York demonstrates global, national education leadership in latest QS subject rankings

York University commons pond

With three placements in the top 100 of the 2024 QS World University Rankings by Subject report, York University builds on ongoing momentum to right the future as it positions itself as a global leader in post-secondary education through its academic programming.

Each year, the QS Subject Report ranks a total of 55 disciplines grouped into five subject areas: arts and humanities; engineering and technology; life sciences and medicine; natural sciences; and social sciences and management.

The most recent report – which evaluated more than 15,000 programs from 1,561 institutions – placed York among the top 100 in the world in three subject areas: education, English language and literature, and philosophy. Within Canada, the University also received top-five placement across 11 subjects.

“These rankings reflect the high quality education and impactful research that define York University,” says York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “We continue to drive positive change locally and globally guided by our values as a progressive university dedicated to excellence, social justice, diversity, inclusion and sustainability. It is gratifying to be recognized for our leadership in the higher education sector. We are providing the talent needed for the 21st-century workforce and solving the complex problems facing society today and in the future.”

The new QS rankings add to the momentum of York’s continued impressive results over the past year in other prestigious rankings. Notably, in June 2023, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings placed York among the top 40 institutions advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Then, in July, the QS World University Rankings saw the University strengthen its global position as a leading research-intensive university by climbing more than 100 spots from the previous year.

Faculty of Education advancing its leadership

In the new QS subject rankings, released this April, the University placed particularly high in education, demonstrating its ongoing efforts in advancing the future of pedagogy.

That leadership has been shepherded by York’s Faculty of Education, which offers a broad range of programs, research initiatives and community partnerships, all of which embody its long-running dedication to practices of equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization.

Last year, the Faculty advanced those efforts for the occasion of its 50th anniversary and developed its new five-year strategic plan. Through the plan, the Faculty reaffirmed its commitment to providing an environment where students are encouraged to challenge the status quo to uncover new possibilities in the advancement of education and social justice.

Opportunities – like its Concurrent Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies – also have helped the Faculty stand out, as have initiatives like its Public Lecture Series, Additional Basic Qualifications courses and the Wüléelham offering, which engages participants in learning from Indigenous peoples.  

The Faculty of Education also this year launched a new international consultancy called ED Global, offering education and professional learning consulting services to school boards, educational organizations and diverse communities.

Top five in Canada

In addition to York’s placement in the top 100 globally in three subjects, it was represented further within the top 150 in eight other subject areas: anthropology, history, accounting and finance, communication and media studies, psychology, performing arts, sociology, developmental studies and psychology (at Glendon college). The University was also represented in the top five for each of these subjects within Canada.

The rankings reflect a range of Faculties and schools at York, including the Faculty of Health, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design.

QS World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) that serves as an important indicator for global post-secondary education leadership and success.

Federal government awards York researchers over $1.5M

Lightbulb on book

Two dozen projects led by York University researchers have received more than $1.5 million combined from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council’s Insight Development Grants, announced March 13 by the federal government.

The grants support the development of short-term research projects of up to two years by emerging and established scholars. The York-led projects span a wide range of research, including a study that will explore the different experiences of refugee workers in Canadian meat-packing towns, an assessment of a physical activity program for children with autism and an investigation into the motivations behind firms engaging in artificial intelligence innovation.

“The federal government’s investment in our social sciences and humanities researchers and their diverse projects supports York University’s continued leadership in these critical fields of study,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “This new funding elevates the scholarly pursuits of our researchers across multiple Faculties, enables the development of new research questions and fosters valuable contributions to York’s vision of creating positive change.”  

The 24 York-led projects were among 577 research initiatives to receive funding.

See the full list of the York recipients below.  

