EUC empowers students as future leaders for green labour shift 

Earth at night was holding in human hands. Earth day. Energy saving concept, Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) Dean Alice Hovorka talks about creating opportunities for students to become changemakers as the future of work evolves to focus on “green” jobs.

When it comes to future job opportunities for students, GREEN is the new black.

Alice Hovorka
Alice Hovorka

Climate action commitments by national governments and international organizations come with increased investments to achieve climate resiliency and demand for millions of new jobs over the next decade.  

Openings for ”green jobs” related to the environment will increase by 17 per cent over the next three years according to labour market research from Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada. Globally, the shift to a greener economy could create 24 million new jobs around the world by 2030 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The push for net zero transitions has ignited dedicated sustainability and ESG streams in public, private, not-for-profit and civil society sectors; new jobs are emerging in sectors not traditionally thought of as “green.” Notably, equity-based solutions and “just climate resilience” are important parts of these trends.  

According to Smart Prosperity Institute’s 2022 report on Job and Skills in the Transition to a Net-Zero Economy, Canada’s workforce lacks knowledge and skills vital to sustainable and just transitions. Training and capacity building is urgently needed. Specifically, economic transformation, creation of sustainable cities and providing clean energy solutions, for example, require changing technology or processes to meet environmentally focused market or policy-driven changes. They also require visioning, leading and managing the transition with jobs found more in policy, decision-making and planning realms.  

As the future of work evolves through a greener economy and societal commitments to justice and sustainability, EUC is empowering students as changemakers and future leaders for this labour shift.  

We are doing so by offering professional development and career readiness opportunities – fully informed by our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion – within our academic programs and through extra-curricular career pathway initiatives.  

Our EUC undergraduate and graduate programs are preparing students with the knowledge and skills needed to fully embrace the “green jobs” coming our way. We are training students who can understand, analyze and implement climate policies, who have geographical and ecological expertise, who are well versed in monitoring and assessing environmental and urbanization trends, who are authentically attending to issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity, and who excel in critical thinking, consensus building, leadership and communication skills needed for shaping a more just and sustainable future.  

And as you will read within this issue of Innovatus, EUC is preparing students directly for the increasingly green job market through innovative initiatives such as the Dean Changemaker Placements in EUC living labs, Lunch n’ Learn career seminars, an upcoming Black Mentorship Program linking students and alumni, and immersive outside classrooms that bring students into the community.

Alice Hovorka
Dean, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change

Dean’s Changemaker Placements offer unique experience 

Eco campus bridge

By Elaine Smith

Since she’s planning a career in environmental law, undergraduate student Kaitlin Pal was thrilled that the Dean’s Changemaker Placements at York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) funded her to undertake a summer project related to her interests.

Kaitlin Pal
Kaitlin Pal

The placements program offers students the opportunity to apply scholarly knowledge through paid positions with EUC’s living labs: Ecological Footprint Initiative, Zig Zag Gallery, Maloca Garden, Waste Wiki and Las Nubes EcoCampus. The guiding principle behind the placements is that the students must design projects that have the potential to create change. 

“I was looking for a summer job that was related to my research interests and came across the Dean’s Changemaker Placements,” said Pal, a second-year environmental arts and justice (BES) student. “There was an open call to apply, so I applied to all of the labs and got assigned to the one that interested me most.” 

Pal spent the summer working with the Ecological Footprint Initiative, a group of researchers and organizations who work together to advance the measurement of ecological footprint and biocapacity, which includes cropland, grazing land, built-up land, fishing grounds, forest products, and forest carbon uptake, providing measurements by country, as well as worldwide. Her task was to run the lab’s social media accounts, which required featuring the data in meaningful ways. She also developed a strategy report for the team so they could keep the accounts active.  

In addition, she pursued her own change project: a research paper that applied environmental metrics to the land claim case being put forward by Saugeen Ojibway Nation. She estimated the biocapacity – or number of biologically productive global hectares – for the area being claimed. The goal of this project is to apply these metrics to this land claim to determine the value of the land that has been dispossessed.  

Pal, who has continued working with the team part-time during the academic year, has already presented her work at an Ecological Footprint event and will do so again in May at the Dean’s Changemaker Exhibit. She also hopes to be accepted to present her research at the Canadian Society of Ecological Economics conference. 

“I’m trying to get it out there,” Pal said. “Initially, I was pretty nervous about presenting, but they’ve given me a lot of opportunities that have allowed me to improve. I’ve grown in terms of confidence in a professional setting.”

