York advances projects to support Indigenous scholarship, knowledge

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Indigenous

Nine new projects dedicated to increasing Indigenous scholarship and voice within teaching and learning at York University have earned grants through the Indigeneity in Teaching in Learning Fund.

Funded by the Office of the Vice-Provost Academic, these innovative projects selected in the 2023-24 academic year create new opportunities for Indigenous students to build knowledge and increase participation in cultural activities, while expanding meaningful connections with Indigenous communities.

Marcia Annisette
Marcia Annisette

“We are pleased to see the uptake and interest in this fund. We get more applicants than we can fund and this year was no different,” says Marcia Annisette, vice-provost academic. “This speaks to the great interest across the University to bring meaning and intention to the Indigenous Framework and to the University Academic Plan. These funds are catalysts for what we hope will lead to richer teaching, learning and relationship across the University.”

Projects are estimated to engage approximately 1,000 students, faculty and staff. Susan Dion, associate vice-president, Indigenous initiatives, says these projects “contribute to embedding Indigenous voices and perspectives in courses, student learning and partnership building with Indigenous leaders, advancing York’s commitment to integrating Indigenous thought and perspectives throughout the academy.”  

In 2023, the University launched its Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which includes a commitment to cultivating inclusive teaching and learning environments that nurture multiple and intersectional ways of knowing. The nine projects awarded with grants aim to advance this goal in concrete ways and demonstrate how the community is contributing to advancing positive change in 2023-24.

The projects, which will receive approximately $2,000 each, are:

  • Bridging Indigenous Women’s and IndigiQueer Voices from Community to Indigenous Feminisms Class, by Angele Alook;
  • Community Voices in Indigenous Spirituality in the Contemporary World, by Michael White;  
  • Creating a SAGE Nest: Collaborative Mentorship & Support for Indigenous Graduate Students, by Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing;  
  • Regeneration: All Our Relations Speaker and Performance, by Laura Levin, Brenda Longfellow, Archer Pechawis and Emilia White;
  • Lunch and Learn: Connect, Educate, Enhance, by Sage Hartmann and Hannah Johnson, Osgoode Indigenous Student Association;
  • Making Good Tracks Moccasin Project, by Kiera Brant-Birioukov
  • Reclaiming Aatisokaanan: Traditional Anishinaabe Stories, by Maya Chacaby;
  • Exploring Toronto as a City of Solidarity and Alienation, by Soma Chatterjee; and  
  • Houdensosaunee Social Dance, by Jeremy Green

Student film exploring community-based sustainability screens at COP28

film camera

A documentary short created by York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi and supported by CIFAL York was competitively accepted to screen on Dec. 11 at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, as part of COP28’s Canada Pavilion events program.

York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai
York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

In collaboration with CIFAL York and EnviroMuslims, A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability examines an innovative, community-based sustainability program that a group of volunteers at the Jaffari Community Center (JCC) in Vaughan, Ont., undertook during the holy month of Ramadan while hosting and feeding more than 2,000 individuals every night. The film shows how the community was able to significantly minimize food and plastic waste and take major steps towards contributing to sustainability goals at the community level.

“Screening at COP28 is an exciting and exceptional opportunity for me and the film to further spread its message,” says Naeemi, who is currently at the conference in Dubai to take part in events and promote his film. “Considering the focus on the role of culture in climate change action at COP28, this documentary brings an example of such contribution, as faith is rooted in our culture.”

A second-year PhD student in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), Naeemi – who also puts his skills to use assisting CIFAL York’s multimedia unit – filmed, edited, directed and produced the film himself, with support from his PhD supervisory committee.

Using an interview style, Naeemi says the film seeks to highlight the following: the role of faith in initiating sustainable programs; the impact of family and community engagement in teaching sustainable practices; the role of Muslim women as sustainability leaders; and the advantages of using passionate youth to drive innovative sustainability practices.

“This documentary is very much in line with our focus area in developing learning materials around advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” says Ali Asgary, director of CIFAL York, a professor of disaster and emergency management, and one of Naeemi’s PhD supervisors. “Screening this documentary at COP28 is very significant, as it highlights the importance and connections between the SDGs and the climate change.”

Adjunct Professor Mark Terry, another member of Naeemi’s supervisory committee, who helped produce the film through his Youth Climate Report project, calls A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability “a remarkable film.”

“I’m very proud of Peyman for making a film that Canada wanted to showcase at this year’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai,” he says.

