Three faculty members to receive honorific professorships

Tossing colorful paper confetti from the hands of young people.

York University will honour three esteemed faculty members during 2024 Spring Convocation with Distinguished Research Professor and University Professor recognitions.

Distinguished Research Professor is a designation reflecting a member of faculty who has made outstanding contributions to the York U community through research and whose work is recognized within and outside of the University.

A University Professor is a member of faculty recognized for extraordinary contributions to scholarship and teaching, as well participation in university life.

This year’s winners are:

Distinguished Research Professor

Roger Keil, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change

Roger Keil
Roger Keil

Professor Keil’s research and teaching has focused on health in cities and suburbs, societal relationships with nature and how people govern themselves. His most extensive contributions have been in the fields of urban political ecology, global suburbanization, as well as cities and infectious disease. Recently, he has demonstrated research leadership in studying the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

At York U, Keil has occupied several important roles, including founding director of York University’s City Institute (made up of interdisciplinary urban scholars) and York Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies.

Throughout his career, Keil has published over 10 books and 150 articles, in addition to overseeing others’ work as editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, a premier journal in his field. He has also earned several awards, including being named a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and receiving a York University President’s Research Excellence Award.

“I am extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award,” says Keil. “I am fortunate to have worked alongside supportive colleagues and brilliant students at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change and the City Institute.”

Distinguished Research Professor

Leah Vosko, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Leah Vosko
Leah Vosko

A professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Political Economy of Gender and Work, Vosko has become a leader in the study of gender and politics, citizenship, migration and labour markets. Her research has a frequent focus on part-time, seasonal and contract workers, and the question, “What can be done to mitigate labour market insecurity?”

An author and editor of numerous scholarly books, volumes and articles, her work has been driven by the aim of protecting precarious workers by shaping better policies and understanding around the labour market.

For those efforts, Vosko has received several prestigious recognitions, including the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Impact Award (Insight Category), an election to the Royal Society of Canada, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Charles Taylor Prize for Excellence in Policy Research and a Premier’s Research Excellence Award.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have received this recognition and to have spent so much of my career in the highly collaborative and critical interdisciplinary environment at York,” says Vosko.

University Professorship

Aleksander Czekanski, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Aleksander Czekanski
Aleksander Czekanski

Since joining York University in 2014, Czekanski has specialized in cutting-edge engineering principles, including additive manufacturing, bioprinting and soft tissue mechanics, with applications ranging from biomedical science to materials manufacturing. His research has been awarded more than $10 million in external grants as a principal or co-applicant.

In addition to holding the role of Natural Sciences & Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Design Engineering, Czekanski has filled several roles at Lassonde and the University, in particular as founder or co-founder of: the Integrated Design & Engineering Analysis Laboratory, which supports high-calibre research, student learning experiences and the development of innovative engineering solutions; the Additive Manufacturing in Engineering Design & Global Entrepreneurship program, which provides students with technical and entrepreneurial training as part of the NSERC Collaborative Research & Training Experience; and the Manufacturing, Technology & Entrepreneurship Centre, which aims to bring innovative technologies to market.

Over the past decade, Czekanski has received awards recognizing his excellence in teaching and research, including the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award, the Lassonde Innovation Award – Established Researcher, the Engineering Medal for Engineering Excellence in Industry from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, as well as multiple industry fellowships. He has also served on the board of directors of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and is currently its president.

“Receiving this University Professorship is both an honour and a profound responsibility. It signifies recognition by peers and the academic community for my contributions to scholarship, education and community engagement, and it catalyzes my commitment to continue pushing the boundaries of knowledge and pedagogy,” he says. “As I embrace this role, I am inspired to further cultivate a legacy of intellectual curiosity and academic excellence that extends beyond the classroom, impacting our community and the broader world.”

For a full list of ceremonies, visit the Convocation website.

EUC provides opportunities to high-school students

artistic crafts earth hands heart BANNER

A recent initiative highlights how York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is helping high-school students reach their potential as the next generation of sustainable changemakers.

With the ongoing climate challenges the world faces, the need for active citizenship and environmental stewardship has never been greater. It’s why EUC has made an ongoing effort to provide climate, sustainability and social justice education for the leaders of tomorrow.

