Partnership between York U and Ryerson gives education students an academic boost


The School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University and the Faculty of Education at York University have partnered to offer a concurrent bachelor of arts (BA) in early childhood studies and bachelor of education (BEd), available to first-year Ryerson students starting this fall. The program − the first of its kind in Canada − prepares students to have a thorough knowledge of education from preschool to age 12.

“These students will become leaders prepared to make a real difference in the lives of children and their families because of their in-depth knowledge of early childhood development and their extensive placement experience,” says Usha George, dean of Ryerson’s Faculty of Community Services. “Graduates of this concurrent program will be sought-after educators in the province’s public school system.”

The province’s education minister Liz Sandals was on hand to launch the program at Ryerson University with administrators from both universities in late March.

“We’ve developed a program that will create a new kind of professional with a powerful view of early learning that cuts across both care and education needs – a step that will support the Ontario government’s commitment to full-day kindergarten,” says Alice Pitt, vice-provost academic at York and former dean of the Faculty of Education. “Some students have in the past earned early childhood education diplomas prior to earning bachelor degrees, but this new program will kick it up a notch, creating a formal collaboration that is bound to push research, professional development and educational policy in completely new and positive directions.”

AlicPittAlice Pitt

First-year students enrolled in Ryerson’s BA in Early Childhood Studies degree program can apply during the winter semester for the BEd at York with concurrent courses beginning as early as the student’s second year. Graduates will earn two credentials (BA-ECS/BEd) through the five-year program, qualifying them to teach at the kindergarten, primary and junior levels. The program will be housed on the Ryerson campus with York faculty teaching courses on-site.

This joint program will also enhance career options for students as the province moves to complete its full-day kindergarten program by 2014, enabling graduates to work as early childhood educators or teachers in a collaboratively planned, play-based learning environment.

“In Toronto and other urban settings, we need graduates from our program who can work with diverse student populations, their families and communities,” says Rachel Langford, director of Ryerson’s School of Early Childhood Studies. “The program will teach them to be ready to take on working in inclusive settings and understanding how schools fit broadly in communities.”

Ryerson’s four-year early childhood studies degree program is known for preparing early childhood educators who are well-versed in the theory and application of child development, play-based curriculum instructional methods, special education and assessment in teaching young children in a variety of settings.

York University’s Bachelor of Education infuses its program with a combination of theory and practice, providing students the philosophical and social foundations of education, professional rights and responsibilities, theories of communication and human development, planning and pedagogy and curriculum development in an interdisciplinary environment.

Faculty of Education scholars to discuss the question: ‘Is institutional learning dead?’

Is institutional learning dead?

That provocative question and more will be debated by five leading education researchers on Wednesday, April 10, during a special panel discussion hosted by York University’s Faculty of Education.

The panel is part of an ongoing series of research celebrations showing the depth and breadth of research underway at York University that are held in conjunction with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. Wednesday’s panel will take place from 2 to 4pm, in room 519 York Research Tower, on the Keele campus. All are welcome to attend.

“The Faculty of Education’s research celebration provides members of the York community with an opportunity to engage in a compelling discussion about the many challenges and opportunities facing educators today,” said Robert Haché, vice-president research & innovation.

The five panellists will weigh in on the question in an open discussion that will be followed by a Q-and-A session. The discussion will be moderated by York education Professor Sharon Murphy.

“We welcome the opportunity to share our research successes with the rest of the York community. The event will showcase several of our colleagues engaging in a fascinating discussion about the future of formal education that is sure to interest all who attend,” said Ron Owston, dean of the Faculty of Education

Participating in the discussion are:

Negin Dahya is a fifth year doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and an alumna of the MEd program. Her master’s thesis explored video games for education and social change by examining representation and learning in digital games. She is a three-time Ontario Graduate Scholarship award winner whose doctoral research focuses on postcolonial feminist theory, digital media and learning by exploring the lives of Muslim girls, a community marginalized by intersecting factors including gender, race and religious discrimination.

Dahya-150x150Negin Dahya

Don Dippo is a University Professor of Education and a former elementary school teacher. His PhD is in the Sociology of Education with specialization in the sociology of knowledge. Current research interests include: the social and political organization of knowledge; environmental and sustainability education; global migration and settlement; university/community relations and teacher education. He is co-investigator on the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees project, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Foundation of Canada.

