Samina Sami, M.Ed. and Executive MBA is the Chief Executive Officer of COSTI Immigrant Services. COSTI is a community-based diverse organization that has been providing a broad range of services to immigrants and refugees in the greater Toronto area since 1952.
Samina has a proven track record of dynamic and visionary leadership of more than 26 years in the public sector. Her diverse career includes working in government, higher education, and community services, on a range of initiatives, including strategy-setting, transformation, service and program delivery, grant funding management, policy, and public affairs, including working with the Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration, and International Trade. Samina is driven by a passion for collaboration and innovation and enjoys working with diverse communities on issues of justice, public policy, and social development, using an equitable and inclusive lens. Her sectoral experience spans justice, human rights, gender-based violence, public safety, education, innovation, and economic development.
Recently, Samina has held leadership roles at York University, including Executive Director and Executive Lead of an equity-driven service delivery transformation. She is a well-respected leader and her contributions have been significant, especially in the establishment of the community-driven strategy-Safer Together, and her leadership skills and operational experience were instrumental in updating the university’s critical incident, emergency, and operational plans, including leading the response to COVID-19.
Samina has a personal connection to settlement services as a child of immigrants, and she began her career in the settlement sector, establishing the HOST program in Peel Region. Samina is committed to giving back to the community and has personally focused on access to education and employment for diverse communities. She has also served as a part-time Faculty Member of the Social Services Worker Diploma Program – Immigrants and Refugees at Seneca College.
A creative and results oriented professional with an enthusiasm for people, organizational change, and innovation, Samina has led diverse teams who have achieved awards for innovation, teamwork, and excellence. In 2019, her team earned a York presidential team award and a commendation from the City of Toronto and the Red Cross, for leading relief efforts for residents of the Gosford Tower Fire. In 2016, her teams won the provincial government’s Amethyst Award for leading the development of a gender-based violence prevention campaign, and she has won awards for grant financial administration, service delivery, and innovation. Samina holds an M.Ed. from the University of Toronto, an Executive MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University and the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. She is currently a PhD student, with a focus on leadership, equity, and public administration.
Janet Hallett has over twenty-eight years of progressive management experience in managing the capacity and growth of concurrent programs, community engagement, program development, and management experience for diverse ethno newcomers, youth and women. She has over ten years’ experience working with youth and management, noticeably working with teen parents.
Janet was a longstanding member of the Toronto Community Partnership Committee, past Co- chair of the Toronto West Local Immigration Partnership (TWLIP), Chair of the Education Resource TWLIP Action Group, and a member of the TWLIP Collective Impact Team. She currently sits on the Peel and Halton Labour Market Partnership, Peel-Halton-Dufferin Language Partnership (LP) Committees, York Region Local Immigration Partnership, the Peel Newcomers Strategy Group Central Planning Table and the Anti-Black and Systemic Discrimination Collective.
Yasmine joined COSTI in her present position in 2002.
With a Masters in Psychology and teacher training certification from England, Yasmine came to Canada from Pakistan in 1999, following a twenty-five year career in teaching and educational administration in both Iran and Pakistan, where she was also responsible for educational program development. Prior to leaving Pakistan, Yasmine was the Regional Director for the largest private network of schools in South Asia. She has supervised a number of educational projects funded by the World Bank, IMF, CIDA and the Aga Khan Foundation.
Yasmine has served as Chair of the Investment and Fundraising Committee of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and co-chair the Immigration and Settlement Working Group of the CCR. She is a member of the Board of the Social Planning Council of York Region as well as being a member of the Social Inclusion Working Group which is part of the Central Planning Table of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group. In the past, Yasmine served as Co-Chair of the South Asian Community Services Network - York Region, member of the Woman Abuse Council, and Treasurer of the Board of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA).
Snezana Gabric has worked in the newcomer settlement training sector for 24 years. With a background in educational leadership, teaching English as a Second Language, and program management, she feels fortunate to have contributed to various educational institutions and initiatives throughout her career.
As the Director of Education Services, Snezana is committed to fostering inclusive and welcoming learning environments that empower newcomer clients to achieve their goals and become active participants in their new communities. Snezana is also dedicated to transforming education services through innovative strategies and meaningful collaborations.
Over the past 24 years, Snezana has collaborated with community organizations in Toronto, Peel, Halton and York Regions to create integrated support systems that address both educational and settlement needs, creating a strong impact on the vulnerable newcomer population. In addition to her Ontario Certified English Language Teacher or OCELT accreditation, Snezana’s educational background includes a degree in English Language and Literature, Business Management (major in Human Resources) and Language Program Management. Snezana is the Toronto West Local Immigration Partnership Planning and Coordinating Committee (TWLIP PCC) Co-chair and the Chair of the TWLIP Education Resources Action Group. She was the Co-chair of the Peel-Halton-Dufferin Language Partnership group for 6 years (2016-2022).
Rena Zhou graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering, with a major in Electronic Engineering from Beijing, China.
Rena then worked for a few years as a computer programmer, building a number of accounting software applications. By the end of 1990, Rena came to Canada and a few years later switched her career to the accounting field. In 2004, Rena achieved her Certified General Accountant designation Rena has worked in a number of private industries including: a private high school, a marketing company, an insurance company and a logistic company, as well as a not-for-profit organization, Harbourfront Corporation. Working at senior management positions, Rena has gained sound experience in financial accounting, financial reporting, auditing, taxation, system conversion, budgeting, strategic management and sound business practices. Rena joined COSTI in July 2013.
Karen Traboulay is a senior strategic marketing and communication professional passionate about engaging diverse audiences and shaping narratives. She has more than 20 years of experience synthesizing complex business strategies into compelling storylines, promoting brands and enhancing organizational reputation.
Prior to joining COSTI, Karen worked for York University for 10 years where she developed and executed marketing and communication strategies, provided communications on behalf of executives and led multiple cross-functional teams. She led the communication efforts for the opening of two subway stations on campus, developed a strategy for a multi-million-dollar technology transformation program, rebranded and re-launched the University’s Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education, re-envisioned and re-launch the University’s intranet, and was responsible for establishing the University’s first Equity, Diversity and Inclusion peer network. She developed the strategic direction and communication strategy for York University’s Black Staff Network and developed and implemented the communication strategy for York’s Security Services Review; the first of its kind in the industry, the review was conducted through the lens of social justice, decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Prior to joining York, Karen held senior positions in various organizations, including the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care where she developed the communication strategy for healthcare support for refugees in Ontario; Canada Health Infoway where she established the first national Privacy Forum with provincial Privacy Commissioners in support of electronic health records, CIBC where she supported their rebranding efforts and the revisioning of their website; she led the marketing efforts for the launch of a new national airline.
Karen holds an MBA in Marketing, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and certifications in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Leadership, Communication, Change Management and Project Management. She is also an accredited business communicator (ABC), through the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She is an active volunteer with the IABC, currently serving as Vice-President, Professional Development and Networking with the Toronto chapter. She has contributed as a conference speaker, national and international awards judge, mentor, course developer, and has been published in the HR Reporter.
In addition, she shares her time with newcomers to Canada by providing insight and guidance into the world of work in Canada, and mentors communication students on how to navigate the profession.