“I feel humbled and honoured to receive an award among so many deserving staff,” said Elias. “Hopefully this award can bring attention the amazing work of our science outreach team and the great support we have from USask staff, faculty and students, community partners, sponsors and donors.”
Elias and Darrell Solie—a mechanical engineer with Infrastructure, Planning and Land Development—are the 2019 recipients of the award, which honours staff members who have provided extraordinary service and who clearly demonstrate USask’s principles and values.
In her role as director of science outreach, Elias builds connections with communities and oversees programs that provide engaging, hands-on science experiences to students and teachers. These include the Science Ambassador Program, Nutrien Kamskénow and outreach activities at the Museum of Natural Sciences.
A former science teacher, Elias draws on her understanding of the K–12 education system to create science programming that is exciting for children and that aligns with the province’s science curricula. She also works with Elders and school officials to Indigenize curricula and develop culturally responsive science education.
Each year, Elias and her small team train more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students to work with school children on campus, in Saskatoon community schools and in northern and Indigenous communities. Their work connects the university with about 8,000 school children each year, including more than 3,000 Indigenous youth.
“We feel privileged to be part of our college's efforts to support reconciliation,” said Elias.
Through the Science Ambassador Program, Elias’s team deploys science ambassadors who spend five weeks living in 12 remote northern communities, where they share science experiments with students and teachers.
Nutrien Kamskénow is a 13-week program that brings hands-on science activities to children in Saskatoon community schools. Launched in 2009, it has grown rapidly under Elias’s leadership since 2011, reaching more than 8,000 students in hundreds of classrooms.
The program has received international acclaim, winning two Global Best Awards from the International Business Education Partnership Network in 2014.
Elias has also raised nearly $1 million in external funding to deliver learning opportunities and pay for equipment in schools with limited financial resources.
Previous accolades for Elias include a 2015 Dean’s Distinguished Staff Award from the College of Arts and Science and a nomination for a 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Award.