Thereza Eric
Thereza Eric

One of her professors encouraged fourth-year environmental studies student Thereza Eric to apply for a Changemaker’s Placement in eco arts, and she took up the challenge this past fall, continuing through the academic year.  

“I like and practise art myself,” Eric says. “I had to create a project to implement change in the Faculty, and I wanted to build community through art. This has been a very transitional time as people return to campus from the COVID-19 lockdown and I thought about rebuilding community and how art could help do that.” 

Reviving and programming EUC’s Eco Arts and Media Festival post-pandemic was a major focus of Eric’s work. The February festival brought faculty, staff and students together through events such as workshops and art exhibitions. The theme of the festival was “Mending,” and Eric was eager to repair the damage to the sense of community lost during the months of remote learning. 

A collaborative mural was one of her favourite events, because it brought students together in an informal way. Everyone who dropped by the student space where the canvas was laid out was invited to paint a part of the mural. Ultimately, it provided what Eric calls, “a mosaic of the students and cultures involved in our Faculty.” 

Eric says that the Changemaker’s Placement allowed her to “realize my skills in a professional setting.” Initially, she fell victim to imposter syndrome, wondering “Who am I to host workshops and be an event promoter?” Soon, she became comfortable in her role and tasks became second nature as her skills came to the fore. 

As she finishes her placement, she is creating a handbook that contains a record of her work and tips for navigating the position in future. 

“I had to start from scratch, so I want to pass on any strategies that worked,” she said.

Samantha Navalta
Samantha Navalta

Samantha Navalta, who is in the third year of her undergraduate degree in sustainable environmental management, also had a Changemaker Placement. She worked with the Las Nubes EcoCampus, focusing on expanding the communications and marketing program for the Casita Azul library there. It was the perfect way to mix her interest in the environment with her advanced diploma in public relations. 

“When I first joined the library team, I did an online search and couldn’t find much information about their place in the EcoCampus,” Navalta said. “I wanted to make it clear that the library was a part of York and that it served both the campus and the surrounding community.” 

Navalta is also updating and refreshing the library’s branding to fit with York’s brand, which means revising the website, communications materials and handbook. 

“While working in public relations, I knew I needed a deeper connection to my own interests,” she says. “York is so big in environmental studies that I really feel at home and in the right place for my career. This placement feels like a good fit, because I’m doing what I want to do and can see that it’s something I want to do in the medium- and long-term. 

“It has given me real-life skills and has helped me be excited about potential career prospects.”

Dana Craig
Dana Craig

Dana Craig, director of Student Learning and Access Services for York University Libraries, was thrilled to have a student with marketing expertise to assist her in promoting the Las Nubes library. 

“Casita Azul is the connector between York and the community, but it’s hard to explain what it is because it has so many audiences,” Craig said. “We needed a student voice to help make it more visible in the Las Nubes universe and Samantha has that magical communications experience in environmental education, so we hit the jackpot. 

“Changemakers is definitely a successful program.” 

Lunch n’ Learn pilot a pathway to career opportunities 

Two women chatting over coffee

By Elaine Smith

First-year student Anthony Loschiavo has turned the resume guidance he received at his York University Faculty’s Lunch n’ Learn program into a summer position with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). 

“I attended a session about resumes and cover letters and created a resume with help from Aren Sammy, our Faculty’s experiential education (EE) coordinator,” said Loschiavo, who is in the sustainable energy management program at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC). “I took my resume to a career fair in January and talked to the people at the TRCA booth. I discovered they had field assistant positions available each summer. I applied for a number of them, had interviews in February and will begin working for TRCA’s Erosion Hazard Management Division in April. 

“The Lunch n’ Learn I attended was the seed for all of this. I’m glad the Faculty offers this kind of assistance.” 

Sammy and her fellow EE coordinator Rosanna Chowdhury are delighted by Loschiavo’s success and hope other EUC students will find the sessions equally helpful. 

“We knew that Career Education & Development offered workshops, but green careers are so specialized that we decided to tailor a professional/skills development series to our EUC students’ needs,” Sammy said. “These sessions provide our students with the opportunity to receive coaching and development from York staff, alumni and industry partners.”

EUC lunch n learn
Both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recent graduates, attend the Lunch n’ Learn sessions

The Lunch n’ Learn sessions take place during the lunch hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall and winter terms. Students can attend in person or virtually, although the organizers see additional benefit to the in-person option. 

