Using AI to enhance well-being for under-represented groups

A man meditating

Kiemute Oyibo, an assistant professor at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning to build group-specific predictive models for different target populations to promote positive behaviour changes.

Kiemute Oyibo
Kiemute Oyibo

From reminders to take a daily yoga lesson to notifications about prescription refills, persuasive technology is an effective technique used in many software applications. Informed by psychological theories, this technology can be incorporated in many electronic devices to change users’ attitudes and behaviours, including habits and lifestyle choices related to health and well-being.

“People are receptive to personalized health-related messages that help them adopt beneficial behaviours they ordinarily find difficult,” says Oyibo.

“That is why I am designing, implementing and evaluating personalized persuasive technologies in the health domain with a focus on inclusive design, and tailoring health applications to meet the needs of under-represented groups.”

By considering the specific needs of these groups, Oyibo’s work has the potential to change the one-size-fits-all approach of software application design. “By excluding features which may discourage some populations from using certain health applications and focusing on their unique needs, such as the inclusion of cultural elements and norms, personalized health applications can benefit users from marginalized communities,” he explains. “Another method that can help improve user experience is participatory design. This enables underrepresented groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, to be a part of the design and development of technology they will enjoy using.”

Through demographic studies, Oyibo is investigating the behaviours, characteristics, preferences and unique needs of different populations, including under-represented groups, throughout Canada and Africa. For example, he is examining cultural influences on users’ attitudes and acceptance of contact tracing applications – an approach that is unique for informing the design and development of public health applications.

“Group-specific predictive models that do not treat the entire target population as a monolithic group can be used to personalize health messages to specific users more effectively,” says Oyibo of his work, which is supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant.

In related work, Oyibo is collaborating with professors from Dalhousie University and industry partners at ThinkResearch to explore the application of persuasive techniques in the design of medical incident reporting systems, to improve their effectiveness in community pharmacies across Canada.

“There are a lot of near misses and incidents in community pharmacies across Canada that go unreported,” says Oyibo. “Apart from personal and administrative barriers, such as fear of consequences and lack of confidentiality in handling reports, the culture of little-to-no reporting reflects system design. We want to leverage persuasive techniques to enhance these systems and make them more motivating and valuable, to encourage users to report as many incidents and near misses as possible so that the community can learn from them. This will go a long way in fostering patient safety in community pharmacies across Canada.”

Oyibo’s work is part of a global effort to bridge the digital divide in health care and utilize technology to improve the lives of diverse populations.

Centre for Feminist Research celebrates feminist scholarship with new award

Rear view of four diverse women

York University’s Centre for Feminist Research has launched the inaugural Medal for Excellence in Feminist Scholarship in Canada to support and raise the profile of the rich and diverse contributions of feminist scholars nationally.

Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton.
From left to right: Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton.

“This award is a reminder that feminist research matters and that feminists of all genders are producing rigorous, relevant research and writing for our times,” says Elaine Coburn, director of the Centre for Feminist Research. “It creates a space to celebrate all that is excellent in feminist scholarship, across Canada.”

The award was created with an anonymous donor to honour and bring visibility to the work of three York University faculty members – Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton – who have set standards of excellence by transforming understanding of women’s everyday realities and struggles through anti-racist, Indigenous feminist and feminist political economy scholarship.

Dua is a professor and graduate director in sexuality and women’s studies in the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies who teaches critical race theory, anti-racist feminist theory, postcolonial studies and feminist theory. She has taken up the question of racial justice, from feminist perspectives, across all of her writing. She forthrightly confronts racial injustices in Canada, and her scholarship has unpacked racial, gendered inequities in the University with the aim of creating space for each and all voices in the academy.

Lawrence (Mi’kmaw), who teaches in the Indigenous Studies program, has taken up the questions of colonialism and Indigenous identity, especially centering the experiences of non-status and urban Indigenous people. Her important work has looked at Indigenous Peoples’ “fractured homelands” under colonialism and celebrated strong Indigenous women, their power and their agency, despite a genocidal context.