At COP28, Naeemi looks forward to receiving expert feedback on the film and learning from peers about how to expand its reach on a global scale. Attending the conference, he hopes, will also enrich the theoretical part of his thesis, giving him exposure to the world’s leading experts on environmental action.

Regarding his future plans, Naeemi says A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability will screen at the JCC, at York and potentially other universities, and at film festivals like the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film Festival. It will then be available for public viewing online, on the CIFAL York and CIFAL Global websites. On the academic side, Naeemi plans to use the documentary as a case study in an upper-level undergraduate course, highlighting the role of digital media in environmental and social movements.

Recent alum joins prestigious NASA lab

rocket launch banner

Nacer Naciri, a 2023 York University doctoral graduate, joins two other Lassonde School of Engineering doctoral alumni at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) advancing understanding of Earth and the solar system.

Nacer Naciri
Nacer Naciri

NASA’s JPL is a renowned institution, serving as a leader in robotic space exploration, sending rovers to Mars, probing the solar system and using satellites to advance understanding of Earth.

Naciri joined the laboratory in August as a postdoctoral Fellow, building on his work at York, which primarily focused on using various techniques to achieve precise positioning at the centimetre level for global navigation satellite systems such as GPS.

His academic experience at the University helped him secure his current position at NASA JPL after convocating in April. There, he conducts similar research, focusing on multi-global navigation satellite systems and multi-frequency processing for precise point positioning.

Athina Peidou
Athina Peidou

Naciri joins other York alum at NASA JPL making their mark, such as Athina Peidou (PhD ’20), currently there as a geodesist – a profession that measures and monitors the Earth’s size. At NASA, Peidou works on space geodesy applications; particularly reference frames, precise orbit positioning and gravity field recovery from observations derived from the gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) satellite and its nearly identical successor GRACE-Follow On.

The two GRACE satellite missions provide a continuous record of gravitational changes driven by mass redistribution occurring on Earth, to improve understanding of climate change and the Earth’s structure and processes. 

Panagiotis Vergados
Panagiotis Vergados

Panagiotis Vergados (PhD ’11) is another alum at NASA JPL, working there as a research technologist following his PhD research at York and a postdoctoral fellowship under NASA’s Postdoctoral Program, of which only 12 are awarded globally per year. Currently, Vergados’s day-to-day at NASA JPL includes a range of research and management work, some of which is related to his PhD research in the field of space physics, which focused on understanding how radio wave signals interact with the Earth’s ionosphere and interfere with GPS to inform the development of corrective measures. He is also using GPS signals to study climate evolution and applying principles he learned at York to conduct research related to planetary physics.

In addition, Vergados has gone back to his roots, serving as an adjunct professor and working alongside his former supervisor, Professor Spiros Pagiatakis, at York to co-supervise their students’ research.

For many students studying geomatics within Earth and space science and engineering, securing a position at an international space agency is not only a monumental accomplishment but also a dream come true. All three now-established researchers are eager to inspire others and share their journeys with those aspiring to tread a similar path.

Statement from President Rhonda Lenton in response to Ontario auditor general report

Arial view of Kaneff

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

York University has received the Operations and Capital Audit that was undertaken by the auditor general of Ontario (AGO). The report was released as part of the AGO’s annual report to the Ontario Legislature and follows recent audits of other Ontario universities.

The University appreciates the work of the Office of the Auditor General and thanks them for their collaborative approach to undertaking this audit. The University agrees with the auditor general’s overall conclusion that York is financially sustainable and we accept the recommendations. 

The University had identified many of the areas highlighted in the report as part of our own planning processes including those related to international students and capital investments. We will use the recommendations in the report to further strengthen the robust plans already underway. 

Over the last six years, the University has been delivering on the vision and priorities set out in the University Academic Plan guided by a strategic framework that aligns the external context with our Integrated Resource Plans to hone a financially sustainable approach supporting the success of our students and driving positive change for the communities we serve. That approach includes plans to grow enrolment; assess program, department and Faculty sustainability; and diversify sources of revenue. The University has a strong debt repayment strategy, has no plans to take on more debt and we have already increased annual contributions to deferred maintenance. 

As we work through the recommendations from the auditor general, we will continue to deliver on our mandate to provide a diverse demographic of students access to a high-quality, research-intensive university committed to enhancing the well-being of the communities that we serve. We will do this while continuing to make sound investments in the long-term sustainability of York University. 

