York University’s groundbreaking Academic Innovation Fund turns 10

A hand clasps balloons

York University’s Academic Innovation Fund celebrates an important anniversary this year. The program has promoted exceptional innovation in teaching, learning and the student experience, and it continues to grow and thrive.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

A photograph of York's President
Rhonda Lenton

Bring on the balloons, the streamers and the cake for York University’s Academic Innovation Fund (AIF), which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The AIF, overseen by the Office of the Associate Vice-President of Teaching and Learning, financially supports projects that advance York University’s priorities in terms of teaching, learning and the student experience, allowing faculty to experiment and innovate in new and creative ways, both in teaching and in pedagogy. Its creation was spearheaded by a team that included President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, who was vice-provost academic at the time.

“I am delighted to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Academic Innovation Fund,” said Lenton. “By supporting groundbreaking approaches to teaching and learning, including technology-enhanced learning, and facilitating increased access to fundamental student success programs and international perspectives that extend around the world, the AIF continues to provide our faculty and course directors with the resources they need to push pedagogical boundaries and enhance the student learning experience, solidifying York’s reputation as an innovative, progressive and forward-thinking institution dedicated to teaching excellence.”

Will Gage
Will Gage

The AIF was also a means of elevating and celebrating teaching and learning in the eyes of the York community, said Professor Will Gage, associate vice-president teaching and learning.

“It showed how committed the University is to teaching and learning and provided leadership to the higher education world around teaching and learning,” Gage said. “When AIF began, our early investments paid dividends in a number of different ways, including helping faculty members advance their priorities, putting a focus on technology-enhanced learning, and creating champions of teaching and learning among the faculty, who served as role models for their colleagues.”

In fact, a report by York’s Institute for Social Research validated the importance of AIF, noting how impactful it was in furthering innovation in pedagogy and curriculum.

Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps has seen the AIF continue to flourish and believes it sends “an important signal to faculty that at York we have an aspirational culture around teaching and we value the effort and creativity of our faculty in developing new, high-quality learning experiences for our students.” 

Lisa Philipps
Lisa Philipps

A number of projects that date back to the early days of the AIF are now fixtures at the University: the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4); globally networked learning (GNL); YU Start, the transition program for incoming students; SPARK, the Student Papers and Academic Research Kit; and an e-learning program from the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) that connects students to the community. The originators of these programs are enthusiastic about the effect that the fund has had in making these projects possible.

Franz Newland
Franz Newland

“The funding makes a huge difference,” said Franz Newland, an associate professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering and one of the creators of C4. “It really enables us, because it pays for things that make innovation possible. Innovation around teaching and learning requires a community of engaged, interested people and AIF is a mechanism to bring them together.”

Danielle Robinson, co-creator of C4 and an associate professor at AMPD, said, “There is no way that C4 could have been launched without the AIF. It gave the program legitimacy and a vote of confidence that amplified its impact across the community, not to mention the financial resources required. Students have directly benefited, because C4 is designed as a personal and professional journey of self-discovery for them.”

Globally networked learning “began as a provost-driven initiative in 2015 with a three-year AIF grant​ that allowed the GNL initial team to work closely with students, faculty and senior administration at both York campuses to inform and train on best GNL practices around the world,” said Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, an associate professor in the Department of French Studies who helped create York’s program.

“York GNL has grown so much that in 2020-2021 alone, more than 600 students – 312 from York and 293 from international partner institutions – have had the opportunity to learn, share perspectives on challenging world-related questions,” added Scheffel-Dunand, who has also taught at the Glendon Campus.

Lara Ubaldi, a member of the team that created YU Start, is appreciative of AIF too. “What a thrill to have an idea and have the University recognize it with funding to help get it started,” said Ubaldi, now director of student advising and academic services. “It makes you feel invested; you can do something to make a change.”

The YU Start program has become an award-winning success.

Danielle Robinson
Danielle Robinson

SPARK also grew out of an early AIF grant. “This was our first real pan-University project,” said Sarah Coysh, digital engagement librarian. “It involved the library, the Writing Department, Learning Skills Services and other groups across the University that supported students. It was an opportunity for us to work together and look at best practices.

“We were one of the first to license such an effort through a Creative Commons licence, something that the AIF afforded us the opportunity to do. It has now been adapted by universities nationally and internationally as a result. We also know that it’s widely used; I hear from faculty if it’s not up to date,” said Coysh.

In addition, SPARK has been translated into French at the Glendon Campus, thanks to a Heritage Canada grant.

Dominique Scheffel-Dunand
Dominique Scheffel-Dunand

At AMPD, faculty members David Gelb, Michael Longford and Judith Schwarz were early adopters of online learning for the arts and pioneers in offering blended studio courses. Their initial grant allowed them to work with a team to build the infrastructure to support online learning across the faculty; develop six large introductory courses, a combination of blended and online; develop best practices for online pedagogies; and nurture a community of practice. They have received subsequent AIF grants to augment these opportunities and establish excellence in media production.

