Meet the Team
Government Relations Office
Andrew Thomson, Chief of Government Relations
Andrew Thomson is the University’s Chief of Government Relations and serves on the President’s senior leadership team. As chief advocate to federal, provincial, and municipal governments, he helps drive the University’s public policy agenda. This includes a focus on community and economic development; strengthening public funding for comprehensive and globally recognized, research-intensive programs; and knowledge transfer strategies to support entrepreneurship and job creation.
Andrew’s executive experience, in both public and private sectors, has focused extensively on issues of economic and human capital development. With more than a decade in elected office, and experience serving in senior Cabinet roles — including as Saskatchewan’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Learning — he has a deep understanding of government policy. As an executive with Cisco Systems, based in Toronto and subsequently the Asia Pacific region, he led public sector initiatives focused on creating new partnership and business models within the higher education sector across OECD and emerging markets.
Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (1990) from the University of Saskatchewan and is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) for his service to the community.
Munira Tayabali, Executive Assistant to the Chief of Government Relations and Program Manager
Munira Tayabali began her career in Canada at the University of Toronto in 2001 in the Office of the President. From 2005 to 2008, Munira worked in women’s health and global health research EDUs of the Faculty of Medicine at U of T before returning to Simcoe Hall in June 2008 to join then Government Relations team. At the Government Relations Office, Munira provides EA support to the Chief of Government Relations and is responsible for tracking portfolio’s priorities. Munira holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in World Literature and Italian Studies from the University of Toronto and will soon complete Master of Arts degree in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development in the Comparative, International and Development Education Program at the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at OISE. Munira is a recipient of an Excellence Through Innovation award.
Government Relations and Public Policy
Forrest Parlee, Director, Government Relations and Public Policy
Forrest’s work focuses on advancing the public policy interests of the University with governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Previously, Forrest was Vice President, National Partnerships at Mitacs, Director of Public Affairs at a global e-commerce organization, and served as a political advisor to Cabinet Ministers at the provincial and federal levels. Forrest holds a BA and MA from Simon Fraser University.
Alex Irving, Senior Policy Advisor
Alex brings more than six years of experience as an advisor to a number of cabinet ministers in the Government of Ontario, including the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and most recently, the Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Previously, Alex held positions at OMERS pension plan and the City of Toronto. He has also been the owner and operator of a small business in Toronto. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from Queen’s University where he also completed his Bachelor’s (Honours) Degree in Political Studies and Sociology.
Aytan Farrokhyar , Senior Policy Advisor
Aytan is returning to the university after working at the Ontario Government for over nine years. Since 2009, Aytan held the position of Senior Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Universities Finance Unit and the Deputy Minister’s Office. Her role consisted of public policy development and implementation, sector compliance, operational initiatives within the postsecondary education system, negotiation of Transfer Payment Agreements, and stakeholder engagement and consultations. Previously, Aytan held various roles at the University of Toronto, including Research Information Analyst at the Office of Vice-President, Research & Innovation, and Research Database Administrator and Research Analyst at the Faculty of Medicine. Aytan Holds an HBA in Near Eastern History, Political Science and Human Biology and an Advanced Diploma in Data Analysis.
Mark Maloney, Municipal Affairs Advisor
Mark both monitors and advises on municipal relations issues involving the City of Toronto and its elected officials and staff, as well as City agencies, boards, and commissions. Mark has worked as a senior staff member with two Mayors of Toronto: Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman, where he served as the Coordinator of Research, Community Outreach & Special Projects. He has worked as a public affairs professional with two leading government relations firms, Urban Consulting and prior to that, with Urban Intelligence Ltd. where he coordinated in-depth municipal research projects across Canada. Mark’s prior career also included serving as a municipal affairs reporter with the CHUM Radio network, and on the assignment desk of CTV News in Ottawa, where he had also chaired the Regional government’s Board of Health and served as a City and Regional councillor.
Amanda Pautler, Director, Operations and Chief of Staff
Amanda joined the University in 2007, holding progressive roles in the government relations portfolio. She previously worked in policy and program development in the government of Ontario. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Toronto (Hon.BA) and University of Alberta (MA). She has been recognized with an Excellence Through Innovation award, a Cressy award, and the U of T gold medal in political science.
Susan Mazza, Special Projects Officer
As Special Projects Officer in the University Relations group, Susan supports sector tables such as COU, U15, and Universities Canada, and undertakes strategic initiatives through research, communications, and project management. Susan’s previous roles at the University include Executive Assistant to the President, Office of the President, and Faculty Relations Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Dean, Faculty of Dentistry. Prior to joining the University of Toronto, Susan worked for Toronto City Councillor Pam McConnell and as Community Campaigns Manager at the Stephen Lewis Foundation. A graduate of the University of Toronto, she holds a BA in Political Science and Philosophy, and an MEd in Higher Education.
Stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Initiatives
Alex Beduz, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Engagement
Alex leads the cultivation and management of the University’s government and non-governmental external relations and partnerships, including relationships with community partners and third-party agencies and strategic initiatives to promote the mission and priorities of the University. Alex has served as a senior advisor at the provincial and federal levels, including the Senate of Canada. Most recently Alex was Chief of Staff to the President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Alex holds a Liberal Arts Diploma from Sheridan College and an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communications, Culture, Information and Technology from the University of Toronto.
Simona Chiose, Senior Policy Advisor, Stakeholder Engagement
Simona initiates and supports new and existing relationships with external and internal stakeholders through a variety of communication and engagement channels. She brings 20 years of experience in journalism to her role, including as a print, online and broadcast reporter, editor and producer. Her journalism career spans roles at the Canadian Press, CityTV and The Globe and Mail, where she was education editor and postsecondary reporter. Simona has a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto and brings first-hand experience of the research and training ecosystem of the university to her position.
Kenzie McKeegan, Research Analyst and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
Kenzie joins the University having worked in various Minister’s Offices of the Government of Ontario, including the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister Responsible for Digital Government, and the Minister Responsible for Small Business. Kenzie holds a Master of Arts from York University (2015), and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Guelph (2014).