World Health Organization extends Global Strategy Lab collaboration

heart and stethoscope

A World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) at York University’s Global Strategy Lab (GSL) – specializing in the global governance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – had its impact recognized with a four-year extension, and expansion, of its mandate by WHO.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses and other microbes – and the infections they cause – stop responding to the medicines designed to treat them. AMR has a profound impact on global health and development – especially in low- and middle-income countries. It contributes to an estimated five million deaths annually and rolls back progress on many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), including SDG 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

GSL has emerged as a leader in addressing pressing global and public health challenges. In the area of AMR, GSL aims to use policy research to support evidence-informed decision-making by the world’s governments and public health institutions to ensure sustainable antimicrobial use.

Susan Rogers Van Katwyk
Susan Rogers Van Katwyk

As a result, in 2019, GSL was designated the WHOCC on Global Governance of Antimicrobial Resistance. “Collaborating centres have a concentration of expertise that WHO recognizes as valuable to achieving their mandate,” explains Susan Rogers Van Katwyk, who is co-director of the WHOCC at GSL along with Steven Hoffman.

In the past four years, the WHOCC at GSL has played a critical role in supporting the WHO’s work on AMR policy and governance, resulting in its renewal for another four years. “It’s exciting to know that the WHO values our support and the work that we’ve been doing with them for the last few years,” says Rogers Van Katwyk.

While the WHOCC at York will continue its mandate of supporting evidence-informed AMR decision-making, its new mandate will include a greater focus on equity as it relates to policy and the governance of AMR. “A focus on equity is something that the Global Strategy Lab is committed to and we’re glad to have it spelled out in our mandate for the renewal term,” says Rogers Van Katwyk.

Among the additions the redesignation has brought to the WHOCC at GSL, Rogers Van Katwyk is especially excited about the greater emphasis on a “One Health” approach, which recognizes that human health, animal health and the environment are interconnected. “Most of our research at the Global Strategy Lab already includes that perspective. It’s where a lot of health research, especially around infectious diseases, is headed,” she says.

Following its redesignation, Rogers Van Katwyk believes the WHOCC ­at GSL has the potential to make a profound impact on the future of global health and sustainability. “We recently undertook a mapping exercise of how AMR impacts the United Nations SDGs. There’s almost none of them that aren’t impacted,” she says. “If we don’t address AMR, we’re not going to achieve the SDG on health and most of the other SDGs.”

Rogers Van Katwyk and her team are ready to support better AMR policymaking and governance for a healthier and more equitable future.

Faculty of Science students, profs awarded for excellence

At the Faculty of Science’s annual honours and awards ceremony, several faculty and students received awards – including an inaugural one – recognizing their contributions in teaching and educational leadership.

The ceremony is organized every year to celebrate students, instructors and researchers who received awards and scholarships between September 2022 and August 2023 – as well as giving the Faculty a chance to bestow a few awards of its own.

This year, around 400 postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate and graduate science students were recognized by being given a chance to come up to the event’s stage at the Second Student Centre, on York’s Keele Campus, to be congratulated and applauded by their peers, supporters and mentors.

The event’s masters of ceremonies were Associate Dean of Students Michael Scheid and Associate Dean of Research and Partnerships Vivian Saridakis, who also announced the recipients of the Faculty of Science Excellence in Educational Leadership Awards – an inaugural award category – as well as the Excellence in Teaching Awards and Excellence in Research Awards.

The recipients of these awards were:

Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, Faculty category
Associate Professor Amenda Chow, Department of Mathematics & Statistics; and Chair and Associate Professor Vera Pavri, Department of Science, Technology & Society.

Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, Graduate Student category
PhD students Laura Keane and Yohana Solomon, Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

Excellence in Teaching Award, Junior Tenure Stream Faculty category
Assistant Professor Stephanie Domenikos, Department of Science, Technology & Society.

Excellence in Teaching Award, Contract Faculty category
Sessional Assistant Professor Charlotte de Araujo, Department of Biology.

Richard Jarrell Award of Excellence for Teaching Assistants
Recent MSc graduate Amanvir Virdi, Department of Biology.

Early Career Research Award
Associate Professor Elizabeth Clare, Department of Biology.

Established Research Award
Professor Randy Lewis, Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Excellence in Graduate Mentorship Award
Associate Professor Iain Moyles, Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

For more details about the awards and a full list of recipients, view the ceremony program booklet.

