York University staff member elected to Fairtrade Canada board

Do Good Things boardroom

Tom Watt, director of Food Services at York University, will join the Board of Governors for Fairtrade Canada, the Canadian arm of Fairtrade International, which is responsible for supporting, promoting and advocating for fair terms of trade for farmers and workers disadvantaged by global trade structures.

York’s representation on the Fairtrade Canada board marks the latest achievement in the University’s progress to advance fair trade practices across its campuses. In May, the University announced its silver fair trade campus designation – a commemoration of years of dedicated collaboration between students, faculty and staff to provide more sustainable options across York’s campuses. A year prior, York U hosted Congress 2023, which was recognized as the biggest fair trade event in Canadian history.

Considering recent successes, York is well poised to have a voice on the Fairtrade Canada board, to share insights and lessons learned from advancing fair trade initiatives at the third largest university in Canada.

“I believe a major reason for the confidence in my experience was the many successful fair trade initiatives we’ve had here at York over the past few years,” says Watt. “I’m excited to see how my experience at York will enhance Fairtrade Canada’s activities and how my experience on the board will benefit what we do at York.”

Representation on the Fairtrade Canada board is expected to generate benefits for both parties. The board is responsible for governance and oversight of fair trade activities in Canada, including establishing the organization’s mission, vision and strategy, ensuring legal compliance and monitoring performance. The board also develops policies that align with fair trade principles, engages in advocacy through relationship building, identifies and mitigates risks, upholds ethical standards, and promotes sustainability and social justice.

York University’s history of advocacy and adherence to principles of sustainability and social justice will now be added to the organization’s board, which includes leaders from fair-trade certified food and textile companies. The collaboration is expected to also support York in advancing its own fair trade practices.

In addition to this new role on Fairtrade Canada’s board, Watt also serves as co-chair of York’s Fairtrade Steering Committee and on the Sustainability Taskforce.

“This is an excellent example of York staff championing our values with community partners to maximize the benefit for all,” says Kim McLean, assistant vice-president of Ancillary Services at York U. “We are proud to offer so many fair-trade certified products through Food Services and the YU Bookstore, and look forward to continuing to contribute to the advancement of Fairtrade Canada’s mission.”

Undergraduate students receive Governor General’s Silver Medals

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Three undergraduate students at York University have been awarded the Governor General’s Silver Medal, which recognizes the outstanding scholastic achievements of undergraduate students in Canada.

The Governor General’s Academic Medals are considered the highest honour that can be earned by exemplary Canadian scholars throughout every level of academia. This year’s recipients are:

Vo Dinh Huy Nguyen

Vo Dinh Huy Nguyen

Nguyen is graduating from the Bachelor of Business Administration program at York University’s Schulich School of Business, specializing in accounting, with the highest grade point average among his cohort.

His time at the University has been distinguished by winning several University and national business competitions and being actively involved within the Schulich community. He served as executive for a wide range of clubs – notably as president of the Schulich Accounting Society – and as a mentor for hundreds of lower-year students.

He credits his academic success and the Governor General’s Silver Medal, in part, to his Vietnamese parents for their support across a notable geographical distance. He also welcomes the award as a testament to the sometimes challenging journey of an international student living alone in Canada.

“Balancing school, work, and extracurricular activities while navigating life independently has often been overwhelming and, at times, daunting. However, this award validates that every effort and sacrifice has been worth it. It serves as a powerful reminder that, together with the right mindset, perseverance, commitment and gratitude can lead to remarkable achievements,” Nguyen says. “It is my immense honour to be recognized as part of the legacy of excellence by the governor general of Canada.”

Nguyen is currently enrolled in the Master of Accounting program at Schulich, with the goal of obtaining his chartered professional accountant designation, and is starting a full-time job at Deloitte Toronto in September.  

Parker Grant

Parker Grant
Parker Grant

Grant is graduating from the Faculty of Health with a bachelor of science (specialized honours) in psychology.

