Graduate students recognized for contributions to Philippine Studies

Philippine Studies Group award winners banner

Eight graduate students from three Faculties at York University are recipients of Philippine Studies Group funding for research, fieldwork and language acquisition.  

“These students collectively received $32,000 in funding in support of their work. Their groundbreaking projects promise to make an important contribution to the field of Philippine studies,” said Ethel Tungohan, associate professor of politics and Canada Research Chair in Canadian Migration Policy, Impacts and Activism.

Tungohan is a member of the Philippine Studies Group (PSG) at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), which brings together faculty and students with an interest in the Philippines, Filipinx migration and diaspora, as well as Philippine studies. PSG’s activities throughout 2023, including this latest round of student funding, are made possible by the support of the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto.

Recently, the PSG awarded $25,000 for fieldwork in the Philippines and the diaspora to six students in geography, politics and music.

“It is very exciting to read about York University students’ projects, which range from in-depth fieldwork examining the gendered dimensions of the Mindanao peace process to intensive language study and cultural immersion in the Philippines,” Tungohan added.

The Philippine Studies Group awardees are:

Myla Chawla close up portrait
Myla Chawla

Myla Chawla, a doctoral candidate in political science whose research examines women’s roles and experiences during the Moro conflict and Mindanao peace process in the Philippines. The project seeks to not only make visible the work women have performed during conflict and peace times, but to further unpack how diverse perspectives from Moro, Indigenous and Christian communities have shaped their experiences and visions of peace.

“My time conducting in-person fieldwork in the Philippines has elevated the project with a richer data sample. I have had the ability to speak to both local and professional women on the ground and have been able to witness women’s work in action. Additionally, I have taken part in events pertaining to peacebuilding efforts in Mindanao led by government agencies, NGOs and local women led grassroots movements,” said Chawla.

Ria Jhoanna Ducusin portrait
Ria Jhoanna Ducusin

Ria Jhoanna Ducusin’s project, informed by a political economy of local urbanization and feminist political ecology scholarship, examines how urban flooding results from political decisions, economic interests and power relations; and the ways in which intersectional axes of gender and class shape differential impacts of flood disasters.

“My goal is to strengthen the understanding of the causes, mitigation and experiences of flood disasters in rapidly urbanizing and industrializing coastal cities,” she said.

Ducusin is a second-year doctoral student in geography and a graduate associate with YCAR. Before joining York, Ducusin worked as a science research specialist on climate-smart agriculture and mining impact assessment projects at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), and as a lecturer at the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science at Cavite State University.

Romeo Joe Quintero portrait
Romeo Joe Quintero

Romeo Joe Quintero is a doctoral student in human geography. He holds a master’s degree in women’s and gender studies from Carleton University and an honours bachelor of social science in international development and globalization from the University of Ottawa.

His research interests lie around questions of protracted situations of forced displacement and placemaking practices among internally displaced persons in the Philippines. In particular, Quintero will examine the economic and livelihood practices of communities in Mindanao that have been displaced to settlement sties in urban areas by the legacy of violence in the region.

Dani Magsumbol
Dani Magsumbol

Dani Magsumbol is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics. Her research is an examination of the political economy of emotions, and the affective relationships of citizenship and nationalism; her dissertation focuses this analysis on the multigenerational experiences in families of the Filipino labour diaspora in Canada.

“In my project, I seek to examine not only the immediate effects that being an overseas Filipino worker has on the individual, but also the long-term after effects of how employment and residence outside of national borders alters the experience of citizenship and national membership for members of the Filipino labour diaspora.”

Magsumbol says that fieldwork is vital to this research endeavour. In seeking out Filipino immigrants and members of their family in order to interview them about their individual and familial migration stories, the research actively foregrounds the voices and stories of the migrants who have experienced the disorientation and reorientation of migration and settlement. To this end, she will be collecting data in the form of interviews and focus groups in areas in Canada where Filipinos have chosen to settle in large numbers, such as Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, as well as lower density provinces such as Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Nikki Mary Pagaling portrait
Nikki Mary Pagaling

Nikki Mary Pagaling’s research examines the labour market transitions that Filipina women make after completing Canada’s temporary foreign caregiver programs.

“I will deploy an intersectional feminist framework to investigate the extent to which immigration to Canada through a temporary foreign caregiver program shapes Filipina women’s entry into the personal support worker labour force in Toronto,” says Pagaling, who is a master’s candidate in geography.

Antoniel Roca is researching the impact of Filipino-North American diasporic identity on the thought and composition processes of musicians in the Manila metropolitan area. “As a Filipino immigrant, I believe in the importance of the study of diaspora,” he said.

Antoniel Roca portrait
Antoniel Roca

A doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology, Roca’s previous fieldwork in the Philippines touched on the music genre kundiman, and the ways in which it was utilized as propaganda during both the Spanish Filipino and American Filipino revolutions. This provided the historical background needed for his primary thesis.

Roca was also a member of Associate Professor Patrick Alcedo’s dance exhibition as part of Toronto’s inter-university CRAM festival. He has worked in many music disciplines, including classical and gospel choral ensembles, Filipino rondalla and angklung groups, as well as jazz/alternative bands.

Kad Marino and Geneviève Minville each received a language subsidy grant to further their Tagalog studies.

