Professor receives esteemed literary prize

colorful book shelf banner

Professor Christina Sharpe, the Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University, is among this year’s recipients of Windham-Campbell Prizes. The awards seek to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns, with a cash award of US$175,000.

Christina Sharpe close-up portrait
Christina Sharpe

The award recognizes Sharpe’s collective work for its efforts to recalibrate images of Black existence by exploring the complex relationship between language and Black being.

It especially singles out her most recent award-winning work, Ordinary Notes, for how it manages to “demonstrate, brilliantly, how beauty, as an attention to everything, can be a method and a radical force not just for recognizing and refusing antiblack structures and logics but for contending with their continuation into the brutality of the present.”

Sharpe receiving a Windham-Campbell Prize is the latest success in a wave of accomplishments since Ordinary Notes was published in April 2023. Sharpe was awarded the 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for the book, and it also was named a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction. It was also named a top 10 book of the year by The Atlantic, and among the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2023.

In a video interview created by the Windham-Campbell Prizes, Sharpe says of the goal of her work, “It’s important to me to try to speak to as broad an audience as I can and for the work to travel in all kinds of ways.”

This most recent award – and the funding it will provide for future efforts – will surely ensure she can continue to meet that aim.

TTC mural honours Professor Carl James

Carl James BANNER

The Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC’s) subway system recently became the canvas for a new mural honouring York University Distinguished Research Professor Carl James and his impact on community and racial equity.

The mural – which features an evocative portrait of James – can be viewed at the York University TTC subway station, as well as a bus wrap that’s emblazoned on a TTC vehicle deployed from the Queensway Garage, and at various subway stops across the city. It pays tribute to Professor James’ impactful contributions to education, community and racial equity.

Mya Salau, a third-year student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, was commissioned for the project by AstroSankofa Arts Initiatives, a Canadian organization that describes itself as committed to supporting Black and Indigenous emerging artists in public art and Web3 activities.

Salau’s inspiration for the mural stemmed from her desire to capture the essence of James’ teachings and accomplishments. To create the image, she used acrylic paint on canvas, then had the painting digitized to be displayed on TTC buses and murals. She also incorporated various visual elements to reflect his dedication to educational equality, youth studies, and race and ethnic relations.

“I wanted the artwork to not only celebrate Professor James, but also to serve as a reminder of his profound impact on our community,” Salau explained. “Through this mural, I hope to convey the essence of his teachings and inspire others to continue his legacy of advocacy and social change.”

The mural features a captivating portrait of Professor James adorned with textbook pages, symbolizing knowledge, literature and the power of education. “I also added a futuristic eye lens,” Salau said, “as a lot of his work advocates for future change and improving systems in Canadian society.”

James worked closely with Salau as she shaped the mural over various iterations. “I very much appreciate that Mya was able to share an early version of the painting, and use my comments to develop the final version,” he says. “Her efforts to represent me and my scholarship in the painting reflects her reading of my work.”

Carl James mural
The Carl James mural at York University subway station. (Photo credit: York University’s Faculty of Education.)

That work, in a nutshell, is about addressing systemic inequalities in Canadian education and society.

From his early days as a community organizer to his current role as the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora at York University, James has provided research on race, education and immigration that sheds light on the challenges faced by Black students in the Greater Toronto Area. His investigations have catalyzed significant policy changes, including the end of academic and applied streaming for Grade 9 students in Ontario.

“It is not about research for research’s sake, but to inform action,” James said in a recently published interview.

“Community is often a central feature for those who have been marginalized, and it is through collaboration and advocacy that we can bring about meaningful change.”

The unveiling of the mural on Feb. 24 coincided with Black History Month, a time to celebrate the rich contributions of Black Canadians to society. Alongside other honourees, James was recognized during a TTC subway tour honouring Black Torontonians, showcasing their enduring legacies and contributions to the city.

Memorial scholarship advances refugee studies

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For several years now, the Anthony H. Richmond Scholarship, named after the late distinguished professor emeritus at York University, has provided a path for promising graduate student researchers to advance important research in refugee studies.

