At Glendon, innovation, open pedagogy and entrepreneurship are at the forefront of its vision to prepare students to acquire competencies for the future of work, to contribute to knowledge creation, and to have an impact on the York University community and the wider world.
Glendon’s new g21 inquiry-based program offers students the opportunity to help tackle the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through research and innovation. This unique collaborative program, run under the aegis of Glendon’s Research and Innovation Office, will offer students three credits – and the associated lab/class time and space – to design and execute their own relevant projects. Participants are chosen based on commitment, civic engagement and passion, rather than GPA.
The York University community is already hard at work on solutions to the sustainable development goals including, good health and well-being, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals. The program galvanizes interest in pursuing solutions to the goals by providing the dedicated time and resources to do so.
Students participating in the program will have access to mentorship and the appropriate tools and facilities on campus: classrooms for brainstorming and making plans; conference rooms for meeting with external partners; a lab for creative pursuits using high-tech software; a workshop for hands-on projects; and 3D printers for prototyping. There are few constraints; they can establish partnerships with local or international groups or organizations and have the opportunity to pursue their passions.
“G21 builds on the Glendon top scholars program and gives Glendon the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to providing opportunities for its community members to cultivate their passion and take their initiatives from ideation to execution,” said Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, Glendon’s co-interim principal and associate principal of research and graduate studies.
The g21 program was also inspired by the Bilingual Open Educational Resources (OER) project. The project was funded by the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) to support Glendon’s future bilingual certificate in Civic and Social Stewardship. It allowed faculty and staff to garner best practices in engaging students in problem-solving related to the UN SDGs.
In fact, the OER project enabled faculty and staff to push the boundaries of student-centred learning by asking the students to take responsibility for creating three digital learning modules: one centred around intercultural competence, one about plurilingual communication and a third addressing academic and informational literacy. Approximately 60 students contributed to the project and the resulting educational modules are available online to the York community.
“The greatest part is that these module activities have been designed entirely by students, for students. Who better to identify the needs of students on exchange than those currently living the experience?” said Scheffel-Dunand, who is also the AIF project’s team lead.
One of the pedagogical approaches adopted by the project was to run Ideathons in two different locations, playing on the hackathon approach, but engaging liberal arts students from diverse linguistic and academic backgrounds. Liam Bekirsky, research associate for the project, led a team of Glendon exchange students in Paris, France who connected with their counterparts, a team comprised of bilingual Glendon students and French students on exchange led by Glendon Experiential Education Coordinators Laura Waddell and Agnès Lemesre-Valy, to work transnationally to design activities that would support students like them trying to integrate into an unfamiliar academic culture.
“Part of the challenge and value of the exercise was for students to articulate these challenges, tackling them head on, and thus reflecting on their learning,” said Scheffel-Dunand.
The students weren’t the only people to benefit from the exercise; the team overseeing the project employed open pedagogy throughout the design process, which involves a new understanding of the role of teacher and student. Glendon students were paired with students in the Lassonde School of Engineering in the prototyping workshops meant to transfer ideas from the Ideathon into online resources. Some of these projects are now included in the York University C4 capstone projects.
An equally potent example of impact is Glendon’s new student business incubator that is one of the resources and services offered by the G-EN-I-A-L initiative to enable students to gain entrepreneurship experience and kick start their entrepreneurial ideas through the Entrepreneurial Skills Passport Program, and in the language of their choice.
Created by Angelo Dossou-Yovo, an associate professor in the Department of International Studies who teaches management and entrepreneurship courses, G-EN-I-A-L has its origin in the new Glendon/EMLyon dual degree undergraduate program in International Studies and Business Administration. A key component of this program is the bilingual Entrepreneurial Skills Passport, which allows students to develop their own e-commerce business. Some of the program’s students have turned their e-commerce projects into thriving businesses, such as Social Fibre, a social enterprise that produces and sells wool slippers and contributes to helping end chronic homelessness by employing vulnerable youth.
Now open to all students at Glendon, the G-EN-I-A-L initiative is a stimulating and innovative space for entrepreneurship by francophone, Francophile and bilingual liberal arts and science students. Students reap numerous benefits from their association with the business incubator: a 15-week bilingual entrepreneurship program; workshops and conferences; mentoring and coaching; resources and practical tools for starting a business; and spaces and equipment dedicated to the creation of products or services.
“G-EN-I-A-L is designed to be flexible to cater to students’ diverse needs and ideas,” Dossou-Yovo said, “and the incubator will enable students to experiment entrepreneurship and start their entrepreneurial ideas in the best conditions, and in the language of their choice.”
By Elaine Smith, with files from Agnes Lemesre-Valy