During her time at York U, she says she fell in love with conducting research – notably, examining inequities in health and well-being, with a particular focus on substance misuse. She credits professors Kerry Kawakami, Heather Prime and Jeffrey Wardell for the mentorship that helped kindle that passion.

“I’m incredibly proud to be receiving the Governor General’s Silver Medal,” she says. “This award represents all of the hard work and late nights I’ve dedicated to my degree and serves as an inspiration to continue pursuing my studies.”

Grant will next pursue her research interests at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto, where her master’s thesis will examine sex and gender differences in response to an extended period of cannabis abstinence in individuals with major depressive disorder and cannabis use disorder. She will also continue research and advocacy work with the Queer & Trans Health Collective as a research assistant for the National 2S/LGBTQIA+ Substance Use Study.

Michele Bars

Michele Bars
Michele Bars

Bars is graduating from Glendon College with a specialized bachelor’s degree in French Studies, which allowed her to pursue an interest in a wide range of topics relating to French literature, language and linguistics, as well as culture and history in French-speaking countries.

“Receiving the Governor General’s Silver Medal is an honour and is very special to me,” she says. “It not only reflects my hard work and progress in my chosen field of study but also represents my overall student experience at Glendon and the wonderful professors from whom I learned so much over the years.”

Reeta Roy urges Faculty of Education graduands to ‘make a difference in the lives of learners’

Reeta Roy

Reeta Roy, president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation – an international non-governmental organization focused on empowering young Africans with education – offered several calls-to-action to Faculty of Education graduands to help shape the future of education.

“You have an entire lifetime of impact ahead of you,” Roy promised graduands during their June 17 convocation, as she began her address to them. “Whether you stand in front of the classroom or you get to decide what is taught in the classroom, whether you focus on expanding access to education or you set standards of education, you will make a difference in the lives of learners.”

An advocate for the transformational power of education through her work at the Mastercard Foundation, Roy made several requests of graduands as they move ahead in their careers.

She urged them to lean into one of the most important qualities teachers can possess. “As educators, one of the most important things you do – and you will do – is to recognize promise and talent in others, even before they may perceive it in themselves,” she said. “You have the opportunity to truly see the whole person – not the boundaries and not the limitations around them.”

That, she explained, can lead to something educators are uniquely positioned to do. “More than just see them, you will enable their passions, develop their confidence and help them believe in themselves so they can walk their own journeys and create their own opportunities,” said Roy.

Kathleen Taylor, Reeta Roy, Rhonda Lenton copy
Pictured, from left to right: Chancellor Kathleen Taylor, Reeta Roy, President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton.

She also called upon graduands to transform the reality of who deserves an education, as she noted there are many who struggle to access learning due to poverty, conflict, distance, disability, lack of teachers, gender and more.

Roy noted she has seen – and worked to change – this directly, through her work with the Mastercard Foundation, which advances the development of educational opportunities for African youth and their families, and looks to empower 30 million young Africans by 2030 with the creation of educational and economic opportunities.

Roy delivered her final call to action in the form of an anecdote. She recounted a trip to Moosonee, a small town in northern Ontario sometimes referred to as “the gateway to the Arctic.” She was doing work there with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, training Indigenous young people to become health professionals who would help the larger medical system embody Indigenous knowledge and world views about what is healthy and what is wellness.

During her visit, she encountered – in person, for the first time – an ice road.

She learned that during winters, communities transform rivers, lakes and other bodies of water into ice that’s strong enough to sustain trucks and cars transporting food, fuel and necessities to otherwise isolated communities. “I was just stunned by the sophistication and the technical know-how to create these roads,” Roy said. “The ice road reflected Indigenous technology based on traditional knowledge of living with the natural environment.”

At the same time, she marvelled at the cutting-edge knowledge being integrated into the unique type of infrastructure. As climate change threatens those ice roads, making it hard to predict where dangerous cracks might form, she learned that university researchers are applying emerging technologies – like sensors and artificial intelligence – to create better predictive models that can identity where cracks and ridges may form.

