Dahdaleh Institute awards annual seed grants


Following its fourth annual Workshop on Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research, York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research awarded five researchers $5,000 seed grants to further develop grant proposals and research programs to carry out critical global health research.

All winners of the grants this year embody the critical social science perspectives in global health research that is representative of Dahdaleh’s three research themes: planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, as well as global health foresighting.

The recipients – largely representing the School of Global Health – and their projects are:

Syed Imran Ali, research Fellow in global health and humanitarianism, and Stephanie Gora, assistant professor in civil engineering, will explore community-based participatory water quality monitoring for safe water optimization in the Canadian North.

Chloe Clifford Astbury, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Global Health, will pursue mining, health and environmental change by using systems mapping to understand relationships in complex systems.

Godfred Boateng, assistant professor, director of the Global and Environmental Health Lab, and faculty Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute, is studying Black anxiety with an exploratory and intervention look at Black families with children in and out of the criminal justice system in Canada.

Ahmad Firas Khalid, faculty Fellow in the Faculty of Health, will use experiential simulation-based learning to increase students’ ability to analyze increasingly complex global health challenges through a mixed methods study.

Gerson Luiz Scheidweiler Ferreira, a postdoctoral Fellow at Dahdaleh will examine how to break barriers to sexual and reproductive health by empowering Venezuelan refugee women in Brazil’s resettlement process.

2023 Critical Perspectives in Global Health Research banner

In keeping with the overall mission of Dahdaleh’s Critical Perspectives in Global Health’s (CPGH), these projects will seek to create greater effectiveness, equity and excellence in global health. The recipients of the seed grant share that in common with many of the projects presented at the Global Health Research Workshop earlier this year, which highlighted research looking at a broad range of issues.

Those included:

  • medical waste management practices in Accra, Ghana since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, presented by Jeffrey Squire, faculty member in the Department of Social Science;
  • the role of social media and how negative sentiments or misinformation contributes to vaccine hesitancy, presented by Blessing Ogbuokiri, postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics;
  • health-care inequity in post-slavery societies with a specific focus on Quilombolas populations, presented by Simone Bohn, associate professor in Department of Politics;
  • misoprostol and its use in providing reproductive health care during humanitarian emergencies, presented by Maggie MacDonald, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Anthropology; and
  • Indigenous Williche peoples acts of ecological repair and how it contributes to planetary health in the past, present and future, presented by Pablo Aránguiz, associate researcher with Young Lives Research Lab at York.

Watch a full recording of the workshop here.

For more information about CPGH, visit its project page.

York takes academic leadership role at Congress 2023 

Female conference lecture teacher professor

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, editor, YFile

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

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

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

Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis

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

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

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

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

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

York programming at Congress 2023 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find more information about open programming events at Congress here: https://www.federationhss.ca/en/congress2023/york-programming.  

Artist-researchers present exhibit on research harassment during Congress

Joan and Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts

Sarah Hancock, an artist-researcher and undergraduate student at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD), is using data to bring awareness to the harassment experienced by scholars when sharing their work in online spaces. Her work is part of an exhibit running through Congress 2023.

When conceiving her artistic vision, Hancock was inspired by a York University Libraries-led co-curricular workshop she attended that was part of a series on data literacy, research computing, digital methods, research skills and media creation.

Taught by librarians Alexandra Wong and Priscilla Carmini, the workshop “Crochet Your Way to Data Fundamentals,” combined maker and data literacies through experiential learning. With crocheting, it brought data to life through the act of data physicalization, aiming to help students explore, understand and communicate data using physical representations while introducing participants to a research creation modality.

The goal was to not only teach students to crochet and create a physical item visualizing temperature data change in Toronto, but to also purposely foster diversity and inclusivity, and build confidence to engage with data. Student participants interacted with local temperature data, reflected, and chose how the use of different yarn colours could best encode the data to communicate data creatively. The workshop offers an introduction to the Maker Literacy programming that will extend to Markham Campus Library’s Data Visualization, Makerspace, Media Creation and Extended Reality (XR) and Gaming spaces.

Using this data visualization skill, a team of researchers has collected stories from graduate students, known as “storytellers,” on their experiences facing harassment due to their research. The team and resulting exhibit, both titled “Bearing Witness: Hate, Harassment and Online Public Scholarship,” are led by Alex Borkowski and Marion Grant, both PhD candidates in the Department of Communication and Culture in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, supported by Associate Professor Natalie Coulter, director, Institute for Research on Digital Literacies. The project will be displayed as part of a larger exhibit during Congress 2023.

