Groundbreaking summer school at York U will explore North Korean culture

North Korea FEATURED image by Tom Klassen

For two weeks in May 2022, York University will be home to a first-of-its-kind summer school examining North Korean culture. The instructors are experts in North Korean film, literature, fine art and propaganda.

Thomas Klassen
Thomas Klassen

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) public policy and administration studies Professor Thomas Klassen is co-ordinating the inaugural North Korea Summer School: Inside North Korean Literature, Art and Film.

“The school is an extraordinary event for graduate and senior undergraduate students to explore North Korean literature, film, fine art and propaganda,” says Klassen, adding that to the best of his knowledge, this is the first such educational program anywhere in the world.

This intense and highly interactive two-week summer school is taught by George Washington University Professor Immanuel Kim and author Nicholas Bonner.

Kim is professor of Korean literature and culture studies. He is the author of Laughing North Koreans: Culture of the Film Industry (2020) and Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction (2018).

Immanuel Kim
Immanuel Kim

Bonner, is the author of Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life in the DPRK (2017) and co-author of Printed in North Korea: The Art of Everyday Life in the DPRK (2019). He has been involved in the production of various documentary films on North Korea, including Crossing the Line and the feature film Comrade Kim Goes Flying.

Nick Bonner
Nicholas Bonner

Funding for the summer school comes from the Korean Office for Research and Education (KORE) at York University, which is funded by the Academy of Korean Studies. Additional funding is provided by LA&PS at York University.

Professor Hyun Ok Park (LA&PS, sociology), director of KORE, says, “The summer school will be an excellent opportunity for students and scholars to engage in an intensive discussion about North Korean society and culture with two leading experts on North Korea, and grasp current changes and challenges facing the country.”

Filming of Comrade Kim Goes Flying, Pyongyang, 2010, N. Bonner
Filming of Comrade Kim Goes Flying, Pyongyang, 2010. Image by Nicholas Bonner and used with permission

More information about the summer school is available at

Experiential Education Symposium committee seeks student presenters

Yfile featured image shows the EE symposium banner

The Experiential Education (EE) Symposium committee is looking for enthusiastic students to share their #EEStory at the fourth annual Experiential Education Symposium taking place Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.

The EE Symposium showcases experiential education at York University and celebrates the achievements of students and faculty who have participated in EE. Students interested in participating in the symposium will have an opportunity to create either a poster, video or podcast to showcase their experiential education adventure. Workshops and training materials will be provided to successful applicants, and a roadmap will be given for what to expect from the event.

Students who apply and are successful will automatically enter a draw to win a $100 YU-card. They will also gain valuable skills, including how to present in a professional setting, and can showcase their experience to the York community.

How faculty members can get involved:

• by referring students who have participated in an EE course to apply to the EE Symposium;
• by attending the EE Symposium on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, and cheering on student presenters;
• by inviting other community partner connections to attend and see what York students are up to; and
• by attending the EE Symposium to learn how EE is supported across York University’s Faculties and to witness inspiring approaches to EE.

For more information, including details about participant eligibility, application criteria and the program for the day, visit the EE Symposium website or send an email to

Students engage in land-based learning to understand health

Joce TwoCrows from SweetGrass Roots Collective teaching at the The Black Creek Community Farm
Joce TwoCrows from SweetGrass Roots Collective teaching at the The Black Creek Community Farm

Teachings set in nature, among the maple trees of Black Creek Community Farm, offered students at York University a new perspective on health.

A unique experiential learning opportunity for York students in the Faculty of Health’s School of Health Policy and Management (SHPM) offered first-hand teachings about what determinants shape health and how the land relates to health.

The land-based learning for two SHPM classes – HLST1011 Health on the Front Lines and HLST3012 Social Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, taught by assistant professors Jessica Vorstermans and Sean Hillier – was delivered in partnership with Sweet Grass Roots Collective at the Black Creek Community Farm (Sweet Grass Roots Collective stewards land at the farm).

About 30 students from two classes met in person at the farm, where they received teachings from Jennifer LaFontaine of Sweet Grass Roots Collective, an Indigenous collective that does land- and place-based education, earthwork, arts and storytelling, and stewards a Three-Sisters Medicine garden at the farm. The teachings took place among the maple trees, and students were given the opportunity to taste sweetwater (which is used in ceremony), braid sweetgrass and bundle sage.

