Three York graduate students earn Governor General Gold Medals  

Three York graduates recipients of Governor General’s gold medals

Three York University graduates received this year’s Governor General Gold Medals, which recognize the outstanding scholastic achievements of graduate students in Canada. The 2022 recipients are Signy Lynch, Ilana Shiff and Allison Taylor

“We are incredibly proud of our talented York graduate students who have won the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medals this year. They join a rare and prestigious group of exceptional Canadian scholars who have gone on to high impact leadership in a variety of careers,” says Rhonda L. Lenton, York University president and vice-chancellor. “The two PhD recipients and one doctoral candidate are now recognized nation-wide for achieving the top levels of their graduate studies at York. Their academic journeys are just getting launched, and we can’t wait to see what they have planned for their future contributions.”    

Signy Lynch 

Signy Lynch

Lynch earned a PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University under the supervision of Associate Professor Laura Levin. Her areas of research specialization include contemporary theatre in Canada, audience research, and theatre criticism. Lynch’s dissertation, “Intercultural relations: direct audience address in contemporary theatre in Canada,” examines how theatremakers construct performer-audience relationships to facilitate ethical exchange, intercultural understanding, and to affect social change. Her work on theatre criticism, which includes developing programs for the Toronto Fringe, challenges conventional approaches to imagine critical and creative practices that can reflect digital and intercultural present and futures. Her work in audience research has involved exploring new methodological approaches that seek to better understand difference in audience response, including the experiences of minoritized spectators. She has presented her work at national and international conferences, and has been published in a variety of journals and edited collections.  

“I am honoured to have been put forward for and chosen to receive this medal. I am grateful for the encouragement of my many mentors and of my colleagues, fellow PhD students whose support and friendship were essential to me throughout my PhD journey. I was drawn to York by my program’s (and the broader School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design’s) interdisciplinary approach, which has been an asset to my research and to my development as a scholar and a human being,” said Lynch. 

Lynch is the incoming co-director of the Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research at Queen’s University and will soon begin a postdoctoral research fellowship contract at the University of Toronto Mississauga. 

Ilana Shiff 

Ilana Shiff

Shiff earned a master’s degree from the Clinical Developmental Psychology program at York University. Her research focused on the interactions between preschool children and their caregivers during child vaccinations. Specifically, she examined child and caregiver factors associated with patterns of increased distress during vaccination. This research has important implications for developing guidance for families and healthcare providers to support young children during painful procedures. 

“It is an incredible honour to receive the Governor General Gold Medal for the work I completed during my master’s degree. This award would not be possible without the unwavering support and mentorship I received from my supervisor, Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell,” said Shiff. 

Shiff chose to pursue her graduate studies at York University because of its renowned and well-established Psychology Department, and specifically to work under the supervision of Riddell in the Opportunities to Understand Childhood Hurt (OUCH) Laboratory. Shiff notes she is thrilled by the research, academic and clinical opportunities afforded to her through her studies at the University. 

Shiff is currently a PhD student in the OUCH Laboratory at York University. Her doctoral research will focus on maternal-infant interactions in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

Allison Taylor 

Allison Taylor

Taylor earned her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)-funded PhD in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies at York University. Her dissertation, titled “Fattening Queer Femininities: The Pitfalls, Politics, and Promises of Queer Fat Femme Embodiment,” explored queer fat femme identities, embodiments and negotiations of oppressions. During her PhD she published in the areas of fat studies, queer theory, and critical femininities. Her work can be found in: the Journal of Lesbian Studies; Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society; Psychology & Sexuality; and The Routledge International Handbook of Fat Studies.   

“I am honoured and thrilled to receive this award. I hope that this award, in recognizing my research and the research of my colleagues, brings attention to the intense marginalization fat people experience, especially racialized, queer, trans, disabled and other multiply marginalized fat people, and demonstrates the importance of and critical need for fat studies scholarship,” said Taylor.  

Taylor came to York University to work with Allyson Mitchell, graduate program director and associate professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. As her supervisor, Mitchell provided Taylor with support, opportunities for growth, and mentorship. Taylor also worked with Faculty of Education Associate Professor Chloë Brushwood Rose and Toronto Metropolitan University Professor May Friedman. Taylor notes her journey to completing her PhD is thanks to the support she received from both mentors, as well as from the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Graduate Program Administrator Yemi Adebisi, and her community of fellow graduate students and colleagues. 

Taylor is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral Fellow working under the supervision of Academic Director Carla Rice at Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice.  

About the awards  

For nearly 150 years, the Governor General’s Academic Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. They are awarded to the student graduating with the highest average from a high school, as well as from approved college or university programs. Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell, Robert Bourassa, Robert Stanfield and Gabrielle Roy are just some of the more than 50,000 people who have received the Governor General’s Academic Medal as the start of a life of accomplishment. 

Today, the Governor General’s Academic Medals are awarded at four distinct levels: Bronze at the secondary school level; Collegiate Bronze at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver at the undergraduate level; and Gold at the graduate level. Medals are presented on behalf of the Governor General by participating educational institutions, along with personalized certificates signed by the Governor General. There is no monetary award associated with the medal.