Students present sustainable solutions, enhance career-readiness at Spring Capstone Day

Photo by Singkham from Pexels

Five monetary awards were presented to teams of upper-year students at York University’s 2024 Spring Capstone Day, a public event hosted by the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) in celebration of innovation, creativity, ambition and impact.

Held on April 26, this year’s Spring Capstone Day drew more than 350 members of the York community and external visitors to York’s Scott Library Collaboratory. There, attendees learned about the work of the 225 presenting students, whose capstone projects – finishing-year projects where student teams work with external clients to solve real-world problems – focused on innovative and sustainable design solutions, aiming to address societal issues, advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create positive change. This biannual project showcase is an invaluable opportunity for students to share their experience and develop professional skills to enhance their career-readiness.

“For three hours, the entire Collaboratory was sparkling with conversations between project partners; York staff, professors and librarians; and students from every Faculty at York,” said Danielle Robinson, co-founder and co-lead of C4, a high-impact experiential education course intended to uniquely prepare students for the next phase of their career. “Our collective focus was on launching these students out into the world as the powerful changemakers they are ready to be.”

An important day for all participating students, Robinson described it as similar to a graduation or a professional debut, where students get dressed up and present their work to attendees and judges.

According to Mahogany Lopez, a Faculty of Science student whose team won the Sustainability Award, the day was bittersweet. “It marked the end of my journey with the C4 class, where I made new friends and had an amazing time,” she said. “However, I was happy to see our project well-received and to witness the impressive work of different groups. This experience emphasized the value of interdisciplinary learning and collaboration in solving real-world problems.”

Donna Nguyen, a student in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, whose team won the Community Impact Award, appreciated the event for shining a spotlight on student work: “This event and this win was important to me as a student because our hard work was acknowledged and it signified that our ideas genuinely made an impact on the community,” she said.

Faculty of Health Professor Asal Moghaddaszadeh, who acted as a project shepherd, guiding students through their project journey in the C4 class, believes the Capstone Day event is pivotal for the University.

“It’s about instilling teamwork, fostering community partnerships and preparing students to tackle workforce challenges boldly,” she said. “Additionally, by working in interdisciplinary teams, students learn the importance of collaboration across diverse Faculties, enriching their problem-solving skills.”

Lassonde School of Engineering student Mehrshad Farahbakhsh agreed, calling Capstone Day a “transformative experience.”

“It taught me the value of collaboration and how diverse perspectives can lead to innovative solutions,” said the international student, whose team won the Innovation Award for their project focused on making the automotive industry more sustainable. “Each member of our group brought a unique background and approach to the table, which allowed us to brainstorm innovative solutions.”

The awards students were competing for included the YSpace-sponsored Innovation Award, with a prize of $100 for the winning student team; and the GHD-sponsored Community Impact Award and Honda Canada Foundation-sponsored Sustainability Award, both offering prizes of $1,500 to the winning teams and $500 to the runners-up.

The day’s award winners were determined by a committee of 16 York University judges – from YSpace, Alumni Engagement and the Office of Sustainability. The full list of award winners and project titles are as follows:

  • Innovation Award winner: “Finding Our Way through Sustainable Choices (Weins Auto Group)” by Team BF;
  • Community Impact Award winner: “Fostering Food Sovereignty (HiGarden)” by Team BE;
  • Community Impact Award runner-up: “Policy Pal (Engage)” by Team AC;
  • Sustainability Award winner: “Reconstructing Education (Sensorium)” by Team AA; and
  • Sustainability Award runner-up: “Saving the Planet (Independent)” by Team BD.

For more information about these projects, the winners and the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom, visit the C4 website or email c4class@yorku.ca.

Starbucks, Tim Hortons closures

Laptop and coffee cup

The York community is advised that the Keele Campus Starbucks location in the Centre for Film & Theatre will be closed for the summer. The Tim Hortons locations in the William Small Centre and the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Building will also be closed for renovations starting May 24.

