2015 Alumni of Influence

Ten new recipients were recognized in 2015.

See the List

The 2015 Alumni of Influence


Scott Banda - BA '86, LLB '90

A recognized leader in the Canadian co-operative sector for many years, Scott Banda is the CEO of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), Saskatchewan’s largest company and Canada’s largest non-financial services co-operative.

Banda has been involved with co-ops for his entire life, attending (and later volunteering and working for) the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association Co-op Youth Camp program, and serving as a volunteer director on the Saskatoon Co-operative Association from 1998-2002. Banda’s knowledge of the co-operative sector and his personal and professional influence across many other fields of endeavour led to his being invited to serve as a member of the Desjardins Group National Advisory Committee in 2013.

Banda’s personal and professional journey has been predicated on his commitment to values-based, collaborative and future-focused decision making. Banda brought this commitment to bear as general counsel of the Crown Investments Corporation from 1992-1997, before moving on to a similar role at AREVA Resources. Banda joined FCL as legal affairs manager in 2002, was promoted to vice-president corporate and legal affairs in 2004, and became CEO in February 2010.
Banda is a strong believer in the strength of communities. He is an inveterate relationship builder, and deploys his extensive personal and professional network—most often quietly and behind the scenes—to get the job done when he is asked to help. Of recent note, Banda is a strong champion of FCL’s partnership with the University of Saskatchewan in the development of the Co-operative Innovations Project, a bold initiative designed to research and implement new ways of supporting co-operative community development in First Nation, Métis and rural municipalities across Western Canada.


Keith Briant - BA '86 (d. 2018)

Retired Det. Staff Sgt. Keith Briant is a respected community leader who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to building community and improving the quality of life of others.

Briant had a successful career with the Saskatoon Police Service for over 30 years until his retirement. In addition to his work in public service, Briant has volunteered his time for numerous organizations, and has actively participated and served in many leadership roles on boards and volunteer committees. These include the Silverwood Heights Community Association; the United Way of Saskatoon; Saskatoon Public Library; the Lawson Heights Advisory Panel; the Silverwood Heights Community Association; the Saskatoon Leisure Services Advisory Panel; the Citizens Advisory Panel for the Sterling Pulp Chemical Plant and AKZO Nobel Chemical; and the Saskatchewan Safety Council. Briant helped spearhead the establishment of a youth drop-in centre in Pleasant Hill, where neighbourhood kids can now attend regular programming. He has been a Canadian Armed Forces reservist; a member of the Shriners and the Masons (Asquith Lodge); and a volunteer piper for the North Saskatchewan Regiment.

An accomplished bagpipe player, Briant has been regularly requested to play the pipes for dignitaries and at events such as award ceremonies and graduations.
Briant has been recognized with numerous honours for his professional and volunteer work. These include the police 20-Year Exemplary Service Medal; a Volunteer Saskatoon Award for Community Development; certificates of appreciation from Saskatoon Catholic Schools, the North Saskatchewan Regiment and the Air Cadet League of Canada; a Volunteer Saskatoon Community Builder Award; the Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs Award; the Community Policing Award; the Twenty-Five Year Protective Service Medal; and the prestigious Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal.Keith Briant and his wife Joanne live in Saskatoon. They have two children. 


Michael Byers - BA ‘88

Michael Byers is a noted legal scholar and expert on international relations, as displayed through his seven books, dozens of academic papers and hundreds of contributions to newspapers such as the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star. Byers teaches at the University of British Columbia, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law.

Byers received his BA (Honours) in 1988 from the University of Saskatchewan, majoring in both English and political studies. He then studied law at McGill University, receiving his LLB and BCL before obtaining a PhD in International Law from Cambridge University.

Prior to joining UBC, Byers was a fellow of Jesus College at Oxford University as well as a law professor and the director of Canadian Studies at Duke University. He has been a visiting professor at the universities of Cape Town, Tel Aviv, Nordland and Novosibirsk.

Byers’ expertise on issues of Arctic sovereignty has made him sought after by many commentators and policymakers, including the prime minister’s office. His 2014 book International Law and the Arctic received the Donner Prize, which recognizes the year’s best public policy book by a Canadian.

In 2008, Byers ran for the federal New Democrats in the riding of Vancouver Centre under Jack Layton. He has been an advisor to charities such as Amnesty International, Redress Trust, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Prisoners. Byers regularly provides pro bono advice to NGOs and political parties.

1. What is your favourite memory about your time in Arts & Science?

Professor Len Findlay delivering flawless, impassioned and deeply insightful lectures that transmitted his love of Shakespeare's plays. I remain afflicted to this day!

2. How did your Arts & Science education help you in your career?

My Arts & Science education laid the foundations of my career: the abilities to think critically, research difficult-to-access issues, and communicate.

3. What advice would you offer to current students in Arts & Science?

Cut your own path.

Piya Chattopadhyay - BA '95

Piya Chattopadhyay is an award-winning broadcast journalist based in Toronto.

