Young designers on cloud nine as shuttle crew wear their patch

When the shuttle Atlantis rockets into space later this month, crew members will wear the colourful handiwork of three Toronto students, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 18. The mission’s insignia – woven into a patch for each uniform and spacesuit – is the handiwork of the students, who graduated from the York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design in 2004. It was selected from dozens of entries in an international competition. It adds a little touch of home for Canadian astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean (BSc ’77, PhD ’83, D.Sc ’93), who will walk in space to help install solar panels on the International Space Station, using the robotic arm Canadarm2, during the planned 12-day mission, scheduled to launch Aug. 27.

“It was an absolutely exhilarating experience,” said Graham Huber (BDes. ’04), part of the York team that created the mission insignia and a personal patch for MacLean. He and colleagues Gigi Lui (BDes. ’04) and Peter Hui (BDes. ’04) had the opportunity to meet with MacLean to learn what elements he felt were important in a design. Huber, Lui and Hui will be flown to Florida as guests of NASA to watch the shuttle launch.

Life-writing series attracts notice for York editor

One academic Canadian publishing house, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, has singled out life writing as worthy of study, and since its inception in 1992 WLUP’s Life Writing Series has published 27 books, wrote Carolyne Van Der Meer in the July/August 2006 issue of the Literary Review of Canada. Series editor Marlene Kadar, who is currently coordinator of Fine Arts Cultural Studies in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and professor in humanities and women’s studies at York, has spent a significant part of her academic career working on life writing and life-writing theory.

Her research, combined with her interest in her own past and its connections to the Holocaust as well as her work on Hungarian-speaking Roma (Gypsy) peoples, has led to a very particular view of the series and the many roles life writing can play. “Life writing does not only provide keen readers with an inspiring array of autobiographical genres, but it can also be used as a method, a way that readers, writers and scholars can check the historical record against a later interpretation, an individual’s heartfelt memory or a representation of the exceptional story,” she explains.

In spite of academic justifications for the series, the staff of WLUP couldn’t help being gratified when one of their titles became a surprise popular hit in 2004, said the Literary Review. Velma Demerson’s Incorrigible is the story of a young woman’s incarceration in the Mercer Reformatory in 1939 under Ontario’s Female Refugees Act because of her relationship with a Chinese man and the birth of her mixed-race child. 

Internet a weapon in battle against AIDS

The newest weapon against HIV-AIDS is the World Wide Web, reported  CBC News online Aug. 18, citing researchers at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. The Internet is important in educating HIV-positive youth in Canada, said Sarah Flicker, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. Her research led to the launch of, an interactive HIV-AIDS education site made specifically for young people by HIV-positive Canadian youth.  “Young people who are HIV positive are a hidden population in this country, who very rarely get the attention and support they need.” She said the Internet allows them to tailor this information to youth, making it more effective.

Locking up problem youths is not the answer, says York student intern

Keegan Henry-Mathieu, a Leaside Secondary School graduate and member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, said locking up or expelling problem youths “isn’t the answer,” reported The Toronto Sun Aug. 18, in a story about weapons in schools. Serving time with “experienced criminals, you’re going to jail school and will come out more likely to become a criminal,” he said. Henry-Mathieu, 19, a York University student interning in the premier’s office, said society must “start at a young age” to help kids avoid gangs and fast drug money. “Youth need support,” including nurturing, family counselling, jobs and educational opportunities in poor areas, he said, putting the onus on the community and governments “to break down the barriers.”

Exhibit by York graduate explores Muslims’ places of worship

A new exhibit at the Niagara Artists’ Centre will introduce art lovers to the variety of “spaces” where Muslims converge and practise their faith, reported the St. Catharines Standard Aug. 18.

Entitled Muqarnas: Intersections of Contemporary Islamic Architecture, the exhibit features photographs, paintings and blueprints of contemporary and traditional mosques. “Muslims live in Canada. They’re your neighbours and their spaces are in your communities,” said York alumna Nadia Kurd (MA ‘05), the exhibit’s curator. “That’s why it’s so important to exhibit in St. Catharines. It’s a smaller city than Toronto and these places exist in places like St. Catharines.”