Richmond, who died in 2017, was an academic known for his commitment to scholarly life, sense of fairness and unwavering advocacy for marginalized communities. A lifelong Quaker, he played a pivotal role in shaping York University’s Department of Sociology and was a founding member of the York Centre for Refugee Studies.

Anthony H. Richmond
Anthony H. Richmond

The scholarship – established in memory of Richmond by his wife, Freda Richmond, a fellow academic – honours his work by awarding $2,000 annually to graduate-level students conducting research at the intersections of forced migration, immigration, resettlement and environmental changes.

Since its inception in 2020, its funded students have been exploring climate justice education and tree planting campaigns near refugee camps. Its recipients have included students like Mara Mahmud, a master of arts candidate in environmental studies, who investigated the impact of climate change on urban development in Dhaka, Bangladesh, exemplifying the scholarship’s global reach and interdisciplinary nature; and Michael De Santi, a master’s student in civil engineering, who utilized artificial neural networks to enhance water quality in refugee settlements, demonstrating the scholarship’s commitment to tangible solutions for displaced populations.

The latest recipient of the Anthony H. Richmond Scholarship, announced in the fall of 2023, is Dheman Abdi, who is currently pursuing a master of arts in political science. Abdi is dedicated to unravelling the complex dynamics between political migration and anthropogenic climate change in the Horn of Africa, underscoring the scholarship’s relevance in addressing pressing global challenges and advancing knowledge in the region.

The recipients follow in the footsteps of Richmond’s career, which spanned decades and continents, and was marked by a relentless pursuit of social justice and scholarly excellence.

Born in England, Richmond was a student at the London School of Economics and later the University of Liverpool, where he began his pioneering research on race relations and immigration. His first job was as a lecturer in social theory in the Department of Social Study at the University of Edinburgh, during which time he published his first book, The Colour Problem (1955). The second edition of this book, published in 1961, included a new chapter on apartheid in South Africa and brought him his first international recognition, stirring considerable controversy. His book was banned in South Africa until the country’s first free elections in 1994.

He relocated to Canada with his family in 1965, where his impact extended beyond academia, influencing Canadian immigration policy and advocating for racial equality.

Richmond’s published work, including his final book, Global Apartheid: Refugees, Racism and the New World Order (1994), continues to resonate with scholars and activists worldwide, and maintains the relevance of his research in today’s increasingly interconnected world. The Anthony H. Richmond Scholarship continues to do that, too.

Anthropology Annual Lecture to focus on impacts of colonialism

World War II Museum luggage

Every year, York University’s Department of Anthropology provides faculty, staff and students with a unique opportunity to meet eminent leaders in the field through its Anthropology Annual Lecture. This year’s event, taking place on April 4, will feature Ghassan Hage, a professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne in Australia, presenting a talk titled “The Management of Colonial Luggage.”

Ghassan Hage
Ghassan Hage

The Oxford English Dictionary defines luggage as: suitcases or other bags in which to pack personal belongings for travelling; and past experiences or long-held ideas and opinions perceived as burdensome encumbrances. Each of these definitions belongs to a different dimension of life. An ethnographic investigation of the first – looking at customs and habits of people and their cultures – takes us into what we physically carry and how we carry it as we move from one place to another. The second takes us into the psychological around what we carry with us existentially as we move through life.

In this lecture, which will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. in downtown Toronto (exact location to be provided after registration), Hage will discuss how these two dimensions of life intersect and speak to each other when researching post-colonial culture and the impact of the exploitation of colonized people and their lands.

A prominent anthropologist known for his groundbreaking research on the comparative anthropology of racism, nationalism and multiculturalism, particularly in Australia and the Middle East, Hage has published numerous books and scholarly articles exploring the intersections of power, race and everyday life, shedding light on the experiences of marginalized communities in multicultural societies. His work challenges conventional understandings of identity and belonging, offering nuanced perspectives on issues of race, ethnicity and nationalism.

All members of the York University community are welcome to attend this event. For more information and to register, visit the Eventbrite page.

k2i academy engages Black youth in STEM

k2iacademy event participants banner

Through two of its programs, the k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering has looked to provide Black students in Grades 5 through 12 with exciting, hands-on learning experiences that provide unique opportunities to explore and engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

The k2i academy’s Path2STEM and Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) in STEM programs look to provide Black youth with access to opportunities that help the academy achieve its aim of breaking systemic barriers and transforming the future of STEM. It aspires to do so by ensuring that Black youth see themselves as integral parts of these fields.

