The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies celebrated excellence in teaching and research at its annual awards ceremony honoring top faculty. This year, the inaugural LA&PS Award in Social Justice Research recognized outstanding achievement in promoting the principles of social justice through a distinguished body of research.
The seven award winners hail from a broad range of disciplines. The 2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognized two faculty members and one teaching assistant for their exceptional undergraduate teaching practices that significantly engaged students and fostered deep learning. The LA&PS Awards for Distinction in Research honoured one emerging and two established researchers for exceeding the expectations of their field through their research, scholarly or creative work.
Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Professor David Doorey from the School of Human Resource Management received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching – Full-time Tenured Faculty. His interdisciplinary and innovative teaching methods encourage students to excel. As a national leader on the use of technology in the classroom, he is known for his award-winning blog The Law of Work.
“I’m fortunate in that I still find the material I teach endlessly fascinating, and the content evolves so that I am never teaching the same course twice. But also I think we owe students an obligation to come into class with energy and enthusiasm,” says Doorey. “I want them to remember my courses as being among their favourites in all of university. That is the challenge that motivates me to work hard to discover novel and interesting ways to present the material, including staying on top of new technologies.”
Communications studies Professor Robert Heynen received the teaching award in the Contract Faculty category. He encourages students to connect their academic experiences to the world outside and actively reflects the diversity of the student body in his course materials.
“My students bring an incredibly diverse range of experiences, interests, and backgrounds into the classroom,” says Heynen. “I learn from them as much as they learn from me, and it is this dynamic and interactive quality that makes teaching at York so rewarding.”
Dr. Caitlin McKinney won in the Teaching Assistant category while completing her PhD in Communication and Culture. She motivates her students to be creative and intellectual risk-takers and fosters their sense of social justice and equity.
“The most exciting moments for me as a teacher are when I see a student who has struggled to grasp a concept or theory actually draw on and use those ideas later on in a course,” says McKinney. “Those are the moments as a teacher when you know that what you do is actually equipping students with the skills to go forward and pursue their own learning.”
LA&PS Award for Distinction in Research, Creativity or Scholarship
History Professor Sean Kheraj received the LA&PS Award for Distinction in Research, Creativity or Scholarship – Emerging Researcher. He has exceptional academic and public reach as an inspiring, innovative and dynamic Canadian environmental historian. He extends his influence through a wealth of publicly available digital resources, which is used regularly by faculty to assist in teaching undergraduates and the general public more broadly.
Researchers “ask questions and seek answers to learn new things about the world in which we live,” says Kheraj. “That new knowledge matters for everyone, so it’s important to ensure that we find ways to disseminate it widely. This is especially true for historians whose research helps us to know more about our collective pasts. Understanding history is a matter of public concern and interest.”
Professor Jimmy Huang, Director of the School of Information Technology, was honoured in the Established Researcher category as an expert in the quickly changing fields of information search and big data analytics with complex structures. His creative, cutting-edge and practical research is applicable in an array of fields, such as Genomics and Biomedical Retrieval, Machine Learning, Health Risk Assessment and Disaster and Emergency Management.
“With the ever-increasing large amount of digital information available, the need for advanced Information Retrieval and Knowledge Management intelligent systems increases,” says Huang. “How to manipulate, analyze and understand large quantities of complex data becomes extremely important.”
Director of York’s Institute for Social Research, Professor Lesley Jacobs, was also honoured in the category of Established Researcher. A champion for innovative applications of fairness standards in law and public policy, he is internationally recognized as an expert in socio-legal studies, access to justice, comparative public policy and international human rights. Like all of the researchers recognized for their distinguished contributions, he also prioritizes mentoring the next generation of researchers.
“Graduate students are our future and graduate education is more than just learning in the classroom,” says Jacobs. “It requires one-to-one collaborative learning that builds on the opportunities and open doors more senior researchers are able to facilitate.”
LA&PS Award in Social Justice Research
Sociology Professor Eric Mykhalovskiy is the recipient of the inaugural LA&PS Award in Social Justice Research for his exemplary contributions to social justice through his research in the sociology of health and healthcare. This award is granted every other year and honours a researcher who not only exceeds expectations in his or her discipline, but also makes significant contributions to advance social justice.
Professor Mykhalovskiy is a scholar-activist and research advocate whose globally recognized research has directly impacted policies and practices, informing how policy-makers, healthcare professionals and activists understand and respond to social justice issues. His most powerful work sheds light on the damaging consequences of criminalizing HIV non-disclosure.
“I came to the university after doing community work and research during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Canada. That experience produced an ongoing commitment to using the resources of the academy in research for social change,” says Mykhalovskiy. “As I have gone about it, social justice research has always meant collaborating closely with people who work in social movements and community organizations beyond the university. I get real happiness and a sense of purpose working through the distinct intellectual challenges and political possibilities of research that is created out of those collaborations.”