‘There’s something magical that happens’

Great minds may think alike, but at a York University round table Tuesday night, there was no shortage of ideas about how technology can improve business and social services in York Region, wrote YorkRegion.com May 6.

“There’s something magical that happens when you’re provoked to think,” York Leadership Roundtable chairperson Don Cousens said.

The former Markham mayor welcomed about 50 attendees with business, human services and academic backgrounds, including York Region District School Board Director of Education Ken Thurston and York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

Shoukri talked of the potential in York Region, particularly in Markham where a combination of information technology and health technologies and a group of creative-minded people are creating an innovation centre for medical devices.

Anthony Gallo addressed the crowd assembled in York’s new Research Tower first.

 “The Web is about sharing. Participating in how things are shared, from a business perspective, is crucial,” the Open Text vice-president of social media said.

Communities are no longer just physical neighbourhoods, but groups formed around common ideas, he said.

United Way of York Region CEO Daniele Zanotti agreed. “We are brothers separated at birth,” Zanotti said. “The key message is very similar, about community and the need for us to work collaboratively.”

He pointed to the five Welcome Centres opening in the region – one-stop shops for immigrant services – as an example of collaboration when United Way combined its knowledge with research from York and resources from York Region and upper levels of government.

The event was one in a series hosted by the University dating back to 2008. Each roundtable aims to give researchers, community leaders and executives a chance to dialogue about a particular theme.

The woman who put mothering studies on the map

When Andrea O’Reilly received a call from a publisher expressing interest in an encyclopedia on motherhood, she knew her field of expertise had finally arrived, wrote CityNews.ca May 7.

O’Reilly, a professor in York’s School of Women’s Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and founder of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI), has dedicated her career to the study of motherhood and having it recognized as a legitimate topic of scholarly inquiry.

This month her Encyclopedia of Motherhood was released by Sage Press – a 1,500-page, three-volume collection featuring 700 entries on just about every aspect of the complex topic.

An academic examination of motherhood didn’t exist when O’Reilly worked to earn her PhD in English at York, she said, and that prompted her to design a course dedicated solely to the subject in 1990 – the first of its kind in Canada.

But it still remains a “sidebar” subject, she added, even in women’s studies departments. “What isn’t really happening is motherhood is still not being taught in the mainstream courses, so it’s still being kind of ghettoized,” she said.

Why don’t we intervene?

In last week’s Globe and Mail, there was a disturbing story about how passengers failed to help a 79-year-old man who was being mugged on a Toronto subway car, despite his cries for help, wrote Wendy Craig of Queen’s University, Tracy Vaillancourt of the University of Ottawa and Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, in a letter to The Globe and Mail May 7.

Why does this inaction surprise and shock us? After all, it happens to about 10 per cent of children every day at school. About 30 per cent of students are involved as witnesses or as fellow aggressors. Peers, teachers and other adults rarely intervene to help a child who is being victimized – they either fail to recognize the problem or they turn a blind eye.

For Yusuf Hizel, the poor man on the subway, this was a terrible, random act. For children who are bullied at school, it is sanctioned violence. They know who is going to bully them, when it is going to happen and where it is going to happen. They experience the equivalent of a mugging every day.

Bullying is a significant social problem. More than 1,100,000 school-aged Canadian children are victimized by bullying at least once a week, and more than 550,000 school-aged children report bullying others at least once a week. Bullying isn’t a normal or expected part of childhood. It is a hurtful and aggressive act with lasting consequences. Being bullied can lead to physical and mental health problems – and in extreme cases, suicide. At its core, bullying is a relationship problem. It is about an imbalance of power with repeated aggression, with harm as its intent. It takes many forms – social, verbal, physical, cyber. This is not a rite of passage.

More couples will mark their golden anniversary

As Canadians continue to live longer, they can expect to spend more years with their life partners, whatever old age brings, wrote The Globe and Mail May 7.

In fact, the research suggests that, while there’s no guarantee that sticking it out will lead to happiness, good marriages often get better later in life.

“They were like honeymooners, some of them,” says Rachel Aber-Schlesinger, a professor of social science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who with her husband, Ben Schlesinger, recently studied 20 couples who had been married at least 45 years by intensively interviewing the husbands and wives separately.

What the happy couples said: Keep busy, maintain a strong social circle, invest energy in your grandkids. The couples reported working hard at their marriages, but not trying to change their partners. They had fun – “these were not dour people,” Aber-Schlesinger says. And they still made plans, even into their 90s. “They didn’t only look back, they also planned ahead.”

Fired, not finished

“Looking at managers and executives who’d been laid off unexpectedly, we found that many had been trapped in jobs they disliked," said Jelena Zikic, a professor in York’s School of Human Resource Management in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in a NOW magazine article May 6 on losing your job. "Suddenly, they had time for reflection, something we also call environmental exploration, which is really just looking at other options. Those who explored and really thought about their career path found better re-employment in the end than those who simply sent out millions of applications and took the first job they could. It pays to take time and consider the hidden opportunities you may not see right away.”