“Our educational systems have deeply rooted inequities that must be addressed,” says Lisa Cole, director of programming at k2i academy. “As we work alongside collaborative partners, including school boards, the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN), faculty, community members and government, we are better able to design programs that create impact by enhancing access to opportunities, resulting in more equitable outcomes for students and families.”

Recently, as part of its Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM programs, the k2i academy sought to advance its goals through a two-day event that invited over 400 students from the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board to participate in activities that provided practical STEM skills, as well as highlighted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Each day was dedicated to different grade levels, with students in Grades 5 through 10 participating in the Path2STEM program, and those in Grades 11 and 12 taking part in the SHSM in STEM program.

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events.

Among the activities were hands-on sessions where the k2i academy’s mentor team led students through opportunities to explore engineering design, coding, robotics and 3D design. High-school students also got to take part in a hackathon experience, designed to solve real-world problems in transportation and mobility. The immersive challenge encouraged teamwork and innovation, as students worked to develop solutions for smart roads, the safety of autonomous vehicles and accessibility issues.

The two-day event was also indicative of the k2i academy’s commitment to fostering relationships within the community, such as its relationship with the Peel District School Board.

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events.

“We have developed a Black Student Success Strategy with objectives to integrate the experiences of Black Canadians into the curriculum and inspire and support Black student success,” says Camille Logan, associate director, Peel District School Board. “The k2i Path2STEM and SHSM programs align with this work. Characterized by a deliberate focus on uplifting Black students in STEM and enhancing teacher capabilities, this program has flourished into an excellent partnership with the k2i academy. Together, we are not just addressing gaps, we are laying the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive future in STEM education.”

The Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM programs, and event, are the result of funding from the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, which has provided the k2i academy $523,800 over two years to support the Bringing STEM to Life: In Schools SHSM in STEM for Black Youth program. This project, in collaboration with the CBSN, focuses on career pathways, skill development and mentorship, illustrating a collective commitment to building a more inclusive STEM community.

“k2i’s work supports the Black Youth Action Plan’s mission of helping participants develop skills to launch their careers in high-demand sectors and working towards eliminating race-based disparities by dismantling barriers and increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families across Ontario,” says Michael Ford, minister of citizenship and multiculturalism.

For more information, visit the k2i academy website.

Community leaders to discuss off-reserve Indigenous life

Indigenous drums

York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is hosting its annual Smyth Dialogues event on April 24, featuring three Indigenous community leaders engaging in a panel discussion centred around off-reserve Indigenous life.

Bobbi-Jo Virtue
Bobbi-Jo Virtue

Panellists Christa Big Canoe, Jennifer LaFontaine and Sylvia Maracle will visit York University’s Keele Campus for this hybrid event, taking place both in person and via livestream from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The panel will discuss their work and experiences supporting Indigenous people in Canada who live their lives either mostly or entirely off reserve. All York University community members are welcome to attend.

This special event will be moderated by Bobbi-Jo Virtue, an Ininew (Cree) from St. Peter’s/Peguis Community in Treaty 1 territory and assistant professor in York’s School of Public Policy. A Q-and-A session will follow the panel discussion.

The Smyth Dialogues is an annual public event series made possible through bequests from the late Delmar Smyth – the inaugural dean of the former Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies at York University – and his late wife, Wanita. The event series reflects the pair’s shared desire to profile ideas that help prevent violence and promote peace, justice and human security.

About the panellists

Big Canoe is an Anishinabek woman, mother and lawyer from Georgina Island First Nation who has been before all levels of court, various tribunals and standing committees providing Indigenous perspective and representation. She took a 2.5-year leave of absence from her role as legal director of Aboriginal Legal Services to be senior and then lead commission counsel to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

LaFontaine is a Ukrainian and Métis woman from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. For the past two years, she has worked in the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Affairs office and is currently the manager of placekeeping. In this role, she works to increase the visible landscape of Indigenous people in the city, including the street names, public art, murals, storefronts and restaurants, and land for Indigenous community to gather for ceremony and culture.