Duygu Biricik Gulseren, School of Human Resources Management, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Inconsistent Leadership: Scale Development and Measurement
$69,415

Rebecca Bassett-Gunter, School of Kinesiology & Health Science; and Jonathan Weiss, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
BINGOCIZE! Evaluating the Feasibility of a Physical Activity Program for Autistic Children
$74,034

Preetmohinder Aulakh, policy specialization, Schulich School of Business
Sustainable Agriculture in the Global South: Prospects and Challenges of Smallholders’ Product Diversification and Marketing Channel Coordination
$67,600

Simone Bohn, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
When Reproductive Self-Determination Remains Restricted: Women’s Strategies of Resistance in Brazil
$74,518

Bronwyn Bragg and Jennifer Hyndman, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Slaughterhouse geographies: Comparing the integration experiences of refugee workers in Canadian meatpacking towns
$63,129

Robert Cribbie, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
Modern Perspectives on Multiplicity Control
$62,300

Pouyan Foroughi, finance, Schulich School of Business
Private Equity Sponsors in the Leveraged Loan Market
$63,570

Hannah Johnston, School of Human Resources Management, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Regulating algorithmic management in standard employment: A comparison of legislative and industrial relations approaches
$71,209

Ambrus Kecskés, finance, Schulich School of Business; and Anh Nguyen, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Artificial intelligence and innovation: A causal investigation of why firms produce it, how it impacts their workforce, and how firms evolve as a consequence
$59,883

Chungah Kim and Antony Chum, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Social policy solutions to deaths and diseases of despair in Canada
$74,994

Chloe Rose Brushwood, Faculty of Education
On our own terms: An oral history and archive of queer femme community and culture in Toronto, 1990-2000
$65,097

Ibtissem Knouzi, Department of Languages, Literature & Linguistics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Critical Transitions in the Literacy Development of International Multilingual Students in English-medium Universities: A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study
$65,097

Matthew Leisinger, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Cudworth’s conscious self
$36,492

Guangrui Li and Moren Levesque, operations management and information systems, Schulich School of Business
Curse or Blessing: The welfare effects of algorithmic recommendations
$59,005

Zhixiang Liang, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The Impact of Institutional Systems on Foreign Direct Investment: A Multilevel Study of Chinese Multinational Enterprises
$63,393

Ann Marie Murnaghan, Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Old poles and new stories: archival knowledges and oral histories of C’idimsggin’is and Kurt Seligmann
$70,521

Glen Norcliffe, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Velomobility for disability: the design, production and distribution of cycles that assist the mobility of persons with a disability
$65,209

Ivan Ozai, Osgoode Hall Law School
Realizing global justice through the international tax system
$62,798

Mathieu Poirier, School of Global Health and School of Kinesiology & Health Science; Steven Hoffman, School of Health Policy & Management, School of Global Health, and Osgoode Hall Law School; and Tina Nanyangwe-Moyo, Faculty of Health
Centring gender in the evaluation of international laws
$62,500

Andrew Sarta, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Imagining Augmentation Possibilities and How Organizations Adapt to the Emergence of Artificial Intelligence
$55,750

Gregory Saxton, accounting, Schulich School of Business
The role of automated bots in the financial and consumer markets
$61,956

Rianka Singh, Department of Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Platform Feminism
$53,363

Jean-Thomas Tremblay, Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Eco-subtraction: downsizing the environmental humanities
$47,131

Yishu Zeng, Department of Economics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The Design of Information Disclosure Policy in Strategic Interaction
$57,238

For a complete list of Insight Development Grant recipients, visit the Government of Canada announcement.

Public matters: York partners on project advocating for public education systems

classroom with desks and chairs BANNER

York University has joined together with five other organizations to create the Public Education Exchange (PEX), an initiative to investigate the future of public education by making research more available, providing policymakers with valuable insights and engaging the public.

Sometimes organizations are formed from a single source of inspiration – an idea, a spark, a challenge, a singular moment or movement. PEX’s inception was not triggered by a single event, but a recent shift in public education.

Private actors – whether parents, religious institutions, businesses or other non-governmental organizations – have become increasingly involved in public education systems. In tandem, there has been the emergence of new policies and practices in public schools that risk undermining public education and exacerbating inequalities.

Sue Winton
Sue Winton

With this shift, information and dialogue is needed, but hasn’t always been available. PEX was created to help provide that.