The Faculty fulfills that goal with the students currently enrolled in its post-secondary programs, but it doesn’t want to stop there. Among its key objectives, EUC commits to frequently offering high-school outreach activities that provide resources, hands-on skill building opportunities and support to young people who want to make a difference in the world.

Big events, like February’s annual iteration of the Change Your Work conference – which welcomed 500 Ontario high-school students and their teachers to York U’s Keele Campus for a day of environmental education and inspiration – are part of those efforts. Smaller initiatives are part of them, too – like the recent Design Thinking Challenge event in May, attended by 60 students and teachers from several York Region schools.

The event offered local students two programming tracks. The first was a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) ICE Challenge Case Competition, which tasked participating students to come up with a sustainable architectural solution for redesigning the front entrance and foyer of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building on York University’s Keele Campus.

The second track was a new extracurricular Urban Solutions program, where students presented their solutions to global challenges, ranging from language accessibility in the Toronto Transit Commission system to disaster relief in Haiti.

Once students worked through their projects, they had a chance to present their design proposals and get feedback from Abidin Kusno, EUC professor and undergraduate program co-ordinator; Teresa Abbruzzesse, EUC professor and Cities, Regions, Planning program co-ordinator; and Laura Taylor, co-author of the SHSM challenge, professor and master of environmental studies Planning program co-ordinator.

“The students came up with some ingenious solutions for the challenge that was presented to them,” said Philip Kelly, professor and interim dean of EUC.

One example was a student who presented a proposal to solve period poverty – the inability to afford feminine hygiene products – in Uganda, building upon her existing interest in gender equality. Her solution was a more sustainable, accessible, disposable pad that would be produced using locally sourced materials.

For students, EUC initiatives like this can provide experiential learning opportunities that are rewarding in more ways than one. In this case, the event featured several prizes: the Feasibility Laureate award for the most practical and easy-to-implement solution; the Empathy Emblem award for the solution that shows the deepest understanding of the users; and the Impact Pioneer Plaque award for the solution with the greatest potential for positive impact.

EUC hopes experiences like these – representative of the Faculty’s broader efforts with high-school students – are rewarding in other ways, too.

“The event offers students early exposure to higher educational environments, which can motivate students to pursue further education and set higher academic and career goals,” said Brittany Giglio, EUC recruitment and liaison officer. “These partnerships contribute significantly to the development of well-prepared, motivated and successful individuals.”

Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change advances student learning and careers

Header banner for INNOVATUS

Welcome to the April 2024 edition of Innovatus, a special issue of YFile devoted to teaching and learning at York University. This month we showcase the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), and its latest efforts to advance the creativity, learning, wellbeing, and careers of its students.

Innovatus is produced by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning in partnership with the Communications & Public Affairs Division.

In this issue, EUC invites York community members to share stories about its efforts in improving the learning – and lives – of its students.

As York’s newest Faculty, EUC takes pride in bringing innovative approaches to our teaching and learning environment. Less than four years into its existence, with a suite of newly designed programs, the Faculty is building a reputation for pedagogy that is inclusive, experiential and interdisciplinary, as well as being oriented towards shaping active citizens and changemakers. 

Our commitment to inclusion is most clearly manifested in the new Black Community Space that serves as a hub for Black students, staff and faculty from within EUC and beyond. Not just a place for relaxation and connection, the Black Community Space is also a site for the staging of discussion panels, dialogues and art exhibits, as well as our new Black Mentorship Program. An active approach to community inclusion is also evident in our Maloca Community Garden, where urban gardening is taught and practised, both for the York community and for adjacent local neighbourhoods. 

If the “hands-on” ethos of our community garden reflects our focus on experiential education locally, it is also found in field courses that allow our students to experience other urban settings and environments and to appreciate the circumstances of those who live there. This issue of Innovatus highlights an excellent field experience that takes students to Montreal. But it can also be found in many courses that integrate experiential components, and in our commitment to offering courses at the Las Nubes EcoCampus in Costa Rica. 