Déclaration de la présidente Lenton en réponse au rapport du vérificateur général de l’Ontario

L’Université York a reçu l’audit des opérations et du capital réalisé par le Bureau du vérificateur général de l’Ontario (VGO). Ce rapport a été publié dans le cadre du rapport annuel du VGO à l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario et fait suite à des vérifications récentes d’autres universités de l’Ontario. 

L’Université est reconnaissante du travail du Bureau du vérificateur général et le remercie pour l’approche collaborative adoptée dans le cadre de cet audit. Nous sommes d’accord avec la conclusion générale du vérificateur général selon laquelle York est financièrement viable et acceptons les recommandations. 

L’Université avait recensé plusieurs domaines mis en évidence dans le rapport dans le cadre de ses propres processus de planification, notamment ceux liés aux étudiants internationaux et aux investissements en capital. Nous utiliserons les recommandations du rapport pour renforcer les plans rigoureux déjà en cours. 

Au cours des six dernières années, York a concrétisé la vision et les priorités définies dans le Plan académique de l’Université en se basant sur un cadre stratégique qui aligne le contexte externe sur nos plans de ressources intégrés afin de parfaire une approche financièrement durable appuyant la réussite de nos étudiants et suscitant des changements positifs pour les communautés que nous servons.   Cette approche comprend des plans visant à augmenter le nombre d’inscriptions, à évaluer la viabilité des programmes, des départements et des facultés, et à diversifier les sources de revenus. L’Université dispose d’une solide stratégie de remboursement de la dette, n’a pas l’intention de s’endetter davantage et a déjà augmenté ses contributions annuelles à la maintenance différée. 

Tout en travaillant sur les recommandations du vérificateur général, nous continuerons à remplir notre mandat, qui est d’offrir à une population étudiante diversifiée l’accès à une université de haute qualité, à forte intensité de recherche, qui s’engage à améliorer le bien-être des communautés qu’elle sert, tout en continuant à investir de façon judicieuse dans la viabilité à long terme de l’Université York. 

Master’s research film looks at sharks as indicator of ocean health

Shark pictured underwater

By Lindsay MacAdam, communications officer, YFile

Recent York University graduate Vivian Guido (MES ’23) is screening her new documentary, Turning Tides: Sustainability Measures for Shark Conservation, on York University’s Keele Campus on Dec. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Nat Taylor Cinema. Part of her master’s program, the film aims to increase and promote ocean literacy and environmental education, informing viewers of the many ways climate change impacts the health of oceans and communities – and giving them a new perspective on sharks in the process.

Turning Tides film poster.

Selected to be shown at several events throughout the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), wrapping up early next week in Dubai, Turning Tides explores the progress of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water. Following the 10 targets of SDG 14, it uses sharks as an indicator of ocean health and builds upon past work of marine biologist David McGuire to determine current areas of success and opportunities for improvement in marine conservation.

“We were really grateful that the United Nations (UN) wanted to show the film,” says Guido. “And I think if any legislation or policy change can come from that, that would be even more exciting.”

Interestingly, Guido began her post-secondary studies in fashion design – not science or environmental studies – with the hopes of focusing on sustainable apparel and tackling textile waste. To her surprise, she was met with roadblocks. “No one really wanted to talk about it,” she explains. “And in the fashion industry, it’s like this big, hidden secret. Everyone knows it’s bad, but no one cares, so I wanted to see if I could address sustainability in a different way.”

She worked in fashion for a couple of years before deciding to pivot – first, becoming a scuba diver, then taking a two-year diploma in environmental sustainability at Lakehead University and finally enrolling in York’s master’s program in environmental studies. The graduate program provided Guido with many experiential learning opportunities that served as the basis of her research for Turning Tides, including a stint at a non-governmental organization called Shark Stewards, where her interest in marine biology, ocean conservation – and sharks, specifically – flourished.

It took Guido about six months to put the film together, with the help of a video editor and a supervisor, York Adjunct Professor Mark Terry. She credits Terry, a passionate filmmaker himself, for helping craft her documentary into a more professional style that could capture the attention of a global organization like the UN. Her other supervisor, Associate Professor Leesa Fawcett, provided critical support in the research phase of the project.

As for what’s next for Guido and her film, her short-term plan is to submit it to film festivals and pitch it to schools as an educational resource.

“If there’s an opportunity to make more films, if there’s an opportunity to conduct more research, I would be extremely interested in that,” she says, “but expanding the reach of the film and the knowledge it provides is our top priority.”

