Students awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

3d golden star golden with lighting effect on black background. Template luxury premium award design. Vector illustration

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, presented by the Government of Canada, aims to support first-rate doctoral students studying social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health. This year, seven York University students have been named Vanier Scholars, earning them $50,000 annually for up to three years to support their research projects.

Candidates are evaluated based on three equally weighted selection criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership. This year’s scholars have proposed innovative solutions to challenging problems through their projects, each of which spurs positive change in their community, both locally and globally.

Marissa Magneson (Cree-Métis, citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario), Faculty of Education

Marissa Magneson
Marissa Magneson

Magneson’s application was ranked second out of 200 at the national competition for Vanier Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council files. Her proposed research contributes to the ongoing discourse of decolonial and artistic pedagogy, research-creation and Indigenous beadwork practices by challenging the ways education can look both inside and outside of the classroom.

Her project specifically seeks to uncover how beading supports Indigenous students in reclaiming culture, strengthening identity, fostering community, healing intergenerational traumas and developing a sense of belonging, while also contributing to Indigenous pedagogy through creative storytelling and supporting reconciliation.

“Beadwork as pedagogy actively responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, suggesting that beading not only strengthens identity but also fosters healing and reconciliation,” shares Magneson.

Greg Procknow, critical disability studies

Greg Procknow
Greg Procknow

Procknow’s doctoral research illuminates the experiential claims of inpatients found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) to explore whether education leads to decarceration and to re-evaluate education as a non-psychiatric method for recovery.

His research will document the educative experiences of inpatients granted day-release privileges to pursue post-secondary education on campus to uncover what factors have facilitated or inhibited their inclusion in educational spaces, how education has advanced their recovery plans and how these inpatients perceive education’s role in qualifying them for an absolute or conditional discharge.

“This research is vital to learning how pedagogy impacts rates of decarceration, supports the reintegration of NCRMD into the community, reduces recidivism and rehospitalizations, and nurtures recovery,” opines Procknow.

Cole Swanson, environmental studies

Cole Swanson
Cole Swanson

Swanson’s PhD study will use material-based art to explore the dynamic ecology of a bird colony with a stigmatized reputation, the double-crested cormorants (Nannopterum auritum). Working against dangerous imaginaries on cormorants fuelled by religious, settler-colonial, and extractivist histories and politics, Swanson will examine life in the colony to illuminate the entanglements between avian, human and more-than-human worlds.

“Through socially-engaged art practice, the apparent divides between our species will be broken down, stoking empathy and a community-based investment in the well-being and protection of these ancient creatures and their colony constituents with whom we share our lands and resources,” says Swanson. 

The project will culminate in a multisensory art exhibition composed of photo, video and sound recorded from the colony, which will be shared with a diverse public for analysis useful in both scientific and social contexts.

Areej Alshammiry, sociology

Areej Alshammiry
Areej Alshammiry

Alshammiry’s project explores the practice of “double punishment,” where non-citizens or foreign-born individuals in Canada are criminalized and rendered deportable. The research particularly focuses on double punishment’s impact on those who are unremovable because they are stateless but inadmissible on the grounds of criminality.

“Driven by the politics of the War on Terror, these processes lead to increasing cases of statelessness by decisions like citizenship stripping of foreign-born persons or deprivation of citizenship to those without one,” states Alshammiry. “However, such measures often target already marginalized communities and are often arbitrary, as they are driven by racial, ethnic, religious and national discrimination.”

This innovative project undertakes the important work of revealing the lived experiences of stateless individuals and can positively contribute to policy frameworks on statelessness and abolition.

Jordan Krywonos, physics and astronomy

Jordan Krywonos
Jordan Krywonos

The PhD study proposed by Krywonos considers gravitational waves, which are ripples propagating across the fabric of our universe. As the gravitational waves travel, they carry information about their source, providing an avenue to study previously inaccessible sources such as an orbiting pair of primordial black holes that are proposed to compose a portion of dark matter. Thus, this groundbreaking research on gravitational waves could help illuminate the nature of dark matter.

