York holds an e-party to attract prospective students

York University recently hosted its first e-party, an online version of a house party, where prospective students could move from one chat room to another, reported CanWest News Service in a story carried in the Vancouver Sun July 10. Tech-savvy teens are pushing universities to design online schemes such as e-parties to catch their attention in the new competition for students, said CanWest.

At York, more than 2,000 students with offers of admission recently attended an e-party with variously themed chat rooms about student life and academic programs; university staffers and senior students monitored the chat rooms to answer any questions. “It was like a normal party. They would go from room to room. We had students talking to students,” said Barbara Brown, director of recruitment and marketing. “The rooms were very busy.”

Other online recruiting initiatives at York include e-newsletters, Weblogs from international exchange students, and online trivia contests. Brown said the new features complement, rather than replace, low-tech outreach programs. For example, for the first time this spring, York officials made house calls to hand-deliver offers of admissions and scholarships to 25 top applicants with multiple offers from competing universities. A first in Canada, the program will be expanded next year after about half of the top students chose York, said Brown.

Career change brings Roots art director to York – as flamenco teacher

Roger Scannura is the art director at Roots Canada Ltd. He designs logos and graphics for shirts, jackets, shoes, hats and Olympic uniforms. But starting this September, you’ll find him at York University three days a week, teaching flamenco guitar to undergraduate music students, said a story in a new series about career changes in the Toronto Star July 11. He’ll still work at Roots the other two days a week. After 14 years, he couldn’t leave the company behind. “I am 52 years old,” he says. “There are financial risks. The money is good, but not as good as working at Roots full-time.”

Writer Ellen Roseman said Scannura was the Star’s choice to start the series because of his high-profile job and the gradual way he’s chosen to leave it. For Scannura, the triggering event was an invitation to teach classes one day a week at York. When the school year ended, he was asked to continue.

Born in Malta, he came to Canada in his early 20s. He went to art school and then worked at a company that did embroidery design. While taking a year off to study business at the University of Toronto, he started playing classical guitar as a way to relieve stress. Soon, he discovered flamenco and was hanging out at Don Quixote, a Spanish restaurant on College St. (now closed). That’s where he found a musical mentor, travelled to Spain and really learned how to play. Since then, he’s recorded four CDs of his own compositions.  

York asked him to stay on since 300 people wanted to enrol in his courses. He agreed to teach 10 hours a day, three days a week. “Teaching has been the most positive experience,” he said. “It forces you to be analytical. I’m learning so much and I’m quite impressed by how willing the students are to learn.”

Ideally, he’d like to spend the rest of his time composing. There’s a concerto with three movements he’s sketched out in his head. But he’s staying on at Roots to do special projects. With his teaching and Roots income, Scannura can hold on to his Land Rover (a $60,000 car) and his three custom-made guitars, worth $8,000 apiece. “The key is a steady paycheque,” he says about his new life to start this fall. “It’s not as much money as Roots, but I won’t be living beneath the Gardiner Expressway either.”

The early life of Dezsö Horváth

The Toronto Star’s Careers section ran a profile July 10 focusing on the early life and career of Dezsö Horváth, dean of York’s Schulich School of Business. Despite his degree in engineering and two PhDs from Swedish universities, Horváth is Hungarian, the Star noted, having fled the country in his early teens because of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. “It was tough,” Horváth said. “My parents lived through two world wars and the revolution … they wanted a neutral country.” He had difficulty adjusting to life in Sweden but found his solace in basketball. He isn’t particularly tall or athletic, but as a young basketball player he was able to play on – and eventually coach – Sweden’s national basketball team.

After graduation in engineering, Horváth’s employer sent him back to school for management training. He was a keen student, so keen that one of his professors asked him to stay on and complete his PhD in organizational behaviour. “But then I got frustrated with organizational behaviour. I found nothing new was happening and I wanted to do things that were more relevant.”

Horváth went on to complete a PhD in policy. It was research in strategy that brought him to Schulich. Working on a joint research project with a professor, Horváth was invited for a six-month stint teaching at York. And a year later in 1977, he left Sweden for a full-time position with his wife and two young children. In 1982, Horváth became associate dean and in 1988 he applied for the deanship. “I knew the world had changed and that globalization was a reality. Nobody else seemed to notice. I told (the interview panel), if I’m dean I will give the school a more global focus.”

Working more than 80 hours a week, Horváth is executing his plan. And he’s doing well, said the Star’s writer, consultant Sharda Prashad. “And when, at the end of the interview, Horváth asks me about my own career, I’m surprised. He encourages me to pursue my dreams, just as he did. Horváth promises that success will come if you’re doing what you love. How can I not be inspired? It worked for the most unlikely looking basketball player you’re ever likely to meet.”

Grads in the news

Several York alumni were profiled in the media in recent days:

  • The National Post met with Alan Heisey, who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1978. Why is this man smiling? asked the Post. Because, after a gruelling half-year as chairman of the Toronto Police Services Board, which oversees the country’s biggest force, Heisey, 50, is calling it quits. In January, he had agreed to serve a year, but now says it’s too much work for too little money. He will go back to billing $375 an hour for legal work, and spend time with his four children in his big new house on Ward’s Island. By September, when city council appoints a new civilian candidate to the seven-member board, Heisey will be gone.

  • Toronto Star entertainment columnist Rita Zekas interviewed Rachel McAdams, the St. Thomas, Ont. native who got an honours BFA in theatre from York in 2001 and is now a major Hollywood actress. McAdams was featured in the hot up-and-comer slot in last week’s People magazine, and has been designated by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper as “breakout performer of the year”, said Zekas. McAdams related to The Notebook, a lushly filmed romantic epic, when she read it. “I’m a hopeless romantic; I’m a softie and smooshy inside. It’s a very honest and pure love story and they are not told as much as they should be – especially not in these times of action and animation. It’s time for a good, old-fashioned love story.”

