Celebrating the 2022 AU Alumni Award winners
Four outstanding Athabasca University alumni are making incredible contributions in their respective fields and highlighting what you can accomplish with an AU degree
Athabasca University (AU) alumni transform lives and transform communities, and that’s worth celebrating.
Every year, we recognize alumni who are blazing trails in their respective fields and celebrate all their contributions to making their communities—and the world—so much better.
The four alumni award winners for 2022 are no exception. They put their AU degrees to good use, making a huge impact on the environment, industry, healthcare, and the not-for-profit sector.
Distinguished Alumni Award—Maria Skordaki
As director of the Green Team at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ont., which falls under the Department of National Defence (DND), she leads a team responsible for improving operations and reducing environmental impact for military infrastructure right across the country.
But the main reason Skordaki does that work is simple: she worries about things like water quality on military bases so that the members serving their country don’t have to.
“They can take it for granted, so they only have to worry about protecting Canada or other nations. They don’t have to worry about something so basic as water quality for them and their families,” she said. “For me, that’s of paramount importance.”
Rising Star Award—Tannis Liviniuk
Tannis Liviniuk (Master of Business Administration ‘15) was once sent home on the first day of a construction job because her foreman didn’t think a woman could handle the physically demanding work. She was “devastated” and considered pursuing a career in a different industry, but the next day she decided she wouldn’t let anyone dictate her career path. Twenty years later, she has left quite a trail.
Today, she leads an industry consulting company with nearly 2 dozen employees across Canada. Spurred in part by the early experience, Athabasca University’s 2022 Rising Star Alumni Award winner makes a significant effort, both personally and professionally, to support women in the industry.
“I purposefully engage in those conversations, because I never want anybody to have that same experience,” she said. “Somebody who doesn’t have the same level of stubbornness as I do might say, ‘This isn’t for me.’”
She has also made it a priority to participate in, support, and share her story at conference discussions, podcasts, and events where women in industry is a topic of focus.
But that’s not the most remarkable thing about this story. What’s more remarkable is how successful the company Liviniuk founded has been.
Volunteer Service Award—Marilyn Kingdon
If you ask any dedicated volunteer what they get out of the experience, you’re likely to hear that the volunteer gains more than the organization they’re helping.
For Marilyn Kingdon (Bachelor of Professional Arts ‘17), Athabasca University’s 2022 Volunteer Service Alumni Award winner, this is especially true. Although she has volunteered with many different organizations, much of her work has been with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA)—a cause that hits close to home.
Having suffered from hearing loss herself and having a sister and mother who were both born without hearing, she knows first-hand the kinds of impacts it can have on a person’s life.
“I’ve been involved with the organization for so many years because of that, that passion and just wanting to provide what I could to make the world a better place for all of us, so that hearing loss becomes something that is not so invisible any longer,” she said.
Future Alumni Award—Julia Cornester
Julia Cornester (Master of Nursing ’22) was driven to help patients on a greater scale than a single nurse can accomplish in a conventional role.
That’s what motivated Athabasca University’s 2022 Future Alumni Award winner to pursue leadership in her field, after more than decade working in pediatric emergency rooms, neonatal intensive care units, and public health. And she said the decision came down to one conversation after a traumatic experience with a patient she couldn’t help.
“Somebody came in and she was going to give her child an organ for transplant, because he was unwell. And he wasn’t able to get that organ transplant because she had a communicable disease that we don’t routinely immunize for here in Canada,” she said.
Cornester spoke with her husband about the experience, and he asked what she would do about it. She had an answer: earn a master’s degree and become a leader.
She said she is already putting her leadership-focused Master of Nursing to work in a new role in Calgary developing health-care policy, so she is doing exactly what she set out to do.
“Since I graduated, I’ve had the opportunity already to change policy and to drive change in that way,” she said. “So, it wasn’t just a pipe dream, it actually made a difference.”