Exhibit by Sarah Hancock on research harassment
Exhibit by Sarah Hancock on research harassment

The exhibit invites three artist-researchers to interpret the interviews and create artistic pieces that allow viewers to experience first-hand research harassment. It is part of an ongoing effort by the Bearing Witness team to establish a research community focused on addressing scholar harassment by providing a safe space for students to voice their experiences, and to highlight the need for institutional change and support.

“My installation is meant to be a space of confrontation. I wanted to highlight the ambiguity of the media’s usefulness in our society,” says Hancock.

She explains that she views data physicalization as a bridge between data and comprehension.

“The first reason I decided to use data physicalization is that I wanted a relevant medium and an art form that could highlight their identity as a researcher, yet humanize their work,” says Hancock.

Wong and Carmini led a consultation with Hancock to discover and understand the existing data for online researcher harassment. Although the topic is under-researched, the Libraries were able to support Hancock in finding an academic survey with data the artist could isolate to compare the victimization of researchers with a monthly online presence versus researchers without a monthly online presence.

“I settled on this data because it demonstrates how removing one’s online presence is not a solution, it promotes erasure and demonstrates that online harassment is independent of the researcher’s online usage,” says Hancock.

Leveraging the expertise of Wong and Carmini, Hancock chose to create her data physicalization as two stacks of cease-and-desist letters to represent the victimization of researchers with and without an online presence. Blending mediums, Hancock crafted a physical “online troll” with a QR code linking to a video simulating the threat of online harassment.

“We are really excited that a small spark of inspiration from our data physicalization workshop could snowball into an ongoing discussion on data and research skills, and finally to being part of an exhibit bringing light to an important topic like researcher harassment,” says Wong. “It really shows the potential of creative teaching pedagogies and the strengths of the Libraries’ support throughout the research lifecycle. Through our participatory workshop, we were able engage Sarah to see data in a new light, which led her to her art exhibit project where we could help her to continue to build her research skills; it was very rewarding to assist Sarah’s learning to critically read academic articles, understand how to read complex statistical analyses to retrieve the data she desired, and then to transform that data into a physicalization.”

Borkowski says the current guidance when encountering harassment online is insufficient.

“Researchers are told to respond to harassment by making themselves smaller, like to use a pseudonym, or to not share on Twitter, which is very detrimental, because so much about being a graduate student is about building a public profile and building a network. It also has the result of limiting what research is allowed to take place, which perspectives are silenced, and which are permitted to be shared. We’re really trying to highlight the stakes of the issue, not only for individuals, but for academia more broadly,” says Borkowski.

The Bearing Witness exhibit will be on display from May 27 to June 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the Special Projects Gallery in the main lobby of the Joan and Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts at York University (86 Fine Arts Rd., North York).

More information for this project, exhibit and related Congress panels can be found here.

For more information on York University Library workshops, visit https://yorku.libcal.com/calendar/libraryworkshops/. To learn more about the data physicalization workshop, visit https://yorku.libcal.com/event/3706464.

C4 team receives teaching innovation award

Award stock image banner from pexels

Members of York University’s Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) team were awarded the 2023 D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), which recognizes post-secondary collaborative teams for their innovative approaches to promoting student-centered teaching and learning.

C4, launched in 2019, enables students to work on real-world challenges with social impact, promoting team-based collaboration, advanced research and design, critical and strategic thinking, and more.

The award was bestowed on those associated with C4’s innovative approach to pan-university interdisciplinary experiential education, including:

  • Danielle Robinson, co-founder and academic co-lead of C4, as well as associate professor in the Department of Dance;
  • Franz Newland, co-founder and co-lead of C4, as well as associate professor of Space Engineering;
  • Rachelle Campigotto, classroom coordinator assistant for C4 and contract faculty in the Faculty of Education;
  • Dana Craig, Libraries liaison for C4 and director of student learning and academic success in the Libraries;
  • Danielle Dobney, team culture strategist of C4 and assistant professor in Kinesiology and the Athletic Therapy Certificate program;
  • Andrea Kalmin, curriculum lead, classroom coordinator for C4 and adjunct faculty in the Department of Social Science;
  • Alice Kim, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) research lead for C4 and interim assistant program head for Psychology at the University of Guelph-Humber; and
  • Natasha May, Teaching Commons liaison for C4 and educational developer in York’s Teaching Commons.

