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.