“Language training is an essential part of long-term, field-based and people-oriented fieldwork. The Philippine Studies Group was therefore pleased to provide support for students who are committing themselves to learning the Filipino language and/or regional dialects in the country,” says Professor Philip Kelly, who served on the award adjudicating committee.

Kad Mariano portrait
Kad Mariano

Mariano, a doctoral student in political science, believes that learning Tagalog is an important step towards his doctoral research goals. “Working with the Filipinx community requires one to navigate the multiple worlds that Filipinx migrants regularly traverse and intersect,” says Mariano.

He adds: “An integral part of this research is interviewing and communicating effectively with members of the Filipinx community. Learning and employing Tagalog will grant access to experiential and community knowledge regarding Filipinx migrants’ perceptions of reconciliation, understandings of colonial relations in the Philippines and Canada, and (non)mobilizations of memory.”

Mariano intends to focus on the Filipinx diaspora and its role in the memory dynamics of reconciliation, assessing migrants’ perceptions of and participation in reconciliation, such as cross-cultural coalition building.

Genevie Minville portrait
Geneviève Minville

Minville’s research in the Philippines will benefit from the language skills that she will gain this summer, thanks to the language subsidy.

“Having language knowledge is essential for me to connect with my research participants and the communities as well as to give me more confidence to undertake my fieldwork in 2024,” she explained.

A doctoral student in critical human geography, she intends to adopt a participatory approach with communities and engage with local experts and NGOs around issues of forced displacement related to disasters and climate change.

Canada needs pollinator strategy, say York researchers

American Bumblebee

Canada’s wild pollinators are in decline and without a national pollinator plan, many species could be heading for extinction, like the endangered rusty-patched bumblebee or the American bumblebee, say researchers at York University.

Although the focus is usually on managed honey bees, unlike wild pollinators, they are not native to Canada, not adapted to this country’s weather or plants and not at-risk of extinction, says the researchers. Wild pollinators are essential to Canada’s economy, food security and ecosystems, but about 30 species, including eight bee species, are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In the United States alone, non-managed wild pollinators are estimated to provide more than U.S. $3 billion worth in crop pollination.

Sheila Colla
Sheila Colla

Because of the urgency, and the multiple and widespread nature of the threats to wild pollinators, Associate Professor Sheila Colla of York’s Native Pollinator Research Lab in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change along with Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Nalepa, tapped into the extensive knowledge of pollinator and conservation experts to develop solutions for wild pollinator conservation in Canada, along with a national pollinator framework with a clear set of actions.

“Swift action is needed to protect wild pollinators, which will also benefit the agricultural sector, the environment and build climate change resiliency,” says Colla.

The study, “Toward a wild pollinator strategy for Canada: Expert recommended solution and policy levers,” which involved a series of expert surveys, was published June 22 in the journal FACETS and is accompanied by their pollinator framework – Conserving Canada’s Wild Pollinators: National Strategy Recommendations.

“We’ve seen many other countries develop and implement pollinator protection policies, including our neighbours to the south, the U.S., which have incorporated pollinator protection into their farm bill and that has a lot of resources to go into creating habitat and other kinds of protections for at-risk bees,” says Colla. Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Mexico, Ireland, Colombia and Nigeria, and at least 24 other countries, have all adopted national strategies, plans or initiatives.

The researchers’ pollinator framework is a tool to create Canada-wide pollinator policy based on the best available science and expertise, while also highlighting important knowledge gaps, areas for future research. It is based on their study, which generated 83 expert recommended solutions to some of the main threats – habitat loss, pesticides, parasites, non-native species and disease. It also outlines which recommendations are most feasible and which could be implemented immediately.

Yellow-banded bumblebee (image: Victoria MacPhail, FES, York University)
Yellow-banded bumblebee (image: Victoria MacPhail, FES, York University)

“The federal government is needed to help standardize and coordinate some national efforts, to set targets and to monitor progress towards those targets and also to provide financial resources and other support to provinces,” says Nalepa.

The goal is to preserve the diversity of Canada’s about 850 wild bee species and other pollinators, to mitigate issues arising from climate change, such as changing precipitation patterns, drought and shifts to their normal ranges, as well as to ensure resources are available for them to thrive, and crops and wildflowers are pollinated.

The use of pesticides is a big threat and there is a need for better risk assessments, a reduction on their reliance for agriculture, but the study’s experts also point to a lack of knowledge about how combinations of pesticides affect wild pollinators.

“In addition, experts wanted to see more financial supports and guidance for agricultural communities as they strive to reduce their pesticide use and also to help growers increase their market access to seeds that haven’t been treated with pesticides,” says Nalepa.

To improve habitat, the framework suggests the creation of corridors to connect habitats and ensure pollinators can move easily between them to forage, overwinter and breed. This could be done by having native plants along roads, train tracks and hydro lines. Habitat could also be created or improved at large industrial sites – landfills, aggregate operations and brownfield areas.

The experts also suggest better tracking, management and disease screening for managed pollinators to help prevent the spread of disease to wild bees or vice versa.

“Although there are some things in the framework that will benefit managed pollinators, really, it’s focussed on conserving wild pollinator species,” says Colla. “What we’ve seen in the scientific literature is that in many cases even when you have honey bees in the system, native bees are doing a lot of the work, or they are more effective and more efficient at pollination.”

In addition, there are some crops that require buzz pollination, where bumble bees create vibrations to dislodge trapped pollen. “Our wild bees and our native plant species have co-evolved over thousands and thousands of years, and we don’t quite know what will happen to these plants when or if bee species or a handful of them go extinct,” she says.

