PhD candidate receives dissertation fellowship in Buddhist studies

Temple and two monks in Yangon, Myanmar, Shutterstock

Htet Min Lwin, a PhD candidate in York University’s Department of Humanities and a graduate associate at the York Centre for Asian Research, has been awarded a 2024 Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies to advance his dissertation work in Buddhist studies.

Htet Min Lwin
Htet Min Lwin

Htet is one of 11 scholars from universities around the world who have been awarded $30,000 each in support of their dissertation fieldwork, archival research and writing. This fellowship program is administered by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and made possible by a grant from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Global, which aims to promote the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist thought in scholarship and society, strengthen international networks of scholars in the field, and increase the visibility of new knowledge and research on Buddhist traditions.

The award builds upon – and looks to advance – Htet’s doctoral research at York which explores the Myanmar government’s attempts in 1958, 1962 and successfully in 1980 to institutionalize the country’s monastics – people who renounce worldly pursuits to devote themselves fully to spiritual work – under a centralized, state-backed authority.

Arguing against the triumph of the state’s political secularism, his work demonstrates the monks’ Buddhist logic and the sources of power within the tradition that led to them finally accepting this centralized authority. He shows how the state’s attempt to regulate religion resulted not only in the monastics being put under state control but the state ultimately being transformed by religion – creating a more orthodox society and resulting in an authoritarian, nationalist Buddhist state and communities.

“I am extremely delighted and looking forward to the field research,” says Htet, “as my work has potential to provide significant theoretical intervention on how the other-worldly ideal of the Theravada [Buddhist] tradition and protection of Buddhist teaching can get entwined with the ‘political secularism’ of the modern nation-state.”

OsgoodePD prepares lawyers to tackle legal climate crisis challenges

Two plants with skyscraper behind

Climate change is impossible to ignore, no matter your line of work or area of study. And at York University’s Osgoode Professional Development (OsgoodePD), the curriculum reflects that fact, with professional master of laws (LLM) programs and continuing legal education offerings incorporating the latest climate change legal issues.

Benjamin Richardson broke new ground when he co-taught Osgoode Hall Law School’s first Climate Change Law course for juris doctor students back in 2008, when he was a full-time professor here. Now based at Australia’s University of Tasmania, he recently returned to OsgoodePD as an adjunct professor and was pleased to see how teaching on the topic has evolved.

Benjamin Richardson
Benjamin Richardson

“There is still a place for standalone climate change law courses,” Richardson says, “but there is now a recognition that they need to be supplemented by embedding the climate change issue across the curriculum, because it has become such a pervasive, ubiquitous issue.”

In his Corporate Social Responsibility course, part of OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in International Business Law, Richardson’s students look at several intersections of climate and commerce, including corporate disclosure and potential greenwashing, developments in the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as how businesses can adapt to global warming for their future survival. 

Considering OsgoodePD’s particular focus on skills development for lawyers and other working professionals in practice, he says it is natural for the curriculum to contain many classes that could be characterized as climate change law courses.

Bruce McCuaig
Bruce McCuaig

“Mainstream Canadian law firms are increasingly demanding climate-literate lawyers who can advise their clients on these issues,” he explains. “It’s not enough just to know what the legislation says. You need a grounding in the economic, political, and ethical issues that affect how businesses and other stakeholders consider climate change.”

As one of three program directors for OsgoodePD’s part-time Professional LLM in Energy and Infrastructure Law, Bruce McCuaig, who has been involved with the program for the past 10 years, has noticed a significant shift in the way climate change is discussed.

“It’s a much more mature theme and topic now,” he says. “The conversation is no longer about the science of climate change or how it’s actually occurring, but more about potential action and execution.”

Jim Whitestone

According to Jim Whitestone, McCuaig’s colleague, it’s no surprise that climate change law courses are on the upswing, considering the past decade has seen some of the field’s more consequential developments.

The ripple effects of the 2015 Paris Agreement – at which almost 200 national governments agreed to ensure the globe warms by no more than two degrees Celsius this century to avoid the worst effects of climate change – are still being felt in particular as signatory nations grapple with the consequences of the net-zero emissions targets they have set for themselves in response.

Whitestone’s own history in the field goes back much further, having served as Ontario’s assistant deputy minister responsible for climate change and environmental policy. In his Climate Change: International Governance, Mitigation and Adaptation course, Whitestone focuses on the Paris Agreement and other international legal and policy frameworks now in place to address the climate crisis.

“We’re updating all the time as standards change and agreements come into place,” he says.