Luxton is a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and one of Canada’s best-known feminist political economists, with her work shedding new light on gender divisions of labour and the relationship between paid employment and unpaid domestic labour; working class lives, communities and class politics; and the history of the women’s movement, in Canada and internationally.

“We hope that the new award, in honouring these three scholars, makes clear the ways that feminisms must and does take up questions of racism, indigeneity and working class women’s lives as central to anti-oppressive feminist scholarship,” says Coburn. “Together, they inspire us to feminist scholarship that matters: scholarship that looks squarely at injustice and that celebrates and supports struggles for a more just world.”

Over the next 10 years, the medal will provide each recipient with $500, and winners will be invited to give a lecture at the Centre for Feminist Research – both to help further scholars and the Centre’s impact on the challenges still facing women today.

“We hope that others see this medal and CFR’s activities, more broadly, as contributing to important national and international conversations about women’s struggles for equality and our hopes for more just and liveable worlds,” says Coburn.

Applications for the Medal for Excellence in Feminist Scholarship in Canada will be evaluated by a committee of three faculty members. Those interested in being on the committee can write to with their CV and one paragraph expressing their interest by Jan. 15, 2024.

Applications for the medal will open on Jan. 30, 2024 and the deadline is March 1, 2024 for submissions. The inaugural winner will be announced on May 1, 2024.

Anucha family creates new award to support Black entrepreneurs

Young Black man working at a desk

A new award created and funded by the Anucha family is the first of its kind to support Black entrepreneurs at YSpace, York University’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub.

The award commemorates the family’s son and brother Alfred Anucha, a visionary, young entrepreneur who passed away at the age of 26. A former York student, Alfred was also the founder of Stay Ulo, a network of properties that offers flexible apartment rentals with a hotel experience.


Alfred’s passion for entrepreneurship and his unwavering belief in the potential of young people to create were the cornerstones of his life, shared family members at a recent event to announce the award. “ ’Bet on yourself. Bet on the future.’ This was Alfred’s mantra and encapsulates the vision of the Alfred Anucha Award,” said Adanna Anucha, Alfred’s sister. “Our family is excited to support young, Black entrepreneurs to ‘bet on yourself’ just as Alfred did. We hope this award will serve as a living tribute and memorial to honour Alfred’s legacy as a true innovator and dreamer.”

The award will support aspiring Black entrepreneurs in partnership with YSpace and the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance. Self-identifying Black individuals (Canadian citizens, permanent residents and protected refugees) are eligible for this award, with a preference given to Black male entrepreneurs under the age of 30, in recognition of the historical underrepresentation by Black male entrepreneurs in this space.

Each year, a maximum of four entrepreneurs will receive $2,500 each in recognition of their commitment to their craft. Additionally, recipients can take advantage of YSpace’s specialized programming free of charge to nurture their ventures. Current and past program participants are eligible and encouraged to apply for this award, which will be available annually for the next five years.

The award is also a testament to the deep connection the Anucha family shares with York University. Alfred’s mother, Uzo Anucha, is an associate professor at the School of Social Work in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. She is also the York Research Chair in Youth and Contexts of Inequity. Alfred’s four siblings have also attended York University.

David Kwok, director of entrepreneurship and innovation at YSpace, said, “YSpace is honoured to have this partnership and support of the Anucha family. This award will be a catalyst for many young, Black entrepreneurs to receive the funding and support necessary to continue their impactful work in the community. Our collaborative efforts will create greater access and growth for these Black-led businesses.”

Applications for the first round of awards are open from Nov. 20 to Dec. 15. More information about the application processes will be available on the YSpace website.

York students engaged in heart, brain research earn inaugural award

medical hospital research brain black doctor

Four York University students were recognized with an inaugural award for Black scholars – an initiative by the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Brain Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (CIHR-ICRH) – for their work and research in heart and brain health.

The Personnel Awards for Black Scholars were launched earlier in 2023 with the intent of promoting Black representation and inclusivity within the heart and/or brain health research community.

“These awards will help enable equitable and accessible treatment and care for heart disease and stroke for everyone in Canada,” said Doug Roth, chief executive officer of Heart & Stroke, in the announcement.