The D2L Innovation Award is an international recognition, open to applicants from all countries. It evaluates and rewards innovations in pedagogical approaches, teaching methods, course design, curriculum development, assessment methods, and more. It is named after D2L, a cloud-based learning analytics platform.

Award recipients are invited to a retreat held the day of the pre-conference at STLHE’s Annual Conference. This retreat includes a facilitated session, lunch, and a social and learning excursion focused on innovation. At the conference they will be recognized at the Conference Awards Ceremony and receive a certificate in recognition of their work.

Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living: Building a better future with Eric Kennedy

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

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

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

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

Part one features Associate Professor Eric Kennedy.
Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is an associate professor in York University’s Disaster & Emergency Management program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). His research focuses on how to: improve decision-making in emergency contexts; enhance disaster training; create better policies for preventing and responding to emergencies; and improving research and evaluation methods in disaster contexts.

Kennedy runs the CEMPPR Lab (Collaboration on Emergency Management, Policy, and Preparedness Research), and is associate director of Y-EMERGE (York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response and Governance Institute). He teaches classes on qualitative methods (including surveys, interviews and research design), science policy and science and society. Kennedy organizes and teaches an annual eight-day bootcamp for graduate students from across Canada (called Science Outside the Lab), which runs in Ottawa and Montréal each May.

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

A: We’re living in an era of dramatic environmental change and social fragmentation. We have significant opportunities to build a better world – one where everyone has access to abundant opportunity, health, travel, community, energy and happiness. But, we’re also reminded of the vulnerability of many of the things we hold dear: a healthy environment, a solidaristic society and trusted institutions. 

I think sustainability means facing these challenges head on. It means playing our part in building systems, infrastructures and communities that advance priorities of equity; creating a society that cares for faraway neighbours and future generations. It means finding ways to create equitable abundance and opportunity for all, human and non-human alike. It means preparing for the ways that our actions might come back to haunt us, whether in cataclysmic wildfires or zoonotic spillovers. And, it means seeing the big picture and fighting for collective, pro-social responses. 

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

Eric Kennedy in front of a small controlled fire
Eric Kennedy

A: At its core, my lecture is about the difference between a hazard and a disaster. In the case of wildfires, which is a topic I spend a great deal of time working on, a hazard might be the “fuel” (trees, shrubs, debris, homes and other flammable materials) located in a forest. This is the potential for a forest fire. But, in many ecosystems, fires are natural and good. It’s only when they adversely affect the things we care about – a community or air quality, for example – that they become a “disaster.” And, disasters are amplified or mitigated by the choices we make as people: whether we invest in preparedness, whether we build for resilience, and whether we respond with compassion. 

As you watch these lectures, consider these human interconnections. It’s easy to think about “nature” or “the environment” as something out there, detached from us. But, humans and the environment are inseparable and deeply interconnected. There’s no cleanly drawn line between the two. Instead, we must learn to love this inexorable connection, and find ways to love and care for each other and this world. 

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

A: Disasters provide a powerful window for revealing and amplifying inequalities. We’ve seen this in COVID: by and large, those with economic and social privilege had much more opportunity to protect themselves, shelter from exposure, and even benefit from the pandemic. Even in here in Toronto, the location of vaccine clinics and the ease of getting tested wasn’t equitably available, nor has it been equally easy for folks to access the best treatments and protective tools. Those of us with privilege were often more able to work from home – and even continue those arrangements in hybrid ways to this day. And, these effects are only amplified when you look at the benefits that have accrued to the richest of the rich. 

In other words, disasters often both show us how inequitable society and opportunity is… and often make those differences and outcomes even worse. The bidirectionality of these impacts is true of sustainability more generally too: it’s often elements of privilege that afford the ability to both protect oneself against adverse environmental impacts, as well as contribute to environmental protection. To understand and address disasters and sustainability means grappling with inequity in all we do. 

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

A: I’ve always tried to live out my personal sustainability values in my work life, such as in choosing to commute only by public transit or cycling from downtown. Another huge decision for sustainability has been living in an urban environment, which allows us to walk, cycle and use public transit for the vast majority of our mobility. (This is also a great example of the connections between inequalities, privilege, and sustainability – we need to make it far easier for everybody to have the opportunity to live in walkable, non-car-dependent communities, not only the most privileged.) 

That said, I also try to use my roles at York to focus on the collective and systematic. It is the systems-level changes that we make that will allow us to live sustainably: creating opportunities for people to choose more environmentally friendly modes of transportation or ways of living, for example. Focusing on individual, consumeristic changes can often obscure the much more critical system-level questions.

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

A: Disasters are exceptional illustrations of why the individualization of responsibility is so problematic. Downloading responsibility to individuals is a common part of the consumeristic, neoliberal logics that pervade our modern life, but it’s a path to failure in disasters and sustainability alike.

COVID is a great example of this, of course: We know that individual behaviours, like wearing a mask, can be incredibly effective at protecting ourselves and others. We know that more people died of COVID in 2022 than either 2021 or 2020. And, we’ve learned more than ever about COVID’s long-term impacts on brains, lungs, hearts and immune systems, just to name a few.

But, you now see far fewer people wearing masks than in years before. And, it makes sense: we want to eat and drink indoors; we don’t think they’re super fashionable; they can feel stuffy and uncomfortable; and peer pressure can be a powerful beast. Trying to solve a collective problem through individualistic action is not just an uphill battle, but it also amplifies inequality (who can afford masks?) and can be borderline impossible (we want to share food and drink in close quarters). 

Instead, we need to reorient our problem-solving efforts. For example, how do we need to reengineer our spaces to allow us to safely eat at a common table without sharing our viruses? How do we need to change building codes to spaces safe for all? In other words, instead of downloading the problem to individuals, how do we need to come up with systemic solutions? 

Same goes with other topics in sustainability. For example, we want people to travel in environmentally friendly ways… but that requires infrastructure improvements like high-speed electrified rail, not just better personal choices.

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

A: I think most universities are helping us learn about human and environmental systems, create more sustainable technologies and sensitizing students to the importance of these challenges. But, I think York is especially well-positioned in contributing to the human and social dimensions of these challenges: developing the political dimensions, equality and justice, and collectivist and systemic responses. And, it’s home to some exceptional interdisciplinary collaborations, such as an exceptional program in Science and Technology Studies, which helps us avoid greenwashing and be more thoughtful in our development and adoption of technologies. Likewise, the new Y-EMERGE institute is home to interdisciplinary thinking that brings together social, legal, environmental, engineering and scientific dimensions of emergency management. 

And, I hope York can keep up its ongoing commitment to building more sustainable systems for our community, too, by making it easier for all of us to commute, travel, and live in sustainable ways. We’re well-positioned to keep contributing to these systems, innovations and transformations.

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

Risk and Insurance Studies Centre receives $11M grant

Wildfire in the forest

Contributed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance (NSERC), the funding will go towards developing better ways of managing risk and protecting Canadians from increasing threats, such as pandemics, climate catastrophes and financial crises.

Professor Edward Furman of the Faculty of Science at York University leads the team at the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC) that will use the grant over five years for a new program called New Order of Risk Management (NORM): Theory and Applications in the Era of Systemic Risk. NORM looks to address an acute need for a fundamental transformation in how people think about and manage that risk. 

Edward Furman

“Risk management is key to promoting economic growth and improving welfare in Canada and in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries by taming conventional risks, but it has not had the desired results in today’s increasingly interconnected world. In fact, some call it a failure,” says Furman. “We hope to lead a paradigm shift around what constitutes best practices and regulation for systemic risk, one that has a broader view of what risk entails and that encompasses the complexity of its systemic nature.” 

Given recent socioeconomic, demographic, technological and environmental changes, the researchers say change is overdue. 

Systemic risks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global financial crisis which started in 2007, often spill across socioeconomic boundaries, disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations and magnifying social inequities. The pandemic has already driven Canada’s annual deficit to $348 billion and its national debt is on target to hit $1.2 trillion, while the global financial crisis resulted in a severe recession with sharp declines in national gross domestic product. 

Climate change is creating multiple systemic risks as sea levels rise, wildfire season becomes longer with a greater potential for catastrophic fires and extreme weather events increase, such as flash flooding and storm surges, which can result in widespread devastation to coastal and inland communities in Canada and globally.  

A better understanding of systemic risk is needed, says the NORM team, which includes York Professors Jingyi Cao of the Faculty of Science, Ida Ferrara of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Dirk Matten of the Schulich School of Business and Shayna Rosenbaum of the Faculty of Health, as well as professors from University of British, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University. 

With their industrial collaborators, the NORM team will develop novel theories, operational tools and regulatory mechanisms to address the increasing systemic nature of risks, while also accounting for unequal susceptibility to systemic risk, pursuing equity and building resilience.  

“NORM’s impacts mean not only an academic breakthrough in how we conceptualize systemic risk, but also fundamental transformations in how we manage and govern this new type of risk more effectively through strategies that reflect and consider equity and vulnerability,” says Furman.

Systemic risk is a global threat. NORM brings exceptional depth and breadth of relevant scholarly expertise from actuarial mathematics, business, economics, psychology and statistics together with industry collaborators, including Sun Life Financial, Canada Life, CANNEX Financial Exchanges, Aviva Canada and Wawanesa Insurance, to tackles the issues. 

Learn more at News @ York.

York students earn prestigious titles at debut pan-Canadian Model European Union

York University Department of Politics students at the first official pan-Canadian model EU.

Seven York University students were among the nearly 100 participants from 13 universities across Canada to compete at the first-ever officially sanctioned model European Union (EU) in Ottawa from May 5 to 7.

The two-day policy negotiation simulation invited undergraduate students from across the country with an interest in international and translatlantic relations.

Department of Politics Associate Professor Heather MacRae nominated students from both the Keele and Glendon campuses for the simulation. Travelling with MacRae to Carlton University, which hosted the event, were Karmen Galamb, Lily Tureski, Colin Maitland, Phoung Tran-Vo, David Miranda, Anna Huusko and Juliette Castillo Martinez – many of whom recently completed the Debates in Contemporary European Union Politics (AP/GLBL 4517) senior undergraduate course, or other similar politics courses.

Throughout the simulation, students were tasked with emulating the proceedings of a meeting of the European Council – which convenes four times per year in Belgium with its 27 member states – as it discussed the terms of a proposed EU arctic policy. That arctic policy would outline the approach that the EU would take to matters of economics, defence and international cooperation in the arctic throughout the next decade and onward.

The Debates in Contemporary European Union Politics course is similarly structured to familiarize students with the various proceedings of EU institutions through smaller classroom simulations. This semester, the course challenged students to deliberate the merits of a hypothetical European army. For MacRae and her students, the model EU in Ottawa served as the perfect experiential learning opportunity, providing a testing ground to demonstrate the skills that had been honed through their coursework at York.

“[Contemporary European Union Politics] is designed to help students to better understand the way supranational organizations work and the need for compromise in negotiations,” MacRae says. “Students develop a variety of professional skills – often without really realizing it – such as public speaking, collaboration, networking, consensus building and active listening, while also building research skills and knowledge about the European Union, its institutions and some of the major issues facing the EU and Europe more broadly.”

Speaking to the efficacy of the Department of Politics’ curricula, each of the seven York students performed throughout the event, with Huusko and Galamb – who comprised Team Finland – earning the title of “most likely to work in the EU,” one of only six titles bestowed to competitors throughout the simulation.

Students, professors and EU delegates mix and mingle at the pan-Canadian model EU reception.
Students, professors and EU delegates mix and mingle at the pan-Canadian model EU reception.

“I’m very pleased with my decision to attend the conference and if another opportunity arose I would gladly attend again,” says Huusko. “The whole weekend was well organized and everything went according to plan. The opening ceremony was so inspiring and, throughout the event in general, the opportunities for networking were invaluable.”

“My favourite part of the conference was definitely the networking aspect. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, both students and professionals, who I’ve learned a lot from,” Galamb adds.

Serving as breaks in the simulated negotiations, several receptions and communal meals gave participants the chance to mingle with their peers, as well as meet with their real-world EU delegate counterparts and other European ambassadors in attendance. Opening remarks were delivered by Ambassador of the European Union in Canada Melita Gabric, while representatives from the German, Greek and Slovenian embassies offered encouragement and guidance to the students and professors.

“It was fantastic to see so many like-minded students working together to solve intricate policy challenges,” says Maitland. “The levels of professionalism on display were profound and the experience was something I’ll never forget. I would definitely participate in this challenge all over again if the chance arises.“

“For me, it was a fabulous experience to see our students putting their skills to use outside the classroom setting. Seeing students confidently engaging in in-depth conversations with diplomats about the country’s position on various current events is extremely rewarding for me as an educator,” MacRae adds.

The broad success of the event is also an achievement for MacRae on a personal level, considering that in years prior she had taken her students to EU-sponsored events in the U.S., and was instrumental in rallying support a similar, official event to come to Canada.

