Dean’s letter to the community: Transformative change through hands-on learning

Alice Hovorka
Alice Hovorka

Greetings from the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC) at York University.

This year has been one of change and transformation. We launched our new Faculty with much excitement and promise, while at the same time grappling with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am enormously grateful to our EUC students, staff and faculty for pulling together during our inaugural year to advance our mission of mobilizing knowledge for a just and sustainable world.

Alice Hovorka
Alice Hovorka

This month’s Innovatus issue of YFile highlights and celebrates EUC’s signature pedagogy: experiential education.

Our Faculty is committed to making teaching and learning accessible and meaningful. We want students to learn by doing so that they can see “real world” application of scholarly ideas, innovate new ideas from first-hand experience and gain skills ready for the job market.

We are making this happen by collaborating with community partners for case study projects, offering interdisciplinary field-based courses and providing work placement opportunities that reach across York campuses, throughout the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

In this issue, you will learn about some of the unique and virtual ways our Faculty has incorporated e-learning with hands-on experience over this past year.

And as we look forward to the warmer weather, I am excited to share with you what we will be doing this spring and summer.

First, EUC is offering field-based semesters at home in Canada and abroad in Costa Rica. Students can enroll in courses that bring them to Glendon Campus to learn about urban habitats and restoration ecology (ENVS3230) or to Keele Campus to enhance food access by cultivating our Maloca Community Garden (ENVS3301). We are also offering (should pandemic protocols allow) a two-week geography field course on the Bruce Peninsula where students will explore the biophysical and sociocultural landscapes of the area (GEOG4520). For students wishing to go further afield, EUC is offering two remotely delivered courses from our Las Nubes EcoCampus in Costa Rica. This global classroom will tour students through the extensive biodiversity (ENVS4810A), and local art, culture, and foodscapes (ENVS4800B) of south-central Costa Rica.

Second, EUC has launched the Dean’s Changemaker Placements to offer students paid employment through our Faculty’s experiential education spaces. Students will be hired in our living labs, which include Maloca Community Garden and Las Nubes EcoCampus, as well as our EcoArts spaces such as Crossroads and ZigZag Galleries, our Ecological Footprint Initiative and WasteWiki. These placements offer students an opportunity to be actively involved in teaching and research activities that link them to our community partners; they also offer a training ground through which to develop their skills and career paths.

York students want to make positive change to make the world a better place – EUC aims at empowering students as champions of sustainability and justice through experiential education.

I invite you to continue reading this edition to learn more about the unique and virtual hands-on experiences at EUC during this past year. Again, many thanks to all EUC instructors, our staff and the entire community for such great work in our inaugural year… one that proved more challenging than anyone expected.


Alice J. Hovorka
Dean and Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change