Schulich ExecEd partnership to empower future leaders

Youth leaders

York University’s Schulich ExecEd is partnering with Skills/Compétences Canada (SCC), an organization dedicated to enhancing the involvement of youth and their communities in skilled trade and technology careers, to provide leadership training for the next generation of workers.

As part of the collaboration, Schulich ExecEd served as an education sponsor for this year’s Skills Canada National Competition, a multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices, which was held in Quebec City last month. Schulich ExecEd also served as the official 2024 training partner of the Skills Canada National Alumni Committee, comprised of 13 youth leaders from across Canada who will receive critical training in the areas of strategic communications, business case development and coaching.

“We take pride in our collaboration with Skills/Compétences Canada, serving as a sponsor and the official training partner of the National Alumni Committee for 2024,” says Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “The programming provided goes beyond theoretical knowledge, focusing on cultivating leadership skills crucial for empowering the next generation of youth.”

In an effort to bridge the gap between trade expertise and business acumen, Schulich ExecEd endeavours to equip future leaders with essential business skills such as management, leadership, finance, communications, data analytics and more. Through accelerated programming, Schulich ExecEd will provide tools to help ignite an entrepreneurial spirit, cultivate a resilient workforce and empower trades professionals to achieve desired growth levels in their respective fields.

“In today’s dynamic business landscape, young professionals are faced with multifaceted challenges that demand a comprehensive skill set,” says Mayer. “Through this meaningful partnership, we aim to empower these talented youth members with the business acumen necessary to navigate the complexities of tomorrow’s job market.”

Y-EMERGE partnership to combat climate change by advancing mathematical modelling

climate crisis dry desert BANNER

By Elaine Smith

The York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response & Governance Institute (Y-EMERGE) has established a partnership with the Research & Innovation Centre at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS-RIC) in Rwanda that will bring AIMS PhD students to York University to pursue their research in mathematical modelling as a tool for addressing climate change.

The project, called Human Capacity Building in Climate Change and Health in Africa, is being jointly funded by York International (YI) and Global Affairs Canada’s Canadian International Development Scholarships 2030 program, marking the first external grant to Y-EMERGE. It is also the first time York International has matched funds on this scale in support of an international research endeavour.

“York International is delighted that our researchers were able to leverage C$25,000 in matching funds to secure a significantly larger external grant for an impactful international research collaboration,” said Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president of global engagement at YI. “The money will be used to top up scholarships for up to six female PhD students coming to York, as well as to provide emergency bursaries for any PhD student travelling to York for this program.” 

As part of the project, 10 PhD students from the AIMS Research & Innovation Centre will each spend a year at York between 2025 and 2028 to advance their work with mathematical modelling and climate change. Y-EMERGE will be hosting the program, with York International assisting in helping the students to feel at home. Participating students will have the opportunity to develop their research by working with experts in their areas of interest. 

Pictured, from left to right: Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president, global engagement at Y-EMERGE; faculty member Jianhong Wu; Sam Yala, president of AIMS Rwanda; York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton; Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation; Y-EMERGE faculty member Woldegebriel Assefa Woldegerima 
Pictured, from left to right: Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president of global engagement at Y-EMERGE; York University Professor Jianhong Wu; Sam Yala, president of AIMS Rwanda; York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton; Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation at York U; and York U Professor Woldegebriel Assefa Woldegerima. 

AIMS is no stranger to York U; the institutions have previously collaborated on infectious disease modelling for influenza and COVID-19.

For Professor Jude Kong, founder and director of the University’s Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence & Data Innovation Consortium (ACADIC) and a native of Cameroon, this collaboration is a passion project. He believes a focus on climate change and health is imperative, as the African continent is already feeling the effects of climate change.

“We’ll take the modelling experience present at York’s Y-EMERGE, as well as ACADIC and AIMS, to ensure we build the capacity to model climate change in Africa,” said Kong. “Climate change is coming and the situation is worsening in Africa. It will affect health in a way that has never happened before, and we’ll be able to build responsible models with an understanding of the local dynamics. … We’ll be using local expertise, so the results will be locally relevant, decolonized and intersectional.”

Professor Jianhong Wu, director of Y-EMERGE, is equally committed to the project.

“We consider this to not just be the beginning of an intensive collaboration with the AIMS Research & Innovation Centre in particular, but AIMS in general,” he said.

Professor Wilfred Ndifon, president of the AIMS Research & Innovation Centre, added, “For us at the institutional level, we have achieved our successes thanks to partnerships like the one we have with York.”