Domestic and international standards also feature heavily in the OsgoodePD Certificate in ESG (environmental, social and governance), Climate Risk and the Law – an intensive, five-day program designed for lawyers and other working professionals in a variety of industries where ESG risk has become a critical business priority.

Didem Light
Didem Light

As a law professor concerned with the movement of people and goods from one place to another, Didem Light says there can be few subjects more directly affected by the physical and legal implications of climate change than the one she teaches in International Transportation Law, a course offered as part of OsgoodePD’s Energy and Infrastructure LLM.  

“Climate change is going to have a very big impact,” says Light, “not just on manufacturers of vessels, cars, buses, trains and other modes of transport, but also the people who use them and the associated infrastructure: things such as ports, airports, train stations, roads and bridges.”

In other courses, the environmental links are not so obvious. At first glance, International Business Law LLM faculty member Emilio Dabed says casual observers may not make the connection between his course on Business and Human Rights and climate change. However, Dabed explores the governance gap that has traditionally allowed transnational corporations to escape effective environmental regulation, thanks to a combination of weak domestic laws and “soft law” – mostly non-binding international guidelines and standards.

Emilio Dabed
Emilio Dabed

In recent years, Dabed says these soft-law frameworks have been hardened by legally binding domestic law initiatives, the adoption of these guidelines by governments and the intervention of courts and tribunals, which have proven increasingly willing to hold transnational companies to account for their voluntary commitments in relation to human rights and the environment.

“What the course tries to convey to students is this strong link between the economic activities of transnational corporations and human rights and climate change, and how to develop a model that somehow reconciles the need for economic growth on the one hand, and the fulfillment of commitments to protect human rights and the environment on the other,” he explains.

Vanisha Sukdeo

Vanisha Sukdeo, who has a forthcoming book looking at the impact of climate change on workers, teaches a Business Associations course in OsgoodePD’s International Business Law LLM that is a popular choice with internationally trained lawyers seeking to requalify in Canada. She welcomes the global perspective her students bring to discussions, as she encourages them to think more deeply about the ideas that are frequently portrayed as solutions to the climate crisis in the western world – the electric vehicle revolution, for example.

“Electric vehicles might be reducing pollution in North America, but a lot of the mining that is needed to produce batteries is taking place on the African continent, generating more pollution there,” she says. “Has that really reduced emissions or just shifted them? That’s something for us to explore.”

As climate change has gone from an abstract concept to a reality of our daily lives, threatening to severely impact our collective future, academic institutions have been tasked with training future agents of change to tackle the threat head-on. Evidently, OsgoodePD has accepted that challenge.

York University Professor receives community research award

Diverse-group-of-people-in-a-circle-holding-hands

York University Assistant Professor Marsha Rampersaud, who teaches law and society in the Department of Social Science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has received a prestigious award from Community-Based Research Canada (CBRCanada) in recognition of her work with marginalized youth.

The Emerging Community-Based Researcher Award is among the top honours given out by CBRCanada, recognizing excellence in community-based research. The organization selected Rampersaud as its winner this year among a list of 18 other high-calibre nominations from across Canada.

Marsha Rampersaud

Rampersaud received the award as a recognition of her research engagement with marginalized youth and their communities, working toward societal change in the criminal justice system. In particular, she combines insights from the critical race, punishment, and abolition theories to examine issues of racial and social justice, the purpose of punishment and the impacts of societal structures on differently situated groups.

Rampersaud’s approach as a socio-legal researcher, whose approach is firmly rooted in practice, collaborates closely with the communities that inform her research to cultivate projects from the ground up.

Her community-driven research approach has led to impactful work, like a report she co-authored, titled “Half the Time I Felt Nobody Loved Me,” which has been praised for its examination of youth “aging out” of state guardianship in Ontario and the tangible and intangible costs associated with inadequate support. The report offers policy suggestions to enhance outcomes for youth and society.

Her extensive work in the field has also helped shape programming at StepStones for Youth, an organization she is involved with that supports youth in and from the foster care and group home care systems.

During a virtual awards gala, CBRCanada presented Rampersaud with a $1,000 cash prize to support her future community-based research projects. “This generous funding from CBRCanada will help support a Social Work Symposium this fall, hosted by StepStones for Youth, that will bring together international experts to tackle current issues in child protection,” she says.