For a relatively small unit, EUC offers a unique breadth of ideas and approaches. Like many academic units focused on the environment, our teaching ranges from laboratory- and field-based science to the social sciences and the humanities, but we also go much further.  Unlike any equivalent Faculty in Canada, our teaching and research encompasses the arts as a form of understanding, expression and persuasion. This dimension of EUC’s teaching is manifested in our annual Eco Arts Festival, but is also found on a daily basis in our in-house gallery spaces and our newly renovated Wild Garden Media Centre, where Indigenous arts, languages and cultural production will be foregrounded. 

All of this work is intended to empower our students to make a real impact in the world. Our inaugural Green Career Fair in January was mounted in partnership with the Green Career Centre – founded by EUC graduate student Lauren Castelino. Such events help to connect our students with organizations that are fostering sustainable living worldwide. The same thinking lies behind our exciting new co-op program that will launch in the fall and will see EUC students placed in firms and organizations that are promoting a just and sustainable future. 

EUC is York’s smallest and youngest Faculty, but we like to think that our community – faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, staff, students and alumni – is making an outsized contribution to the University’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and a brighter future for both people and the planet. 

Thank you, 

Phillip Kelly
Interim Dean, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change 

Faculty, course directors and staff are invited to share their experiences in teaching, learning, internationalization and the student experience through the Innovatus story form.


In this issue:

Eco Arts Festival to showcase students’ environmental art
The Eco Arts Festival is an annual event that highlights artistic work from Environmental Arts and Justice students that looks to start conversations about ecological change.

Urban Studies students advance learning with Montreal field trip
In order to enhance her students’ urban studies learning, Professor Teresa Abbruzzese took a group of undergraduates to Montreal to apply their analytical skills.

Inaugural fair helps EUC students explore green career possibilities
The Green Career Fair, held in January, looked to welcome Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) and high-school students in order to help them pursue sustainability careers. 

Initiative provides community space for EUC Black students
Black students in York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) now have a dedicated community space in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building (HNES) to use for meetings, workshops and informal gatherings. 

Eco Arts Festival to showcase students’ environmental art

artistic crafts earth hands heart BANNER

A banana fish is set to be one of the hits of the 2024 Eco Arts Festival, an annual explosion of artistic talent organized by the students in the Environmental Arts and Justice (EAJ) program in York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

The Eco Arts Festival is an environmental initiative where art is a catalyst for ecological change and a way to highlight the intersection of art and the environment in the EAJ program. It takes over the lobby and two exhibit spaces – Zig-Zag and Crossroads – in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, displaying visual arts and offering performances and readings.  

EUC_The Great Banana Fish migration cover 1

The banana fish, an organically shaped yellow creature, is the star of visual artist and an EUC master’s degree student Michael Bradley’s illustrated book, The Great Banana Fish Migration, a tale that he’ll be reading aloud at the festival later this year.  

This mythical creature fits well with this year’s theme, Beast Friends Forever, a title conceived by festival co-ordinator and EUC doctoral student Giuliana Racco and inspired by Professor Andil Gosine’s research into animal-human interactions and species loss. Gosine is an artist and curator who is the EAJ program co-ordinator. 

“Arts are a place for the students to contend with their anxiety about what is happening in the world, and to think about how we might respond to the crisis we face,” Gosine says. 

Many of the student-artists displaying their work in the festival were enrolled in one or both of Gosine’s two EUC summer courses: Environmental Arts Workshop (for undergraduates) and Cultural Production: Image (for graduate students). These three-week intensive courses are akin to “an arts residency,” says Gosine, who brings artists to class and encourages the students to take their research and passion for environmental issues and translate them in a way that challenges them to explore their creative instincts.  

A similar fourth-year course in the undergraduate EAJ program, Arts in Action, brings together both undergraduate and graduate students to realize the project they have been dreaming up.  

“Fourth-year undergrads and first-year master’s students use the course to deeply explore their interests, with dedicated attention to each of their projects,” Gosine explains. “It’s a rare opportunity to move from research on an environmental concern to exhibition of an artwork that might stimulate conversation and action.”  

As for the undergraduate EAJ program, Gosine considers it unique; he accepted a teaching position at York to be part of it. 

“It’s rare to have such a confluence of learning styles,” he says. “We are allowed to have an interdisciplinary approach. Here, you can be both an artist and a social scientist.”