Pre-registration for the film screening is required. To RSVP, fill out this online form by Wednesday, Dec. 13. For more information, see the full event listing.

Warm wishes from President Rhonda Lenton

Rhonda Lenton holiday message 2023

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

This season is a natural time to pause and reflect. On behalf of York University, I am incredibly grateful for our students, faculty, course instructors and staff for achieving yet another year of innovative learning, cutting-edge research and transformative impact, but also for the ways that so many of our community members have exemplified all the values enshrined in York University’s mission, and which our world is currently in urgent need of.

I recognize that it is a difficult time for many in our community. In this spirit, I wanted to share a short video message with you. I wish you all a restful break and an opportunity to connect with family and friends. I look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the new year. 


Rhonda Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor

Vœux sincères de la présidente Rhonda Lenton

Chers membres de la communauté de York, 

Cette époque de l’année est idéale pour faire une pause et réfléchir. Au nom de l’Université York, je suis reconnaissante aux membres de la communauté étudiante, des corps professoral et enseignant et du personnel pour une nouvelle année d’apprentissage innovant, de recherche de pointe et d’effet transformateur. Je suis également redevable aux nombreux membres de notre communauté qui ont incarné toutes les valeurs inscrites dans la mission de l’Université York. Notre monde en a besoin de toute urgence. 

Je sais que c’est une période difficile pour beaucoup de membres de notre communauté. C’est dans cet esprit que je partage cette courte vidéo. Je vous souhaite une agréable pause afin de vous rapprocher de votre famille et de vos personnes aimées. Je me réjouis de vous accueillir à nouveau sur les campus au début de la nouvelle année.

Sincères salutations,     

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Schulich ExecEd launches municipal leadership training program

Business team training session

York University’s Schulich ExecEd has partnered with the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association (OMAA) to launch the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Leadership Program.

The dynamic, five-day program will help government administrators gain the vital leadership skills and strategies needed to better support elected officials and effectively implement council policies.

“We are excited to announce our partnership with the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association in launching the prestigious Chief Administrative Officer Leadership Program,” said Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “Upskilling and reskilling municipalities are crucial endeavours that hold significant importance in adapting to the evolving challenges and opportunities faced by local governments. This partnership recognizes this need, equipping participants with essential business skills and acumen, as well as providing a clear pathway for leadership success in municipal governance.”

The program will cover trending topics in the industry such as political acuity, digital transformation and data analysis. Upon completion, participants will be ready to thrive in their CAO roles or move up the career ladder to more senior positions. The program’s hybrid format allows easy access to programming and materials for busy professionals.

“The CAO position is a uniquely challenging one that has lacked a clear educational pathway for those considering entering,” said Scott Vokey, OMAA executive director. “OMAA is very pleased to collaborate with Schulich to help start construction on this pathway.”

OMAA represents CAOs and aspiring CAOs in municipalities of all tiers and sizes across Ontario. It fosters excellence in CAO leadership, know-how and professional management of municipalities. Paired with Schulich ExecEd’s expertise in professional development and experience in upskilling and reskilling public sector organizations, the partnership marks a significant milestone in the pursuit of leadership excellence.

“Through our partnership with Schulich ExecEd, we are offering unique and true value as well as deep insight into what is required to be an effective chief administrative officer,” said Peter Neufeld, OMAA president and CAO of the Municipality of Leamington. “OMAA is excited to help develop the first certificate program to specifically focus on the unique needs of the CAO position.”

The CAO Leadership Program is kicking off on April 4, 2024, and registration is open now. Visit the web page to enrol or to learn more: Education and Training – Ontario Municipal Administrators Association (omaa.on.ca).

York recognizes International Day for Persons with Disabilities

lassonde winter students

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dec. 3 is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Recognition of this day reminds us of our responsibility to better understand disabilities and to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in our communities.

This year’s theme for the day, as set out by the United Nations (UN), is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for, with and by persons with disabilities.” Achieving many of the SDG targets is in serious peril, threatened by inaction and multiple global crises. Preliminary findings from the forthcoming UN Disability and Development Report 2023 indicate that the world is even more at risk of not meeting several SDGs for persons with disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities have historically been marginalized and have often been among those left furthest behind. All members of the York community are encouraged to develop their understanding of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life. It is also important to reflect on the experiences of persons with disability in all five pillars of the SDGs: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships. For example, consider the intersection of gender and disability where women and girls with disabilities are acutely vulnerable, thus compounding the challenges and barriers they encounter.  