The take home message, says Nalepa, is that “the Canadian public is really passionate about wild pollinators, and even though experts stress the need for sustained efforts and systemic changes, there are also actions that we can take that are immediately implementable with just minor tweaks to the programming and legislation that we already have.”

Even without a coordinated, national plan, there are things people can do now, such as minimizing garden clean-up because pollinators often live under leaves, thatched grass and in hollow plant stems, and participating in community science programs like BumbleBeeWatch.

Another recent study by Colla and a different team looked at how managed honey bee hives in Toronto negatively impacted some wild bee species.

Watch Colla and Nalepa talk about their research:

Learn more at News @ York.

Better Buildings Boot Camp exemplifies experiential sustainability education

Architect's/designer's hands holding a pen and model house on draft paper with a construction hat and calculator in view.

The Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) at York University, in partnership with Sustainable Buildings Canada, will host the Better Buildings Boot Camp (BBBC) 2023 for undergraduate and graduate students, researchers and instructors from Canadian universities from June 19 to 23, 8:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m.

The BBBC comprises five full-day workshops led by professional and academic experts which explore emergent topics in sustainability and eco-friendly design. Each day’s activities and discussions will bolster the understanding of the camp’s participants as they prepare to plan the deep energy retrofit of York’s Assiniboine Graduate Student Residence.

With its emphasis on experiential education, the camp encourages undergraduate and graduate student participants to form interdisciplinary, inter-institutional groups to network with each other, as well as the diverse groups of builders, researchers and instructors leading the daily activities. The week will begin with participants and activity leaders leveraging each other’s expertise and assembling their groups’ plans in order to end the week by presenting their ideas and providing feedback to the project building team who will renovate the 51-year-old, 19-story residence at 320 Assiniboine Rd.

By collaborating with academics and technicians, BBBC organizers expect that participants will enjoy a hands-on learning experience that dissolves the boundary between theoretical and practical education, and inspires the next generation’s best minds to endeavor for a future that is sustainable and equitable.

Aren Sammy headshot
Aren Sammy

“The Better Buildings Boot Camp is an excellent experiential education opportunity that emphasizes the collective responsibility of environmental professionals working towards change in our community,” says Aren Sammy, EUC experiential education coordinator, community partnerships and employers. “This experience takes eager-to-learn students, seasoned professionals and our own alumni to work alongside EUC, York facilities and sustainability offices to get one step closer to net zero emissions by 2049.”

To maximize the accessibility of this year’s event, all introductory, networking and consultation activities – including those with York’s Facilities team – will be hosted as webinars for participants at York and at partnering institutions.

Initially conceived as a joint effort between George Brown College, Seneca College, University of Toronto, Carleton University and Toronto Metropolitan University, the boot camp has expanded year after year adding more Canadian institutions into the partnership, with the 2023 instalment marking the first time that York has hosted the event.

“This is how we make a difference, it takes all of us to come together with our specializations to work towards one goal, a more just and sustainable future,” Sammy adds.

A summary of each day’s themes and speakers are included below, for a detailed event schedule, including breaks and mixers, click here.

  • Monday: Goals – featuring Mike Singleton, executive director of Sustainable Buildings Canada (SBC); Bettina Hoar, CEO and sustainability officer of Sage Living; Nicole Arsenault, program director, sustainability; and more
  • Tuesday: Tools – featuring Juan Sebastián Carrizo, senior building performance consultant at DIALOG; Sean Sirgi, building performance analyst at EVNA Engineering; and more
  • Wednesday: Humans – featuring Leslie Kulperger, founder and CEO of MylesAhead; Jayde Malam, founder and accessibility consultant at Beautifully Inclusive; and more
  • Thursday: Workshop – featuring Mike Layton, chief sustainability officer at York University; the York University Facilities team; the SBC consultation team; and more
  • Friday: Lessons Learned – featuring EUC alumnus David MacMillian, program manager at City of Toronto; Justin J. Podur, EUC associate dean, teaching and learning; Alice J. Hovorka, EUC dean; and more
Mike Layton
Mike Layton

During Thursday morning’s session, Layton – who joined York in March after serving for 12 years as Toronto city councillor and who continues to be an environmental champion – will share his personal knowledge with the SBC and York facilities teams and help shape the project proposals that will make the residence a net-positive development for the campus environment.

“The buildings we live, work and play in, at York University and everywhere, play an important role in achieving our sustainability objectives,” Layton says. “The BBBC workshop is a great opportunity for students, practitioners, and York staff to learn from each other and put into practice their expertise in a collaborative and practical application.”

This year’s BBBC is currently approaching 70 student registrants representing 19 different schools across Canada and 10 unique fields of study. Registration for the event will remain open until Friday, June 16 at 5 p.m. Due to limited space, interested parties are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. For more information and to sign up for BBBC 2023, click here.

Four projects receive funding through York’s Sustainability Innovation Fund


A selection committee from the President’s Sustainability Council identified projects that advance climate action at the University for the second round of funding from York’s Sustainability Innovation Fund (SIF). 

The Sustainability Innovation Fund provides funding to support campus sustainability projects that help build a culture and practice of sustainability at York University and advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This round of funding awarded over $50,000 to projects that contribute to the University’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieving net zero and advancing SDG 13 (Climate Action).  