Chrocheted Chickens

Among the art that festival attendees will see are Tess Thompson-van Dam’s crocheted chicken sculptures harking back to Victorian times when the elites brought chickens to tea parties; drawings by Andrew Carenza that reinterpret horses pictured in historical European paintings through a contemporary, Queer lens; work on historical and contemporary ideas of Eden; and the travelling banana fish. Bradley’s reading of The Great Banana Fish Migration and an Eco Arts collaborative workshop offer participatory opportunities. 

Bradley, an Ottawa Valley native, had a thriving art practice in Taiwan but returned to Canada for master’s studies. He has been drawing banana fish daily since 2018 and creating stories about them. The current book talks about the fish’s journey to find its place in the world and how that might always be changing. 

“I’m not commenting on the politics of migration in a direct way, but when people migrate they have a confused sense of place. I hope people can relate,” he says. “There are a lot of ways that art and environmental science can intersect,” Bradley adds. “I’m not a politician or a policymaker, but artists, creators and curators are part of the cultural community, so if the environment requires a cultural shift, artists are the best people to usher in this change.” 

Bradley’s work, and the Eco Arts Festival, will have that on full display.  

Urban Studies students advance learning with Montreal field trip

Montreal skyline

Living in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s not complicated for students in the Cities, Regions, Planning program at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) to assess Toronto’s strengths and weakness, but an annual field trip to Montreal allows them to apply their analytical skills elsewhere.

For five years, Teresa Abbruzzese, an assistant professor and urban geographer, organized a field school – a short-term academic program consisting of mentored field research – in the fall for third-year Urban Studies students in her research methods course in the Department of Social Science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.  

She was excited to bring this experiential learning opportunity to her new home in the Cities, Regions, Planning program for her third-year course, Doing Urban Research: Theory & Practice, for the Fall 2024 term. 

The initiative gives students a chance to experience another city, using participant observation while taking notes and photos and having conversations with local citizens. The trip is mandatory and the costs are low, but there is a day trip to Hamilton, Ont., for a cheaper alternative. 

“The trip enables our students see the historical and contemporary issues facing Montreal and to develop a comparative understanding of cities,” said Abbruzzese. “It’s also important to give them the opportunity to do preliminary fieldwork.” 

“The point of the trip is to prepare them to work on their own individualized research project,” she said. “It trains them to be social scientists and allows them to hone their academic skills, such as critical analysis, research and writing.” 

Members of the Montreal field trip
At City Hall, (Front Row, L to R): Prof. Doug Young,  Prof. Teresa Abbruzzese, Councillor Sterling Downey, Prof. Silvano de la Llata (Concordia University), and Prof. Mike Cado right (Music, York); other rows: third-year students in Urban Studies/Cities, Regions, Planning 

The Montreal field school emerged from a political moment in history when Donald Trump assumed the American presidency in 2017. Abbruzzese and her colleagues in Urban Studies at the time decided to halt the field school to Buffalo – the original international location of the field school for many years – and instead they chose Montreal as the setting.  

Once the Canadian city was decided, Abbruzzese thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of putting together a new field school.  

“Logistically, it’s never easy to execute, but I strive to enhance the field school experience each year,” she said. “All the guest speakers make this field school special and welcome our urban group from York University back each year.” 

She, her students, and other professors boarded a Megabus for the ride east and followed a packed itinerary that included historian/expert-led walking tours of neighbourhoods such as Saint-Henri, Montreal North, Little Burgundy and Mile End; a visit with City Councillor Sterling Hall – who has experienced homelessness – and a tour of City Hall; and talks by professors from Concordia University.  

The students packed a lot into the trip, getting a sense of the richness and diversity of Montreal. They saw poverty and affluence, arts and industry. They gained an understanding of some of the city’s challenges with issues such as housing, transportation, socioeconomic disparities, public spaces and heritage as well as the French-English divide, said Abbruzzese. 

“All of this sparks comparative analysis in their heads and they begin to ask a lot of questions,” she said. “They’ll use all of this to create a manuscript – a fieldwork diary organized around themes. They’ll organize, reflect, and analyze their empirical notes and contextualize their observations with broader scholarly conversations in Urban Studies.” 

Just as important, noted Abbruzzese, is that the trip serves to transform the class from individual students into a community.  

