February 2024 Convocation Honorary Degree and Distinguished Awards

Honorary Degree Recipients

Denise Amyot

Tuesday, Feb 27  - Afternoon Ceremony

An innovative leader and tireless supporter of education, Denise Amyot started her career as a teacher in Ontario, Quebec, and Northwest Territories, and was the first French coordinator for the N.W.T. education department. She then began a 27-year career with the federal government, which included multiple positions at the assistant deputy minister level. In 2009, Amyot was appointed president and CEO for Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp., where she embraced the opportunity to nurture a science and innovation culture in Canada.

In 2013, she began a 10-and-a-half year journey as president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), becoming the first woman and first francophone to lead the country’s largest post-secondary education
network. Amyot developed a culture of trust and partnership as she oversaw the delivery of member services, international programs, and advocacy work on behalf of the organization’s 142 members. Under her leadership, CICan tripled in size and built a project portfolio of nearly $500 million.

A champion for equity, diversity, and inclusion, Amyot had a particular focus on accelerating reconciliation, boosting innovation, building campuses of the future, deepening global engagement, and growing talent for the 21st century. Amyot also nurtured support among members for the 50-30 Challenge, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and oversaw the development of an Indigenous education protocol.

Amyot has extensive leadership development experience, and is a sought-after keynote speaker and member of national and international boards, councils, foundations, associations, and committees. She has received numerous awards recognizing outstanding contributions to public service, corporate social responsibility, innovation, gender equity, and bilingualism, and has never hesitated to give back through important volunteer work.

Known as an enthusiastic supporter and builder of education at all levels, Amyot has earned three bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in education, in addition to learning four languages. Before she left CICan, Amyot created an endowment that will award annually a scholarship to a student at a member institution whose parents did not attend a post-secondary school, demonstrating her belief in the power of education and how it can transform lives.

François Paulette

Wednesday, Feb 28 - Afternoon Ceremony

François Paulette is an esteemed advocate for Indigenous treaty rights and environmental stewardship. A survivor of the residential school system, he has dedicated his life to the advancement of Indigenous communities and tireless advocacy for climate change initiatives, blending traditional knowledge with contemporary environmental activism.

Mr. Paulette rose to become the youngest Chief of the Smith’s Landing First Nation at the tender age of 21. His advocacy work expands far beyond his local community. In 1973, Mr. Paulette and sixteen other chiefs challenged the Canadian government to recognize the Dene’s title over a million square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories and to prevent the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. In 2023, the Dene National Assembly marked the 50th anniversary of the case ruling, which is now studied in post-secondary institutions across Canada. He has contributed significantly to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing its importance and advocating for its implementation.

Mr. Paulette has participated in numerous international conferences and symposiums, integrating traditional Indigenous perspectives with environmental advocacy. As a former member of the Assembly of First Nations Elder Council and an appointee to the Advisory Committee on Climate Action, he made significant contributions to Indigenous perspectives on environmental policy. He played a crucial role in developing the Elders’ Statement on Climate Action and the Environment, influencing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Driven by a commitment to promoting Indigenous culture, he was a founding member of the Dene Cultural Institute. Mr. Paulette is an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health, where he supports students in applying traditional knowledge methods in their research as an Elder advisor and traditional knowledge keeper.

Throughout his life, Mr. Paulette has been a pillar of strength and inspiration for his people, consistently advocating for Indigenous rights, preserving the Denesuline language and safeguarding his culture and traditions. In 2019, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to Indigenous treaty rights and for his advocacy of circumpolar health research.

Distinguished Teaching Award


Dr. Lee Beavington

Tuesday, February 27 - Morning Ceremony

Dr. Lee Beavington is an award-winning interdisciplinary scholar and educator who has been a part of the KPU community for more than 20 years. He has held many positions including lab instructor, faculty, educational consultant, learning strategist and many more. He has
worked in five faculties across KPU including being a faculty leader for the Amazon Field School.

Dr. Beavington’s passion for ecology, Indigenous initiatives and teaching and learning in outdoor spaces is widely known at KPU. He is well known for his Wild Spaces events where he brings KPU faculty, staff and students together to explore intentional outdoor learning at and near KPU campuses. He is a big proponent of place-based education.

He also served as co-curator for the award-winning exhibition Wild Things: The Power of Nature in Our Lives at the Museum of Vancouver, which was the recipient of the Award of Merit for Excellence in Exhibitions. He is also a TEDx speaker and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Storyteller award recipient.

Respecting the students is Dr. Beavington’s teaching philosophy. Building relationships with his students is his top priority, which is reflective in how his students describe him: encouraging, gentle, supportive, friendly and inclusive. Dr. Beavington exemplifies the spirit and action for achievement of teaching excellence through his passion for teaching.


Paola Gavilanez

Wednesday, February 28 - Morning Ceremony

For the past 22 years, Paola Gavilanez has been an interior design practitioner and instructor. Since 2009, she has taught at KPU’s Wilson School of Design as faculty and is now the Program Chair of the Interior Design program.

She is being recognized with this award for her commitment to the field of education as well as her expertise in interior design. Gavilanez has become an instrumental advocate for the use of ePortfolios at the Wilson School of Design, which is part of her integrated learning advocacy. Through a collaboration with the Teaching and Learning team at KPU, she has represented KPU in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Institute on ePortfolios in 2022/23.

Gavilanez’s design philosophy stems from what she calls the powerful response humans have to design in nature. Her teaching philosophy grows from the deep respect she has for students, where she encourages self-expression because she believes that’s what design is about for both the client and designer.

This respect for her students is evident as her students describe feeling seen, heard and supported. Similarly, her colleagues also note her supportive and collaborative nature. Her compassion means facilitating inside and outside the classroom through mentorship and coaching on career and life.