The winning projects reflect various ways to utilize the campus as a living lab and address direct or indirect emissions through activities such as commuting, energy use, food consumption, waste management, behaviour change, awareness and engagement, and nature-based solutions.  

“By supporting these projects, we are making significant strides towards creating a more sustainable community at York University and beyond,” said Mike Layton, chief sustainability officer. “We’re also breaking down financial barriers to empower students, staff and faculty to become agents of positive change and take meaningful steps to reduce our impact on the planet.” 

The four winning projects are:  

Living Learning Community – Sustainability  

  • Project team: ​Aaron Brown and Melanie Howard​, Residence Life, Division of Students ​  
  • Residence Life will pilot a Living Learning Community (LLC) specific to sustainability during the 2023-24 academic year. The program seeks to address SDG 12 (Ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns) and 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts).

York University Composting Centre  

  • Project lead: John Simoulidis 
  • Project team: Andrew Maxwell (Lassonde School of Engineering), Dean J.J. McMurtry (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS)), Dean Alice Hovorka (Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC)), Tom Watt (Ancillary Services), Calvin Lakhan (EUC), Mark Winfield (EUC), Karl Karvonen (Facilities Services), Sabine Dreher (Glendon College), Nicolas Cabal (student), Ronon Smith (student), Sabrina de Losada Casab (student)  
  • This project began through the first round of SIF. It will continue to develop an on-site composting centre to divert organic waste away from landfills, process it on site and turn it into useful compost that can be applied at Maloca Garden (Keele) or Glendon Garden, two spaces well situated as ”living labs.” 

Green Career Fair: Exploring Climate Careers to Achieve Net Zero  

  • Project leads: Lauren Castelino, Joanne Huy and Rosanna Chowdury (EUC) 
  • This project will host an annual Green Career Fair at York University to engage students and GTA youth. The fair will lead discussions on transitioning to net-zero emissions and showcase green career paths and organizations championing initiatives towards this goal. It aims to prepare underrepresented youth for green careers through nurturing a stronger sense of connection, inclusion and well-being.  

Determining the merits of large battery electricity storage at York University  

  • Project lead: Tim Hampton (EUC) 
  • Project team: Mark Winfield (EUC), Hany Farag (Lassonde), Steven Prince (Facilities Services)  
  • This project will assess the desirability (environmental impact reduction), feasibility (fit with existing campus infrastructure and staffing) and viability (whether the system will reduce overall costs) of a large battery storage system at York University.   

The next round of SIF funding is planned for Fall 2023. To learn more about the Sustainability Innovation Fund, visit the Office of Sustainability website

York takes academic leadership role at Congress 2023 

Female conference lecture teacher professor

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, editor, YFile

Upwards of 250 York University faculty members and scholars are among the presenters during the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, where they take an academic leadership role in sharing their research with colleagues from across the nation. 

The flagship event of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences – taking place May 27 to June 2 at York University’s Keele Campus – returns to an in-person format this year, following a hiatus in 2020 and the subsequent virtual format in 2021 and 2022. Congress is the largest academic gathering in Canada, with at least 10,000 participants attending this year. The event was last hosted at York University in 2006. 

Congress 2023 provides a platform for critical conversations, including diverse voices and perspectives to create collaborations that help drive the future of post-secondary education. This year’s theme “Reckonings and Re-Imaginings” will guide the direction of discussions and knowledge sharing in presentations, panels, workshops and more.

Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis

“I am excited by this theme because it’s a call to reflection on where we (as scholars, activists, artists and thinkers) are and how we got here,” said York University Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Andrea Davis, who is serving as academic convenor for Congress 2023, when the theme was announced. “Rather than simply centering the problems, this theme insists that we imagine otherwise – that we consider what a different set of possibilities might look like and that we come together collectively to create the kind of world we want to live in.” 

York faculty and scholars will contribute their humanities and social sciences research and expertise through more than 250 different events scheduled in a variety of programming streams, such as the Big Thinking Lecture Series, Career Corner, Black and racialized programming, Indigenous programming, scholarly presentations and more. 

Contributions come from all 11 York Faculties, three Organized Research Units, two divisions and other units, such as the Teaching Commons and York International. 

“We took the opportunity to apply York’s strengths as an institution that is known for supporting social justice and social responsibility. At Congress 2023, the University is playing an active role in igniting and sustaining positive change through scholarship, creative practice and conversations that generate new perspectives,” said Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic.

Philipps is also a member of the Scholarly Planning Committee for Congress, which is comprised of York faculty, staff, graduate students and senior leadership, who together have helped to guide and shape the themes and programming for this year’s event through broad consultation with the York community. Learn more about the Scholarly Planning Committee here

York programming at Congress 2023 

The School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design will feature work from faculty and graduate students with topics exploring culturally relevant pedagogy, accessible tech for Canadian artists, film screenings and more. 

Diverse programming from the Faculty of Education – which contributes to more than 60 events – includes re-imagining teacher education, book launch events, the risks of queer lives during the pandemic, findings from a Black feminist qualitative study and more from faculty and graduate students. 

Both faculty and graduate students from the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change will participate and explore topics such as the intersectional feminist approach to gathering and analyzing stories that reconsider risk, and a look at ceremonies of mourning, remembrance and care in the context of violence and more.

Glendon College faculty members will consider the ascent of right-wing populism in Canada, the politics of refusal in the Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette novel Suzanne, and more. 

