Free tuition gives kinesiology student fresh start

Ravenne Rivera

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, YFile deputy editor

For York University student Ravenne Rivera, starting her first year for the second time has had its advantages.

The undergraduate student, enrolled in the Faculty of Health’s Kinesiology and Health Science program, had embarked on her post-secondary journey in the fall of 2020, but her studies were deferred when she encountered challenges with OSAP funding for the winter term. She worked with the University to sort it out, and her enrolment was deferred to fall of 2021.

Ravenne Rivera
Ravenne Rivera

For Rivera, this meant pursing her first year of studies a second time – but it also allowed her to re-enter York’s First Year for Free Contest, which offers students a chance to win free tuition.

“It was just pure shock,” she said about learning she had won. “It was amazing and it was something I didn’t ever expect.”

The win, she said, gives her financial security and will allow her to focus on her post-secondary studies and her dream of one day working in the medical field. It also boosts her motivation to succeed.

“It definitely motivates me a little bit more. I was already motivated for first year … but knowing that the tuition is free, it is a bit of a relief,” she said, adding that she can put all of her focus on doing well in school. “It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my future.”

Studying at university has been a dream of Rivera’s since she was a young girl. It was a path, she said, she always knew she wanted. Intent on studying kinesiology and with dreams of eventually becoming a surgeon, she said York University was her top choice for post-secondary studies.

“I knew York has a really good kinesiology program – I’ve been reading about it since Grade 9, and it’s always ranked as one of the top programs – so my mind was already set [on York] from the beginning,” she said.

As for her experience at York so far, she said it’s been very positive.

“It’s a gateway to new opportunities and new lessons learned,” she said.

Research identifies how to become the next Uber or Amazon


The success and proliferation of digital platforms like Uber and Amazon are increasingly inspiring entrepreneurs to build new ventures on similar lines. Despite the prominent success stories, many digital platforms fail to survive the startup stage. How can aspiring platform entrepreneurs overcome the early-stage challenge and enable the successful emergence of digital platform ecosystems?

Professor Anoop Madhok, the Scotiabank Chair in International Business and Entrepreneurship at York University’s Schulich School of Business, and his collaborator Ramya K. Murthy from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (as well as a former doctoral student at Schulich) set out to answer this question.

Anoop Madhok
Anoop Madhok

The challenge for the platform entrepreneur in the early stage is to secure the commitment and resources of autonomous third-party contributors for a little-known entity that is yet to emerge in the form of an ecosystem around the digital platform. The contributors are vital for the digital platform, as they create complements that enhance the platform’s value to consumers but are only motivated to produce complements for a platform that offers attractive platform resources and provides access to a large base of consumers. With an ecosystem that is yet to emerge, digital platform entrepreneurs, who are typically both owners as well as sponsors of their platforms, have few resources and avenues to attract these complementors (businesses that directly sell a product or service that complement the product or service of another company by adding value to mutual customers) in the early stages.

In their new study published in the Journal of Management Studies, Murthy and Madhok study numerous platforms in the incipient stage and demonstrate that the choice of platform sponsor scope offers a way to overcome the early-stage challenge of the emergence of digital platform ecosystems. Platform sponsor scope refers to the sponsor’s choice of value creation activities to perform internally as well as their decision rights over complements, a choice that shapes the opportunities subsequently available to complementors. When such opportunities seem beneficial, the complementors and consequently consumers are attracted to participate, leading to the emergence of the digital platform ecosystem.

The study develops a problem-solving perspective of the emergence of digital platform ecosystems and contends that the platform sponsor should choose their scope in alignment with the nature of the problem to find valuable complements efficiently. Such an alignment between problem and platform sponsor scope signals to complementors attractive opportunities and thus attracts their participation and, in turn, brings consumers to the ecosystem. Using a data set of crowdfunding campaigns to raise funds to launch digital platforms, they identify pathways for the successful emergence of complementary innovation ecosystems, open-source ecosystems and information ecosystems.

“The study highlights a novel set of considerations – problem and platform sponsor scope – that shifts the emphasis away from the actors (who) to the problem at hand (what) to explain platform ecosystem emergence, a hitherto understudied topic,” says Madhok.

Their findings suggest that aspiring entrepreneurs have agency in addressing this challenge and should focus on identifying the dimensions of the problem they confront and choose their scope accordingly to attract complementors and, consequently, consumers. Further, they demonstrate that multiple pathways exist for the platform sponsor to enable ecosystem emergence as long as the problem and their choice of scope are aligned. The underlying tenet is that the platform sponsor can shape attractive opportunities for the complementors when such an alignment is achieved.