“It is a tradition for professors from the program to join this field school, so that students have an opportunity to get to know the other professors in the program, and professors get to know the students,” she said. “Professor Doug Young from the Urban Studies program has joined me on this field school from Buffalo to Montreal for the last eight years. Students have always appreciated sharing this experience with other professors from the program, which made the experience more memorable.” 

“In addition, students become a support network for each other and become more connected after this field school,” she said. “They’re all friends afterward.” 

Vanessa Reynolds
Vanessa Reynolds

Vanessa Reynolds, a third-year geography and urban studies major, confirms that. “This was a group that hadn’t talked to each other in class, but we all bonded and, now, we’re really friends,” she said. “It was such a great experience; I’d recommend that anyone do it.” 

She found the trip eye-opening in many ways, and changed her perspectives. 

“I’m so Toronto-centric, but seeing Montreal gave me deeper insights into how a city runs, and seeing different parts of the city that people often don’t was amazing,” Reynolds said. Furthermore, she added, “I want to travel more. It makes you want to see the world. It was an experience that made university different.” 

Shazde Mir, a fourth-year urban studies major who plans to pursue a career in policy development or community planning, said Abbruzzese’s passion for Montreal made her glad she took the trip, as she got to know the city and gain insights into city planning. 

“I saw a different perspective of what it means to be an equitable city,” Mir said. “You can’t treat people as less than.” 

After visiting a working-class neighbourhood with prominent community initiatives that reminded her of Toronto’s Jane and Finch area, Mir wondered why cities have areas where a lack of investment from the government is visible. 

“I’ve started looking into tours here in Toronto to get to know the history of the city’s development,” she said. “I want to go back to Montreal and I’d like to visit other cities to see how different governments went about developing them, what the priorities were. 

“The trip solidified my love for Toronto. I want to see more progressive policies so we can create a more equitable city.” 

Ultimately, said Abbruzzese, “our objective is to produce graduates who are informed, critically engaged, and sensitive to issues of sustainability, social justice, equity and diversity.” 

Given the feedback, it is apparent she is meeting that goal. 

Inaugural fair helps EUC students explore green career possibilities

Briefcase with potted plant on it

Over 300 interested York University and high-school students attended the inaugural Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) Green Career Fair in January. 

In partnership with the not-for-profit organization Green Career Centre, the event welcomed students to the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building to explore possibilities for careers that aren’t often well promoted, but for which there is a growing need among employers. A recent worldwide survey by the Manpower Group found that 70 per cent of employers are urgently recruiting or planning to recruit green talent and people with sustainability skills. 

The idea for the fair came from Lauren Castelino, a master of environmental studies student at EUC and founder of the Green Career Centre, who organized a fair last year, attended by EUC staff. The centre focuses on providing under-represented youth with green career opportunities, advancement and inclusion. 

Organizers from both the Green Career Centre and Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. From L to R: Joel Famadico Jr., Emma Bramante,  Kenneth Ebhomeye Oko-Oboh, Lauren Castelino, Gayathri Baiju, Joanne Huy, Rosanna Chowdhury, Shaniah Hutchinson, Tomisona Oludairo, Bottom: Lester Pinlac
Organizers from both the Green Career Centre and Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.
From left to right: Joel Famadico Jr., Emma Bramante, Kenneth Ebhomeye Oko-Oboh, Lauren Castelino, Gayathri Baiju, Joanne Huy, Rosanna Chowdhury, Shaniah Hutchinson, Tomisona Oludairo, Bottom: Lester Pinlac

“We mutually thought it would be a great idea to expand the reach of the initiative by working together,” said Castelino, who is also pursuing a diploma in Business and the Environment from EUC and the Schulich School of Business. “EUC’s facilities were much larger than the first venue we used … and we were also appreciative of the staff support we could receive through the collaboration.” 

“We intentionally held our full-day event on the same day as the university-wide Career Fair hosted by the York Career Centre as a way of taking advantage of the synergy,” said Joanne Huy, an alumna who graduated in 2015 and is now the alumni engagement and events officer for EUC. “Staff at each event suggested that attendees visit the other fair, too. It was a win-win situation.” 

