York University’s Keele Campus welcomed more than 10,000 guests and over 400 volunteers from May 27 to June 2, when the University hosted Congress 2023 in partnership with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The seven-day event – Canada’s largest academic gathering – invited scholars, graduate students, policymakers and community members to identify and discuss the decisions we need to take today to build a better world for all, as part of conference’s theme “Reckonings and Re-imaginings.”
The theme was implemented as a guide for knowledge sharing during the hundreds of events taking place at the Keele Campus, including presentations, panels, workshops, art exhibits, community activities and more.
“My desire over the many months of planning was to create a culture shift at Congress 2023 – to create a space where Indigenous and Black knowledges, and community and artistic practice, could enter and transform the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences and impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in a way that was tangible and real, beyond the written word,” says Professor Andrea Davis, Congress 2023 academic convenor.
“I truly believe that we accomplished that, and I am deeply grateful to the many York community members who walked with me on this journey and executed this vision with passion. None of this would be possible without the unparalleled, team-centred leadership of Congress Director, Liz McMahan, and my fearless colleagues on the scholarly planning committee who guided and contributed to every aspect of the vision of Congress 2023 from the planning of Indigenous initiatives, to the centering of art, and the building of community relations. I am indebted to them, and to all our staff teams and volunteers. I have such an increased understanding and appreciation of the work they do quietly every day to make the University function. I am truly grateful to have been able to lead this partnership of ideas.”
York’s team of dedicated staff, faculty and volunteers were pivotal to the success of conference, which included more than 250 faculty and scholars from York presenting their research to Congress participants affiliated with 67 academic associations.
“I am deeply grateful to the nearly 900 staff and over 400 volunteers who made Congress 2023 a reality. Hosting an event of this magnitude on our campuses required a tremendous amount of collaboration and creativity. The community really came together to provide all of the services and support that were needed that made for an exceptional experience for attendees,” says McMahan.
See more stories about Congress here. To view images captured during Congress, go here. For a video with highlights from the week, see below.
Lassonde receives $250,000 bursary from Kenaidan Contracting
The Dr. Istvan Fogarasi Kenaidan Contracting Bursary will go towards supporting undergraduate students enrolled in the Civil Engineering program at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering.
“There are two main reasons that we are providing this additional bursary to Lassonde students,” says Aidan Flatley, president and CEO of Kenaidan. “For one, it’s in memory of Dr. Istvan Fogarasi, who started the engineering department at Kenaidan and was a great mentor to our younger engineers. Second, to provide financial support to a Lassonde student that will allow them to concentrate on their studies instead of their monetary needs. The Lassonde School of Engineering has been a great source of co-op students and graduate engineering candidates for Team Kenaidan.”
“It’s incredible to see this show of support from Kenaidan for our students,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of Lassonde. “Partnerships like this are so valuable for our School and help our students excel. We are so grateful to the Kenaidan team for their generous contribution and look forward to continuing working together to create positive change.”
The bursary is a top-up and amendment to a previous University award that Kenaidan had, making it exclusive to Lassonde students. Kenaidan has been a valued partner for Lassonde for some time. It’s supported Lassonde’s Civil Engineering Industry Night for the past eight years, and since 2016 has offered co-op opportunities to students, bringing on 10 since then.
“Throughout my time in the civil engineering program at Lassonde, I was exposed to innovative learning opportunities paired with a series of challenges that prepared me for a successful start to my career at Kenaidan,” says Julia Ferlisi, project engineer at Kenaidan and Lassonde alumna. “I’ve been able to apply the technical knowledge and soft skills I developed throughout the program on a day-to-day basis with various stakeholders, from subcontractors to owner and consultant levels. Kenaidan develops its employees, particularly new graduates, to adopt the positive company culture and presents them with opportunities that challenge them to grow professionally. Seeing Kenaidan give back to the institute that got me to where I am today reassures me that students at Lassonde will see the value in the contractor side of the industry and ignite a passion for this work in the early stages of their professional development.”
The bursary will be available to all Lassonde students in the Civil Engineering program starting Fall 2023. Recipients must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons, residents of Ontario, and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be to provide 50 per cent of the awards in any year to a female-identifying student.
Learn more about York’s Community Engagement Community of Practice
C2U Expo is Community Based Research Canada’s international conference providing leadership and space for both academics and communities to showcase community-campus partnerships that address local and global societal problems.