The ice road – its past, present and future – reminded Roy of education. “The ice road isn’t just a bridge across waters,” she said. “It’s a bridge connecting communities and cultures. It’s a bridge connecting traditional knowledge with new forms of knowledge, connecting the past and the present.”

In that realization, she found the lesson she wanted to impart on the Faculty of Education graduands she was addressing. “You can be that bridge,” she urged. “Be that bridge.”

President congratulates Spring Convocation’s Class of 2024

convocation

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The following is a message from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton to the Class of 2024:

To the exceptional Class of 2024, my warmest congratulations! It is a privilege and a pleasure to join you in commemorating this major milestone in your life.

With all that is going on in the world, this group of graduating students has demonstrated not only perseverance but resilience.

We are living at a time of great change and transformation – brought on by a convergence of factors which include the pandemic, the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, the organization of work, the labour market and sociodemographic changes.

All of these forces are working together, contributing in some cases to geopolitical conflicts and war, raising important ethical questions in society and a whole host of other wicked problems such as the sustainability of the planet we call home.

Higher education, as a result, is being profoundly impacted by the urgent need for talent, research and innovation, collaboration and co-operation.

The knowledge and skills you have acquired are just the beginning. The true measure of your education will be evident in how you use it to bridge divides, cultivate empathy and understanding, and contribute to a better world.

Now, more than ever, we need changemakers who recognize the humanity in others, skilled at finding creative compromises and deeply committed to the well-being of all people and the planet.

Changemakers are all around us – for example, in the honorary degree recipients and the award winners we were pleased to recognize.

Each of our Faculties are also exemplary models. For example, in the Faculty of Science, Professor Sapna Sharma, who is celebrated as one of Canada’s top 10 water scientists, is leading the UNITAR Global Water Academy. The aim of the academy is to tackle global water sustainability – a pressing issue that affects the population worldwide.

In the Faculty of Education, the Jean Augustine Chair held by Carl James continues to attract donations, due in no small part to individuals like doctors Augustine and James, who have dedicated their lives to access, equity, and inclusivity through community engagement and collaborative action, supporting initiatives that ensure the success of current and future Black scholars and students.

With interdisciplinary collaboration as our forte, many of our Faculties are also contributing to the $318-million Connected Minds research initiative, the largest York-led research project. Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, in partnership with Queen’s University and others, aims to understand and mitigate the risks of emerging technologies, particularly for vulnerable populations.

And earlier this month, York was named in the world’s top 35 among 2,000+ participating universities for its impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by the prestigious Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. These examples are powerful reminders of the impact that we can make as individuals as well as collectively.

You join a network of more than 375,000 York alumni, making a meaningful difference across diverse spheres of life. I know that some of you are continuing on at York in graduate programs, but whatever your future plans, I hope you stay in touch with us, and with the friends and acquaintances you have made along the way.

Let us take a moment to acknowledge the many individuals who have supported you throughout your higher education journey. This includes your professors, teaching assistants, administrative staff, classmates, family, partners, and friends who have encouraged and assisted you in reaching this significant milestone.

Thank you for choosing York. Congratulations! We look forward to seeing what you will do next!

Bonne chance! Miigwetch!

Le président félicite la promotion de la collation des grades du printemps 2024

convocation

J’adresse mes plus vives félicitations à l’exceptionnelle promotion de 2024! C’est un grand privilège pour moi de célébrer avec vous cette étape importante de votre vie.

Étant donné la situation mondiale actuelle, ce groupe de diplômés a fait preuve non seulement de persévérance, mais aussi de résilience.

Nous vivons une époque de transformations et de grands changements déclenchés par une combinaison de facteurs comme la pandémie, l’essor de l’IA et de l’automatisation, l’organisation du travail, le marché de l’emploi et les tendances sociodémographiques.