As part of her master’s degree in art history from York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, Kurd examined how Muslims in Canada have found new spaces for spiritual contemplation. Although she focused her research on the mosque in Brantford, she has since decided to also examine other communities. “The diversity of places enriches and deepens one’s understanding of what these communities look like,” she said.

Wolf agrees that McGuinty deserves credit

Just call him Mr. Personality. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has been named “Personality of the Year”  by a London (UK)-based biz magazine, reported The Toronto Sun Aug. 18. Foreign Direct Investment, a publication owned by the Financial Times group, singled out McGuinty for promoting research and innovation in Ontario, and for attracting foreign investment to the province, among other things. Bernie Wolf, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, was surprised McGuinty won the award but said the premier deserves credit for attracting investment, particularly in the auto sector, during a time in which the dollar has risen.

Maguire is elated to coach university hockey again

Bill Maguire ain’t no cowardly lion, wrote the Barrie Examiner Aug. 18. He’s more like the king of the jungle after taking over the coaching reigns of the York University Lions men’s hockey team earlier this week. The 43-year-old Barrie native and former Jr. ‘B’ Colts head coach is elated about starting this new chapter of his coaching career. “It’s pretty exciting to say the least,” the former Hartford Whalers draft pick said. “It’s the level I’ve always aspired to coach at but something I never thought would happen. You get to a point in your professional career and you just think it might not happen.”

Expectations will be high for Maguire and his Lions, wrote the Examiner. York won the OUA division championships from 1996-97 to 2003-04 and has appeared in the CIS championship eight times in the last 20 years. The Lions are coming off a sub-.500 season, though, that saw them lose to Lakehead University in the OUA West quarter-finals. “That is the goal. That’s what I’m going to try to get across to the players when they step into the dressing room,” Maguire said about a return to the top of the CIS. “We want to maintain a program of national calibre.”

Setting the right mood

Growing up, York student Brendan Gilhuly wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, reported the Lindsay Daily Post Aug. 18. But lately, instead of having his head in the clouds, he’s had his head stuck in the rafters. The rafters found in The Lakeview Arts Barn (The LAB), that is, as Gilhuly is working as the sound- and lighting-design technician for Globus Theatre Inc.’s summer season.

Originally hailing from Ottawa, Gilhuly moved to Brockville in his teens and later moved to Toronto to study at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “When I was 12, there was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to become an aeronautical engineer and all of my courses at school revolved around the sciences,” said Gilhuly. “I was also playing with a band and that connection with music helped me progress into the arts,” he continued. Before he knew it, NASA was off the radar and he had applied at the theatre program at York University.

Gilhuly still appears as an actor in independently-produced shows and last year worked as the on-site technical director for the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians’ first World Stage Design exhibition.

Popping the bubble

Taking film out of the conventional cinema and into unique and unorthodox settings, such as outdoor screenings in the river, town halls and even barns is what the fifth annual Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film is all about, reported The Post (Hanover) Aug. 18. Filmmaker Luo Li is currently in the film program at York University. Several of his films explore the theme of birds and flight. Since Li feels his work has an affinity with the repertoire of western classical music, a local choral ensemble, The Festival Chorus has been put together to perform with Luo Li’s work.

New TV role for alumna Pratt

Chesley, Ont. native Vicky Pratt (BA ‘94), a graduate of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, will be back on the small screen in the fall, reported the Owen Sound Sun Times Aug. 18. Pratt, who starred in the syndicated sci-fi/action series “Mutant X” and “Cleopatra 2525”, has landed a major role in “Day Break”, a drama that will debut on ABC-TV in November. The show is being produced by Touchstone Television, which is responsible for the ABC series “Lost”, “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy”. Pratt, 35, is a graduate of Chesley District High School and York University. After university she began modelling and acting in Toronto, where she won a part on the Canadian series “Once a Thief”. She is now living in Los Angeles. The hour-long series stars Taye Diggs (“Rent”, “House on Haunted Hill”) as a police detective who is framed for murder. Pratt plays his partner, who is being investigated by the department’s internal affairs division.