“The sessions were always held on the same days and time, so we fostered a community each semester,” Sammy said. “Everyone was growing with each other. They could collaborate, compare and communicate about the plans they were putting into action, and it was heartwarming to see the students wanting to help each other.” 

Sammy and Chowdhury promoted the sessions on social media channels and through internal communications networks. They drew undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recent graduates, to the sessions. The topics addressed the basics of professional development, such as resume writing and interview preparation. Other topics included career well-being and optimizing a LinkedIn profile. People in the field also share their experiences. 

“We scheduled the first month of the programming and used the feedback from participants to develop the programs for the next month,” Sammy said. 

They drew on faculty and staff experts to lead the sessions and also reached out to external partners such as the City of Toronto. Staff from the Prince’s Trust Canada, a not-for-profit organization inspired by King Charles III, delivered a series of four workshops focused on Green Career Excellence. 

“The concept of sustainability and partnership has always resonated with me,” said George Amoh, program manager with Prince’s Trust Canada. “Through these workshops, I am able to combine my passions more interactively and inclusively … It will be great to host more workshops and inspire people to pursue and obtain green jobs authentically.” 

The organizers are pleased by the success of the program and plan to continue beyond the pilot to the 2023-24 academic year. 

“We want to make this a recurring annual item,” Chowdhury said. “We want our students to learn about career paths and benchmarks that indicate where they should be in their career planning so that they aren’t panicking when they reach their final semester before graduation.” 

As climate change becomes increasingly apparent, “every organization is looking for sustainability personnel,” Sammy noted. “The opportunities are vast but specific, so a specialized program is key to our students’ success.” 

Consultation first step in creating EUC Black Mentorship Program 

Black female students women alumni

By Elaine Smith

When Brandon Hay began working toward his master of environmental studies (MES) degree at York University in 2014, he was the only Black male in many of his classes. 

“I consistently asked myself if I belonged here,” he said. “I questioned how much of myself to bring to class, wondering whether my fellow students would understand me.”

Brandon Hay
Brandon Hay

Hay discovered a sense of community as a graduate assistant to the Transitional Year Program, but he hopes that current plans to implement a pilot Black Mentorship Program at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) this fall will offer incoming students support from the start of their university careers. 

The Faculty is launching this Black student-to-alumni mentorship program in accordance with EUC’s Black Inclusion Plan to enhance learning opportunities and support for Black EUC students. 

“Black students need spaces where they can talk about things that affect them, whether it’s anti-Black violence happening in the United States or their own experiences,” said Hay, founder of the Black Daddies Club. “If this program is centralized [within York or the Faculty], they won’t have to seek out support.” 

Hay was a speaker at EUC’s first consultation about how to create a meaningful program to address the needs of EUC’s Black community, held on March 22. EUC staff members Rosanna Chowdhury, experiential education coordinator, and Joanne Huy, alumni engagement and events officer, co-led this hybrid event with Senior DEDI Advisor, Education and Communication, Melissa Theodore. The event was attended by about 30 faculty, staff, students and alumni. Attendees who were Black and/or members of equity-deserving groups of the York community were willing to share their experiences and offer suggestions for the type of supports that would be useful.  

EUC Dean Alice Hovorka opened the session by welcoming those assembled in person and attending virtually, followed by Hay’s talk. Participants then took part in a knowledge building circle, discussing how EUC could support Black students and Black futures through community engagement, representation and education. Afterward, there were breakout sessions focused on each of these topics individually. The organizers will use the information provided by participants to consider how to shape the pilot program. 

Chowdhury led the community engagement breakout sessions with Huy and Theodore and found that the discussion centred around building and sustaining community. Participants touched on having recurring events and meetings in a space where individuals can participate. They also mentioned the importance of finding ways to be inclusive of all their intersecting identities. 

“The conversation flowed,” Chowdhury said. “This was a good first step. The goal is to prepare a report on the information we gathered and share it with the attendees and the community as it will inform the best practices for the mentorship program. We will also host a second event or a survey to gather additional input. Once we get feedback, we’ll design a pilot program for September 2023 launch. 

“We’re not sure yet what that program will look like. It could become a community mentorship program where a group of students is mentored by more than one person, or we might create a space for people to meet and find their own mentors. It could be a mix of models.”