The partners invited EUC students and alumni to participate and invited everyone from York and the local community to attend. The day featured a morning of workshops followed by the career fair. The workshops included a presentation about net-zero programs given by staff from York’s Sustainability Office, a session focused on green job resources and a panel featuring EUC alumni. There was also a speed networking event matching alumni with groups of students for more intimate conversations. 

Participants speaking to vendor at the fair
Participants speaking to vendor at the fair

“I’m dedicated to empowering the next generation of changemakers, so it was great to invite our alumni panellists back to campus to share their career paths and discuss how EUC prepared them for the future,” said Huy. “We have 13,000 alumni worldwide and they are eager to contribute. It’s meaningful to them and to our current students.” 

The Green Career Fair itself featured booths set up by more than 20 organizations involved in environmental work, including the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, the Community Climate Council and Outward Bound. Participating organizations focused on issues such as food insecurity, environmental policy, environmental arts and environmental education. Exhibitors showcased jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. 

Muzamil Gadain, an alumnus who graduated from EUC in 2023, works as a project co-ordinator for the Black Environmental Initiative, an organization that works to foster change that considers cultural roots, including issues such as food security and food sovereignty. He, along with a co-worker and a volunteer, used their booth to recruit volunteers. 

“We weren’t actively hiring, but there were volunteer roles we needed to fill,” said Gadain. “About 20 volunteers signed up, so it worked very well. We also had an opportunity to network with other like-minded organizations and made some good connections. 

Muzamil Gadain and his colleagues from the Black Environmental Initiative boothing at the fair
Muzamil Gadain (left) and his colleagues from the Black Environmental Initiative boothing at the fair

“Our supervisor was very pleased to have access to university youth and we are happy to be able to help them develop their skills. Some of them have already made contributions by developing social media content and contributing to articles. It was a worthwhile event and we would definitely do it again.” 

Emma Bramante, an EUC work-study student who is majoring in sustainable environmental management, helped organize the event by doing outreach to organizations and potential employers. She also contributed to the development of marketing materials and helped to raise awareness to students, alumni and organizations. 

The high turnout delighted her and she is eager to see the Green Career Fair blossom and grow. 

“I anticipate an expansion in the scope of exhibitors, with a broader range of organizations participating, including both established environmental companies and emerging grassroots organizations and non-profits,” Bramante said. “Furthermore, I anticipate the integration of virtual components into the fair to increase accessibility and reach a wider audience beyond the local community.” 

Castelino, too, was thrilled by the interest the Green Career Fair generated. 

“I was so ecstatic to see this event come to life, and to reach more under-represented youth,” she said. “Some highlights included having three workshop presenters, four speakers, eight sponsors, 21 vendors and 300-plus attendees. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to share my knowledge through a Green Jobs Resources Workshop.” 

In June 2023, led by Castelino, Huy and Rosanna Chowdhury, the Green Career Fair was one of four applications awarded funding through the Sustainability Innovation Fund. The Faculty has now built the event into its annual budget. 

“Going forward, the fair will also give us a chance to build relationships with organizations as we develop our EUC co-op program,” Huy said. “The synergies are beautiful to see.” 

Initiative provides community space for EUC Black students

Two Black students walking inside on York's Keele Campus

Black students in York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) now have a dedicated community space in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building (HNES) to use for meetings, workshops and informal gatherings. 

EUC's Black Community Space
EUC’s Black Community Space

The EUC Black Student Caucus spearheaded the initiative to obtain a dedicated community space, says Melissa Theodore, a decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion (DEDI) advisor for EUC. It is one of the objectives stated in EUC’s Black Action Inclusion Plan 2020-25. The space was created to support a community of students, staff and faculty, providing them with a location where they can engage with one another on themed discussions and promote Black excellence, while furthering a sense of community and connection, as well as student academic and personal success.

The equity committee at EUC first held a space equity dialogue to determine what students’ needs were before approaching Dean Alice Hovorka. The dean allocated HNES 248 to them, and the caucus held a launch event there on Oct. 5, 2023. The space has been open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays ever since. 

“The space is important because Black students felt it was necessary to have a place where they could speak freely, be themselves, meet other Black students and form bonds,” Theodore said.  