Yor-49-of-80-150x150Don Dippo

Roopa Desai Trilokekar‘s research interests include international and intercultural education. An assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, Desai Trilokekar (left) is interested in government policy on higher education and internationalization, as well as the student learning experience as it pertains to study abroad and internationalizing teacher education. She is co-editor of two books, Making Policy in Turbulent Times; Challenge and Prospects for Higher Education (to be published this year with York education Professor Paul Axelrod) and Canada’s Universities Go Global (2009).

Roopa-150x150Roopa Desai Trilokekar

Connie Mayer is a professor in the Faculty of Education. Her scholarly interests include language and literacy development in learners at risk (e.g. deaf and hard of hearing); emergent literacy; early intervention; bilingualism; the role of signed language in educating D/HH learners; sociocultural theory and its applications to educational practice and research; classroom discourse; and teacher education. Prior to coming to York, she worked for more than 20 years as a consultant, administrator and teacher of D/HH students from preschool through postsecondary.

CMayer-Photo-Colour-150x150Connie Mayer

Celia Popovic is the director of York University’s Teaching Commons, a community of practice for those engaged in all aspects teaching and learning whose aim is to enhance the student experience. She holds an EdD from the University of Birmingham and has more than 20 years of experience as an educational developer with universities in Great Britain. She is the co-author of Understanding Undergraduates: Challenging our preconceptions of student success (2012).

celiacropCelia Popovic

Jean Augustine will bring greetings and will welcome guests to the event. Augustine was appointed as the first Fairness Commissioner for Ontario in March 2007. She cares passionately about education and the challenges faced by newcomers to the province. Augustine has donated her archival and parliamentary materials to York University’s Faculty of Education, creating the opportunity to establish an innovative academic position, the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment.

commissioner_2010-08_lrg-150x150Jean Augustine

Recently published books and a slide show of research highlights will be on display. The Faculty will also be screening new research video bytes and will showcase a live demonstration of new software innovations.

To RSVP for this event, click here.

Faculty of Education student-teacher recognized for dedication to teaching

Livia Beqo, a student in the BEd French concurrent program in York University’s Faculty of Education, has won the 2013 Helen G. Mitchell Award from the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLTA).

The award is granted to one graduating student in each Faculty of Education in Ontario who has achieved excellence in both the academic andLivia2-235x300 practicum program in the pre-service year. The recipient must demonstrate the attributes of a potentially outstanding French, musique and orthopedagogie student-teacher at the primary/junior level.

Livia Beqo

“For me, the art of teaching involves having an unquenchable thirst for learning. It is having the ability to see the world rearranged in different ways in an attempt to inspire creativity, innovation, interconnectedness and transformation grounded on social justice and human empathy,” says Beqo.  “I believe that teaching in a second language like French helps to further promote this interconnectedness and active political participation among students, especially in the Canadian context. I am grateful to the York Faculty of Education, my amazing professors, mentor teachers and colleagues for being such an inspiration to me, as well as further encouraging my love for learning. I am very humbled to have been selected as the recipient of this award.”

This year’s recipients will be acknowledged at an awards ceremony on March 23 at the DoubleTree International Plaza Hotel during the OMLTA Spring Conference.

“In the three years that I have supervised York Faculty of Education Students in their practicum placements, I have had only one mentor teacher contact me directly to praise the high calibre of a teacher candidate – more specifically, a teacher candidate in the Bachelor of Education (French) program,” says Stefanie Muhling, a course director in York University’s Bachelor of Education French concurrent program. “The teacher candidate who incited this response was Livia Beqo.”

Muhling says Beqo’s practicum experience with students in French as a Second Language programs in Canada and her volunteer work with schools in the developing world displayed a high standard of commitment and excellence. “She demonstrates a passion for teaching, learning, communicating and connecting, upheld by an exceptionally strong work ethic and commitment to social justice,” notes Muhling.

For further information on the award, visit the OMTLA website.