For up-to-date information about on-campus dining options during the summer months, visit the Food Services Dining Directory.

York University brings emergency management journal in-house

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

The Canadian Journal of Emergency Management (CJEM), once published independently, has migrated to York Digital Journals (YDJ) – along with its back catalogue – to pursue a shared goal of providing practitioners and academics a resource to advance their efforts to manage disasters and save lives.

CJEM was launched in 2020 to promote awareness, knowledge and best practices of emergency management in Canada. That goal was one reason that, two years later, it formed a partnership with the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response, & Governance Institute (Y-EMERGE), the largest and strongest emergency management initiative of its kind Canada, to become its official journal.

Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

When CJEM joined Y-EMERGE, it gained a new editor-in-chief in Professor Eric Kennedy, a leader in the field who is also associate director of Y-EMERGE and one of six speakers in York’s award-winning Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living. One of Kennedy’s goals to open up the journal – to other fields and contributors – was to build on something CJEM had already established: being open access.

“We’re wanting to do this in the right way and make it accessible to different audiences, including those who can’t pay for a journal subscription or might not have it in their budget to afford to buy an article,” says Kennedy, who stresses that – given the often life-saving value of the latest knowledge in the field of emergency management – it’s essential to remove as many access barriers as possible.

To keep doing so, Kennedy had the idea to approach a potential key partner: York Digital Journals.

An electronic journal-hosting service run through the York University Libraries, YDJ looks to help community members create new journals or migrate existing ones online through a platform called Open Journal Systems, which can streamline submissions, peer review, editing and publishing.

After some conversations, Kennedy asked if YDJ could help do just that for CJEM. “I thought it would be a great opportunity,” says Tomasz Mrozewski, a digital publishing librarian in the Department of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure, who wanted to bring to Kennedy and the journal what they’ve done for many others at York. “What we’re really doing is helping enable certain services and certain processes,” he says.

YDJ now provides CJEM with assistance in publishing content, navigating copyright agreements with authors and promoting articles within the scholarly communications ecosystem – all while ensuring the journal is free to read and publish. In adopting more of the logistical side of publishing, YDJ aims to provide help that can have a significant impact on the future of the journal. “By taking on some of the burden of managing that infrastructure, it allows CJEM to reinvest their energy into the more specialized and demanding areas that they’re experts in,” says Mrozewski.  

Among the areas Kennedy and CJEM are reinvesting their energies is dedicating time to publish and mentor early career researchers and non-academic voices. The editorial team is guided by questions like, “How do we provide coaching and support for practitioners writing for a journal for the first time? What does it look like to provide constructive and coaching peer reviews for early career researchers, and helping practitioners get their feet under them when it comes to rigorously documenting their lived experiences and lessons learned from real-life disasters?”

The goal is to get new voices into the field of emergency management and knowledge production to ensure there is a representative cross-section of perspectives not limited by experience, background or academic record.

What we’re really excited to see is people using this knowledge and breaking down those walls between academic knowledge production and how people actually do practise in this field,” Kennedy says. “We think of our readership as being not just academics but also practitioners – fire managers, paramedics, emergency managers, and other professionals and community beyond the academy. The journal is trying to advance knowledge, but also trying to do so in a way that is relevant to the people who are at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

To aid real-world applications, where knowledge is often time-critical and life-saving, the journal is also leveraging YDJ’s help to shift from publishing once or twice a year on a fixed timeline and moving to continually open submission calls and publication of articles. That way, the journal can publish case studies, reports or timely studies quickly – and, often, in response to an ongoing or emergent disaster – in the aim to provide help as much as it can.

“The journal can play a role in helping to avoid injuries and loss of life and the impact to communities by sharing what we’re learning about how to build resilience and how to manage disasters,” says Kennedy. “We want to be able to say, ‘The research we’re doing and mobilizing is helping to avoid adverse impacts that would be happening if we weren’t here.’ That’s the gold standard.”

