USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award

USSU Experience in Excellence Awards

The USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award is presented annually to a young alumnus or alumna who has maintained a strong connection to the U of S since graduation, is actively engaged in his or her community, and has shown characteristics that indicate future success and significant contributions to their community.

The recipient of this year’s award, Chris Hengen-Braun (BComm’11) is a staunch ambassador for the U of S and an engaged mentor, coach and community volunteer.

Chris earned his degree from the Edwards School of Business. He began his career as a financial security advisor and is currently the director of business development for Freedom 55 Financial. He is a certified health insurance specialist and membership chair for Advocis North Central Saskatchewan Chapter.

Chris’s journey as a business student was not without trials. In his first year, he applied for the Edwards Business Students’ Society, but was not accepted.

Disappointed but undeterred, Chris remained resolved to be an active member of the business student community. The following year, he got involved with JDC West, a western Canadian student business case competition.

“JDC West was the saviour that kept me in commerce,” said Chris. “School became a lot of fun.” He also credits his experience with JDC West for learning more about public speaking and time management. “It’s one of the best things that gets you suited for the work world.”

Chris Hengen-Braun is the recipient of the 2017 USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award.

The JDC West experience was so valuable for Chris that he returned to the competition as a coach after graduating, leading the entrepreneurship team and the non-profit team. “I love it,” he said. “I try to give the students the lay of the land; it’s going to be one of the most difficult things you’ve done, but you’ll feel so exhilarated when you finish your final presentation.”

One criterion for a student to be considered for the USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award is that they must be actively involved in their community; Chris has embodied this condition in exemplary fashion. Like many volunteers, Chris is inspired to give back to causes and organizations about which he is passionate.

The Edwards School of Business remains close to his heart. In addition to serving as a coach for JDC West, Chris coached the Edwards team for the Royal Roads Case Competition, conducts “lunch-n-learns”, and participates in Resumania and the annual Edwards networking event. Through Freedom 55, Chris also supports the annual Edwards School Business Formal.

Football has also long been a passion for Chris. He played for five years with the Saskatoon Hilltops, and now coaches high school football, as well as the Saskatoon Valkyries Western Women’s Canadian Football League. “Coach H-B” led the Canadian national team at the 2013 Women’s World Cup in Finland. Chris also works as a commentator for the Hilltops games on CJWW radio and supports with their annual golf tournament.

Outside of business and football, Chris also volunteers with the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, supporting its radiothon.

In the spirit of his coaching background, Chris hopes that others will follow his example and give back to what’s important to them. “Giving back is going to help you out in your career, teach you life lessons, and give you a different perspective,” he said.  “It makes you a more well-rounded person.”

About the Award

The USSU Engaged Young Alumni Award is for alumni who:

  • have graduated in the past five years (class of 2011 or later),
  • are 35 years of age or younger,
  • are actively involved in the community, and
  • have maintained a strong connection with the University of Saskatchewan.

This award was established in 2010 through a partnership between the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Association and the University of Saskatchewan Student's Union (USSU).

Past Recipients


Jaris Swidrovich


Swidrovich graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy in 2010. Following the attainment of this degree, he completed his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program at the University of Toronto, where he became the first self-identified First Nations Doctor of Pharmacy in Canada. Swidrovich is now proudly employed as a Lecturer at the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the U of S.

He has been recognized with many prestigious awards and honours for his work in the pharmacy field while remaining a strong supporter of the community.

Swidrovich acted as a First Nations Advisor for the Lung Association of Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Education. Currently he sits on the City of Saskatoon’s Cultural Diversity and Race Relations Committee.

He is the creator and chair of the National Aboriginal Health Pharmacist specialty network and the acting past-president of the Saskatchewan Branch of Canadian Society for Hospital Pharmacists. He is also a clinical pharmacist and mentor at the student wellness initiative toward community health (SWITCH), a student-run clinic that provides a valuable service to the clients who attend. 

One of his most recent accomplishments is his work with the HIV/AIDS community. Swidrovich was employed as a Clinical Coordinator of Pharmacy Services for two years where he self-created a clinical practice in HIV/AIDS and addiction. He is also on the Board of Directors for Sanctum– a new transitional care home and hospice for people living with HIV in Saskatoon.

Throughout his many undertakings, Swidrovich remains a strong advocate for the U of S and extends this through his continued dedication to Aboriginal students and initiatives. He has spent time as a volunteer mentor for pharmacy and health science students and is frequently a keynote speaker and participant in events such as the Yellow Quill First Nation Annual Career Day, ExperienceUS and STEMfest.

Today, Swidrovich is assisting with the design and planning of the upcoming Doctor of Pharmacy program at the U of S and also assisting faculty both within and outside the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition in incorporating and enhancing indigenous content in the curriculum. 


Congratulations to John Desjarlais Jr., the 2015 award recipient.

John Desjarlais Jr. is a professional engineer who earned his bachelor of science in engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in 2011. He currently works for Cameco Corporation in Saskatoon and is pursuing his master of business administration at the U of S Edwards School of Business.

As an engineering student, Desjarlais was instrumental in creating the Northern Administrative Students Association that allows Aboriginal youth from the North to visit the U of S campus and see the opportunities available to them. He was also president of the Indigenous Student Council, which he helped revive. Desjarlais received the USSU Walter Murray Leadership Award, given to an undergraduate student who has contributed to creating a positive environment through their leadership roles at the university.

After graduating, Desjarlais became a U of S Learning Community Alumni Namesake Mentor, sharing his knowledge and experience with first year students. He is a sessional lecturer with the College of Engineering and mentors Aboriginal students, fostering their growth and encouraging more Aboriginal people to pursue science and engineering as fields of study and careers.

Desjarlais is actively involved in the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan as chair of the Aboriginal sub-committee and spearheaded the creation of the Aboriginal Engineering and Science Association of Saskatchewan, establishing valuable relationships that will help increase Aboriginal enrolment in post-secondary science and engineering. He is also a regional representative of the Indspire Institute, a virtual resource centre that connects educators of Indigenous students with programs, information, and tools to improve educational outcomes and increase high school completion rates.


Stavros Stavrou Stavros Stavrou (BSc'10, MSc'12), 2014 USSU Young Alumni Excellence Award recipient.

Stavrou obtained his bachelors and master of science degrees in mathematics from the U of S, Stavrou is now working toward a master of education degree in hopes of earning a university faculty position.

As the science outreach leader for PotashCorp’s Kameskenow program and for the College of Arts and Science’s outreach office, he helps deliver fun and engaging math and science activities. His job is to keep students at Saskatoon community schools on task and focused, which can require a fresh outlook on traditional teaching and an innovative approach to its delivery.

He is also the First Nations, Inuit and Métis math outreach coordinator for the Department of Mathematics at the U of S, teaching math in Saskatoon community schools that have a broad range of students.

With the help of Cree teacher Norma Bear (BEd’93), Stavrou is not just incorporating symbols and traditions into teaching. The pair is working together to incorporate Cree language into the math program at St. Frances School in Saskatoon. Their work was showcased at a First Nation’s Language Keepers Conference in 2013, and Stavrou was awarded a certificate for his work as a language keeper.

2012-13 Shannon Lindsay, BComm'08, MPAcc'10
Bryan McCrea, BComm'09
Brea Lowenberger, BA'09