York faculty members recognized with Awards of Excellence

York University is a diverse community of change leaders working to create a better future through learning and research. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the University is that its staff, students and faculty are passionate about serving their communities and building a more innovative, inclusive and sustainable world.

That passion has been evident during the pandemic, as faculty stepped up in the fight against COVID-19. In recognition of this service, five York University faculty members received the Minister of Colleges and Universities’ Awards of Excellence for their commitment to guiding the province of Ontario through the pandemic. 

“The Awards of Excellence celebrate educators who have responded to the pandemic with ingenuity, tenacity and compassion,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor. “From developing innovative online learning techniques to creating a United Nations COVID-19 recovery roadmap, these York teaching and research leaders are going above and beyond to support the University community, while finding creative solutions to the challenges associated with pandemic recovery and rebuilding locally and in the world.”

Recipients of this award have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the people of Ontario, taking action to support those in need and working to bring an end to the pandemic while kickstarting an equitable recovery.

Award recipients 

Henriette Gezundhajt, a course director and lecturer in the Department of French Studies, demonstrates a spirit of collaboration and an exemplary concern for professional life in French within Ontario. As the pandemic hit the province, Gezundhajt leveraged her expertise in using York University’s online learning platform, Moodle, to offer workshops and informal consultations to Francophone colleagues, helping to ensure a smooth transition to distance education. Not only did Gezundhajt create more than 35 video tutorials to assist in this transition, but she also translated York University’s Going Remote website, which is designed to facilitate the transition to distance and online learning. Her contributions have been essential for Francophone colleagues, including those teaching at the Glendon Campus, and to the Francophone students served by York University.

York University microbiologist and “germ expert” Dasantila Golemi-Kotra is a leading researcher on viral and bacterial infections and an associate professor of biology in the Faculty of Science. Given the increase in competing and sometimes inaccurate health information, scientists play a vital role in debunking misinformation with factual and evidence-based guidance. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Golemi-Kotra has expertly guided Canadians looking to get through the pandemic safely, offering advice on how to effectively clean and sanitize homes and workplaces, correctly use personal protective equipment, and take necessary safety precautions when out in the community.

Steven Hoffman is the Dahdaleh Distinguished Chair in Global Governance and Legal Epidemiology, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Global Governance of Antimicrobial Resistance and the scientific director of the Institute of Population and Public Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Hoffman has been appointed by the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General to lead the development of a United Nations Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery. The UN Roadmap engages researchers, implementers, funders and citizens around the world in identifying key areas of focus for research and study to rebuild after the pandemic. Central to this research is fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and informing national and international strategies for the recovery period with rigorous evidence.

Murat Kristal is the director of the Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence program at York University’s Schulich School of Business. Along with colleagues at Schulich’s Centre of Excellence – Big Data and Analytics Leadership, Kristal has developed an analytics dashboard that gives daily insights into the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using publicly available data from the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering GIS platform and GitHub, Schulich’s COVID-19 Dynamics dashboard can predict, with 90 per cent accuracy, the number of new COVID-19 cases over the next five days in each country around the world. These predictive numbers support policymakers, healthcare administrators and public health officials as they make evidence-based, informed decisions to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.

Jianhong Wu is the director of the Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation and a professor of mathematics and statistics in the Faculty of Science and Canada Research Chair in in Industrial and Applied Mathematics. He is a trailblazer in several renowned national interdisciplinary projects, including the federally funded national infection dynamics modelling project and the geosimulation of disease spread. Building off his pivotal role during the 2003 SARS outbreak, Wu is leading the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences – a national COVID-19 math modelling team – as it advises public health officials assessing the transmission risk of COVID-19 and the trajectory of potential future outbreaks. Wu was previously recognized with the 2019 CAIMS-Fields Industrial Mathematics Prize in recognition of his contributions to research with public health professionals that leveraged his expertise in infectious disease preparedness and mitigation strategies.

“Congratulations to each of York’s recipients of the Minister of Colleges and Universities’ Awards of Excellence for their leadership, hard work, and essential contributions to stop the spread of COVID-19 and build toward a just recovery,” said Lenton.

The challenges facing humanity now, and those still on the horizon, are growing ever more complex. York University will continue to play a leading role in the global fight against COVID-19 through the ground-breaking contributions being made by its faculty, researchers, and students.

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