The multi-year awards seek to financially support 12 master’s students for up to two years and seven doctoral students for up to three years. The awards aim to enable students to focus on their studies, undertake a program of research and engage with mentors as part of their training and development.

The recipients from York University are:

Patrick Hewan

A psychology master’s student, Hewan’s work focuses on cognition and brain function in older adulthood. Among his accomplishments are a Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada Undergraduate Research Award and, most recently, an oral presentation award at this year’s Faculty of Science annual undergraduate summer research conference for a talk titled “Microstructural integrity of the Locus Coeruleus is related to decision-making in older adults.”

Toluwanimi Faromika

Faromika is a psychology master’s student interested in cognitive psychology across populations – including infants and seniors, as well those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and more. Her current research will explore spatial memory and the factors that can impede our ability to navigate the world. In addition to her academic work, she is also the host of “The BrainCore Podcast,” which explores the latest psychology and neuroscience research.

CeAnn Marks

A psychology and neuroscience graduate student, Marks’s work looks to advance mental health knowledge through research on traumatic brain injuries, mood disorders and trauma. Her current research includes studying sex differences in concussion recovery and the impact of emotional trauma on motor performance. Among her accomplishments are earning the BIPOC Award in Medical Science and Medicine Biotechnology earlier this year.

Ngozi Iroanyah

A PhD student in health policy and equity studies, Iroanyah’s research centres on the implications of dementia policy on the experiences of racialized ethnocultural diverse seniors in Canada. Her current thesis explores the experience of racialized immigrant seniors with Ontario’s dementia strategy to identify gaps in service delivery and care models. Additionally, Iroanyah is currently manager of diversity and community partnerships at the Alzheimer Society of Canada and has over 15 years of experience in health care in both Canada and abroad, in the fields of health research and administration – including having worked for the Public Agency of Canada in the Dementia Policy Unit.

Further information about the award can be found here:

Professor wins prestigious prize for nonfiction

3d golden star golden with lighting effect on black background. Template luxury premium award design. Vector illustration

Last week, York University Professor Christina Sharpe was awarded the 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for her book Ordinary Notes (Knopf Canada, Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan Publishers, Daunt Books, 2023). The prize, worth $75,000, is given annually for excellence in literary nonfiction, to a work that demonstrates a distinctive voice and a compelling command of language.

Christina Sharpe close-up portrait
Christina Sharpe

“I was thrilled that Ordinary Notes was recognized and received the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction,” said Sharpe. “It was an honour to be on the shortlist with the other authors and hopefully it means that the life of the work is extended and that the book will reach more people.”

It has been quite a year for Sharpe, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York. A profile in the New York Times accompanied the launch of her book in April and dubbed her “the woman shaping a generation of Black thought.” Ordinary Notes has since received extensive praise – from the Guardian, The Yale Review, the Boston Globe, Bookforum and Publisher’s Weekly, to name a few – for its literary innovation and careful examination of questions about loss and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. It was also a finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

In Sharpe’s winning book, a series of 248 notes are used to weave artifacts from the past – public ones alongside others that are personal – with present realities and possible futures, constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence. The notes gather meaning as they’re read.

The Writers’ Trust Prize jury said, “With tenderness, bravery and razor-sharp poetic language, Christina Sharpe invites the reader to witness the ordinary joys and sorrows of Black lives and how they are transformed within the everyday reality of systems of racial supremacy. In doing so, she creates a new narrative space at once intimate, deeply informed and uncompromising.”

When asked about the book’s unique format, Sharpe shared that this was a carefully considered choice. “I wanted to write a book in which form does something,” she explained. “There are four books in particular that greatly informed the form and approach of my book: Adrienne Kennedy’s People Who Led to My Plays, Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging and The Blue Clerk, and John Keene’s Annotations.”

The result is a book that the jury said, “calls upon the reader to witness and wrestle with the notes and stories that Sharpe, a scholar and poet, so generously shares with us.”

In addition to Ordinary Notes, Sharpe has authored two other books of nonfiction, Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, the second of which was named by the Guardian and The Walrus as one of the best books of 2016 and nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Since 2011, the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction has been sponsored by businesswoman and writer Hilary M. Weston, the 26th lieutenant Governor of Ontario. This year, it is funded by the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation, and the prize purse has increased from $60,000 to $75,000.

