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.

Student Support Certificate launches new course offerings

York students walking in Accolade Building on Keele Campus

Since its launch in January 2023, over 120 York University staff and faculty members are on track to complete the Student Support Certificate, a series of YU Learn workshops offered by experts across the University who share insights on student resources and how to make informed and effective referrals to York’s available student services.

York tapped into the wealth of knowledge across the University to create a professional development opportunity for faculty and staff to support York’s diverse student population in reaching their goals and dreams. With new courses added for 2024, and more to come, the impact of the program is expected to continue to grow.

The Student Support Certificate program involves a series of self-paced and instructor-led courses, which can be completed within about 10 hours. To receive the certificate, participants must complete three core courses covering topics including conflict mediation, effective communication and student referrals, as well as additional electives that offer insights into more specialized populations, such as international student advising and immigration, and working with students with disabilities.

“By learning about student supports available across the University and how to help students access them, we strengthen our collective capacity to respond to student needs and to foster a more caring and positive community,” says Nona Robinson, vice-provost students.

Participants learn how to respond to student issues and concerns, helping to strengthen York’s student-service focus. They are encouraged to apply this knowledge in their interactions with students, to help promote and foster a caring and supportive environment for learning at York.

“Delivering the practical, student-centred, ‘appreciative advising’ approach demonstrates York’s commitment to providing an excellent quality of care and service to our students, but also ensures that our community is united, aligned, and committed to supporting the unique needs of our diverse student body and meeting them where they are,” says Derrick Fairman, director academic advising, student petitions and student relations in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and an instructor for the certificate’s course on appreciative advising. “Everyone has a role in advising – students, staff, faculty and administration.”

Additional courses will continue to be added, and all staff and faculty are invited to take part. Those interested in registering can visit YU Learn to find out more. Once completed, the certificate will appear on the employee’s learning record.

“My experience with the workshops has been positive, as they are engaging and focused on many aspects of the student experience,” says Mazen Hamadeh, an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science and associate dean for students. “The workshops support student success and I recommend them to any staff, faculty and administrators who interact with students regularly.”

Continuing Studies Building earns gold for sustainable design

School of Continuing Studies Building

Further solidifying York University’s place as an international leader in sustainability, York’s School of Continuing Studies Building has achieved LEED Gold certification from the Canadian Green Building Council. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the global building industry’s premier benchmark for sustainability.

School of Continuing Studies Building
School of Continuing Studies Building exterior.

The six-story, 9,012-square-metre, 50-classroom building, which opened last spring at 68 The Pond Road on York’s Keele Campus, was designed by global architecture firm Perkins&Will, led by architects Safdar Abidi and Andrew Frontini. Its twisted design is said to symbolize the school’s twist on the traditional mission of continuing studies – that is, to solve Canada’s most pressing labour challenges by connecting employers to a highly skilled talent pool through innovative program offerings.

“Our stunning, architecturally twisted learning facility emphasizes sustainable practices, safeguards the environment and lowers operating costs,” said Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, assistant vice-president, Continuing Studies. “This purposeful design, with its abundant natural light and other innovative features, is welcoming and promotes a healthy atmosphere so we can focus on what matters most: excellence in programming and a vibrant community for student interactions.”

Some of the building’s most notable environmental features include: a self-generating heat recovery system; an infrastructure-ready, solar-powered water heater; a high-performing façade system for weather resistance; and daylight harvesting to offset electric lighting requirements. The building is believed to be well positioned to achieve net-zero emissions in the future due to its low energy consumption and ability to accommodate solar photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

But contrary to popular belief, LEED is not only about energy-efficient design. It also considers occupant wellness, an area where the School of Continuing Studies Building focused much attention. Designed with the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in mind, the building houses a lactation room for nursing mothers and a payer room, plus guide rails, automated doors, standing desks, screens for the visually impaired, elevators and large, wheelchair accessible hallways.

“LEED is a comprehensive sustainability objective,” explained Norm Hawton, director of design and construction for Facilities Services at York, “ranging from site selection and recycling of materials to designing for energy performance, minimizing waste, encouraging wellness – from daylighting to healthy commuting, by providing bicycle racks and showers – and thinking holistically about how this building will contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.”

According to Hawton, the LEED Gold certification could not have been achieved without the contributions of the School of Continuing Studies students, instructors and staff who were instrumental to both the scoping and design phases of the project, the University administrators, consultants, and construction and design teams.

“It was the collaborative participation by all throughout the project, from the initial building concept through to successful operations supporting continuing education, that led to LEED quantify the success of the School of Continuing Studies Building in this way,” he said.

In addition to this new sustainability certification, the building has also been recognized for its interior design achievements. Last October, the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) named it one of the most vibrant, innovative and inspiring educational spaces of the year – a true testament to York’s visionary leadership in the higher-education building space.