York’s inaugural Research Gala recognizes excellence

York’s leading researchers were recognized for their groundbreaking research achievements and thought leadership during an inaugural gala event, held Feb. 27.

More than 100 people attended the gala to celebrate York’s 2012-2013 research leaders. Hosted by York University’s President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Vice-President Research & Innovation Robert Haché, the event provided an opportunity to recognize the outstanding research achievements of York’s researchers over the past year, including those who received such accolades as being named Fellows of the PresidentShoukriRoyal Society of Canada, Trudeau Fellow, Canada Research Chair and Canadian Institutes for Health Research Chairs, to name a few.

Mamdouh Shoukri

The depth and breadth of faculty and student research was showcased throughout the gala and an announcement of the recipient of the 2013 President’s Research Excellence Award was made.

“Our researchers continue to make great contributions to a vibrant teaching and learning environment, and provide a foundation for the continued development of exciting new and innovative discoveries here at York,” said Shoukri. “I would like to congratulate all of our leaders for their contributions to ensuring the continued success of York.”

“The work of York’s researchers and students is a source of utmost pride at the University and demonstrates our strength, our excellence in research and scholarship,” said Haché. “We plan to carry forward a tradition of celebrating the ShoukriKeilHacheexceptional work of York’s researchers and students – and recognizing the impact of their research on society.”

From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Roger Keil and Robert Haché

The event opened with a slide show presentation, highlighting the achievements of a wide spectrum of faculty and student researchers across the University, including book prizes, awards from internal and external agencies, donations for research, grants from tri-council agencies and more.

Following the welcome remarks made by Shoukri and Haché, Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers, Canada’s largest private sector trade union, delivered an intriguing keynote speech addressing Canada’s Innovation Deficit: Private, Public and Community Roles. Stanford is the author of Economics for Everyone (2008). He is also a frequent contributor to CBC Television’s “The National”, JimStanfordappearing on the program’s The Bottom Line panel, and a columnist for The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Jim Stanford

Haché then announced the winners of York’s inaugural Undergraduate Research Fair, held earlier on the same day, followed by a recognition of graduate student research by Barbara Crow, dean and associate vice-president graduate studies.

During the gala, a number of researchers were invited to the stage to receive special recognition for their outstanding research achievements over the past year. Associate Vice-President Lisa Philipps delivered citations for each of the researchers as they were presented with personal recognition items by Shoukri and Haché. The complete list of researchers include:

  • Tamara Daly, School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health
  • Don Dippo, Faculty of Education
  • William Gage, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
  • Wenona Giles, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Christian Haas, Department of Earth & Space Science, Faculty of Science
  • Laurence Harris, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
  • Carl James, Faculty of Education
  • Alison Macpherson, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
  • Janine Marchessault, Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts
  • Natasha Myers, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Arturo Orellana, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Debra Pepler, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
  • Marcia Rioux, School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health
  • Catherine Robbin, Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts
  • Harvey Skinner, Faculty of Health
  • Jonathan Weiss, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
  • Thilo Womelsdorf, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
  • Norman Yan, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
  • Georg Zoidl, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Department of Biology, Faculty of Science

Following the recognition of the 2012-2013 research leaders, the 2013 President’s Research Excellence Award was presented to Professor Roger Keil of the Faculty of Environmental Studies for his significant contributions to York’s research community.


Above: first row, from left, Norman Yan, Georg Zoidl, Janine Marchessault, Laurence Harris, Marcia Rioux, William Gage, Alison Macpherson. Second row, from left, Thilo Womelsdorf, Wenona Giles, Arturo Orellana, President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Vice-President Research & Innovaton Robert Haché, Roger Keil, Tamara Daly, Jonathan Weiss, Debra Pepler, Don Dippo and Carl James

The Senate Committee on Awards selected Keil from the nine nominations for this year’s award – a $10,000 internal research grant – for his many achievements as an internationally renowned scholar who has shaped the interdisciplinary study of global urbanism.

Keil, who leads the $2.5 million Major Collaborative Research Initiative Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century, has published 11 books and more than 150 articles, and was the editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, a premier journal in his field. He has also been a visiting scholar and professor at prestigious international institutions and he is the director of the City Institute at York University, an Organized Research Unit at the University.

