For Janet Morrison, vice-provost students at York University, higher education is about so much more than just landing a job, making money and moving out of your parents’ basement. “Universities have the ability to transform students from learners into highly active and engaged members of society.”
This message of possibility and potential rang true with an engaged group of more than 125 alumni who came out for York’s first combined TEDxYorkUSalon and Alumni Reception on Sept. 24. The event, which included the York University Alumni Association (YUAA) annual general meeting, took place in Mazzoleni Hall at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning and featured TED talks by two prominent members of the York community, including Morrison.
“As we all know, the University has a very important mission for the future, but it also has a past – and that’s all of you, our alumni,” York Chancellor Greg Sorbara (BA ’78, LLB ’81, Hons. LLD ‘13) said as he welcomed guests. “York alumni represent our foundation, our roots, and that relationship must be maintained and strengthened at every available opportunity. I’m honoured to be here tonight in the company of so many accomplished York grads and I, for one, cannot wait to see where we go next.”
The theme for the evening’s TEDxYorkUSalon was “York and the City,” which aimed to discuss ways in which the York community has engaged with the greater Toronto community as well as areas where the University can hope to continue making an impact.
First to the stage was York master’s student Talisha Ramsaroop (BA ’14), a shining example of the kind of bright minds and future leaders currently studying at York. In her talk, “The Violence of Low Expectations,” Ramsaroop discussed how the stigmatization of the Jane and Finch community is not a new or neutral phenomenon and how critical thinking and research can be used to empower youth.
“The Jane-Finch community, like any community in Toronto, has both its good and bad qualities, but with structural forms of oppression running rampant, our assets are ignored and we are seen as a deficit – and sooner or later, we start to believe that ourselves,” Ramsaroop explained. “We, as citizens of Toronto, are responsible for the potential that is wasted when our youth don’t see their own value or worth. The stigma around this community needs to be debunked, with the help of our fellow open-minded Torontonians, so that these young people can start to be seen and heard as individuals, not statistics, with skills and potential.”
Next was Morrison’s talk, titled “Universities Matter”. In it, she outlined how a university education, which doesn’t always get the headlines, can have a tremendous impact on the individual and society.
“University has inspired who I am, not what I do,” said Morrison, who has more than 21 years in the postsecondary sector driving student success and community engagement. “Though many factors may often require students to see a well-paying job as their one-and-only goal, we cannot let them forget that university gives them a voice, teaches them to think and compels them to engage. As I saw in my own experience and in the experiences of the students I continue to support at York, universities promote behaviours that increase the public good, both here in Toronto and around the world. Good education is good politics.”
The evening’s guests were also treated to a comprehensive update on the University and the activities of the YUAA through the annual general meeting.
“Tonight’s theme is quite fitting, considering that a number a recent developments at the University have brought us closer than ever to our home here in Toronto,” Jeff O’Hagan, York’s vice-president advancement, told guests during the AGM. “With so many exciting opportunities at our doorstep, including the recently completed Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, our new state-of-the-art Athletics Stadium and the University’s upcoming expansion into Markham with a brand new campus, the possibilities at York are truly endless and our foothold in this city is stronger than ever.”
Updates for the evening included the announcement of this year’s Bryden Alumni Awards recipients, they are as follows:
- Outstanding Achievement – Bruce Lourie (MES ’87), president, Ivey Foundation;
- Outstanding Contribution – Douglas Bergeron (BA ’83, Hon. LLD ’13), founder, chairman & CEO, Opus Global;
- Tentanda Via – Gail McVey (BA ’85, MA ’89, PhD ’95), psychologist and health systems research scientist, The Hospital for Sick Children; and,
- One To Watch – Michael Prosserman (BAS ’08), UNITY Charity founder & executive director.
Learn more about our 2015 recipients, purchase your ticket and make a donation at alumniandfriends.yorku.ca/bryden.
And with plenty of opportunities on the horizon for York, YUAA Chair Randy Williamson (LLB ’88) spoke about just how important the University’s growing community of nearly 300,000 alumni is. “It’s only with the support of a strong, diverse and united alumni community that we’ll be able to ensure our success in the years to come. I encourage you all to explore the many ways in which you can get involved as a proud York grad, including becoming a mentor to a current student or a recent grad, joining a local alumni network and helping us to build a bigger and better York by pledging your support,” said Williamson.
Another highlight of a great evening spent with York was a special performance of “Uptown Funk” by Turbo Street Funk, a local New Orleans-style jazz horn band featuring recent grads from York University. Once the AGM and TEDxYorkUSalon were complete, guests were invited to a reception where they networked with other alumni while enjoying light refreshments.