Career Stories

The Importance of Community Support for Lifelong Learning

Certificate in Public Relations Graduate and Gold Medal Award Recipient Dani Wawryk
June 27, 2023


Commitment to lifelong learning isn’t easy at the best of times with the busy lives we lead. But having the support that comes from a community can make all the difference.

When Certificate in Public Relations graduate Dani Wawryk was caring for her newborn in the NICU, she didn’t have to worry about a paper that was due five days later. The instructor for her Chang School course quickly extended the deadline to allow her the time she needed to focus on her son.

For Dani, the support she received during this very difficult time meant all that much more – even though she was thousands of kilometers away from The Chang School in Saskatchewan, she felt like she had a support network that was right there by her side. On top of that, she was balancing a career in public relations with completing the certificate in her spare time.

Fast forward almost a year later and Dani is now a graduate of the Certificate in Public Relations, and was awarded the Toronto Metropolitan University Gold Medal at The Chang School’s Spring 2023 convocation ceremony.

The medal is the university's highest award, presented to students with outstanding academic achievement combined with extraordinary contributions to the life of the university, their professional community, and/or the community at large. The award is open to both full-time and part-time graduating students. Each Gold Medal recipient is also considered for the Board of Governors Leadership Award and Medal.

Nominees must have demonstrated outstanding involvement with the university, their profession, and/or the community (extracurricular, voluntary and unpaid activities that benefit a broader community), as well as a leadership role beyond the faculty level.

Dani’s nomination for the award was made all the more meaningful as the instructor who extended the deadline also wrote a letter of support.

We recently caught up with Dani, who started a new job with Innovation Saskatchewan at the beginning of this year as Executive Director of Communications and Marketing. She also has a lengthy history of volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Saskatoon, as a long-time mentor to a young girl, and as a committee member responsible for helping plan and host events.


Danni Wawryk, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Innovation Saskatchewan
Dani Wawryk is loving her career in public relations as Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Innovation Saskatchewan where she’s putting the knowledge she learned in the Certificate in Public Relations to use on the job.


The Chang School: What does being a Gold Medal Award recipient mean to you?
Dani Wawryk: It’s a tremendous honour. I put a great amount of effort into the program because I’m passionate about my job in communications and I saw how my learnings from the program apply to my job. This increased my desire to do well in the class because I could wake up the next morning and go to work and apply the lessons directly.

I feel seen for my efforts and feel like I’m a part of the TMU community despite the fact that I’m living in Saskatchewan.

CS: You have a background in journalism. Was that what first sparked your interest in studying public relations? And why did you choose The Chang School?
DW:Public relations was an easy transition from journalism because it’s about telling effective stories. I’d already transitioned from journalism to public relations in my work, and wanted to pursue education that would support my new career. I knew I wanted to find a program that was flexible and meaningful to my day-to-day work. The Chang School and the Certificate in Public Relations really fulfilled those needs and, frankly, exceeded my expectations.

CS: In what way?
DW:: When I registered for the certificate, we were still in the midst of pandemic restrictions and were mostly working from home. I was looking for something to occupy time I’d usually spend out and about or commuting and was at a point in my life where I wanted to bring more expertise to my PR role at a tech company. The Chang School program was flexible and helped me round out my expertise.

CS: How did The Chang School “seal the deal” for you, so to speak?
DW: I was searching online for certificate programs, diplomas, and even master’s programs but many of them required years of study or in-person classes. I couldn’t put my job aside to accommodate something so daunting or distant.

I had a lot of important goals at work, and I knew The Chang School could provide the skills I needed to have an impact. In pursuit of those different programs and casting a wide net, I landed on The Chang School because I saw it was fully online and I knew I wouldn’t need to travel (with the exception of this wonderful opportunity to receive the Gold Medal of course).

I also liked the fact that the courses in the certificate are asynchronous yet offered collaboration with instructors and with other students as well. They were dynamic classes that had opportunities for communication and learning from one another.

CS: You’ve talked about how The Chang School aligned with your career goals but what about your personal goals?
DW: I’d like to continue studying communications strategy and theory in hopes of one day contributing to my field through teaching or mentorship. Maybe one day I’ll pursue a master’s program or contribute to a professional body in some way. The Chang School reminded me how much I love to learn and pass along that knowledge to others. It also helped build my network, so I hope I’ll have the opportunity to work with my fellow Chang School grads and instructors in the future.

CS: What’s one piece of advice you would give to future Chang School learners?
DW: Keep an open heart and open mind and you will grow as an individual and professional. We’re all lifelong learners. Try to enjoy each and every lesson – at school, and in life.