York entrepreneurs recognized by award, prime minister

BEA Demo Day image BANNER

York University alumni Yemi Ifegbuyi (BA ’10) and Zainab Williams (BA ’07) are among the top three Black entrepreneurs named the winners of a startup pitch competition hosted by the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA) founded by the Black Creek Community Health Centre in partnership with York University’s YSpace.

The competition, the inaugural BEA Investment Bootcamp Demo Day, is the final assignment of a four-month program run in partnership with YSpace for early-stage and capital-ready, Black-led startups.

The Investment Bootcamp program is aimed at supporting Black-led tech startups with training, mentorship and fundraising insights to secure early capital. With a community-driven approach, the program offers curated content and resources to support entrepreneurs through educational workshops, one-on-one coaching and peer founder circles, which provides a safe and open space for founders to connect and receive support.

The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program
The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program.

Applicants to the competition were narrowed down from the 17 Black entrepreneurs who participated in the program to nine finalists who pitched their businesses to a live audience at an event on Feb. 1 celebrating Black excellence.

The Demo Day event, which also marked the start of Black History Month, was attended by a number of government officials, including Filomena Tassi, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Judy Sgro, member of Parliament for Humber River – Black Creek, was also in attendance and was impressed by the entrepreneurs. “Witnessing the dedication and leadership of these young entrepreneurs has not only inspired me, but it reaffirms my belief in the incredible potential of our community’s future leaders,” she says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with first place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met finalists at a special event before the awards were announced, with first-place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi.

First-place winner Ifegbuyi will receive $5,000 toward his business, Cozii Technologies, an artificial intelligence-driven property management platform tailored to multi-unit landlords. Ifegbuyi immigrated from Nigeria about 15 years ago and received his degree in international development and urban studies at York as well as a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation. As a founder known for his entrepreneurial drive, Ifegbuyi is excited for the future as his business continues to grow.

“This fund will be channelled into our sales and marketing endeavours, with the goal of reaching and serving more small- and medium-scale rental property owners and managers,” he says. “It’s not just a cash prize. It’s an investment in Cozii Technologies’ vision to revolutionize the way we approach property management.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second place winner Zainab Williams
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second-place winner Zainab Williams.

Second-place winner Williams, the founder of Fundevolve Inc., a pioneering platform dedicated to empowering women in their financial journey, will receive $3,000 to further her company. Williams developed her passion for business while studying business administration and management at York. Born out of an investment gone wrong, Williams became an independent financial planner and was determined to empower individuals to make the right financial decisions. Her business is quickly building momentum as she works to further develop the web-based platform and equip women with the tools to take control of their financials.

“We plan to use the prize winnings for testing before launching our platform,” says Williams. “This investment in security ensures not only our project’s safety but also our users’ trust.”

Both Ifegbuyi and Williams cite the boot camp’s collaborative spirit as a contributor to their startup’s success. “Participating in the program has been a transformative journey,” says Ifegbuyi. “The unwavering support and mentorship we received are catalysts for long-term growth.”

Special guest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended a private event – where York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton was also present – held before the awards to meet the finalists and learn more about their businesses.

“Meeting Justin Trudeau was a great honour and opportunity,” says Ifegbuyi. “It symbolized the recognition of our hard work and the federal government commitment to supporting the Black entrepreneurial community. It’s a reminder that our efforts are making an impact, and it inspires us to continue pushing boundaries and striving for excellence in everything we do.”

Both BEA and YSpace offer several innovative programs and events for entrepreneurs at all stages, including curated programming dedicated to under-represented groups like Black entrepreneurs and women founders.

To learn more about this partnership, visit BEA’s website at YSpace.

Turning it up: campus radio station wins national awards

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The campus-based frequency 105.5FM (CHRY-FM), serving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as VIBE 105, was recently named the 2023 Best Community/Campus Station in a Canadian major market by the Broadcast Dialogue Canadian Radio Awards (BDCRA).

VIBE 105 logo

The award is the latest point of pride for a broadcast that – especially since its rebranding in 2015 – has been a leader in spotlighting R&B, electronic and, notably, hip-hop. “You can’t tell the story of hip-hop in Canada without mentioning CHRY,” general manager and CEO Randy Reid recently told The York University Magazine.

VIBE 105 has grown into a national broadcast leader in majority Black media content, aimed at the growing Afro-Caribbean and racialized populations across the entire GTA with an average listenership of 425,000 during prime drive time.

