TORONTO, November 13  — The University of St. Michael’s College is celebrating the announcement of the three winners of the 2020 President’s Capstone Project Award in its distinguished Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability program.


  • Shahin Hirji is the winner in the category of Social and Environmental Impact. Her project Break with Tradition examines a disconnect in the mining industry that considers questions of sustainability post-design rather than building sustainability into the life cycle of projects.


  • Shawna Peddle is the winner in the category addressing Significant Advancement in Social and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) in a participant’s workplace. Her project, Developing a Theory of Change: The Pathways to Employability Initiative, demonstrates the intersection of social purpose and business by using a cooperative business model to advance a pressing social need (youth employment) during a global pandemic.


  • David Rutherford is the winner in the category of Innovative Practices in Social & Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG. His project, Purpose Enablement, examines Responsible Investing at a time when both investors and businesses are looking for ways to move toward shared value and social purpose.


Two other projects received honourable mentions: Gina E. Castillo received special acknowledgement for a project entitled Sowing the Seeds of Sustainable Cities, while Paula Murphy Ives was mentioned for her project, Sphere—Reimagining New Ways of Living and Working Together.

“These projects are an excellent reflection of the important work taking place in this program, and speaks to many of St. Michael’s, core values, whether it’s a question of environmental sustainability, social justice, or simply the need to care for one another,” says University  President David Sylvester. “We are proud to see our students produce such outstanding work.”

Those considered for the President’s Capstone Award are nominated by their mentors. Projects must be distinguished in what they achieve or propose in one or more of the following criteria: 1) advancing social and/or environmental impact; 2) introducing innovative practices in social and environmental responsibility, sustainability, ESG and/or 3) significantly advancing social and environmental responsibility, sustainability and/or ESG to the creator’s organization.

This year’s panel of project evaluators included Wendy Mitchell, a 2016 graduate of the program  and the founder of a social purpose consultancy; Yvonne Jeffery, a 2103 graduate of the program and Director of Sustainability, Vermilion Energy; and Jennifer Niece, a 2017 program graduate and Director, Sustainability and Services, 360 Energy.

Thirty-five participants are accepted annually to St. Michael’s program, which attracts students from across Canada and around the world. This “work as you learn” program enables participants to take their career in Social Responsibility and Sustainability to the next level.  Participants tackle and resolve a Sustainability/ESG challenge in their company in a major Action Project under the mentorship of faculty and co-learners; learn from global thought leaders; experience practical “real world” change management through the ExperienceChange™ Simulation and join a prestigious community of St. Michael’s Alumni in continuing education, sharing and networking.  Graduates receive the post nominal letters G.Dipl.SR&S.

The Diploma is now accepting applications for 2021/2022.To apply, please see the Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability Website.  First Intake Deadline is April 30, 2021.


About the University of St. Michaels College in the University of Toronto

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) is a Catholic institution of higher learning federated with the University of Toronto. USMC strives to offer students a transformative educational experience in a diverse and engaged community, encouraging and supporting students and graduates to share their gifts in the cause of the greater good.

A Business Advisory Committee ensures the Diploma program is relevant and experiential. Sustainability/ESG Leaders representing a broad range of business sectors provide advice and input.


 For More Information Contact

Kathryn A. Cooper, Program Manager, Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Phone: (519) 855-9491



Visit the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s Fall Convocation 2020 page to learn more about this year’s graduates and to celebrate their unique achievement.