For Mrozewski, that is what he hopes YDJ can help facilitate, too. “I would love to see the journal flourish with a minimal of worrying about the basics,” he says. With the future direction of the journal – and YDJ’s help – that gold standard looks very achievable.

York University’s three-year budget plan approved

Aerial view of York Keele campus summer

Voir la version francaise

The University’s three-year budget plan, approved by the Board of Governors, takes a thoughtful and balanced approach to ensure York remains financially sustainable while delivering on its long-term vision.

As part of its normal annual budget planning process, the University consulted with community members from all Faculties and divisions to seek input that would shape the plan taken to the Board of Governors for approval. At its meeting on April 30, the board approved the University’s three-year rolling budget, 2024-27.

“Along with prudent forecasting and in-depth sector analysis, this budget has been shaped by our community,” affirms Carol McAulay, vice-president finance and administration. “It reflects the priorities identified throughout the budget consultation cycle and considers the current challenges affecting York and most universities across Ontario.”

York is at a significant point along its path to realizing its vision. At the same time, the institution is adjusting in response to unprecedented external factors. The University has been actively managing a range of forces that, combined, are having a serious impact on the sector. This includes ongoing effects of the pandemic, higher inflation, the 10 per cent cut to domestic tuition and subsequent freeze, visa processing delays for international students and geopolitical events. Through all of these challenges, the University has been able to keep investing in priorities such as faculty complement renewal, new program development, research intensification and the student learning experience, while also setting aside a portion of operating surpluses as a contingency fund pending the outcome of Bill 124 and the recovery of international enrolment. As a result of these efforts, York began the 2023-24 year with a positive operating fund carryforward of approximately $250 million.

Ongoing enrolment challenges in the 2023-24 fiscal year required a range of measures to align costs with lower revenues. These measures included reduced spending on University travel, hospitality, professional development and other operating expenses; streamlining course offerings; reducing duplication; postponing some elements of the University’s digital transformation program; deferring some renovations and equipment renewals; and limiting staff and faculty hiring. Nonetheless, the University ended the fiscal year with an operating budget deficit of $142 million, more than twice the deficit of $68 million approved for 2023-24 by the board last June.

A further three-year tuition freeze and a federal cap on international study visas have compounded the challenges for the recently approved three-year budget starting in 2024-25. The University has plans to achieve a balanced position in year three of the multi-year budget, including targets to close the gap of $30 million this year, $80 million in 2025-26 and $90 million in 2026-27. In order to achieve this, the University is implementing a roadmap containing 17 projects to generate new revenue and identify cost containment opportunities.

“The approved budget enables the University to continue to advance the strategic priorities outlined in the University Academic Plan while also ensuring its long-term financial sustainability in a challenging fiscal environment,” adds Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic. “The outcomes from these collegially-informed projects will allow the University to align revenues and expenditures while supporting investment in growth.”

“York has made incredible progress towards the realization of our vision to offer a diverse student population access to a high-quality education at a research-intensive university committed to enhancing the well-being of the communities we serve, which is continuing to raise our international reputation in post-secondary education,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor.

“While we must continue to advocate for our sector,” adds Lenton, “York has a strong foundation that can be leveraged in tackling these short-term challenges and seizing opportunities to forge the future of the University together.”

Budget details and more information is available on the University’s Shared Accountability and Resource Planning web page.

Food Services signs pledges to improve food sustainability on campus

Assorted fruit healthy food BANNER

Continuing York University’s efforts to become one of Canada’s leading campuses for food sustainability practices, York’s Food Services program YU Eats has partnered with the Humane Society International and Health Canada, signing two pledges to create a healthy food environment and offer more plant-forward options to the community.

One of the commitments YU Eats has signed is the Food Guide-Friendly Pledge, a voluntary initiative that encourages publicly funded institutions to create healthier food environments. This initiative is overseen by Health Canada, the federal government department responsible for national health policy. The other commitment is the Forward Food Pledge, driven by animal protection organization Human Society International and designed to increase the availability of plant-based options in the food service industry.