“In the past I have taken students to model EUs in the U.S., but this year we were able to arrange a Canada-specific event,” she says. “It will hopefully be the first of many.”

Study shows high inflation causes stress, health inequalities


A York University-led study found that high inflation rates are leading to more stress among certain sociodemographic groups and exacerbating inequalities in health across the United States.

The study, “Assessment of sociodemographics and inflation-related stress in the US,” was published in the American Medical Association’s open access journal JAMA Network Open.

Cary Wu, professor of sociology at York University
Cary Wu

Led by Assistant Professor Cary Wu of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the study illustrates how high inflation has become a significant source of stress according to the study by analyzing data from the 369,328 respondents who took part in a U.S. study called the Household Pulse Survey. Among participants, 93 per cent reported an increase in prices for goods and services in their area; 47 per cent of them said the rise in prices was very stressful, 28 per cent felt moderately stressed, while 19 per cent reported feeling a little stress.

Inflation stress, however, affects various segments of the population differently. “Inflation does not affect everyone equally and can have a greater impact on people depending on their gender, race, age, marital status, education and income,” says Wu.

Analyzing the demographics of the respondents, the study found inflation is a significant source of stress for women, much more so than men, as well as those who are socioeconomically more vulnerable. Black and Hispanic people reported higher inflation stress than white people, while Asians reported lower inflation stress.

Education and income also play a role with higher levels of both being associated with lower inflation stress. Some 66 per cent of those who reported less than $25,000 in household income felt stressed, while only 17 per cent of those with a household income more than $200,000 reported feeling stress about high inflation.

After adjusting socio-economic status, the difference in stress disappeared between Blacks and whites, but Asians showed slightly higher inflation stress.

Previously married individuals who are now widowed, divorced or separated had higher levels of inflation stress than married couples. It was also found to be higher for middle-aged groups compared to those older or younger.

The demographic breakdown of respondents was 62 per cent white, 11 per cent Black, five per cent Asian and 17 per cent were Hispanic, while 51 per cent were women and 31 per cent had post-secondary education.

Although this study looked at the effects of high inflation in the U.S., research by Wu on Canadians has found similar patterns, making its impact – and the need to address the health challenges of high inflation – an important concern. “There is a need for more research and better policies to help protect against the health disparities caused by high-inflation stress that affects certain segments of the population more than others,” says Wu.

Learn more at News @ York.

Greek Canadian Studies Conference to explore diversity

An image of a man's hands holding a card that says "Join us!"

The York University Hellenic Heritage Foundation (HHF) Chair of Modern Greek History and the HHF Greek Canadian Archives at York University will host the second Greek Canadian Studies Conference, May 11 and 12, when it explores the theme “Diversity in Greekness.”

Participants will discuss how Greekness has been conceptualized and enacted in the modern era, and the conference offers artists, academics and other Greek Canadians a platform to share fresh insights into what it has meant to be Greek in Canada historically, and what it means today.

Featuring experts and academics, both local and international, the two-day event will feature several presentations, a keynote address and a walking tour to cap off the conference.

The keynote panel will discuss “Toward a Global Greek Migration History” on May 11 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and will feature three speakers:

  • Chris Grafos and Vasilis (Bill) Molos, York University – The History and Future of a Subfield: Greek Canadian Studies in 2023
  • Andonis Piperoglou, University of Melbourne – Toward a Global History of Greek Diasporizations: Reflections and Pathways from Australia
  • Yiorgos Anagnostou, The Ohio State University – Diasporas as Action: Intersecting Projects in Global Greek Diaspora Studies

On May 12, guests will be invited to three presentations covering the following topics:

  • Diasporas as Action: Intersecting Projects in Global Greek Diaspora Studies
  • Whose Community History?
  • Transnational Turns, Transnational Methodologies

Those participating in the May 12 presenattions from York University include: Themistoklis Aravossitas, Theo Xenophontos, Angelo Laskaris, Georgia Koumantaros, Athanasios (Sakis) Gekas, Alexander Balasis, Othon Alexandrakis, Effrosyni Rantou.

The conference concludes on May 12 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with the HHF Historical Walk of the 1918 Anti-Greek Riots, where participants and guests will be guided on a “Greektown on the Danforth” walking tour to explore Greektown from its foundations in faith and family to the evolution of today’s businesses and restaurants.

For more details and full abstracts, visit the event website.

Congress 2023 screens Indigenous-focused films

film camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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