York students publish research on workplace gender discrimination

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A paper by undergraduate students in York University’s School of Human Resource Management, titled “Discrimination against women in the workplace: Review and recommendations for more inclusive organizations,” was published in the esteemed International Journal of Employment Studies. It examines the pervasive issue of discrimination against women in the workplace, addressing key areas such as gender bias, motherhood and pregnancy discrimination, and the gender pay gap.

Students Nicki Nguyen, Nishana Ganesh and Sarah Versteeg initially began their work in Professor Duygu Biricik Gulseren’s Occupational Health and Safety class, where one of their assignments was to review 10 recent research articles on a workplace health and safety topic of their interest. Gulseren was so impressed with their work, she invited the students to expand their review and collaborate with her.

Together, the team conducted a larger literature review on workplace discrimination against women, focusing on three common types: gender bias, pregnancy and motherhood discrimination, and pay gap. Investigating why, how and when discrimination against women occurs in the workplace, they found that the discrimination is directly related to factors like gender, pregnancy or motherhood status, and compensation in the workplace.

“This paper aims to provide a research synthesis and evidence-based recommendations for [human resources] leaders wishing to prevent gender discrimination demonstrated through gender bias, motherhood and pregnancy discrimination, and the gender pay gap,” says Gulseren. “It also serves as an up-to-date review for researchers interested in this topic.”

Drawing upon the latest evidence available, the paper offers practical recommendations for organizations striving to bolster their gender diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. It serves as a valuable resource for businesses aiming to foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

Under their professor’s guidance, the students have made a significant contribution to the field of workplace diversity and inclusion, an accomplishment most undergraduate students can’t claim. Gulseren is proud of her students’ impact.

“The paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal listed in the selective Australian Business Deans Council journal list along with papers from other, mostly PhD-level, researchers,” she explains. “This is a tremendous achievement for undergraduate students. They pushed the field forward by making a novel and meaningful contribution to the academic discourse on gender diversity in organizations.”

Research Impact Challenge helps boost self-promotion, visibility

Open book with glasses and a pen sitting on top

York University faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students are invited to participate in the York University Libraries’ Research Impact Challenge to learn how to increase the visibility and reach of their scholarly works.

From May 27 to 31, the Libraries will run five fully asynchronous challenges to help teach York researchers tips, strategies and methods to curate their online presence and make their research more discoverable to academic communities in their disciplines. Each challenge will take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

“Researchers at all stages of their career benefit from leveraging research visibility best practices for their publishing and self-promotion strategies,” says Andrea Kosavic, interim dean, York University Libraries. “By completing the five challenges in this event, researchers will have a number of strategies at their fingertips to improve the discoverability of their research.”

Each day, participants will be asked to learn about a specific research visibility topic and complete a short research task to support them in making their scholarly outputs easier to discover. For example, participants will learn about curating their online presence using researcher profiles such as ORCID iD, a tool that makes it easier to identify authors and contributors of scholarly communication. Additionally, participants will explore the value of open-access publishing, scholarly research repositories and how to leverage existing Libraries supports such as YorkSpace to make their research more discoverable.

“Studies show that publishing your research open access is an effective research visibility strategy,” says Kosavic, “as access to subscriptions privileges those who can afford to pay. Publishing open access ensures the global community has access to your research and can build upon your discoveries, which translates into citation and social media uptake advantages.”

The challenges will also cover traditional and alternative research metrics and will highlight the Libraries’ subscription databases that can help researchers gather specific types of metrics.

To participate in the challenge, researchers are asked to do the following:

  • Step 1: sign-up for the challenge.
  • Step 2: during the week of the challenge, keep an eye out for the daily email with information on the day’s task.
  • Step 3: after completing each daily challenge, fill out the associated MS Form to be entered into a draw for a chance to win a set of Belkin wireless headphones or a prize of equivalent value.

“I’m thrilled about this engaging initiative that will allow our researchers to learn about strategies to help increase their research visibility, while also learning about specific tools and resources that can raise their profiles externally,” says Jennifer Steeves, associate vice-president research. “This will help increase awareness of the outstanding research being done by our colleagues at York.”

Grad student research recognized with thesis, dissertation prizes

a man holding a trophy

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) has awarded six graduands with 2024 Thesis and Dissertation Prizes for their outstanding contributions to the local and global community. The prizes, valued at $2,000 for doctoral dissertations and $1,000 for master’s theses, are given out every spring to honour theses defended in the previous calendar year. The award-winning work among the early-career scholars ranged from high-risk data collection to an award-winning film.