In signing both pledges, YU Eats is looking to not only prioritize the health and well-being of students and staff but actively work to reduce the environmental impact of food production and promote a sustainable food system.

“Through our collaboration with the Humane Society International and Health Canada, we’re prioritizing sustainability while emphasizing healthier menu options,” says Tom Watt, director of Food Services. “These pledges underscore our commitment to fostering a more environmentally conscious and health-oriented campus.”

Among the changes that will be made to dining hall and catering menus will be an increase in vegetables, fruits, whole grain options and plant-based proteins.

“Increasing the intake of plant-based food represents the most significant individual action toward reducing one’s impact on the planet,” says Dahlia Abou El Hassan, York’s registered dietitian. “Plant-based foods are inclusive and suitable for various dietary needs, including religious and cultural requirements. Research consistently shows the benefits of a plant-based diet, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”

By enhancing the food environment at YU Eats dining locations, York University demonstrates its commitment to community health and well-being. These initiatives align with the York University Academic Plan 2020-2025 and the University’s overarching mission to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Approbation du plan budgétaire triennal de l’Université York

Aerial view of York Keele campus summer

Le plan budgétaire triennal de l’Université, qui vient d’être approuvé par le Conseil d’administration, adopte une approche réfléchie et équilibrée afin de garantir la viabilité financière de York tout en réalisant sa vision à long terme.

Dans le cadre de sa procédure normale de planification budgétaire annuelle, l’Université York a consulté des membres de toutes les facultés et divisions afin d’obtenir leurs contributions pour élaborer le plan soumis à l’approbation du Conseil d’administration. Lors de sa réunion du 30 avril, le Conseil d’administration a approuvé le budget triennal continu 2024-2027 de l’Université. « Parallèlement à des prévisions prudentes et des analyses sectorielles approfondies, ce budget a été influencé par notre communauté, a affirmé Carol McAulay, vice-présidente des finances et de l’administration. Il reflète les priorités identifiées tout au long du cycle de consultation budgétaire et prend en compte les défis qui affectent York et la plupart des universités ontariennes. »

York est à un tournant décisif de son parcours vers la concrétisation de sa vision. L’Université s’adapte simultanément à des facteurs externes sans précédent et a dû gérer activement plusieurs facteurs qui, combinés, affectent gravement le secteur. Ces facteurs incluent notamment les effets persistants de la pandémie, la hausse de l’inflation, la réduction de 10 % des droits de scolarité nationaux et le gel subséquent de ces droits, les retards dans le traitement des permis d’études internationaux et les événements géopolitiques. Malgré tous ces défis, York a réussi à investir dans des priorités comme le renouvellement du corps professoral, le développement de nouveaux programmes, l’intensification de la recherche et l’expérience d’apprentissage de la population étudiante et à mettre de côté une partie des excédents du fonds de fonctionnement à titre de contingences en attendant l’issue du projet de loi 124 et la reprise des inscriptions internationales. Grâce à ces efforts, l’Université a commencé l’année 2023-2024 avec un report en avant positif du fonds de fonctionnement d’environ 250 M$.

Les difficultés persistantes en matière d’inscriptions au cours de l’exercice 2023-2024 ont nécessité une série de mesures visant à aligner les coûts sur la baisse des recettes. Ces mesures comprennent la réduction des dépenses liées aux voyages, à l’accueil et au développement professionnel, ainsi que d’autres dépenses de fonctionnement de l’Université, la rationalisation de l’offre de cours, la réduction des duplications, le report de certains éléments de son programme de transformation numérique et de quelques rénovations et renouvellements d’équipement, ainsi que la restriction du recrutement de membres du personnel et du corps professoral. L’Université a toutefois terminé l’exercice financier avec un déficit de 142 M$, soit plus du double du déficit de 68 M$ approuvé en juin dernier par le Conseil d’administration pour l’exercice 2023-2024.

