March 8, 2022

Three inspiring women receive 2022 Women's Resource Centre awards

Chantal Rytz, Samaneh Ashoori and Shaelene Standing recognized for wisdom, resiliency and compassion
Chantal Rytz, Samaneh Ashoori and Shaelene Standing
Chantal Rytz, Samaneh Ashoori and Shaelene Standing

The Women's Resource Centre (WRC) is pleased to announce the recipients of the WRC Awards of Excellence for 2022.

These annual awards showcase and celebrate the outstanding success of University of Calgary community members. Each year, women are recognized for their wisdom, resiliency, and compassion in the face of adversity. Award recipients exemplify outstanding leadership in their personal and professional lives and strive to make their communities a better place for all. This year, the awards are being announced on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022.

Here are our three amazing 2022 winners:

Chantal Rytz
WRC Distinguished Alumna

Chantal Rytz is an up-and-coming health-care leader who obtained her master's in cardiovascular and respiratory science​s from the University of Calgary in 2019 and is currently completing her doctor of philosophy in medical sciences from the Cumming School of Medicine.

Rytz is an advocate for transformative change in health care for the LGBTQ2S+ community. Having personally witnessed first-hand the barriers and lack of personalized health the LGBTQ2S+ community faces, Rytz lives by the adage Nothing About Us Without Us. She takes active steps, both academically and personally, to create a better place for gender and sexual diverse populations with a focus on women.

Rytz’s doctoral research aims to determine the association between different forms of ​gender-affirming estrogen therapy and cardiovascular risk in transgender women and works closely with members of Skipping Stone, a foundation dedicated to supporting the transgender community and their families. Rytz’s work has the potential to change clinical practice and improve health outcomes by providing key information and shared decision-making for transgender women and their health-care providers.

As a testament to Rytz's notable work and scholarship, she has garnered numerous awards and accolades including a University of Calgary Citizenship Award, a Libin Cardiovascular Institute scholarship and one of only 13 Alberta Innovates - Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit (AbSPORU) graduate studentships to support her studies. Rytz is currently the Department of Medical Sciences nominee for the 2022 Killam Doctoral Scholarship.

Most recently, Rytz participated in the internationally recognized UCalgary Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, winning both Presenters’ Choice and First-Place Overall, bringing her to the Western Regionals Competition stage to represent UCalgary amongst 14 other post-secondary institutions.

Outside of the lab, Rytz routinely shows her passion for improving scientific curiosity and research skill sets in others as the lead co-ordinator of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute Clinical Journal Club and co-chair of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute student-led initiatives. Rytz also volunteers her time with the Graduate Students Association Gender and Sexuality Alliance Subcommittee, writing blog posts and advocating for safe and inclusive spaces for all.

Rytz has already left an indelible mark in her field with her remarkable leadership, and her unwavering dedication will continue to raise awareness and acknowledgement of transgender perspectives in research and health care.

Samaneh Ashoori
WRC Distinguished Graduate Student

Samaneh Ashoori is a trailblazing advocate for women in STEM and a doctor of philosophy candidate in the chemical and petroleum engineering program at the University of Calgary. 

Ashoori was born and raised in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, where conflict and hardship were commonplace growing up. The challenges she faced in her formative years have instilled in her a deep sense of empathy and compassion, and unwavering commitment to helping and empowering others.

Prior to arriving in Canada, in 2004, Ashoori was the first and only Iranian female engineer accepted in the Master of Petroleum Well Engineering at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia since the Iranian revolution in 1979. This pivotal moment inspired and opened the door for many young Iranian women to follow suit. 

After immigrating to Canada, in search of a job, Ashoori was met with dismal prospects due to the turbulent oil downturn, but she pivoted by applying to the University of Calgary to pursue her PhD. Amid her studies, Ashoori also struggled with the challenges of being a mom following the birth of her daughter but proved to be resilient as she worked hard to excel in her program.

Alongside her academic endeavours, Ashoori currently chairs the Graduate College Communications Committee. Ashoori has helped highlight successful female graduate students and professionals who have overcome cultural and social barriers to foster inspiration and raise awareness. 

In acknowledging the challenges and changes that come with settling in a new country, Ashoori helped found a social organization to support immigrant engineers called NAFT Club Mentoring Program (NCMP). To date, NCMP has supported over 500 members with job search resources, mentorship opportunities and immigration support. 

Ashoori has participated in various entrepreneurial training programs within her field. Recently, she landed a $200,000 UCEED fund for a local startup, after she conducted a market analysis for the company.

Her life’s work and advocacy is committed to shifting how demographics are viewed to better reflect the diverse societies they serve and drive positive social change, while empowering future generations of female engineers with the confidence to take risks and challenge the status quo. 

Shaelene Standing
WRC Distinguished Undergraduate Student

Shaelene Standing is a talented campus and community luminary in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at the University of Calgary.

Being diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma at an early age and undergoing numerous surgeries growing up, ignited an unyielding passion to support others facing similar obstacles in vision health care.

Throughout her studies, Standing has been heavily involved in research, and is currently developing a web-based database for retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease that is common in premature infants. This database will be used in treatment efficacy studies across North America. Her impressive research efforts have landed her many scholarships, including one from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  

Alongside her research, Standing is a member of the Bachelor of Health Sciences Student-Faculty Liaison Committee, volunteering her time to create helpful guides for incoming first-year students to mitigate student stress and build morale.

As a member of UCalgary’s Scholars Academy, Standing also contributes to service projects to support local initiatives and has provided a motivational presentation. Another one of Standing's significant contributions to UCalgary was the creation of the UC Dance Company, a club she founded and conceptualized after her first year of university. 

In the community, Standing uses her skill and passion for dance to develop and lead dance classes for youth with visual impairments with the Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind.

Additionally, Standing devotes her time to Kids Cancer Care (KCC), developing an accessible and interactive website for participants and leading youth affected by cancer in recreational activities to decrease treatment side effects.

At the heels of the global pandemic, Standing took it upon herself to sew over 300 masks donated to KCC and those staying at the Ronald McDonald House. She is lauded as a creative and innovative volunteer who goes above and beyond to ensure families at KCC foundation feel involved and well-supported. 

Standing continues to foster a legacy of community service, volunteerism, and leadership within her communities and is hoping to pursue medical school.

In honour of International Women's Day on March 8, the Women's Resource Centre and Career Services are joining forces to provide a week full of thought-provoking sessions, workshops and panels featuring incredible speakers.

Women’s Week will include a variety of in-person and online events to give students opportunities to explore equity, social justice, as well as personal and professional development. Learn more.

Learn more about the WRC Awards and past recipients.