“It also adds to our recruitment and retention opportunities, because it should encourage more Black students to enrol in our programs. There is a low number of Black students in some of our programs, but the numbers are increasing and we want to keep the momentum going. What better way than for them to have their own space?” 

The space will also serve as the central hub for Black Mentorship Program initiatives, providing students with support in fostering self-discovery to establish personal and academic goals that align with their individual identities and aspirations. 

Theodore hopes to form a sub-committee of the equity committee to guide the space and ensure that its care and programming are sustainable. Currently, programming is led in partnership between EUC’s Alumni Engagement and Experiential Education teams, and work-study students Shaniah Hutchinson and Tomisona Oludairo. Both are EUC undergraduate students who have taken responsibility for programming under Theodore’s guidance. 

Tomisona Oludairo
Tomisona Oludairo
Shaniah Hutchinson
Shaniah Hutchinson

“It is supposed to be a space for students run by students,” Hutchinson said. “It allows students, faculty and staff to celebrate their culture and heritage and it fosters solidarity and social justice.” 

Oludairo noted, “We want to promote cultural resilience, organize events and manage programs. We are looking for feedback from students about events and programs and are reaching out to the Black community.” 

The space has hosted a number of events to date.  

In November, a panel of EUC’s Black graduate students from various programs assembled there to share information about their pathways into their graduate program and their experiences of coursework, funding, research and the graduate community. EUC graduate assistants were also on hand to answer questions about graduate programs. 

In January, Black Voices, a film screening and storytelling event, was a collaboration between EUC and Black Excellence at York. It showcased Black filmmakers, including York students and graduates. The films screened focused on social and racial justice issues, and the films were followed by a discussion. 

For Black History Month in February, the Faculty sponsored a panel called Navigating Blackness Within the Workplace. The panellists, alumnus Masani Montague (managing director, Masani Productions); Muna-Udbi Abdulkadir Ali, an assistant professor at EUC; and Miquela Jones, a second-year interdisciplinary social science student, offered their insights into the working world and shared strategies for navigating the workplace. 

When the Faculty’s Eco Arts Festival takes place, the space is slated to be home to a collaborative art workshop, jointly sponsored by the Black Caucus, Black Excellence at York and Eco Arts. 

When the space isn’t hosting events, it is open to students as a gathering place. They can sprawl on the bean bag chairs and sip a cup of coffee made in the nearby kitchen, chat with each other or read. 

“We want people to enjoy the space,” said Hutchinson. “It’s a comfortable, relaxing area and a place they can unwind.” 

To use the space after hours, HNES 248 can be booked free of charge by reaching out to the Office of Student and Academic Services team at osasinfo@yorku.ca. 

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.

York prof’s exhibit explores life, work of social justice advocate

Cover of "Take Me, Take Me," a novella by Colin Robinson, edited by Andil Gosine

York University Professor Andil Gosine has curated a new exhibit called The Plural of He, exploring the life and work of the late Colin Robinson (1961-2021), a Trinidadian American poet and social justice advocate. It launches March 15 and will run until July 21 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York City, the world’s only dedicated 2SLGBTQIA+ art museum.

Andil Gosine
Andil Gosine

Gosine, whose academic focus is environmental arts and justice, recently told Trinidad and Tobago Newsday that although he had a professional relationship with Robinson that included consulting on various projects, he was surprised to learn he had been named the literary executor and custodian of Robinson’s archives. Before Robinson died, the pair discussed the idea of an exhibition inspired by the artist’s life’s work, and Robinson expressed enthusiastic support of it.

Titled after one of Robinson’s poems, The Plural of He features five newly commissioned works in which the artists – Llanor Alleyne, Leasho Johnson, Ada M. Patterson, Devan Shimoyama and York University doctoral student Natalie Wood – drew inspiration from materials encountered in Robinson’s archives: activist ephemera, carnival costumes and calypso music, letters, an unfinished novel, newspaper columns and poetry. Through their explorations of Robinson’s work, the artists discovered continuity between their lives and his, echoing and extending his pursuit of connection, community and justice.

“Because community building was so important to Colin,” Gosine explains, “I wanted connection itself to be the pulse of the exhibition: what resonated with me as I went through the archives? What resonances could I find between the artists and Colin in our conversations about the project? What resonances with the materials did the artists feel in their encounters with the archival materials?”