Un nouveau gel des droits de scolarité pendant trois ans et un plafond fédéral sur les permis d’études internationaux ont accentué les difficultés pour le budget triennal récemment approuvé, qui débute en 2024-2025. L’Université prévoit atteindre une position de rééquilibrage au cours de la troisième année du budget pluriannuel, et elle s’est notamment fixé des objectifs pour combler l’écart de 30 M$ cette année, de 80 M$ en 2025-2026 et de 90 M$ en 2026-2027. À ces fins, elle met en œuvre une feuille de route constituée de 17 projets pour générer des recettes et déterminer des possibilités de compression des coûts.

« Le budget approuvé permet à l’Université de continuer à faire progresser les priorités stratégiques définies dans son Plan académique (PAU) tout en garantissant sa viabilité financière à long terme dans un environnement fiscal difficile, a ajouté Lisa Philipps, rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques. Les résultats de ces projets, qui ont fait l’objet d’une réflexion collégiale, permettront à l’Université d’aligner ses revenus et ses dépenses tout en appuyant financièrement sa croissance. »

« L’Université York a fait d’immenses progrès envers la réalisation de sa vision, qui est de permettre à une population étudiante diversifiée d’accéder à une éducation de haute qualité dans un environnement à forte intensité de recherche qui s’emploie à améliorer le bien-être des communautés servies. Cela contribue à asseoir notre réputation internationale », a déclaré Rhonda Lenton, présidente et vice-chancelière.

« Nous devons continuer à défendre le secteur postsecondaire, a ajouté Mme Lenton. York dispose néanmoins de fondements solides qui peuvent être mis à profit pour relever ces défis à court terme et pour saisir les occasions de façonner ensemble l’avenir de l’Université. »

Les détails du budget et d’autres renseignements sont affichés sur la page Web « Shared Accountability and Resource Planning (SHARP) »

York University announces Black Research Seed Grant winners

Colored confetti flying on blue background

Six York researchers in five Faculties are the latest recipients of York University’s Black Research Seed Grants, totalling more than $150,000 in combined funding.  

Created by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation and the Office of the Vice-President Equity, People & Culture in 2022, the grants support Black scholars at York, particularly emerging and early-career researchers, including postdoctoral fellows.

The newly funded projects range from an investigation into the accessibility and inclusiveness of ride-hailing services for visually impaired, Black passengers to studying a mining conflict in Jamaica to examining the biopsychosocial differences of back pain in low-, middle- and high-income countries, among others.

“Knowledge generated by Black scholars is integral to York University’s research excellence and continuing to grow our inclusive and equitable research environments,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “These seed grants support Black researchers as they pursue innovative work in a variety of fields, strengthening their capacity to create positive change and thrive within York’s research community.”

The funding is part of York’s Action Plan on Black Inclusion and Framework on Black Inclusion, which are intended to help address systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy within academia.

“York University is committed to taking concrete action on dismantling systemic barriers for Black scholars, allocating funds and resources to support their success,” said Laina Bay-Cheng, interim vice-president equity, people and culture. “This seed grant is just one of many important initiatives that allow York to demonstrate our commitments to equity, to an inclusive and diverse intellectual community, and to recognizing the expertise and contributions of Black scholars at York.”

The six recipients are:

Alvine Boaye Belle, assistant professor, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Lassonde School of Engineering
Building human trust in ML-enabled autonomous driving systems
$25,000

Stephanie Fearon, assistant professor, Faculty of Education
My Sister’s Keeper: Black Girls as Resistance Leaders
$25,000

Mahtot Gebresselassie, assistant professor, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Race, Disability, and Uber and Lyft Usage
$24,625

Michael Kalu, assistant professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Exploring Challenges in Identifying Homebound Black Older Adults and Understanding What Strategies Work: A Comprehensive Scoping Review and Descriptive Qualitative Study in the Greater Toronto Area
$25,000

Aliyu Lawan, postdoctoral fellow, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Biopsychosocial Identity and Back Pain Disability, Access to Care and Return to Work: A longitudinal Analysis of Low-,Middle-, and High-Income Countries
$25,000

Tameka Samuels-Jones, assistant professor, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Raising Afro-Voices: Black Indigeneity, Bauxite Mining and Community Empowerment in Jamaica
$25,000

Find out more about the Black Research Seed Grants and their creation.