Doctoral Dissertation Prizes

Alison Humphrey (PhD, cinema and media studies) for “The Shadowpox Storyworld as Citizen Science Fiction: Building Co-Immunity through Participatory Mixed-Reality Storytelling”

Alison Humphrey
Alison Humphrey

Humphrey’s dissertation involves a mixed-reality storyworld – a fully immersive, interactive storytelling experience – co-created with young people on three continents, imagining immunization through a superhero metaphor.

The research-creation dissertation recounts the design and testing of three experiments in a single science fiction storyworld, titled “Shadowpox.” Humphrey’s first experiment was a full-body video game exhibited at the UNAIDS 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, and at Galleri KiT in Trondheim, Norway. The second was a networked narrative – a story created by a network of interconnected authors – which was workshopped and presented at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and with the Debajehmujig Storytellers, a multidisciplinary arts organization in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Reserve in northern Ontario. The third component, an online video game necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, was available worldwide, and was included in the United Nations COVID-19 Response Creative Content Hub in 2020.

The examining committee praised the project and described it as “careful theory-building through sound methodological praxis” and “a new standard for research-creation dissertations in Canada.”

Inbar Peled (PhD, law) for “Professionalizing Discrimination:  Legal Actors and the Struggle Against Racialized Policing in Multicultural Societies”

Inbar Peled
Inbar Peled

Through her project, Peled examines the role of lawyers in perpetuating racialized police violence in multicultural societies. While much of the work on racialized police killing and police violence focuses on the police themselves, the role of lawyers in enabling these incidents is often ignored. To unpack the ways lawyers and judges support, resist and confront racism in their practices, Peled interviewed prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges in Israel. Her groundbreaking work argues that the solution to the problem of racialized policing will have to include transformation within the legal profession.

Her defense committee unanimously commended the work, saying, “the real genius of Peled’s project is that it merges theories of identity (self and others) with professionalized role competence. This combination demonstrates not just that lawyers are – like all people – influenced by race and racism in their decision making but also that legal norms and rules also play a role in the failure to address racialized police violence.”

Jennifer Porat (PhD, biology) for “RNA methyltransferases Influence Noncoding RNA Biogenesis and Function Through Catalytic-Independent Activities”

Jennifer Porat
Jennifer Porat

Porat’s innovative study encompasses various aspects of ribonucleic acid (RNA) biology – a molecule essential for most biological functions – while focusing on the lesser-studied functions of a set of eukaryotic RNA modification enzymes. The dissertation provides evidence supporting the multifaceted nature of these enzymes and underscores their importance in many fundamental biological processes. The pinnacle recognition of Porat’s scholarly excellence is exemplified by her recent Scaringe Award that acknowledges outstanding achievement of young scientists engaged in RNA research presented by the RNA Society, an international scientific society with more than 1,800 members dedicated to fostering research and education in the field of RNA science.

The examination committee Chair, Professor Emanuel Rosonina, stated that Porat’s work “fundamentally changes how we think about RNA-modifying enzymes.” He continued, “It is not common that a student forges new ground and concepts like this. Hers is among the most impressive PhD theses and defenses that I have seen at York and beyond.”

Master’s Thesis Prizes

Pooya Badkoobeh (master’s, film) for “Based on a True Story”

Pooya Badkoobeh
Pooya Badkoobeh

Badkoobeh’s thesis film, Inn, is a 20-minute minimalist short film set in Tehran, Iran, inspired by the real-life story of an old couple who planned to commit suicide together. The film’s central theme revolves around the core meaning of life in the face of planned and seemingly certain death. Employing minimalist storytelling and a hybrid of fiction and documentary style, the film uses long takes and distant camera placements for a distinctive effect. The script features very little dialogue and long silences, illustrating the characters’ inner lives and allowing the viewer to fill in their background. The same year of his defense, Badkoobeh’s thesis film was named North America’s Best Film by CILECT, the International Association of Film & Television Schools.

“His film embraces the core value of what it means to be human in the cinematic form,” shared Manfred Becker, Pooya’s supervisor. “It is an exceptionally sensitive and disciplined work of art, executed in a minimalist style, which matches the complexity of its subject matter.”

Nina Garrett (master’s, biology) for “Measuring neotropical bat diversity using airborne eDNA”

Nina Garrett
Nina Garrett

Garrett’s thesis develops the novel technique of capturing airborne environmental DNA (eDNA) for the detection of tropical bat species. Garrett successfully demonstrates that airborne eDNA can accurately characterize a mixed-species community with varying abundances and that the type of sampler does not impact DNA concentration or read count. This study was extremely high-risk science because no one had ever attempted this type of work under field conditions with wild animals. At the time she started, there were only three published scientific works in existence demonstrating that airborne eDNA collection was even possible and all had been conducted under extremely controlled and artificial conditions (i.e. in a zoo).

Garrett’s two data chapters were published in PeerJ and Environmental DNA journals. Additionally, she has been acknowledged for her advanced academic and research leadership, having received prestigious awards for her master’s studies, including the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada’s master’s graduate scholarship and recognitions for her research presentations at provincial and national conferences.

Haider Shoaib (master’s, electrical engineering and computer science) for “Performance Modeling and Optimization of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles With Reliable Wireless Connectivity”

Haider Shoaib
Haider Shoaib

Shoaib’s cutting-edge project tackles vehicular network connectivity challenges, which are expected to be of increasing concern with the rise of electric vehicles. The project explores the fundamental question of how to maximize vehicle traffic flow while maintaining a minimum network connectivity requirement. Specifically, Shoaib’s thesis develops innovative network performance models for 5G- and 6G-enabled vehicle communications that consider critical parameters such as traffic flow, wireless channel impediments and network density.

This type of optimization has not been considered to date in either the telecommunications or transportation domains, and it includes several important constraints to ensure quality of service and to avoid collisions.

Additional prize

In addition to the above Thesis and Dissertation Prizes, FGS nominated Humphrey and Porat for a dissertation prize presented by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS). The CAGS-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award recognizes Canadian doctoral dissertations that make significant and original contributions to their academic field. Winners receive a $1,500 cash prize, a certificate of recognition and an invitation to attend the Annual CAGS Conference.

For more information about the prizes and how they are awarded, visit the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Muscle Health Awareness Day event expands its scope

Man's back muscle and body structure. Human body view from behind isolated on white background.

The annual Muscle Health Awareness Day (MHAD) event hosted at York University on Friday, May 17, looks to advance its research reputation in the field with an emphasis on introducing attending researchers to a lived experience session.

Sponsored by York’s Muscle Health Research Centre (funded by the Faculty of Health), the Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, each year MHAD brings together doctors, scientists and trainees from across Canada and the United States. It aims to help advance understanding of the physiology and adaptation of muscles, vasculature and the heart during exercise and aging.

Among the nine speakers and 60 trainee presentations that will be featured at this year’s 15th annual event, something new will be introduced: a special lived experience session.

In recent years, among pre-clinical and clinical researchers in the field, there has been a growing movement to connect directly with individuals struggling with muscle-related health issues to better inform research.

“How can we truly understand what we’re studying if we don’t have any experience with that situation?” says Professor Christopher Perry, director of the Muscle Health Research Centre (MHRC). “What options are remaining? To listen to people who have it.”

Perry has experienced this first-hand at other conferences where, during sessions on particular diseases or conditions, people who were affected by them were involved in the discussion – putting a human face to what attendees spend their time researching. He still remembers the impact that can have. “The first thing I felt was not knowledge. The first thing I felt was inspiration,” he says. “‘This is why we’re doing and this,’” he thought.

He has found, too, that when listening to lived experiences, sometimes those who are affected by a condition will bring up feelings, pain or sensations that researchers hadn’t thought to ask about or were aware of through literature. That, in turn, can lead to new understanding and avenues for research.

When Perry became director of the MHRC, he pushed for the MHAD event to not only follow suit but demonstrate innovation – it is among the first conferences with pre-clinical researchers in attendance to include a lived experience session.

The MHAD event has invited Julia Creet, a filmmaker and English professor in the Department of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who will share her experiences as a mature athlete and the process of how she maintains – even improves – her fitness. In her discussion she will cover how incorporating strength training becomes more important to build muscle, how it may take longer to warm up and recover, and how people can remain highly competitive even as they age. To help accentuate the talk, Creet aims to also share a five-minute documentary about her experience as a cyclist.

The session will also include an athletic therapist providing a professional perspective on the challenges faced by aging athletes.

The organizers’ hope is that the session will help provide information to many researchers focusing on aging, while also being relevant to anyone studying how aging affects fitness in all populations.

In its aim to underscore the impact attending researchers can have – especially when considering the lived experiences of those they study – the MHAD event will also feature a session with the CEO of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, who will share how scientific discovery in exercise physiology can be translated into professional practice by front-line certified exercise physiologists.

The intent is for scientists and trainees attending MHAD to see how their roles as researchers can impact society, and how their research efforts can support a continuum of knowledge generation and dissemination towards health solutions for society.