“The decision to pursue the PEX came from the challenges I faced accessing research on education privatization across Canada and concerns about the possibility for accelerated privatization during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sue Winton, the PEX project director, York Research Chair in Policy Analysis for Democracy and a professor in the Faculty of Education.

PEX is a collaboration between the University of Windsor, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. The joint effort secured funding from a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant in the spring of 2023 to pursue its mission of connecting researchers, advocates, policymakers, and the public to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange. “It’s about making information accessible to everyone and creating spaces for meaningful conversations,” Winton asserts.

education-privatization-illustration
An infographic featured on the PEX website.

The initiative is still in its early stages, with plans to build a network of collaborators, researchers and advocates across the country, but it has already made notable progress. For instance, the project’s website serves as the online hub for the network and features information and resources. However, Winton envisions the PEX as more than just a website; it will be a dynamic network of individuals engaging through online webinars, in-person meetings and community-based dialogues.

Through these offerings, Winton explains, PEX will look to advocate for a robust public education system that prioritizes collective benefits over individual gains. “We believe in highlighting the successes and potentials of public education while pointing out the potential damage caused by privatization policies,” she says. “The focus is on fostering a system that embodies equity, reflects democratic values and prioritizes the collective well-being of society.

“I truly believe that by coming together and sharing our insights, we can shape a future where public education remains a cornerstone of our democratic society,” she adds.

Passings: Pat Rogers

passings

Pat Rogers, a former York University faculty member, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 78, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Pat Rogers
Pat Rogers

Known to many as “Dr. Pat Rogers,” a title she would often roll her eyes at, she had a remarkable academic career that spanned several institutions and many roles.

Born just after the war, in Woking, England, to a Scottish mother and a Welsh father, Rogers spent her early years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, followed by Cardiff, Wales, before embarking on a mathematics degree at the University of Oxford – and being one of few women in her class of ’65.

While pursuing her PhD at the London School of Economics, she taught at North London Polytechnic, Goldsmiths’ College and the University of London’s Bedford College, and then relocated to Canada to become a faculty member in mathematics and education at York University in Toronto.

After being tenured as a full-time professor at York, Rogers became the founding director of the Centre of the Support of Teaching, and her legacy in that role remains in the form of a plaque in Vari Hall’s Seminar Room 3003. In keeping with what her former colleagues describe as her boisterous teaching style that demanded chairs and tables be moveable to encourage discussion, the plaque honouring her is the only thing in the room that is bolted down.

Rogers left York in 2000 to pursue two terms as dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, where she helped develop community-focused programs and where she was consistently energized by a group of academics who remained her good friends. She ended her career as associate vice-president of teaching and learning at Wilfrid Laurier University.

During her career, Rogers was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship, an award she helped establish as president of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. She was also the first Canadian and the first woman to be a appointed as the annual Pólya Lecturer for the Mathematical Association of America.

Diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2021, Rogers continuously impressed her family, friends, and many health practitioners with the tenacious and spirited way she battled it – the same tenacity and spirit that made its mark at York University and beyond.

Annual Jean Augustine Chair event shines spotlight on Black artists

Coco Murray performance during Word, Sound, Power 2023 (image: Anderson Coward)

Members of the York University community are invited to celebrate Black artistic talent during a showcase of performances on Feb. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., when the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora presents Word, Sound, Power: An Annual Celebration of Black Artistic Expression.

The annual event celebrates the rich and diverse world of Black aritistic expression, promising to be a vibrant showcase of talent, creativity and cultural pride.

Carrington Christmas and Isaac Crosby
Carrington Christmas and Isaac Crosby

The event is open to the community and is free to attend. It begins at 5:30 p.m. with a welcome reception in the CIBC Lobby, Accolade East Building at the Keele Campus, and performances will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Tribute communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building.

The event’s land acknowledgement will be provided by Carrington Christmas, a York alumna, who is an Indigenous anti-racist educator and self-described “Aunty Extraordinaire” with Black Scotian-Mi’kmaw and German ancestry.

Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis

The ceremony will then be closed with an Afro-Indigenous blessing from Isaac Crosby, an agricultural expert of Ojibwe of Anderdon heritage.