For more information about the awards, visit Awards | Writers’ Trust of Canada (

Research shines light on health-care inequalities for Black women

Black woman waiting office doctor

A new research report co-authored by Professor Agnès Berthelot-Raffard of York University’s Faculty of Health investigates the lack of evidence-based data for Black women’s health care in Canada.

Agnès Berthelot-Raffard
Agnès Berthelot-Raffard

Berthelot-Raffard, the principal investigator on “Santé gynécologique et obstétrique des femme noires : leurs expériences dans the système de santé québécois” (Gynecological and obstetric health of black women: their experiences in the Quebec health system), launched the report on Nov. 17 with co-authors Samia Dumais and Alexandra Pierre, both of Concordia University.

The report is now available through the Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.

The novel study was funded by the Université du Québec à Montréal and aims to fill an important research gap in health-care equity in Canada. The research was done in a by-and-for methodology that centres on the needs and perspectives of the target community, says Berthelot-Raffard. It focuses on the reproductive rights of Black women in Canada.

Including testimonies gathered from Black professionals and patients, the report provides an analysis of the overall experience of Black women within the gynecological and obstetric health-care system, particularly regarding maternity, endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

Agnes Berthelot-Raffard co-authors and members of her research team, Samia Dumais (middle) and Alexandra Pierre (right), both of Concordia University
Agnès Berthelot-Raffard (left) with co-authors and members of her research team, Samia Dumais (middle) and Alexandra Pierre (right), both of Concordia University.

Started in 2020 in collaboration with Relais-Femmes, a feminist organization in Quebec, the study addresses a 2018 United Nations report that highlights the health disparities and limited health-care access faced by Black and Afro-descendant women compared to other Canadian population groups.

Research from the U.S., Canada and France indicates that Black women encounter differing perceptions and treatment in gynecologic and obstetrical care compared to non-Black women, says Berthelot-Raffard. Access to health care and adequate gynecological and obstetrical treatments for Black women is significantly influenced by stereotypes regarding the Black women’s embodiment, racial biases, social status discrimination, ageism and ableism, social and racial inequalities, geographic disparities, limited insurance or public care access due to citizenship status etc.

“These disparities lead to significant consequences, ranging from misdiagnosis, delayed care, limited access to information for informed decision-making, to mental health issues such as depression,” says Berthelot-Raffard. “Black women face increased risks during childbirth due to more caesarean deliveries than other groups of women, more late diagnosis of breast cancer, fibroids, endometriosis and higher rates of postpartum depression. In evaluating the quality of care during pregnancy and postpartum, women emphasize the importance of feeling welcomed within the health-care system alongside their physical well-being.”

The researchers will disseminate the study to various audiences, including health-care professionals such as doctors, obstetricians, nurses and students in health sciences and medicine, as well as with ethicists and occupational orders. The goal is to open the discussion in fertility clinics, birthing centres, abortion centres and feminist organizations as part of a campaign to raise awareness about these critical issues for reproductive justice and equity in the health-care setting.

“We’ve uncovered instances of obstetric and gynecological violence, including forced consent, disregarding their agency, physical abuse, verbal microaggressions and indifference from health-care professionals,” says Berthelot-Raffard. “Our analysis suggests that Black women in Quebec are more exposed to overmedicalization and medical negligence, indicative of discriminatory and abusive practices rooted in health-care stereotypes. This report marks a starting point in acknowledging obstetric and gynecological violence experienced by Black women in the Quebec health-care system.”

York University marks 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence 


The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education at York, along with partners across the University, will offer a series of events to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, an annual international campaign that begins on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and goes until Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. 

Started in 1991 as a global effort to recognize and speak out against gender-based violence, the 16 Days campaign aims to renew commitment to end violence against women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. 

The Centre has organized a variety of events to inspire and educate community members while honouring victims of gender-based violence as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals from all walks of life who experience and have lost their lives to violence. 

