CRAM panel explores renegade research and partnering with communities for change

On April 5, inquiring minds from across the Greater Toronto Area are invited to a special evening of learning and discovery at CRAM the first free learning festival of its kind in Canada. From 5 to 11 p.m., Toronto’s four universities will open their doors to the public to share some truly fascinating and novel research experiences that would not normally be available to the public. York University is taking this festival in a totally innovative direction with a slew of research events, a presidential panel, food trucks and more.

This article is part of a series that profiles events taking place at York University’s Keele Campus.

Rhonda L. Lenton

On Friday, April 5 from 8 to 8:45 p.m. in Vari Hall A, York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton will moderate the panel “Renegade Research: Partnering with Communities for Change.”

Social justice, access and connectedness epitomize not only the change York University wants to nurture in its communities, but also the collaborative path to achieve this vision. In this special event created for CRAM, York’s president will lead a discussion with University faculty about their experiences in two programs built in collaboration with community activists, and how these programs are changing the world through powerful visual and auditory experiences.

Joining Lenton in this panel discussion are Karen Burke, associate professor in the Department of Music in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies; Richard Marsella, executive director of the Regent Park School of Music; Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Jenny Foster; and Toronto Community Benefits Network’s Neighbourhood & Environmental Improvement Coordinator Shannon Holness.

The two projects profiled in this panel are the Humans of Connections Project, which seeks to reconcile the fracture on community experience when more than 100 households were displaced, and the Regent Park School of Music, an innovative music program that’s changing the lives of students and parents. As part of the event, the musicians of Regent Park will give a performance.

More about the panelists

Rhonda L. Lenton is York University’s eighth president and vice-chancellor. A sociologist by training, her areas of teaching and research expertise include gender, family conflict, sexual harassment, research methods and more recently, higher education. A dedicated proponent of community engagement and innovative partnerships, Lenton plays an instrumental role in expanding York’s institutional collaborations with partners both locally and globally.

Karen Burke is an associate professor in the Department of Music. In 1988, Burke co-founded and remains the artistic director of the Juno award-winning Toronto Mass Choir. She is a guest speaker, conductor, songwriter and clinician offering gospel music workshops in Canada and overseas. She and her husband, Oswald, own the gospel music company Burke Music Inc.

Richard Marsella is the executive director of the Regent Park School of Music. Marsella is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, focusing on musical playgrounds. One of his activities in community building through creative music education is his role as the director of the annual Parade of Noises in Peel Region, leading over 700 young students in a unique musical experience.

Jenny Foster is a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies and coordinator of York’s Planning Program. She has experience teaching open-access graduate courses in the community and has worked on various community-based social justice and planning projects. She has been on the Board of Directors of the North York association Promoting Education and Community Health (PEACH) since 2013.

Shannon Holness is an urban planner who is currently the Neighbourhood and Environmental Improvements Coordinator for Toronto Community Benefits Network. She works towards a meaningful approach to planning communities by building partnerships with diverse stakeholders with a goal of achieving improved social equity.

This panel is part of a series of free events taking place at York University’s Keele Campus during CRAM. Organizers request that for planning purposes, those interested in attending this panel should submit their registration through the CRAM website at