Read the full study at

Meet the inaugural recipients of the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars

ork University has announced the four inaugural recipients of its new Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars: Godwin Dzah, Don Davies, De-Lawrence Lamptey and Ruth Murambadoro

York University has announced the four inaugural recipients of its new Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars: Godwin Dzah, Don Davies, De-Lawrence Lamptey and Ruth Murambadoro. This two-year award, valued at $70,000 per year, seeks to address underrepresentation in many disciplines and fields by providing Black and Indigenous scholars with the ability to dedicate their time to pursuing new research, while accessing the collegial resources, faculty supervision and mentorship for which York University is well known.

York has a strong commitment to the pursuit of justice. Integral to this pursuit is an understanding of knowledge as multifaceted and plurally constituted. For the sake of knowledge, diversity is fundamental. While the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program provides new opportunities for Black and Indigenous scholars, most importantly it seeks to attract superb scholars who will help to push the boundaries of knowledge in necessary ways.

Professor Lisa Philipps, York’s provost and vice-president academic, believes that “building new paths and welcoming spaces for diverse voices to thrive in the academy and beyond is vitally important.” She continues by saying that the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars are “a reflection of the inclusive higher education environment that we are committed to creating at York.”

Professor Thomas Loebel, associate vice-president graduate and dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, adds: “As a program, these fellowships manifest a challenge that York has put to itself, which is to work with emerging scholars in individualized ways and to understand their needs as these emerge through the research process. Our goal is to help connect postdoctoral scholars to the incredible community that is York University, so that with this program we can create something truly career developmental.”

Godwin Dzah (Osgoode Hall Law School)

Godwin Dzah

Dzah comes to York having recently completed a doctorate in law at the University of British Columbia. His research proposes a fundamental re-evaluation of how international environmental law deploys concepts of crisis in ways that limit the potential for more sustained and complete forms of transformation. “The historical significance of this award is an ever-present reminder of the unfinished task of addressing systemic challenges,” says Dzah. “I am looking forward to advancing this cause by expanding my teaching and research interests, which sit at the intersection of international law and the environment, by demonstrating the common interests and connections between the peoples of the Global South and their counterparts – the Indigenous Peoples in the Global North – in the context of the law and politics of international environmental law. I am grateful to the leadership at Osgoode Hall Law School; my supervisor, Professor Obiora Okafor; and especially to York University for this exciting opportunity.”

Don Davies (Faculty of Science)

Don Davies
Don Davies

Davies is currently a postdoctoral researcher at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. His research investigates a novel approach to the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, arguing that processes of forgetting are naturally amplified in major neurodegenerative diseases. “The Canadian Indigenous population has an increased prevalence and earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease than the Canadian non-Indigenous population,” he says. “This opportunity will allow me to establish a research program to study Alzheimer’s disease within the Indigenous community and accelerate growth in scholarly diversity through development of an academic pipeline for Indigenous scientists. I am very grateful for the advice from Dr. Steven Connor, who will be mentoring me during my postdoctoral fellowship.”

De-Lawrence Lamptey (Faculty of Health)

DeLawrence Lamptey
DeLawrence Lamptey

Lamptey is currently a postdoctoral Fellow at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia. His research introduces an intersectional approach to the study of the material, social, and financial barriers Black children and their families are faced with in Canada. “York’s commitment to support Black and Indigenous scholars is very remarkable,” says Lamptey,” and I am proud to be an inaugural recipient. This fellowship is a recognition of the unique and complex challenges that Black and Indigenous scholars often confront as we pursue our career ambitions. My research will be exploring the intersectionality of race/ethnicity and disability among children and youth in Canada. I look forward to making a positive difference in society through this fellowship.”

Ruth Murambadoro (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies)

Ruth Murambadoro
Ruth Murambadoro

Murambadoro is currently a lecturer at the Wits Schools of Governance at the University of Witswatersrand in South Africa. Her research explores how women who have experienced state-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe deploy narratives to advance the goal of gender justice. “My project, ‘Gender justice and narratives of violence by women in post-colonial Zimbabwe,’ involves working with women’s social movements and the diaspora to produce new insights on how networks of women provide avenues for healing, justice and peace, outside the auspices of the state,” she says. “This work focuses on women’s encounters of state-sanctioned violence and living under dictatorial rule for the past 40-plus years. I am delighted to join the Centre for Feminist Research at York University to work closely with Dr. Alison Crosby as a Fellow under the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars.”

Schulich program inspires teaching focus at Humber River Hospital

Featured image for Mackenzie Health and York U MOU signing shows a medical worker with a chart

A program developed by the Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC) is the inspiration behind a project to turn Humber River Hospital into a teaching institution.