“Having learners on the land, and able to connect with the land, takes the theoretical and philosophical discussions from the classroom of knowledge and how knowledge systems are validated and challenges long-held Western notions,” says Hillier. “By taking part in on-the-land learning, learners come to a deeper meaning of Indigenous Peoples and traditional knowledge.”

Land-based learning presents a different opportunity for students, explains Vorstermans, because it asks participants to be present in a different way – being present to the land, to the plants, to the trees, to the wind, to the sun. During this particular experience, LaFontaine asked the group to think about Indigenous Peoples’ access to land for ceremony, as the group stood below maple trees and shared sweetwater.

“This kind of learning was different, while standing under the trees that provide the sweetwater,” says Vorstermans. “It also asks students to think about ways their learning has been colonized, asks them to think about ways learning can look different, ask different things and prompt different responses. It asks them to think about ways their own learning from land shapes their health, their wellness and what this relationship has looked like over time and space.”

She hopes students will come away from the experience with a deeper knowledge of how health care looks different based on social locations, and how colonization has shaped the system of care, knowledge and wellness.

“As a white woman scholar, I have to navigate this space with care and reciprocity. I am responding to calls from students to decolonize their learning and am guided by the Indigenous Framework for York University: A Guide to Action,” says Vorstermans. “I work to make space in my classroom, curriculum and syllabus to engage with Indigenous world views and ontologies, led by Indigenous scholars and teachers. This is my responsibility, as I have been given the task of educating current and future health professionals; it would be irresponsible not to.”

Those who could not come to the in-person learning engaged through a video that premiered on the Faculty of Health’s YouTube channel.

SNACK aims to satisfy hunger for math assistance

Photo by Deepak Gautam from Pexels

The Student Numeracy Assistance Centre – Keele (SNACK) is a pilot launched by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies to help students hone their numeracy-related skills.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

The dream two professors had for a mathematics help centre at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) has become a reality in the form of a SNACK – the Student Numeracy Assistance Centre – Keele.

The centre, a pilot project, formally opened online on Sept. 27, but the team behind it envisions that it will have a physical space similar to the Writing Centre post-pandemic to allow students to drop in, work on their assignments and get help on the spot.

Anita Lam
Anita Lam

“I suggested the name ‘SNACK’ (Student Numeracy Assistance Centre – Keele) to emphasize LA&PS’s approach to helping our students develop stronger mathematical, statistical and numeracy-related skills,” said Anita Lam, associate dean of teaching and learning at LA&PS. “The acronym is meant to be playful, so the centre is perceived as a welcoming place that can ease some of our students’ fears and anxieties about doing math. The name also emphasizes the importance of numeracy itself as a critical and transferable skill for all our students. We want our students to be able to confidently engage with numbers and quantitative data in a variety of contexts, whether in their courses, everyday lives or future work environments.”

Neil Buckley, an associate professor of economics at LA&PS, and Nabil Tahani, an associate professor of finance at the School of Administrative Studies (SAS), have long envisioned a numeracy assistance centre at York and helped establish a math boot camp for incoming students in 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, students weren’t committed to attending a camp that had no grade and no consequences, so it was a short-lived experiment, said Tahani.

“However, the boot camp was a prelude to trying to establish a math centre,” Tahani said. “York has PASS (peer-assisted study sessions) for individual courses, but we thought it would be valuable to have something that was universally useful.

“Both of us saw the need. I teach a fourth-year finance course that is heavy in mathematics and some of my students were still struggling.”

Buckley added, “Economics is heavily mathematical and it’s not easy. There are a lot of resources available out there and students are not always sure which are legitimate, and which can really help them with the math skills they require, so it made sense to have a help centre.”

They created an ad hoc committee with colleagues from economics and SAS to explore the idea. When the LA&PS Student Success portfolio moved from the colleges to the dean’s office, Mona Frial-Brown, the manager of student success and access programs for LA&PS, came across their proposal and contacted Buckley and Tahani to discuss the idea further.

“This is a passion project of mine,” said Frial-Brown, who previously worked for Learning Skills Services. “As a former member of the Learning Commons Steering Committee, numeracy support has always been an important priority for me and for the group, and when LA&PS began working on academic support initiatives, the timing seemed right.”