Lord-Emmanuel Achidago
Lord-Emmanuel Achidago

Lord-Emmanuel Achidago, a second-year master’s degree student in geography from Ghana, expressed particular interest in career mentorship. 

“I’d like insights on opportunities that exist and networking to help meet other people in the field,” he said. “Talking to people with more experience can be enlightening. They can advise you on the other skills you need to develop to get a competitive edge. 

“When you meet people who share your identity, it’s easier to connect.” 

Chowdhury is confident the program will reap rewards for the participants. “There are many people with a common interest in making it succeed,” she said.  

“Not only will the pilot program assist our Black students, but it will help inform future EUC mentorship programs focused on supporting all students from marginalized groups.”  

EUC champions hands-on learning, immersive outdoor classrooms

For the birds project

By Angela Ward  

In the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), students gain hands-on education through a variety of experiences, dismantling the traditional four walls of a classroom.

Lisa Myers
Lisa Myers
Phyllis Novak
Phyllis Novak

In the Community Arts for Social Change course, taught by Professor Lisa Myers, EUC students collaborated to create the “For the Birds” window mural. Designed out of the student-run Sky Studio Collective and headed by graduate student Phyllis Novak, it now sits outside the first floor of the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) Building. It serves as a reminder to care for the songbirds in the design of built spaces, after the estimated 1,000 deaths each year from window glass. 

“The project came out of research in which we considered our relationships with the sky world, and the life cycle of the songbird,” Novak says. “It was great to co-design with 30 students in the class. And to make sure our designs connected with the outdoor space at HNES/EUC including the Native Plant Garden – a great draw and habitat for the more-than-human species around us. I then worked with four EUC students, as a collaborator, to produce the final mural application.”  

As director of Maloca Living Labs – Community and Native Plant Gardens, Novak also sees the arts playing key roles in environmental education. “There’s so much opportunity and so much we can do,” Novak explains. “Both the arts and environmentalism serve each other, but the arts are accessible, make way for subjectivity, and offer a more-than-words-alone way to struggle through and communicate about urgent issues such as land, food and racial justice. 

“The arts are a great way to archive and map stories that have preceded us in these Anishinaabeg territories, and a modality from which to (re)learn relationships with the natural world that can help us all move forward. Interacting withplace’ through the arts broadens ecological consciousness. My aim is to integrate the arts in urban agriculture, community gardening and environmental learning and activations in EUC’s Maloca and Native Plant Gardens.”

Patrick Mojdehi
Patrick Mojdehi

Living labs are a huge part of EUC’s makeup. “The ability to gather your own data, rather than reviewing someone else’s data and getting outside the four walls of a classroom is a neat experience; not a lot of courses have this component to it,” says Patrick Mojdehi, laboratory technician/field course support, EUC. “Some challenges include not always having a roof over your head and calm conditions, but you must prepare for these elements by having the right clothing, right mindset and right protection. Being adaptable and resilient is an important life lesson. 

“I recall an experience where I was very cold, my hands were in the freezing cold water, but we still took the samples and got the work done. We felt better for it and since we were there with colleagues, we made those types of friendships where you collaboratively experience those hardships together.”  

Mojdehi has over a decade of technical experience in environmental geoscience; and is capable of conducting various research experiments, report writing and sampling methods and design. 

Mojdehi believes that experiential education (EE) is fundamental to a student’s education. “I think that students should really get to it, do it and experience it. Once you go through some type of EE experience, you fall in love with it. It’s very rewarding.”  

As for the career readiness and employment EUC provides, EE offers a challenging yet meaningful experience. “There is a huge paradigm shift these days towards experience and hands-on learning. Having this experience on your resume is beneficial because in terms of physical geography and environmental sciences, companies are doing the same on a larger, more repetitive scale,” Mojdehi explains.

Field trip
One of the experiential education opportunities for EUC students

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and how that changed science practices, Mojdehi sees a need for science students in EUC complementing their online research with online resources. He says, “Since things are always changing and adapting, I do see it going this way. We’ve used census data and satellite imagery data in the past; which are a type of old open educational resources (OER), where we make digital maps.”  

Moe Clark, a Métis multidisciplinary artist who held a guest workshop in ENVS 1100 The Land We’re On: Treaties, Art and Environment, says that her work is grounded in environmental soundscapes, spoken word poetry and experiential learning. Clark explains, “The innate power of video and the visual realm are at the frontlines of social and political movements as they communicate directly to convey story and transmit understanding. 