“When the pandemic struck and we had to move fully online, AMPD was prepared to step up to the challenge, offering a full range of support to faculty during that time,” said Longford. “We’re quite proud of that.”

In fact, said Gage, all of the AIF advances “emerged as essential when COVID shut the world down. AIF established a foundation that helped us respond as an institution.”

Karthiga Gowrishanger, program director, teaching and learning strategic initiatives for the Office of the Associate Vice-President of Teaching and Learning, agrees: “AIF innovation helped prepare us to be creative, agile and resilient.”

At York, AIF has become one of the proverbial gifts that keeps on giving.

Hyflex pilot tests seamless remote participation in courses

An image of a women using a laptop to video conference with another woman

The future of higher education is blended and will enable learning anytime, anywhere. Hyflex is an emerging model that will help York University continue along a path towards equity and access for students regardless of their location.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

As Canada begins to look beyond the pandemic, educators have been pondering what shape education will take at universities. One option is a hyflex model of course delivery, which is being tested in a pilot program at York University this fall. Hyflex courses combine in-class and online instruction delivered concurrently, says Peter Wolf, a consultant working on the project with Professor Will Gage, associate vice-president (AVP) of teaching and learning.

“We are considering the long term,” said Wolf. “We can’t replace all our classrooms to ensure that they are equipped for hyflex delivery, so we want to identify for whom, how and when this approach works best.”

Gage strongly believes that “the future of higher education is blended and will enable learning anytime, anywhere. Hyflex is an emerging model that will help us continue along a path towards equity and access for students regardless of their location,” he said.

One of the 31 classrooms at the Keele Campus that have been retrofitted to allow for the blended classroom experience made possible through the hyflex model of course delivery
One of the 31 classrooms at the Keele Campus that have been retrofitted to allow for the blended classroom experience, made possible through the hyflex model of course delivery

“All universities are looking at it, but it is perfectly aligned with York’s ethos of access, equality, inclusion and social justice. It is well aligned with where our university is continuing to go.”

There are currently 31 classrooms on the Keele Campus and 15 on the Glendon Campus that are retrofitted – with more to come – to allow remote students to seamlessly participate in courses delivered on campus. The technology installed in the classrooms ensures the two-way engagement of participants.

The pilot, which is focusing on a subset of those locations, has welcomed instructors who are scheduled to teach in those classrooms to take part and 15 of them from a variety of disciplines have signed on. They recently underwent a hyflex training session led by Aladin Alaily, director of client support services for University Information Technology (UIT), to familiarize them with the technology and the opportunities provided by this mode of course delivery.

The pilot, said Wolf, is “intended to make this mode of delivery viable and sustainable for ongoing use.” It will also provide the hyflex team, which includes Frankie Billingsley, associate registrar and director, student records and scheduling for the Office of the University Registrar; Karthiga Gowrishanger, program director, teaching and learning strategic initiatives, Office of the AVP Teaching and Learning; and Patrick Thibaudeau, director, IT innovation and academic technologies, UIT, with the opportunity to investigate hyflex course delivery in a scholarly manner to disseminate lessons learned about classroom technologies, digital technologies and educational strategies.

Given the complexities in the start of the fall semester due to the pandemic, there was no time to match technologically equipped classrooms to the 200 instructors who expressed interest in hyflex delivery, although that is something the team will work to make possible after the pilot. Nor did the students in these classrooms explicitly register for a hyflex class; they could choose to participate remotely as an option or continue to attend the in-person class as they would any other. In the future, it should be possible to promote hyflex courses in advance.

“Our intention is to identify where concurrent delivery can work in the educational setting,” said Wolf. “This is not designed to be a pandemic response; it is about finding educational value in providing equitable, concurrent experiences for the students.

“For example, it can also allow classes to engage in globally networked learning more easily, teaming up with similar classes abroad on projects, or to have guest lecturers from elsewhere participate online.”

One of the 15 classrooms at the Glendon Campus retrofitted to accommodate the hyflex model of course delivery
One of the 15 classrooms at the Glendon Campus retrofitted to accommodate the hyflex model of course delivery

Nonetheless, the pandemic has illustrated the value of flexible modes of course delivery, as Neil Orlowsky, PhD, realized. Orlowsky, a practicum facilitator seconded to the Faculty of Education from the York Region District School Board, will be using hyflex technology for his course, Teaching Family Studies in the Intermediate-Senior Divisions.

“To be honest, I signed up for the program for two reasons,” Orlowsky said. “The first is being led and driven by the uncertainly of teaching during a pandemic and how we can ensure our safety, as well as the students’ safety. This was coupled with the fact that our students are now global, meaning that given the pandemic, some have opted to continue schooling from home, which is either in Canada or abroad. The second reason was my passion for technology and a drive to keep up with how the world is changing, how technology is shifting the way we educate and the role of technology in accessibility.”