Hosting and providing opening remarks will be Andrea Davis, a professor in the Department of Humanities, who recently received an honorary degree in recognition of her work advancing equity, access and justice in post-secondary education.

Also providing remarks before the performances begin will be Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada; Samia Hashi, Ontario regional director of Unifor, which sponsors the event; and Robert Savage, dean of the Faculty of Education.

Among the featured performances this year are:

  • solo performances, including song and instruments, dance and spoken word, from students from Greater Toronto Area school boards;
  • a performance from the Oscar Peterson Jazz Ensemble;
  • a performance from the York University R&B Ensemble;
  • a spotlight artistic performance of the evening from Ian Kamau, an artist and designer;
  • a performance from the York University Gospel Choir; and
  • an Afro-Caribbean dance performance by students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School in the CIBC Lobby during the welcome reception.
Anika Forde and Karen Burke
Anika Forde and Karen Burke

This year’s Word, Sound, Power event is put on in partnership with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, with primary sponsorship from Unifor. York’s Division of Equity, People & Culture has also provided funding support. The Faculty of Education – home to the Jean Augustine Chair – and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, through faculty member Davis, also play a critical role in the event.

Anika Forde, research project manager for the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, and Karen Burke, Chair of Music, were co-conveners of the event this year.

Those interested in attending can register for free tickets on Eventbrite.

Building pathways to education: a Q-and-A with Professor Carl James

Two Black students outside on York's Keele Campus

Studies have shown that Black students are significantly under-represented on Canadian post-secondary campuses, due in large part to systemic barriers. The Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, now fully endowed and housed within York University’s Faculty of Education, aims to address this disparity and others by advancing access, equity, and inclusivity to education through community engagement and collaborative action.

Carl James
Carl James

Distinguished Research Professor Carl James, who has held the position of Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora since 2016, met with YFile to discuss the Chair, his role within it and what the recent $1.5 million in federal funding means for its future.

Q: For those who are unfamiliar, can you describe the mandate of the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora?

A: We work with community to enable and support students from racialized and marginalized groups through education; not only through elementary, middle and high school, but through university and college as well.

Q: What is your focus in your role as Chair?

A: I’m very interested in programming because it is a useful reference for knowing about the experiences and concerns of Black community members and students. In this way, we get to know about the research questions we might want to explore. There’s a tendency to separate research from program, but I think Jean Augustine expects the Chair to combine research with programs. It is simply not research for research’s sake. Instead, once you do the research, we should act on it.

I particularly like the participatory action research we do, where we set up a program and then, as the program proceeds, we research the program – is it working, is it not working, and why? And as we conduct the research, we might put into place some adjustments to the program if it’s not heading towards the expected outcome. Hence, when we’re promoting the idea that a particular program works, we will be able to say the program works because we have done the necessary research and have some documented evidence. We use the participants as researchers, as well, collaborating with them about the information we’re trying to gather.

Q: Can you explain what it means that the Chair is now fully funded?

A: The federal government’s recent $1.5-million contribution towards the endowment means that the Chair is well positioned to continue with its activities. It also means that we now have endowment funds to create some of the programs we’ve been wanting to.

Q: What is the Day at York program?

A: The Day at York program, which has hosted over 450 students from Ontario (and some from Halifax, Nova Scotia) in the past year and a half, provides Black students enrolled in Grades 7 to 12 with an opportunity to imagine themselves at a post-secondary institution.

We can tell students to go to university, but it’s difficult to imagine if you don’t have something to stimulate or inform that imagination. This program helps insofar as students are able to attend lectures, workshops, campus tours, and networking sessions with students, alumni and Black faculty members.

When students think of, where should I go to university, sometimes familiarity with an institution might help them to choose a particular university or program. It provides many opportunities that students would not have otherwise had.

Q: What are your proudest accomplishments in this role so far?