“One example during the workshop I presented includes Anishinaabe writer, poet and activist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s piece How to Steal a Canoe. In her video, she used her ancestral tongue, Anishinaabemowin, to speak about power, kinship relationships and the process of locating ourselves. The repetition within her spoken text included images of water as earth blood, used to nurture a dried-out birch bark canoe. I invited students to consider the images and coded symbolisms within their writing and demonstrated how Simpson codifies her work through re-matriation (repatriation) practices of Land Back from an Anishinaabe Kwe perspective.”   

Betasamosake Simpson’s poem was complemented with vivid animations by Amanda Strong. “Strong is a Métis animator based in Vancouver. Her visual language offered examples of ways to weave these living metaphors within the cellphim realm to underscore land acknowledgements. Land acknowledgments then become more than a concept; they become a sensory experience of place.” 

In her workshop, Clark encourages her students to consider how relationships are dynamic and living, explaining, “They should be wary of placing any relationship, any understanding of power, of treaty relations or of land claims or land title as a past thing. I want to ensure students are upholding and uplifting their roles as allies, as immigrants, refugees and settlers and they are improving how they build and maintain relationships.”  

EUC aims to create meaningful experience for its students that are different, unique and rewarding, equipping them to become career ready, and become critically and creatively engaged as future changemakers in this time of unprecedented environmental change.  

York’s Ecological Footprint Initiative to host national footprint, biocapacity data launch

Glass planet in the sunshine

Canada’s ecological footprint declined during COVID-19, but is it back to pre-pandemic levels? York University’s Ecological Footprint Initiative (EFI) will release data showing changes up to 2022.

What is the size of Canada’s ecological footprint, and that of the rest of the world, and how did that change during the global pandemic?

Viewers from across the University community and beyond are invited to join the online launch Thursday, April 20, from 1 to 2 p.m, when researchers at York will release the Ecological Footprint of Canada, and 200 other countries, from 1961 to 2022.

Popularized roughly 30 years ago, the term “ecological footprint” was a way of measuring humanity’s appropriation of Earth’s carrying capacity. Since then, it has evolved to include a comprehensive system of national and international accounts. These accounts provide valuable insights about humanity’s use of lands and waters. The accounts help countries and communities to engage with sustainability and to make informed decisions about the future.

In practice, ecological footprints track the area of land and water used to grow food and renewable materials, plus the area occupied by settlements and infrastructure, as well as the area of forests needed to soak up carbon emissions.

In the last few years, York has become a global hub for producing ecological footprint accounts, and for researching ways to make them even more comprehensive.

Eric Miller
Eric Miller

“Canada reports on GDP with a lag of just a few months, yet its environmental data lags by years. We filled in gaps and lags to make it easier to assess environmental performance in Canada and around the world,” says EFI Director Eric Miller, from the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. “Time is ticking. Each year of action or inaction matters for the future of humanity. For this reason, our data reports on Ecological Footprint up to the end of 2022.”

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint has been in overshoot of the planet’s capacity to sustain it. Since 1961 humanity’s footprint has tripled.

“For each country we calculate the footprint of what was produced and what was consumed. The difference comes from the footprint embodied within the goods imported to the country, and the footprint of the goods exported by the country,” says Miller.

“Canada, for example, produces more wood products than it consumes, with the difference as exports,” he adds. “We generate this data for all countries, to reveal the ecological dimensions of global supply chains and the extent to which countries effectively offload their ecological requirements onto others.”

Miller says that to continue advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, University researchers depend on data that can be scaled nationally, as well as locally and globally – EFI provides this crucial data so that it remains timely, scalable and accessible.

This is the fifth anniversary of York producing data about ecological footprint and biocapacity, and supplying that data on an open-source basis to researchers around the world.

This year’s data will also include a more robust look at the footprint of fish harvests, including unreported catch. “In Canada, fish harvests were significantly underreported up to the point of the cod collapse. By including underreports, we can help researchers see these trends much more easily,” says Katie Kish, EFI research associate.

Mike Layton
Mike Layton

York’s new Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Layton will kick off the event, followed by updates to the 2023 accounts from Miller, along with EFI data analysts Sila Basturk Agiroglu and Peri Dworatzek.

Kish will talk about research futures and the growing international research network for the global footprint family, with a direct focus on better public-facing data and data for communities.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, will discuss the state of the footprint and a look towards the future. One example he will draw on is the Kunming/Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework with 23 targets agreed upon at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. These targets include the ecological footprint as a measurement tool.