Wolf notes that hyflex learning won’t immediately become ubiquitous because it is not viable nor desirable to equip all classrooms with the infrastructure. However, the pilot will help illustrate how to make it more accessible for a larger number of classes. He and the team also surveyed the faculty involved prior to the start of the semester and will do so again once their courses conclude to learn as much as they can about the experience in order to improve it. Faculty will also provide biweekly feedback and meet with the team halfway through the pilot. In turn, the team will offer tips and suggestions for improving the class experience.

“Our ultimate goal,” said Gage, “is to create equivalent experiences for students regardless of their learning location and provide them with more opportunities to engage with their education.”

Recipients of the Provostial Fellowships announced

A drone image of Vari Hall on the Keele campus

Professors Burkard Eberlein (Schulich), Sapna Sharma (science), Cheryl van Daalen-Smith (health, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and Qiang Zha (education) have been appointed York University Provostial Fellows.

Appointed for one year, each of the recipients will work to enhance collegial capacity at an institutional level to advance the priorities of the University Academic Plan (UAP) in demonstrable ways. The Provostial Fellowships also provide an opportunity for a diverse group of tenured faculty to gain hands-on experience in university leadership.

“I am thrilled to have these four faculty members dedicating some of their time and energy to help lead the implementation of our UAP. The University will benefit from their expertise and ideas, and I hope they too will find this a valuable opportunity to grow and develop as leaders and institution builders,” said Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps. “The launch of Building a Better Future: York University Academic Plan 2020-2025 established six exciting and important priorities for York University. As a community, we now look to work together in advancing these.”

Fellows will work with the provost and relevant members of the senior leadership on a project or initiative intended to advance one of the UAP priority areas at an institutional level. Each project also seeks to enhance and intersect with the University-wide challenge to elevate institutional contributions to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Burkhard Eberlein
Burkard Eberlein

Burkard Eberlein
Professor, Public Policy and Strategic Management
Schulich School of Business

Professor Eberlein’s project, “York’s Journey toward Carbon Neutrality,” seeks to identify and advance specific and impactful initiatives that the University can take to reduce its carbon emissions.

Sapna Sharma
Sapna Sharma

Sapna Sharma
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
Faculty of Science

Professor Sharma’s project, “Working Towards Equitable Access to Clean Water,” looks to address the billions of people worldwide, including in Canada, who do not have access to clean freshwater. This project will seek student, faculty and staff collaborations across the University with a goal of raising awareness and identifying solutions to this critical issue, and will culminate with an event celebrating UN World Water Day.

Cheryl van Daalen-Smith
Cheryl van Daalen-Smith

Cheryl van Daalen-Smith
Associate Professor, School of Nursing
Faculty of Health
Associate Professor, School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies/Children, Childhood & Youth Studies Program.
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Professor van Daalen-Smith’s project, “More than Bees and Trees: Seeing the SDGs in our Curriculum – A Pan-University Community Development Initiative,” seeks to track, weave, inspire and amplify curricular SDG initiatives and advance York University’s commitment to interdisciplinarity.

Qiang Zha
Qiang Zha

Qiang Zha
Associate Professor
Faculty of Education

Professor Zha’s project, “Reimagining and Transforming Liberal Arts Education with a Trans-Continental Partnership,” looks to explore a new model for practising liberal arts education in the current contexts of mass higher education, knowledge societies and globalization, including the prospects for infusing the concepts derived from the SDGs and promoting global competence.

Two Indigenous educators join the Faculty of Education

Keele Campus stong pond FEATURED image for Yfile

This story is published in YFile’s New Faces Feature Issue 2021, part two. Every September, YFile introduces and welcomes those joining the York University community, and those with new appointments. Part one was published on Sept. 3.

Two Indigenous educators join York University’s Faculty of Education this fall as full-time faculty members. They are Kiera (Kaia’tanó:ron) Brant-Birioukov and Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing.

“We are delighted to welcome two new colleagues: Kiera (Kaia’tanó:ron) Brant-Birioukov and Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing. Each are respected scholars and teachers in their particular fields of study,” said Faculty of Education Dean Robert Savage. “They bring a diverse range of expertise to the Faculty of Education in Indigenous understandings and development. We very much look forward to the new ideas, perspectives, and contributions that they will make to our faculty and towards our ongoing mission of reinventing education for a diverse, complex world.”

Kiera (Kaia’tanó:ron) Brant-Birioukov
Kiera (Kaia’tanó:ron) Brant-Birioukov

Kiera (Kaia’tanó:ron) Brant-Birioukov is a Haudenosaunee (Kanyen’keha:ka) educator and educational theorist from Kenhtè:ke, also known as the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario. She joins the Faculty of Education and the Wüléelham community at York as an assistant professor and will support the Indigenous cohorts, courses and programs in the Faculty of Education.

