York by the numbers

Members of York University’s executive team broke bread with mayors, chief administrative officers and economic development officials from each of the municipalities in the York Region at an early morning meeting on May 21. A power breakfast with a purpose, the meeting at the Schulich School of Business was organized to discuss York University’s existing connections with the communities of York Region and highlight new opportunities for partnership development.

At the meeting, politicians, decision makers and policy analysts were provided with the most recent figures on York University’s geographic and economic impact in the Greater Toronto Area. The results provide an impressive picture of Canada’s third largest university, highlighting that York University is a major player in the GTA and has the credentials to prove it. Research innovations and strategies, community sports events and public transit developments were all part of the presentation.

In her opening remarks, York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden warmly welcomed the guests and outlined the background to the figures prepared by Ted Spence, York’s senior policy advisor and executive director, Institutional Research & Analysis. “Over the past year, Ted Spence and his group have been working to determine the total economic impact made by York University to York Region and to the GTA,” said Marsden. “By September, York will have close to 50,000 students, many of whom come from York Region.”

Marsden then highlighted figures showing that 10,900 of York’s students, 1,224 employees and 25,314 alumni live in York Region and that the University has a direct economic impact of $815 million in the GTA. (When salaries of York alumni are factored into the analysis, that figure swells to a total economic impact of $3.4 billion.) “Specific to the York Region, the University has an overall economic impact of $704,440,767,” said Marsden.

York’s Vice-President of Research & Innovation, Stan Shapson, provided an overview of the University’s growing role in the knowledge society and its research strategies and strengths. “York’s intellectual capital, consisting of 1,200 faculty members who are researchers and 5,000 graduate students who are knowledge workers, continues to grow and flourish,” said Shapson. “With close to $50 million in research funding coming into York each year, the University is one of the fastest growing research universities in Canada.

“The breadth of our research covers curiosity and applied research in all areas, including pure and applied science, arts and three professional schools,” said Shapson. “What really distinguishes us from other universities is our interdisciplinary, real-world approach. We have researchers from across the spectrum looking at each research issue in a collaborative approach.

“If Canada is going to be successful in the knowledge economy, we have to connect the value chain,” said Shapson. “What we are trying to do is get the best of our knowledge into your communities.” 

Shapson outlined a series of flagship projects established by the University designed to embed its research into the community. These include the York Region Biotechnology Cluster Consortium, the university’s partnership in the Synergy Centre in Markham (see the Nov. 20 YFile for the complete story), the York University Health Research Network and partnership in the York Region Human Resources Planning Coalition.

Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation, highlighted the University’s vision to provide the region with a sports venue. “In anticipation of the subway coming to York, our current playing fields adjacent to Steeles Avenue will have to be relocated,” he said.

“Our vision is to create a University-based centre for local and national amateur sports excellence with a venue that would be attractive to a wide range of sport competitions, including facilities for tennis, soccer, football, hockey, volleyball and aquatic sports,” said Purves. “There is a need for a 3,000 to 7,000 seat stadium and a 50-metre pool and diving facility that would serve the entire region. We are proposing a power centre for athletics to be based here at York. With enhanced transit, York University would be a natural for a such a centre.”

To conclude the presentation, Spence provided a brief summary to York’s community partners of innovations in the campaign to bring the subway to York. “With over 1,000 buses a day and 30,000 cars a day, York is the largest transit hub in the GTA,” said Spence. “Through York’s recent subway domination of the St. George subway station, we are raising the profiles of the University and the transit issues we share.” (See the May 4 YFile for subway coverage.)

Spence then provided guests with an update on the campaign to bring a subway north to the York Region. “The environmental assessment for the subway extension is now going ahead,” said Spence. “The terms of reference are complete and they will go to the Toronto Transit Commission next month and then on to the MOE. By September the consultant will be in place and the study will go ahead. The study will look at which route is best for the subway and the locations for the stations.

“The EA is complete for dedicated bus lanes and we expect construction for the key parts of the Rapid Bus Lane to begin in the summer of 2005,” said Spence. “This success has happened because of the collaboration with GO, YRTC, the TTC and our community partners.”

Overall, the May 21 presentation to York’s community partners highlighted the significant role the University plays in educating students from York Region, as an economic engine fuelling the region’s economy and as a community partner which is paving the way for new facilities and enhanced public transit.

In a brief question and answer period afterward, audience interest highlighted the effectiveness of the linkages already established and the interest in building more partnerships. Regional school boards expressed interest in strengthening links with the University for students from kindergarten to Grade 12. York’s executives were encouraged to pursue their partnerships and research activities with local businesses. The concept of a power centre for athletics was received enthusiastically and York’s leadership role in bringing the subway north lauded.

At the conclusion of the meeting, guests toured York’s new Technology Enhanced Learning Centre, the new Student Services Centre, and the Executive Learning Centre located in the Schulich School of Business.