York’s CE CoP welcomes anyone across its campuses who work with external communities in their scholarship, teaching or professional role, or anyone with an interest in community engagement. The CE CoP provides opportunities for members to interact with colleagues from across the University that: are involved in community engagement; support capacity building and skill development for deeper engagement; facilitate peer learning; and create opportunities for collaboration.
Presenting at C2U Expo is an opportunity for York to showcase its leadership in this area and share how, within a large and decentralized university, a CoP can serve an important convening and coordination role to support members that incorporate community engagement into their work or are interested in learning more about it.
Those interested in learning more about this presentation at C2U Expo, or would like to engage with others that are involved in community engagement work at York, are invited to the next meeting, which will be held virtually on Tuesday, June 27 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The invitation link is enclosed here.
Congress 2023 mural reflects community, attendee artistry
By Elaine Smith
Congress 2023 attendees at York University are invited to take part in the creation of a community mural that addresses the conference theme, Reckonings and Re-Imaginings.
Throughout Congress 2023, two local artists and five student artists from Westview Centennial Secondary School in the nearby Jane-Finch neighbourhood will be painting this three-panel mural on the patio of York’s Second Student Centre. They will be on site daily to work on the mural and answer questions about the concept and process. Everyone is welcome to stop by and add some colour to their creation.
“This project was conceived as a way for Congress 2023 to mark a milestone in our commitment to supporting the communities in and around our campus,” said Joel Ong, a professor in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design and member of the Congress 2023 Scholarly Planning Committee. “This amplifies the work of initiatives like the Jane Finch Social Innovation Hub and the York U-TD Community Engagement Centre to provide opportunities for students and faculty to contribute to the relationship-building process between the University and its neighbours.”
Local artists Andre Lopez and Philip Saunders, and the students who are part of a specialized arts and culture group at Westview Centennial, are the main artistic team for the mural. It will depict Canada and the diverse faces that have contributed to our country. Attendees are invited to stop by en route to their meetings to see the mural develop over the week.
“The students involved in this project have vision and creativity, but haven’t had the opportunity to work on a big project before,” said Kayode Brown, who is driving the project. Brown is a graduate student in the Faculty of Education and founder of Just BGraphic, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to revolutionize arts education by challenging and decolonizing arts as they are currently taught in the educational system. “The group took the words Reckonings and Re-Imaginings and brainstormed about what it meant to them. The mural will draw on the history of different cultures who have contributed to Canada and emphasize those voices.
“The border will be wrapped in Indigenous words and imagery and the inside panels will depict natural features with diverse faces blended into them.”
Brown is working with Ong, and Ana Medeiros, head of the arts at Westview Centennial Secondary School, to bring the mural to fruition. Westview Centennial has just been named an arts school, and Brown sees the mural as “modelling a way to decolonize the arts.”
The artists and student artists will also work with Brown to create a 10-minute podcast that gives addition context. A QR code posted on site will give visitors audio access to their perspectives.
After Congress 2023 comes to a close, the finished mural – approximately 7 metres by 1 metre – will be installed on the ground floor of Ross Hall outside the offices of the Jane Finch Social Innovation Hub (N141) – a campus space where York students from the local community have access to study groups, tutoring, information workshops and trips – all services that help with navigating the academic, social and administrative elements of university life.
It will serve as a perfect reminder of York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) such as reduced inequality; sustainable cities and communities; and partnerships for the goals.
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.
York collaborates on international post-pandemic recovery research
A young woman dons a mask to protect against the novel coronavirus FEATURED image for York library story
York University Associate Professor Claudia Chaufan will collaborate with a group of interdisciplinary researchers to investigate post-pandemic recovery and best practices for future global emergencies with a grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF).
The $500,000 award was announced as part of the Government of Canada’s NFRF’s 2022 Special Calls stream, which aims to support emerging research as needed.
Chaufan, from the Faculty of Health, is a co-principal investigator on an interdisciplinary team of six researchers from across Canada, along with: Claus Rinner, Toronto Metropolitan University (principal investigator); and co-investigators Candice Chow, McMasters University; J. Christian Rangel, University of Ottawa; Elaine Wiersma, Lakehead University; and Wang, Yiwen, University of Toronto. The project is led by Toronto Metropolitan University.