She is a certified teacher in Ontario and British Columbia and is committed to ethical Indigenous education across all K-12 and post-secondary classrooms. Some of her current projects include the repatriation of historical Haudenosaunee stories, artifacts and journal diaries to communities across the Six Nations Confederacy, as well as collaborating in the knowledge mobilization of Indigenous-Settler food sovereignty through the Earth to Tables Legacies project.

Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing
Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing

Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing joins the Faculty of Education as an assistant professor. She is Métis, adopted into the Anishinaabe bald eagle clan in the Three Fires Midewiwin lodge. Her family has roots in the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community and Manitoba, and they are registered with the Métis Nation of Ontario.

Beaulne-Stuebing is also of French and Austrian settler ancestry. Her PhD thesis, “Grief Medicines,” focused on learning about what helps community members through ongoing experiences of loss. Beaulne-Stuebing facilitates mashkiki gitigaanan, an urban Indigenous medicines sovereignty project in Toronto.

An important update on the fall term

Keele Campus Fall image of Stong Pond FEATURED for new YFile

The following is a message to the University community from Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. This update was first circulated to the community on Friday, Sept. 3.

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Dear York community,

Since the start of the pandemic, the health and well-being of the York community has been our top priority. We continue to work closely with Toronto Public Health, the chief medical officer of health, and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to ensure that the University follows the latest guidance from public health. 

At the same time, we have taken a cautious approach to planning for Fall 2021, where we have been working steadily to institute a number of initiatives that together will enable a safe and gradual increase to in-person learning and on-campus activities.

This week, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities issued a revised framework for post-secondary institutions that will come into effect on Sept. 7. This new direction allows for flexible capacity limits and requirements for physical distancing in indoor instructional spaces such as classrooms, libraries and lab spaces, in combination with a vaccination requirement.

Fall Term Planning 

As announced earlier this week, with some approved exceptions, in-person classes and on-campus activities will stay remote between Sept. 7 and 12 to afford more time for our community to provide proof of vaccination or apply for an exemption and schedule a COVID-19 test. In-person activities will commence on Sept. 13.

We have importantly made the decision to stay the course with our current plans for in-person teaching, as published in the course calendar. We appreciate that faculty and course directors have prepared for these teaching assignments and our students have signed up for courses and made plans based on this information. In general, classes were capped at 50 students with some exceptions of up to 120 students per classroom, and will be kept at these sizes. Classes have been placed in oversized rooms for the most part and students are encouraged to spread out to give peers and instructors their space.

In collaboration with Faculties, we are continuing to reopen more research facilities in the upcoming term. Beginning on Sept. 13, Faculty approval will no longer be required for on-campus research and scholarly activities; however, the relevant associate dean of research must be kept informed, and health and safety guidelines stipulated by the University must be strictly adhered to. Faculties may require additional health and safety measures depending on the nature of research being conducted, and further updates will be shared in the coming days on community-engaged, human participant-based and off-campus field research along with supports for innovation.

A Safe Plan to Return 

Each part of our multifaceted plan works in tandem to safely welcome the community back and includes the following components:

We anticipate an enriching on-campus experience this fall and look forward to providing you with the latest updates and information on the return-to-campus plan in the coming weeks. For general supports, please see:

Thank you for your continued patience and support of our students.


Lisa Philipps
Provost & Vice-President Academic 

Amir Asif
Vice-President, Research & Innovation

Mise à jour sur le trimestre d’automne à York

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

Depuis le début de la pandémie, la santé et le bien-être de la communauté de York sont notre priorité absolue. Nous continuons de collaborer étroitement avec le Bureau de santé publique de Toronto, le médecin hygiéniste en chef et le ministère des Collèges et Universités afin de nous assurer que l’Université respecte les directives les plus récentes en matière de santé publique.

Parallèlement, nous avons adopté une approche prudente dans notre planification du trimestre d’automne 2021 et nous avons travaillé sans relâche pour mettre en place un certain nombre d’initiatives qui permettront une augmentation sécuritaire et progressive de l’apprentissage en personne et des activités sur le campus. 

Cette semaine, le ministère des Collèges et Universités a publié un cadre modifié pour les établissements postsecondaires. Ce cadre entrera en vigueur le 7 septembre. La nouvelle orientation permet des limites de capacité et des exigences de distanciation physique flexibles dans les espaces d’enseignement intérieurs, comme les salles de classe, les bibliothèques et les laboratoires qui s’ajoutent à une exigence de vaccination. 

Planification du trimestre d’automne

Comme annoncé en début de semaine, à quelques exceptions près, les cours en présentiel et les activités sur le campus resteront offerts à distance entre le 7 et le 12 septembre afin de laisser plus de temps à notre communauté pour fournir une preuve de vaccination, ou pour demander une exemption et prendre rendez-vous pour un test de dépistage de la COVID-19. Les activités en personne commenceront le 13 septembre.

