Our team

Our experts possess a wealth of experience in every aspect of the school-to-work journey, and have a keen understanding of the unique advantages that international students and graduates bring to Canada.

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Denis Gravelle

Chief Strategist

Denis is an experienced educator and trendsetter focused on technology in teaching and learning, workforce development initiatives, and skills training in the age of artificial intelligence. Denis is an advocate for new immigrants and international students seeking permanent employment in Canada. As the Chief Strategist for Devant, Denis is leading innovative career and skills development projects in collaboration with industry, community, government, and academia. Denis has held previous leadership positions in teaching, adult learning, corporate training, and workforce development at Seneca, Humber and Fanshawe Colleges. 

Denis serves as the Director of Education for the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) Ontario, and has led international workforce development and skills training projects focusing on unemployed and underemployed youth and women in Aswan, Egypt. Denis is a Board Member for the Canadian Association of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (CAPLA), and has served as a member of the York Region Community Partnerships Council as the Strategic Lead on Newcomer Integration in York Region. Denis holds a Bachelors in Social Sciences from Western University, and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Online Learning from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Nicole Pereira

Director, Program Development & Strategic Partnerships

Nicole is an expert in inclusive workforce development, community engagement, and multi-sectoral partnerships. For more than a decade, Nicole has led innovative professional skills training programs throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in collaboration with industry, community, academia, and all levels of government. Nicole previously served as the Manager of Government Contracts and Training Services at Seneca College. Her programs are known for their accelerated and holistic approach to employment-focused learning designed for today’s rapidly evolving labour market and 21st Century economy. Nicole specializes in programming for mid-career professionals, adult learners, priority demographics, and equity-seeking groups, including newcomers, internationally trained professionals, refugees, youth, international students, women, persons of low income, and individuals experiencing chronic unemployment and underemployment.

Nicole has served on the Ontario College Sector Immigrant Programs and Services Committee (CSIPS), York Region’s Newcomer Employability, Economic Integration and Social Integration Advisory Committees, the Ontario Bridging Coalition, and has been an advisor to a number of funded skills-training programs spanning a variety of occupations. Nicole has a Bachelors in Political Science and Sociology, specializing in Labour and Equity Studies, a Certificate in Higher Education Administration and Leadership, a Certificate in Inclusive Leadership, and is currently completing an MBA, specializing in Community Economic Development and Public Policy.

Sejal Ahir

Manager, operations & Client experience

Sejal is a former international student from Kampala, Uganda. She is now a Canadian citizen. Sejal’s immigration experience has involved many challenges as well as opportunities, which allow her to relate to and connect with newcomers on a personal level. Upon graduation, Sejal forged a career in education and career development, which has enabled her to help others who are new to Canada. In her previous role at Seneca College, Sejal successfully delivered several Bridging Programs for Internationally Trained Professionals to support their transition and re-entry into their professional field.

Sejal is an expert in building and managing relationships with people from all walks of life. What drives Sejal is the social transformation and economic integration of newcomers into the professional workforce, be it an international student or a mid-career professional. She believes that this transformation should be a uniquely personalized experience that holistically supports newcomers in becoming a part of the Canadian family. Sejal is a graduate in Business Management – Administration. 

Rod Skinkle

Senior advisor

Rod is a recognized international expert in higher education and student affairs. With particular expertise in the areas of student success, education policy, and student career development, Rod has been an invited guest expert addressing trends in higher education and employment on television (Canada AM, Report on Business), radio (CBC’s The Current), and in print (Maclean’s, Marketing Magazine, and University Affairs). Rod has presented research and position papers to a wide range of policy and government groups including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris), The Conference Board of Canada, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, Council of Ontario Universities, Association of Community Colleges of Canada, and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Numerous scholarly journals have published Rod’s studies, including The Journal of College Student Development, Canadian Journal of Higher Education, American Psychological Association, Ivey School of Business Journal and chapters in “Strategic Enrolment Intelligence” (2011); Canada’s first book on Strategic Enrolment Management. 

As Senior Advisor with Devant, Rod is dedicated to international student education and career development. In addition to these duties, Rod is also the President and CEO of Academica Group, Canada’s leading research and consulting agency dedicated to higher education. Rod holds a Diploma in Behavioural Science, an Honors Degree in Psychology, and a Master’s Degree in Applied Social Psychology.

Ziah Sumar

Associate partner

Ziah is an Immigration Lawyer whose practice encompasses all areas and streams of economic immigration, from temporary and permanent residence applications through to citizenship. Ziah is an active member of Canada’s legal and immigration communities. She has argued in Federal Court, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and stands as the Citizenship and Immigration Lead and Subject Matter Expert for the Settlement Portfolio of the Ismaili Council for Ontario and the National Settlement Portfolio of the Ismaili Council for Canada. She is also an Executive Committee Member of the Citizenship and Immigration section of the Ontario Bar Association. 

Ziah received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Law with Highest Honours from Carleton University. She graduated with a Juris Doctor law degree from the University of Ottawa.

Abby Yu

Client intake & employer engagement specialist

Abby is an experienced recruiter, job developer, human resources professional, and former international student with over 15 years in the field. Abby has experience as a Workforce Analyst with Global Payments Canada; founded iCare Services, a boutique staffing company and employment agency; and has worked in the Continuing Education and Corporate Training divisions at Seneca College, where she supported Internationally Educated Professionals in a variety of occupations, including engineering and finance. Abby strongly believes that international students bring tremendous value, and that it is to our collective benefit to make substantial efforts to retain them in Canada.

Currently, Abby is the President of Spark Media, a high-profile event management company. Abby is also the founder of Toronto Kids Fashion Week and Toronto International Youth Dance Festival. Abby holds a Diploma in Human Resources from Seneca College and a Bachelors in Human Resources from Ryerson University. 

Alex Irwin

Special advisor, client success

Alex is an accomplished educator with over 20 years of experience managing projects and developing innovative programming for students, both domestically and overseas. He has broad expertise in working with post-secondary learners, including groups with specialized needs such as immigrants, international students, and individuals with mental health challenges. Alex is currently the Director of the School of Immigrant and Transitional Education at George Brown College. In this capacity, Alex and his team support students facing barriers to further education or work, with a focus on immigrants and individuals dealing with complex challenges, through flexible and individualized programming, advising and counselling.

Alex has served as Chair of the Ontario College Sector Immigrant Programs and Services (CSIPS) Committee and Co-Chair of the annual George Brown College Mental Health Conference. Before joining George Brown in 2011, Alex worked for over a decade at the Open Society Foundations/Soros Foundation in New York City, where he oversaw education and human rights-related student scholarships and grants globally. He is a trained Clinical Social Worker, with a history of working at community-based mental health and treatment centres in both Toronto and New York City. Alex has a B.A in English Literature (McGill University), an M.A. in English Literature (University of Toronto), and a Masters in Social Work (Columbia University).