Learn more at News @ York.

York faculty recognized for research, artistic excellence

Research Award Celebration 2023: President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with faculty members Taien-Ng Chan, Jude Kon, Karen Burke, Carl James, Linda Peake and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif
President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with faculty members Taien-Ng Chan, Jude Kon, Karen Burke, Carl James, Linda Peake and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif

The outstanding achievements of 70 York University faculty members were recognized on April 12 during the 2023 Research Awards Celebration. The annual event, hosted by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, celebrates the research contributions from York’s community of changemakers over the last year.

“Universities continue to play an oversized role in undertaking the research, creative activities and innovation needed to address the complex, global problems we face. Through the dedication and hard work of York’s community of researchers, scholars, creators and knowledge mobilizers, we are driving positive change and strengthening our impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “I congratulate all the honorees and their teams for their efforts in building a brighter, more equitable, and sustainable world.”

Faculty were recognized for their wide-ranging work, including studies to advance greener chemistry, documenting Indigenous resurgence, and for the mathematical modelling of zoonotic threats, in addition to their prestigious appointments, such as being inducted into the Royal Society of Canada, or the Order of Ontario.

“The honourees’ contributions to purposeful research and scholarly activity at York enriches the University greatly,” said Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “They have all made their mark in their respective fields and this event is an opportunity to recognize so many of the brilliant minds, gifted artists and imaginative thinkers that call York University home. The University is proud of them.”

The achievements span 10 categories, including the President’s Research Awards.

The recipients of this year’s President’s Research Awards are:

Professor Karen Burke
Professor Karen Burke

Karen Burke, associate professor, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, was recognized with the President’s Research Impact Award (PRIA). The PRIA recognizes full-time, active faculty members whose body of research or scholarship has translated into a notable impact on communities, individuals, public policies or practice beyond academe, or translated successfully into impactful commercial or other applications, while significantly and positively contributing to the University’s research culture and reputation.

Burke is a singer, music director, choral conductor and composer in the field of African-American vocal music. Her expertise is in the history and performance practices of Gospel music and has worked with major choral ensembles, organizations, schools, and church congregations. She is the cofounder of the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir and the founding director of the York University Gospel Choir.

Jude Kong
Jude Kong
Taien Ng-Chan
Taien Ng-Chan

Jude Kong, assistant professor, Faculty of Science, and Taien-Ng Chan, assistant professor, School of the Arts, Performance, Media & Design, were recognized with the President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award (PERLA). The PERLA recognizes two full-time faculty members – one in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and one in the social sciences, humanities and arts (SSHA) – within 10 years of their first academic appointment, who have had a notable impact on their field and made a significant contribution to advancing the University’s international reputation for research excellence while significantly and positively contributing to one or more aspects of the York community’s intellectual life.

Kong is a mathematician and is the founding executive director of the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium (ACADIC). He is also the executive director of the Global South Artificial Intelligence for Pandemic and Epidemic Preparedness and Response Network (AI4PEP). His research focuses on the use of AI, data science, mathematical models and system thinking to improve decision-making in global health and clinical public health.

Ng-Chan is a writer and media artist whose research explores experimental processes of urban mapping and sound art, “object-oriented storytelling,” and futurist imaginings of everyday life in the Asian diaspora through immersive cinema, both in VR headset and dome projection modes. Her writing ranges from scholarly work to books and anthologies of creative writing, to collaborative multimedia arts websites, and drama for stage, screen and CBC Radio.

Linda Peake
Linda Peake

Linda Peake, professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, was recognized with the President’s Research Excellence Award (PREA). The PREA recognizes senior established, full-time, active faculty members at the rank of Professor, with distinguished scholarly achievements, who have had a notable impact on their field(s) and made a significant contribution to advancing the University’s international reputation for research excellence while significantly and positively contributing to one or more aspects of the York community’s intellectual life.

Peake is the director of the City Institute at York University, and a feminist geographer with research interests in the co-construction of subjectivities and urban places, particularly pertaining to marginalized communities in the urban global south, and specifically Guyana. Peake is also co-chair of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Affinity Group on Mental Health, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

For more information about the award winners and the full list of categories, visit the Research Awards Celebration website.

View a gallery of photos from the event.

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Harry Jerome Leadership Award goes to York alum Rosemarie Powell

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

York University alum Rosemarie Powell (MES ’15) will be honoured at the 2023 Harry Jerome Awards for her long-serving work in advancing social, economic and environmental justice.