York’s president(s) enjoy a day of new experiences, student spirit and shared learning

David Mayer is on a mission. The kinesiology graduate and current Faculty of Education student is hoping to draw attention to the tremendous school spirit DavidandPresexhibited by York University’s varsity athletes. He wants to highlight to the University community the importance of athletics in enhancing student engagement and success.

Mamdouh Shoukri and David Mayer before they swap roles for a day

As a multi-talented student and an accomplished track and field athlete, Mayer should know a thing or two about athletics. He was the anchor runner on the York Lions’ silver medal track and field relay team. He is also a student mentor to first-year students and a successful graduate of a demanding program. Mayer is rounding out his sixth year on campus and is halfway through his studies to become a teacher after completing his bachelor’s degree.

So when the call for entries for York University’s President for a Day contest happened, it was an opportunity that Mayer said he couldn’t pass up. “I wanted to leave my mark on the school,” he says, and putting pen to paper, he crafted an essay in response to the ShoukriInClassPresident for a Day contest entry question: “What would be your top three priorities that would directly impact students if you were appointed president of York University?”

Mamdouh Shoukri attends one of student David Mayer’s classes

Mayer’s essay addressed the need to increase student pride, promote the University’s successes and athletes, and enhance the student experience. He was selected from 40 entries and became only the second student to become President for a Day.

On Feb. 26, Mayer swapped roles with York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. Mayer managed the institution, attended all of the president’s meetings and took care of his many other obligations and duties. That same day, president.david.mayerShoukri attended Mayer’s classes and participated in his many extracurricular activities to really appreciate student life.

David Mayer in the president’s office

Early the next morning, Shoukri and Mayer met for a breakfast meeting to discuss their respective experiences.

For his part, Mayer’s day began with an early morning meeting with Brendan Schulz, executive director, Strategy and Planning, in the Office of the Vice-Provost Students. “Brendan presented a five-year plan to improve the student experience and student engagement,” said Mayer. “I realized the University is very aware and committed to its students. We also discussed the need to consider how exams are scheduled, particularly for first-year students who have a number of mandatory courses.” Mayer suggested to Schulz that a two-day window between each mandatory course exam would help first-year students better cope with learning how to write exams and offer a benefit in giving students enough time between each exam, which he felt would offer better outcomes.

“He was very receptive. I know this is not going to happen overnight, but it is very important,” said Mayer.

From there, he went to a meeting with Gary Brewer, York’s vice-president finance & administration, to discuss how to improve food services on campus. Mayer said that he stressed to Brewer the need for a greater number of late-night and weekend food options on the Keele campus. “I lived in residence for two years,” he said. “There are not a lot of food options available on Sundays and late at night. That’s when students GaryBrewerDavidMayerneed sugar and caffeine, in addition to healthy food options. This is really important during exams because students are in the libraries and studying during the evening.”

David Mayer (right) as acting president meets with Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration

Mayer learned that there are three different entities controlling food services at York, something he said he was not aware of and found surprising. He also suggested to Brewer that the University consider allowing athletes to run a juice and protein shake bar in the Tait McKenzie Centre. “It would offer a healthy option and could generate revenue that could be put back into athletics,” he said.

As President for a Day, Mayer also spoke at a Career Centre event and sat for an interview with the Excalibur student newspaper. He ShoukriwithstudentsTaitMcKenziechaired a meeting with the other candidates for the President for a Day contest.

Mamdouh Shoukri visits the Tait McKenzie Centre

One of the highlights of his day was a meeting with Guy Burry, chair emeritus of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. The two spoke about engagement and Burry offered advice to Mayer about how to extend his strong school spirit into a role in the Alumni Association. They also discussed the importance of inviting student athletes to the association’s annual golf tournament fundraiser.

Mayer rounded out his busy day with a meeting with Susan Webb, York University’s chief communications officer. The two spoke about the need to promote student success and athletics. Mayer asked Webb about setting up a regular news feed to students to encourage student DavidMayerCareerCentreengagement with the University, something he feels would enhance student pride in York U.