“Given that the identity of dark matter is among the most important outstanding questions in cosmology, discovering primordial black holes would revolutionize our understanding of the universe, and provide a new means of probing its origin,” reveals Krywonos.

Austin Martins-Robalino, civil engineering

Austin Martins-Robalino
Austin Martins-Robalino

Martins-Robalino’s project investigates how new and emerging materials can be used in place of traditional materials when constructing shear walls, which are a key influence on how structures perform when subjected to loading from wind or seismic events. Martins-Robalino proposes that replacing traditional reinforcing steel rebar with a smart material like superelastic shape memory alloys and concrete with engineered cementitious composites could provide insight into making more damage-resilient and sustainable structures that recentre themselves after loading.

“Such resilient infrastructure would inherently improve the sustainability of structures, reducing the equivalent carbon emissions over their service life,” says Martins-Robalino.

This cutting-edge project can help with progress towards safer and more sustainable construction and communities in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Anna Waisman, clinical psychology

Anna Waisman
Anna Waisman

Waisman’s proposed research seeks to provide a novel, easily accessible approach to treating chronic post-surgical pain (CPSP). A study conducted at York University and the Toronto General Hospital, published in the journal Pain, with Waisman as the lead author, found that patients who recall a greater number of event-specific, pain-related autobiographical memories before surgery are significantly less likely to develop CPSP up to one year later.

Building on these findings, Waisman’s PhD project will develop a remotely-delivered intervention that will train individuals to be more specific in the retrieval of their memories after surgery, with the aim of preventing chronic post-surgical pain.

“This work addresses a significant public health need. By creating a brief and easily accessible intervention, our plan is to deliver effective pain management to virtually anyone with a computer,” shares Waisman.

EUC’s Sustainable Campus Tour shows York’s Keele Campus through a new lens

York University's Keele Campus from above

York University has long been known as a leader in sustainability, earning recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Greenest Employers for the past 11 years and being named among the world’s top 40 universities for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

For community members who are interested in learning more about how the University is leading the way in sustainable practices, York’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is offering a new, sustainability-focused tour of the Keele Campus following a pandemic-related hiatus. Below are some of the tour’s highlights.

Native Plant Garden

On the north side of the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) Building, find a beautiful, multifunctional garden that serves as a treasured habitat for wild animals and pollinators alike. Curious community members who don’t mind getting their hands dirty are welcome to volunteer their time to help maintain the garden.

Sky Studio Collective’s collaborative murals

Launched last November, “For the Birds” is an art project created by EUC students and teachers. Best viewed from the outer north side of the HNES Building, this project was part of a larger initiative by professors Gail FraserTraci Warkentin and Lisa Myers, who imagined ways that different classes could connect to help address an area of deep concern: migratory bird deaths resulting from reflective windows on campus.

Students from the Community Arts for Social Change course (ENVS 2122) designed murals for the windows, which were installed by students from various Faculties. Read the full YFile story about the project.

Maloca Community Garden

The Maloca Community Garden, on the outskirts of campus, features about 2,000 square feet devoted to both individual and communal plots for growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers using the principles of organic agriculture. The space is intended for all members of the University community to enjoy by growing their own food, hosting outdoor events or providing a unique setting for sustainable teaching.

Workshops and volunteer opportunities are also available, and no gardening experience is necessary. For more information, visit the Maloca Community Garden website.

Regenesis York

Regenesis, an environmental community organization with chapters in many Greater Toronto Area universities, opened a unique borrowing centre on York’s Keele Campus in January 2017. The centre, located in the HNES Building, operates like a library, allowing community members to borrow items such as tools, games, camping equipment, sports equipment and more.

Sustainable buildings

York boasts many examples of forward-thinking architecture, including five green roofs, the use of photovoltaic solar panels, the collection of rainwater and five buildings recognized with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, including the LEED Gold certified Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence and Schulich School of Business Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building.

Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence
Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

Public transit

One of the top priorities of York’s Transportation Services department has been to continuously work to improve public transit options to York and reduce the numbers of commuters using single-occupant vehicles. York has encouraged this shift through a number of alternative transportation initiatives: shuttle bus service between campuses; three bicycle repair stations; a green fleet program that includes electric golf carts, bikes, hybrid and electric vehicles; and the recent connection of the Keele Campus to the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway system in 2017 with two state-of-the-art stations on campus.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations

In partnership with Natural Resource Canada and FLO, York’s Keele Campus is now equipped with 18 EV charging stations, located in many of the parking lots across campus. For more details about where to find them, visit the Parking Services website.

Green spaces

A major standout out during the EUC Sustainable Campus Tour is the abundance of beautiful green spaces available to enjoy on York’s Keele Campus. From Stong Pond and Harry W. Arthurs Common to all the charming nooks and crannies along the Campus Walk, the benefits of being located outside of Toronto’s core couldn’t be any more apparent than during a mid-summer campus stroll.

For more information about the EUC Sustainable Campus Tour or to book one for yourself or a group, contact Brittany Giglio, EUC recruitment and liaison officer, at

York professor takes a fresh look at climate change mitigation

image shows a forest and stream

York University Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change Professor Ellie Perkins co-authored a new paper in the Journal of Global Environmental Change investigating the role of quality of governance, social capital and equality as preconditions for enacting climate policies.

Ellie Perkins
Ellie Perkins

Climate change mitigation is typically assessed through the lens of technologies and policies; however, the paper “Designing a virtuous cycle: Quality of governance, effective climate change mitigation, and just outcomes support each other” investigates the role of governance and social capital in the creation of effective climate policies.

The researchers reveal that the quality of governance underpins social capital, interpersonal trust, equality and effective climate change mitigation policies. Conversely, socioeconomic inequalities were found to reduce trust and political engagement, and thus compromise the overarching goal of climate change mitigation. 

“My ongoing research and teaching on climate justice at all scales, from local to global, relate closely to the participatory, equity-oriented focus of this new paper,” says Perkins.

The team of researchers involved, including Felix Creutzig, a professor of sustainability economics at the Technical University of Berlin, used international data, estimates of social trust and other empirical evidence to demonstrate the correlations among social trust, good governance and effective climate change mitigation.

Perkins worked with some of the co-authors of this paper previously, on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 6th Assessment Report, which was published last year and documented the close interrelationship evident in peer-reviewed literature between socioeconomic, equity-focused policies and successful climate policies.

“We traced several paths that help to explain this link, mostly involving social trust in fair governance, which is necessary for people to support and advance the extensive socioeconomic and political transformations involved in the energy transition beyond fossil fuels,” says Perkins.

“International colleagues bring diverse perspectives and insights on the central climate justice challenge,” she explains. “The high-emitters most responsible for climate chaos are those least likely to suffer its impacts.”

In addition, a “lack of social capital and impartiality is a major barrier to climate change mitigation in many countries,” the paper states. “As climate change mitigation is a global public good that can only be achieved together, this is troublesome news.”

The researchers are hopeful that their findings will help lead to positive change in future climate mitigation practices, with social systems as a core focus of policies and assessments, and international efforts to increase the quality of governance globally. Non-policy streams of climate action, such as renewable energy, should also be considered as a powerful tool.

In pictures: York’s Convocation celebrates Class of 2023

convocation students facing stage

Spring Convocation for York University’s Class of 2023 ran from June 9 to 23, and featured 13 ceremonies at both the Keele and Glendon Campuses.

This year’s Spring Convocation began on June 9 with a ceremony at York’s Glendon Campus, and continued with a dozen more in the following weeks at the Keele Campus. 6,140 graduands received their degrees during ceremonies overseen by the newly inaugurated 14th chancellor of York University, Kathleen Taylor.

View photos from the Class of 2023 ceremonies below:


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 working on house blueprint, hardhat, pen

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

tablet united nations sustainability goals unsdgs

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.