Nous avons décidé de maintenir nos plans actuels d’enseignement en personne, tels qu’ils ont été publiés dans le calendrier des cours. En effet, le corps professoral et les directeurs de cours se sont préparés à ces missions d’enseignement et nos étudiants et étudiantes se sont inscrits à des cours et ont fait des projets sur la base de ces informations. En règle générale, les classes sont plafonnées à 50 élèves — avec quelques exceptions allant jusqu’à 120 élèves par classe — et ce plafond sera maintenu. Des salles surdimensionnées ont été allouées à la majorité des classes et les membres de la population étudiante sont encouragés à bien s’étaler dans les salles afin de garder leurs distances de leurs pairs et des enseignants.  

En collaboration avec les facultés, nous poursuivrons la réouverture d’autres installations de recherche durant le trimestre. À partir du 13 septembre, l’approbation du corps professoral ne sera plus requise pour les activités de recherche et d’érudition sur le campus, mais le doyen associé de la recherche concerné devra être tenu informé et les directives en matière de santé et de sécurité stipulées par l’Université devront être strictement respectées. Les facultés peuvent exiger des mesures de santé et de sécurité supplémentaires en fonction de la nature de la recherche menée. D’autres mises à jour seront communiquées dans les prochains jours sur la recherche impliquant la communauté, la recherche impliquant des êtres humains et la recherche sur le terrain à l’extérieur du campus, ainsi que sur les soutiens à l’innovation.

Un plan de retour sécuritaire

Toutes les facettes de notre plan fonctionnent en tandem pour accueillir à nouveau la communauté de manière sécuritaire; ce plan comprend les éléments suivants :

Nous prévoyons une expérience enrichissante sur le campus cet automne et nous avons hâte de vous fournir des mises à jour et plus d’information au sujet de notre plan de retour sur les campus dans les semaines à venir. Voici quelques autres ressources de soutien générales :

Merci pour votre patience et votre soutien à la communauté étudiante. 

Sincères salutations,

Lisa Philipps
Rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques 

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

Religious Accommodation Guidelines for the 2021-22 academic year

Vari Hall Sunny Day with fountain in foreground FEATURED image

The following is a message to the University community from Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps and Vice-President Equity, People & Culture Sheila Cote-Meek:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Dear colleagues,

Academic accommodation for Students’ Religious Observances (Policy, Guidelines and Procedures) can be found at the York Secretariat Policies website.

The policy addresses York’s commitment to sustaining an inclusive, equitable community in which all members are treated with respect and dignity and outlines the following guidelines/principles:


  1. All students are expected to satisfy the essential learning outcomes of courses. Accommodations shall be consistent with, support and preserve the academic integrity of the curriculum and the academic standards of courses and programs.
  2. The University provides reasonable and appropriate accommodation for students whose religion or spiritual beliefs requires them to be absent from the University for the observance of recognized religious days of significance.
  3. A list of Commonly Observed Dates of Religious Significance are compiled concurrently with the establishment of the Sessional Dates for the upcoming academic year and disseminated to assist instructors in course planning.
  4. Normally the form of accommodation will be alternative dates for final examinations, and adjustment of dates for term work, mid-term examinations or other course components.
  5. The Registrar’s Office takes into consideration the dates of religious significance in its establishment of the final examination schedule.
  6. Documentation from faith leaders is not required to support requests for accommodation.

To assist you, we provide the following list of Commonly Observed Dates of Religious Significance. It is meant as a guide to religious accommodations. This is not a comprehensive list of all holy days of observance and the absence of other dates on this list should not be interpreted to mean that accommodation will not be provided to students who observe the additional holy days associated with their faith or spiritual beliefs.

The guide has been compiled in consultation with York’s student Interfaith Council to ensure it is inclusive for York’s student body. You can also consult the Interfaith Calendar (not maintained by York).

Event planners and faculty members are encouraged to take these days into consideration when scheduling events.

Additional information for students, faculty and staff on religious accommodation can be found on the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion website.

You can also read more information on statutory dates in the academic year.


Lisa Philipps 
Provost & Vice-President Academic   

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice President Equity, People & Culture

Directives pour les adaptations religieuses : Année universitaire 2021-2022

Chers collègues, chères collègues,

La politique Academic Accommodation for Students’ Religious Observances (Policy, Guidelines and Procedures) relative aux adaptations académiques liées aux pratiques religieuses de la communauté étudiante peut être consultée sur le site Web des Politiques du Secrétariat de l’Université York.