Residents to be surveyed monthly on health

Beginning in May, residents of Haldimand and Norfolk counties will be surveyed every month throughout 2010 to help identify local health needs and develop programming for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, wrote The Sachem and Glanbrook Gazette May 6.

York University’s Institute for Social Research will conduct the surveys on the Health Unit’s behalf by randomly selecting 120 local residents each month, 18 years and older. Those residents will be notified by mail of their opportunity to participate in the survey and then phoned about a week later to take the survey.

Mayor boards Sheppard bus to talk transit in Scarborough

Clive Scott takes two buses, a subway and another bus to get to York University from his home in Malvern, wrote the Scarborough Mirror May 6. “In all it’s an hour-and-a-half journey,” he said.

He usually studies or reads, but on Thursday morning he had no need for diversions as he had some company along for the trek.

Mayor David Miller accompanied Scott the entire way: from the 134 Progress to the 85 Sheppard East to the subway at Don Mills station to Sheppard-Yonge station to the 196B bus to York University.

Miller took the opportunity to tag along with Scott (who works part-time in the mayor’s office) to talk to people about Transit City, the light rail plan under threat from a provincial funding delay.

  • No, he won’t shut up, Mayor David Miller said Thursday, despite Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne’s advice he tone down his Transit City complaints or risk “undermining” the entire project, wrote the Toronto Sun May 7.

He’s furious that the province’s transit planning agency, Metrolinx, is proposing a delayed and truncated version of Transit City – 22 kilometres shorter and with 26 fewer stops, saving an estimated $4 billion – and has been vocal about it. He even spent two hours Thursday morning with Malvern commuters as they took four buses and a subway to York University to drive home his point.

Juno Award winners sing reggae, jazz at fundraiser

The soulful sounds of reggae, calypso, ska and jazz can be heard this Friday night when the Toronto Mass Choir performs at Springvale Baptist Church, wrote the Stouffville Sun-Tribune May 6. The concert is a fundraiser for the Stouffville Christian School.

The choir, with members from various churches and denominations, is directed by Karen Burke, a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music and a professor of music in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Canada failing its most vulnerable, researchers find

We’re products of our environment and our living conditions determine if we stay healthy or become ill, a York University study says, wrote the Aurora Banner in its May 8 issue.

“Health and poverty are directly linked,” Vaughan Community Health Centre executive director Isabel Araya said in response to Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. “The poorer you are, the sicker you are.”

The report, co-authored by Dennis Raphael, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, and visiting scholar Juha Mikkonen, finds conditions are deteriorating, with serious ramifications for the quality and longevity of Canadians’ lives, particularly the poor.

The study profiles how our health is shaped by how much income and wealth we have, if we’re employed and, if so, the working conditions we experience. The researchers pull together a range of data to show how health is powerfully influenced by our ability to obtain quality education, food and housing, among other factors.

Saints’ Draper commits to York

Sherwood Park native Jordan Draper, one of this season’s stars for the powerhouse Spruce Grove Saints Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) squad, now knows where he’s going to be playing next year, wrote Alberta’s Sherwood Park News May 7.

Draper, a third-year forward with the Saints, has committed to attend York University in Toronto and play for the Lions, beginning in the fall. The Park native has been one of the top players in the AJHL throughout his junior career, tallying career totals of 138 points on 64 goals and 74 assists in 113 regular season games.

The 20-year-old was a big reason why the Saints dominated the AJHL and the national junior A rankings this season. Spruce Grove was ranked number one in Canada almost all season and broke several league records this year by going 52-4-1-3 and only giving up 99 goals in 60 games.

“Jordan will have a tremendous opportunity to play for a program that is committed to becoming a perennial power in Canadian Internuniversity Sport hockey,” said Steve Hamilton, team manager. “York University has done an outstanding job of recruiting top-level players from Alberta in the past and have secured another top prospect in Jordan Draper.”

Draper will join current Saints teammates Travis Rolheiser and Ryan Kerr as members of the 2010 York University recruiting class.

Slippery on oil

Research scientists complain that the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board will not release information about oil spills, wrote columnist Janet Bagnall in the Montreal Gazette May 7 in a story about a new well planned for the remote Orphan Basin oilfield, 450 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland. “This lack of access to environmental monitoring data significantly hinders the ability of independent scientific inquiry and/or public involvement in the environmental assessment process,” wrote York University Professor Gail Fraser, of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, in 2008.

On air

  • Roopa Desai-Trilokekar, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, spoke about Ontario’s plans to attract foreign students, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” May 6.