Research by graduate students will be the focus of contributions from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, with a variety of presentations on diverse topics, including the impact of the pandemic on intimate partner violence in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, a focus on mental health and the suicide of Black men, female activists and their relationships with their mothers, and more. 

From the Faculty of Health, faculty members will explore how academic nursing leaders addressed the complexities of sustaining quality nursing education programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, participate in a roundtable on transnational Black communities and overcoming epidemics and a panel on promising practices that support aging with equity. Faculty will also present research on Indian immigrant fatherhood in the perinatal period, the experiences of immigrant Pakistani youths, and Asian Canadian exclusionary experiences in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to research contributions, a graduate program assistant will perform at the Swag Stage.

Lassonde School of Engineering will have contributions from faculty and an undergraduate student that focuses on designing a more equitable science curricula and York’s Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4), which will be presented in partnership with a student from the Schulich School of Business.

Knowledge sharing from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will come from undergraduate students, graduate students, teaching and research assistants and faculty, with participation in upwards of 80 different events at Congress. Some of the research will cover racial profiling among Canadian university professors of Chinese descent, re-imagining criminal justice, activism and inclusion, decolonizing transnational human rights engagements and partnerships in Africa, queer rural teacher activists and more. 

Osgoode Hall Law School faculty members and a visiting Fellow will present their research on girls and Young Women before the Cour du bienêtre social of Montréal, conflicting interpretations of women in Canada’s thalidomide tragedy and Indigenous laws and jurisdiction for addressing harm. 

Faculty members representing the Faculty of Science will share their research on geological fantasies, the stark effect, and offer perspectives during a roundtable on overcoming epidemics and the transnational Black communities’ response. 

Find more information about open programming events at Congress here:  

Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living: Building a better future with Lina Brand Correa

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

York University’s free Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living is an innovative, interdisciplinary and open access program that gives participants the opportunity to earn a first-of-its-kind digital badge in sustainable living.

Throughout the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living, six of York University’s world-renowned experts share research, thoughts and advice on a range of critical topics related to sustainability. Their leadership and expertise, however, extends beyond the six-minute presentations.

Over the next several weeks, YFile will present a six-part series featuring the professors’ work, their expert insights into York’s contributions to sustainability, and how accepting the responsibility of being a sustainable living ambassador can help right the future.

Part two features Assistant Professor Lina Brand Correa.

Lina Brand Correa, photo by Joseph Burrell
Lina Brand Correa

Lina Brand Correa is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) and a coordinator for the Business and the Environment graduate diploma. Her research uses an ecological economics lens and focuses primarily on energy and well-being issues, and their intersection. She is interested in exploring topics all along the energy chain, from “EROI” – or energy return on investment – on the energy supply side, to “energy poverty” on the energy demand side, and many other topics in between.

A champion of energy transformations, rather than simply reforms or transitions, Brand Correa’s work is as illuminating as it is pressing. Warning her students and contemporaries about the dangers of the rebound effect – whereby advances in energy efficiency result in greater energy use due to reductions in cost, such that any possible energy savings are undone before they are realized; the necessity for reductions in overall levels of energy use, particularly in the Global North; and the injustices embedded in an extremely unequal energy landscape – she demonstrates the immediate need for perspective shifts, not just in the realm of technology, but in the social, economic and political spheres as well.

Q: What does it mean to be a “sustainable living ambassador” and how does it foster positive change? 

A: To me being a sustainable living ambassador means enacting, in your day-to-day life, the type of world you would like to live in. Every day we play all sorts of different roles. Yes, we are consumers and our consumption choices matter, but we are so much more than that: we are citizens, friends, family and community members, students, teachers, employers and employees, activists, teammates, carers, neighbours, campaigners, customers, constituents and voters, and so on.

By realizing that we play all these roles, and thinking about how we can work to create the world we would like to live in in all the spheres where we interact with others, I think sustainable living ambassadors can foster positive change. However, this work requires asking difficult questions, of ourselves and of others, and actively deciding to do things differently. Importantly, this will likely include increasing the spheres where we interact with others, as it is only as broader communities, rather than as individuals, that we will foster true change.

Q: What would make you most proud for viewers to take away from your lecture, and the series as a whole?

A: From my lecture in particular, I would be very proud if viewers could take away a critical lens on current energy issues, questioning proposed solutions that focus exclusively on technological improvements. Our climate and energy issues are not a technological problem which we can engineer ourselves out of. Our climate and energy issues are embedded in broader social, economic and political issues, and this is the time to tackle them. And I think that is the message of the series as a whole: we cannot forget about people and society when we are thinking about solving environmental challenges.

Q: Equity and equality are a common theme throughout these sustainability lectures. Why is that such a critical component of sustainability? 

A: In my view, equity and justice are central to sustainability for two main reasons. On the one hand, we cannot achieve sustainability with high levels of inequality. High concentrations of income and wealth are linked to disproportionally high levels of environmental impact. This is certainly true for greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Both between and within countries, there are certain segments of the population who are disproportionally driving emissions. So tackling carbon and energy inequalities is key for sustainability, including addressing extravagant levels of wealth accumulation and income inequality.  

On the other hand, addressing inequalities is the ethical thing to do. We can’t focus on saving our ecosystems without focusing on bringing everyone along. Many climate and energy policies are proposed and assessed in relation to their environmental outcomes. However, the social outcomes of climate policies are just as important, if not more. That means, amongst other things for example, correcting the wrongs of the past at an international level – including extractive colonial practices that remain today as unequal terms of trade and debt-based financing – and lifting people out of poverty and deprivation, for example, through guaranteed access to basic services.