Maracle (Skonaganleh:ra) is a Two-Spirit Mohawk, Wolf Clan member from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territories who has served as the executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres for over 40 years.

Visit the Smyth Dialogues web page for more information and to register.

International Women’s Day: including all women in positive change

International Women's Day banner

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

On Friday, March 8, York University celebrates International Women’s Day.

Every year, International Women’s Day celebrates the contributions of women around the world, giving focus to issues such as gender equality, violence against women and reproductive rights. This year’s theme, #InspireInclusion, reminds us that women’s rights vary significantly by country and intersect with other factors such as age, race, ethnicity, religion, class, ability, gender identity and expression.

Positive change must address the inclusion and rights of all women, and York University is a powerful advocate for advancing gender equality as reflected in our Times Higher Education Ranking as a top-ranked university in Canada – and 5th in North America – for our impact towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality.

All across the University, York scholars, staff and students continue to make a difference in the lives of all women:

  • by generating and circulating knowledge, including through academic programs, research and creative activities across our Faculties and organized research units such as the Centre for Feminist Research;
  • by spotlighting women’s leadership, including the upcoming 5th Annual Women & Girls Leadership and Sport Conference hosted by York University Athletics & Recreation;
  • by promoting women’s safety, such as helping to develop the iHEAL app to support women experiencing partner violence and abuse;
  • by advocating for reproductive health, such as the upcoming discussion Reclaiming My Body, hosted by the Centre for Sexual Violence Response Support & Education; and
  • by expanding women’s economic prospects, including through ELLA, YSpace’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub dedicated to women-led ventures.

We invite you to participate in International Women’s Day by exploring the initiatives above or finding your own way to support the inclusion and rights of all women.

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.

Rhonda L. Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor      

Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
Interim Vice-President, Equity, People & Culture

Journée internationale des femmes : inclure toutes les femmes dans les changements positifs

Le vendredi 8 mars, l’Université York célèbre la Journée internationale des femmes.

Chaque année, la Journée internationale des femmes souligne les contributions des femmes du monde entier en mettant l’accent sur des questions comme l’égalité de genre, la violence à l’égard des femmes et les droits liés à la procréation. Le thème de cette année (#InspireInclusion) nous rappelle que les droits des femmes varient considérablement d’un pays à l’autre et se recoupent avec d’autres facteurs comme l’âge, la race, l’ethnicité, la religion, la classe, la capacité, l’identité et l’expression de genre.

Les changements positifs doivent viser l’inclusion et les droits de toutes les femmes. L’Université York se fait la championne de l’égalité de genre et elle occupe d’ailleurs le premier rang au Canada, et le 7rang en Amérique du Nord, du classement Times Higher Education pour l’objectif de développement durable des Nations Unies « égalité entre les sexes ».

À l’échelle de York, les universitaires, le personnel et la population étudiante ne cessent de faire changer les choses dans la vie de toutes les femmes :

  • en générant des connaissances et en les faisant circuler, notamment grâce à des programmes universitaires, des activités de recherche et de création au sein de nos facultés et de ses unités de recherche organisées, comme le Centre for Feminist Research;
  • en mettant en avant le leadership des femmes, notamment lors de la 5e conférence annuelle sur le leadership et le sport des femmes et des filles organisée par le Département de l’athlétisme et des loisirs de l’Université York;
  • en contribuant à la sécurité des femmes, notamment avec le développement de l’application iHEAL pour appuyer les femmes victimes de violence conjugale;
  • en défendant la santé génésique, par exemple lors de la discussion Reclaiming My Body, organisée prochainement par le Centre d’intervention, de soutien et d’éducation contre la violence sexuelle;
  • en élargissant les perspectives économiques des femmes, comme avec ELLA, le centre d’entrepreneuriat et d’innovation de YSpace consacré aux entreprises dirigées par des femmes.

Nous vous invitons à participer à la Journée internationale des femmes en explorant les initiatives ci-dessus ou en trouvant votre propre façon d’appuyer l’inclusion et les droits de toutes les femmes.