Dr. Patrick Safieh, a member of the hospital’s medical staff, is spearheading the project after his own experience in the Healthcare Leadership Development Program (HLDP) developed by SEEC in the Schulich School of Business at York University. HLDP is an example of a SEEC custom program for organizations.

Patrick Safieh
Dr. Patrick Safieh

An instructor with SEEC and a lecturer at the University of Toronto, Safieh was inspired to launch a training program for medical students in the hospital’s new Family Medicine Teaching Unit to help them better understand the non-medical aspects of delivering services in a time of budget restraints and disruptive change.

“As part of my own Healthcare Leadership Development Program course work [in 2019], I designed a Family Medicine Teaching Unit at Humber River Hospital, which provides full-time core teaching of University of Toronto medical school students,” said Safieh, a facilitator in SEEC’s new Schulich Mini-MBA: Physician Business Leadership Program. “HLDP helped with areas that I needed to accomplish goals, such as networking, presenting, negotiating and other essential skills.”

Safieh’s success in creating a teaching unit at Humber River Hospital also comes from a partnership he fostered between Humber River Hospital, the University of Toronto and various hospital departments that worked together to achieve a successful result.

“I was privileged to be involved in the genesis of this Humber River project and am proud to say that the HLDP provided the tools to get this project started. The program was instrumental in getting this project off the ground, and will benefit the hospital, physicians, and ultimately patients through improved family and emergency medicine for the community. I was able to immediately apply my HLDP learning in helping to create Humber River Hospital’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit,” said Safieh.

Safieh’s project also aims to position Humber River Hospital as a major health-care centre for the 850,000 people living in a relatively under-serviced section of northwest Toronto.

SEEC has worked successfully for more than 10 years with various health-care organizations across Canada by delivering custom versions of the Healthcare Leadership Development Program. It also offers several open enrolment leadership programs for physicians, dentists and clinicians under the Schulich Mini-MBA brand.

Participants in the HLDP receive a master’s certificate upon completion of 90 hours of study that includes:

  • leadership assessment exercises;
  • executive one-on-one and group coaching;
  • knowledgeable faculty members that teach topics such as design thinking, complexity theory, negotiation, collaboration, and leadership and conflict resolution; and
  • independent learning tailored to each participant’s personal leadership development needs.

For more on what SEEC has to offer, visit the website.

York University launches new YU Screen tool

The new website will provide visitors with a mobile-first, content-driven and social media-enabled experience
The new website will provide visitors with a mobile-first, content-driven and social media-enabled experience

The following is a message to the York community from Parissa Safai, special advisor to the president for academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response:

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,  

As part of our plan to support a safe return to York’s campuses this fall, we are launching YU Screen, an automated COVID-19 self-assessment screening tool. All faculty, staff, instructors, students, researchers, contractors, visitors and vendors must use this tool daily to self-screen and confirm that they have not been exposed to COVID-19 before coming to York’s campuses.   

To use YU Screen, you must have a Passport York account. Visitors or other third parties working on York’s campuses will be able to sign in as a guest. The tool walks users through a range of questions, including symptoms to possible exposure, recent travel and testing history. It will also be used to support case management and limited contact tracing, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, for any cases that are confirmed at York University.  

All information related to screening will be treated as confidential. York is committed to the protection of privacy, as required under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)Below is some further guidance on how to use this new tool: 

Tips for using YU Screen:

  • YU Screen is accessible from the home page of the Better Together website and can be accessed via the web on smart phones, computers and tablets. 
  • Have your Passport York login information handy to access the tool. 
  • As soon as you click on the YU Screen link, you will see a landing page where you can log in with your Passport York account or as a guest. 
  • Once you have logged in, select “start screening” and you can then choose your group, indicating whether you are a student, staff, faculty member or guest.
  • Once you have identified your group, you will be directed to the appropriate screening survey. 
  • When survey questions are completed, an automated prompt will appear to identify whether or not you have been cleared to come on campus.  
  • In the event that you do not pass the screening questions, you will be provided with instructions on what to do next. In this case, you are not to come to York’s campuses; you will be instructed to self-isolate and will be directed to educational resources.  
  • This process must be repeated before you attend campus, each time. We encourage everyone to select the option to receive daily email reminders to complete their screening. 
  • When on York’s campuses, you may be asked to show that you have cleared the screening.

Thank you for your co-operation and commitment to protecting the health and safety of the York community. Please bear with us as French content in the YU Screen tool is being updated and will be live very soon. For regular updates on York’s safe return to campus, please continue to visit the Better Together website. 


Parissa Safai  
Special Advisor to the President for Academic Continuity Planning & COVID-19 Response

Lancement du nouvel outil YU Dépistage/YU Screen de l’Université York

Chers membres de la communauté de York,  

Dans le cadre de notre plan pour appuyer un retour sécuritaire sur les campus de York cet automne, nous lançons cette semaine un nouvel outil bilingue automatisé d’autoévaluation et de dépistage de la COVID-19 appelé « YU Dépistage/YU Screen ». Tous les membres du corps professoral, du personnel, du corps enseignant et de la communauté étudiante ainsi que les fournisseurs, entrepreneurs et visiteurs devront utiliser cet outil quotidiennement avant de venir sur les campus de York pour s’autoévaluer et confirmer qu’ils n’ont pas été exposés à la COVID-19.

Pour utiliser l’outil YU Dépistage, il faut avoir un compte Passport York. Les visiteurs et autres tierces parties travaillant sur les campus de York l’utiliseront en tant qu’invités. L’outil pose aux utilisateurs une série de questions allant des symptômes aux risques d’exposition, en passant par les voyages récents et l’historique de dépistage. Il servira aussi à la gestion des cas et à la recherche des contacts (dans une certaine mesure) en collaboration avec le Bureau de santé publique de Toronto pour tous les cas confirmés à l’Université York.

Tous les renseignements liés au dépistage seront traités de manière confidentielle. York garantit la protection de la vie privée conformément à la Loi sur l’accès à l’information et la protection de la vie privée 

Conseils pour utiliser l’outil YU Dépistage  

  • L’outil YU Dépistage se trouve sur la page d’accueil du site Better Together. Vous pouvez y accéder avec un téléphone intelligent, un ordinateur ou une tablette.  
  • Ayez vos identifiants Passport York à portée de la main.  
  • Dès que vous cliquez sur le lien YU Dépistage, vous voyez :  
    • Une page d’accueil sur laquelle vous pouvez vous connecter avec Passport York ou « continuer en tant qu’invité ». 
    • Une fois la session ouverte, cliquez sur « Commencer le dépistage » et choisissez votre « groupe » : communauté étudiante, personnel, corps professoral ou invité. 
    • Une fois cela fait, vous serez dirigés vers le questionnaire de dépistage approprié.  
    • Quand vous aurez fini de répondre aux questions de dépistage, une fenêtre s’affichera pour indiquer si vous êtes « autorisé(e) » ou non à venir sur le campus.  
    • Si vous « échouez » au dépistage, on vous fournira des instructions sur les prochaines étapes. Vous ne pourrez pas fréquenter les campus de York et on vous demandera de vous auto-isoler. Des informations additionnelles vous seront également fournies.   
  • Vous devez vous répéter ce processus avant chaque visite sur les campus. Nous encourageons tout le monde à sélectionner l’option de rappels journaliers sur la page d’accueil afin de pouvoir remplir le questionnaire par courriel après l’ouverture de session. 
  • Quand vous êtes sur les campus de York, on peut vous demander de montrer que le dépistage vous autorise à venir ce jour-là. 
Nous vous remercions pour votre coopération et votre engagement envers la santé et la sécurité de la communauté de York durant cette période. Nous vous remercions pour votre patience durant la mise à jour de la version française de l’outil YU dépistage qui sera disponible prochainement. Pour les dernières nouvelles au sujet du retour sécuritaire sur les campus de York, veuillez visiter le site Better Together.
Sincères salutations,  Parissa Safai  
Conseillère spéciale de la présidente pour la planification de la continuité académique et la réponse à la COVID-19

Interim update on provincial announcement, vaccine requirement and screening

Vari Hall from the exterior
Vari Hall

The following is a message to the York University community from Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps and Vice-President of Research and Innovation Amir Asif:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Dear York community,

On Aug. 17, the Ontario government, in consultation with the chief medical officer of health, announced that the province will be pausing its Roadmap to Reopen and will remain in Step 3 at this time. The province also announced that it will be supporting vaccine policies in post-secondary institutions to enable a safe return to campuses this fall.

The University is pleased to see this support for a vaccination mandate across the sector and we have been told that further guidance is forthcoming from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) by early next week. Given these latest updates, we wanted to reassure the community that we remain on track for our plans to gradually reopen in-person activities on York’s campuses this fall and our plans have not altered. When we receive further guidance from the MCU, we will update you again on any impacts to our planning.

As well, we continue to advance our plans for implementing the recently announced requirement for all community members and visitors to our campuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For those still seeking to schedule appointments, we encourage you to use the provincial booking system or consult local pharmacies or walk-in vaccination clinics across the province. Individuals can prove they are fully vaccinated by showing the physical or emailed receipt that was provided to them at the time of vaccination. Vaccination receipts can be downloaded or printed through the provincial portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.

At this time, researchers are still required to be approved in advance to access research facilities on campus. Existing approvals remain in place, and new requests for approval are being accepted, including those for in-person research involving human participants. All researchers must use the Campus Access System to request access from their Faculties and complete daily screening before coming to campus. Research activities must continue to follow necessary health and safety planning and precautions. Associate deans of research will be available to answer any questions posed by the research community.

We also recognize that the public health situation continues to shift and that this can cause confusion and anxiety. We want to reassure you that the health and safety of our community members continues to be our top priority, and we are advancing multiple strategies and initiatives to protect health and safety.

This week, we launched YU Screen, a new automated COVID-19 self-assessment screening tool that all faculty, staff, instructors, students, researchers, and visitors must use before coming to campus to self-screen and confirm that they have not been exposed to COVID-19. For clarity, completing YU Screen before every trip to campus will be additional to complying with the University’s vaccination requirement. More details on this new tool will be shared with you shortly.

We want to thank all of our community members for continuing to do their part to protect themselves and others throughout this pandemic. We look forward to sharing more details with you very shortly about our plans to safely welcome you back to campuses this September.


Lisa Philipps
Provost & Vice-President Academic

Amir Asif
Vice-President, Research & Innovation

Mise à jour provisoire sur l’annonce provinciale relative à l’obligation de vaccination et de dépistage

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

Le 17 août, le gouvernement de l’Ontario, en concertation avec le médecin hygiéniste en chef, a annoncé que la province suspend l’étape postérieure au Plan d’action pour le déconfinement et reste à la troisième étape pour le moment. Il a également annoncé qu’il appuie les politiques de vaccination des établissements postsecondaires afin de favoriser un retour sécuritaire sur les campus cet automne.

L’Université se réjouit de ce soutien envers un mandat de vaccination dans l’ensemble du secteur; d’autres directives du ministère des Collèges et Universités (MCU) sont attendues au début de la semaine prochaine. Étant donné ces derniers développements, nous tenons à rassurer la communauté : nous sommes sur la bonne voie en ce qui concerne les plans de réouverture progressive des activités en personne sur les campus de York cet automne et nos plans n’ont pas changé. Lorsque nous recevrons d’autres directives du MCU, nous vous communiquerons les répercussions éventuelles sur notre planification.

De plus, nous continuons à faire progresser nos plans de mise en œuvre de l’exigence récemment annoncée selon laquelle tous les membres de la communauté et les visiteurs de nos campus doivent être vaccinés contre la COVID-19. Nous encourageons les personnes qui cherchent encore à prendre rendez-vous à utiliser le système provincial de réservation et à consulter les pharmacies locales ou les cliniques de vaccination sans rendez-vous de la province. Les personnes pleinement vaccinées peuvent prouver leur statut vaccinal en montrant le reçu papier ou électronique qui leur a été remis au moment de leur vaccination. Les reçus de vaccination peuvent être téléchargés ou imprimés sur le portail Web provincial ou en appelant la ligne provinciale de réservation des vaccins au 1-833-943-3900.

À l’heure actuelle, les membres de la communauté de recherche doivent être approuvés à l’avance pour accéder aux installations de recherche sur le campus. Les approbations existantes demeurent en vigueur et de nouvelles demandes d’approbation sont acceptées, y compris celles concernant les recherches en personne avec des êtres humains. Tous les membres de la communauté de recherche doivent utiliser le système Campus Access pour demander l’autorisation auprès de leurs facultés et ils doivent effectuer un dépistage quotidien avant de venir sur les campus. Les activités de recherche doivent continuer à respecter les plans et les précautions nécessaires en matière de santé et de sécurité. Les doyens et doyennes associés de la recherche seront également disponibles pour répondre aux questions de la communauté de recherche.

Nous comprenons que la situation sanitaire ne cesse d’évoluer et que cela peut entraîner de la confusion et de l’anxiété. Nous tenons à vous assurer que la santé et la sécurité des membres de notre communauté demeurent notre priorité absolue et que nous mettons en œuvre de multiples stratégies et initiatives pour protéger la santé et la sécurité.

Cette semaine, nous avons lancé YU Dépistage/YU Screen, un nouvel outil automatisé d’autoévaluation de la COVID-19; tous les professeurs, employés, enseignants, étudiants, chercheurs et visiteurs doivent l’utiliser avant de venir sur le campus pour s’autoévaluer et confirmer qu’ils n’ont pas été exposés à la COVID-19. À titre de précision, le fait d’utiliser l’outil YU Dépistage/YU Screen avant chaque visite sur le campus s’ajoute à l’obligation de vaccination de l’Université. Nous vous communiquerons bientôt plus de détails sur ce nouvel outil.

Nous remercions tous les membres de notre communauté qui continuent à faire leur possible pour se protéger et protéger les autres tout au long de cette pandémie. Nous avons hâte de vous fournir prochainement plus d’information sur nos projets pour vous accueillir en toute sécurité sur les campus en septembre.

Sincères salutations,

Lisa Philipps
Rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques

Amir Asif
Vice-président de la recherche et de l’innovation

Faculty of Education’s UnLeading Project aims to reclaim and redefine leadership


Academics from York University’s Faculty of Education have joined forces to redefine conventional notions of leadership through the UnLeading Project, a newly launched website and podcast series that asks its audience to question the assumptions they have about leadership and the ways they have been socialized into thinking about and enacting it. It promotes the centring of silenced knowledges and knowledge systems, so that transformative possibilities for leading and schooling can be imagined. It explores questions such as: what is leadership; who can be a leader; and what informs how leadership is enacted?The UnLeading Project banner

“Seemingly neutral and apolitical approaches to leadership have inadequately met the longstanding inequities and challenges in Ontario’s public education system,” says project lead Vidya Shah, assistant professor in York’s Faculty of Education. “The undeniable evidence from academic literature, policy, reports, and public outcry speaks to the need for urgent work in transforming systems that can respond to the diverse identities and needs of students and families in Ontario.”

Vidya Shah
Vidya Shah

The UnLeading team – made up of Shah; York Faculty of Education course directors Jocelyn Shih and Sayema Chowdhury; and York master of education student Amanda Lima – was intentional about honouring and affirming the ways in which leadership operates in multiple spaces, within individuals, among collectives and organizations, through ideas and in all of the spaces in between. The intention of UnLeading is to turn leadership on its head and imagine the possibilities that emerge.

The UnLeading website contains the guiding questions that have helped the team to really frame what it is they are attempting to do with this project. The Systems of Oppression tab identifies some of the key logics in each of these systems that are often normalized and naturalized as the status quo. The website also contains teasers for the first set of podcast episodes.

The podcast series – launching on Aug. 31, with one new episode to be released each week thereafter – is designed for aspiring leaders and people currently in formal leadership positions, but it is also for those who don’t see themselves as leaders and those who are actively resisting formal leadership roles because they are worried about how these roles might change them. Listeners will notice that the podcast’s guests come from the community, classrooms, schools, school districts and the academy, providing a range of perspectives and approaches to leadership. Podcast topics include: decolonizing and uncolonizing leadership, community-centred leadership, culturally relevant and anti-racist leadership, queering leadership and critical spirituality in leadership.

For more information about the project and the podcast, visit the UnLeading website at

Pandemic news consumption affects work engagement, study shows

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

News consumption has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as people try to make sense of the constantly evolving situation. However, there is evidence that consuming a significant amount of negative news can be anxiety-provoking and negatively affect mental health. How does this affect workers’ ability to be engaged at work during the pandemic?

Winny Shen
Winny Shen

Schulich School of Business organization studies Professor Winny Shen and her collaborators, Stephanie Andel from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Maryana Arvan from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, set out to answer this question.

“Early on during the pandemic, the World Health Organization came out with recommendations that people should limit their consumption of news related to COVID-19 to just one to two times per day and from trusted news sources, and this really caught our attention,” says Shen.

Consider a worker who cannot stop watching the news because the number of cases in their community is rising. This worker is likely to feel significant anxiety due to their continued consumption of news, as the media tends to use attention-grabbing headlines to get us to keep tuning in or clicking on online articles. This anxiety may then interfere with workers’ ability to get absorbed in and mentally devote themselves to their work, as worrying may leave them with little energy or serve as an intrusive distraction when working. Workers may also differ in the extent to which their anxiety detracts from their work engagement.

In their new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Shen and her collaborators examine relationships between COVID-19 news consumption, anxiety, work engagement and occupational calling by following a sample of 281 Canadian workers over a period of eight weeks during the first wave of the pandemic. They found that on weeks where workers watched more news than usual, they experienced greater anxiety, and consequently lower work engagement; however, workers who felt called to their job because it provides them a sense of purpose and fulfillment were able to maintain high levels of work engagement even when they felt highly anxious. Moreover, workers who were more engaged with their job in a given week generally experienced lower anxiety the following week.

“We’ve all heard a lot about the many difficulties of working during the pandemic,” says Shen. “Our study points to the fact that being engaged in their work can be beneficial for many workers, perhaps by helping them replenish or gain important resources, which can then help them manage their stress and anxiety.” Shen also acknowledges that this benefit does not seem to occur for everyone. The study finds that for workers who are drawn to their work because it allows them to help others, high levels of work engagement does not seem to pay off by reducing subsequent feelings of anxiety. This suggests that these workers may be particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, as their anxiety or investment in their work may tend to make them feel like they are not doing enough.

“With everything going on, many companies are worried about engagement during the pandemic,” says Shen. “Our work suggests that in order to promote an engaged workforce, companies should try to help their workers find personal fulfillment, joy and purpose in the work that they are doing.”  

Government invests $3M in York partnership supporting Black-led organizations

Woman laptop computer FEATURED

The Government of Canada has announced an investment of close to $3 million for the Black Creek Community Health Centre (BCCHC) and the Black Creek Community Farm, in partnership with York University’s Innovation York’s YSpace, Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC), and TD-Community Engagement Centre, to support Black-Canadian entrepreneurs and businesses in Humber River-Black Creek. The funding comes as part of the federal government’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) – an investment of more than $400-million to support the long-term success of Black entrepreneurs and business owners in Canada.

Black-Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs make important contributions to the Canadian economy, yet they continue to face systemic racism and obstacles in starting and growing their businesses. This has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Canada is working to address long-standing barriers through the BEP.

Judy A. Sgro, member of parliament for Humber River-Black Creek on behalf of Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, made the announcement Aug. 12. The funding will be delivered through the National Ecosystem Fund in North York, which was created to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs and business owners across Canada. In Southern Ontario, FedDev is administering the fund.

With the recommended funding of $2,999,431, BCCHC in partnership with York University, will launch an agri-food program called the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA), offering a full spectrum of education, mentorship and acceleration supports to Black entrepreneurs seeking to establish or grow agri-food businesses. Building off the success of the YSpace food and beverage accelerator, SEEC’s internationally renowned leadership curriculum, and TD-CEC’s continued commitment to community engagement, BEA will support more than 350 entrepreneurs over the course of the next three years. A graduate of the YSpace program, It’s Souper – an Afro-fusion gourmet soup and sauce line founded by Lola Adeyemi in 2018 – is an example of the type of entrepreneur the program will support.

“Today was a fantastic event that will offer great opportunities to through Black Creek Community Health Centre, and York University. It was also wonderful to meet the founder of It’s Souper, Lola Adeyemi. I’m excited to the potential and impacts this funding will provide for everyone involved,” said Sgro during the announcement.

“The Black Entrepreneurship Alliance will build on the Black Creek Community Health Centre’s leadership within the Black Creek community – as well as York’s historic strengths in business, innovation, and entrepreneurship – to provide educational support and training to Black entrepreneurs,” said Amir Asif, York’s vice-president research and innovation. “We look forward to continuing our long history of partnership with the Black Creek Community Health Centre in providing increased access to education and opportunities for members of the Black Creek community – and creating a fairer, more equitable and more prosperous city.”

About the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP)

  • The Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, post-secondary or other accredited educational institutions and financial institutions.
  • Canada’s Regional Development Agencies deliver the BEP’s National Ecosystem Fund, and work with selected partner organizations to assist them in implementing their services.
  • The Black Entrepreneurship Program is an over $400-million investment including:
    • up to $53 million for the National Ecosystem Fund to support Black-led business organizations across the country. It will help Black business owners and entrepreneurs access funding and capital and provide them with mentorship, financial planning services and business training. An additional $51.7 million for the BEP was provided in Budget 2021.
    • up to $291.3 million in support through the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, which will provide loans of up to $250,000 for Black business owners and entrepreneurs.
    • Up to $6.5 million for the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which will conduct qualitative and quantitative research and collect data on the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada and help identify Black entrepreneurs’ barriers to success as well as opportunities for growth.
  • Canada’s regional development agencies are on the ground helping businesses weather the effects of the pandemic. With the measures recently proposed in Budget 2021, FedDev Ontario continues to be a trusted partner to deliver targeted support in Southern Ontario

Fighting pollution with nature’s tools and faith in interdisciplinary solutions: Professor Satinder Kaur Brar

York University Professor Satinder Kaur Brar has been passionate about chemistry since her first exposure to the subject during her high school days in India, but it wasn’t until her master’s studies at the National Chemistry Lab in Pune that she had an “A-ha” experience that significantly altered her career path.

While earning her master’s in organic chemistry, Brar was doing research in synthetic organic chemistry and was being co-supervised by a senior PhD supervising on reducing side reactions.

“The work involved used a lot of solvent. We recovered it and used 80 per cent of it for two cycles, but then it was down the drain. I asked about the volume in litres of these carcinogenic solvents that we were discarding and the co-supervising PhD had never done the calculations – there was no consideration for the environment,” said Brar, the new James and Joanne Love Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York.

“Up to that point, I had planned to do a PhD in organic chemistry, but I decided that I didn’t want to go into a field where I was contributing to contaminating the environment.”

Satinder Kaur Brar
Satinder Kaur Brar

Instead, Brar decided to do an MSc in environmental engineering “to see how I could help solve these challenges.” She studied at the prestigious India Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai, where she was introduced to micro-organisms and “fell in love.” Her fascination with micro-organisms led to a position with the Government of India where she created a database of the contamination caused by testing explosives and explored phyto-remediation using microorganisms found in the roots of trees and plants.

While involved in this work, Brar found that much of the literature published originated from Defence Research and Development Canada in Valcartier, Que. Since she was planning to pursue a PhD, she decided to come to Canada to study. Brar travelled to Vancouver, B.C., to stay with cousins and apply to universities and chose to study in Quebec City, Que. based on the prominence of work by a research group there. She took a crash course in French before the semester began and journeyed east to earn a PhD in biochemical engineering and continue her work with micro-organisms.

After graduation, she began a post-doctoral fellowship at McGill University, but the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) soon tempted her to return to Quebec City as a faculty member. She remained there for 14 years until York lured her east to serve as the James and Joanne Love Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering.

“I was already a professor, so it was a good time to make a change,” Brar said.

She joined York in 2019, but with the challenge of moving her lab, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brar hasn’t yet spent much time on campus. She hopes that will change this fall as Ontario begins emerging from lockdown and she is excited to be in Toronto.

“Here, in Toronto, I have access to a large network of academics and industry,” Brar said. “There’s lots of action and dynamism, especially from an environmental perspective.”

Brar is especially eager for the interdisciplinary opportunities offered by being at such a large, comprehensive university as York.

“Environmental challenges are complex and need interdisciplinary action to make them work,” she said. “York provides the kind of environment where I can interact with social scientists, policy experts and marketing people and ensure that research is promoted to the end user.”

Brar is full of enthusiasm for her research and teaching. She is currently immersed in the bioremediation of sites contaminated by petroleum, using enzymes to restore them to health.

“This is a biochemical solution for emergencies,” she said. “We’re using enzymes instead of micro-organisms, because micro-organisms need nutrition to do their job, while enzymes simply need to be formulated. They offer ease of application and are more effective.”

One of her graduate students has just discovered enzymes that are active at core temperatures, and they hope to journey to northern Canada to test them in harsh conditions. In addition, Brar is planning to teach an Introduction to Environmental Engineering course at York’s Las Nubes Eco Campus in Costa Rica next summer, where she hopes to get students involved in some field experiments related to composting, residues management and pineapple cultivation agro-residues value-addition.

Brar says that for students, choosing an institution that will promote their interests and their curiosity is essential.

She also encourages students to be well-rounded, looking beyond their narrow field of specialty to get a broader picture of the world.

“Liberal arts should be part of engineering,” she said. “You can’t be creative just by studying engineering. You need to take courses outside, and a university like York has such breadth, it should be possible.

“It’s important for faculty members, too. Our vice-president of innovation has launched an interdisciplinary cluster network to promote collaboration between faculties. We have all these faculties with excellent researchers and we need to stimulate collaboration, because it’s important. It’s the future. As a force, together we can make an impact.”

Brar has already put her words into action. In June 2021, she was a recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s coveted CREATE (Collaborative Research and Training Experience) award. Her proposal, which also included colleagues from the Faculty of Science, received over $1.6 million to collaborate with industry and communities to convert organic waste into products that are more valuable, reduce our carbon footprint and create a circular bioeconomy. One of the goals of this proposal is also to train a future-ready workforce, be they undergraduates or post-doctoral Fellows.

“Brar is representative of the top global talent working on impactful global solutions York continues to attract,” said Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “Her bioremediation research work to recover sites contaminated by petroleum is an example of York’s commitment to environmental sustainability, in particular, the UN Climate Action Sustainable Development Goal.”

She is also well respected at the Lassonde School of Engineering.

“A dedicated research leader in environmental engineering, Brar inspires a deep commitment to environmental stewardship in graduates and colleagues through her important contributions to interdisciplinary teaching and research in sustainable development for climate change adaptation and mitigation,” said Professor John E. Moores, Lassonde’s associate dean, Research and Graduate Studies.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

Faculty members are invited to share information about global engagement activities – education/learning, research or service – with Skandha Sunderasen at York International,