The project’s team consists of researchers from across the globe, including co-applicant Andrea Valente of York’s Faculty of Education, as well as Canadian experts in governance, healthcare, law, media and communications, and international collaborators from Jamaica, Western Europe, Israel, Kenya and Uganda who specialize in behavioural sciences, economics, epidemiology and philosophy.
The research aims to examine the social and economic inequities amplified by COVID-19 on an international scale. Together, the researchers will look at how social cohesion and inclusivity can be strengthened through community engagement in decision-making with respect to future emergencies. They will also explore how governments can improve communication and build trust with communities.
According to the research team, this research contributes to achieving four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): UN SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing, by assessing to what extent a holistic view of public health informed the pandemic response; UN SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, by assessing the impact of pandemic responses on social and health equity; UN SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, by identifying vulnerable communities, even in high-income countries; and UN SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, by examining to what extent the policy development process was transparent and able to ensure inclusivity and accountability.
The team’s research methods will include case studies, critical document analysis, discourse analysis and visualization, as well as oral histories and creative work to investigate operational consideration of the social determinants of health and value-based governance.
The project’s findings will help inform future policy on disaster management.
“Our work addresses a need,” said Parekh, a York University associate professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Disability Studies in Education. “For a long time, social justice discourse in education has ignored ableism, but we argue that ableism intersects with many types of discrimination. For example, how we evaluate students’ capacity and organize students into ability-based placements and programs as well as who we assume will benefit from particular opportunities and/or interventions can be influenced by gender, racial, class and other forms of bias.
“Disability is also identity. Both the identity and experience of disability can be produced through social, rather than biological experiences. To understand disability solely through a medical lens is a very Western, and limited, approach. Part of our work is to identify how schools exclude on the basis of ability, the implications of those exclusions, and to advocate for practices that generate the best outcomes for students.”
In recognizing the need for change and planning to effect a shift in attitude, Parekh gathered a team of 10 scholars and practitioners with expertise on equity and human rights and special education from four institutions to create the guide. Her fellow creators are York colleagues Carl James and Angelique Gordon; Kathryn Underwood and Nicole Ineese-Nash from Toronto Metropolitan University; Luke Reid from the University of Toronto; and David Cameron, Alison Gaymes San Vicente, Karen Murray and Jason To from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).
“The data show systemic issues, not only in terms of which students are overrepresented in special education identifications and placements, but also in regards to students’ future trajectories through school,” said Parekh. “When you’re in a position of power, you need to think carefully and critically about how and why you make certain decisions and how those decisions influence students’ opportunities. Are there alternatives to explore? We’ve laid out a great case for why critical reflective practice is important.”
Gaymes-San Vicente, a superintendent with TDSB, said, “We are all aligned in the belief that some aspects of the education system need to change to give everyone a fair chance. There are systemic structures and ableist beliefs we need to challenge in order to create a space where everyone can achieve.”
Murray, a TDSB system superintendent for equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression, added, “Research has shone the light on issues tied to ability that have become normalized and we need to start thinking about how and why we act in specific ways. We need to shine the light on these serious issues.”
The guide, which is available in both English and French, has chapters devoted to context, such as discussions of ableism and disability as an intersectional experience and a look at human rights in special education. It then moves on to address critically reflective practice; culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy; and racism and bias in education. It closes with ideas about what school districts can do to make improvements.
Since its release in 2022, the authors continue to disseminate it to audiences who could benefit.
“It is reflective of educational policy and practice in Ontario, but the broader themes can be applied nationwide,” Parekh said. “There are broader institutional pieces that can be used in any institutional context.”
The team has presented the document at various events and conferences. The individual members are all involved in consulting, advocacy and/or professional development and they continue to promote it to a variety of audiences.
“The timing is right,” Parekh said. “Across the province, school boards are heavily engaged in equity work and this is another complementary toolkit they can use.”
Murray noted, “I use this guide as a framework for conversations around bias. The guiding questions it poses can be used a framework for moving forward. As a tool, it allows you to see how to extend learning and understanding. There are foundational pieces here that can be used as anchors when you’re thinking about planning for your school, and it’s comprehensive in suggesting next steps for various stakeholders. There’s something there for all of us.”
Just as important, said Gaymes-San Vicente, “It’s user-friendly, can be powerful when the strategies and critical thinking are applied and shares complex ideas in a way that’s digestible. It has the potential to shift some of the existing dominant narratives, which must shift if we really honour education for all children. Finally, of significance, it asks educators to position themselves as learners in service of their students, rather than being content driven and teacher-centred.”