Merci. Thank you. Miigwech.

Rhonda L. Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière      

Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Pilot program levels field for marginalized psychology students

Black student in life sciences lab

After identifying a glaring need to better support undergraduate students in psychology from historically under-represented groups, the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Group within York University’s Department of Psychology developed the Research Experiences to Support Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) program, a pilot program providing marginalized and racialized students with low-barrier opportunities to gain experience in a psychology research lab.

To become a registered psychologist in Canada, students need to be accepted into a graduate program at a post-secondary institution. These programs are highly competitive, receiving hundreds of applicants each year and only accepting a very small percentage of them. Out of the students who get accepted each year, very few identify as Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC), first-generation students, 2SLGBTQIA+ or students with disabilities, leaving a gap between the population served and future researchers and clinicians.

One of the many requirements to these highly competitive graduate programs in psychology is that students must demonstrate robust extracurricular research experience at the undergraduate level. In psychology departments, there are a limited number of research labs, and the high number of students seeking research experience each year creates a competitive scenario. The demand often exceeds the available supply, making it challenging for students to secure these opportunities.

Jama Maxie
Jama Maxie

“BIPOC students such as myself face additional barriers to gain undergraduate research opportunities, such as limited time to volunteer in labs because of work or caregiver duties, lack of mentorship because of their first-generation student status, and racial prejudice due to having an ethnic-sounding name on their CV or being a person of colour,” said Jama Maxie, a final-year specialized honours psychology student of Indigenous and Afro-Black Canadian heritage who has plans to pursue a master’s in clinical psychology.

The issue of educational equity arises long before the graduate application process, as it is extremely difficult for historically under-represented students to gain the research experience needed to be considered for these competitive programs. York’s REDI program aims to fix this.

As part of the program, a centralized application and matching process is used to place student volunteers in available research labs. Priority is given to students from historically marginalized communities, recognizing the significant hurdles they face in accessing volunteer opportunities.

Once matched to a research lab, students gain first-hand experience with psychology research through observation, shadowing, scaffolding, mentorship and reflection. The program is designed to provide an experiential learning opportunity as opposed to a volunteer experience where the researchers are the primary beneficiaries.

In the summer of 2022, Maxie gained his first exposure to a research lab at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital through Co-operative Education & Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada’s work-integrated experiences for Black students program. He was able to leverage this experience to gain other volunteer research positions and use what he learned to inform individual research projects, conference presentations and an honours thesis. In addition, he was able to share with his peers and professors at York how impactful the experience had been to his academic and career trajectory, and bring those learnings to his role as an undergraduate student co-ordinator for the REDI program in the summer of 2023.

“When I was approached to assist with co-ordinating the REDI program pilot, it was a no-brainer to get involved, as the program is very meaningful to me,” he explained. “My most crucial responsibility was to offer peer mentorship. Having been in REDI students’ shoes as a BIPOC student in psychology, my unique experience enabled me to empathize with students in a way that not many can.”

By the end of the program, students can expect to use their experience as a valuable addition to their graduate school or job applications, or as a networking opportunity for future positions.

For participating faculty members, the program serves as an opportunity to enrich their labs by including more diverse student perspectives and aligning with York University’s Decolonization, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy. This not only benefits the faculty members but also enhances the overall lab culture, making it more inclusive and reflective of the community they research and serve.

“I am reminded of the importance of initiatives like REDI when I walk into a psychology lab; the stark reality often hits – the under-representation is palpable,” said Maxie. “The REDI program provided me with a foot-in-the-door opportunity so that I have the same opportunity for graduate school as anyone else.”

In its pilot phase, the REDI program was offered to 29 students in Fall 2023, who were placed in one of 12 research labs in York’s Psychology Department. The faculty member overseeing the development of the program, Professor Jeffrey Wardell, received funding from the Faculty of Health’s Funds for Innovations in Teaching to support the initial development of the program. The goal of the pilot was to establish the feasibility of the program and gain feedback from participating students about their experiences.

Now that the pilot phase is complete, Wardell and other members of the department’s Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Working Group have plans to scale up the initiative and are looking into ways to secure additional funding to support the administrative aspects of the program.