  • The Packet & Times of Orillia talked to 72-year-old local judge Leonard Montgomery, who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958. Dubbed “longtime Lenny” by some, Montgomery makes no apologies for throwing most violent criminals in jail, no matter if it’s their first or 10th offence. He says he was raised with a clear sense of right and wrong. Violence was frowned upon and courtesy was expected in his rural family home. He took that moral sense with him to Osgoode, where he got through school by working odd summer jobs and cashing in a handful of livestock donated by his dad to pay for his first year’s tuition.

  • Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington on July 11 wrote about Charles Kim, who Worthington said is an ebullient, friendly, assured man who wanted to be “Canadian” long before he set foot in this country in 1970. Kim is 73, but has no trouble persuading people he’s 50. How does he do it? “Eat the right food and have the right parents,” he jokes. Today Kim works for Ontario’s attorney-general and travels the province as a court interpreter for Koreans in trouble with the law. In Canada, Kim’s never been out of work. He was the manager of a sporting goods store until it went out of business in 1987. While working, he attended night courses at York University for eight years, getting his BA in humanities in 1990 at age 60.

  • The Edmonton Sun July 10 featured Heather D. Swain, one of the longest-running performers in the 13-year history of the Women in Comedy show. The event helps kick off the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival every year by inviting all the women involved, including face painters and street rovers, to join together for a shotgun improvisation comedy show. Shortly after moving to Edmonton from Toronto, where she received her bachelor of fine arts from York University in 1983, Swain joined as a performer with serious doubts about the show’s potential for success. Doubts that were quickly dispelled. “Sold out – absolutely sold out,” she says. “It’s the warmest audience I’ve ever, ever performed for in my life. They just love us. Even when we’re bad they love us.”

Graham move ‘quite unusual’, says Hogg

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has used a rare power of intervention, known as royal prerogative, to deny a passport to former Guantanamo Bay detainee Abdurahman Khadr, reported The Globe and Mail July 12. “The exercise of prerogative by cabinet or by individual ministers is rare,” said Peter Hogg, former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and a leading constitutional expert. He called the case “quite unusual”. Hogg’s remarks were also carried by Canadian Press.

Via Rail: Ottawa unlikely to step in, says Lazar

A possible strike at Via Rail is unlikely to bring intervention from Ottawa this time around, unlike a 1995 stoppage that led to back-to-work legislation, according to transportation expert Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “People can drive or go by bus or by plane,” Lazar told the Hamilton Spectator July 12. “It’s not critical or essential.”

Electronic voting would increase divisions, says MacDermid

Although most advocates of electronic voting would like to see paper ballot voting as a thing of the past, there’s a fair amount of debate over the subject, said the Toronto Star in an in-depth feature on the topic July 12.  If increasing voter turnout is the main argument for electronic voting, then the argument is flawed, point out critics such as Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. “The people who go in for online voting are people who are habitual voters,” said MacDermid from his hometown of Uxbridge. “If anything, online voting will increase the division between voters and non-voters. We already know that voters are an unrepresentative sample of wealthy people who are property owners.

“We know non-voters, especially in municipal elections, are young people, people who are not well-off, people who live in apartments. Those are also the groups that are least likely to have access to technology to do it,” he said. “And frankly, there are a heck of a lot more polls than local libraries (with Internet facilities) in small towns.”

By giving non-voters PIN numbers to vote online, the process is also opening itself to issues such as ballot selling, said MacDermid.  “I can just give someone my PIN number,” he said. “Or I can go to someone’s house, vote in front of them and collect my cash. We came up with secret ballots to do away with this issue.”   

Little risk in variable rates, says Milevsky

It has become extremely expensive to lock in your mortgage rate for a fixed term – about 2.2 percentage points higher than the variable rate, said the National Post July 10. Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, said the number one question he gets about housing these days is, “‘what do I do about my mortgage?’ I’m hesitant to offer advice. The gap is enormous right now.” There is little question that consumers always do better borrowing on a short-term basis instead of locking in, Milevsky said. He did a study that found consumers benefited 88 per cent of the time if they were not locked in. “The yield curve only inverts itself ever 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the time,” he said. “If you can live with that risk, you can go with a variable rate mortgage.”

Canadians learn lesson at York

The Canadian rugby team received a painful reality check courtesy of France, reported Canadian Press July 10. A touring French side, missing most of its big names, schooled the Canadians in a lopsided 47-13 win before some 9,000 fans on a hot afternoon Saturday at York University. The game was covered in The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the Ottawa Sun, and City-tv and CP24 news shows July 10 and 11.

On air:

  • Musicologist Rob Bowman of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts scored the number one song among five representing the years 1900-1929 as panellists on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” continued their “50 Tracks” search for the 20th century’s 50 best songs July 9. Bowman’s pick was Bessie Smith’s St. Louis Blues.
  • Larry Licht, biology professor in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, talked about American bullfrogs, brought to BC in the 1930s, on “Jennifer Mather” on Vancouver’s CKNW-AM July 9.
  • Dianne Martin,  professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on the furore around released repeat offender Martin Ferrier, noting that there are many tools that could be used to help him, on CBC Radio’s “Cross Country Checkup” July 11.
  • Paul Hoffert, a professor in York’s ARC-CULTECH, talked about Taiwan food as part of a CP24-TV news item on an Asian night market charity event in Markham, on July 10.