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Dee Ann Benard joined ARDN as executive director in April, 2009. After earning her B.Sc. (Biology) and M.Sc. (Plant Pathology) from Simon Fraser University, Dee Ann moved to Edmonton in 1994 to work as a Laboratory Scientist with Alberta Agriculture. There, she also spent time as a cereal and oilseed specialist, before joining private industry to manage the Alberta operation of Integrated Crop Management Services (ICMS), Inc in 1998. In 2000, she joined the Alberta Research Council in Vegreville as a plant pathologist, where she worked on canola diseases and managed the cereal disease program. In 2003, her focus turned to the business side of science, when she became the business development officer for ARC’s Life Sciences Division. In 2004, she joined the newly formed Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) as executive director. Under her leadership, ARECA grew from a “one-woman” home-based operation with a one-time $80,000 grant, to a staff of six full-time professionals and an annual budget of over $1,000,000.
Dee Ann has served as a member of the Agriculture and Food Council since 2005, and was the Chair of Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food from 2007 to 2009. She is an active volunteer in her community and in her professional life.
Dee Ann lives with her husband Jim and son Adam on a small farm in Strathcona County beside Elk Island National Park. She is an avid skier and hiker.
ARDN’s operations manager is Joy Vonk. After raising her three children and doing various part-time and volunteer positions, Joy joined DeVos Brokers as office manager in 1996. In 2003, she earned a Diploma in Office Administration from the Academy of Learning. At that time, DeVos Brokers was sold and became Letal Brokers, and Joy continued to manage the office. In July of 2004, Joy began dividing her time between Letal Brokers and the newly-formed Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA). She worked her way from part-time administrative assistant to full-time executive assistant with ARECA, until she was invited to join ARDN in May, 2009.
Joy continues to partake in learning opportunities, and has taken numerous courses, including event management and accounting training. She has extensive experience with event management, bookkeeping and accounting, scheduling, website maintenance and newsletter production. Joy lives in Edmonton with her husband Ron. They have two adult daughters and one adult son, and one grand-daughter. Joy enjoys playing golf on weekends.
Melissa first joined ARDN in May of 2010 as the summer communications assistant. The position was extended and eventually morphed into the full time position of communications officer. After coordinating a team of MacEwan students to fundraise $80,000 and travel to Nicaragua and construct two secondary school classrooms, Melissa returned to ARDN as communications manager in November 2012.
Her Bachelor of Applied Communications in Professional Writing has given her experience in a variety of corporate, narrative, and literary communication styles. She has traveled to Nicaragua twice for community development work and was raised in a very tiny rural community: Wandering River, Alberta.
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