Universities woo students with sexuality studies

Students preparing for university this year are part of the first generation able to choose “gay” as their major, wrote Xtra Jan. 7.

University applications are typically due over the winter, with big deadlines – including the deadline for high school students applying to first-year undergrad programs in Ontario – arriving as early as Jan 12.

Daniel Faranda is the president of York University’s Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association. Academic programs like York’s are important because they increase visibility of gay and trans people on campuses, he says. It’s also helped Faranda broaden his academic horizons. “It’s endless, all the things you can study under ‘sexuality’,” he says.

There are 80 students enrolled in sexuality studies at York. Professor Sheila Cavanagh, a professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and the program’s coordinator, hopes to grow that number to 100 over the next couple of years. That number is a key York metric separating large from small programs – reaching it would result in more money and administrative support for sexuality studies.

Having a fuller course offering is a boon for students, and it has spinoff benefits, wrote Xtra. Larger departments mean bigger faculties. And that means more professors with more time to research gay issues.

York and the University of Toronto are the only Canadian schools that offer a major in sexuality to undergraduates. Both programs are interdisciplinary, meaning that many of the courses are taught by more traditional departments, like English or sociology.

Faranda says he discovered the program too late in his studies to graduate with a sexuality studies major (he’s pursuing a certificate instead). But he says that high school students should give some thought to sexuality studies. “Don’t be afraid of it. This is a great learning environment,” says Faranda.

Canada is a class act in education

As a country, Canada has the narrowest gap in achievement between children from well-to-do and low-income homes, wrote Jerry Diakiw, an instructor in York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Jan. 7. The world over, educating children living in poverty is the biggest problem educators face. In Canada, 12 per cent of children live in poverty; in the US, it’s 21 per cent; in Finland, the country that outperformed Canada, it’s four per cent!

Countries with high immigration do less well than nations with little immigration, which makes Canada’s performance even more outstanding. Canada has the highest enrolments in colleges and university of college-age students of any country in the world, wrote Diakiw. Of the several reasons for Canada’s success, the most important for me is that Canada attracts applicants to our faculties of education from the top third of university graduates, as does Finland, while the US and UK draw their teachers from the bottom third of university graduates.

We have systematically attacked the underachievement and unacceptable dropout rates of students from low-income families with programs such as Reading Recovery in Grade 1, and other early intervention initiatives. We need to do more to narrow the gap, and we have proven that it can be narrowed.

You can bet on it…

“People who think they’re lucky respond with more confidence about the future,” said Peter Darke, a marketing professor at York University, in a quote published in The Winnipeg Free Press Jan. 9 for a story about things “overheard” in news stories.

Darke believes a belief in luck actually causes people to perform better in a series of betting experiments, wrote the Free Press.

How to deal with ‘the most depressing day of the year’

The most depressing day of the year was declared by Cliff Arnall, a former lecturer at the University of Cardiff, Wales, after he concocted a winter blues formula in 2005, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 7. Arnall’s equation took into account the weather, our debt, salary, motivation levels and time since Christmas to calculate that the day of deepest despair falls on the third Monday of every January.

This year, that’s Jan. 17. But, not everyone agrees with the date or its usefulness.

“It’s true that people in January feel the winter starting and get discouraged by the three long months ahead and their Visa card bills,” says Myriam Mongrain a professor in York’s Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health, “but individual circumstances are more important than general factors, and the weather makes a big difference, which we can’t control,” she adds. “People have their own lives, conflicts and stresses.”

Marc Audette: An Education

In his new body of work, Classe d’art 010, photographer Marc Audette takes on art school and, more specifically, the classroom environment, wrote Canadian Art Jan. 6 in a review of the exhibit by Audette, course director in the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies at York’s Glendon College. He cleverly shifts it away from the perceived institutionalization of creativity and transforms it into a rich and subjective territory for inquiry and inspiration.

Having taught at York University for over a decade, Audette has an intimate understanding of how a banal classroom can become a space of both formulation and transition. It is within this arena that the human body, as well as a seemingly random and haphazard collection of objects, can become shells filled with a variety of connotations and associations (often within just three hours of class time!). With this series, Audette taps into that experience of reconsidering something anew. By taking ubiquitous classroom furniture such as drawing tables, mismatched chairs, white sheets, garbage cans and human models, he creates evocative still lifes through complex positioning and lighting.

Marc Audette’s choice of subject matter is not surprising, but what is unexpected is the variety and depth of information he is able to mine. He fully understands the special potential of what can take place in an art school classroom in terms of it becoming a threshold onto new ideas. Both a critique and a window into this pedagogical environment, Classe d’art 010 reinforces the relevance of art school during a moment when it is undergoing significant evaluation.

Many professionals who start businesses keep their jobs, says York prof

Moren Lévesque, professor of managerial science and an entrepreneurial researcher at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says one of the major advantages for a business owner with a professional degree is the financial security it offers, wrote The Globe and Mail and CTV News Jan. 10. “Research shows one in four entrepreneurs keep their jobs when they start a business.”

These entrepreneurs not only have an added way to pay the bills, they maintain a lifeline into their professional network.

Lévesque’s work focuses on businesses that have a high potential for growth. She says professionals tend to have specific abilities that propel them toward success. Veterinarians, dentists and accountants need good communication skills and the ability to make sound decisions to succeed at their jobs, which are also key skills for entrepreneurs. “It’s all connected,” Lévesque explains.

People with good communication skills who can explain their vision and build trust, she adds, are more likely to make links with possible financiers and find connections to peers and customers. These strong networks help grow a business.

Movie auditions draw a crowd in Sault Ste. Marie

After a busy three months preparing for the Sault Symphony Orchestra’s production of White ChristmasMark Kuntsi (BFA Hons. ’91) could be cut a little slack for not attending the weekend audition, wrote The Sault Star Jan. 9 in a story about a local casting call for a new film about Canadian bank robber Edwin Alonzo Boyd.

Kuntsi appeared as an extra in a long line of feature films and television shows, including Happy Gilmore, “Due South”, “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” and Excess Baggage, between 1992 and 1999.

The York University theatre and visual arts graduate is excited to see more film productions being filmed in the Sault. “I spent all those years auditioning for stuff in Vancouver and Toronto,” he said. “It’s such a huge, competitive market. It’s just nice that the field is at least a little bit smaller. It would be nice if I could make a little bit of a living doing some acting in town. It would be awesome.”

On air

  • James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, gave some tips on how to protect against being overcharged by gyms, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Jan. 7.
  • York music student Karen Ng was the featured guest on “Jazzology”, Jazz.FM91’s weekly series featuring jazz students from Toronto’s university and college jazz programs. During the hour-long program on Jan. 6, Ng presented some of her favourite music and artists, as well as some of her own recordings.