The BDCRA’s Best Community/Campus Station award was given to the not-for-profit station for demonstrating broadcasting excellence as well as an ability to impact and engage with its campus and local audience.

That wasn’t the only award it received, either. The station was also was recognized with the 2023 Best Imaging Production award – despite competing with the largest commercial broadcasters in the country – for the creative and technical imaging efforts behind its campaign “Celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop,” tied to a global initiative to celebrate the musical form.

“This is a culmination of years of work,” says Reid about the BDCRA’s recognition.

Broadcasting from the First Student Centre on the University’s Keele Campus, VIBE 105 is firmly rooted in the York community. It is supported, in part, by student levy contributions from the York University Graduate Students’ Association and the York Federation of Students, in addition to occasional work-study grants from the University. The station also provides experiential education opportunities for students, as well as people from the community surrounding the Keele Campus, to express themselves through media and the arts.

Call for nominations: Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award

Students walking on Keele Campus in winter

The heart and soul of a university is made up of so much more than academics alone – it is the passionate teachers, the dedicated staff, and the students who go above and beyond to help make their community a more welcoming, inspiring place. The Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recognizes those students, whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development and vitality of York University. All York students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to submit nominations for this award. 

Established in 2012, the award is named after Robert J. Tiffin, who served as York’s vice-president of students, for nine years. Through his strong leadership, dedication and integrity, Tiffin transformed his team into one of the leading student service organizations in the country, serving one of Canada’s largest student populations. 

Award nominees must be current undergraduate or graduate students who exhibit leadership, dedication, integrity, enthusiasm and the pursuit of excellence through their endeavours. Winners will be selected based on leadership and/or involvement in the York community and outstanding academic achievement. Recipients will be honoured at an awards reception, have their name permanently added to the awards display in the Vari Hall Rotunda, receive a certificate and have the award noted on their transcript. 

Winners – as was the case last year – span a range of faculties, degree programs, disciplines and fields.

Nomination packages are submitted online, using templated questions, and must include the following: 

  • a primary nominator submission (maximum of 500 words); 
  • a secondary nominator representing one nominating constituency (York University students, staff, faculty or alumni) not represented by the primary nominator (maximum of 350 words); 
  • a candidate submission that describes how co-curricular involvement at York University has affected their post-secondary experience and helped to enhance the quality of life on campus (maximum of 500 words); and 
  • a current resumé/CV, including detailed descriptions of involvement at the University, submitted by the student. 

The nomination package deadline is Friday, March 15. Submissions must be completed through the online submission form

Visit the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award website for more information. For any other questions, email the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students at vpstudents@yorku.ca.

Faculty of Health helps students take their learning global

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The world, as the saying goes, is a classroom, and a special award from the Faculty of Health is making it easier for students to access it. The Global Health Travel Award provides students with funding to help cover travel and accommodation expenses, empowering them to pursue global learning opportunities that can make an impact on their academic and career paths.

The Global Health Travel Award is among several opportunities the Faculty of Health extends to support its students looking to pursue global learning, and it ties to the University’s larger active efforts to reduce financial barriers to international experiences for students, encouraging the development of global citizenship, interpersonal skills, adaptability and more.

The award is given to Faculty of Health undergraduate students who want to complete a global health project as part of a single-term (11-week) international placement that meets the requirement of their academic program.

During the Winter 2024 term, nine students will be able to travel to countries such as Jordan, Ghana, Kenya, Denmark, Germany and Belize thanks to the award. They will gain experiences echoing those of the following current and past students from the Global Health Promotion & Disease Prevention program within York’s School of Global Health whose journeys illustrate the impact the international opportunity and award can have.

Autumn Langford, current student

Langford, who will be graduating following the completion of her practicum, recently won the travel award to journey to Kenya to focus on HIV prevention, particularly among adolescent girls. There, she’ll observe and seek to understand how Kenyan communities address health issues, acknowledging the unique differences from handling HIV in Toronto.

Langford credits the bursary for being pivotal to the opportunity because she is juggling part-time work to cover her other expenses. Without it, her Kenya plans might have faced a financial roadblock. It covered essential needs and unforeseen expenses, such as mandatory immunization for global travel, ensuring her health and safety during the stay.