Toutes ces forces conjuguées entraînent dans certains cas des conflits géopolitiques et des guerres et soulèvent d’importantes questions éthiques dans la société ainsi que de nombreux autres problèmes épineux, dont la durabilité de la planète Terre.

L’enseignement supérieur est donc profondément marqué par le besoin pressant de talents, de recherche et d’innovation, de collaboration et de coopération.

Les connaissances et les compétences que vous avez acquises ne sont qu’un début. La vraie portée de votre éducation sera évidente dans l’usage que vous en ferez pour combler les fossés, cultiver l’empathie et la compréhension et contribuer ainsi à un monde meilleur.

Aujourd’hui plus que jamais, nous avons besoin d’artisans et artisanes du changement qui reconnaissent l’humanité des autres, habiles à trouver des compromis créatifs et qui se mobilisent en vue du bien-être de tous les peuples et de la planète.

On retrouve de telles personnes un peu partout dans notre entourage, surtout parmi les récipiendaires de diplômes honorifiques et les lauréats des prix que nous avons le plaisir de décerner.

Chacune de nos facultés constitue aussi un modèle à suivre. Prenons l’exemple de la Faculté des sciences : la professeure Sapna Sharma a été reconnue comme l’une des dix meilleures scientifiques canadiennes dans le domaine de l’eau. Elle dirige aujourd’hui l’Académie mondiale de l’eau de l’UNITAR, dont l’objectif est de s’attaquer au problème de la durabilité de l’eau, un enjeu qui touche les populations du monde entier.

À la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation, la Chaire Jean Augustine, dont Carl James est actuellement titulaire, continue d’attirer des dons grâce à Mme Augustine et M. James qui ont consacré leur vie à l’accès, à l’équité et à l’inclusion au moyen de l’engagement communautaire et de l’action collaborative ainsi que d’initiatives assurant la réussite des universitaires et étudiant·e·s noir·e·s actuel·le·s et futur·e·s.

La collaboration interdisciplinaire étant notre point fort, plusieurs facultés contribuent également à l’initiative de recherche Connected Minds/Esprits branchés dont la valeur s’élève à 318 M$ et qui est le plus grand projet de recherche dirigé par York. Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, de concert avec l’Université Queen’s et d’autres partenaires, a pour mandat de comprendre et d’atténuer les risques des technologies émergentes, notamment pour les populations vulnérables.

Au début du mois, le prestigieux palmarès Impact de Times Higher Education a classé York parmi les 35 meilleures universités au monde — sur plus de 2 000 — pour son impact sur les ODD. Ces exemples illustrent bien l’incidence que nous pouvons avoir individuellement et collectivement.

Vous rejoignez un réseau de plus de 375 000 diplômé·e·s de York qui suscitent le changement dans divers domaines. Je sais que certains et certaines d’entre vous poursuivrez vos études à York. Quels que soient vos projets d’avenir, j’espère que vous resterez en contact avec nous ainsi qu’avec les amis et les connaissances que vous vous êtes faits en cours de route.

Prenons un moment pour remercier les nombreuses personnes qui vous ont appuyés tout au long de votre parcours dans l’enseignement supérieur. C’est grâce aux encouragements de vos professeur·e·s, chargé·e·s de cours, membres du personnel administratif, camarades de classe, familles, partenaires et amis que vous avez pu atteindre ce cap important.

Merci d’avoir choisi York. Félicitations! Nous avons hâte de voir ce que l’avenir vous réserve!

Bonne chance! Miigwetch!

Indigenous students share reflections on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Banner National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day are times of celebration and reflection. The month signifies the opportunity to welcome learning as well as come together to build connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Each year on June 21, the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are celebrated. In the spirit of reflection, two Indigenous students who are a part of the York University community have shared what Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day means to them.

Leo Manning

Manning is a third-year psychology student who is Plains Cree on his father’s side, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, and English, Irish and Scottish on his mother’s side. Manning is also the student success mentor at the Centre for Indigenous Student Services.

