Event celebrates Atkinson researchers

The Recital Hall and CIBC Lobby in the Accolade East Building were buzzing on April 28, as students, faculty, industry and community professionals gathered to hear about the benefits of engaging in community/industry-university partnerships for research. Organized by the Research Office in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, the Engaging Research Celebration brought together more than 100 individuals from the humanities, social sciences and a wide range of professional areas.

The celebration was an opportunity to highlight the success of Atkinson researchers and to discover how academic research can impact communities, organizations and individuals. York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Vice-President Research & Innovation Stan Shapson and Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton, each provided opening remarks on research at York and its implications for local and global communities.

Above: Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton addresses participants gathered for the Engaging Research celebration

“This event is not only about research excellence but also engagement,” said Shoukri. “It’s about engaging our partners, about engaging our students and about engaging those who can actually turn research into action. This is really about celebrating knowledge mobilization.”

Research at Atkinson continues to grow and nearly $4 million has been awarded to Atkinson researchers for next year. Atkinson researchers have also continued to increase and develop University-community partnerships.

Above: Atkinson faculty and administrators along with community stakeholders participate in a panel discussion about engaging research

“A notable feature of the work being done by many of our researchers and a measure of the impact of our work is the collaboration with other stakeholders,” said Lenton. “Atkinson faculty members are exceptional in their commitment to engaging with their partners in all aspects of scholarship, from the identification of research questions to the exchange of research skills and the analysis and interpretation of the data. This type of collaboration ensures that our research activities address the common concerns and achieve the maximum benefit in terms of impact.”

Right: Stan Shapson, York VP research & innovation

The event highlighted the ways in which Atkinson researchers have developed research collaborations with industry and community partners. Information technology Professor Jimmy Huang discussed his work on improving health care in Canada through the use of technology. His partners, Joseph Kurian from AlphaGlobal, Leo Marland from IBM, and Dr. Karen Tu from ICES, discussed the impact these partnerships are having on the medical field and pointed to the implications their research could have on other fields, including business.

Left: Justice Tony North (left), from the federal Court of Australia and current president of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges, talks with Professor David McNab (right)

David McNab, a professor of native studies at York, and Dean Jacobs, director, Nin.Da.Waab.Jig/Heritage Centre, Walpole Island First Nation (who will be conferred with an honorary degree from York in June), spoke about the value of their research partnerships and emphasized the need for continuing research on critical Indigenous issues.

“We should be leaders on these issues,” said McNab. “We do study after study from a non-Indigenous perspective on ‘Indians’ but we have no big picture study of the impacts of Canadian policy towards Aboriginal people as it relates to Indigenous Human Rights in Canada. We, likewise, know virtually nothing about relationships between Aboriginal people in Canada and the various and specific immigrant experiences.”

During the third presentation, Atkinson School of Administrative Studies Professors Marie-Hélène Budworth and Andreas Strebinger emphasized how students have become engaged in research partnerships. They described the research conducted by students through Atkinson’s successful Experiential Education program. Melissa Judd from UNICEF highlighted how the students’ research has significantly improved UNICEF’s understanding of how to reach and engage teens in helping achieve UNICEF’s objectives.

Left: Professor Marie-Hélène Budworth speaks about student engagement in research

To end the presentation portion of the event, James Simeon of York’s School of Public Policy & Administration and Justice Tony North, from the federal Court of Australia and current president of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges, discussed their research involving critical issues in international refugee law. Their research was examined more closely at an international workshop on critical refugee issues held on May 1 and 2 (see May 7 issue of YFile).

The presentations were followed by lively networking and roundtable discussions. Members of the community met with researchers to discuss opportunities for future partnerships. Several positive connections were made: representatives of the local municipal councillor’s office have started discussions with York to see how collaborations around economic development and social housing might have an impact in the Black Creek area; a consultant discussed potential collaborations with researchers on economic issues; and Professor Martha Rogers, Atkinson associate dean whose research looks at alternative global health and nursing, was invited to join an external research centre.

The event also brought researchers with diverse interests together. McNab and Jacobs met with  North and compared where Canada stands on Indigenous issues with that of Australia. Atkinson researchers also expanded their own understanding of the issues that are important to industry and community stakeholders, and learned from their colleagues about some of the distinct challenges and opportunities that collaborations offer.

“We’re very excited about the research partnerships that may develop as a result of the celebration,” said Atkinson Associate Dean Kelly Thomson (right). “Great connections were made, challenges, innovations and success stories were shared. This was a great first step in our strategy to truly engage stakeholders in the University’s research.”

Watch a video of the Engaging Research Celebration.

For information on how to connect with Atkinson researchers, e-mail akresearch@yorku.ca, or visit the Atkinson Research Web site.