York community gathers to celebrate Connected Minds
York community members gathered on May 15 to celebrate Connected Minds, the largest York-led research program in the University’s history.
Attendees had the opportunity to enter an Indigenous metaverse in an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience, test their skills behind the wheel in a driving simulator, take in a VR art installation, jumble their senses in a tumbling room that can spin 360 degrees, interact with some of the latest robots used in University research, and more.
Click here to watch the full event recap on YouTube. To see photos from the event, view the gallery below.
Schulich ExecEd partnership brings innovative upskilling programs to Atlantic Canada
Schulich ExecEd has announced its new strategic partnership with 5D Corporate Teaching and Learning Centre (5D) based in Halifax, N.S., which will offer executive education programs in both leadership and management training, with the aim of providing practical solutions to combat labour force challenges in Atlantic Canada.
Halifax-based programs from Schulich ExecEd will connect local managers, senior leaders, human resource professionals and learning development professionals from various private, public-sector and non-governmental organizations, who look to implement strategies for employee retention, inspiring change in the workforce and building capacity from within their organizations. Executive education plays an important role in teaching working professionals, in a focused and accelerated format, how to effectively empower individuals and teams and create transformational leaders within their companies. This method of education aims to promote positive changes happening sooner and foster strategic foresight to avoid future roadblocks.
The Schulich ExecEd and 5D partnership will extend the reach of the tier-one business school into local provincial communities resulting in increased access to high-quality education; Schulich ExecEd Executive Director Rami Mayer attested to the importance of broadening the Schulich ExecEd scope.
“We are excited to partner with the 5D Corporate Teaching and Learning Centre to create a program that fosters the career journey of Atlantic Canadian leaders,” he said. “By creating opportunities to grow their skills, enhance their careers and enable them to contribute to their local community, we are confident that we will be able to elevate 5D even further.
“Schulich ExecEd has partnered with a myriad of communities across Canada to support local organizations and leaders by upskilling, reskilling and growing their business and leadership capabilities,” Mayer added. “These partnerships with local community organizations are vital in ensuring the relevance and success of these programs by providing insight into the unique needs of these communities as well as offering practical support before, during and after the formal program is completed. This ensures employees are retained locally and further contribute to the health, success and well-being of their communities, municipalities and ultimately, the province and country as a whole.”
Central to this partnership are programs which will be provided to participants in their home province of Nova Scotia, with in-person and hybrid options maximizing accessibility. All programs within this partnership will include additional support that will lead to sustainable changes in local organizations, such as action planning, leadership coaching sessions and sessions from local educators post-program to further participants’ knowledge while they work. The goal is to not only deliver education but to provide solution-based learning to solve real challenges.
As a registered non-profit with more than 23 years of experience in educating corporate leaders and managers in Atlantic Canada, 5D is uniquely positioned to facilitate Schulich ExecEd’s growth in the region. 5D CEO Nancy Thompson offered insight into the impact this partnership will make within the community.
“The 5D-Schulich ExecEd partnership is a powerful combination. 5D’s understanding of the complex real-world challenges that face organizations within Atlantic Canada brings a customized approach to the development of the educational content that will be delivered through this partnership. We believe through the collaborative efforts of 5D and Schulich ExecEd that a stellar leadership program has been created to serve the needs and priorities of the corporations in Atlantic Canada.”
Through this partnership, Schulich ExecEd strives to advance a commitment to expanding accessibility and helping organizations and businesses facing challenges which can be resolved through executive education, thereby building a strong and more resilient workforce with local and global reach.
The Schulich ExecEd-5D executive education program is currently scheduled to launch in Winter 2023. For more information on this program and others like it, see the Schulich ExecEd programs page.
Celebrate the launch of largest York-led research program on May 15
Celebrate Connected Minds, the largest York-led research program in the University’s history, and explore the world of artificial intelligence and disruptive technologies, at an official launch event and interactive showcase on Monday, May 15.
York community members are invited to attend and experience York research first-hand. Attendees will have the opportunity to enter an Indigenous metaverse in an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience, test their skills behind the wheel in a driving simulator, take in a VR art installation, jumble their senses in a tumbling room that can spin 360 degrees, interact with some of the latest robots used in University research, and more.