Human Rights Day honours the date the United Nations General Assembly’s adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. This document sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It is a milestone in the history of human rights, and has been translated in over 500 languages, holding the Guinness World Record as the most translated document. 

In Canada, we also observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women during the 16 Days to remember the women who were murdered during the tragic mass shooting at Polytechnique Montréal on Dec. 6, 1989. 

The Centre at York University works to foster a culture where attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate sexual violence are rejected, survivors are supported, community members are educated and those who commit incidents of sexual violence are held accountable. It offers supports and services, training and events to educate and help University community members. 

All community members are invited to attend the events listed below. Learn more at  

YU Athlete’s Memorial Pin-making Event – in partnership with Athletics & Recreation 

Date: Nov. 27
Time: noon to 2 p.m.
Location: 305 York Lanes 

Join YU athletes as they create white ribbons (a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls) and purple ribbons (attempts to educate the public that violence against women and children is not culturally acceptable) for the York community throughout the duration of the week. 

Supporting Your Queer Child 

Date: Nov. 28
Time: noon to 1p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Toronto Public Health hosts a session that facilitates discussions among participants about how parents/caregivers can foster healthy attitudes about sexuality with their children and support their needs. Registrants are asked to submit questions and topics they are interested in learning more about for this session when they register. 

Healthy Relationships Workshop 

Date: Nov. 29
Time: 1 to 2 p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Nellie’s hosts a workshop on healthy dating and relationships for those who identify as women in university to learn about what healthy relationships look like, how to identify red flags in a relationship and what to do if they need support. The workshops will be interactive and allow students to learn and understand the topics in a trauma-informed environment. 

Raising Sexually Healthy Tweens 

Date: Nov. 30
Time: noon to 1 p.m. 
Format: online
Registration: email

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Toronto Public Health hosts a workshop with the goal of providing parents/caregivers with the tools, knowledge and support they need to foster healthy attitudes about sexuality with their tweens. 

Issues and Impacts of Misogynoir 

Date: Nov. 30
Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email

The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion in partnership with the Centre for Sexual Violence, Response, Support & Education hosts an interactive session where participants discuss the issue of misogynoir, which shows how sexism and racism manifest in Black women’s lives to create intersecting forms of oppression. Participants explore the detrimental impacts of internalized racism as well as engage in a discussion about healing and self-care. 

Provostial fellowships support scholars from marginalized groups

open book with glasses and pen

York University has announced Doug Anderson and Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana as this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars.

The Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship program seeks to attract outstanding scholars who will push the boundaries of knowledge in necessary ways. With a salary of $70,000 provided each year for a two-year term, award recipients will be able to dedicate their time to pursuing a proposed project, working alongside a supervisor and other mentors.

“This program allows York to promote and develop some of the most exciting, cutting-edge research that will shape the next generation of scholarship, by supporting the remarkable scholars who are producing it,” says Alice MacLachlan, vice-provost and dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “One theme that emerges from the innovative research being produced by this year’s scholars is connection – whether between learners and the land, or in artificial neural networks – and we are delighted by the connections they will be able to nurture among our dynamic community of researchers.”

While gaining a foothold to begin a career can be difficult in itself, Black and Indigenous scholars face the additional challenges of racism and systems structured to protect others’ privilege. This fellowship begins to address this issue by providing collegial resources, supervision, mentorship and funded time to successful applicants to help them become successful in their chosen careers.

Doug Anderson

Doug Anderson
Doug Anderson

Anderson is completing his PhD in education at York University. His project, “Inaakonigewin Akinomaagegamig,” addresses how Indigenous principles can begin to define and orient the resources in education systems in ways that benefit the work of sovereign Indigenous learning and resurgence in the land.

“I will bring my emerging academic focus under the direction of the Memtigwaake Kinomaage Mawnjiding Advisory Circle, now managing over 20 acres of land in Toronto as a learning space grounded in Indigenous ceremony, sovereignty and laws. This land hosts cyclical, perennial culture and language learning for Indigenous students in ways that are at the core of how learning and site management proceed,” shares Anderson. “I will work to support Indigenous students and partners to have this culture-based learning recognized by Toronto school boards and focus on how the learning can be supported through post-secondary institutions, all in ways defined by Indigenous people and principles. I am grateful for the support of doctors Deb Danard, Steve Alsop, Kate Tilleczek and Deborah McGregor in this work.”

