The Associated Alumni Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes Acadia alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years whose endeavours in professional research, athletics, the arts, the community or other areas worthy of recognition bring honour to Acadia University.
Nomination deadline: July 31 annually. Click here for a Nomination Form.
Kayla Mansfield-Brown ('14, '19)
The Acadia Alumni Association is pleased to announce that two-time graduate Kayla Mansfield-Brown (‘Dancing Deer’ - 2014, 2019) is the 2021 recipient of the Acadia Alumni Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
Her impact as a woman, mother of four, Mi’kmaw leader and proud Acadia graduate who completed a Master’s of Education in Leadership at Acadia last year is difficult to overstate. A strong and outspoken advocate for social and environmental justice, gender equity and Indigenous rights, Kayla received in 2018 the ‘Fearless Leader’ Award from One Woman, an international organization dedicated to female empowerment, and earned the Graduate Student of the Year award at Acadia in 2019 for her commitment to academics and community involvement. More recently, Kayla was the recipient of the Dwight Dorey Youth Advocacy Award, presented to an Indigenous youth by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which works to bring awareness to Indigenous rights, culture, education and language.
In making the announcement, Acadia Alumni Association President Donalda MacBeath (’75) says, “Kayla Mansfield-Brown’s commitment to sharing important and valuable information about her culture, Indigenous rights and promoting social justice for marginalized communities is a powerful and poignant example for all of us. She is a fearless and determined advocate who enhances our level of education, encourages us to be more mindful, and communicates her passion for communities and change. She also represents our Acadia alumni constituency honourably and well, and I am thrilled to acknowledge and applaud her as this year’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient.”
Kayla has served as an Aboriginal Client Service Representative for RBC, is an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper and Facilitator, was an Indigenous Youth Representative for a provincial political party, and an Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator at houdinidesign Architects. Kayla is currently working with the Aboriginal Peoples Training and Employment Commission as a Support Worker for the Native Council of Nova Scotia.
She notes that ‘Dancing Deer’ is her Mi’kmaq name, shared with her in a sacred ceremony by Mi’kmaw Elder, Nancy Whynot. Dancing, she says, “illustrates the way I carry myself through life’s adversities, and in honouring the traditional dances of our nation. Lentuk (deer) signifies my small legs, but the strength they endure. Deer also have the ability to recognize energy, and willingness to protect their young.”
In the winter of 2020, Kayla lectured CODE 1963 - Decolonizing Community Development, under the Department of Community Development. This course was the first of its kind to be offered in the department and explored Indigenous ways of knowing in contrast to colonial ways of knowing, to understand decolonizing practices for working with Canadian communities.
Kayla has been a First Nations speaker at numerous conferences and seminars, a guest lecturer at Acadia, served on the planning committee and presented at Acadia’s Arts and Literature Mawiomi to name a few of her many community engagement credits.
Her supervisor at houdinidesign, Lisa Tondino, says, “as a Mi’kmaw woman, Kayla has embraced the opportunity through her community work to facilitate important dialogues, sharing and peace circles, has influenced the way my firm approaches architectural projects with the community – through ‘two-eyed seeing’ whereby projects are viewed from multiple perspectives from both Western and Indigenous ways of seeing and interpreting information. We have taken the goals of Reconciliation into the scope of our work with the help of Kayla’s knowledge and education.”
Paul McFarland ('10)
Paul is an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization in the National Hockey League. He graduated from Acadia with a BBA in 2010 and worked previously as an accountant and teacher. He was named assistant coach of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals in 2012 and the rest is history.
In May 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that McFarland had been hired as an assistant coach. Prior to that, the Richmond Hill native, 34, had spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, building on an impressive resume that included three seasons as head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs (2014-17) and two seasons as an assistant with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
McFarland played four seasons in the OHL, recording 113 points (50-63-113) in 246 games between the Kitchener Rangers (2002-04) and Windsor Spitfires (2005-06). The left-winger won an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup Championship with Kitchener in 2003 and in his final season with Windsor, he served as captain. Following his OHL career, McFarland played four seasons for Acadia University and was captain for three (2007-10).
A leader on and off the ice, McFarland is a three-time Academic All-Canadian, S.M.I.L.E. volunteer and was twice named Acadia University’s Male Citizen of the Year. The Paul McFarland Award, established in 2010 and named in his honour, recognizes the combination of athletics, academics and community involvement at Acadia.
McFarland’s wife Kelly is also an Acadia graduate, having earned a BA in 2008 and Bachelor of Education in 2010. They have two sons, Cooper and Keaton.
Heather MacDonald (’09)
Heather MacDonald (’09) is the Executive Director of the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning, a charity and community hub located in Dartmouth with the mission of empowering youth ages 12-19 to access their individual creativity and a path to success. MacDonald brings a multidisciplinary approach to her work, having worked in training, facilitation and program development for organizations such as Junior Achievement, YMCA and Scouts Canada. During the course of her career, she has partnered with corporate organizations, governments, non-profit organizations and small businesses to build relationships to improve the well-being of communities. MacDonald’s deeply rooted passion for service leadership, her work ethic and her desire to help others comes from growing up in an entrepreneurial family in rural Nova Scotia. As a youth herself, MacDonald participated in music and theatre programs that have shaped who she is today. She has a Recreation Management degree from Acadia with minor in Business. She spent her first two years at Acadia in the School of Music. In 2015, she graduated from the Executive MBA program at Saint Mary’s University and was selected to participate in the 21Leaders for the 21st Century Program. MacDonald is also an active volunteer with Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon and DASC – Dartmouth Adult Services Centre. Her love for lifelong learning reflects a determination to help youth and communities succeed.
Dr. Aaron Shafer (’07)
Dr. Aaron Shafer graduated from Acadia University in 2007 with an MSc in Biology. A distinguished scholar and researcher, Dr. Shafer published eight peer-reviewed papers while still a graduate student at Acadia. Biology professor and mentor Dr. Don Stewart said of Dr. Shafer that “he was the most outstanding student that I have had in nearly 20 years of teaching, and his record of successes after leaving Acadia highlights how exceptional an academic he is.” Dr. Shafer completed a PhD at the University of Alberta in 2012, and his thesis was selected in 2013 by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies as the best PhD thesis in Canada in the fields of science, medicine and engineering. He has received the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship (valued at $70,000 per year for two years) and after a successful stint at Upsala University in Sweden, Dr. Shafer is now an Assistant Professor at Trent University in Peterborough, ON. He is deeply committed to his profession and his students, and is a strong advocate of scientific endeavour among youth in Canada, learned societies and stakeholder groups nationwide.
Ms. Leslie Lewis ('10)
Leslie Lewis (’10) is the 2017 recipient of the Associated Alumni of Acadia University’s Young Alumni Award. An outstanding student, Leslie was named Acadia’s Student of the Year and earned the Frank H. Sobey Award for Business Excellence in her graduating year. Since then, she has forged a successful career in finance and investment, working in Toronto first with CIBC and later the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and then serving as International Finance and Trade Policy Advisor to former federal finance minister Joe Oliver in Ottawa. Currently, Leslie is an associate with Onex Partners in Toronto, making investment recommendations to senior members to acquire billion-dollar businesses. Ever mindful of community, she has a strong commitment to volunteerism, serving as an Action Canada Fellow addressing hunger in the Arctic in 2013-14 and with Rise Asset Development as an Investment Committee Member (2012-15) providing start-up financing and business plan analysis to entrepreneurs who have overcome mental illness. The Young Alumni Award was presented to Leslie at the annual Social on the Hill in Ottawa on November 28, 2016.
Mr. Michael Kennedy (’05)
Mr. Kennedy graduated from Acadia with a BBA in 2005. He went on to complete a MPACC at the University of Saskatchewan and achieved his CA designation in 2008. Mike’s career has covered a wide spectrum of business, volunteerism, entrepreneurship and social activism. He is the Co-Founder of Awesome Halifax and launched the Canadian Bacon Cookhouse and H20 Golf. Mike has received numerous awards and acknowledgments, including Nova Scotia’s CA of the year in 2010 and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year award in 2014. He is a community volunteer extraordinaire contributing to Canadian Blood Services, East Coast Music Association, ALS Nova Scotia and the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
Mr. Chansey Veinotte (’10)
Mr. Veinotte graduated from Acadia University with a BScH in Biology in 2010. Two years later he completed a Master’s of Science at Dalhousie University. Chansey is currently a Teaching Assistant in two Biology courses at Dalhousie: he is a Senior Instructor for the Prep 101 Biology Course and is the Laboratory Manager and Research Associate at the IWK Health Centre, Dalhousie University. Since graduating from Acadia, Chansey has received several academic awards and co-authored numerous papers. His work in medical research has been recognized far and wide. In addition to all of this, Mr. Veinotte volunteers his time with health education in the public school system and is the founding member of Duathlon of Champions. In his spare time, Chansey is a musician and enjoys sailing.