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June 7, 2001 Great Grads (page 4)



Jason Hammond

Jason Hammond

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Jason Hammond finds liberation in Montreal

Jason Hammond arrived in Montreal last fall to do a short-term exchange from University of New Brunswick in St. John, and decided to stay.

He is in the process of transferring his credits to Concordia so he can continue his schooling in Montreal. With a BA in sociology and a minor in sexuality, Hammond plans to complete his Master’s in sex therapy (interdisciplinary studies) at Concordia.

“Montreal is a lot more liberated than New Brunswick,” he said. “Being that I’m studying sex and I’m gay, I am glad to be here.”

Since last semester, Hammond has been president of the Concordia Out Collective, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered students and those questioning their sexual orientation. The group had been inactive on campus for a few years.

“We reaffirmed our ties with the university community this year,” explained Hammond. “We wanted to do more social activities, but after the CSU embezzlement, there was no money for the club, so we decided to build our political front.”

“Jason plunged into campus sexual politics,” said Tom Waugh, professor in the minor in sexuality program and chair of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. “He’s been an energizer on campus. Before he arrived, COC was uncertain about its function.

“We need a lot of student presence and involvement, not just on clubs and social organizations, but also intellectual input for community issues.”

A lot of Hammond’s work on campus aims to reduce homophobia and heterosexism through education. He is part of the Q2 Ally Network committee, a joint venture among Student Services, Health Services, the Concordia Out Collective and others that sends a silent message of support and acceptance.

Ally symbols (inverted pink triangles bearing the word ally) are given to people who have completed a seminar educating them about the obstacles that members of the LGBTQ community may face. These symbols now hang prominently in several offices on campus.

Hammond was a teacher’s assistant for several courses last year in the sexuality minor and in applied human sciences.

He is also a peer health counsellor and educator at Health Services, giving talks on negotiating safer sex, workshops in classes, and seeing patients one-on-one. All of this has been volunteer work, but Hammond says it is good experience, and he’s interested in pursuing it as a career.

Earlier this year, Hammond met Stephanie Mitelman, a family life educator and Concordia graduate. They were both doing sex education talks for groups around the city free of charge. They realized they could be charging people for their workshops, and decided to start a consulting agency.

Their company, Sexpressions Consultants, is growing steadily. They have given classes at Concordia, the YMCA and alternative high schools, and hope to expand by working with Montreal school boards to speak to elementary and high school students.

Hammond said he would like to continue to do outreach work in high schools, CEGEPs, universities and high-risk groups to make people aware of their choices.

People have a hard time seeking help, he said. “They either think they know it all, or they don’t want to know, and in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, people assume they’re safe.”








Lucia and Roman Culzac

Lucia Culzac and 6-year-old son Roman

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Lucia Culzac: Single mother goes back to school

Putting her son in daycare was difficult. “I felt guilty and I worried about it,” said Lucia Culzac, about the challenges of going back to school with a young child, Roman, then 3.

“But I realized that was the best time to do it,” she said. “I calculated it and figured I would finish when Roman was six and then get a job afterwards.”

Right on track, Culzac, 34, graduates from Concordia’s Journalism program this month, her son Roman now six.

Culzac said writing is actually her second passion. She had long loved acting and did extra and stand-in work, but it wasn’t enough to patch together a career. After working for a pharmaceutical company for a few years, she decided it was time to give journalism a go.

Refused for the program her first time around, she took courses as an independent student for a year and re-applied. She was in no hurry to open the thin envelope that arrived in her mailbox the second time around. “It was my mother who finally told me to open the letter, and I was shocked to read that I had been accepted. I still have the letter.”

Joining a class of people several years younger and jumping back into academia with its papers and exams was tricky at first.

“The mentality of being in school is so different than what I was used to,” she said. “I felt like I was in another world in my first semester, but after that, I adjusted.”

The balancing act between home and school was trying at times. “School is important, but not the most important. You want to get work done but also spend time with your child.”

Culzac and her son moved in with her parents during university, and the strong support system around her at home and at school helped make it possible. During her final and busiest semester, Culzac said several of her teachers went out of their way to help her, staying after class and in the evening to help her.

“You don’t get that from a lot of teachers. It was really special,” she said. Journalism Professor Linda Kay, who taught Culzac, said she understands how difficult it is to balance everything.

“As a mother, I know that when you have to pick up your child, you have to be there, and I know that when you have a story to cover, you have to be there too,” she said, adding that she respected Culzac for working so hard.

Culzac plans to work in print and broadcast journalism, and recently began writing for the Chomedey News.


Sidney Kristiansen

Sidney Kristiansen

Photo by Sidney Kristiansen

Sidney Kristiansen: Designer graduates his way

“I don’t know if I’ve graduated—and I don’t care.” Not the usual thing you want to hear from students, but Sidney Kristiansen has his reasons.