Daniel Ramlogan, alumnus

Ramlogan saw his academic journey at York culminate with a global health practicum in the Middle East. With the $5,000 of support from the award, he was able to travel to Amman, Jordan, to pursue a placement with the Jordan Health Aid Society International.

The relief from financial concerns, which he describes as a significant weight lifted off his shoulders, allowed Ramlogan to fully engage in the cultural and learning experience. In the process, his passion for research and program development were sparked, resulting in two successful projects: workshops on gender-based violence and sexual health in Amman, and a grant for the Za’atari refugee camp’s medical facilities. Recognized by the Jordanian government and donors, Ramlogan’s contributions continue to positively impact lives, even after his departure.

Mahilet Girma, alumna

The funding Girma received from his award allowed her to travel to Brazil to pursue an opportunity to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). There, she played a key role in crafting a training module for community health workers, and she emerged from the experience more confident and with more polished social and professional skills. Her journey wasn’t just an academic and professional, though – it ignited personal growth.

To learn more about awards issued, visit the Global Learning website.

Nominations open for York University Alumni Awards

York University Alumni Awards banner

Each year, the York University Alumni Awards celebrate outstanding alumni who have achieved the extraordinary and made remarkable contributions to the University and the broader community. Nominations for award recipients are being accepted until Tuesday, Feb. 20, and the Alumni Awards ceremony to honour them will be held in the fall.

Nominations are open for the following awards:

  • Outstanding Contribution: an alum who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of York and its students through exceptional service, commitment and/or philanthropic contributions.
  • Outstanding Achievement: an alum who has achieved distinction in their field and whose integrity and ability inspire alumni, faculty, staff and students.
  • Tentanda Via: an alum who has demonstrated innovative, unconventional and daring leadership and success, reflecting the University’s motto, “The way must be tried.”
  • One to Watch: an alum who has made a significant impact in their field and/or community within 15 years of a bachelor’s degree or 10 years of a professional/graduate degree.

Past recipients included a wide range of people contributing to society in their professional field.

Do you know a remarkable individual deserving of an Alumni Award? Complete the nomination form.

For questions about the nomination process, contact Nicole Light, senior alumni engagement officer, at nlight@yorku.ca. For more information about the Alumni Awards, visit the Alumni Awards page and YouTube channel. Looking for some inspiration? Check out the 2023 Alumni Award recipients.

Professors receive CIHR grants to advance dementia research

caregiver supporting elderly person banner

Two York University professors from the Faculty of Health – Lora Appel and Matthias Hoben – have received Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants to further their contributions to the study of individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

There’s still much about dementia – and dementia care – that remains unexplored, but Appel and Hoben are looking to change that thanks to projects that have received CIHR funding.

Lora Appel
Lora Appel

Appel’s $308,952 grant will be put toward the first study to explore how virtual reality (VR) experiences can be used to benefit both people living with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers.

With an increased interest in the therapeutic use of VR with older adults, some studies have suggested there is potential for the technology to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and promote quality of life.

For PWDs, VR can potentially reduce apathy, depression and agitation; for caregivers, as those they care for are occupied, it can be used to provide more breaks from the high levels of burden they often navigate.

Appel’s project, titled “VR&R: Providing Respite to Caregivers by Managing Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms in People with Dementia Using Immersive VR-Therapy,” is one of 13 that received a collective $8.7 million from the CIHR Operating Grant: Mechanisms in Brain Aging and Dementia – Factors and Mechanisms that Impact Cognitive Health in Aging.

The project will now pursue a six-week trial, where PWDs will be given the chance to experience immersive VR stimulations as frequently as they choose. Caregivers will then be able to engage in a desired activity at this time, remaining close by to assist only if needed. In the process, Appel’s project seeks to understand how caregivers benefit from the breaks VR gives them, especially as caregivers often describe respite as an internal experience where they can recuperate without removing themselves from a situation.

Matthias Hoben
Matthias Hoben

Hoben, the other grant recipient, received $100,000 in funding for a study of existing literature on adult day programs – part-day supervised activities for dependent adults. Adult day programs aim to maintain or improve older adults’ health, well-being, social, physical and cognitive functioning, and independence, while also providing caregivers a break or opportunity to continue working a paid job.

Because, to date, studies on the outcomes of day programs are inconclusive, Hoben’s project will look at developing program theories that explain how and why these settings lead to positive, negative, or no effects on individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

Titled “Adult Day Programs and Their effects on individuals with Dementia and their Caregivers (ADAPT-DemCare): Developing program theories on the how and why,” the project – one among 16 that received a collective $1.5 million – has been funded by the CIHR Operating Grant called Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment in Aging (BHCIA): Knowledge Synthesis and Mobilization Grants.