Q: Are there changes you’ve made in your work at York that other York community members can learn from? 

A: In my work at York, I’ve tried to change my teaching style to focus on preparing students to deal with real-life situations, rather than staying in a conceptual world. I encourage students to relate what we are learning in class to their day-to-day lives and to what they are seeing around them, in the news, on social media, in politics, at the workplace. I also try to encourage them to be creative about change, how it can happen and what can the future look like. 

Moreover, I try to engage with initiatives that seek to generate change at a broader level. For instance, I follow the work of YUFA’s Climate Emergency Committee and York U Fossil Free, and will also be following the work of York University’s Office for Sustainability.

Q: How do you view collective responsibility vs. personal responsibility in creating a more sustainable future? 

A: I think we need both, in tandem. Collectively we need to enable and support people to be able to make individual decisions that support a more sustainable future. And individually we need to make changes that will push the collective to take the responsibility for creating the conditions for such a future.

Q: How is York leading the way towards a more sustainable future?

A: Sustainability is a key area of focus in my own Faculty (EUC), where many of my colleagues and I research and teach with a focus on environmental and social justice. York U’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Mike Layton, is an alum from EUC’s Master’s in Environmental Studies (MES). Like Mike, many of our alumni go on to make real change towards sustainability in their communities and work environments. It is there, in our alumni, where I see York having the greatest impact towards a more sustainable future. 

York is also considering questions of sustainability across its own operations, taking important and commendable steps. The University has an Office of Sustainability, tasked with collegially developing a shared vision of a sustainable future, setting targets and strategies, implementing and promoting them, and monitoring the University’s progress towards that vision. However, given the scale of the interlocked crises we are facing, there is still much more to do (for example divestment from fossil fuels). I think York has the potential to truly lead the way towards a more sustainable future, in all aspects of University life, but it requires bold and brave actions from everyone in the University community.

Visit the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living to see Brand Correa’s full lecture, as well as those by the other five experts, and earn your Sustainable Living Ambassador badge. Watch for part three of this series in an upcoming issue of YFile. For part one, go here.

EUC professor’s book pioneers psychoanalytic examination of crisis-prone capitalism

Earth marble wrapped in bandages and overheating on black backdrop

“Why is it that, despite the fact that we live in an ‘information economy,’ despite the fact that we are well aware of sweatshop labour, increasing inequalities and climate crisis,” Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change Professor Ilan Kapoor ponders, “we continue to be so invested in our global capitalist system?”

Ilan Kapoor closeup portrait
Ilan Kapoor

In his latest book, Global Libidinal Economy (Suny Press, 2023), Kapoor – along with co-authors Gavin Fridell, Chair of Global Development Studies and research professor at Saint Mary’s University; Maureen Sioh, associate professor in the Department of Geography at DePaul University; and Pieter de Vries, international development research liaison for Wageningen University and Universidad de Antioquia – supplants traditional economic wisdom and emphasizes the often overlooked role that unconscious human desire plays in driving overconsumption and – by extension – environmental and humanitarian crises.

“Conventional political economy assumes the individual as an autonomous, rational, self-interested and advantage-maximizing subject. Neoclassical economics, for example, is based on the idea of a self-regulating market that operates under the ‘invisible hand’ of supply and demand,” Kapoor explains.

Widespread though this understanding of market forces may be, however, Kapoor asserts that such a perspective is ultimately limited, failing to describe how so-called rational actors can understand the regrettable consequences of unmitigated consumption, while simultaneously participating in such destructive, and eventually self-destructive, behaviours. In order to explain this contradiction, Kapoor and his peers introduce the concept of “the ‘libidinal,’ [which] plays a critical role,” as a primary motivator of consumption, rather than a negligible, haphazard influence.

“Libidinal economy is founded on the notion of a desiring subject, who obeys the logic not of good sense, rationality and self-interest, but rather excess and irrationality,” Kapoor says. “Desire, as it is conceptualized in psychoanalytic theory, is insatiable, which is what helps explain the relentlessness of capital accumulation and profit maximization. So, it is the irrationality and excess of desire that we think can help us understand such phenomena as overconsumption, excessive waste and environmental destruction to the point of imperiling not only accumulation but life itself.

Global Libidinal Economy (2023)
Global Libidinal Economy (2023)

“My co-authors and I claim in this book that it is because late capitalism fundamentally seduces us with such things as cars, iPhones, fast food, and media spectacle … as a result of which we end up fetishizing capitalism, loving it, in spite of knowing about the many socioeconomic and environmental problems associated with it,” he adds.

As a teacher of global environmental politics and international development studies, Kapoor approaches these subjects through the lenses of psychology and critical theoretic philosophy, encouraging his students and peers to debate trends in global development in terms of race, gender, class and unconscious bias.

“I am interested in those elements of our lives that are either hidden away – what psychoanalysis calls ‘repression’ – or are in plain sight but unacknowledged – that is, ‘disavowal,’” he says. “My last three books have focused on this repressive and disavowed role played by unconscious desire in global politics and development. Our [new] book builds on that project by examining the significant part played by unconscious desire in political economy.”

