Assiniboine Alumni Association announces 2020 Alumni Award recipients

Assiniboine Community College’s Alumni Association has announced the six recipients of this year’s alumni awards to be presented at the college’s ninth annual Advancement Dinner in Brandon on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

This is the inaugural year where the Alumni Association will present two Distinguished Alumni Awards, replacing the former Community Service Award. The formerly separate categories, each with one award recipient, had similar criteria and importance. The Association has also changed the Excellence in Teaching Award to the Excellence in Education Award. This change will open the award to staff who are not faculty, recognizing that there are many Assiniboine support staff who may also have appositive impact on a student’s learning experience.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to Bart Curtis and Catharine Gijsbers. The Distinguished Alumni category is presented annually to graduates of the college who have distinguished themselves in both their chosen profession and their community.

With 23 years’ experience in the construction industry built from a grassroots level, Bart Curtis is now an equal partner and plays a key role in operating two successful and growing companies, CW2 Construction and Design Ltd. and Guardian Fencing Ltd. He received his Level 4 Carpenter Apprentice from Assiniboine in 2006 and throughout his career has successfully bid on and managed several large-scale projects including the CFB Shilo Base Perimeter Fence, Precision Toyota interior, Precision Denture tenant infill and construction projects at Assiniboine Community College including the recently completed Food Processing Centre. Bart is known for his integrity and employee focused approach to project management. In addition to managing his companies, Bart works directly with the crews and supervisors to ensure projects are running as smooth as possible. He has a good eye for people and talent and is a lifelong learner.

When Catharine Gijsbers’ educational journey at Assiniboine started in 1998, she had four children and owned and managed a long-haul transport business. After completing Office Administration (’01) and Business Administration (’03) at Assiniboine, Catharine continued her education, becoming a Certified General Accountant. She has since opened her own public accounting practice, specializing in the agricultural sector. Catharine has continued to learn, becoming a Certified Agricultural Farm Advisor and is proficient in Ag Expert and Field Manager Pro, both of which she teaches for Assiniboine Continuing Studies and Farm Credit Canada.

This year’s recipients of the One to Watch Award are Josh Crabb and Tyler Crayston. The One to Watch award recognizes someone who has made exceptional achievements and significant contributions to their profession and community since graduation.

Josh Crabb, born and raised in Roblin, Manitoba, is a reporter at CTV Winnipeg. After his graduation from Assiniboine’s Media Production (now Interactive Media Arts) in 2005, he launched his career at CKX Television in Brandon, before moving to Shaw TV in Red Deer, Alberta. He moved back to Manitoba in 2010, where he joined CTV, first in Brandon then in Winnipeg. Throughout his career he’s covered many high-profile news and sporting events, including the record-breaking flood of 2011, a Winnipeg Jets play-off run, and the northern Manitoba manhunt for two homicide suspects.

After graduating from Baldur School as valedictorian, Tyler Crayston enrolled in Assiniboine’s Media Production (now Interactive Media Arts) program, holding a passion for sports broadcasting. As part of his completion of this program in 2003, he gained experience at Shaw TV in Saskatoon and was then hired at CKX Brandon. He worked in sports at CKX and eventually became Sports Director before CKX went off air in 2009. His broadcasting career continued at Q Country/Star FM for six years before he started his current position as Brandon University’s Athlete Services and Events Coordinator. Tyler’s passion for his work and community has shone through his career. At BU, he has created important youth programs, worked alongside College Cap/Bobcat alumni and has had a key role in expanding community partnerships. 

The Excellence in Education Award honours an Assiniboine staff member for extraordinary contributions to teaching and the student experience. This year, the award goes to an outstanding pair of instructors in the School of Agriculture & Environment, Dr. Sajjad Rao and Dr. Poonam Singh.  

Drs. Rao and Singh developed and currently run the Horticultural Production and Sustainable Food Systems programs at Assiniboine. These programs have created great research output and community impact. In addition to working extremely hard for the success of these programs, Poonam and Sajjad are acclaimed by their students for their friendly, gentle, deeply insightful manner of teaching and sharing insight. 

Dr. Rao is an accredited Canadian Plant Breeder and Agrologist with over 25 years’ experience in applied research and teaching. Currently, Dr. Rao’s research engages him in innovation of sustainable greenhouse production technologies, food systems, and in employing novel genetics in horticultural and agronomic field crops. Most recently, Dr. Rao made a significant development in the commercial release of a new type of sweet potato designed to grow in the Manitoba climate.

Dr. Singh is a horticulturist with 20 years of experience in teaching, research and extension related activities. Her research focuses on sustainable crop production technologies, enrichment of plant germplasm for genetic enhancement and traditional food systems of indigenous people of Canada.  Dr. Singh is currently researching the methods for diagnosing Botrytis neck rot disease in onion fields and developing a comprehensive guide for disease management in Manitoba. She is also working to establish a native food crops demonstration garden at Assiniboine.

Award recipients will be formally recognized at the Advancement Dinner on March 26, 2020. The venue for this event will be announced at a later date.

Those interested in event details, sponsorship information, or tickets may contact Lisa Huston, Alumni Relations Co-ordinator, at 204.725.8700 ext 7124.