New projects announced for 2012 Academic Innovation Fund initiative

May 9 event celebrates academic innovation

Leah State, coordinator of Health Education & Promotion at York University, has plans for a busy summer. State will spend the summer months and much of the next year working on Phase 1 of the Healthy Campus – Mental Health Outreach, Education and Awareness Project.

The project is one of 13 new and 27 continuing projects that make up a second cycle of the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF), announced last week. The projects are clustered into three main categories and focus on initiatives that enhance experiential education, the first-year student experience, and eLearning.

The Healthy Campus – Mental Health Outreach, Education and Awareness Project is part of the Student Experience theme. The project focuses on the importance of mental health and its role as a major driver of academic success.

“I saw the Academic Innovation Fund as an opportunity to bring the idea of health and wellness together with academic success,” says State, who is the project’s lead. “If students aren’t physically healthy, they may struggle emotionally, mentally and academically.”

Some of the key initiatives that make up the Healthy Campus project include training for faculty and staff to help with recognizing and referring students coping with mental health issues, organizing a new conference on mental health in the postsecondary sector, and creating a pan-University campaign for the University’s peer mentors to raise awareness about and reduce the stigma of mental health. As part of her project, State is seeking to develop an online resource for students and their families and new programs aimed at building communities of support within the student population.

“The project will offer innovation both inside and outside the classroom,” says State, and it will focus on areas that are challenging for students. In addition to the project’s pan-University initiatives, State hopes to tackle specific issues such as developing ways to assist students with effectively managing their time and stress, and successfully making a healthy transition to University life.

headshot of Leah StateLeah State

“All of these areas are important in supporting student well-being, which also supports student success,” says State. “The overarching goal of this project is to get people to look at contributors to mental health and how we can support all students in being successful in University.”

Each of the 40 AIF projects offers great potential to enhance teaching, learning and the student experience, and will have a positive effect on a wide range of students and faculty. As with the first cycle of AIF projects, the second cycle projects are led by faculty and staff from across the University, and include both large pan-University or pan-Faculty initiatives and some that are more limited in scope, but point to opportunities in other areas.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these AIF projects will be successful.  The commitment of the project leaders and their teams to making a difference for our students is inspiring,” says Susan Vail, associate-vice president teaching & learning.

Susan Vail headshotSusan Vail

Among some of the new projects named is an initiative that will produce a series of online video clips and instructional tutorials that will provide important resources for new, returning and prospective students with disabilities. The videos will help students learn about the array of support services available to them on campus. Some of the clips will also provide instructions on how to use assistive technologies.

Another new project will bring about the development of a summer institute for York instructors on the teaching of academic literacies. The long-term goal of this project is to enhance the curriculum support for the development of academic reading, writing and information literacy skills in students.

Projects that are continuing from the first cycle of AIF include the development of a community partner in residence program, led by the Faculty of Health, to work in collaboration with other University services to support experiential education and community engagement.

York International’s York U Abroad project is returning and is intended to expand international opportunities for York students by adding a summer study abroad program through which students can earn credits toward their degrees.

An innovative project focused on developing a sustainable, quality eLearning program for the faculties of Health and Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will see individuals from both faculties working in partnership with University Information Technology to develop a systematic, scalable approach to enhancing student accessibility and learning through technology.

For a full list of all of the 2012-2013 Academic Innovation Fund Projects, click here to download a PDF of the project descriptions.

To learn more about this initiative, its history, past accomplishments and current projects, visit the Academic Innovation Fund website.