Shopify and Lassonde School of Engineering partner to offer innovative computer science degree program

Shopify team members with York University administration and faculty members, along with eight Lassonde students enrolled in the Dev Degree program

A new partnership that reflects the future of experiential learning brings an innovative model of education to York University this fall.

York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering is partnering with Canadian commerce company Shopify, to bring a visionary education opportunity called Dev Degree to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for the first time.

The unique program embeds students directly into development teams at Shopify through a paid internship that culminates with a unique honours bachelor of computer science (BSc Hons.) degree. Shopify also pays the students’ tuition for the full four-year program.

Jean-Michel Lemieux, senior vice-president of Engineering at Shopify with Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University
Jean-Michel Lemieux, senior vice-president of engineering at Shopify, with Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University

York University announced the partnership on Sept. 24 in the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, where community members had an opportunity to learn about the innovative degree program from the University, Shopify team members and a second-year Dev Degree student.

“Shopify is one of Canada’s great success stories of innovative entrepreneurship combined with outstanding and visionary leadership, and we are honoured to be their first university partner in the GTA,” said Rhonda L. Lenton, president and vice-chancellor, York University. “The new partnership between York and Shopify reflects the future of education, which will be characterized by greater collaboration across all sectors. Together with a generous financial contribution, our students will have access to skilled Shopify mentors, providing them with rich experiential education opportunities as part of their academic studies.”

Beginning this fall, the first cohort includes eight York Lassonde Computer Science students who will split their time equally between Shopify’s downtown offices and their coursework at Lassonde. The students will work alongside industry mentors and gain critical skills to solve real problems with modern technology.

“As the classroom becomes much more porous and flexible, we are committed to ensuring that the student learning experience continues to evolve with these changes through the advancement of technology-enhanced learning and experiential education opportunities,” said Lenton. “This program dissolves the gap between classroom studies and on-the-job knowledge by equipping students with transferable skills that allow them to evolve.”

Shopify team members with York University administration and faculty members, along with eight Lassonde students enrolled in the Dev Degree program
Above: Pictured from the far right are Lassonde Interim Dean Richard Hornsey, Andrea Ross, senior lead of computing education programs (Shopify), York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, Jean-Michel Lemieux (Shopify) and Alison Evans-Adnani (BSc ’95), program lead, Toronto (Shopify). Pictured with them are eight Lassonde students enrolled in the Dev Degree program.

The initiative is part of the Industry Partnership Stream within the Computer Science BSc Honours program at the Lassonde School of Engineering, which offers an innovative integration of program learning outcomes and experiential education. Students admitted to the stream will complete the practicum credits in addition to all existing degree requirements for the Computer Science program.

York University is the second institution to offer a Dev Degree program in Canada.

“We’re excited to announce the expansion of our Dev Degree program to York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering,” said Jean-Michel Lemieux, senior vice-president of engineering at Shopify. “This is a program I always wished I could have had.”

Dev Degree, said Lemieux, layers personal development and accelerated software skills, industry mentorship and real-world practice on top of an accredited degree. It’s experiential education in real time, which benefits not only students but the companies mentoring the students, and enables them to ask and answer “What real problems are we solving?”

“We can’t wait to see what unique problems our first York University class will solve,” he said.

Lemieux highlighted that one of the program’s goals is gender balance, and currently women account for 51 per cent of Dev Degree students, in comparison to the 39 per cent of women university graduates with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree.

“The future of education, especially in the technology sector, will include increasingly fluid interactions between workplaces and universities, so it is essential for us to explore new learning opportunities and continually evolve,” said Richard Hornsey, interim dean and professor, Lassonde School of Engineering. “Our partnership with Shopify is also an exceptional new opportunity for students to apply their newly acquired university skills in the workplace and at the same time bring their industrial experience into the classroom.”

Faculty at Lassonde will oversee each student’s rigorous degree coursework. Upon completion of their degree, the students will have more than 4,500 hours of paid work experience when they graduate, more than double the hours of a traditional co-op, and will have the benefit of mentoring by industry-leading experts at Shopify.

Lulu Sheng, a second-year Dev Degree student, spoke about her experience and shared advice with the incoming Lassonde cohort.

“Stay open-minded and stay open to opportunities in all facets of your life,” she said.