York’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion’s (CHREI) REDDI (rights, equity, decolonizing, diversity and inclusion) Mini-Series is offering a workshop that promotes accessibility and proactive accommodations: “Challenging Notions of Ableism: Breaking Barriers to Social Inclusion.” This workshop examines the construction of disability and the pervasiveness of ableism, encouraging participants to think critically about what it means to be “able” and what an ableism-free future could look like. This session will draw on examples of both individual and systemic discrimination and exclusion and ask participants to construct responses to social exclusion. This session takes place Dec. 4, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Register on YU Learn.  

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture 

York souligne la Journée internationale des personnes en situation de handicap

Le 3 décembre est la Journée internationale des personnes en situation de handicap. Cet événement rappelle notre responsabilité de mieux comprendre les handicaps et de promouvoir les droits et le bien-être des personnes en situation de handicap dans nos communautés.

Cette année, le thème de la journée, tel que défini par les Nations Unies, est « Unis dans l’action pour sauver et réaliser les objectifs de développement durable (ODD) pour, avec et par les personnes porteuses de handicap ». L’atteinte de plusieurs ODD est en péril à cause de l’inaction et des nombreuses crises mondiales. Les conclusions préliminaires du rapport à venir des Nations Unies sur le handicap et le développement en 2023 indiquent que le monde risque davantage de ne pas atteindre plusieurs ODD liées aux personnes en situation de handicap. 

Ces personnes ont toujours été marginalisées et sont souvent laissées-pour-compte. Tous les membres de la communauté de York sont encouragés à parfaire leur compréhension de la situation des personnes en situation de handicap dans tous les aspects de la vie politique, sociale, économique et culturelle. Il est également important de réfléchir aux expériences de ces personnes dans les cinq piliers des ODD, à savoir : population, planète, prospérité, paix et partenariats. Par exemple, à l’intersection du genre et du handicap, les femmes et les filles en situation de handicap sont extrêmement vulnérables, ce qui aggrave les défis et les obstacles qu’elles rencontrent.  

La mini-série REDDI (droits, équité, décolonisation, diversité et inclusion) du Centre des droits de la personne, de l’équité et de l’inclusion (CHREI) de York propose un atelier qui fait la promotion de l’accessibilité et des aménagements proactifs. Intitulé « Challenging Notions of Ableism:  Breaking Barriers to Social Inclusion » (Remettre en question les notions d’incapacité : briser les barrières de l’inclusion sociale), cet atelier examine l’interprétation du handicap et l’omniprésence du capacitisme et encourage les participants à réfléchir de manière critique à ce que signifie être « capable » et à quoi un avenir sans capacitisme pourrait ressembler. Cette séance s’appuiera sur des exemples de discrimination et d’exclusion individuelles et systémiques et demandera aux participants d’élaborer des réponses à l’exclusion sociale. Elle aura lieu le 4 décembre de 10 h à 11 h 30. Inscrivez-vous dans YULearn.  

Merci. Thank you. Miigwech. 

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture 

Schulich receives $1M commitment for Centre for Customer Centricity

woman presenting

York University’s Schulich School of Business has received a new $1-million commitment from StarTech.com in support of the school’s Centre for Customer Centricity, a hub for the creation, application and dissemination of knowledge related to making organizations customer-centric.

Schulich’s Centre for Customer Centricity, which assists organizations in implementing a customer-centric management philosophy and culture, was established in 2019 thanks to an initial $1-million gift from StarTech.com, a leading manufacturer of information technology (IT) connectivity products. The centre also provides organizations with customized consulting projects involving extensive industry, competitor and customer analysis, followed by insights and practical recommendations.  

The consulting projects are carried out annually by teams of master of business administration (MBA) students from Schulich, who are coached and guided by Professor Ajay Sirsi, the centre’s director and an associate professor of marketing at Schulich.

“We’re very excited about the continued support provided by Paul Seed (StarTech.com chief executive officer and owner) and StarTech.com for this unique centre,” says Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick. “The Centre for Customer Centricity is providing invaluable, real-world learning for our Schulich MBA students as they help companies solve complex problems, boost their bottom line and grow their customer base.”

Since its inception, the centre has provided 225 MBA students with experiential learning opportunities that have benefited 30 companies.

“I am grateful for the trust Paul Seed has put in me and the Schulich School of Business to honour his desire to share with companies and MBA students the customer-centric thinking that has made StarTech.com a leader in IT connectivity accessories,” says Sirsi. “The only centre of its kind in the world, the Centre for Customer Centricity will continue inspiring students and guiding organizations wanting to put the customer at the heart of their decision-making.”