York University prof appointed to senior role in health organization

Globe with first aid health on it

Professor and Dahdaleh Distinguished Chair Steven Hoffman will join Wellcome Trust, the world’s third-largest foundation supporting global health research, for an 18-month secondment as an interim chief of staff.

One of the world’s leading global health law scholars, Hoffman’s new role will see him support the day-to-day management of Wellcome Trust, advance the strategic priorities of the organization and serve as a member of its executive leadership team. Over the course of his tenure, he will also continue to dedicate time to his research at York.

Steven Hoffman
Steven Hoffman

“I am very excited about this new role with Wellcome, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to remain connected with York during this period,” says Hoffman. “The University’s incredible support for this secondment signals its commitment to achieving global social impact and supporting many different ways of advancing knowledge and the public good.”

The new role is a significant opportunity, as the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust – with its approximately $63-billion endowment and $2.7 billion in research grants funded each year – is a leader in solving urgent health challenges across the world. It has looked to advance biomedical research, open access and data initiatives, and more.

“Steven’s appointment to such a senior leadership role in a prominent organization advancing health research is an example of York expertise creating positive change toward our goal of building a healthy world for all,” says Faculty of Health Dean David Peters.

Hoffman was selected for the role based on an already lengthy and accomplished career – frequently combining law and epidemiology ­– focused on the global governance of health threats.

An elected member of the Royal Society of Canada, he has previously worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, and the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General in New York City. Between 2016 and 2022, he served as scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Population & Public Health. Recently, he also served as the vice-president for data, surveillance and foresight at the Public Health Agency of Canada, where he led the branch’s 400 employees in implementing the Government of Canada’s $436-million transformation of the agency’s core capabilities following the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At York, Hoffman has built and led the Global Strategy Lab – one of Canada’s largest social science research institutes – which is a WHO Collaborating Centre on Global Governance of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Earlier this year, he also received $200,000 in funding from the government of Ontario to advance a groundbreaking new field of research, global legal epidemiology, to improve the equity and effectiveness of international law and to better prepare Ontario for global health threats.

The selection of Hoffman for this pivotal role with a leading global health research funder highlights the talent the York University’s Faculty of Health has been able to attract and retain, notes Peters. “This is an excellent opportunity for Steven and, by extension, York’s Faculty of Health and York University as a whole, to make an impactful contribution towards advancing health research,” he says.

York U a Canadian leader in autism support

York University’s Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) program has emerged as a leader within Canada for providing comprehensive support to students, faculty and staff.

Autism prevalence in Canada has surged in recent years, with approximately one in every 50 individuals aged one to 17 receiving a diagnosis, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. This increase has led to a growing need for universities to adequately support students with autism as they pursue higher education.

In response, York has emerged as a leader in offering solutions with its ASD program, one of the most comprehensive initiatives in Canada.

Raymond Peart
Raymond Peart

Led by Raymond Peart, the co-ordinator of York’s ASD program, with support from intake manager Angela Lecompte, the initiative provides a wide array of services aimed at helping students with autism succeed academically and socially. Starting with early engagement opportunities such as ASD Transition Days and workshops for high-school educators, the program aims to equip incoming students with essential skills for university life, while also fostering a sense of belonging and confidence. 

Other key features include personalized sessions addressing individual needs and fostering crucial social connections. Driven by an adaptive, feedback-driven approach, the program aims to ensure responsiveness and anticipate challenges, enhancing both academic and social skills development.

“By focusing on individual strengths,” Peart says, “the program counters societal misconceptions, advocating for a future where neurodiversity is acknowledged and supported.”

Angela Lecompte
Angela Lecompte

In their evolving approach to supporting students, families, faculty and staff, Peart and Lecompte acknowledge the contributions of the Autism Mental Health Literacy Project and the Autism Mentorship Program (AMP), which have helped shape their services, while the dedicated mentors of the AMP have provided invaluable support to students with autism, fostering a sense of belonging and recognition.

