Some of York’s brightest minds were recently honoured with the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies’ top awards for teaching and research. Among them are five faculty members from a broad range of disciplines and a teaching assistant whose efforts also earned her a President’s University-Wide Teaching Award. Each award winner was chosen for their remarkable individual achievements and the lasting impact of their work on communities both within and outside of York University.
The newly relaunched Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching celebrate LA&PS professors and teaching assistants who exemplify exceptional teaching and have records of outstanding leadership on teaching and learning within the Faculty.
Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Professor Michael A. Gilbert was honoured with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching – Full-time Tenured Faculty, for his creative teaching strategies and commitment to deep and sustained learning.
“I assume students want to learn. I try to get everyone to feel engaged, to connect with them on an individual level. A very basic element in my pedagogical approach is the material itself should speak to our lives,” says Gilbert. “Even when I was teaching introduction to formal logic I tried to bring it home for the students, to relate the material to what’s going on in the kitchen, boardroom and lunch room.”
Elizabeth Brulé, Department of Equity Studies and Lisa Violo, School of Administrative Studies/School of Human Resources Management, are co-winners in the Contract Faculty category. Students and colleagues alike praise their ability to actively engage students in learning.
Brulé credits the late dian marino – artist, activist and professor of Environmental Studies at York, with influencing her participatory education technique. She says, “I like to bring people in. I also like to get students involved with the community through their assignments, researching particular organizations and interviewing people to find out first-hand how those organizations work towards their goals.”
Violo’s focus is on experiential learning with practical benefits, from lively classroom discussions to group presentations with hands-on digital components and community-based assignments. “My work [as a Learning Consultant] is a crucial factor in my success as a teacher. I bring in my own examples, case studies, training videos and guest speakers all the time to make sure students are getting a broad range of knowledge,” she explains.
Winner of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching – Teaching Assistant, Yael Machtinger also recently received the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award. Her teaching method centres on viewing each student as a “whole person”.
“My goal is to help students actualize their potential and become who they want to be. Seeing them grow towards this makes me want to be a better teacher.”
LA&PS Award for Distinction in Research, Creativity or Scholarship
New this year is the LA&PS Award for Distinction in Research, Creativity or Scholarship. It recognizes the outstanding achievements of the Faculty’s researchers, their influence on academic and social communities, and their commitment to engaging students. This year’s winners are Linda Peake, director of the CITY Institute, in the Established Researcher category; and Lesley Wood, Department of Sociology in the Emerging Researcher category.
Peake describes herself as a critical human geographer, exploring the feminist geographies of gender, race and sexuality, particularly as they relate to the global south. Over the past 30 years she and her graduate students have worked extensively with grassroots organizations in Guyana, conducting research aimed at improving the lives of local women. She says, “My research is grounded in the issues and problems facing poor people and how women work together across race and class to survive in grassroots communities. I don’t measure success purely in terms of publication or the standard markers, but in terms of the ability to bring about change in people’s lives.”
Lesley Wood’s research marries theory with social activism, examining the complex dynamics of social movements through a variety of lenses. She says, “I was an activist before I became a scholar. It’s one thing to read about social movements, it’s another to experience them.” Wood’s research has included surveying G20 protesters in the thick of a demonstration, interviewing activists about their organizational and strategic choices, studying the impact of policing on protest and examining the characteristics of the U.S. anti-war movement.
Recipients of both awards were nominated by their peers, and for many, their nominations were also accompanied by glowing letters from former students. In all cases, the LA&PS community was unequivocal in its support of this year’s winners.