Our Team

Christine Allen headshot

Christine Allen, PhD, FCAHS, FCSPS

Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, Strategic Initiatives

Christine leads the Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio, working closely with academic divisions and the Vice-Presidential and Provostial portfolios to identify, assess, and prioritize strategic, cross-divisional, excellence-driven, institutional initiatives and to coordinate resources from external agencies and organizations. She is a professor and the GlaxoSmithKline Chair at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and has served in several senior academic leadership roles at the University including associate-dean, academic; associate-dean, graduate education; and interim dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.  She is also the co-founder and served as president of Nanovista Inc., a company focused on high-precision, image-guided cancer therapy. 

Celine Bauwens headshot

Arij Al Chawaf, PhD

Executive Director, Strategic Initiative Development

Arij provides leadership and guidance during the development and scaling of high priority strategic initiatives, develops partnerships with industry, public sector research institutes and innovation and commercialization government agencies, and establishes and directs the administrative and organizational structures required to support these initiatives. Before joining the ISI portfolio, she served as Director of Strategic Alliances and Communications at the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), an international drug discovery public-private partnership, as well as working with various start-up and biotech companies in marketing and business development roles. 

Celine Bauwens headshot

Céline Bauwens, PhD

Institutional Strategic Initiatives Officer

Céline works with faculty and academic units across the University’s three campuses to support the initiation, development and growth of interdisciplinary, multi-unit initiatives. Prior to joining this portfolio, Céline was the scientific manager at Medicine by Design, the University’s strategic initiative focused on regenerative medicine; a grant facilitation consultant to SPARC (Support Programs to Advance Research Capacity) at the University of British Columbia; and a development scientist at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

Sean Caffrey headshot

Sean Caffrey, PhD, MBA, PMP

Executive Director, Strategic Initiative Development

Sean provides administrative leadership to high priority strategic initiatives, develops strategic industrial and governmental partnerships, and establishes and directs the administrative and organizational structures required to support high priority strategic initiatives. Prior to joining the Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio, Sean served as the Executive Director of BioZone, the Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and the Director of the Alberta Epigenetics Network at Genome Alberta.

Sean Caffrey headshot

Ainka Jess, BA

Strategic Communication Advisor

Ainka supports the VP Research and Innovation portfolios of Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).  She reports to the Director, Communications Strategy UTC and to the Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, Strategic Initiatives. Prior to joining the University of Toronto, Ainka served as BMO’s Director, Communications & Strategy, Workplace Transformation and provided strategic communications support to PwC, and the City of Ottawa.  She is the Founder of She’s4Sports, an organization that gives women and diverse people a larger voice in sport, through digital content and events. Ainka is also a recipient of the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award.

Helen Lastiotakis headshot

Helen Lasthiotakis, PhD

Executive Director, Research & Strategic Initiatives

Helen reports to the Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives (ISI) on VPRI initiatives.  She provides oversight of ISIs by managing activities with academic divisions and other central portfolios. She also leads the senior staff ISI Community of Practice.  At U of T Helen has held several senior roles including assistant-dean and director of the Faculty of Arts & Science; director of Academic Programs & Policy in the Office of the Vice-President and Provost; science coordinator for the Canada Ocean Drilling Program; and program manager for the Nortel Institute for Telecommunications in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. She is a member of the University’s Research Advisory Board.

Jane Johansen headshot

Jane Johansen

Executive Assistant

Jane is executive assistant to Professor Christine Allen and assists the Institutional Strategic Initiatives team by writing communications and planning workshops. Jane left New Zealand to live in Canada a decade ago and has spent half of that time working at the University. She believes in continuous learning and recently earned certificates in strategic copywriting and business communications through the School of Continuing Studies.

Jane Johansen headshot

Patrycja Thompson, PhD

Institutional Strategic Initiatives Partnership Officer

Patrycja develops and cultivates industry networks and partnerships to support multi-divisional strategic research initiatives.  Prior to joining the ISI portfolio, she was the Manager of Technology Sourcing and Evaluation at CCRM leading diligence on novel academic discoveries, developing commercialization strategies for regenerative medicine therapies and building stakeholder networks to support venture creation.  As the Research Projects Officer at the Sunnybrook Research Institute, she previously supported academics with institutional funding applications and budget management, and led academic and industry-based projects at the Fox Chase Cancer Research Institute and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).