Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 8, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2023):
- Durham College offers exceptional maternity and parental leave top-up policies, providing a full year of paid leave for mothers and 35 weeks of paid leave for fathers and adoptive parents (up to 93 per cent of salary)
- Durham College helps employees plan securely for the future with a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance -- additionally, retirees can maintain their relationship with the college through a dedicated retiree association
- Durham College is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion and maintains a dedicated working group responsible for reviewing the college's diversity strategy as well as explore best practices -- the college is also a signatory of the BlackNorth initiative and is committed to ensuring that five per cent of its students positions are represented by the Black community in 2025
Open doors and innovation at Durham College
Sometimes great innovations arise from challenging situations. Don Lovisa, president of Oshawa- and Whitby-based Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology (DC), is proud of the way his teams stepped up to continue teaching and protecting students and staff during the pandemic.
“We developed a hybrid model with online and in-person teaching,” he says. “Students who required hands-on learning in a shop or a lab came in and received the experiential learning we’re known for. We had vaccination policies, and masking and screening at the doors. We maintained a safe and healthy environment, and the students graduated on time. We’re proud of that. And now we have faculty and staff who are really good at providing hybrid services.”
Lovisa also created a committee of eight employees from different faculties and departments called the Innovation Disruption and Catalyst group.
“We started a college-wide conversation about working differently and exploring where the future opportunities are, and it’s grown and grown,” he says. “We just launched an idea management portal where people can share their ideas. It’s really fun because we’ve engaged hundreds of our employees in a conversation about where we’re going as a college and how we can lead the way. And we’re sharing those stories through social media and getting an incredible response.”
Lovisa is also proud of the open and welcoming culture he’s helped to shepherd at Durham College during his 14 years as president.
“It’s a culture of innovation and collaboration, a friendly culture,” he says. “I’m often reminded of that when I hear new employees describing the welcome they’ve received at DC. Everyone puts out a hand to say hello and ask how they can help.
“We encourage people to have fun in their jobs, and we celebrate what we do and the fact that we help people of many different ages, backgrounds and cultures succeed. At Convocation you can’t help but feel proud of the work we do.”
That feeling is echoed by Jason Vassell, a former police officer who’s now a professor in DC’s Protection, Security and Investigation program, teaching courses in different areas of law enforcement.
“I didn’t plan to leave the police, but when I experienced the culture here, I made the decision,” he says. “I taught part-time for one semester, and when a full-time job opened up a colleague said I should go for it. Right away I had people supporting me, which was impactful. And I had mentors who helped me navigate the college environment. I learned a lot, and whenever I had a question, they would help.”
Vassell is a mentor himself now, and he has taken advantage of many opportunities for professional development at DC, including workshops and conferences. He also values the support he’s received for initiatives he has introduced or joined, such as a sporting competition called the Justice Games and the Black Students Success Network. He recently won the Faculty Award of Excellence, which will be acknowledged at an awards dinner. Award recipients also receive a monetary gift to put toward professional development opportunities.
“At DC they do a good job of acknowledging your efforts and achievements, and they have an open-door policy that I really appreciate,” he says. “It’s easier to communicate and relate face to face.
Says Lovisa: “You have to find a mechanism for people to share their ideas, and listen to them. It’s been a fun journey so far, and we’re hoping these efforts will take us in some new directions and help us prepare for the future as we continue to lead the way as a college.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 19, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
- Durham College's formal Solid Waste Management Policy includes programs for recycling e-waste, batteries, light bulbs, air filters, construction waste, etc. and used textbooks in partnership with Textbooks for Change -- used textbooks are collected across campuses and are either donated to partner campus libraries in East Africa, resold at discounted and more affordable prices for students or recycled when appropriate
- Durham College is home to the impressive W. Galen Weston Centre for Food that features an agricultural growing field, greenhouse, honey bee apiary, arboretum, pollinator garden, an apple orchard -- and recently expanded to include a new hydroponic farming facility and a new 1,500 square foot greenhouse with aquaponics as well as a storage facility to house the harvest
- Durham College manages its own in-house "Green Office" certification program to recognize offices across all areas of the campus that adopt sustainable practices in their day-to-day operations
Sustainability is a way of life at Durham College
Doug Crossman’s job is one that is always evolving. As director of facilities management at Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology, Crossman oversees the retrofits of the college’s buildings at its campuses in Oshawa and Whitby, Ont., many of which date back to the 1970s. “Our commitment to sustainability has certainly grown over the last 15 years,” he says.
On the more basic level, that has meant installing bottle fillers across both campuses to reduce the use of plastic; installing low-flow water systems in bathrooms; changing lights on campus to LED; and installing charging stations for electric vehicles.
Horticulture and food and farming programs at the Whitby campus focus on sustainable farming, which includes a vertical farm in a shipping container that produces 700 heads of leafy greens weekly and uses 90 per cent less water than traditional farming methods.
Durham College is also developing an organic regeneration system, which will produce waste compost for use in the college’s agricultural growing fields – “field to fork and back to field again,” as Alan Dunn, associate vice-president of facilities and ancillary services, notes.
In Oshawa, the Centre for Collaborative Education – a certified gold LEED building – was built to replace a legacy facility on that campus. When the old building was demolished, Dunn explains, it left the college with a vacant site, which was replaced with a landscaped quad. Beneath that is a geothermal field – the college’s third – which supplies heated and chilled fluids for HVAC systems in one of the main buildings.
“Our geothermal field at the Oshawa campus was a significant project that has taken us most of the way towards our 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals,” says Crossman.
The campus community can observe the geothermal system in use at the Energy Innovation Centre. “This system is mostly buried underground,” says Dunn. “But there are significant pumping and monitoring systems that we’ve put into what might have been just a traditional pumphouse, and created an exhibit-like space with audio and video so students can learn how the system works.”
Over the next couple of years, the college will introduce a significant battery energy storage system – BESS for short. Designed to work in conjunction with the local utility, BESS will allow the college to draw on it when the demand on the electric grid system is at its peak and recharge when demand on the grid is low.
Another initiative is a combined heat and power facility (CHP) at the Whitby campus. “It’s a gas turbine engine that allows us to provide both electricity and heat,” Dunn explains. “In the winter, it’s an additional heat source for the campus buildings and in the summer, it’s primarily providing electricity, again, taking some load off the electrical grid.”
Another benefit of the geothermal fields, the CHP and BESS is the future potential for islanding the campus. “In the event of a significant outage, like an ice storm, they assist us in keeping some of the campus up and running,” Dunn says.
Any new project Durham College undertakes – from heating to plumbing to building construction – is as efficient as possible. “We take sustainability very seriously,” says Dunn. “It’s important for students and our employees as well, to be contributing not just to Canada’s stated goal, but globally.”
And that means Crossman still has a long list of things that need to be done. “By the time we upgrade the older systems, there will be new advanced technology to implement across the college,” he says. “It’s exciting knowing that this job is making a difference, and that the possibilities for sustainability are endless.”