Kristiansen has been taking the Design Art program. He has done some remarkably inventive work—note Professor Lydia Sharman’s portrait on page 14, taken with one of his chairs—and he has produced Concordia’s yearbook for the past two years.

With a partner, Timothy Robertson, who is in Concordia’s Digital Image and Sound program, Kristiansen runs m2 design. “I work for myself, and the people who hire me never ask about my degree,” he said.

That doesn’t mean he undervalues his education. “I got a lot out of Concordia,” he said.

“University is not Employment Canada. It’s about becoming independent. I set my own deadlines. The teachers understood that, and were flexible.

“In Design Art, we always worked a lot in groups. That’s what separates design from the other fine arts,” Kristiansen said. “As a designer, you’re always working with the client.”

Kristiansen tackled the yearbook as a self-training exercise after he was turned down for a big job managing the translation of an interactive medical journal because “the employer wanted proof that I could handle a big project.”

It would seem to be a thankless task. Only about 700 students opt to buy Concordia’s yearbook every year, and by the time they get it, they’ve usually left the university. It’s a mammoth organizational task, some of it pretty dreary, but Kristiansen says he enjoyed it.

He loved his choice of white vinyl for the 1999-2000 cover—until he realized what vinyl does to the environment. His choice of cover for 2000-01 is linen “that nobody ever asks for.”

Jane Hackett, in the Dean of Students Office, gave him encouragement and plenty of freedom, and Nancy Marrelli (Archives) helped him a lot, too. The only recommendation he wants to make as he leaves is to hire two people for the next edition of the yearbook, a writer and a designer, because it’s too much for one person.

Born in Saskatchewan, raised in Calgary, Kristiansen did his first year of university in Germany. He had to come back, but he would love to live there again. For the time being, Montreal was the closest thing he could find, “the coolest city in Canada,” and he loves “being a fly on the wall, in a place with another language.”


Francisco Velez-Torres


Francisco Velez-Torres

Francisco Velez-Torres loved Montreal

Francisco Velez-Torres, has already taken his new MBA back to Mexico, but we interviewed him by e-mail.

How did you happen to come to Concordia?

I have a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering from CETYS University (Center of Technical and Higher Education) a well-recognized university in Northwest Mexico.

Frankly speaking, the city (I love Montreal) and costs were key in the decision to come to Concordia, but many other reasons were also of high importance: accreditation, student profile and overall quality of the program. I got what I expected from the MBA program, and I’m highly satisfied.Throughout the MBA program, I learned to have empathy with people, to collaborate, to appreciate differences and admire values that others have.

What did you have to get accustomed to?

I come from a culture where authority is highly respected and decisions are centralized, and that influences the education. In Mexico, students are not taught in early years to ask many questions, to discuss in class, and seldom to challenge a professor’s points of view. So my struggle in the MBA program was with participation. In Canada, the education is more interactive and that adds a lot to the experience.

What are your career plans?
I’m on a leave of absence from Grupo Vitro, among the top Mexican industrial groups that has glass as its core business, and I hope to be assigned to a position in the headquarters in Monterrey. I plan to be a business professor, but I’d like to get more business experience in order to be able to give students “Real education for the Real World.”

I plan to propose that CETYS register a team for the Concordia International MBA Case Competition— and I’ll offer to be the coach.


Carla El-Samra

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Innovative Eco-design

Carla El-Samra (Design Art ’01) was one of the exhibitors of Eco-design, a show of innovative work last week in the VAV Gallery by Design Art students.

As she told Bernie St-Laurent on CBC’s Home Run, her witty lamp is made from, among other things, a discarded metal spool salvaged from a hardware store and a length of rubber garden hose. She also use one of the spools to make a rather elegant wine rack.

Other items in the show included a bench of tennis balls, a string of lampshades made from styrofoam trays, and an outdoor table with grass growing out of it.

Convocation Awards 2000-2001

Governor-General’s Silver Medal, for the highest-ranking undergraduate:
Marie-Andrée Boucher & Marleigh Greaney

Birks Medal, for Bachelor of Arts:

Marleigh Greaney

Anne Stokes Medal, for Bachelor of Education:
Karen Ann Casey (Spring 2001) & Susan Varinsky (Fall 2001)

Mappin Medal, for Bachelor of Science:
Marie-Andrée Boucher

Administration Medal:
Patrick Cassidy

Charles E. Frosst Medal, for Bachelor of Commerce:

Sue-Anne Fox

Chait Medal, for Bachelor of Engineering:
Christopher Wenceslas Hin Fong Pin Harry

Computer Science Medal:
Luan Ngoc Chau (Fall 2000)

Alfred Pinsky Medal, for Bachelor of Fine Arts:
Marie-Chantal L’Écuyer-Coelho

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