After graduating with an honours degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan in 1995, Chattopadhyay left her hometown of Saskatoon to pursue a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University. She has been working on-air ever since, beginning as a TV/radio reporter for CBC in various locations: Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Toronto. Chattopadhyay travelled around the world covering national and international stories, with stops in countries including Sri Lanka, India, the United States and Afghanistan.

In 2007, Chattopadhyay moved to Jerusalem for a new role as the Middle East correspondent for Fox News Radio. She travelled throughout the region covering conflict, chaos, war and peace-making, and the people affected by each.

Upon returning home in 2009, Chattopadhyay moved on from field reporting and began a new stage in her career as a host for CBC Radio. She can be heard regularly across Canada hosting programs including The Current, Q and The World at Six. With her constantly changing roles on both radio and television—including summer and fill-in host of TV Ontario's flagship current affairs program The Agenda—Chattopadhyay has become the Swiss Army knife of Canadian public broadcasting.

Chattopadhyay is married to fellow CBC reporter Peter Armstrong. Together they have three children.


Robert Enright - BA '71

 Robert Enright, one of Canada’s most distinguished cultural journalists, is the founder and current senior contributing editor and film critic for Border Crossings, an influential quarterly arts magazine now in its 33rd year of publication. During Enright’s decade as editor, Border Crossings received 41 nominations at the National Magazine Awards and Western Magazine Awards, including five gold medals for “Magazine of the Year.”

Enright graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA (Honours) in 1971. For 25 years he was an art critic and documentarian for CBC radio and television, and he has been a frequent contributor to the art section of the Globe & Mail. He has also written for a number of international art magazines, including frieze, Modern Painters, ArtReview and Contemporary. He has contributed introductions, essays, and interviews to over 80 books and exhibition catalogues in Canada, the United States and Europe, and has published hundreds of interviews with leading artists from around the world. He is the author of a number of books, including Pereginations: 32 Conversations with Contemporary Artists, Eric Fischl, 1970 – 2007, and Body Heat: The Story of the Woodward’s Redevelopment.

In 2005, Enright was made a member of the Order of Canada. He is also the recipient of an Art Award of Distinction from the National Council of Arts Administrators, and a gold medal from the Royal Canadian Academy. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Since 2005, Enright has been a professor and university research chair in art theory and criticism in the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph, where he teaches in the graduate program.

1. What is your favourite memory about your time in Arts & Science?

I remember with absolute joy the excitement generated in the English and history classes I took in my Honours program, from Professors Ron Marken, Peter Millard, Don Kerr and Terrence Heath, among so many more. These were very exciting years for me; I was falling in love with the woman I ended up marrying, and had fallen in love with literature and art. It has remained a constant and profound bond.

2. How did your Arts & Science education help you in your career?

I have been a writer and critic for over four decades and not a day goes by when I don't use some particular thing or attitude or critical disposition that I learned at the University of Saskatchewan. It was the best education I could have received; it taught me to think and write and I am forever grateful to the rigour and generosity of the faculty I encountered there. Now that I am a professor, I hold their passion as the model for what I am attempting to do in my seminar. 

3. What advice would you offer to current students in Arts & Science?

“Want everything,” as the poet Michael Ondaatje says. Take every advantage you can of these years, where you are learning at breakneck speed and becoming the informed and discriminating citizens our country needs. There is nothing more valuable than a solid arts and science degree; it is the thing with which you begin to become what you will be, and it is a time of freedom that you won't likely have again. Just seize everything about it.

Donald Kerr - BA '57

Donald Kerr is one of Saskatchewan’s best-known poets, authors and public intellectuals.

Born in Saskatoon, Kerr earned a BA (Honours) degree in English at the University of Saskatchewan in 1957 followed by an MA at the University of Toronto in 1960. That year, he began a four-decade career in the College of Arts & Science as an instructor of English and drama, serving terms as acting head of both departments.

Kerr is an author of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction. He has been selected for eight Saskatchewan Book Award nominations across a spectrum of categories, including one win for The Garden of Art, his profile of sculptor Vic Cicansky. Kerr’s plays have been performed by 25th Street Theatre, Greystone Theatre, Persephone Theatre and CBC Radio. The acclaim for his 10 published volumes of poetry led to his appointment as Saskatchewan’s fourth poet laureate in 2011.
A prolific editor as well as a writer, Kerr has years of editing experience for publications Grain, NeWest Review, Next Year Country, and on the boards of publishers Coteau Books and NeWest Press.
Kerr is a passionate historian who complements his writing of historical fiction and non-fiction with active heritage stewardship in his personal life. He was the first chair of both the Saskatoon Heritage Society and the Saskatoon Municipal Heritage Committee, served on the Meewasin Valley Authority Board, and was elected the Saskatchewan governor for the Heritage Canada Foundation.
For his commitment to his community, Donald Kerr has received the U of S Award for Distinction in Outreach & Engagement and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit—the province’s highest honour.


Heather Koshinsky - BSc '84, SC '85, PhD '94

Heather Koshinsky is an innovator and business leader in the field of biotechnology.