Leo Manning
Leo Manning

National Indigenous Peoples Day can be a day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples and their culture; however, the significance to me is more about acknowledging the work that still needs to be done so that healing can take place

For example, it is important to reflect on measurable actions and transparency in progress being made. Notably, initiatives like the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action must be followed through with, including inquiries into Missing, Murdered Women, Girls, Men, Boys and Two-Spirit folks – especially given that a 2023 report by the Yellowhead Institute, titled “Calls to Action Accountability: A 2023 Status Update on Reconciliation,” showed that last year none of the Calls to Action were completed. This is the work that still needs to be done.

While National Indigenous Peoples Day is complicated for me due to personal reasons, it can allow time to see family and friends and celebrate each other. It can also be positive in the way that non-Indigenous folks and allies can learn more about Indigenous Peoples and culture in a good way, while also respectfully learning about the work that needs to be done and how they can help.

Rainingbird Daniels

Daniels is a third-year psychology student who is proudly Plains Cree, Sioux and Dakota from Sturgeon Lake First Nation located on Treaty 6 territory in Saskatchewan.

Rainingbird Daniels
Rainingbird Daniels

Although I am very conflicted by National Indigenous Peoples Day – it gives me a sense of anger, happiness and unsettling emotions – I am very happy and proud to have a national day to recognize Indigenous people, as we deserve the recognition.

I do hope that by having this national day, it can help properly educate people and newcomers about our Indigenous history on our lands and to learn to live in harmony with each other. For example, I think people can become involved and educate themselves by attending open events hosted by Indigenous people/organizations, watch historical Indigenous movies and researching the history of Canada.

I’ve never celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day nor done anything special on this day since it was given to us. I know many other Indigenous people have many ways to celebrate the day and to embrace it. But, personally, for myself as an Indigenous person, it has never been a significant day. This year, I will be celebrating my first National Indigenous Peoples Day by hosting a Drum Social as president of the Indigenous Students’ Association at York.

Faculty of Health grad recognized with Murray G. Ross Award

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Nathaniel “Yochanan” Goldstein, who is graduating with an honours bachelor of science in psychology with a Certificate in Quantitative Methods & Data Analysis, was given the Murray G. Ross Award in recognition of his accomplishments over the course of his time at York University.

Nathaniel Goldstein
Nathaniel Goldstein

“Receiving a personal phone call from President Lenton informing me of my selection was a surreal experience,” Goldstein says. “I am grateful to the selection committee as well as to my dear family, friends, mentors and colleagues for all their support. Above all, this award is a product of all their guidance and encouragement.”

Goldstein joined York University with a fascination with what is known about the brain and how modern-day tools and technologies could be used to advance that understanding. His interest led him to York’s psychology program and its emphasis on teaching quantitative research methods and applied statistics.

He was primarily drawn to York’s Centre for Vision Research – a highly interdisciplinary cohort of researchers in fields like psychology, neuroscience and engineering who conduct applied research on the brain in some of the best laboratories and facilities available in Canada.

“[York] seemed to be the perfect fit to equip me with the necessary skills to advance my understanding of this exciting topic,” Goldstein says.

Over the past four years, Goldstein has taken strides in doing that through his involvement in quantitative research on how the brain perceives visual depth in 21st-century tech, like virtual and augmented reality – and disseminating these findings at local and national conferences.

He also advanced his standing in the scientific community by writing magazine articles for the Royal Canadian Institute for Science, one of the country’s oldest scholarly societies, that showcased inspiring research across the country – including at York.

Goldstein credits his positive academic experience not just to York’s commitment to fostering critical thinking, academic integrity and a wide range of impactful pedagogical approaches, but to those who teach and work at the University.  

“It is so much more than just an academic institution. It’s a community that fosters excellence,” Goldstein says.