Officially published on May 15, Global Libidinal Economy will make it’s ceremonial debut at Authors meet Critics as a part of the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at York University on May 30.

Though intimately familiar to Kapoor and his co-authors, the conception of libidinal economy introduced in the book is now making waves in environmentalist and economist circles, being praised in early reviews as innovative and expansive, yet broadly accessible and concise.

To purchase a copy or see more information and reviews on Global Libidinal Economy, visit the publisher’s website.

Click here for details on the launch of Global Libidinal Economy and the Authors meet Critics event.

Creating and celebrating changemakers at EUC

gold and red stars

By Elaine Smith

The Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) at York University was formed in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and began forging its identity during the challenging period of isolation and remote course delivery. The first Changemakers Celebration – slated to be an annual event – ushered in a special joy when the achievements of EUC educators were commemorated in person.

“I wanted to accomplish two things this year,” EUC Dean Alice Hovorka told the assembled students, staff and faculty during the April event. “I wanted us to build community, especially coming out of the pandemic when we find ourselves with new ways of being in the world, and I wanted to document our impact – thus, our Changemakers event.

“As a new Faculty, the first couple of years were spent telling people all about who we are, what we do and what our programs are. Now, I want us to tell stories about what we’re accomplishing and the impact we’re having on the York University community and well beyond.”

The celebration marked the launch of the inaugural EUC Impact Report and lauded student researchers, volunteers and leaders. First up were the recipients of the 2022 Dean’s Changemaker Awards: William Anthony, Justin Chan, Thereza Eric, Samantha Navalta and Kaitlin Pal. These five students were given paid placement opportunities with EUC’s living labs and were required to design and pursue a project that created change.

Dean Alice Hovorka, Kaitlin Pal, Thereza Eric, Justin Chan and William Anthony
Dean Alice Hovorka, Kaitlin Pal, Thereza Eric, Justin Chan and William Anthony

Many other students were recognized for their extra-curricular contributions to EUC during the celebration. Ann Tsirgielis, EUC’s student success advisor, congratulated the Faculty’s peer mentors, including Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, the program coordinator.

Faria-Wong called his peers “highly dedicated individuals who go above and beyond to offer their knowledge and time to help others. … peer mentors assist in navigating questions and uncertainties and that goes a long way.”

Ann Tsirgielis, Summer Solmes, Kaitlin Pal, Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, Phuong Tia Nguyen, Maya Olszewska, Sofia Colalillo, Emma Bramante, Catherine Lombardo
Ann Tsirgielis, Summer Solmes, Kaitlin Pal, Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, Phuong Tia Nguyen, Maya Olszewska, Sofia Colalillo, Emma Bramante, Catherine Lombardo

Summer Solmes, a student leader, spoke about the value of student clubs, whose members were also celebrated.

“Student groups drive change in this Faculty because they are composed of hardworking and passionate individuals,” she said. “Being a member of a student group offers you a chance to grow into the person you will one day become; it is a chance to manifest your future self.”

Rosanna Chowdhury, experiential education coordinator, and Deena Shaffer, director of EUC’s Office of Student and Academic Services, offered praise for the many other engaged students, including participants in the governance process, work-study students, volunteers and student leaders. EUC recognized 50 graduate and 11 undergraduate students earning academic and research awards, including the EUC Research Award (EUCRA), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awards, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) awards and many more.

The celebration also honoured recipients of the 2022/23 EUC Dean’s Awards.

Ilan Kapoor, Nashwa Khan, Joanne Huy
Ilan Kapoor, Nashwa Khan, Joanne Huy

Professor Ilan Kapoor was the recipient of the Dean’s Teaching Award (faculty) with his nominators praising his exceptional pedagogical abilities: “He brings complex and dense subject matter alive, encourages critical thinking and allows students to be their best.”

Nashwa Khan, received the Dean’s Teaching Award (graduate student) for her pedagogical innovation and student support. She noted: “As a first-generation student and a Muslim woman, I understand the challenges that students from unique, diverse backgrounds often face. I have strived to make my educational practice one that is rooted in equity and care.”

Paul Elliot, Nicki Hemmings & Dean Alice Hovorka
Paul Elliot, Nicki Hemmings and Dean Alice Hovorka

Joanne Huy, an alumni officer and EUC alumna, received the Dean’s Staff Recognition Award for her “unwavering commitment to excellence, creativity, innovation and leadership,” and her pivotal role in building community.

Finally, the Dean’s Impact Leader Award went to Nicki Hemmings, the departing human resources business partner, for her “substantive impact on our souls, hearts, processes, structures and culture,” said Hovorka.

The event concluded with the launch of the EUC Impact Report 2022/23.

“I want everyone to appreciate what EUC is doing to impact the world around us,” said Hovorka. “We’re enhancing the student experience, facilitating research excellence, advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and championing equity and Black inclusion.

“Like this celebration, I really see the report as a representation of all of us putting our best foot forward and working for more justice and sustainability in the world.”

For highlights from the inaugural Changemakers event, see the video below.

Congress 2023 screens Indigenous-focused films

film camera

By Elaine Smith

A group of female directors will bring their Indigenous-focused films to York’s Keele Campus during Congress 2023 in late May.

Both conference attendees and the general public will have the opportunity to see the works of Ange Loft, Martha Stiegman, Angele Alook and Paulette Moore free of charge as part of the conference’s community programming. They touch on a variety of issues and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including reduced inequalities, life on land and gender equality.