To help facilitate this long-term partnership, Y-EMERGE is forming a college of mentors to work with the AIMS students and establishing an advisory board to guide the growing Africa-Canada collaboration in mathematical modelling.

“We want the students to not only get excellent training but to grow their careers and begin to build up their own networks,” Wu said. “The students who come to York to train will be ambassadors for collaboration between the African continent and Canada in mathematical sciences.”

Kong is excited by the opportunity to build capacity on his home continent through a “train-the-trainers” model.

“When these students return home, they will be sent to other AIMS centres to make data actionable,” he said. “We need homegrown talent, rather than people from the Global North, to teach others [in Africa]. York is one of the many institutions that have reached out to help AIMS change the paradigm, and it is committing funding because they don’t view this as a one-off.”

York U professor helps transform engineering education in Uganda

Kampala,,Uganda

In an effort to enhance undergraduate engineering research in Uganda, faculty members from York University and the University of British Columbia have joined forces on an education-enhancing project with Academics Without Borders (AWB), a non-profit organization aiming to improve the higher education landscape in developing countries.

The Strengthening Engineering Undergraduate Research (SER-Undergraduate) project, initiated by faculty at the Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST) in Uganda, aims to provide international support to MUST undergraduate students, empowering them to engage in high-quality research endeavours.

As part of the collaboration, York U Professor Arash Habibi Lashkari – an AWB volunteer who is also the founder and director of York University’s Behaviour-Centric Cybersecurity Center – embarked on a week-long visit to MUST, where he interacted with students and faculty members to assess the current state of the institution’s undergraduate research program and identify areas for improvement.

York University Professor Arash Habibi Lashkari (front, centre) with students from the Mbarara University of Science & Technology in Uganda.

“I am honoured to be part of this initiative to empower undergraduate students in Uganda to pursue research excellence,” says Lashkari. “By sharing our expertise and resources, we can make a meaningful impact on these students’ academic and professional trajectory.”

During his visit to Uganda, Lashkari engaged in insightful discussions with students, faculty members, the international office and the administration department, guiding and enhancing research methodologies and academic standards. The visit not only fostered knowledge exchange but also served as a testament to the importance of volunteerism and international collaboration in advancing education and research on a global scale.

“Membership in the AWB Network offers opportunities for academics and professionals to share their expertise and knowledge as volunteers in capacity-building projects in partnership with institutions in low- and middle-income countries,” says Professor Nancy Gallini, executive director of Academics Without Borders. “Engaging in this work gives faculty and staff a global perspective that enriches education and research on their campuses.”

For MUST students, the SER-Undergraduate project allows for access to resources, mentorship and opportunities for hands-on research experience that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. By leveraging the expertise and resources of Canadian faculty members serving as volunteers, Ugandan students can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their future academic and professional endeavours.

As the SER-Undergraduate project continues to unfold, the goal of transforming engineering education and empowering a new generation of research-driven scholars in Uganda remains.

For more information, visit the Academics Without Borders website.

Bike Month kicks off with Transportation Services

Keele campus bikes trees Lassonde

Join York University’s Transportation Services Department to kick off Bike Month – a month-long celebration of cycling across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area – on June 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of Vari Hall (VH Plaza) on the Keele Campus. 

During the month of June, Transportation Services is partnering with Bike Share Toronto, Cycle York and Smart Commute to celebrate Bike Month by offering York University community members a range of bike-friendly resources, including Toronto cycling maps, quick bike repairs and safety handbooks. At the June 5 event, attendees can ask questions to event partners, compete for prizes, and learn about local cycling infrastructure, related services and the benefits of bikes as a form of sustainable travel.

The annual celebration of Bike Month at York University highlights the institution’s commitment to ensuring sustainable travel options are available across its multi-campus network.  

York University was the first institution in the Greater Toronto Area to partner with Bike Share Toronto in 2021, eventually leading to three Bike Share stations being established on the Keele and Glendon campuses. This strategic partnership helped strengthen the cycling culture across university campuses and helped promote sustainable transportation.

These efforts, among others, led York University to be named a Best University for Commuters – the first institution in Canada to receive this designation. Among many reasons for the recognition, the University’s cycling infrastructure and resources – including secured bike enclosures and four do-it-yourself repair stations – were an important factor, providing cyclists with peace of mind and flexibility while navigating York’s campuses on two wheels. The designation reflects York’s commitment to providing a variety of sustainable commuting options aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of students, faculty, instructors and staff.  

Over the years, the expansion of York University’s cycling infrastructure has been equally matched by community adoption, contributing to the University’s mission to reach its new accelerated target of net-zero emissions by 2040

For more information, visit the official Bike Month website or the Transportation Services website throughout the month of June.