David Mayer deliver remarks at one of the Career Centre’s sessions

“It was a great day,” said Mayer. “I learned the University is committed to change and enhancing student success and engagement. I also learned that being president is not as easy as everyone thinks it to be.”

As a York Student for a Day, Shoukri attended two of Mayer’s classes, Models and Foundations of Education with Professor Greg Rogers, and Physical Education and Children with Professor Lindsay Lamorremet. He also met with the first-year student Mayer mentors and participated in a meeting with the Sports Council.

“I was very fortunate to replace a student who is studying kinesiology and education,” said Shoukri. “There is an interesting culture in the people there who ShoukriMentorsStudentare studying to be teachers and there is a strong sense of collegiality between the students studying education and the athletes.”

Mamdouh Shoukri mentors a first-year student in David Mayer’s place

“I found all of the students very outgoing and used to the idea of teamwork and debate,” he said. “The two classes were wonderful and the experience with students in both classes was absolutely incredible.”

During the second class, Shoukri said he was introduced to the concept of physical literacy, something he found compelling because of the many years he volunteered as a soccer coach when his children were young. “This was a new concept for me. Preparing children for sports through games and physical activities is very important because it allows them the ability to adapt to a broader range of sports as compared to being tied down to one specifically.”

“I learned that as a teacher, playing games ensures that students with various BrendanSchultzDAvidMayercapabilities are engaged,” he said.

David Mayer (right) meets with Brendan Schulz, executive director, strategy and planning, in the Office of the Vice-Provost Students

In both classes, he had to engage in a warm up by doing “Sit Up, Sing, Dance and Learn” activities. “I was happy to oblige,” he said.

“What impressed me were the outstanding instructors. Both were very compelling,” he said. “I enjoyed the guest speaker in the law course and the students.”

He had lunch with members of the women’s volleyball and hockey teams, and met with members of the sports council who all  identified options that are needed on campus to engage the larger student population in sports and varsity events.

“There is an incredible spirit in our athletes. They are very close to one another and support other athletes. I was very impressed,” said Shoukri.

That same spirit was further magnified during his mentorship meeting with a first-year student who is a sprinter. “He has a real love and enthusiasm for his studies and sport,” he said.

Shoukri then ended the day by coaching the track and field team, relieved by the fact that it was only coaching and not actually having to do all the training.

He said his key learning outcomes from his time as a student for a day focused on the quality and tremendous school spirit exhibited by York’s athletes and students, the outstanding knowledge and teaching of the faculty he met and how they engaged students in their learning.

“It was really an incredible experience!”

For more information, visit York University’s President for a Day website.

ABEL Leadership Summit will explore effective, collaborative learning cultures

The Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning (ABEL) program at York University will host its fourth annual Leadership Summit on Friday April 19. This year’s theme is Visible Leadership.

The summit will bring together education leaders (administrators, superintendents, principals, deans, faculty, teacher-leaders), private and not-for-profit sector leaders to discuss the changes needed to achieve effective and efficient collaborative learning cultures.

Join facilitators Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, co-founder and CEO, Powerful Learning Practice, and Lisa Neale, principal of Ancaster Senior Public School and Systems Learning Commons, Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, to explore goals and beliefs about visible leadership and being a connected educator.

Sheryl2Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Participants will also develop strategies to transform the learning environments for students, teachers and educational leaders and leverage online tools for effective communication and collaboration.

Lisa-2Lisa Neale

After the event, the learning continues with two webinars – Visible and Transformative Leadership on April 25 at 12pm, and Connected and Collaborative Leadership on May 2 at 4pm.

To learn more or to register, visit the Visible Leadership Summit website.

As part of the Professional Learning Program, ABEL offers two face-to-face conferences every year – the Leadership Summit and the ABEL Summer Institute. To learn more, visit the ABEL website.

Faculty of Education dean receives Shifting Minds National Award from C21 Canada

Faculty of Education Dean Ron Owston has been awarded the Shifting Minds National Award for distinctive achievement in the field of 21st century learning and innovation from the C21 Canada: Canadians for 21st Century Learning & Innovation. C21 Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization that advocates for 21st century models of learning in education.

Interim dean Ron Owston receives his award from the Right Honourable Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada Ron Owston (left) receives his award from Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada

Owston’s award was in the Individual Leadership Award category, which recognizes the work of an individual in advancing 21st century models of learning in Canada.

