Two York professors receive provincial award of excellence

Image announcing Awards

York University Professors Dawn Bazely and Don Dippo are among 30 recipients of the Minister of Colleges and Universities’ Awards of Excellence.

The awards, which were launched in 2020, recognize the leading work of Ontario’s faculty and staff during the pandemic. More than 675 nominations were received.

Dawn Bazely

Dawn Bazely
Dawn Bazely

Bazely is a professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science and the former director of the Institute for Research in Innovation in Sustainability at York University. In 2015, Bazely was accorded the title of University Professor by York in recognition of her leadership in research, teaching and service to the institution.

A field biologist and accomplished science communicator, she is the recipient of the Minister’s Award of Excellence in the Future Proofing category, which recognizes faculty and staff who are leading the way in adapting programming that supports new ways of learning for Ontario students.

Her nomination for the Minister’s Award of Excellence recognizes her work in “future proofing” students enrolled in her Applied Plant Ecology course and students working in her research lab. Her future-proofing activities began in January 2020. Drawing on her expertise in science communication, policy and citizen science, she incorporated media coverage of the emerging threat of the SARS-CoV2 virus and other zoonotic diseases into her teaching in relation to biodiversity loss. In February 2020, she began preparing all students to end their term through online synchronous classes and meetings. Recognizing the dilemma of international students in the face of a pandemic and the impending travel restrictions, Bazely also worked to support them to either return to their home countries or seek accommodation on York’s Keele Campus.

Her tremendous foresight into the impending pandemic restrictions propelled Bazley to also act as to future proof students enrolled in the Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology (OUPFB) involving 17 partner institutions. Through her role as the York University representative on the OUPFB (which encompassed 30 shared courses that were eventually cancelled due to the pandemic), Bazely designed an online field course, Biodiversity & Watershed Management, to meet the summer field course requirement for 40 students so they could complete their degrees. The course was one of only two courses to run early in the pandemic, with no other Canadian University launching a virtual field course.  

In 2021, Bazely continued her activities and actively mentored international professors on transitioning laboratories online. She also expanded the virtual field course to five Ontario universities, to ensure that students could meet their field course requirements virtually and inexpensively. Ethics-approved surveys on Bazely’s field courses found that much of the pandemic student learning mirrored the in-person field course experience.

Don Dippo

Don Dippo

Dippo is a professor in the Faculty of Education and a former elementary school teacher. In 2011, Dippo received the title of University Professor by York in recognition of his leadership in teaching, learning and the student experience.

Dippo is the recipient of the Minister’s Award of Excellence in the Equality of Opportunity category, which recognizes faculty and staff who have excelled at opening post-secondary education to marginalized and underrepresented groups. His nomination for the Minister’s Award of Excellence recognizes Dippo’s instrumental and visionary roles in developing programs with a focus on eliminating systemic barriers to university access.

Dippo spearheaded the Advanced Credit Experience, a partnership between the two Toronto School Boards, the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) and the Faculty of Education. The partnership aims to enhance access to university to students from local high schools in the Jane and Finch community in Toronto. During Grade 12, students take a university course at York, upon successful completion of the program they receive a university credit that can be applied at any university. Students participate in on-campus cooperative placements to build academic and life skills. Based on their grades, they automatically receive a scholarship to York University. Dippo has played a key role in this program both as the Faculty of Education champion and as an ambassador to the program with YUFA.

His unwavering focus on accessibility is also evident through his work with Success Beyond Limits, an organization with a focus on reducing the impact of external factors that negatively affect the educational success of youth in the Jane and Finch community. Success Beyond Limits takes the form of a summer program and is sponsored by the Faculty of Education and housed at York University.

The award also recognizes Dippo’s instrumental role as one of the co-founders and the current director of the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees program, a project that aims to make educational programs available where refugees need them. Under his direction, students in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya participating in the program are awarded degrees from York through courses delivered onsite and through camp-based university education. One of the cornerstones for this program has been the pursuit of gender equity and inclusivity by taking all necessary measures to ensure the participation in all of the academic programs by women, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and students with disabilities.

Bazely, Dippo and the 28 other award recipients will be featured on the social media channels of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities over a two-week period starting the end of January and continuing into February. The 30 recipients were announced by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on Jan. 24.