Cette politique reflète l’engagement de York de favoriser une communauté inclusive et équitable dans laquelle tous les membres sont traités avec respect et dignité. Elle énonce les lignes directrices et principes suivants :

Principes et lignes directrices

  1. Il est attendu des étudiants et étudiantes qu’ils et elles satisfassent aux objectifs d’apprentissage essentiels des cours. Les adaptations fournies doivent respecter, appuyer et préserver l’intégrité académique du programme d’études et les normes académiques des cours et des programmes.
  2. L’Université fournit des adaptations raisonnables et appropriées aux étudiants et étudiantes dont la religion ou les croyances spirituelles requièrent qu’ils et elles s’absentent de l’Université pour l’observance de jours religieux reconnus comme étant importants.
  3. Le guide Commonly Observed Dates of Religious Significance est préparé en même temps que les dates de la session à venir et est distribué aux membres du corps enseignant pour les aider à bien planifier leurs cours.
  4. Normalement, ces adaptations consistent en l’ajustement de dates d’examens finaux et de travaux durant la session, d’examens de mi-session ou d’autres éléments du cours.
  5. Le Bureau du registraire prend en compte les dates liées à des pratiques religieuses lors de l’établissement du calendrier des examens finaux.
  6. Aucune documentation de la part de chefs religieux n’est requise pour appuyer ces demandes d’adaptation.

Vous pouvez consulter le guide Commonly Observed Dates of Religious Significance ici. Veuillez noter que ce guide n’est pas une liste exhaustive de tous les jours saints; l’absence de certaines dates sur cette liste ne doit pas être interprétée comme signifiant que des adaptations ne seront pas fournies aux étudiants et étudiantes qui observent d’autres jours saints associés à leur foi ou à leurs croyances spirituelles.

Le guide a été compilé en concertation avec le Conseil interconfessionnel des étudiants de York afin d’assurer son caractère inclusif pour toute la communauté étudiante de York. Vous pouvez également consulter ce calendrier interconfessionnel (non géré par York).

Nous invitons les organisateurs d’événements et les membres du corps professoral à tenir compte de ces dates lors de l’organisation d’événements.

Vous trouverez des informations supplémentaires pour la communauté étudiante, le corps professoral et le personnel relativement aux adaptations religieuses sur le site Web du Centre des droits de la personne, de l’équité et de l’inclusion.

Cette liste de jours fériés publics en 2021-2022 peut également vous être utile.

Sincères salutations,

Lisa Philipps 
Rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques   

Sheila Cote-Meek 
Vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

What the Step 2 reopening means for York University

A photo with a black backgroud that features two vials of COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe
The Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium is playing a pivotal role in providing locally nuanced analysis of data to inform public health decision making, as well as vaccination rollout strategies

The following is a message to the University community from Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps:

The province officially moved into Step 2 of its Roadmap to Reopen on Wednesday, June 30. Last week as well, all Ontarians aged 18 years and up became eligible to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This was very exciting news for the York community, as it means that all who are able can access first and second doses before a return to campus in September.

We are thrilled to announce that there will be another pop-up vaccine clinic on the Keele Campus this week on Tuesday, July 6 and Thursday, July 8 from 12 to 6 p.m. Our partners at Humber River Hospital will be administering the Pfizer vaccine and more details, including time and eligibility criteria (if applicable), will be shared with the York community.

A preliminary review of the impacts of Ontario’s Step 2 for York suggests that there are no major impacts posed to the University’s operations. The Summer term will continue to be delivered for the most part remotely as planned, with the following in place:

  • While gathering limitations now allow up to 50 people indoors, indoor gathering for in-person instruction will continue to abide by existing gathering limitations (10-person maximum), with a maximum of 50 persons allowed in the School of Nursing.
  • All indoor gatherings must still abide by two-metre physical distancing, masking/face covering requirements and/or the proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • Students filming outdoors or undertaking other activities outdoors must abide by the 25-person outdoor gathering limit.
  • In-person research involving human participants continues to be suspended at this time.
  • If you do need to come to campus, please request access through the Campus Access system or have pre-existing approval to access campus spaces. Completion of daily screening is also part of this process.

We continue to await guidance from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) on what will and will not be permitted for the Fall 2021 term and anticipate that this information will be shared with Ontario’s post-secondary sector in early July. As soon as this information is available, we will be sure to update you on any impacts this may pose for the York community.

In the coming weeks, more information will be shared via weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issues and on the Better Together website. Please stay tuned for updates on our plans for a safe return to campus this fall.

Lisa Philipps
Provost and Vice-President Academic

York faculty recognized with President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards

Vari Hall new image
Vari Hall new image

This year’s recipients of the 2021 President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards are being honoured for their innovation and commitment, as well as for having significantly enhanced the quality of learning by York students.

The President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards are chosen from four categories: full-time faculty with 10 or more years of teaching experience, full-time faculty with less than 10 years of experience, contract and adjunct faculty, and teaching assistants. They are selected by the Senate Committee on Awards. The goal of the awards is to provide significant recognition for excellence in teaching, to encourage its pursuit, to publicize such excellence when achieved across the University and in the wider community, and to promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement.

Receiving the awards this year are Hossam Ali-Hassan, Gordana Colby, Sofia Noori and Michael Kenny. They were chosen from numerous nominations received by the awards committee. Each award winner will have their names engraved on the University-Wide Teaching Awards plaques displayed in Vari Hall.

