Heartfelt Reflections: Voices from the ORION Community

As the holiday season draws near, we find ourselves surrounded by the shared experiences that have defined our journey over the past year. Our community is filled with diverse stories, and we are thrilled to share the spirit and resilience of the collective. 

In response to an invitation to our valued constituents and ORION colleagues, we asked two poignant questions that capture the heart of our shared experiences: 

Reflecting on the Past Year: As we look back on the past year, what’s one lesson or insight you’ve gained that you would like to share with others? 

Looking Forward: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year, whether it’s a personal achievement, a professional milestone, or a cherished moment with loved ones? 

The reflections below are not just individual stories – they are the building blocks of our shared narrative, capturing the essence of our community’s journey over the past year. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all who generously shared their insights, contributing to a blog post that mirrors the heart and soul of our community. 

May this holiday season be filled with joy and happiness. We wish you happy holidays and a happy new year! 

Warm regards,

Alfonso Licata
President and CEO 


“The impact of generative AI on education cannot be overstated. It has enabled the students to learn in new ways and has (or will soon) enable educators to develop dynamic and engaging content at scale making it easier to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of students. However, with this transformative technology also comes the responsibility to ensure ethical use and data privacy. It’s essential that educational institutions strike a balance between leveraging generative AI for good while keeping a close watch on the negative sides of this incredibly powerful technology.

Professionally, I am looking forward to further advancing our institution’s digital transformation efforts. This includes the implementation of new technologies to enhance the learning experience and looking for new ways to support students where they need it most. Achieving milestones in our digital transformation journey and witnessing the positive impact on both faculty and students is a source of great anticipation. 

On a personal level, I am excited about the opportunity to continue my own learning journey. Staying updated with the latest trends and innovations in the world of technology and education is not only a professional responsibility but also a personal passion. I look forward to attending conferences, collaborating with industry experts, and gaining new insights that can be applied to our institution. Most of all, I look forward to hearing and seeing what our amazing students and alumni are achieving as they move forward in their journeys.”

Steve Camacho, George Brown College 


“When dealing with multiple priorities and being asked to deliver more and faster, we sometimes forget our humanity, and that relationships truly matter. I like to remind myself of these two simple words: Be kind. 

UofT security strategy was officially launched in July 2023. Now, we need to evolve the strategy from PowerPoint into real actions! A lot is underway, including the finalization of the Security Awareness & Training Foundations for our community.” 

Raphaelle Gauriau, University of Toronto 


“No matter how dark or bleak the world may appear; never lose sight of your goals and your dreams. There will always be tough years but there will always be good years too. Each year that goes by better prepares you for the next one. 

Visiting places in the world I have never been to before with my wife. Seeing my son graduate from university. Spending more time with my mom and dad.” 

Mark Grant, ORION 


“My best learning situation occurred this year at the 2023 CANARIE Conference in Montreal. A speaker named Sarain Fox, a Canadian Anishinaabe activist, broadcaster, and filmmaker was able to explain Truth and Reconciliation in terms that I could better understand and appreciate what Indigenous people went through and continue to go through. It was very uncomfortable, but you always learn the most when you are out of your comfort zone. I was also exposed to another culture and have become fascinated by the balance that Indigenous people have with nature and how much better we could be by adopting some of their principles. It has made me a better person because of the short session. If you ever get the chance to hear Sarain, jump at the chance.    

At this age, my life is about experiences rather than achievements. My wife’s teaching load was shifted, and she has leave in May for the first time in many years. We plan to return to Vancouver Island and explore as we have not been since our honeymoon several years ago. Next year will also be a professional year of change as I continue to transition towards retirement and hand off the myriad of collaborations I am involved in, so that they can continue strongly.”  

John Levay, Niagara College 


“Over the past year, an important lesson I’ve learned was the importance of communication and collaboration within ORION. I support people through ‘setting up the runway’ to empower others to gain the results they need.  

Earlier this year I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I am eager to leverage this new skill set to contribute more effectively to upcoming projects at ORION in the New Year.” 

Charmaine Marasigan, ORION 


“The key lesson that I learned this year is to always be transparent with your community, whether you’re looking for their input, feedback or insights. It builds credibility and trust with all community members.  

I’m looking forward to continued collaboration with my team, fellow colleagues and constituent members.” 

Anju Sohal, ORION


“When we collaborate, we all are stronger.”  

Janse Tolmie, Durham College 


“As the year comes to an end, I would like to reflect on the challenges and achievements that we have faced and accomplished together. The pandemic has been a difficult time for all of us, both personally and professionally. We have had to deal with continuous disruptions, uncertainties, and changes in our lives, which have tested our resilience and adaptability. We have also missed the human and social interactions that we need and enjoy, especially with our fellow introverts. I am grateful for the Genwell project, which aims to create more opportunities for meaningful connections and conversations. 

As we emerge, we have thrived and delivered on a number of complex and lengthy projects. I am proud of the work that we have done and the results that we have achieved. Looking ahead, I am excited about the prospects and challenges that the next year will bring. I know that the HigherEd IT landscape is always evolving and unpredictable, but I also know that we have the skills, the experience, and the passion to tackle any problem and seize any opportunity. I am looking forward to extending our relationship with our national and provincial Research and Education Network partners, and working on the federated SOC project, which is a bold vision and a game-changer. I believe that if we can stay focused on the collective good and think nationally, we are going to achieve great things as we will always be stronger together.” 

Bo Wandschneider, University of Toronto 


“Making genuine connections with people – learning their stories, asking about their families, laughing with them – whether they are distant relatives, strangers we meet at the grocery store, or colleagues we interact with throughout our daily interactions – is never a waste of time. Taking the time for these connections enriches our lives and deepens our empathy when experiencing the world around us…truly an investment worth making. 

I’m most looking forward to an upcoming family reunion, several years in the making, that will bring almost 40 of us together from around the world. There will be lots of laughs, hugs, and memories to last a lifetime.”

Ela Yazdani, CANARIE