An undocumented migrant in the U.S. throughout the 1980s and 90s, Robinson became a powerful force in New York City’s queer, HIV/AIDS and feminist movements. He co-founded the historic New York State Black Gay Network and the Audre Lorde Project, and was director of HIV prevention at non-profit organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He was also a member of Other Countries, a literary collective for Black, gay men, and he published provocative essays in landmark anthologies, academic journals and newspapers.

Porky was loud by Devan Shimoyama.

His work continued when he returned to the Caribbean in 2006; there, he co-founded the critically important 2SLGBTQIA+ organization CAISO (Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation) and served as its “director of imagination.” A collection of Robinson’s poetry, You Have You Father Hard Head, was published in 2016, five years prior to his untimely passing in 2021.

Lauded as a godfather of the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement by many fellow activists, Robinson can be remembered by his writing, which he considered a form of activist performance. Each of the exhibit’s commissioned works engages a specific part of his archives to reveal different dimensions of his person.

“I want audiences for The Plural of He to encounter Colin in the fullness of his humanity,” says Gosine, whose book Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex and Law in the Caribbean details Robinson’s work. “When we get to know someone, we are privy to pieces of them, usually in non-linear fashion. We might learn about a hobby, their state of mind, their sense of humour. I want the experience of walking through this space to mirror the experience of getting to know a new friend.”

With this goal in mind, each new artwork in the exhibition is accompanied by short essays in which key figures in Robinson’s world reminisce about their connections with him in various contexts, from editing his weekly newspaper columns to dealing with heartbreak.

Public programming for The Plural of He will include readings of Robinson’s poetry and publications connected to the show. A limited release of a newly published novella rescued from Robinson’s archives – Take Me, Take Me, edited by Gosine, with cover art by Shimoyama – will be available for purchase, as will a catalog featuring each artist in dialogue with a major contemporary Caribbean writer.

For York University community members interested in the exhibit, York’s EcoArts initiative and the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean are co-hosting a local event on March 20 at 12:30 p.m. called The Plural of He: From Archives to Art, featuring Gosine and Wood in conversation and readings from Take Me, Take Me. The event will take place on the eighth floor of Kaneff Tower on York’s Keele Campus.

For more information about the exhibit, visit the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art’s website.

Passings: Alexander Murray

A field of flowers at sunset

York University Professor Emeritus Alexander Lovell Murray died peacefully at home on Feb. 11 at the age of 95.

Alexander Lovell Murray
Alexander Lovell Murray

Before beginning his career in academia, Murray pursued his interest in urban and social change over the course of his post-secondary and graduate studies, including a bachelor of arts at McMaster University, a master of arts at King’s College London and a doctor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

After completing his degrees, Murray settled in Toronto with his wife, Laura, whom he met when he was 15 and was married to for 70 years. There, Murray became a faculty member at the then-new York University, where he co-founded both the Department of Urban Studies and Faculty of Environmental Studies (now the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change).

“I fondly remember Alex Murray, the ‘(Gentle)Man in Black’ with his fashion sense and aversion to colour, and his commitment to inquiry,” said Murray’s former colleague Lewis Molot, a York University professor emeritus and senior scholar. “He shall be missed.”

In his personal life, Murray loved the outdoors, cooking and welcoming friends and family into his home. Conversely, his working hours were spent trying to solve many of society’s biggest problems, from homelessness to food insecurity. He generously donated his time, skill and experience to philanthropic causes close to his heart, taking on leadership roles within the Toronto Chapter of the Community Planning Association of Canada, the National Housing Subcommittee of the Canadian Council on Social Development, Grey County’s Grey Association for Better Planning, the Canadian Council on Human Resources in Environmental Industries and the Toronto Food Policy Council.

In recognition of the late professor’s many hours of volunteer service and four decades of contributions to the South Rosedale Residents’ Association, the park across the street from Murray’s Rosedale house, where he and his wife lived since 1963, was renamed the Alex Murray Parkette in 2010 – a meaningful tribute from the City of Toronto that will symbolize his legacy for years to come.

A celebration of Murray’s life will be held in the spring.