Loft, a multidisciplinary artist, and Stiegman, an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), are part of Jumblies Theatre & Arts’ Talking Treaties project which is produced By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto and screens on May 28. The piece was created to explore the treaty negotiations between the colonizing British and the Mississaugas of the Credit, for the land the City of Toronto now occupies. Afterward, Amar Bhatia, co-director of Osgoode Hall’s Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments, will facilitate a discussion with members of the creative team.

“Using archival records and minutes of the treaty negotiations, we see the underhanded calculus and fraudulent means used to acquire Mississauga lands,” says Stiegman. “It [the film] uses sardonic humour as sugar on the medicine of truth to draw people in and engage them in a different way of learning about history so they don’t feel like they are doing homework.”

Alook, assistant professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies brings her work, pîkopayin (It Is Broken), to the screen on May 27. Part of the Just Powers project on energy transition and environmental and social justice, the film looks at the impacts of resource extraction on the community of Bigstone Cree Nation in Alberta, Alook’s home territory, which sits amidst the oil sands in the boreal forest. It documents traditional land users’ practices such as hunting, harvesting, and land-based teaching, while talking to the residents about their visions of the future on these lands.

The final films, VeRONAka and Rahyne, screen on June 1 and are followed by a panel discussion moderated by director Paulette Moore, an EUC PhD student, filmmaker and owner of The Aunties Dandelion media organization. VeRONAka is a 10-minute live-action fictional film, both humorous and serious, that explores the true story of how a Mohawk clan mother gave COVID-19 a Mohawk name, personifying the out-of-control virus. Once a person is in relationship with the virus, they can understand why it is here and ask it to leave. Rahyne is a short, animated film about an Afro-Indigenous non-binary teen whose identity is united through two water spirits. Moore will talk with Rahyne’s co-directors Queen Kukoyi and Nico Taylor about how film can help explore concepts of identity and naming. 

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend; community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Centre for Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation hosts garden party for World Bee Day

Macro photo of green metallic sweat bee perched on a yellow flower

The Centre for Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (BEEc) will once again mark the annual United Nations World Bee Day with new events designed to promote the health of local pollinators.

This year, for the first time, BEEc and the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) welcome all members of the University community to the EUC Native Plant Garden party on May 16 from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

World Bee Day, led internationally by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is dedicated to acknowledging and spreading awareness of the plethora of vital environmental processes that depend on the often underappreciated work of Earth’s busy bees.

“Bees are one of the most important groups of pollinators in the world, yet most people are unaware that we have at least 350 species in the GTA alone,” explains BEEc Coordinator Victoria MacPhail. “The EUC Native Plant Garden is an oasis for them on a campus full of concrete and buildings, providing food, shelter and nesting sites throughout the year.”

Observed around the world on Saturday, May 20, this year World Bee Day will arrive early at York in order to allow for the participation of as many interested community members as possible.

“We’re excited to celebrate World Bee Day a few days early with the whole York University community, to take this opportunity to share our love and knowledge of bees with others,” MacPhail says. “We have a wealth of free resources and are happy to chat with people about what they can do to help pollinators, from planting native flowers to advocating for increased protections.”

A lush planter box full of a variety of species of wild flowers
One of the EUC native species planter boxes to be maintained for World Bee Day

The featured garden party event is sponsored in part by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada and is open to all staff, students and faculty, as well as members of the public from outside of the University. Attendees will learn from York’s expert mellitologists, as well as free handouts, pinned insect displays, example bee nests and more, about the highly diverse bee species indigenous to Toronto and Southern Ontario at large, as well as the local flora that they depend on for sustenance. As a part of this hands-on learning experience, guests will be able to contribute to the University’s floral biodiversity by planting new native species in the EUC garden and removing invasive species that are less conducive to the health of local pollinators.

“We’re so thrilled to invigorate our relationship and stewardship of this wonderful garden started by [Professors] Gerde Werkerle and Leesa Fawcett, among others, with the partnership of BEEc. Hundreds of students pass by or attend summer classes in this rooftop garden sitting atop lecture halls and we want them to come to know this lively oasis of over 40 species – some of them edible. May 16 will be a great start to what we anticipate will be an amazing season,” says Phyllis Novak, director of the EUC Maloca Community and Native Plant Gardens.

York community members who intend to join in the gardening are asked to RSVP here by Friday, May 12. Members of the public are encouraged to drop in to this event and are not required to register. No prior experience or personal equipment is required to join in the gardening. Participants are encouraged to dress for the elements as this event will run rain or shine.

MacPhail says gardening volunteers can expect to “see examples of bee species – from tiny, smooth, black solitary bees that are only a few millimeters long and can be mistaken for flies or ants, to the large, fuzzy bumblebees that can be up to a couple centimeters in size, and whose queens are easily seen this time of year.

“Toronto’s official bee, the green metallic sweat bee – or Agapostemon virescens – has already been seen nesting in the garden, and we are confident that the upcoming garden party will help to improve the habitat for it and many other wildlife species,” she adds.

Additional BEEc-hosted events will run following the garden party and in the lead up to the official World Bee Day, including a cocktail fundraiser to help endow a fund for EUC graduate students studying bees on May 17 in Markham, as well as a Scholars’ Hub virtual seminar on May 18 detailing the leading-edge research on bees being carried out at York.

For more information on these supplemental Bee Day events, contact or see the BEEc news and social media page.