brings experience and expertise to the Ted Rogers School of Management. Before receiving his Law and MBA degrees at the University of Ottawa, Sean studied Engineering and Economics at Carleton University. For the past 10 years, Sean has lectured at over 250 boot camps, financing forums and industry conferences. He is dedicated to training entrepreneurs and has succeeded in training more than 10,000 people who have collectively raised more than $2.1 billion from different investment sources.

Professor Wise advised CBC’s hit reality show Dragons’ Den for five seasons. He is also well published with his latest book HOT or NOT: How to Know if your Business Idea will Fly or Fail selling over 30,000 copies.

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Curtis Yim

Enactus (SIFE) Ryerson

Curtis Yim is a undergraduate business management student with a Marketing Major and Finance Minor. Currently, he is the President of a national award winning student organization called Enactus. In addition he has been elected as one of the incoming Board of Governors for 2013-2014. Being involved with various outreach activities, he has built a passion towards empowering others. His future aspiration after graduation is to not find a job but to create jobs.

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Dr. Hossein Rahnama

Research and Innovation Director

Dr. Hossein Rahnama is the Research and Innovation Director of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ). Hossein leads the DMZ’s research and innovation arm, facilitating and encouraging industry partnerships with DMZ companies and teams while contributing to scientific discovery and dissemination. He is also the CEO Flybits, a spin-off company from Ryerson and MaRS Innovation focusing on context-aware computing.

Hossein has been at Ryerson University for more than a decade, starting with his undergraduate degree and staying through to complete his doctoral degree and postdoctoral work. This long association with Ryerson has given him a deep understanding of the university system, including the academic and scientific research process, which has been invaluable to the DMZ’s development.

A man who wears many hats, Hossein is also the Research Director of the Ubiquitous Computing Group at Ryerson, and an Assistant Professor in the University’s Faculty of Communication and Design. He is an advocate for Canadian-European research collaborations in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, having completed collaborations with more than 14 industry partners across Europe, including close relations with companies in Sweden and Norway.

In the DMZ, Hossein conducts research that combines context-aware computing, artificial intelligence, and opportunistic social networking. With special interests in the transit, transport and security industries, Hossein’s Flybits team specializes in mobile software solutions that respond to situational factors and personal information. Their goal is to use mobile devices to enhance interpersonal communications while conserving power and energy.

In 2010, the Flybits team under Hossein’s direction launched the Mobile Transit Companion for the Paris Metro Authority (RATP) in collaborations with the European Commission’s framework program. This mobile solution provides passengers in transit with live, customized, useful data at their fingertips. The solution was developed as one piece of a larger research consortium that enabled Hossein to work with industry leaders such as Telecom Italia Research, Telefonica (Spain), Appear Networks (Stockholm) and SINTEF (Norway). Hossein is the recipient of ORION Innovation Award, Isadore Sharp Outstanding Graduate Award, an OCE International Scholarship,, Apple Inc. student scholarship, and in 2008, he was a semi-finalist for the business plan competition at Harvard Business School. Hossein has more than 18 publications and patents on Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing.

Prior to starting his doctoral studies at Ryerson, Hossein was the VP of Research and Innovation at Appear Networks in Sweden and prior to that a Mobile Applications Architect at Primus Telecommunications in London, England.

In August 2012 it was announced that Rahnama was recognized as part of MIT’s Technology Review magazine’s annual list of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35. He was distinguished for his work in context-aware and cloud computing platforms that can provide relevant information to mobile users while giving them full control on their privacy. Rahnama was selected as a member of the 2012 TR35 by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, who evaluated more than 250 nominations from around the world.

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Alan Lysne

Managing Director, Ryerson Futures

Alan Lysne has been a co-founder, CEO, CTO, and COO of a number of technology businesses, and has been working with startups for well over a decade.

Previously, Alan was the CEO of a Canadian venture-backed mobile company that was acquired by Grapple Mobile, an award winning design and development company based out of London. After the acquisition, he served as COO and led the Toronto office.

Prior to that, Alan was co-founder and CTO of Davinci Technologies, one of the first web based bill presentment companies with a global customer base of mobile operators. Davinci was acquired by CSG Systems (now Comverse Technology) where Alan served as an Executive Director and led a global team of over 80 people based in the U.S., Canada, France, India and China.

Alan started his career as a consultant with Accenture, and holds an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University.

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Matthew Saunders

President, Ryerson Futures

Matthew oversees Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI), an accelerator for early stage companies connected to the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University. RFI, through a fund it manages called DMZ Investments, invests seed capital into companies with exceptional founding teams and helps them develop and take their products to market through an extensive global network.

Matthew has over 17 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and executive working with various companies in the technology and service-based sectors. He brings operations, finance, business development and strategic planning experience. Matthew has held progressively senior roles that have focused on managing the day to day operations and finance of companies in the following sectors: hardware/software; telecommunications; HR; and marketing and communications.

Matthew was a founder and co-CEO of NRG Group which he ran between 1997 and 2001. During this period, NRG raised over $30M in financing (including NRG’s IPO) and invested in several startups and early stage Internet-based operating companies.

Matthew has an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Management, and an MBA from Northeastern University.

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Carrie-Ann Bissonnette

Manager

Carrie-Ann started her role as the Manager of the Digital Media Zone in May 2011 and also currently serves on Ryerson’s Board of Governors and Presidential Search Committee. Prior to this she was the Special Assistant in the Office of the President at Ryerson University from 2006-2011 where she was instrumental in the success of many initiatives and projects such as the prestigious honorary doctorate celebrations. Her previous positions are an eclectic mix, including a role with the office of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment at Ryerson, being one of the first on-air personalities at CJWL-FM, working as a rock climbing and kayak instructor at Jeunesse en Marche, as well as assisting in studio at an audio production centre. Carrie-Ann also works as an educationalist, mentor and workshop facilitator for la Fédération de la Jeunesse Franco-Ontarienne, a French-Canadian organization which hosts leadership development training and workshops for Franco-Ontarian youth.

Carrie-Ann holds a BA from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design in Radio & Television Arts, and an MA in Communication & Culture.

When she isn’t performing as an instrument of change at the DMZ, you will find her playing beach volleyball, surfing on the West Coast or participating in sports.

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Michael Carter

Program Manager

Michael Carter (Hon. B.A. University of Western Ontario, Post-Graduate Certificate in Computer Graphics, Sheridan College, Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Animation, Sheridan College, M.Ed. University of Toronto) is a Ph.D. candidate in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology at the University of Western Ontario. He has developed and taught college and undergraduate courses in digital media, film & television production, animation and computer graphics, as well as maintained a successful 16 year career in the Film & Television business as a Producer, Executive Producer and Executive.

Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business aspects of animation production. Since graduating from Sheridan College’s Computer Animation Program in the mid 1990’s, he has held a number of progressive positions both locally and internationally which have propelled him to the role of Executive Producer for Ace Lightning II and Shoebox Zoo I, as well as the stop motion series Henry’s World II. Recently, Michael oversaw the series animation servicing of the CGI animated series Handy Manny I & II, and the Gemini Award-winning 2008 2D digital animation series Will & Dewitt.