The award was presented to Owston at the C21 Canada Summit last Tuesday evening. Presenting the award to Owston was Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada.

For more than a decade, Owston has served as the founding director of the Institute for Research and Learning Technologies (IRLT) and co-director of the York/Seneca Technology Enhanced Learning Institute at York University.  He also serves as a member of the Academic Technology Advisory Group, which guides the development of York’s eLearning strategy.

“Ron is a regular speaker at conferences with a focus on 21st century learning and the use of technology in the classroom,” said Robert Martellacci, president & publisher at MindShare Learning. “His research though the IRLT has impacted educators at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels.  He is a deserving recipient of this award from C21 Canada.”

“I am honoured to be one of the first recipients of this award and to be recognized for my work related to teaching and learning with technology in Canada,” said Owston.

C21 Canada is a blend of national education associations and knowledge sector businesses united in their belief that 21st century models of learning must be adopted in public education on an urgent basis to position Canadians for economic, social and personal success in the high skills, knowledge and innovation based economy.  For more information, visit the C21 Canada website.

Sense of belonging important for mentally healthy campus, say panellists

What does a mentally healthy University campus look like? That is the question that started the York U Let’s Talk Mental Health community dialogue event Tuesday.

The answers will help develop a mental health strategy for students, faculty and staff at York University.

LetsTalkCmtyMamdouhShoukri“In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a diagnosable mental health problem or illness, with students being the most at- risk,” said President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “With such startling statistics, we recognized how important it was for York to create a mentally healthy environment for our entire community.”

Mamdouh Shoukri

“Identifying and assisting our community members in need is not only a fundamental responsibility, but key to our University’s mission,” said Moderator Lesley Beagrie, associate dean of the Faculty of Health and co-chair of York’s Mental Health Action Group. “Our student population falls into the highest risk age group for mentally illnesses and substance dependencies, and 64 per cent of York students say they find academic work traumatic or very stressful.”

Following a video message from six-time Olympic medallist and York honorary doctorate Clara Hughes, six panellists gave their visions of a mentally healthy campus interspersed with comments and questions from the audience in the Tribute Community Recital Hall and through tweets and facebook.

The panellists were: third-year kinesiology student Nikita Sankreacha; Patrick Saavedra, manager of planning and architectural design services at York; Melonie Fullick (MA ’07), a PhD student in the Faculty of Education; Professor Nazilla Khanlou, the Echo chair in Women’s Mental Health Research in the Faculty of Health; clinical psychologist and Professor John Eastwood; and Janet Morrison, vice-provost students.

Sankreacha was the first to address the question, saying, “One thing I’ve learned about health is that mental health is not something you see, but something you feel. She said York should feel like home, one where “you feel comfortable and supported, where roles are clear and students know where to go to if they have a problem. Where every single student can feel like part of the family too and not excluded.”


Fullick, whose studies focus on university governance, post-secondary policy and organizational change, said “every policy affects mental health at the University. I think policies have a lot of assumptions embedded into them.” Another area of concern, she said was students feeling isolated.

As the forum got rolling, the theme of isolation was raised time and again with calls for peer mentoring to continue on past first year. “While the focus can be when we talk about mental health well-being on the individual, it’s really all about their context, their social context around them, their families, their neighbourhoods, their schools, their workplaces…It’s about all of those interconnections and that’s why we do need to have a discussion about what a mentally healthy campus looks like,” said Khanlou. “I’ve done a number LetsTalkCmtyLesleyBeagrieof community-based studies with teens and young adults and what comes out in talking with young folks is what positive mental is it’s all about feeling good about ourselves, feeling included, feeling that we belong and that we’re connected to others, and finding meaning in what we do, and, most importantly, having a sense of hope.”

Lesley Beagrie

Eastwood also spoke to belonging as imortant. “We know that social belonging is a fundamental human need, and we know that social isolation, alienation, low social status, a lack of social support are all associated with poor well-being. We also know it’s the subjective experience of belonging or not belonging that seems to be as important if not more important that any objective indicator of connection. It is how we feel.”

