Our Team

Our team supports faculty and instructors, staff, students and community partners as they work together to create community-engaged learning and research opportunities.  

Jennifer Esmail, Ph.D.  
Director, Centre for Community Partnerships 

Jennifer has worked in a range of academic and community spaces and now bridges these spheres in her work as Director of the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP). Before joining the CCP, she was Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she taught as part of the Walls to Bridges prison co-learning program. Jennifer has published in areas including community-university engagement, Disability Studies and English literature, including her prize-winning monograph, Reading Victorian Deafness (2013). She has been involved with a number of community organizations in Ontario, including sitting on the Board of Directors of The Children’s Book Bank and the Advisory Board of the Enabling Nonprofits project of the Ontario Nonprofit Network. Jennifer’s identity and lived experience as a woman of color, a settler and uninvited guest on this land, and a first generation post-secondary student inform her commitment to anti-oppressive and anti-colonial approaches to education. 

Rebs Lee  
Programs Administrator 

In their role as Programs Administrator, Rebs brings a passion for social justice to everything they do. They spent over 15 years working in the nonprofit sector, with several years focused on perinatal health, and the links to the Social Determinants of Health. Other experiences in the nonprofit sector include urban outdoor education, and international development. As a community builder, they are known to connect people with the goal of building mutual support systems. Their lived experience as a disabled queer settler informs their perspective, which centres anti-oppression, anti-racism, and intersectional feminism. 

Nawal Ali 
Community-Engaged Learning Program Assistant

Nawal has three years of experience serving as a board director at the non-profit organization Ontario Public Interest Research Group Toronto. In this role, she oversaw community driven workshops, programming focused on mitigating food insecurity and developed internal board policy from an intersectional lens. She has a passion for community programming that empowers historically underprivileged people. Throughout her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, she has worked as the vice president of the Women and Gender Studies Student Union and the education and outreach director at the Black Students’ Association. She organized a two-day conference at the St. George Campus focused on how to succeed in higher education for black-identifying high school students. Additionally, Nawal has facilitated workshops on financial planning for post-secondary education for BIPOC high school students in the GTA. She has also moderated a panel featuring University of Toronto faculty and professors discussing how to implement anti-racist pedagogies in classrooms. Nawal grounds her work on anti-oppression framework and strives to learn about the sensible experiences of racialized community members.

Ewa Cerda-Llanos, M.A.  
Lead Coordinator, Co-curricular Learning 

Ewa brings over 15 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector, with a focus on community development. Her work has included the design of place-based strategies, facilitation of networks, accessible program design, project management, coaching, and the facilitation of cross sector collaborations, while centering community-identified priorities. Ewa is passionate about social justice and brings an equity lens to developing meaningful programming for students and community partners. She thrives on working with different players to facilitate cross sector understanding, and alignment, placing reciprocal learning at the center. Ewa holds an M.A in Political Science from York University.


Michelle Christian, Ph.D.
Program Associate

Michelle brings over 10 years of experience supporting student learning and faculty teaching at the University of Toronto. While completing a Humanities Ph.D. also at the University of Toronto, she taught undergraduate courses on the topics of religion and structural inequalities in premodern worlds and developed pedagogical resources for department and campus programs. At the Centre for Community Partnerships, Michelle supports both co-curricular and curricular community-engaged learning programming and initiatives. In her work, and as a racialized person and settler, Michelle advocates for inclusive pedagogies and anti-oppressive approaches to post-secondary education.

Terence Velox  
Coordinator, Co-curricular Learning 

Before joining the CCP, Terence served as a Community Engagement Leader at a multi-service nonprofit organization that assisted the entire newcomer family in achieving settlement.  He constantly created innovative activities and community-engaged learning opportunities in response to community needs using anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and strengths-based modalities. He has written numerous successful proposals, receiving funding to create meaningful activities for racialized and vulnerable youth and seniors. With deep roots in the Toronto area and a genuine care for people and programs, he aims to create positive learning experiences for all community members.

Janet Fitzsimmons  
Coordinator, Co-curricular Learning 

Janet brings over two decades of community development experience to her role. In her career, Janet has worked with municipal leaders and grassroots actors, designed innovative learning models that prioritize voices of lived experience, and fostered social benefit through cross-sector collaboration. She is eager to bring her deep knowledge of Toronto and her commitment to anti-oppressive practice to her work with students and community partners. 

Shannon Black, Ph.D. 
Coordinator, Staff Networks

Shannon brings years of experience in the post-secondary sector to her role as Coordinator, Academic Initiatives. Shannon has published and taught on topics related to creative labour and economies, digital media, visual culture, feminism(s) and qualitative methodologies. She has also provided instruction in the areas of academic writing and evaluation, professional experience, mentorship and community-engaged learning. Shannon’s primary aim is to support larger goals and make a positive impact, particularly in the areas of community and arts-related education and research. Shannon holds a PhD in Human Geography from the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto (STG). 

Heather Hermant, Ph.D.
Lead Coordinator, Academic Initiatives 

Heather joined the CCP in 2020 as Lead Coordinator, Academic Initiatives after more than a decade teaching community-engaged learning and community-engaged research. She has taught at the Women and Gender Studies Institute, and the Community Engaged Learning program, New College, University of Toronto. Prior to coming to U of T, Heather taught in the Community Arts Practice Certificate Program in the Faculties of Urban and Environmental Change and Arts, Media and Design at York University, Toronto. Heather holds an Hon. B.Sc in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of British Columbia; a Magisteriate in Environmental Studies from York University; and a PhD in Gender Studies from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Heather is a queer settler historian and artist who has worked at the intersection of performing arts, community practice, academic research and instruction for almost twenty years.

Kateri Gauthier (on leave)
Coordinator, Indigenous Community-Engaged Learning 

Kateri is the Coordinator, Indigenous Community-Engaged Learning with the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP). Born in Niswaakamog—the Three Trails—colonially known as Sudbury, Kateri is of Anishinaabe and European ancestry. Her family roots are from Wiikwemkoong, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, England and Scotland. Previously, Kateri was Indigenous Education Coordinator with the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health at Women’s College Hospital. She formerly held positions with De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre, the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres.