Two pioneering women profs named University Professors

Historian Varpu Lindström and computer scientist Eshrat Arjomandi have been named University Professors this year and will be officially appointed at York’s spring convocation.

The honorary title recognizes long-serving tenured faculty members who have made an extraordinary contribution to the University as a colleague, teacher and scholar. Candidates are chosen by York’s Senate sub-committee on honorary degrees and ceremonials.

Lindström and Arjomandi are both leading scholars in their fields, pioneering administrators who have forged new programs, and generous, inspiring teachers and mentors, especially concerned with encouraging female students.

Varpu Lindström

Varpu Lindström (left) has been a history professor at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies since 1984 after earning three degrees in quick succession from the University. The Helsinki-born immigrant is regarded as the premier scholarly authority on Finnish Canadian immigration, and forged an academic career specializing in North American social history, immigration and women.

Her expertise and renown have grown with the recent release of Letters from Karelia, a documentary about the tragic fate of Canadian Finns lured back by Stalin’s promises of prosperity only to be killed in his purges in the 1930s. Lindström was invited to work as researcher and historical consultant on the film after the director read her book, Defiant Sisters: A Social History of Finnish Immigrant Women in Canada 1890-1930. The documentary has been shown on national TV in Finland and at film festivals around the world. It jhas ust won best picture and best documentary at the Manitoba motion picture industry’s 2006 Blizzards Awards.

Lindström has held many important administrative positions at York. She was the founding Chair of York’s groundbreaking School of Women’s Studies and has been Chair of Atkinson’s History Department and coordinator of its Canadian Studies Program. While master of Atkinson, she helped the Atkinson Students Association through a fractious period and they, in gratitude, established the Varpu Lindström Scholarship. She has served as an elected Senate representative on York’s Board of Governors and on many University committees. She is currently acting director of the School of Social Work

Lindström’s personal qualities of quiet determination and selflessness have made her a mentor and inspiration to so many, said her nominator, Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton. At the core of all her activities is “her profound respect for human dignity, equity and learning”. Her “dedication as a teacher has left its mark with countless students, not least for her pedagogical skill in the classroom, especially her awareness of diverse learning styles and of learning as a personal journey,” said Lenton.

Eshrat Arjomandi

Eshrat Arjomandi (right) joined York’s faculty in 1976 and has played a leading role in the growth of computer science and engineering programs. Educated as an engineer, the Iranian immigrant is also an outstanding researcher and a role model for all women in science, said her nominator Gillian Wu, dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering.

As the founding Chair of the Department of Computer Science, Arjomandi transformed it from a service teaching unit in the arts faculty into a comprehensive department in the science faculty with a core research focus. This was “a truly astounding feat,” said Wu. Arjomandi also helped forge a new MSc program in computer science.

Wu called Arjomandi a huge asset as associate dean of science, when she “worked tirelessly to manage the part-time faculty members, especially in the years in which Computer Science exploded in enrolments.”

Arjomandi received her PhD in computer science from the University of Toronto in 1976. She is interested in object-oriented (OO) languages and her work has been consistently supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council for 25 years. She has also been a member of IBM’s prestigious Centre for Advanced Studies.

Wu lavished much praise on Arjomandi for her efforts to support and promote women in science. Through Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WiCSE), she has found funding to support female students. And as a leader of Science Women at York (SWAY), “she has worked tirelessly on our behalf to promote opportunities and fairness for women faculty,” said Wu.