New College Alumna Celina Rayonne Chavannes (1998)Describe yourself in 50 words or less?

A driven, ambitious entrepreneur who never forgets that success only comes through hard work and through the help of others. I encourage people who are going through a tough time to remember that they are always capable of redefining themselves and the parameters in which they view their potential.

Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?

I am not sure why I chose New College, or if New College chose me?? Being the first in my family to attend University, I felt that New College would offer a “high school” feeling. I did not know what to expect, so I really did not have much expectation. In retrospect, this is an area which I wish I had explored more. I just wanted to become a doctor. That was it.  I wish I had explored what I wanted out of New College, what services and supports were available to me.

What are your fondest memories of your time here at New College?

Sitting with friends in the quad, laughing, and forgetting all the worries of life.

Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?

Sally Walker. I owe her so much. She taught me the importance of asking questions, especially if you do not understand what the other person is talking about. Although this seems to be a very simple lesson, it is one which I have carried with me throughout my adult life.

How did your academic and social experience at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

My first experience at the university was not ideal. I didn’t necessarily want to go to University of Toronto, but my parents insisted that I stay close to home. I found the campus very impersonal and I struggled academically. I had left high school as a perennial honour roll student and couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much. However, instead of seeking help and guidance, I continued to spiral out of control academically and socially. It is said that when you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere to go but up. My experiences at UofT took me to that point and then afforded me the opportunity to get up and move forward.

Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?

In addition to the subject knowledge I gained, I learned that success would not come easy. Through my academic struggles at UofT I really began to question what it was I wanted out of life both personally and professionally. I was forced to focus on what I truly wanted, and not what others expected from me. I learned the importance of honesty, commitment and loyalty, as these three virtues were tested throughout my time at UofT.

What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your Career?

I am the CEO and Managing Director of ReSolve Research Solutions Inc., an award-winning research consulting and site management organization. I was the recipient of the 2007 Harry Jerome Young Entrepreneur Award. My reputation as a research consultant has grown steadily over the years including work with Parkinson Society Canada, Alzheimer’s Society Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada, where I am now Project Manager and Co-Chair of Canada’s first ever National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions.

When I made my return to UofT for my second go-around, this time as a research student, Dr. Carol Greenwood (Dept. of Nutritional Sciences) saw talent in me that I did not see in myself. She gave me an opportunity to take my professional life in a new direction. She is my mentor, teacher and fondly regarded as my “UofT Mom.” As well, my husband, Vidal Chavannes, has been a constant, unwavering source of support and strength as I struggled to start a new business. In the early years, he worked up to three jobs to allow me to focus on the company. Without him I would not be where I am today. He is truly the love of my life.

In your personal or professional life, what are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the continued growth and success of Resolve Research Solutions Inc., and to continuing to build my consulting acumen. Personally, I look forward to growing old with my husband and watching my three children make their way through this great journey we call life.

Do you have any final comments?

My UofT story is really a tale of two realities. My early experiences were marked by uncertainty and academic disappointment, resulting in a 6 year sojourn to complete a 3 year degree. When I returned to UofT as a research student, I was able to find my place, my voice and a plan that led to the development of ReSolve Research Solutions Inc. I returned to the University again having served on the Health Services Research Ethics Board and now on the Governing Council.



photo credit: Jackie Atlas