York community working together to achieve UN SDGs

York University's Las Nubes EcoCampus

In response to global challenges like climate change, pandemics, inequality and political polarization, York University continues to advance positive change through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) with innovative thinking, groundbreaking projects and meaningful collaborations.

Introduced in 2015, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlines 17 interconnected SDGs aimed at addressing global social, economic, and environmental issues to promote the well-being of all people and the planet.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

York’s University Academic Plan, which was launched in 2020, includes a commitment to enhance the University’s contributions to the SDGs. Notably, the University’s achievements in advancing the SDGs were recognized in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, where York was positioned among the top 40 universities globally. York placed in the top 100 in nine SDGs, with a strong standing in the following categories:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty (21st in the world);
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities (25th in the world); and
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (12th in the world).

“York’s third and most recent annual report on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals demonstrates how we are bringing positive change to communities around the world,” said Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic. “Our community has demonstrated once again why our partnerships, research and academic innovation are at the centre of our success as a leading Canadian university dedicated to building a better future.”

York has prioritized ethical research practices by establishing the first wholly autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board at a Canadian post-secondary institution. This initiative, which addresses SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, reaffirms York’s commitment to decolonizing research methodologies and amplifying Indigenous voices and perspectives in academic discourse. Indigenous knowledge is also being recognized in the context of municipal climate solutions through the creation of a Climate Change Solutions Park in the town of Penetaguishene, Ont., which is led by Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change Professor José Etcheverry.

For students, organizations like the SDG Student Hub facilitate learning and engagement with the SDGs. Events such as York Capstone Day provide platforms for students to present sustainable solutions to societal challenges.

The University is celebrating these accomplishments and more during SDG Week Canada from March 4 to 8, featuring workshops, panels, and other interactive programming to increase awareness of and engagement with the 17 SDGs. Learn more about York’s progress on the UN SDGs by visiting York’s SDG Week website and following the University on social media.

Black Studies program expands to include major, minor options

Two Black students at York University

York University is entering a new phase in its commitment to Black Studies with the expansion of its existing program to include major and minor degree options under the continued guidance of Professor Andrea A. Davis.

A professor of Black cultures of the Americas in the Department of Humanities, Davis will lead the development of the major with Paul Lawrie, a professor in the Department of History and the Black inclusion advisor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

The Office of the Dean in LA&PS and the program development and curriculum innovation specialist in the Office of the Vice-Provost Academic are also involved in supporting the creation of what Davis calls “a very ambitious and exciting new degree program.”

“This new development,” Davis says, “marks a significant advancement in the University’s dedication to providing a comprehensive education that authentically reflects Black histories and experiences within academia.”

Under her leadership, York previously introduced the Black Canadian Studies Certificate in 2018, demonstrating a commitment to fostering inclusive educational environments. At the time, it was only the second Black Studies program in Canada to offer the study of Black Canada through humanities and arts approaches, including cultural studies, history, literature and music.

The expanded program will build on the foundation laid by the Black Canadian Studies Certificate, offering students a broader and more in-depth exploration of Black experiences across various academic disciplines, including arts, media, performance and design.

“We have made significant progress in mapping a unique, 21st-century curriculum, with cohesive learning outcomes and assessments, and we will be expanding consultation shortly with colleagues, students and affiliated programs,” Davis says.

Central to her pedagogical approach is the belief in education as a transformative force that extends beyond academic achievement. The goal is to empower students to critically examine the intersectionality of race, gender and class, fostering a deeper understanding of societal structures and inspiring them to become catalysts for positive change within their communities.

By delving into contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, social justice and cultural identity, the expectation is that students will develop critical-thinking skills essential for addressing the pressing challenges of the modern world.

Presently in the development stage, the proposal for the new, expanded program is expected to be ready for the various approval stages within LA&PS by the spring of this year. Announcements of signed agreements between LA&PS and two historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S. are also expected to happen by this time.

“Without giving away too much, the curriculum will remain embedded in the humanities and expressive cultures,” Davis says. “The goal is to make it completely accessible and to include international student exchanges and teaching and research partnerships, as well as carefully mapped work-integrated learning opportunities.”