A: One of the things I’m particularly pleased with is the Jean Augustine Chair (JAC) Student Network, which involves Black undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates. The group contributes to the work of the Chair by sharing their experiences navigating university and working to be successful in their respective educational programs. Members act as hosts and mentors to high-school students who come on campus; and they do not only help to inform and contribute to the Chair’s research agenda, they also participate in the research as respondents, research assistants and collaborators. Ultimately, the network provides members with opportunities for personal, educational, team building and work-related skill development in an affirming and supportive post-secondary educational environment.

Also, we have the Jean Augustine Chair’s annual Black History Month event that happens every year in partnership with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design’s music program. Called Word, Sound, Power: An Annual Celebration of Black Artistic Expression, it is a showcase of talent, creativity and cultural pride. It is taking place this year on Feb. 7. It is held in recognition of one of Jean Augustine’s legacies – that is, the crucial role she played in establishing Black History Month in Canada. Therefore, it seems logical to hold an event at York through the Chair.

Q: What are some other projects you’re working on as part of the Chair?

A: We’re currently conducting research on social capital, a significantly new area to explore. We’re looking at how individuals employ their social capital – that is, their cultural assets, interests, aspirations, education and consciousness of what is possible – to take advantage of opportunities by which they might access training and employment to realize their social, economic, career and other ambitions. In partnership with the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism and York University’s School of Continuing Studies, we will investigate the lived experiences and needs of racialized Canadians, using the three years of the project to collect data that will help to inform educational and employment program initiatives.  

As well, we recently received program funding from the RBC Foundation to put in place Securing Black Futures, a national partnership by which we might collectively work to build pathways for Black youth to pursue their educational goals and attain academic and career success. Led by us at York and working in partnership with colleagues from six universities across the country, the program activities will serve to inform us about relevant and appropriate educational and social interventions and supports for Black youth. We will also get to know how we might best mentor, enable, support and educate Black students in their pursuit of post-secondary education, as well as particular educational and career pathways – particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Q: Looking toward the future, how do you hope the now fully endowed Jean Augustine Chair will impact the lives of Black and marginalized youth in Canada?

A: I think that a fully endowed Chair is nicely positioned to continue with its current local, regional and national initiatives. These include: supporting students in constructing their aspirations, in their decision processes as they journey towards their future selves; facilitating the voices of Black Canadians as they tell of their experiences through the research we will conduct, report and publish; helping to build university-community partnerships through which we might help to address structural and institutional barriers to full inclusion and equity of Black and other racialized people within Canadian society; and making substantial research contributions about Black life in Canada, taking into account education, employment, health and housing needs. 

Q: How important is the York University community to the success of the Chair?

A: We cannot underestimate the support that York University has given the Chair, both financial and otherwise. Neither can we underestimate the contributions of the Faculty of Education, faculty members from across the University, our community advisory committee, and our partners at York University centres such as the Harriet Tubman Institute and the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean. It’s this whole network of people that enables the work of the Chair.

York experts contribute to action plan on education for a better future

tablet united nations sustainability goals unsdgs

York University’s UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability Charles Hopkins, along with Executive Coordinator to the UNESCO Chair Katrin Kohl, will be among 250 experts presenting concepts toward implementing education for sustainable development (ESD) at a global UNESCO meeting in Japan.

“Transforming education together: ESD-NET Global Meeting” takes place Dec. 18 to 20 and aims to highlight progress on ESD through new country-led initiatives, trends and innovations for the 2030 Agenda – an action plan to encompass the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Charles Hopkins and Katrin Kohl
Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability at York University, and Katrin Kohl, executive coordinator to the UNESCO Chair.

The UNESCO Chair at York focuses on developing and strengthening global networks, as well as creating and fostering research that supports responsible and inclusive policymaking in reorienting education toward sustainability in the SDGs and beyond.

In light of the global climate crisis, humans must learn to live together sustainably and change the way they think and act as individuals and societies, says Kohl. “Education has an important role to play and, in turn, must change to create a peaceful and sustainable world for the survival and prosperity of current and future generations.”

ESD has been identified by the United Nations as an empowering concept to address growing sustainability challenges. The global meeting will serve as a forum to understand how educators can enable learners to develop the knowledge and awareness to act for a better future.