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana
Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

Uwisengeyimana holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Science & Technology of China. His cutting-edge project will focus on developing video-based, biologically inspired, artificial neural networks for dynamic scene understanding. Uwisengeyimana will be affiliated with York’s Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program, which aims to advance vision and produce applications that generate positive health, societal, technological and economic impacts for Canada and the world.

“I express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to pursue a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at York University, which will allow me to conduct cutting-edge research to develop computational models of visuocognitive tasks,” says Uwisengeyimana. “I will work on this project under the guidance of Dr. Kohitij Kar, a VISTA program core member and faculty member. I appreciate that Dr. Kar is actively interacting with industrial (e.g. Google Brain Toronto) and academic (e.g. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard) partners to provide me with high-quality networking opportunities to help me advance my career.”

Learn more about the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars at York University by visiting the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Prof recognized for pioneering Black studies in Canada

Andrea Davis

At its Fall 2023 Convocation ceremonies, British Columbia’s Royal Roads University awarded York University Professor Andrea Davis an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her pioneering work bringing Black studies programming to Canadian academia.

Andrea Davis at Royal Roads University’s Fall 2023 Convocation.

A professor in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Davis teaches courses in Black Cultures of the Americas and is the founder and program co-ordinator of the University’s Black Canadian Studies Certificate. Introduced in 2018, it was one of only two university programs of its kind in Canada at the time.

“Black students at York in 2016 were asking for programs that reflected their histories and experiences,” said Davis in a recent interview with Royal Roads University. “They were not really interested in a program about anti-Black racism per se, because those programs are not for Black students; they’re educating someone else. Black students wanted something that could speak deeply to them, about not just their experiences but their thoughts and their ideas.”

Davis took that request and ran with it, and is now continuing her transformative work by developing a Black studies major.

In her 20-year academic career, Davis has worked to advance equity, access and justice in post-secondary education, and has been a fierce advocate for students. An accomplished teacher, she has won teaching awards at the Faculty, university and national levels, including a 2021 3M National Teaching Fellowship. A former Canadian Commonwealth scholar, her research focuses on the literary productions of Black women in the Americas, with a particular interest in the intersections of the literatures of the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. Her work encourages an intertextual cross-cultural dialogue about Black women’s experiences in diaspora.

The doctor of laws, honoris causa, is Royal Roads University’s highest honour, awarded to people who reflect its vision and values and have achieved a significant record of success and community service.

LA&PS writer-in-residence hosts award-winning filmmaker Deepa Mehta


The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and the Department of English invite the York University community to an evening with Writer-in-Residence Shyam Selvadurai and internationally revered filmmaker Deepa Mehta.

Shyam Selvadurai
Shyam Selvadurai

On Dec. 7, Selvadurai will host Mehta for a screening and discussion of her latest collaboration, the documentary film I Am Sirat. The film follows Sirat Taneja, a trans woman in India, as she navigates living a dual life.

In 2020, Mehta collaborated with Selvadurai, adapting his bestselling book Funny Boy into a feature film. The two won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Deepa Mehta

Mehta holds an honorary degree from York University and is widely recognized for her daring films that push industry and cultural boundaries. She has been at the forefront of numerous television series and has directed and produced many critically acclaimed documentaries and feature films, like her celebrated Elements Trilogy: Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005).

She has received both a Genie Award and an Oscar nomination. In 2012, she received Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

Selvadurai is the author of Funny BoyCinnamon GardensSwimming in the Monsoon Sea and The Hungry Ghosts. His work has won the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Lambda Literary Award and the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award, and has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. He is also the editor of Story-Wallah: A Celebration of South Asian Fiction and a comprehensive anthology of Sri Lankan literature called Many Roads Through Paradise.

The Writer-in-Residence Program connects faculty, staff and students with a professional writer for feedback, critiques and support. Four meetings per week are available by appointment through Calendly

The event occurs at the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. Registration is now open.