He told the audience about an experiment conducted on a volunteer group of first-year students designed to increase student sense of belonging and help them understand that the typical adversity a first-year student might encounter is common, is shared, and in many cases is temporary. Three years later, the researchers compared those students to a control group and “found those students had higher grade point averages, had greater emotional and had greater physical well-being,” said Eastwood. It was a simple, small experimental manipulation in a lab, not policy-wide, but it made a huge impact in social belonging. The results were published in the journal Science in 2011.

Morrison emphasized the importance of how the issue of mental health is approached. There is a ton of literature on engagement, she said. “We know that students that are engaged persist in a more fulsome way and they tend to be more satisfied. We know that staff who are engaged tend to stay longer, they tend to perform better on outcomes.” But speaking to culture, Morrison said, people here are not always kind to each other. That needs to be built in so people feel safe in asking for help and so that trust can be fostered.

Several grad students also spoke to the need for a culture shift so that students would feel safe and supported in voicing their mental health issues. But they also pointed to financial stress as adversely affecting student mental health and the need not only for more financial support of students. To those grad students, a less competitive and more supportive culture, along with better financial resources is what a mentally healthy campus would look like to them.

Saavedra spoke to a different aspect of the issue – the physical environment and how colour, way finding, materials, textures, and sounds all contribute to the quality of the environment. These design metrics have contributed, he said, to a much healthier environment, and to a healthier mind and body.

Input from the community dialogue will help inform a new, comprehensive mental health strategy for York University.

What does a mentally healthy University campus look like to you? The question that is still open for students, staff and faculty to answer. To do so, send tweets to #yumentalhealth or visit the Mental Health at York website –

By Sandra McLean, YFile deputy editor

New blended eLearning course brings student teachers together

Teacher standing in a classroom

Why do kids have to go to school?

Future teachers coming into the September 2013 class in the consecutive Bachelor of Education Program at York University will explore that central question as part of an inventive new technology-enhanced course designed to deliver fundamental material.

The project, “Adapting Technology in the Service of Enhanced Educational Engagements in Teacher Education”, which is supported by the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) at York University, is being led by Faculty of Education Professor Jen Gilbert and Lyndon Martin, associate dean of undergraduate education – together with a larger faculty team. They are championing a project that will see the creation of a blended eLearning course from two core required courses.

Jen Gilbert_bestJen Gilbert, professor in the Faculty of Education

The original courses, which offered students in the program an opportunity to explore the social, cultural, psychological and historical contexts of education and link schooling to broader societal issues, are part of the consecutive program. “Students are required to take these courses,” says Gilbert, “they are presently offered in a large number of small sections in discrete sites, including off campus locations.”

The new course will see students exploring the social, cultural, psychological and historical contexts of education and link schooling to broader social issues. “We are working with a group of 300 students from the different sites to offer the course in a blended way,” says Gilbert.

As part of the new course, students will come to campus prior to the start of their studies for a “Big Ideas in Education” week that will take place before the semester starts next September.“The students will attend lectures together, and then work in small groups to get familiar with the material, “says Gilbert.

These smaller affinity groups, which will be led by teaching assistants in the Faculty of Education, will be centred on important educational themes such as environmental education and special education. Students will have an opportunity to join a group that best matches their particular educational focus.

“Then over the rest of the course, students will work through different online modules of course material and explore the concepts presented through the lens of their affinity group,” says Gilbert. “At the end of the program, students go on a practicum placement. They then return to campus for a two-day capstone event”

“As part of the capstone event, they will answer the question ‘Why do kids have to go to school?’ through the lens of their affinity group,” explains Gilbert.

Lyndon_MartinBest2Lyndon Martin, associate dean of undergraduate education

The course offers an exciting blend of in-class and online learning and students can focus on their areas of interest as they develop their teaching practice. The initial Big Ideas in Education Week provides an opportunity for students in the program to meet and build connections with each other. This is important because some of the students in the program are based in satellite campuses that are geographically separate from the Keele campus.

Gilbert is now working on the development of the curriculum for the course. “I’ve had the benefit of a broad range of faculty who are interested in providing input,” she says.