With a scientific curiosity matched by her keen business sense, Koshinsky has built a career on applying research to the improvement of society, human health and the environment. Koshinsky graduated with a BSc in biology from the University of Saskatchewan in 1984 and went on to obtain a PhD in applied microbiology in 1994.

Koshinsky was an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture before moving on to supervise research projects involving microorganism genetics and food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the University of California, Berkeley. Along the way, she obtained a Certificate of Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

In the years that followed, Koshinsky co-founded two industry-leading companies in California in the field of molecular diagnostics, and maintains leadership roles at both. She is CEO of Investigen (founded 1998), a developer of faster and more efficient processes for DNA diagnostic testing and the detection/identification of organisms by their DNA. The company has overseen the development of applications for clinical diagnostics, food and water safety, industrial microbiology and more.
Koshinsky is also Chief Scientific Officer at Eureka Genomics, a company she co-founded in 2007. Eureka Genomics is a developer and provider of biological data analysis methods and specialized diagnostic services. Clients have included pharmaceutical companies, universities, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the USDA.
Koshinsky holds six patents related to her industry work, and builds upon her contributions to the scientific and business communities through student mentorship, research, publications and public presentations.



Zachari Logan - BFA '05, MFA '09

 Zachari Logan is a Saskatoon artist whose provocative work is in demand around the world.

Logan graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BFA in 2004 and an MFA in 2008. He now engages in a full-time studio practice in Saskatoon, where he was born.

Logan’s drawings, ceramics and installations intersect issues of personal identity, place and queerness, with his own body largely used as reference. As an extension of his practice, Logan has attended residencies in London, Paris, rural Tennessee, Calgary, Vernon and twice in Vienna—most recently through the quartier21 Artist in Residence Program at the city’s Museumsquartier. Several of these projects abroad have afforded Logan the opportunity to work with or show alongside prominent artists such as Ross Bleckner, Sophie Calle and Marina Abramović.

Logan’s work has been exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions throughout North America and Europe, including Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cincinnati, Calgary, Chicago, Edmonton, Grenoble, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Monterrey, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Seattle, Toronto and Vienna. Logan has been the recipient of multiple grants and awards from the Canada Council of the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the MFA Now International Painting Competition. In 2008, Logan received the University of Saskatchewan Graduate Thesis Award, and in 2014 the Lieutenant Governor’s Art Award in the Emerging Saskatchewan Artist category.

Works by Zachari Logan can be found in the permanent collections of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the Mendel Art Gallery, the Line Gallery in Ontario, the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York City, and in many private collections around the world.


Sheelah McLean - BA '90, BED '91, MEDUC '07

Sheelah McLean is a dedicated teacher and human rights advocate who is best known as a co-founder of the global grassroots movement Idle No More.

McLean received her BA (Advanced) in history from the College of Arts & Science in 1990 before going on to complete Bachelor of Education and Master of Education degrees at the U of S. She has been a teacher in secondary and adult education for 20 years, and an instructor at the U of S for 10 years. McLean co-researched and developed “Teaching Treaties in the Classroom,” a curriculum guide used in all Saskatchewan schools to help students understand the topic of treaty relationships.

A passionate activist, McLean works to organize research projects and events that address racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and classism. She pursues projects that bridge scholarship, policies and praxis in order to address the historical and ongoing legacy of oppression created by white-settler colonialism.
McLean was among the initial four organizers of the Idle No More movement, which focuses on protecting Indigenous self-determination, treaties, land and water. Soon after its founding in Saskatoon in 2012, the movement had spread across Canada and beyond, inspiring political actions and protests the United States and around the world. Idle No More remains a powerful voice in Canadian discourse.

In 2013, McLean made the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” She is a recipient of the Carol Gellar Human Rights Award and the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation Global Citizenship Award.

Sheelah McLean is currently a PhD candidate in educational foundations at the U of S.


Bob Xiaoping Xu - MA '92

 Xiaoping (Bob) Xu is a philanthropist, mentor, business innovator and one of China’s most prominent angel investors.

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with an MA in music in 1992, Xu moved home to China and co-founded the New Oriental Education & Technology group, which soon became the largest provider of private education in China. As vice-chairman of the company, he advised and mentored students as they pursued their careers and dreams.

Inspired by young people he met who were passionate about their ideas but lacked the resources to realize them, Xu began investing in small business startups. In 2006, he established ZhenFund, a pioneering seed fund with the aim of promoting innovation among China’s youth through angel investments. To date, Xu has invested in more than 150 startups and is known to millions of young Chinese people for his writings and teachings.

A devout advocate of social responsibility, Xu’s philanthropy extends beyond China and includes the largest-ever donation to the College of Arts & Science’s Department of Music. This contribution from Xu and his wife Ling Chen established the David L. Kaplan Music Scholarship in 2010.

Xu’s achievements and generosity have been widely recognized in China and around the world. The Founder magazine awarded him numerous “Angel Investor of the Year” awards, while China Southern People’s Weekly named him one of China’s “50 Most Charismatic People in 2006. Forbes magazine listed Xu in 2004 as one of China’s “Top 100 Celebrities.”