Prof to grads: go sky high

For Daphne Schiff, the sky is the limit. Literally. Every year, the 81-year-old pilot and natural science professor at York University begins her class on the science of flight by landing her plane on the south field of the campus, reported the Toronto Sun June 14. In 1996, she competed in the first 26,000-km Race of the Americas from New York to Argentina and back. And just three weeks ago she rented a plane in Johannesburg and delivered school supplies in South Africa. Monday night, Schiff addressed a crowd of 6,800 students graduating from York, where she received an honorary degree and shared her message: Anything is possible. “We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity and never underestimate what you’re capable of,” Schiff told the graduates. “Continue to follow your heart with a goal in mind and think of a powerful way to make a contribution.”

  • Tuesday at York University, David Suzuki and Robbie Robertson were to get honorary degrees, reported CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” June 13.

 The deadly price of dirty air

People with asthma suffer greatly for days, even weeks, after a smog alert, says Dr. Mark Greenwald, vice-president of the Asthma Society of Canada, and co-founder of Tuesday’s asthma summit at York University, reported the Toronto Star June 14.”The asthmatic takes a much longer time to recover,” he said. “The trigger is sudden but the effects are longstanding.” His comments were included in a story about a new report from the Ontario Medical Association estimating that more than 5,800 Ontario residents are expected to die prematurely this year because they are breathing dirty air.

  • Greenwald was also interviewed about the impact asthma has on the economy and better ways to help asthmatics, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” June 13.

University branding strengthens reputation

York University’s advertising campaign has stirred controversy precisely because it’s so professional, argued Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing and communications officer, in an opinion piece in the June-July issue of University Affairs. Those who are opposed to the campaign say it is too corporate. But conventional images of the kind we are accustomed to would not have raised an eyebrow, never mind a comment, because no one would have noticed them.

As it happens, the York branding effort has just been awarded by the US Council for the Advancement and Support of Education two golds for the best university marketing campaigns in North America (for advertising and public relations), pointed out Fisher. York beat such universities as New York University and the University of California at Berkeley. In other words, wrote Fisher, our peers across the continent are recognizing the freshness of the approach.

Branding is simply a way of increasing reputation, and reputation is built on strength, wrote Fisher. Marketing budgets at universities are minuscule compared with those in the private sector, which means that our marketing has to be all the more focused to break through the cacophony.

To me, Fisher said, the fact that some people at York are already spoofing York ads is marketing nirvana. The ads have entered the culture. For York, the highest possible compliment is that people are noticing and responding, one way or the other.