York University partnership supports social entrepreneurship

Two hands holding black heart

A collaboration between York University’s YSpace and Schulich ExecEd, and Toronto Montessori Schools (TMS), is nurturing and supporting the next generation of changemakers. The TMS Schulich Innovation & Entrepreneurial Experience (TSE) program has been empowering high-school students since 2019 to cultivate entrepreneurial skills and a sense of social responsibility.

“We are delighted to partner with TMS and YSpace on the TSE program,” says Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “Together, we have developed a program tailored for high-school students that enhances their business and leadership skills while guiding them to build scalable solutions to real-world problems.”

Recent participants, high-school students Ayden Lee and Lucas Wei, have been awarded a prestigious Global Youth Action Fund grant of US$3,000 for a project called Crew of Care. They developed it with their teammates Evan Leung and Sheng Yang during their time in the program.

The students embarked on their social entrepreneurship journey during the TSE prototype phase, where they together conceived the idea of a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing medical inequality and fostering reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Ontario. Crew of Care’s mission was to create more inclusive health-care solutions by hosting community fundraising events and educational workshops, and collaborating with larger organizations. The team received valuable feedback and mentorship during the TSE experience in July 2023, further igniting the passion and commitment of two of its founders, Lee and Wei, who continued to pursue the project beyond the program and worked to secure financial support.

The original Crew of Care team – Ayden Lee, Lucas Wei, Evan Leung and Sheng Yang – presenting their idea during TSE 2023.

The Global Youth Action Fund, an initiative of the International Baccalaureate education program, supports youth-led projects aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Crew of Care project stood out to the selection committee due to its potential impact, collaborative approach and commitment to social change. The awarded funding will provide vital support to Crew of Care as the organization continues to expand its reach and initiatives.

Looking ahead, the Crew of Care founders – along with executive team members Vincent Peng, Sebastian Churchill, Shabadleen Sandhu, Amber Kwong and Hussain Ladak – envision partnerships with health awareness non-governmental organizations like Water First, and aim to host city-wide fundraising events and workshops to advance their mission of enhancing health-care access for Indigenous communities.

The TMS Schulich Innovation & Entrepreneurial Experience remains committed to fostering youth-led initiatives aligned with the UN SDGs. The upcoming TSE 2024 program will focus on food security and sustainability, offering students a platform to explore various issues impacting global food systems.

“Since 2019, we have been committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders through the TSE program, cultivating entrepreneurial skills and a deep sense of social responsibility,” says Mayer. “This partnership equips the next generation with the expertise needed to make positive impacts in local communities and to emerge as visionary leaders of tomorrow.”

York community at Keele and Glendon create greener campuses

potted plants ready BANNER

York University community members gathered at both the Glendon and Keele campuses in April for the annual tradition of planting trees in celebration of Earth Month.

Each year the event is organized to help drive positive change by creating a greener campus with restored ecosystems to help mitigate climate change.

Past events have seen hundreds of trees, of a variety of native species, planted. This year, over 100 participants planted a mini orchard with 18 larger fruit trees – including apple, pear, pawpaw and more – and over 100 shrubs to enhance and grow an edible opportunity for an edible campus.

Some of the plantings were targeted to particular locations as well, with the fruit-bearing trees finding their way into the Keele Campus Arboretum, and greenery being placed along the Glendon Campus ravine to help restore erosion around the riverbank.

The event was held in partnership with Regenesis and York’s Property Management Grounds, Facilities Services, with grant funding provided by the City of Toronto.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to come together to take action on our campus and in our everyday lives, as we continue to work on system-level change,” Mike Layton, York’s chief sustainability officer, has said of the occasion.

View a photo gallery of the tree planting events below.

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York forges international cybersecurity collaboration

Cybersecurity professional sitting in front of data screens shutterstock

Just as modern life has become increasingly reliant on the storing and sharing of digital information, so too has the need to protect it. York University’s Behaviour-Centric Cybersecurity Center (BCCC) was established as a response to this ever-growing need, striving to identify the underlying causes of malicious cyberattacks and provide insights for future detection and prevention.

In an effort to advance its cybersecurity research and foster global academic collaboration, BCCC has secured a groundbreaking partnership with Japan’s National Institute of Information & Communications Technology (NICT) through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Under the MOU, BCCC and NICT will engage in various collaborative activities focused on cybersecurity, including: knowledge exchange, research collaboration, student and researcher exchange, international networking and funding opportunities, resource sharing, joint workshops and conferences, and publication opportunities. By leveraging their collective expertise and resources, the two teams aim to address cybersecurity challenges and develop solutions to mitigate risks in today’s interconnected world.