The Murray G. Ross Award winner is especially grateful for those within the York community who served as mentors to him along the way. He expresses profound gratitude to Erez Freud and Laurie Wilcox, professors in the Department of Psychology and members of the Centre for Vision Research, with whom he has worked closely for several years on research projects studying visual perception using augmented reality. He credits, too, Linda Farmus, a lecturer and course director in the Faculty of Health, who he notes went “above and beyond in helping to explain difficult course concepts and providing guidance and support.”

Beyond academic pursuits, Goldstein has also been involved in other programs, activities and extracurriculars. A member of the President’s Ambassador Program, he worked closely with senior administrators – including President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton – to provide novel suggestions to improve the student experience on campus.

Goldstein was also a committee lead for a recent project that combated food insecurity at York by promoting nutrition-based education through resourceful, hands-on seminars. He cites Judith Owusuaah, a co-ordinator of special projects and events and collaborator for the initiative, as another key mentor during his time at York.

Goldstein was also involved in the non-profit Project START! Science at York, which provides engaging and interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics modules to underfunded schools in the Greater Toronto Area and central Africa. Outside of York, he worked with Yachad Toronto as a mentor and counsellor for teenagers and adults with cognitive and developmental limitations to provide emotional and social support through inclusivity-based weekly programming.

“Being involved in these initiatives has been beneficial in developing my collaboration and networking skills and allowing me to make a tangible difference at the level of student and community leadership,” he says.

Before receiving the Murray G. Ross Award, Goldstein’s achievements were recognized in other ways, too. He earned the 2024 Faculty of Health Gold Medal for Academic Excellence & Outstanding Leadership and was a 2023-24 McCall MacBain Scholarship nominee. He has received several Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada student awards for research excellence, and has been recognized several times in competitive public speaking and essay-writing competitions.

Looking ahead, Goldstein will be continuing his studies at York U through a master’s in brain, behaviour and cognitive sciences this fall. He hopes to continue his involvement in vision science and immersive technology research by collaborating with new academic and industry partners.

Mike Wessinger shares with graduands the secret to success

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Mike Wessinger, co-founder and executive Chair of PointClickCare, the most widely used cloud-based health-care software provider in long-term and post-acute care, spoke to Faculty of Science graduands about his path to success, and offered advice on how they might navigate their own way to a life of accomplishment.

Wessinger shared with graduands that a question he is often asked is, “What is the secret to success?” With the aim of leaving graduands with advice to take with them on their journey ahead, he shared that the answer – for him – is hard work and determination, above all else.

“Intelligence and emotional quotients do matter,” he stressed. “But, in my experience, the people [with great success] are those people who have the highest grit quotient. If they see a wall, they go over, under, around or through it.”

As Wessinger shared his professional journey, he illustrated how he faced – and overcame – some walls himself throughout his career. Among the first barriers was when he graduated from university as young man with no prospects, no money and the feeling that he was unemployable. He knew he wanted to be a success at something, but was unsure what direction to take. “I had to figure out how I was going to make something of myself,” he said. A break came when his brother helped him find a sales job in the long-term and post-acute care industry. He seized the opportunity and began applying himself. “I knew it was time to really buckle down and really get to work,” he said.

Mike Wessinger with Kathleen Taylor, Lisa Phillips
Pictured, from left to right: Chancellor Kathleen Taylor, Mike Wessinger, Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps.

Wessinger familiarized himself quickly with everything he could about the industry he’d joined in order to not only excel in his sales job but find a way to revolutionize it. He hustled – often sleeping at the office and rarely taking time off – until he felt he was successful enough for a new challenge: starting his own business.

Initially, that business was selling existing electronic health records and financial software technology to nursing homes across Canada, but over time he found himself underwhelmed by the product he was selling. This technology is just not working, he thought at the time. It’s not making a big impact on these organizations. He believed the long-term and post-acute care space – and especially the seniors who lived within – deserved something more.

