Two University of Guelph faculty members and a staff member have received 2021 Minister’s Awards of Excellence from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU).

Awards in the category of equality of opportunity were given last month to Dr. Melissa Perreault, a professor in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and adjunct professor in the College of Biological Science’s (CBS) Department of Integrative Biology; and to Gemma Victor, recently appointed manager of academic programs and special projects in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS).

Dr. Christine Baes, an animal biosciences professor in the Ontario Agricultural College, received the award in the category of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Introduced in 2020, the awards recognize the work of faculty and staff at Ontario universities and colleges. This year’s winners were chosen from almost 700 nominees.

Dr. Melissa Perreault

portrait of woman
Dr. Melissa Perreault

A citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario, Perreault has led U of G initiatives to improve the experience of Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Since arriving in 2017, she has developed a University-wide mentorship program for Indigenous STEM undergraduates and helped to introduce an undergraduate Indigenous summer research assistantship in CBS.

She is using an equity, diversity, and inclusion grant to improve communication with and inclusion of Indigenous students. Perreault has co-led a Truth and Reconciliation Day project to install a memorial outside U of G’s Summerlee Science Complex.

As a member of the Indigenous Knowledge Holders Group for the Canadian Brain Research Strategy, she is working with others to ensure provision of supports for Indigenous neuroscience researchers and trainees across Canada.

“This award highlights some amazing initiatives that are really necessary for inclusion of Indigenous students in a university setting,” said Perreault, who was named in 2021 to the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Her studies of markers of sex-specific brain wave differences are intended to improve diagnosis and treatment of depression and other mental health disorders.

“I work in STEM programs where there are low numbers of Indigenous students. If we want to support and retain these students in science, we have to make sure they feel welcome here and have proper supports.”

Gemma Victor

Closeup portrait of smiling woman
Gemma Victor

Ensuring that Black and racialized students are supported at U of G is part of Victor’s new role in CSAHS. She arrived in Guelph this year from Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., where she advocated for similar supports and policies as manager of student learning and transitions.

There, she helped launch anti-racism training for staff members. Beyond campus, she co-founded and chaired Equity Inclusion North Bay, a volunteer group to support communities of colour.

“Equity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility,” says Victor, who worked at Nipissing University for about 12 years. She arrived in Canada in 2003 as an international student at Nipissing and then pursued a master’s degree at York University; she is now completing doctoral studies in education leadership at Western University.

“Over the years, I have listened to many Black students who encountered racism in the classroom, on campus and in the community,” she said. “I want to look at how using my perspective as a Black female leader can help create more access for Black and racialized students and help other Black community leaders.”

Dr. Christine Baes

Christine Baes smiling
Dr. Christine Baes

Holder of the Canada Research Chair in Livestock Genomics, Baes focuses on improving the health, welfare and productivity of farm animals through genetic and genomic selection. Along with U of G colleagues, she co-leads a research collaboration on turkey genomics that is expected to boost income for Canadian producers by $30 million over five years.

She leads the Resilient Dairy Genome Project, an international initiative with academic and industry partners using genetics and genomics tools to breed dairy cattle with enhanced health and fertility that process their feed more efficiently. That project is intended to help reduce climate-warming methane emissions from livestock and save the Canadian dairy industry some $200 million a year.

Baes has written more than 65 refereed publications and trained highly skilled students who are sought after by the agricultural industry. She was formerly president of the Canadian Society of Animal Science and serves on many industry and academic steering committees in Ontario.

“I am humbled to have received a Minister’s Award of Excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Baes, who credited her students and post-doc researchers as well as her academic and industry collaborators at U of G and across Canada and abroad. “I am truly fortunate to work in this environment.”

The MCU Awards of Excellence were presented in an online ceremony on Jan. 21.