Experts from around to world will unlock ideas for concrete, transformative action and identify specific interventions that can be carried out by UNESCO´s member states, says Hopkins, who will contribute perspectives on higher education’s unique roles and how the whole-institution approach, or even a whole-community approach, can come to life. Canada aims to launch its own country initiative on ESD with a pan-Canadian working group in early 2024.

The session “Stepping up ESD agenda in Higher Education: A Call to Action” aims to discuss how to enable higher education institutions to inspire societal change through the lens of education, research and innovation, and how to embed core sustainability competencies within educational programs.

Kohl will co-moderate the “Europe-North America Regional Group Discussion” to create shared projects and research focusing on transformation, technology and governance as future priorities for ESD.

The meeting will take place as a hybrid event at the United Nations University Main Campus in Tokyo. Plenary sessions on the first day will be livestreamed. For more information, visit the UNESCO web page.

Lecture to inspire change in youth homelessness research

A youth sits bereft against a stone wall

On Nov. 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Faculty of Education Public Research Series will feature Stephen Gaetz, a Faculty professor and York University Research Chair in Homelessness and Research Impact, who will explore the role social innovation can have in inspiring change in the response to youth homelessness in Canada.

Stephen Gaetz
Stephen Gaetz

Titled “Making Research Matter: Mobilizing research to impact on homelessness policy,” Gaetz’s talk will discuss the latest results from the work of Making the Shift – Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (MtS), a partnership between the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada. He will argue that while MtS has developed a solid evidence base for the prevention of youth homelessness, the production of quality research alone is not enough to produce the change needed.

Gaetz’s lecture will further discuss the knowledge mobilization strategies required to help engage service providers and all orders of government to inform, change minds, and contribute to a change in how to think about and respond to this seemingly intractable problem.

The lecture is an extension of Gaetz’s long-standing interest in understanding homelessness – its causes, how it is experienced and potential solutions. His program of research has been defined by his desire to “make research matter” through conducting and mobilizing rigorous scholarly research that contributes not only to a shared knowledge base on homelessness but to solutions that impact policy, practice and public opinion.

In 2017, he was named a member of the Order of Canada for his ongoing work.

Those who wish to register for the event, which will be held in the Nick Mirkopolous Screening Room in the Accolade East Building on York’s Keele Campus, can do so here: eduforms.apps01.yorku.ca/machform/view.php?id=271519.

Symposium explores planetary health, planetary crises

Climate change ecololgy global warming

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University will host a symposium to explore how human activity is pushing ecological limits to a breaking point, and climate change is a fundamental threat to human life.

Taking place on Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., both in person at the Keele Campus and online, the Planetary Health for a Planetary Emergency symposium aims to bring together scholars from the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and across York University who work at the intersection of climate change and health, to discuss the potentials of planetary health as a driver of just climate action.

This event will also launch the Dahdaleh Institute Planetary Health Research Council which supports a collaborative research community of faculty, postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students committed to planetary health research at York University and beyond. 

The event draws attention to the need for clear associations between climate change and health, and to develop critical problem-solving interventions and advocate for climate action that advances well-being for all. The symposium will explore questions, such as: How do we do this while holding a critical view of the systems and structures which have led us into this climate catastrophe, including the ideologies of colonialism and capitalism that underpin the modern era? How do we advance effective and equitable solutions for planetary health that work against these systems and structures instead of upholding them?

The day’s agenda will include panel discussions with three themes featuring guest speakers.

Water: This panel explores the role water plays at the confluence of environmental and human health. Speakers will discuss efforts to support vital biological and social functions of water in the face of our rapidly changing climate and how such efforts might be positioned to work towards more just, sustainable and integrated water management.

Speaking on the topic of water will be: Deborah McGregor, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice and a professor cross-appointed with Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environment & Urban Change at York University; Sapna Sharma, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at York University and York Research Chair in Global Change Biology; and Byomkesh Talukder, an assistant professor at the Department of Global Health at Florida International University. Moderating this panel will be Caroline Diana Duncan, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at York with a strong focus on optimizing drinking water in the Arctic using participatory approaches to system dynamics modelling.