For more information, to register and to submit abstracts or posters for consideration, visit the Muscle Health Awareness Day web page.

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.

Professor recognized with distinguished service award

Award stock image banner from pexels

Professor Randal F. Schnoor has received the 2024 Louis Rosenberg Canadian Jewish Studies Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Canadian Jewish Studies (ACJS) in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of study.

The report by the award jurors recognized Schnoor as a “brilliant and insightful scholar [who] has looked at a wide range of topics in Canadian Jewish life … and has done particularly important comparative work in those areas.”  

Schnoor has been teaching Jewish studies and religious studies at York University in the Department of Humanities since 2004, specializing in the study of contemporary Canadian Jewish life.

Randal Schnoor
Randal Schnoor

Over the course of his career, he has published numerous books, articles, chapters and more on Jewish identity, Jewish day schools, Hasidic Jews and 2SLGBTQIA+ Jews, among other contemporary topics. As president of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies for nine years, he has also helped advance the field’s reach and relevance.

Schnoor has made an impact as well with contributions to policy research around Jewish poverty in Toronto, how to approach engaging interfaith families, South African Jews in Toronto and ways to address enrolment changes for Toronto’s Jewish community high school.

“The field’s central scholarly organization – the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies – has now formally recognized what many of us already deeply appreciate,” says David Koffman, the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry and a professor in the Department of History. “Professor Schnoor has made outstanding and enduring contributions to the field as a scholar who has broken new ground repeatedly, as an inspiring and effective teacher to thousands of York students over the years, and as a stalwart leader who has served the field in so many ways. The award is richly deserved.” 

Among his efforts, Schnoor has also demonstrated commitment to important work with Jewish and Muslim students at York outside of the classroom. Most recently, he has revitalized Bridging the Gap, a part of York’s Supporting Open & Respectful Dialogue Program, which looks to design opportunities and establish safe spaces for honest and respectful dialogue on York’s campuses.

This past February, the first event took place on the Keele Campus to discuss the Israel-Palestine issue. The initiative has garnered media attention and interest from other post-secondary institutions – like Western University, Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Sydney in Australia – to share insights.

Schnoor will receive his award at the ACJS annual conference in Montreal in June as part of this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canada’s largest gathering of academics in the field – and one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Lassonde student turns space aspirations into a career reality

Satellite in space

Fourth-year mechanical engineering student Rehan Rashid, in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, always dreamed of working at NASA – the ultimate goal of every space enthusiast. He’s already done so three times now, thanks to internships and his time at York.

Rehan Rashid
Rehan Rashid

Inspired by stories he had heard of Lassonde students forging their own paths in space engineering and beyond, Rashid made the most of his time at Lassonde by getting involved in student clubs, extracurricular activities and programs that would allow him the opportunity to pursue his passions beyond the classroom.

With support from Lassonde, Rashid completed three internships at NASA during his undergraduate years. And he will soon begin his fourth, at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where he will be working on a project about novel carbon utilization-based technology for the lunar surface. These internships, he says, have been instrumental to his academic and career progression.

“My internship experiences at NASA have strengthened my passion for space exploration and energy storage technology,” says Rashid.

His internships took place at three different NASA locations: Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; Johnson Space Center in Houston; and Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla. As part of the internships, Rashid conducted several research projects, including designing, fabricating and testing new battery designs for electric aircraft. He was also recognized as a NASA Innovator for his work on a compact, plasma-based elemental analyzer for astronauts in the International Space Station.

Lobby of Crew and Thermal Systems Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Lobby of Crew & Thermal Systems Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Beyond knowledge acquisition, skill development and invaluable real-world experience, each of these internships nurtured Rashid’s fascination with space, providing him ample opportunities to witness launches for companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and, of course, NASA itself. During his first internship, in 2022, he also had the pleasure of meeting several astronauts who were preparing for upcoming space missions.

“My advice to students is to get involved early on,” he says. “I strongly recommend participating in extracurricular activities, especially the clubs offered at Lassonde. There are numerous organizations and programs that students can join to gain hands-on experience, like the York University Robotics Society and Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology program.”

Doing just that has allowed Rashid to not only make his mark on NASA, and fulfill his dream of working there, but build on York’s ever-growing leadership in fields of study focused on what lies outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Rashid’s extraordinary undergraduate experience has prepared him well for the next step of his academic journey, as a master’s candidate at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. As for where will he end up after that, the sky’s the limit.