While York’s program is an example of comprehensive support, reports by organizations such as the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) and the Canadian cross-disability charity National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) highlight the broader challenges faced by students with autism in Canadian universities. 

According to CAHS, there is a notable lack of autism-specific assistance at post-secondary schools across the country. Similarly, a 2021 study in the United States revealed that only 2.2 per cent of public and not-for-profit universities and colleges have autism-specific college support programs. 

This scarcity of dedicated support programs is further highlighted by NEADS’ findings of frequent ineffective accommodations for students with disabilities at universities, along with an over-reliance on teaching those students to self-advocate, creating additional challenges for them.

In its efforts to provide comprehensive support and proactive engagement, York’s ASD program collaborates with institutions nationwide to foster a stronger support network for students with autism. Looking ahead, it plans to further refine its support services and strengthen ties with career counselling to prepare students for life after graduation. 

Initiatives such as the Conversations Create Change podcast series, designed by adults with autism at York, foster understanding and connection within the neurodivergent community on campus. 

“Through our program, we’re striving to help autistic students establish a sense of belonging and work towards self-actualization,” Peart says. “Our goal is to give them the confidence to move forward and succeed in both academic and social aspects of university life.”

Robarts Centre celebrates 40 years of Canadian Studies

Many books standing upright, pictured from above.

Established in 1984, the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies is a long-standing Organized Research Unit of York University that supports specialized research on key dimensions of a critical, collaborative and interdisciplinary study of Canada. As evidence of its far-reaching impact, it has a membership of over 300 faculty and research associates from all of York’s 11 Faculties.

Lorna Marsden
Lorna Marsden

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Robarts Centre has released a special issue of its flagship publication, Canada Watch, edited by York University President Emerita Lorna Marsden, a Distinguished Fellow at the Robarts Centre. In it, a carefully selected group of thought leaders recount the history of the centre and its key evolutions in the study of Canada, as well as the establishment of the York’s research infrastructure over the past four decades.

“In this issue, you will find first-hand accounts of key milestones in the history of the Robarts Centre and of research at York University, including from President Emeritus Ian Macdonald and first Vice-President Research and Innovation Stan Shapson,” said Marsden. “It also shows how the study of Canada has evolved since 1984, and the central role the Robarts Centre has played in creating relationships among disciplines, students and faculty to make this possible.”

This special issue is the first of the centre’s many celebratory activities for this milestone year. To help make its important work available to all, the Robarts Centre is working with the York University Libraries (YUL) to release the online archives of Canada Watch, which has been regularly published since 1992. These public archives, hosted through YUL’s York Digital Journals (YDJ) program, will make accessible many issues that were previously only available in print.

“YDJ’s mission is to facilitate free and open access to the work of members of the York University community,” said Tomasz Mrozewski, YUL digital publishing librarian “The release of the Canada Watch archives on this platform gives our community access to significant contributions in the study of Canada over the past 30 years, with new features, including the ability to search back issues by author and theme.”

Other anniversary celebrations include hosting the 2024 International Canadian Studies Summit, being held online from June 10 to 14, in collaboration with the International Council for Canadian Studies and the Avie Bennett Historica Canada Chair in Canadian History.

Jean Michel Montsion

“In recent years, the Robarts Centre has paid particular attention to the lack of support to our colleagues who study Canada from outside of the country,” explained Jean Michel Montsion, director of the Robarts Centre, “and we see it as our responsibility to connect them to some of our experts and specialists.”

With that mission in mind, the free summit, which is open for registration now, will be an opportunity for emerging and established scholars to learn about, discuss and help draft recommendations for better support of the study of Canada abroad. The event will include a Summer School component, which will be attended by 17 graduate students selected from 13 different countries, with many sessions led by York faculty members.

For more information about 40th anniversary celebrations and how to take part, visit the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies website.