Land: This panel examines the role of land in achieving planetary health, taking a wide view across issues of food security, extractivism, urbanization and conservation. This includes examples of how land is inherently interconnected with people and the environment and how access to land and tenure rights are themselves a determinant of human and environmental health.

Discussion on topics related to land will be led by: Dayna N. Scott, an associate professor and York Research Chair in Environmental Law & Justice with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University where she is also cross appointed with the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change; James Stinson, a postdoctoral Fellow in Planetary Health Education at York University, cross appointed to the Faculty of Education and the Dahdaleh Institute of Global Health Research; Raphael Aguiar, a PhD candidate in the Health Policy and Equity program at York University and a Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholar; and Sarah Rotz, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. This panel will be moderated by Nilanjana (Nell) Ganguli, a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change.

Air: This last panel addresses how air is brought into our approaches to planetary health, drawing together a range of fields related to emissions reduction, human well-being, air pollution and climate adaptation. Speakers will consider how air pollution disproportionately impacts low income and marginalized populations as well as the climate policy synergies of tackling air pollution that both damages health and impairs ecosystems.

Participating in this discussion are: Cora Young, an associate professor and the Rogers Chair in Chemistry at York University; Eric B. Kennedy, an associate professor and area coordinator of the Disaster and Emergency Management program at York University; and Jean-Thomas Tremblay, an assistant professor of environmental humanities at York University. Moderating this panel will be Hillary Birch, a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change at York University, where she is a SSHRC doctoral Fellow.

For more information, or to register, visit the event webpage.

PhD candidate receives fellowship to bring Indigenous lens to STEM

woman engineer STEM

Andrew McConnell, a PhD candidate at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, has been awarded an Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Fellowship to transform the future of technical science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for Indigenous students.

The IBET program, which works in partnership with more than a dozen higher education institutions across Canada, was created to help reduce systemic barriers that exist for Indigenous and Black scholars pursuing doctoral degrees in STEM by providing financial support and academic mentorship. As part of the IBET program, Lassonde aims to increase representation in STEM, while uplifting decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion.

andrew mcdonnell
Andrew McConnell

McConnell is the first Indigenous student to receive the IBET Fellowship at Lassonde and is grateful for the four-year, $30,000-per-year financial support provided. “For the first time in my life, I have the freedom to solely focus on my passion instead of working multiple jobs to help pay for schooling,” he says.

With that passion, his intentions are to pursue the overcoming of challenges faced by the Indigenous community in STEM fields. “We need to start talking about the barriers that lead Indigenous people away from professional career paths like engineering; we need to build a system that truly supports us,” says McConnell.

He will do so by drawing on experiences, which includes working at the York Region District School Board in various roles such as teacher and department head for technological education, as well as teaching advisor, co-ordinator and board lead for First Nations, Métis and Inuit education.

“Working as a consultant for Indigenous education, I built a sense of community and belonging, but I also noticed the ways the education system was not serving Indigenous people,” he says. “The barriers start as early as kindergarten. Young students who are great at fixing things and love to tinker are moved into trades, as if they are not good enough to be scientists or engineers. This makes us limited in what we can contribute to the needs of our communities and causes us to be reliant on non-Indigenous people. I want to uplift Indigenous ways of problem solving to introduce students to technical subjects in STEM, encourage them to ask questions and build a practical foundation for their natural engineering minds.”

Supervised by Professor Melanie Baljko in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, McConnell will apply his extensive educational and professional background in English, education, digital media and technology to explore, develop and inform new approaches to Indigenous education in STEM. McConnell is also enrolled in the school’s Digital Media program, which operates jointly with York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, allowing learners to do specialized hybrid research, uniquely combining computational science and artistic practices.

In addition to his research, McConnell will extend his expertise to York’s Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education program. Through teachings from Indigenous elders, educators and community leaders, the program aims to prepare the next generation of teachers, who will address the needs of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, families and communities – putting Indigenous futures in Indigenous hands.