Its goal is to provide greater insights and theories into adult day programs with the hope that any resulting theories will be tested and further refined in future studies, and become essential in guiding future research and improvement of day programs.

Both Appel and Hoben are members of the York University Centre for Aging Research & Education (YU-CARE), which looks to support and promote the work of researchers and graduate trainees who study changes, challenges and policies to support aging at individual, organizational and societal levels.

Call for nominations: 2024 Honorific Professorships

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The Senate Committee on Awards is now accepting nominations for University Professorships and Distinguished Research Professorships.

University Professorships are conferred upon long-serving, tenured faculty members who have demonstrated a commitment to participation in University life and/or contribution to the University as a community, as well as appropriate levels of scholarship and teaching success. 

The Distinguished Research Professorship is awarded to a member of the faculty who has made outstanding contributions to the University through research. The Distinguished Research Professor will have demonstrated scholarly achievement by sustained publication or other recognized and accepted demonstrations of sustained authoritative contributions to scholarship.

Nominations may be made by all tenured faculty members, who shall provide a complete nomination file, including the nominee’s CV and a detailed letter of nomination explaining how the candidate’s achievements conform to the general criteria, along with three letters of support from those in a position to comment on the nominee’s achievements and contributions.

Additional details about the criteria and nomination procedures are set out in the Senate Policy on Honorific Professorships.  Nominations for Honorific Professorships should be submitted by Friday, March 1 at 4:30 p.m. Nominations may be submitted via the Distinguished Research Professor Mach Form or the University Professor Mach Form available on the Awards web page, or by sending the PDF Form to Michelle Roseman at rosemanm@yorku.ca.

Pioneering York physicist honoured with memorial fund

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York University science alumni Itay and Mina Yavin have donated $200,000 to the Department of Physics & Astronomy in honour of late Professor Helen Freedhoff, a pioneering theoretical physicist, to create a memorial fund supporting students in the department.

Itay Yavin
Itay Yavin, the York alumn whose gift donation led to the creation of the Helen Freedhoff Memorial Fund. To his left is an image of Helen Freedhoff.

The gift will create the the Helen Freedhoff Memorial Fund, with a focus on supporting student mentorship and research at the undergraduate level. Specifically, it will further enable research in the lab of Professor Anantharaman Kumarakrishnan’s Atomic Physics Research Group.

It will also establish the Helen Freedhoff First Year Award for select entering domestic and international undergraduate students admitted into the Department of Physics & Astronomy with high academic achievement and a passion for science.

“We are thrilled to give back to York University, where we spent formative years, and to collaborate with the Faculty of Science to memorialize Professor Freedhoff’s life and work,” said Itay Yavin, who was personally mentored and supervised by Freedhoff. “We hope the funds will foster excellence in students’ research at the physics and astronomy department. We are excited that the funds will also support the lab of Professor Kumarakrishnan, whose devotion to students’ research and development over the past two decades truly exemplifies Professor Freedhoff’s legacy.”  

When she joined York University in 1967, Freedhoff was the first woman physics faculty member on a Canadian University campus. She worked to develop a new theory to describe novel physical phenomena in strongly coupled light-plus-atom systems. Her research focused on the areas of co-operative atomic effects, intense field resonance fluorescence and two-photon transitions. These remain important contributions to the field today.

The donation was celebrated on Monday, Jan. 15 with a plaque-unveiling ceremony and a dedication of the Helen Freedhoff Meeting Room in the Petrie Science & Engineering Building. The ceremony was attended by Freedhoff’s family, the donors and their family, members of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and other science community members. The ceremony was followed by a tour of Kumarakrishnan’s lab.

“It’s so wonderful to see this relationship come full circle, where the student and mentee is now giving back so much to our Faculty, just as his mentor did,” said Rui Wang, dean, Faculty of Science. “I’m so pleased that Professor Freedhoff’s legacy – her important research contributions, her trailblazing career as a woman physicist, and her attention to and care for her students – has been memorialized with this donation that will benefit so many science students, current and future. This donation exemplifies the spirit of the Faculty of Science, working collaboratively and solving challenges head on in innovative ways that will benefit our community and beyond.”