The making of Jack Layton

When [Jack] Layton [MA ’72, PhD ’83] completed his BA, he wanted to stay at McGill for graduate work, but [his philosophy Professor Charles] Taylor wasn’t having it, wrote Maclean’s in a lengthy profile of the federal NDP leader in its June 27 edition. "He said I’d already taken all his courses," Layton says. "He said, ‘Go to Toronto.’" There was no arguing. Rather than enrolling at the prestigious University of Toronto, though, Layton went to the rapidly growing, unambiguously left-wing political science graduate program taking root in the freshly poured concrete of York University. His education there would be as much in practical politics as theory.

Political scientist David Bell, who would go on to be York’s dean of environmental studies, was Layton’s thesis adviser. "Even then, his political chops were evident," Bell says. As head of the Graduate Students’ Association, Layton mediated between his peers and professors. In his PhD dissertation on foreign investment review rules, he applied neo-Marxist theories. That was standard at York. "He was not a revolutionary," Bell says. "It’s just that the most popular analytical framework was one that drew on Marxist roots."

Through his urban studies professor, Michael Goldrick, Layton quickly found his way back into the sort of activism for which he had already developed a taste. In 1972, Goldrick ran for Toronto’s city council as part of a reform movement. Layton worked as his voter-contact organizer, in charge of door-to-door canvassing. "I learned that job from these fabulous American draft dodgers who’d all come up," he says. "They were Democrat anti-poverty activists, that sort of stuff, and they knew how to campaign."

A $2-million gift to help firms go global

The Certified General Accountants (CGA) of Ontario on Wednesday announced a $2 million gift to York University’s Schulich School of Business to fund an academic chair focusing on global competitiveness for small and medium-sized businesses, wrote The Globe and Mail June 22.

“A significant percentage of CGAs in Ontario serve SMEs," said Doug Brooks, CEO of CGA Ontario. "Research by the CGA Ontario chair in Global Competitiveness for SMEs will play an important role in assisting SMEs to become more competitive outside their domestic markets."

Dezsö Horváth, dean of Schulich, added the chair will conduct research into the success factors for international expansion "to enhance export know-how and foreign investment competence of businesses, to identify and leverage extensive international networks, and to develop public policies specifically designed to create the conditions necessary for Canadian SMEs to become more broadly engaged in the global marketplace.”

York announces construction of engineering building

Toronto-based York University plans to construct a new building with an estimated floor area of 200,000 square feet, at a cost of at least $75 million, to accommodate about 1,500 additional engineering students, wrote the Daily Commercial News June 22.

No request for proposals has been distributed, no architectural design firm has been chosen and no specifications have been published, said Richard Francki, assistant vice-president of campus services and business operations at York.

Janusz Kozinski, dean of science and engineering, estimated the size of the building will be about 200,000 square feet.

Kozinski and Francki made their comments in separate interviews after a media conference at York University, where the Ontario government promised it would contribute $50 million towards the construction costs. “We want our students to be a part of the entire process, starting from conceptualization, to design to implementation,” Kozinski said.

Author puts ‘goofy’ humour to good use

Author Deborah Sherman [BA ’95] readily admits she’s “pretty goofy.” But rather than let the trait slow her down, Sherman once again uses it to her advantage in the recently released The Bedmas Conspiracy, wrote the Ancaster News June 22.

Sherman is the opposite sex and light-years away in experience from the book’s central character, yet she convincingly slides into the role of a teenaged boy. “I know that I am pretty goofy, and that makes it easier to write as a goofy boy,” said Sherman. “But the one thing I do try to do is create characters that young boys and girls can identify with. I don’t want my characters to be superheros…. I like that they are normal and have all the typical childhood struggles, like getting good grades and fitting in.”

Sherman, a Dundas native, is a graduate of York University and has a teaching degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Sherman’s first book, Triple Chocolate Brownie Genius, was nominated for the Juvenile Book of the Year by Foreword Magazine in 2007 and was a Diamond Willow Award nominee in 2009.

A dancer is born!

Little did Chase Constantino [BA ’09] know, when he joined his University’s South Asian dance team a few years ago, he’d be performing in front of an anticipated 700 million TV viewers worldwide – not to mention some of Bollywood’s biggest stars, wrote The Mississauga News June 22.

The Mississaugan danced his way to the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards show – India’s version of the Academy Awards – by winning the nationwide CIBC IIFA Bollywood Moves Dance Competition. He’ll be joined by women’s winner, Kalpita Desai, on stage this Sunday (June 26) at the Rogers Centre in Toronto when the awards are handed out.

Constantino started acting and singing when he was four years old, but really got serious about dance while at York University, where he studied humanities and writing. He performed a Bollywood-fusion piece for Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Canada last year. He has been in videos with the likes of k-os, Feist and Ludacris. He also choreographed a scene in the movie Breakaway.

"The passion has to be there," Constantino said of his burgeoning South Asian dance career. "And to do something that marries your culture and your passion is awesome."

York grad is a finalist for Word Guild national writing award

Elaine A. Small, of Dundas Street in Belleville, has been shortlisted in a national writing competition for her inspirational memoir, Priests in the Attic, wrote Belleville EMC June 23.

A graduate of York University (BA Spec. Hons. ’99, MA ’01), Small continues to write daily at her home in Belleville, while working on her new book, Life Writing and the Power of Reverie.

Priests in the Attic is a finalist in the General Readership book category in The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards. The winner will be announced on June 15 at a black-tie Awards Gala at World Vision’s headquarters in Mississauga.

The Word Guild, the organization that sponsors the awards, consists of nearly 400 writers and editors across Canada who write from a Christian perspective and publish work in a variety of genres.

York student joins protest against Kampala Accord

Khadijah Ali, a radio host and youth activist, said that the deposed prime minister [Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo] “was a competent leader who placed Somalia’s national interests above external agendas”, wrote Somalia news website June 22, in a story about Somali Canadians’ opposition to the Kampala Accord of June 9.

The York University social work major also noted that “Prime Minister Farmajo had given Somalia a second chance. The country has suffered for far too long and we don’t want another 20 years of anarchy. Farmajo’s vision represents a true hope and the best way forward for Somalia,” she said.

On air

  • Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and distinguished research professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about the NDP’s proposal to remove the word socialist from their constitution, on AM640 Radio June 22.