Valerie Fox, Director, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone

Valerie Fox is the Director of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone and was instrumental to its development and opening in April 2010. As Ryerson’s Director of Innovative Technology Solutions at the University since 2006, Fox was the natural selection to oversee the Zone’s inception.

With more than 25 years of experience in the creative industry, Fox is an active advocate of the user experience. She has worked with technology in the university sector, for industry and for consumers. Her roles have ranged from business development, to creative direction and user experience for various digital technologies, including digital media (3D 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.

Fox’s experience in facilitating organizational change, coaching, project management, innovation, communication strategy, user experience and creativity was the perfect fit for her initial role at Ryerson University: facilitating student engagement. She employs these skills in her current position where she is principally responsible for making industry and institutional connections to create collaboration and partnership opportunities for the Zone. Ultimately, Fox lends her expertise and leadership to the incubator’s long-term goal of fostering innovation within Canada.

Before joining Ryerson University, Valerie Fox was the National Practice Lead of User Experience Design for IBM Canada. Her mission was to ensure customers were aware that IBM was not only a technology leader, but also a leader in award-winning, innovative design and cross-channel user experience practices, based on
user-centered methodology. Prior to that, she made a name for herself as the Creative Director for the Official
Sydney Olympics website.

Fox began her academic pursuits in fine arts programs at C.W. Post and Syracuse University in the United States. After moving to Canada she studied Art History at Carleton University and Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. Later, she transferred this artistic flair to the world of technology, picking up 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.


Dr. Hossein Rahnama, Research and Innovation Director, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone

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.


Sheldon Levy, President and Vice-Chancellor, Ryerson University

Sheldon Levy is President and Vice Chancellor of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Previous post-secondary appointments include Vice President, Finance and Strategy, University of Ontario Institute of Technology; Vice President, Government and Institutional Relations, University of Toronto; President, Sheridan College of Applied Arts and Technology; and Vice President, Institutional Affairs, York University. He received a master’s degree in Mathematics and a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from York University.

Current appointments include Vice Chair, Council of Ontario Universities; Board of Directors, Steering Committee, Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance; Honorary Board of Directors, Greater Toronto Marketing Authority; Advisory Council, Toronto Board of Trade; Board of Directors, Toronto East General Hospital and Board of Governors, Trails Youth Initiatives.

With over thirty years dedicated to postsecondary education, Sheldon is recognized for championing dynamic growth in academic quality, research excellence and student success, and his impassioned advocacy for the role of the university as city-builder. He believes strongly in the ability and the responsibility of universities to advance social and economic progress through knowledge and innovation.

At Ryerson, city-building is an integral part of the Academic Plan, Strategic Research Plan, and campus Master Plan, working together with the university community and partners in both the public and private sectors to define a direction that will have a meaningful impact. Two current examples are the Digital Media Zone, an entrepreneurial research and development centre largely run by students that has attracted international attention and, in its first year, has created jobs and launched 20 new companies; and the Centre for Urban Energy which, in partnership with three founding sponsors: Hydro One, Toronto Hydro, and the Ontario Power Authority, is studying global urban energy issues such as alternative local energy, conservation, and development of the electric car. Planning is under way for similar initiatives in additional academic areas.

Above all, Sheldon sees the value and potential of individual effort, and the importance of aiming high in working for positive change. He is a committed advocate on behalf of student financial assistance, equal access, inclusion, diversity and equity as defining characteristics of a strong and vibrant community.


Lauren Clegg, Media Relations, Digital Media Zone, Ryerson University, 416.979.5000 x 2997,