New research unit for education and community opens it doors

More than 200 people, many of them senior educators, members of the community and representatives of government agencies, joined with York faculty and students in celebrating the launch of the Faculty of Education’s first Organized Research Unit (ORU), the York Centre for Education & Community (YCEC), on Oct. 22. The successful event was held at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in the Accolade East building.

Left: Mary Anne Chambers, Ontario’s former minister of children and youth services, with Carl James, director of the York Centre for Education & Community

As an ORU, the centre will be involved in research activities on the appropriate and efficient delivery of educational programs in both formal and informal educational settings.

In their remarks at the event, Alice Pitt, dean of the Faculty of Education, and Carl James, the Centre’s director, noted that the YCEC builds on the Faculty of Education’s more than 17 years of experience working in Jane-Finch schools and the community, as well as in the outer suburban schools. James also noted that the centre continues York’s history of being socially responsible, community-minded and accessible to members of communities, giving attention to interdisciplinarity, diversity, social justice and equality of opportunity.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by the talented stage band from Emery Collegiate Institute, a school in the York-Westview Partnership. As host of the event, James welcomed Amos Key, executive director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, who gave the invocation in recognition of the Aboriginal peoples of this territory. Key, who is also a faithkeeper from the Mohawk Turtle Clan of Six Nations of the Grand River, is one of 10 members of the Centre’s advisory council who were in attendance.

Left: Amos Key

Speakers for the evening included Rhonda Lenton, associate vice-president, academic, who brought greetings from the Office of the President and York’s senior administration, Pitt and Stephen Gaetz, associate dean of research & field development. Pitt also recognized special guests, including former MP Jean Augustine, Ontario’s fairness commissioner and sponsor of the new Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment in the Faculty of Education.

Mary Anne Chambers, Ontario’s former minister of children and youth services and former minister of training, colleges and universities, gave the keynote address, titled “Access to Opportunity – an imperative not to be ignored”. Chambers spoke about the gap between young people’s dreams and their achievements, and of the need for healthy communities that will lead to productive, inclusive and effective educational programs and practices.

Chambers complimented the Faculty of Education for taking the crucial step of inaugurating the York Centre for Education & Community. She also expressed her hope that all involved in the centre will demonstrate a commitment to building stronger communities by conducting and disseminating widely research that engages communities in exploring all possibilities for helping young people achieve their full potential. Chambers ended by challenging educators and researchers to be passionate and committed community builders.

The York Centre for Education & Community was established to enable, support and encourage opportunities for collaborative inquiry and innovative programs among faculty members, education researchers, educational administrators, teachers and learners, community and government agencies, and graduate students. Through collaborative research and initiatives, the centre will also contribute to the development of policies, programs and practices in education that strengthen the intricate links that exist between education and community.

For example, the YCEC, in partnership with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario through the Equity and Women’s Services Department, will host a one-day workshop on Nov. 17 to encourage Grade 7 & 8 students from under-represented groups to consider a career in teaching. Students will learn about the teaching profession and how to become a teacher in Ontario. Participating teachers will have the opportunity to find out about programs in their areas that support such initiatives.

The YCEC together with the Toronto District School Board is conducting a three-year project titled School and Community Engaged Education (SCEE), initiated in 2008. The SCEE project team works with teachers in five schools to develop more inclusive curriculum and programs that are responsive to students’ cultural, social and economic needs, interests and circumstances, thereby improving students’ participation and achievement in schools. The idea is that an inclusive approach to curriculum and pedagogy correlates with an understanding of community life and the experiences of students.

To find out more, visit the YCEC Web site, where a 33-minute audio file of Chambers’ keynote address is also available.