Glendon international studies Professor Hossam Ali-Hassan has been named the recipient of the 2021 President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the full-time tenured faculty with 10 or more years full-time teaching experience category. Ali-Hassan’s nomination highlighted his balanced approach to teaching, with a mix of technology and human abilities, with approachability and generosity that inspires student success and well-being. In addition, his colleagues mention the complementary relationship between his research, teaching and service to the University in administrative roles. More broadly, his continual self-development through perfecting his pedagogical approach and updating courses to incorporate in-demand skills and real-life experience improve the student experience at York University.

Gordana Colby, assistant professor of economics (teaching stream), is the recipient of the 2021 President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the full-time faculty with less than 10 years teaching experience category. A York alumna, Colby is the Department of Economics’ first full-time faculty member in the teaching stream. In their submission to the awards committee, Colby’s nominators highlighted her passion for teaching and improving the student experience at York University, which they note promotes excellence in teaching and learning. Her nominators spoke of her commitment to enhancing student experience and engagement in academics and curricular activities. They praised the many innovative and transformative ways she has fostered student success while promoting York’s instructional priorities in first-year experience and e-learning.

The 2021 President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the contract and adjunct faculty category has been awarded to Sofia Noori, a course director in the Faculty of Education. Noori was praised by her nominators for her commitment to creating an academically rigorous learning environment that is also a safe and inclusive space for students to express and hear a wide range of perspectives. Student letters in support of her nomination for the award speak about how Noori’s approach to teaching has inspired them to further their critical and imaginative capacities in ways that cultivate social and political awareness and justice. More broadly, her nominators spoke of her exemplary commitment to curricular development, innovative teaching and inclusive student engagements, all of which promote excellence at York University.

York Teaching Assistant Michael Kenny received the 2021 President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the teaching assistant category. Kenny is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education and a research associate with the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. In their submission to the awards committee, Kenny’s nominators praised his leadership as a teaching assistant and his ability to empower his students to seek positive change in addressing today’s environmental and social concerns through advocacy, policy change and community service. His nominators expressed their high regard for his support of students by fostering a respectful and inclusive environment in his classrooms, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, promoting excellence among his students.

Health Studies graduate Hanaa Ameer recognized with Murray G. Ross Award

Hanaa Ameer at the Harvard World Model UN
Hanaa Ameer at the Harvard World Model UN

Hanaa Ameer
Hanaa Ameer

Hanaa Ameer has accomplished a lot during her academic career at York University. The first in her family to graduate from university, Ameer has earned a bachelor of health studies, graduating summa cum laude, and is the recipient of the Murray G. Ross Award.

The award, which is typically presented during spring convocation, recognizes one student for outstanding academic excellence and significant contributions to the University and campus life. It is considered one of York University’s highest honours for a graduating student.

Ameer, who specialized in health-care management, says she feels honoured to win the award and “be part of an extraordinary group of students who previously won.” And though it was her own dedication to academia and university life that earned her the recognition, she credits her mentors – Lynda Van Dreumel (undergraduate program director, School of Health Policy and Management); Professor Ellen Schraa (School of Health Policy and Management); and York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton – for their guidance throughout her undergraduate journey.

She describes her academic experience at York as one rich with hands-on learning and experiential education (EE) opportunities. During her years of study within the School of Health Policy and Management, she contributed to the development of course designs and potential placements for a practicum course. She also provided advice on ways to increase EE initiatives and suggested opportunities that would enrich the Health Studies program.

Her academic performance is notable, and in her first year Ameer was admitted to the Golden Key International Honours Society for ranking among the top 15 per cent of students in the Faculty of Health. She has earned a place on the Dean’s Honour Roll every year, and in her final year was named the top graduating student in the Health Studies program based on her academic achievements and contributions made to improving undergraduate student life on campus.

Ameer is a recipient of the Canadian International Model United Nations (UN) Organization Award for the best health policy recommendations in the World Health Organization committee, and the Outstanding Delegate Award for her debate performance at the Ryerson Model United Nations Conference in 2018. York has recognized her with the York University Continuing Student Scholarship for academic achievements, as well as the Calumet and Stong College Leadership Award for contributions to the Faculty of Health.

“My passion for social impact and helping others inspired me to pursue a degree in health studies,” she says, adding that combined with her interest in business leadership, health-care management felt like the right fit. In her fourth year, she completed a practicum at the Toronto Grace Hospital in downtown Toronto, where she worked on a research project to improve family and patient experience.

Hanaa Ameer at the Harvard World Model UN
Hanaa Ameer at the Harvard World Model UN

Also heavily involved in extracurricular and leadership opportunities on campus, Ameer contributed to campus life through several student clubs and organizations. In her second year, she served as president of Doctors without Borders and as vice-president of York’s Model United Nations team. During the past two years, she worked closely with the University, serving as a president’s ambassador, student-alumni ambassador and student representative on York’s Marketing Committee. She was also selected to represent Canada at the United Nations Youth Assembly taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City.

“My extracurricular activities allowed me to create a connection between what I was learning in the classroom and real-world events,” says Ameer. “In my second year, I took a health policy course, while at the same time volunteering with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to persuade legislators to implement a value-added tax on all vaping products in Ontario. My extracurriculars helped shape my academic success, as I developed a new way of thinking about course material. I understood how my coursework directly impacted everyday decisions in health care and solutions that could be created to address challenges.”

Ameer says her most valuable learning experience at York didn’t take place in lecture hall, but instead at a place that represents the future of the University: the grounds for the Markham Centre Campus. In October 2020, she was invited as the student representative for the campus groundbreaking ceremony, where she was asked to speak.

“I was given the opportunity to present what the Markham Campus means to the student body and the future of York University,” she says. “I was truly humbled to share the platform with the President of York University, Rhonda Lenton, along with several cabinet ministers from the federal and provincial governments. Throughout my undergraduate degree I developed an interest in law and politics, so being able to share the platform with politicians made me realize that one day I could become a politician myself.”

The experience had a great impact on Ameer, and she plans to attend law school and run for public office in the future, as well as contribute time as a volunteer to non-profit organizations and community groups to further her interest in social justice.

“York University is a second home for me and holds a special place in my heart,” she says. “The community is so tightly knit, where everyone wants to help one another and become changemakers in their field. We are a close family who have each other’s backs and are willing to step up when it is time for action.”

Pandemic Relief Program for faculty and instructors opens the door to global learning

FEATURED image for faculty relief program

In February, the Provost’s Office announced new support for faculty members and contract course directors struggling with added pressures resulting from the pandemic in the Winter 2021 term. Funds from the Guest Lecturer Support Program were used to offer honoraria for visiting experts who shared new insights in classrooms as course directors were given a break.

Priority was given to tenure-stream faculty and contract course directors experiencing extraordinary challenges, as various lockdown and stay-at-home orders forced school closures, adding new demands on time for many educators.

The program was very well received overall, with some winter course instructors saying: “For me, this will greatly help ease the pressures of teaching with two small children during COVID.” Others expressed gratitude and thanks “for the University’s timely support. It helps me in a time of need while also providing students with a great learning opportunity.”

Others commented on how the program helped them meet the challenges of going remote, saying: “This program is so welcome and is definitely helping me with carrying the teaching load online.”

Overall, the program resulted in more than 100 guest lectureships across more than 35 programs in eight Faculties. Due to its success, there are plans to make it available again in the Summer 2021 Term and for those who are interested, more details and a request form can be accessed here.

Bringing the world to York virtually during the pandemic

In the Winter 2021 Term rollout, a wide range of guests were invited to engage with York undergraduate and graduate students. These included lecturers and visiting scholars from 20 universities in five different countries, including:

  • Scholars from: Harvard, SUNY, American University of Beirut, University of San Francisco, Duke, Western, Carleton, National University of Mexico, Indiana University, Seattle Pacific University, Columbia, University of Bergamo, Ottawa, OCAD, University of Toronto, Tufts, University of Texas, Memorial, University of Saskatchewan, Massey University, Ryerson, UTM and Oregon State.
  • Artists from: Sketch Working Arts, Randolph College for the Performing Arts, Activist Music, and Illumine Running Production, as well as independent artists.
  • Health professionals from: York Region Public Health, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Etobicoke General Hospital.
  • Lawyers from: Six Nations of the Grand River, Brian Weingarten Defence Law, Singer Katz LLP, Millard and Co, the Income Security Advocacy Centre, the Community Justice Collective, Goldblatt Partners, and Semaganis Worme Lombard Barristers & Solicitors.
  • Private Sector professionals from: Power Technologies Group, Dana Incorporated, Unique Appliances, Bell, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment LaunchPad, Blueprint Nutrition and Valoroso Consulting.
  • Professional and research staff from: ACTRA, the Max Planck Institute, Blueprint for Free Speech, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Jane Finch Community Research Partnership, Justice for Migrant Workers, the Daymark Foundation, the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, the Native Education College, FCJ Refugee Centre, the Detroit Zoological Society, and the Shift.
  • Guests from: the Toronto and Peel District School boards.

With plans to continue during the summer, the Guest Lecturer Support Program is an  example of an initiative that aligns closely with York University Academic Plan (UAP) priorities to support 21st Century Learning and specifically to ensure that “our graduates are known for their global mindset, ethical judgement, and superior ability to integrate diverse ideas and worldviews.”

It illustrates what is possible when parameters shift and new approaches to education are explored. When the pandemic is over, initiatives like these could be explored, say organizers, to further understand where virtual opportunities can add value and contribute to the future of education.