Connected Minds was officially announced as a recipient of the CFREF grant on April 28. It is the largest single federal grant ever awarded to York University. Join University officials, the research team and the program’s many partners, to mark this significant milestone for York research and the beginning of Connected Minds.
Date/time: Monday, May 15 at 1 p.m. Location: Sherman Health Science Research Centre, 281 Ian MacDonald Blvd., Keele Campus
York satellites headed to space
By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile
One CubeSat – a square-shaped satellite the size of a Rubik’s cube – created by York University students, and another with hardware supplied by students, will launch from the Kennedy Space Center and be placed in orbit by International Space Station astronauts.
Funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), since 2017 the Canadian CubeSat Project (CCP) has provided the opportunity for students to gain greater access and experiential learning to better prepare for careers in the aerospace industry by designing and building their own satellites.
“In the past, students who wanted to learn the design of space instruments and satellite technology never had the hands-on opportunity to build, launch and operate their own. Everything was on paper. This gives them opportunities,” explains Zheng Hong (George) Zhu, director of the Space Engineering Design Laboratory at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering.
Zhu led the team of students who created an entirely York-made satellite set to enter space this summer. The Educational Space Science and Engineering CubeSat Experiment (ESSENCE) is the first satellite to be designed and built mainly by undergraduate students across engineering programs at Lassonde. A previous York-made satellite was launched in 2020, but was designed, built, integrated and tested by graduate students led by Zhu.
The first payload is a high-resolution 360 degree by 187 degree fisheye camera which will be used to capture images of Canada’s Arctic Region from a height of 400 km to monitor the thawing of permafrost and Arctic ices. The camera can also capture images of stars and space debris. The team will collaborate with scientists at Defense Research and Development Canada to observe and monitor space debris with these images. The second payload is a proton detector, developed by the University of Sydney in Australia, which will collect data on energetic solar protons from solar storms in low Earth orbit, providing insights into the impact of climate change on Earth.
The ESSENCE was a collaborative effort between students, four co-investigators from Lassonde (Franz Newlands, Mike Daly, Andrew Maxwell and Alexsander Czekanski), as well as strategic partnerships with the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), which provided novel attitude control algorithms to point the camera in desired directions.
The second CubeSat to be launched into space this summer, thanks to York students, is also a product of an external partnership. However, while the ESSENCE was a York-led satellite relying on hardware from other institutions, a University of Manitoba-led CubeSat project draws on innovative hardware provided by Lassonde students.
Supervised by Regina Lee, professor of space engineering, a team of students was asked by the University of Manitoba CubeSat team – who named their satellite “IRIS” – to create a critical component to help realize the partner school’s CubeSat goal of consistently exposing geological samples to solar radiation in space and study the effects.
“Our job was to design the subsystem to go into their satellite that would figure out which direction it’s pointing in within space, and make sure it’s pointing to the sun,” explains Ryan Clark, who worked on the project, and is a former member of the Nanosatellite Research Laboratory at York.
“They set a general guideline for the hardware component development, and our contribution was the sun sensor, magnetorquers and then the board that contains the full Attitude Determination and Control System that fits on the CubeSat,” says Peter Keum, who was part of the team.
Lastly: “We were focused on testing, calibrating and – once we were done – shipping it off,” says Gabriel Chianelli, the remaining member of the team, who is part of the Nanosatellite Search Group at York.
The two CubeSats – the ESSENCE and IRIS – are now being readied for their space-bound journey, and both teams are preparing to see them launched this summer. Zhu and 20 of his students are planning to travel to the Kennedy Space Station Center to witness the launch, some of them from within a NASA VIP room that is only five kilometers away from the launch pad. Others, like Lee’s team, will eagerly be watching via YouTube livestreams.
For both professors behind the work on the two satellites, the launch will mark the fruition of a desire to see their students work on something that won’t just make it to space, but impact their futures. “My goal was to make sure that my students have hands-on experience so they can graduate and do well in their career,” Lee says. Zhu shares that sentiment. “I have a passionate love for space engineering, and I like my students to have the same life experience I do,” he says.
Projects like the ESSENCE might be the first satellite to be designed and built mainly by undergraduate students at York, but it’s unlikely to be the last. “When I was an undergrad, starting to 2014, there were no internships or placements for undergrad space students,” Clark says. “Now, there are so many more placements, so many opportunities available, it seems like just the barriers to entry are coming down, and a lot more people are getting into space.”