Arash Habibi Lashkari portrait
Arash Habibi Lashkari, photo by Rob Blanchard

Professor Arash Habibi Lashkari, founder and director of BCCC at York, expressed excitement about the collaboration, stating, “This MOU represents a significant milestone in our efforts to strengthen global cybersecurity research collaboration. By partnering with NICT, we can leverage each other’s strengths and expertise to tackle cybersecurity challenges more effectively.”

This initiative will centre on cybersecurity research projects initiated and led by BCCC. Through joint research initiatives and international networking, researchers from both institutions will work together on mutual-interest projects, helping to advance cybersecurity knowledge and practices.

“We’re excited to forge this research partnership with the BCCC at York University,” said Professor Tao Ban, the research leader from NICT. “Through this MOU, we aim to enhance collaboration with Canada, integrating our unique competencies and insights to elevate cybersecurity practices.”

This collaboration is expected to facilitate a dynamic exchange of knowledge and expertise, benefiting all students, researchers and institutions involved.

For more information, visit the Behaviour-Centric Cybersecurity Center website.

York partnership supports entrepreneurs of Italian descent

YSpace

YSpace, the innovation hub at York University, and Schulich Startups, led by the Innovation Office at the Schulich School of Business, have partnered with the Canadian Italian Business & Professional Association (CIBPA) to enhance the Italia360 incubator program.

Italia360 is an eight-week, part-time program designed to nurture the entrepreneurial aspirations of first-generation Canadians, individuals with Italian heritage and newcomers to Canada. Now in its second year, this groundbreaking initiative aims to equip aspiring student entrepreneurs with essential tools to develop and market their business ideas.

David Kwok
David Kwok

“We’re excited to join forces with CIBPA and DMZ [the startup incubator at Toronto Metropolitan University] to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs through the Italia360 program,” said David Kwok, director of YSpace. “At YSpace, we’re committed to providing comprehensive support to promising entrepreneurs, and this partnership further strengthens our mission to foster innovation and entrepreneurship within diverse communities.”

Students selected to participate in Italia360 will benefit from a range of resources provided by YSpace, including joint workshops with DMZ, tailored mentorship sessions, access to the YSpace learning community and physical office space at YSpace’s Markham location. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to engage in exclusive networking events hosted by Schulich Startups and YSpace, gaining exposure to industry leaders and potential collaborators.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino

“As an associate professor at York U and an active member of the CIBPA community, I am so excited to see this partnership between CIBPA and YSpace come to life,” said Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, a CIBPA board member and recent winner of the CIBPA Women of the Year Award. “The Italia360 program is about training up the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs with Italian heritage and newcomers to Canada, and the new YSpace component will provide even greater support to these participants to bring their ideas to life.”

Building on the success of its inaugural year, the second edition of the Italia360 program will further elevate participants’ entrepreneurial journeys by offering additional opportunities for selected student teams, including fast-tracking to YSpace’s accelerator programs. With a focus on supporting both tech and product-based companies, Italia360 continues to pave the way for aspiring entrepreneurs to thrive in today’s dynamic business landscape.

For more information about Italia360 and to apply for the program, visit the CIBPA website and the DMZ website.

Prof exemplifies York excellence in global health research through worldwide partnerships

Africa map on a globe

By Corey Allen, senior manager, research communications

As a world leader in global health research, York University is fully committed to international collaborations across multiple sectors with academic, government, industry and community partners. Among those highlighting the impact of these partnerships is Professor Godfred Boateng. 

Forging strong relationships beyond geographical boundaries enables the York community to conduct meaningful work that defines the University’s approach to research and innovation: interdisciplinary, collaborative and equitable.  

Among those leading the way in this is Boateng, a quantitative sociologist and epidemiologist who was recently appointed Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Global Health and Humanitarianism

Godfred Boateng

One of Boateng’s latest research projects is related to his CRC appointment, which aims to measure and quantify different forms of resource insecurity, including food, water, energy and housing, as well as to advance our understanding of the overall health effects of environmental contaminants, both in the Global South and in Canada. This work exemplifies, he said, the importance of having international partners and collaboration.  

“Partnerships are key and without them, global health research isn’t possible,” he said. “York University’s partnerships in the Global South greatly expand the scope of my research and allow me to reach populations and communities that would not be accessible otherwise.”  

Boateng’s project looks to collect physiological, ecological, and demographic data from informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.  