Wessinger and his partners decided to build their own solution, one that was ahead of its time: an electronic health records software that wouldn’t be installed on-site, but hosted on servers with clients accessing them through the internet. “We had no idea we were talking about software as a service (SaaS),” Wessinger said. “People couldn’t sell SAS back then. Nobody was talking about the cloud. We fundamentally changed the game.”

Not everyone shared that sentiment at the time. As Wessinger moved ahead with PointClickCare, it was the year 2000, shortly after the infamous dot-com bubble had burst, a time when many were wary of internet-based businesses. As Wessinger approached venture capitalists and banks with his startup idea, he joked that doors tended to close the instant he explained his mission to put seniors’ health records online.

Wessinger had to find a financial solution somehow, and he found it close to home. “The only people that were kind of enough to fund us go by the name of ‘Mom,’ ‘Dad,’ ‘Uncle,’ ‘Aunt’ and ‘Friend from Hockey Team,’” Wessinger said. With that came not just the usual high financial stakes of making a startup succeed but personal stakes, too. “I felt this enormous obligation to be successful,” he said.

Two decades later, PointClickCare is now one of the largest privately held software companies in Canada, with over 1,500 employees, and serving over 22,000 skilled nursing facilities across North America. “The thing I’m most proud of is that there are some two million seniors today that I know are getting the right care because they’re utilizing our software,” he said.

While the journey of a startup firm may be succinctly summarized in an honorary degree recipient’s address, the reality is a long road full of challenges, long hours and – sometimes – sacrifices. While Wessinger told graduands hard work is the “hack to success,” he offered some cautionary advice as well, for the ambitious. “People that are like me – forward-looking, a leader of an organization, trying to do something incredible – live in the future,” he said. While that can help those looking to advance their careers and businesses realize their goals, it can come with a risk, he noted.

Living, mentally, in the future all the time can remove a person from the present. “You have to stop and live in the now because that’s all you have,” he said. “I can remember my family would see me at the dinner table and sometimes say, ‘Where are you?’ I’d say, ‘I’m right here.’ They’d say, ‘No you’re not.” They were right. I wasn’t. I was somewhere else. Along the way, as you’re achieving great things, remember to stop and celebrate and live in the present.”

President’s University-Wide Teaching Award recipients honoured

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Three York University faculty members will be recognized during the 2024 Spring Convocation ceremonies with President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards for enhancing quality of learning and demonstrating innovation and excellence in teaching.

This year’s President’s University-Wide Teaching Award recipients – selected by the York University Senate – are representative of three categories: full-time faculty with 10 or more years of teaching experience; full-time faculty with less than 10 years of experience; and contract and adjunct faculty.

Each winner will not only be recognized during a convocation ceremony this spring but will have their name engraved on the University-Wide Teaching Awards plaques displayed in Vari Hall on the Keele Campus.

This year’s recipients are:

Full-time tenured faculty with 10 or more years of full-time teaching experience

Danielle Robinson, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD)

Danielle Robinson
Danielle Robinson

Robinson received the award in recognition of her ability to create an interdisciplinary learning environment where students from diverse academic backgrounds can work collaboratively and approach problems from contrasting directions. That ability has, in part, been channelled into her leadership around the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) initiative, an experiential education opportunity for students that allows them approach real-world challenges with social impact in interdisciplinary ways. 

“In my collaboration with Danielle, I find her a passionate advocate for our students, excellent at organization, caring and interested in those she works with and one of the most hard-working colleagues I know,” said Robinson’s nominator, Professor Franz Newland, a C4 co-founder and co-academic lead. “She achieves this with a sense of fun, recognizing its importance when doing hard work. I believe she is an irreplaceable asset to York.”

Robinson has been the recipient of several other awards, including the Dean’s Teaching Award for Junior Faculty (from AMPD), and the Airbus and Global Engineering Dean’s Council’s Diversity Award.