Companies or organizations interested in participating in a consulting project with the Centre for Customer Centricity can contact Sirsi at asirsi@schulich.yorku.ca. For more information on the centre, visit schulich.yorku.ca/faculty-research/centre-for-customer-centricity.

SDGs in Action: from desk research to global citizenship curriculum


By Elaine Smith

Although they have now graduated, a team of students who took part in York University’s Go Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Action Student Challenge hope to continue pursuing opportunities to incorporate their community-oriented projects into university extracurriculars.

With funding from the Government of Canada’s outbound student mobility pilot program Global Skills Opportunity, the Student Challenge aims to empower York students and their peers around the world to take action toward achieving the United Nations SDGs with a global lens under the supervision of York International.

Under the auspices of the challenge, two York students, Christiane Marie Canillo, who earned her bachelor of arts (BA) in psychology, and Ravichandiranesan Ponnudurai, a bachelor of environmental studies graduate, along with two students from the University of the Philippines Diliman – Renchillina Supan, a BA sociology graduate, and Mila Monica Maralit, a master of arts in tourism student – connected to work toward ensuring SDG 4: Quality Education. Now known as the iGoCitizen team, they welcomed a new member in November 2022: Anjali Kumar, a BA in law and society graduate from York University, who also shares motivation to transform conversation into active global citizenship.

In the winter of 2022, the team earned the SDGs in Action Creative Solutions Award for exhibiting a high degree of interdisciplinary thinking to mobilize and engage communities to act on the SDGs. And that was only the beginning.

The iGoCitizen team determined that global citizenship education (GCED) is integral to achieving the SDGs because it teaches action skills for quality education. Their pilot project, based on a discourse analysis, targeted the need to integrate GCED into school curricula as extracurricular activities. This helped them build this program, which organizes and equips teams with global citizenship learnings, design thinking and project management skills that allow them to create socially grounded and concept-based social action plans (SAPs) in their own communities.

“We need a relevant and transformative education that will enable learners to think critically and act toward a more ‘just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive’ society,” they wrote in their plan.

Starting with Sri Lanka, the team prepared a country-specific curriculum to teach students about social cohesion, peace-building and active citizenship, and challenged them to create SAPs for their own communities.

Creating the curriculum required extensive research, consultations and discussions, and it would have been easy for the iGoCitizen team to hand in their deliverables and walk away at the end of the semester. Instead, they created an opportunity to deliver the curriculum the following fall, piloting it as a five-day hybrid workshop in partnership with VISIONS Global Empowerment Sri Lanka and the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka.

Ponnudurai was on hand to deliver content live, while the other team members taught and facilitated the online portions of the workshop. The enthusiasm that greeted the workshop made them eager to keep the project alive.

“The participants wanted to model GCED and do projects in real time in Jaffna,” said Ponnudurai. “We all saw their passion. After three decades of the civil war in Sri Lanka, the younger generation wants to make changes to help rebuild their communities. This is so important in order to achieve the SDGs.”

Supan said, “It was great to see our ideas become reality. We met virtually to create this project, and I never thought that our concept notes would lead to social action plans and actual impact on student engagement activities.”

The iGoCitizen team is working on the possible second implementation in Sri Lanka and project contextualization in the Philippines. Anticipated efforts also include iterations to other countries not initially included in their discourse analysis, since there have been inquiries from countries such as Mexico. The team is also finalizing a memorandum of understanding discussion with their non-governmental organization partner, VISIONS Global Empowerment Sri Lanka.

It is challenging, because the team has limited funding and human resources, and members are also managing personal commitments such as work and studies. Nonetheless, all members remain passionate and committed. They hope that another team of students who join the Go Global SDGs in Action Student Challenge will be interested in pursuing the iGoCitizen initiative elsewhere in the world.

“York University’s SDGs in Action project team is in awe of team iGoCitizen. They are a model for anyone who aspires to create change and positive impact in their community(ies),” said Helen Balderama, director of global engagement and partnerships for York International. “With passion, determination and collaborations, the possibilities are endless.”

The 2023-24 SDGs in Action Knowledge Fair (third edition) is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 6 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Those interested can register to join the conversation and learn about the student groups’ transformative SDGs projects.

For more information about iGoCitizen, contact the team at igocitizen.initiative@gmail.com or instagram.com/igocitizen.