Rosemarie Powell
Rosemarie Powell

The Harry Jerome Awards recognize excellence in the African Canadian community. Powell will be presented with the Leadership Award on April 29 during the 41st Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) Annual Harry Jerome Awards Gala.

Powell is executive director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, a non-profit community-labour coalition where she advocates for disadvantaged communities and equity-seeking groups in the City of Toronto. In this role, she has grown the community benefits movement and strengthened the coalition to create good jobs and opportunities through government investment in infrastructure and urban development for Black, Indigenous and racialized peoples with a focus on those who are youth, women and newcomers.

With more than 20 years of service to grassroots communities and organizations, Powell has led numerous community-based programs and services that support marginalized and under-represented groups and their access to the labour market. Throughout her career, she has advanced equitable approaches to policy development and implementation at various levels of government as it relates to land use planning, infrastructure investment and urban development.

She is the recipient of several awards for her leadership and imagination in community engagement and environmental advocacy, and has previously held roles at the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Jane-Finch Community and Family Centre, and Skills for Change.

Established in the memory of Harry Jerome, an outstanding African Canadian Olympic athlete, scholar and social advocate, the BBPA Harry Jerome Awards celebrates African Canadian achievement that pays tribute to outstanding and inspirational African Canadians who are role models of excellence.

The Harry Jerome Awards focus on a number of different categories, including athletics, leadership, young entrepreneurs, business, professional excellence, leadership, arts/media entertainment, health sciences. These awards are done through a nomination process by individuals and organizations across the country.

The Board of Directors additionally selects the president’s, lifetime achievement and diversity awards.

Three York professors join ranks of CIFAR

Hand holding light bulb with illustration on blurred background

Three professors will lead or join two programs launched by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) – a global research organization – to delve into pressing, challenging questions facing science and humanity now and into the future.

Hélène Mialet
Hélène Mialet

Professor Hélène Mialet of the Department of Science Technology and Society is principal investigator and co-director leading CIFAR’s Future Flourishing program, to which York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Kristin Andrews, of the Department of Philosophy, was named a new Fellow. Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change Professor Roger Keil was also named a Fellow of CIFAR’s Humanity’s Urban Future program.

Future Flourishing, initiated and co-led by Mialet, is one of only three programs, out of 100 initial candidates, that won the international CIFAR’s The Future of Being Human competition, which called for ideas and proposals looking at the long-term intersection of humans, science and technology, social and cultural systems, and the environment. The Future Flourishing underwent a 16 month process, with multiple stages of selection, to become the only York-led program to win the competition.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for York University researchers to apply their knowledge and expertise toward answering some of humanity’s most urgent questions and to make a difference in the world. It is not only a testament to the talent and expertise of our researchers but speaks to the forward-thinking research that takes place every day at York,” says York Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “My congratulations to Professors Hélène Mialet, Kristin Andrews and Roger Keil for pioneering new research and ideas on the impact of technology on society and our urban future.”

Mialet, as co-director of the Future Flourishing Program with Tarek Elhaik, University of California, Davis, and Christopher Kelty, University of California, Los Angeles, has assembled a network of 16 exceptional scholars and practitioners, including philosophers, historians, curators, conservators, artists and anthropologists from around the world to participate in the program.

Her longstanding research aims to set out an innovative methodological and empirical trajectory for the study of the human as a distributed centred-subject. This work has been foundational to the inception of the Future Flourishing program, which will explore how human exceptionalism can be reconfigured by extending the boundary and definition of the human to the living and non-living beings that make us who we are.

“The fundamental question at the core of the Future Flourishing program,” explains Mialet, “is how can we live well without human exceptionalism? How can we live well and flourish with those upon whom we depend or with whom we share a common world? The establishment of a new definition of the human will have tremendous implications for how we think about and ‘do’ politics, ethics, knowledge and morality.” In addition, she points out “This is an important award for York. It has the potential to make profound change in how we engage with our complex world.”

Kristin Andrews
Kristin Andrews

As a new Fellow in the program, Andrews, York Research Chair in Philosophy of Animal Minds, will bring empirical and theoretical expertise to questions about the similarities and differences between humans and non-human animals, their cognitive, affective, social and cultural capacities. She developed novel frameworks for social and normative cognition that can be used to investigate these capacities in other animals.