Working with teams from University Information Technology and the Teaching Commons, Gilbert says she is receiving a lot of support. Moodle and WordPress are being used to build the online component of the course.

The approach offers many advantages. “As opposed to ‘taking’ the course, or putting it all ‘online’, students will be working together. They will have a stake in the curriculum and can bring what they are learning to the debate and concerns around education,” she says.

Gilbert says the AIF has been instrumental in creating an environment that has allowed her to explore new pedagogical approaches. It has also provided additional support through teaching assistants who are assisting with the evaluation.

“If it is successful,” she says, “we are looking to expand the course to all of the consecutive students, around 600 in total.”

The entire process has been exhilarating, says Gilbert, and she hopes the end result will be a model for the University’s teaching community on how to create a blended course that is pedagogically sound.

Leading researchers in homelessness to discuss new approaches

headshots of Stephen Gaetz, Paula Goering and Valerie Tarasuk

What’s new in homelessness research and how can that research be used to inform and support decisions that contribute to solutions? Three experts will come together to discuss what’s next at the City Seminar on Homelessness Research this week.

“This is an important event, and people will have the opportunity to listen to amazing speakers – the top in their field,” saysheadshot of Stephen GaetzStephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and associate dean of research and professional development in York’s Faculty of Education.

Stephen Gaetz

The seminar will take place Friday, Jan. 11, from 12:30 to 3pm, at 140 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus. Everyone is welcome to attend the event, presented by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and the City Institute at York.

“What is great is that these are some of the leading researchers in Canada who are focused on how we respond to homelessness, and how we identify new practices and approaches to adopt and implement,” says Gaetz. “The great thing is that we have a good idea of what that looks like, we have ideas and we’re offering solutions. I hope people come away with the idea that we can do things differently. We have to do things differently.”

In his talk, Gaetz will look at transitions from youth homelessness and what the Foyer model – an innovative transitional housing model that is highly successful in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States – offers Canada and how it can be adapted. “In thinking about effective responses to youth homelessness, there are broad concerns about how to provide appropriate accommodation, supports, income and educational opportunities,” he says.

He will also explore how the Foyer model can be updated based on emerging knowledge about housing, including what has been learned through the Housing First approach, which provides homeless people with housing first, followed by other needed headshot of Paula Goeringservices, to ending homelessness and new ways of thinking about transitional housing. Gaetz believes the Foyer model has the potential to become a highly effective housing model that could significantly impact both short-term and long-term outcomes for youth.

Paula Goering

At the seminar, Professor of Psychiatry Paula Goering of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and cross-appointed to the Faculty of Nursing, Institute of Medical Science and the Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation will discuss the early outcome findings of At Home/Chez Soi – the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s $110-millon research demonstration project. Funded by Health Canada, it provides housing and supports to people who are homeless and living with serious mental health issues, based on the Housing First approach.

Goering, who is also an affiliate scientist at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, is the research lead for At Home/Chez Soi, which has been implemented in five cities across Canada – Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Recent evidence based on one-year outcomes of 2,149 participants show that Housing First improves the lives of those who are homeless and have a mental illness, and makes better use of public dollars, especially for high-service users.

Professor Valerie Tarasuk of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, the event’s third speaker, will focus on food insecurity and community responses to it and problems of headshot of Valerie Tarasukhunger. “Problems of hunger and food insecurity are integral to homelessness, but these problems are also common among individuals and families with insufficient income to maintain housing and meet other basic needs,” says Tarasuk.

Valerie Tarasuk

In most communities, the only resources available to people unable to meet their food needs independently are food banks and meal programs, she says. “Our recent inventory of charitable food provisioning in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City and Halifax highlights the massive, ever-expanding nature of these efforts, but it also reveals their limited capacity to respond effectively to problems of unmet food need.”

Tarasuk will look at some of the key barriers and opportunities for a more effective community-based system of food supports. She currently leads a large, interdisciplinary program of research designed to identify effective policy interventions for the reduction of household food insecurity across the country. In addition, she has examined meal services in Salvation Army shelters and analyzed population survey data to elucidate the health, nutritional and socio-demographic correlates of household food insecurity.

For more information, visit the City Institute at York University website or The Homeless Hub.