Dr. Alex Wilson (EdD), spring distinguished researcher
Dr. Alex Wilson (EdD), professor in the College of Education and director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre, has made outstanding contributions to Indigenous engagement and scholarship, gender equity, and cultural revitalization.
A member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, she joined the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in 2007 after graduation from Harvard University—one of the first Indigenous persons from Canada to earn a doctorate at the prestigious institution.
Her groundbreaking, community-centred research on land-based education, two-spirit people, and anti-oppressive education, along with contributions to addressing social issues such as homelessness and health disparities affecting Indigenous communities, has garnered national and international recognition.
She co-developed a master’s program in land-based education that provides aspiring teachers a knowledge base in Indigenous pedagogy, restoring connections to the land severed through colonization.
She works with community members to map the traditional Opaskwayak territory, using Cree language to identify directions, landmarks and locations, and bringing together children, youth and Elders to learn through stories.
She is a leader of the One House Many Nations campaign to raise awareness about the housing crisis in First Nations communities. She led a team to create a wachusko weesti (muskrat hut) prototype—solar/wind-powered houses with clean water and incinerator toilet, built with local material, and providing safe, affordable housing. Through homelessness prevention research, she works with youth to design and build sustainable homes in First Nations.
A champion of sharing knowledge about two-spirit identity, she is part of the national RISE project on sexual and gender minority-inclusive teacher education in Canadian universities.
Dr. Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova (PhD), fall distinguished researcher
Dr. Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova (PhD) pioneered work in the combined use of radiation and immunotherapy to fight cancer and other diseases that has advanced nuclear medicine internationally and enhanced the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) reputation as a leader in nuclear sciences and imaging.
A professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Dadachova joined USask in late 2016 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She was attracted by the opportunity to collaborate with medical and veterinary researchers and nuclear scientists, and by access to a cyclotron and synchrotron. She holds the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation Chair in Radiopharmacy.
Dadachova brought to USask an extensive, international-calibre research program. She has been awarded more than $11 million as a principal investigator, $5.4 million since arriving at USask.
Among her research successes, Dadachova’s lab pioneered radioimmunotherapy (RIT) as an effective treatment for viral infections such as HIV, and bacterial and fungal infections that are vulnerable to drug resistance, without the toxicity of current treatments. She expanded RIT to treat cancers such as melanoma, cervical cancer, and bone cancer.
Dadachova, who received her PhD in physical chemistry from Moscow State University and did post-doctoral studies in Australia, has seven U.S. patents and has published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles. Over her career, she has trained more than 30 students, medical residents, and post-doctoral fellows. She is an academic editor for major journals, and is a member of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research’s Pharmacology and Toxicology Review Panel.
Dr. Tom Yates (PhD)
Spring master teacher
Dr. Tom Yates (PhD) is professor of soil science in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. Yate’s masterful teaching is built on a foundation of experiential learning and creating a safe space where students can make and learn from mistakes.
In Tom's own words, “Learning comes best from making mistakes.”
His gentle and humble demeanour make him accessible as a role model to students and other faculty members, although he reported surprise when told he had won the Master Teacher Award. His nominator, fellow Master Teacher Dr. Ken Van Rees (PhD), said “Tom cares about his students on a personal level as well as about their learning. The investment he makes in their lives has made the Renewable Resource Management program a huge success.”
Tom describes himself as a ‘guide on the side’ when he is teaching, sharing, “for me, the best moments are when I am standing in a classroom or at a field-course site, surrounded by students. They are not listening to or looking at me. They are talking and listening to each other, discussing a soil characteristic, or the landscape around them. They have forgotten that I am even there.”
Dr. Loleen Berdahl (PhD)
Fall master teacher
Dr. Loleen Berdahl (PhD) is an inspiring undergraduate and graduate teacher, who now serves as the executive director of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).
The former head of the Department of Political Studies in the College of Arts and Science, Berdahl’s teaching philosophy is grounded in her belief that she is educating future citizens and knowledge workers. She fosters a student-driven active learning environment that challenges her students to look beyond the basics by connecting course material with current events. In doing so, her students explore different ideas and opinions in ways that equip them with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Prior to entering academia, Berdahl worked in the non-profit sector and often hired new USask graduates. While there, she recognized common challenges that many faced when transitioning from student to employee. Since starting at the University of Saskatchewan, she has sought to address those gaps by incorporating career readiness in her curriculum. Berdahl has inspired her colleagues to do the same, exemplifying a spirit, culture and practice of teaching excellence within the university and outwardly to Canadian political science communities.
Berdahl’s research examines how institutional, cultural and political factors shape individual attitudes and collaborative decision-making practices. Her focus is on public attitudes toward Canadian public policy, federalism and regionalism. Her published materials also demonstrate her leadership in curriculum development that prepare students for the future.
“My goal is that students take from my classroom both an understanding of course content and a recognition of how their learning will be applicable in their careers,” says Berdahl. “The application of critical thinking, research and writing skills are imperative in political science and this is emphasized in all my classes.”
Governor General Award
The Governor General’s Academic Medal is one of the highest medals that a graduating student can receive from a Canadian university. Each year, on behalf of the governor general, USask awards silver medals to two undergraduate students and gold medals to two graduate students, based on academic marks.
This year’s gold medal recipients are Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman (PhD), who graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, and Dr. Christopher West (PhD), who graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in Geology.
This year’s silver medal recipients are Tori Shmon, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Pharmacology, and Sahya Bhargava, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology.
Dr. Kirsten Hooper (DMD)
Dr. Kirsten Hooper (DMD) is this year’s recipient of the President’s Medal. The College of Arts and Science student had the highest average among undergraduate students who graduated this year.
Kirsten moved to Saskatoon from Winnipeg in 2013 to begin her studies at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). While working toward her undergraduate degree, she was accepted into the College of Dentistry, where she also completed her Doctor of Dental Medicine in 2020.
She believes in the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance by taking time to include the things that enrich and fulfil us personally. Having a passion for running, Kirsten was a member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s track and field team while studying at the College of Arts and Science. She also enjoyed several activities such as recreational hockey, skiing, golfing and ultimate frisbee. Participating in these extra-curricular activities contributed to her success at USask and inspired her to pursue a career as a dentist. As well, one of her favourite summer jobs was working as a Sci-Fi camp counsellor; inspiring children through science at the university.
As Kirsten states: “as a dentist, I have an opportunity to combine art with science to help my patients improve their oral health through health management and prevention. The knowledge and skills I acquired during my Bachelor of Science in biochemistry became the foundation for my career in dentistry.”