Using high-cost field equipment, the researchers will assess the quality of the air and water samples (stored, drinking and groundwater) found in and around the settlements.  

The data will be used to validate scales, like the Household Water Insecurity Experiences Scale, co-developed by Boateng for use by public health practitioners, non-governmental organizations, government officials, and development agencies to monitor and assess progress on targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals around achieving equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water, as well as adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene. 

This is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa, where flooding due to climate change is a considerable health risk and bacterial infections like dysentery and waterborne illnesses like cholera are widespread.  

The scales would help researchers and health-care professionals to assign a score to the environmental contaminants found in settlement households, which enables them to determine if water, for example, is safe for consumption without the need for further testing.  

For local governments, this would streamline water, air, and housing quality assessments and provide valuable information to inform health-care policy and decision-making.  

“Our project will also produce the necessary data for comparative studies, so that this evidence can be used in other contexts, including in some Indigenous communities in Canada that face similar resource insecurity challenges,” said Boateng.  

Boateng and his former professor, Dr. Fidelia Ohemeng, during the York delegation’s visit to Ghana. Ohemeng taught Boateng during his undergraduate studies at the University of Ghana
Boateng and his former professor, Fidelia Ohemeng, during the York delegation’s visit to Ghana.

The project is slated to start this summer with 300 households in Accra, Ghana, alongside Boateng’s partners from his alma mater, the University of Ghana, and the University of Cape Coast, before moving onto research sites in Nigeria, Kenya and Malawi, and subsequently to Colombia and Mexico.  

Last month, Boateng was also part of a York delegation that visited Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. The Africa trip helped the University engage with prospective students and explore partnership opportunities with local universities and research institutions.  

For Boateng, studying global health helps bridge the inequality divide.   

“It’s important to identify the sources of health disparities and the structural determinants of health, so that proper interventions can be put in place,” he said.  

“Global health research, when applied, can not only enhance the quality of life for the world’s most vulnerable populations – women, children and seniors – but it also has life-saving potential for people worldwide. It’s teamwork at its best.”  

Learn more about York University’s Global Engagement Strategy.

York-led research team invents sustainable de-icing solution

airplane at gate BANNER

By Diana Senwasane

York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Alidad Amirfazli, along with a team of Jiangsu University of Technology (JSUT) researchers in China, have created a sustainable solution for de-icing with applications on planes, ships, infrastructure and more. 

From aircraft to ship decks to cars to power lines and much more, ice can pose extreme danger. The unsafe and risky conditions ice creates has led a York University researcher to investigate new ways of effectively preventing ice accumulation.  Amirfazli and the JSUT researchers are in the early stages of what they believe will be both an innovative – and sustainable – de-icing solution.  

Prussian Blue
Prussian blue

In a paper published earlier this year, the researchers detail their invention of a coating that combines superhydrophobic properties, which repels water, with Prussian blue, a compound made of complex inorganic salt typically used in paint, to effectively prevent and remove ice from surfaces.  

“The developed coating harvests energy from sunlight to warm the surface,” said Amirfazli. “Its repellency properties reduce the chance of water staying on the surface and freezing, essentially ceasing icing.”   

Amirfazli said the unique addition of Prussian blue to the coating is more cost effective, avoids cracking and improves durability. 

The innovative solution is born out of a long-standing research collaboration between Amirfazli and his former postdoctoral student Professor Wen Li, now based at Jiangsu. The duo worked on several projects, including a previous paper on de-icing where they combined a superhydrophobic coating heated with electricity.   

Amirfazli has spent years studying various coating strategies for de-icing, but it wasn’t until this international research partnership that this solution emerged.   

Prussian blue is able to harness the energy of sunlight, effectively replacing the electric component and the use of wires, which was previously proposed as a de-icing solution.   

Under Amirfazli’s supervision, the JSUT research team will continue to test their coating solution for de-icing, which could have widespread application in multiple sectors, like aviation, energy systems, construction, infrastructure and more.  

“This solution can reduce icing of surfaces that cause hazardous conditions such as steps and walkways, reducing the probability of slipping, or mitigating the icing on wind turbines, which can reduce power production in winter months,”  said Amirfazli.  

Alidad Amirfazli along with a team of Jiangsu University of Technology researchers
Alidad Amirfazli (second from the right) with a team of Jiangsu University of Technology researchers.

While the coating is a long way from being in market, this is a significant step for the team of researchers.   

“Throughout my career I have benefited from collaborations and knowledge sharing with many colleagues from around the world,” said Amirfazli. “Knowledge has no boundaries, creating an inherent strength for human ingenuity. This project is a perfect example of that.”