Humanity’s Urban Future program will explore the question “What is a good city of the future?” Keil is an expert in global sub/urbanization with a particular interest in the urbanization of nature and the relationships of cities and infectious disease. He currently leads an Urban Studies Foundation sponsored project, “City after COVID-19: Comparing vulnerability and urban governance in Chicago, Toronto and Johannesburg.”

Roger Keil
Roger Keil

He says Toronto will be one of the six cities around the world that the group, led by Simon Goldhill of Cambridge University and Diane Davis of Harvard University, will study.

“This is significant as Toronto will be scrutinized as one of the places where humanity’s urban future takes shape,” says Keil. He considers becoming a Fellow a “great honour.” He further notes that York’s exemplary track record in hosting large, multi-site and interdisciplinary research programs at its City Institute and the purposeful recent creation of a Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, provided excellent conditions for the work that lies ahead as he seeks to contribute to thinking about future urban life on this planet.

Successful programs were required to submit bold, new ideas that have the potential to be transformative in tackling complex questions affecting the world. Mialet, Andrews and Keil join a community of Fellows, Nobel laureates and some 400 researchers from around the globe. Each newly establish research program is interdisciplinary and collaborative.

Learn more at News @ York.

Averting ecological ruin topic of upcoming EUC book launch

Panoramic photo a hand clasping miniature globe with view of arid mountain range behind in the distance

York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will celebrate the launch of Professor Emeritus Peter A. Victor’s latest book, Escape from Overshoot: Economics for a Planet in Peril (2023), on Wednesday, April 12.

Faculty members and students are welcome to attend the book launch event from 5 to 7 p.m., either in person at the Centre for Social Innovation located at 192 Spadina Ave., or virtually via livestream. To attend, register for the event here.

As a precursor to the event, Victor met with graduate student researcher Danielle Legault to answer questions about the new book.

Peter A. Victor close-up portrait
Peter A. Victor

Q: Can you speak to how the longer trajectory of your academic work inspired you to write Escape from Overshoot?

A: I began exploring the dependency of the economy on the environment for all its materials and energy requirements as a student at the University of British Columbia in the late 1960s and have continued with that theme ever since then. My work on alternative economic futures during the past two decades suggests that an intentional escape from overshoot will be a lot more attractive than continuing to over stress nature and suffer the consequences.

Q: What is “Earth overshoot,” and how does your book tackle the challenges associated with it?

A: When any organism, including humans, exceeds the capacity of its environment to sustain it, it is in overshoot. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that could be irreversibly changing the climate means we are in overshoot. If more fish are caught than are reproduced by the remaining stock, we have overshot. Overshoot can happen to ecosystems at all scales from a single pond to the entire planet and to any species. Humans are no exception.

To tackle the challenges associated with Earth overshoot, my book summarizes the evidence for overshoot, gives an approach to thinking about the future, draws from relevant insights by leading economists, explains how the current economic system works, describes trends that are leading us into an uncertain future, explains why “green growth” is a dangerous distraction, looks at post-growth possibilities, presents an escape scenario for the Canadian economy over the next 50 years and closes with ideas and examples for planning an escape from overshoot.

Q: Why is your book a must-read for York students and faculty?

A: This is a book for the general reader. It is highly illustrated and avoids technical language. We are all threatened by overshoot, and we all contribute to it. If we are to escape from overshoot, everyone has a part to play.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book in terms of actionable steps for promoting a more sustainable and equitable future on Earth?

Escape from Earth Overshoot by Peter A. Victor
Escape from Earth Overshoot (2023) by Peter A. Victor

A: I hope that readers find the book useful for understanding overshoot and its implications for all species including humans; that they appreciate the seriousness of the risks we are facing, and that they discover useful ideas about what can be done to escape from overshot that recognizes differences in culpability and vulnerability. I would also like them to come away with a sense of hope and a commitment to help.

Q: Having completed this book, how do you see your work moving forward in the future?

A: My immediate focus will be a resumption of my work on modelling alternative economic/environmental futures, collaborating with the excellent team at York that produces the annual National Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts for more than 200 countries, and working with as many people as I can on finding an escape from overshoot.

About Peter A. Victor

Victor is a professor emeritus and senior scholar at York University with 50 years of experience in ecological economics, alternatives to economic growth. He served as dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University from 1996 to 2001. He has authored six books, including Managing without Growth, and is a member of the Honorary Board of the David Suzuki Foundation and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Molson Prize in Social Sciences and the Boulding Memorial Prize.