Full-time faculty with less than 10 years of teaching experience

Vidya Shah, Faculty of Education

Vidya Shah
Vidya Shah

Shah received the award for her collaborative approach to pedagogy, which looks to honour students’ voices and recognize their needs, interests and agency – often by incorporating their views into the content of her courses. The award also acknowledges Shah’s ongoing efforts to address inequities within the larger academic community, often through inspiring a rethinking of practices in the areas of racial and social justice, as well as teaching and learning.

Her nominator, Myrtle Sodhi, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, said of Shah, “Her ability to support a large number of students who are under-represented through various stages of their academic career speaks to Dr. Shah’s commitment to student learning, mentorship and social change.” She added: “Dr. Shah’s research, teaching, collaboration and mentorship has changed the landscape of the York University academic community in profound ways. She continues to inspire leadership, social justice action and academic pathways.”

Shah is also the recipient of the Faculty of Education Graduate Teaching Award. In 2022, she was awarded the Leaders and Legends Award for Mentor of the Year by the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.

Contract and adjunct faculty

Heather Lynn Garrett, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Heather Lynn Garrett
Heather Lynn Garrett

Garrett was honoured in recognition of her her ability to engage with and motivate her students, incorporating story, anecdote, music and various media to bring course material to life. She has provided valuable mentorship to students in her program, notably through her support of the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA). She has served as a faculty mentor of SUSA’s annual Falling in Love with Research project, guiding students in conduction sociological research on a topic chosen by SUSA members.

Garrett has twice received the John O’Neill Award for Teaching Excellence by the Department of Sociology, and has been nominated for the Ian Greene Award for Teaching Excellence.

York University’s energy management program helps navigate hot weather sustainably

blue electric fan

In circumstances of extreme weather – such as heat warnings in summer due to soaring temperatures – Facilities Services works hard to ensure the York University community can continue to comfortably learn, teach and work on our campuses, while balancing the University’s commitment to sustainability in its operations.

Unseasonably high temperatures generate unprecedented demand on the provincial energy grid, leading to more energy use, higher emissions, inflated costs and strain on the grid. As a result, York U implemented a peak demand management program in the summer of 2023 – an effort to uphold its commitment to support a sustainable energy system in Ontario. This program, which has been implemented at universities across the province, requires York U to reduce its energy use in alignment with peak demand days to eliminate emissions, save costs and reduce strain on the grid.

Through participation in this program last summer, it is estimated that the University avoided 22,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and saved $3.8 million in energy costs by reducing its energy use by eight megawatts on peak days over the summer months. That is equivalent to taking 24,713 cars off the road or eliminating the consumption of over 34-million litres of gasoline.

“Global warming has forced us to think differently about how we heat and cool our buildings,” says Brad Parkes, assistant vice-president of Facilities Services. “In Facilities Services, we’re constantly looking at the data to see how we can optimize our systems, work with the provincial grid instead of against it and contribute to sustainability and cost savings goals through our operations. The concept of the peak demand management program is simple, but it has real impact that will continue to grow.”

To ensure comfort on York U’s campuses during the program, Facilities Services cools buildings to a lower temperature overnight, with the goal of retaining the cooler air throughout the day when the temperatures are elevated. Those efforts can be extended if community members keep exterior doors, windows and blinds closed to keep the cold air in. For those with workspaces adjacent to a space that has air conditioning, such as a hallway, keeping doors ajar to promote circulation might be helpful. Turning off lights not in use, or using natural light, is another way to help with unnecessary heat generation.

Facilities Services also references the classroom booking information from the Office of the University Registrar to strategically match air conditioning to buildings with occupancy and reduce air conditioning in buildings without occupancy. Special attention has also been given to buildings that require consistent cooling due to equipment, technology and ongoing research.

Community members with concerns or questions about the temperature in their space should get in touch with the Work Control Centre by emailing facilities@yorku.ca or calling 416-736-2100 ext. 22401. Managers should also refer to the Hybrid Work Policy and Hybrid Work Procedure regarding discretion and flexibility to adjust hybrid work agreements as necessary.