‘We’ve done a lot as a team, Marsden tells the Star

They’re at the top of Canadian academia, wrote the Toronto Star June 9. But it’s certainly been no cakewalk for the nation’s 16 female university presidents. They’ve withstood a 30-year slog of study, research, publishing and teaching. They’ve overcome personal hurdles, shone as leaders and smashed every myth about women in high places to win these vaunted jobs in unprecedented numbers.

Lorna R. Marsden, who retires as president & vice-chancellor of York University this month, originally didn’t want to get into administration. "I got bullied into it, people saying, ‘You have to chair the department.’ I fell into the trap," she says with a laugh. "It is typical that people offload the dirty work."

Marsden, a sociologist, followed in the footsteps of Susan Mann, York’s first woman president & vice-chancellor. As a young teacher at the University of Toronto, she was inspired by Pauline Jewett, the first woman to head a co-ed university in Canada.

Her tenure at York has been tumultuous, including a staff strike and land development controversies. She earned kudos for expanding the school’s student body and academic reputation. Getting the subway extended to this campus on the northern extreme of the city was icing on the cake.

"I’ve learned a lot and we’ve done a lot as a team," Marsden says of her legacy. It’s a theme reprised by all of the women interviewed. Women are team players, another myth exploded.

Embleton says university doesn’t have to be boot camp

The school of hard knocks has developed a much softer side, wrote the Toronto Star June 11. Ontario universities and colleges, once known as places where high-school graduates learned important life lessons in such subjects as failure and handling criticism, are now all about nurturing.

"It doesn’t have to be boot camp," said Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic at York University. "There’s more attention on being supportive and encouraging so that people can do their best work."

Complaints from universities and colleges that high schools are not adequately preparing students in education fundamentals are nothing new. Teachers and administrators have long rolled their eyes at the spelling, grammar, math basics and other skills of many of those arriving on campus. But the youngsters’ blatant use of the Internet in putting together assignments is raising fresh concerns.
"There’s a general consensus that many actually do come to university truly not knowing what’s plagiarism and what isn’t," said Embleton, in another story in the Star June 9. "A lot of them view the Internet as free pickings and are shocked to hear that if you quote from something online you’ve got to footnote it just like if it was a library book. They seem to think it’s free, just like the air we breathe. The education around that needs to be driven home in high schools better than it is right now."

Trading in life insurance policies

Advisers seeking income-generating alternatives to income trusts or bonds may want to consider the fast-growing field of "life settlements", wrote the National Post June 11. These are agreements in which life insurance policies are resold to investors for more than the cash surrender values offered by insurance companies. Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, likes the idea of creating a secondary market for unwanted insurance policies. "If you can sell your unwanted stamp collection on eBay, why not your insurance policy?," said Milevsky. If permitted in Canada, insurance companies would have more incentive to provide competitive cash surrender values and people wouldn’t have to sell their policies to strangers.

Durie gets the jitters out with first hit

Toronto Argonauts rookie running back Andre Durie had a welcome-to-the-pros moment in the Argos first pre-season game, wrote The Toronto Sun June 10. The York University product took his first real hit after missing almost two years of football with a knee injury. "It felt good," said Durie, who had four catches for eight yards and made a couple of nifty moves. "The first hit I took was kind of a big one. It got the jitters out."

GTHL awards gala recognizes its stars

The largest minor hockey association in the world, the Greater Toronto Hockey League held its annual awards gala recently, wrote InsideToronto.com June 8. Daniel Clarke of the Toronto Colts (Midget A) received a scholarship award worth $1,000 to go to his education. For Scarborough native Clarke, an assistant captain with his Promitere Cup champion Toronto Colts, the scholarship caps off his minor hockey career. "Hockey has given me so much and it continues to," said Clarke, a Highland Creek-area resident who has a 92-per cent average at Cardinal Newman Catholic High School. Next year Clarke, who finished his final season of minor hockey this year, will attend York’s Schulich School of Business where he hopes to continue to play the game he loves.

Bassford to stay on as UCFV president

Former Atkinson Dean Harold “Skip” Bassford, president of University College of the Fraser Valley, isn’t going anywhere until the institution is well settled into its new status as a university, wrote the Hope Standard (BC) June 7. The university’s board of governors recently voted to extend Bassford’s 10-year appointment by an extra year, until June 30, 2009.

Bassford joined UCFV in July 1998, coming from the role of dean of Atkinson College at York University. "I’m pleased to have been asked to stay one extra year," he said. "UCFV is a wonderful institution in which to work, with an amazing level of dedication among the faculty and staff to provide the very best learning environment for our students. I’m looking forward to completing the many projects currently underway and to helping complete UCFV’s transition from a university college to a regional university."

Old ways of doing business won’t attract or keep millennials

They are a generation of job-hoppers and employers are finding the old ways of doing business don’t attract or keep twenty-something workers, wrote the Toronto Star June 9. So the millennials are being showered with praise for a job well done, mainly because they’re used to it – and crave it. Some think praise by itself is a bad idea. But Monica Belcourt, professor of human resources management at York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, argued the millenials are simply seeking meaningful work.

"They are looking for an organization that has a good reputation, is socially responsible, and for work that is going to have meaning." She attributes the job-hopping to their life experiences: They grew up watching their parents lose jobs to restructuring and outsourcing and don’t expect to spend their entire working life at one company.

Reporter sees the future in Viva bus system

The bones are good but the connective tissue is thin among the Toronto region’s transit authorities, wrote the Toronto Star June 9. Queen’s Park and its new Greater Toronto Transportation Authority talk about a border-busting GTA fare card as Job One for improving regional transit. I have seen the future and it is York Region’s deluxe VIVA bus service. The Purple and Orange routes run on a continuous loop so reliable I watched a driver who managed to squeeze in a ride on the Orange route to pick up lunch during a break in which he left his own bus on the York University campus. He got back behind the wheel, right on schedule.

Idol reporter hits right notes

Montrealer Dave Kerr is a featured player in the singing contest Canadian Idol despite the fact he is bereft of musical talent, wrote CanWest News Service June 11. Kerr is the new roving reporter in the hit CTV talent contest. He completed a master’s degree in communications & cultural studies – a joint program offered by York University and Ryerson.

Raising awareness, value and young minds

As a young girl, Bobbi-Lynn Keating had one career aspiration – she wanted to teach, wrote the Daily News (Halifax) June 9. But even as a child she realized a need to bring more than just classic structure to the classroom. Now, as an accomplished practitioner, Keating’s contributions are shaping Nova Scotia’s childcare community. Carol Anne Wien, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, commented on Keating’s contribution to the field while nominating her for the Early Childhood Learning and Care Award of Excellence in Practice. "As a master teacher, Bobbi-Lynn is committed to every aspect of the child-care community. She engages children daily and also finds time to advocate for the profession and develops creative program approaches. I know of no one more deserving of the ECLC Award."

On air

  • Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about a controversial swingers club in Moncton, NB, on CBC Radio stations in Moncton and Halifax June 8.
  • Rosie Carusi, manager, fitness & lifestyle programs, in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, spoke about the use of Apple’s iPod as a training device on Global TV June 8.
  • Astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean (BSc ’77, PhD ’83) spoke about the current Atlantis space shuttle mission on CTV NewsNet June 8.