Frial-Brown and Lam revived the proposal, gained the dean’s approval and created a steering committee that included Buckley and Tahani, along with: Cristobal Sanchez-Rodriguez, an associate professor from SAS; Tania Ahmad, the student success co-ordinator for economics; and Robert McKeown, an assistant professor of economics in the teaching stream, who has become the academic director of SNACK, to oversee the centre’s design and implementation.

“It has been exciting to fulfil the important priority of supporting students with a more robust numeracy framework,” said Frial-Brown.

SNACK is populated by peer tutors – upper-year students with excellent mathematics skills – who have been hired to offer one-on-one assistance to those LA&PS students who are not majoring in math, but who need help with the mathematics and statistics necessary to their courses.

“Being a tutor is a challenge – many courses include a numeracy component, so our peer tutors must be quite knowledgeable in a broad range of topics,” McKeown said. “Consequently, we provide our peer tutors with the resources and training to be successful.”

Frial-Brown said she’s “blown away by these amazing students who have quantitative, facilitation, and communications skills and can relate to other students as peers.”

Currently, SNACK is open for business Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students who need help, said McKeown, “can just jump into Zoom with one click of their mouse. With peer tutoring online this fall, we wanted our students to be able to access help with the fewest possible steps.”

SNACK also offers other aids on its website, including videos focusing on specific math or statistics concerns.

“There are a lot of great videos online,” said McKeown. “If you can’t remember how to do one little operation, you can watch a three-minute video to refresh your memory.”

The team realizes that the hours may need to be adjusted based on demand and student schedules. They will also monitor the number of visits, the time each tutorial takes and the topics addressed.

“This is a pilot,” said Frial-Brown. “We’ll see what demand is like and adjust the schedule accordingly. We’re adaptable.”

They also hope to broaden their offerings to include faculty-led workshops on topics such as programming or statistics and to work in partnership with Learning Skills Services. The steering committee will continue to tinker with the program to meet student needs.

Tahani is delighted to see SNACK come to fruition.

“We welcome the launch of SNACK with hope and enthusiasm,” he said. “Many of our students in the Faculty of LA&PS have some weaknesses in mathematics, statistics and computing that they will carry with them throughout their education if not resolved. Our hope is that SNACK will help them overcome the difficulties they may encounter in quantitative courses, be it in business, economics or other social sciences courses, and allow them to thrive academically.” 

Added Frial-Brown, “Our ultimate goal for SNACK is to be really proactive and provide a broad spectrum of numeracy support to students at all points of their academic journey. We want to equip them with the skills that help them achieve their goals.”

Welcome to the October 2021 issue of ‘Innovatus’

Yfile Featured Story Headers_Innovatus.

“Innovatus” is a special issue of YFile devoted to teaching and learning innovation at York University.


Welcome to the October 2021 issue of “Innovatus.” My sincere thanks to everyone who contacted me about our September issue. I am delighted that you enjoyed the stories.

Will Gage
Will Gage

In this issue, we offer some truly inspiring stories about the work underway in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) to enhance teaching and learning and the student experience. Dean J.J. McMurtry and his team have been hard at work during the pandemic. They have been exploring new and innovative ways to offer valuable programming to undergraduate students enrolled in the Faculty. Whether it is removing math anxiety by shoring up skills, opening new ways to mentor students or offering a skills bridge to life after graduation, what is evident to me is the full-spectrum approach by LA&PS to enhancing the student experience.

Throughout the pandemic there have been opportunities in the quiet moments to reflect about new ways of learning. The approach taken by LA&PS exemplifies how such opportunities are developed into deeply meaningful experiences for students.

In this issue

Dean’s message: Innovations, student success, career readiness and more
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Dean J.J. McMurtry introduces readers to “Innovatus” stories about the remarkable programs developed to help ensure student success. Read full story.

New mentorship programs focus on Black, women students
Advancing YU, a new mentorship program launching this month by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, brings students together with accomplished alumni. Read full story.

SNACK aims to satisfy hunger for math assistance
The Student Numeracy Assistance Centre – Keele (SNACK) is a pilot launched by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies to help students hone their numeracy-related skills. Read full story.

New career readiness offerings prepare students for life after university
A series of specialized workshops and online modules offered by the experiential education team in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies offer a dynamic, important resource for students who are preparing to enter the workforce. Read full story.

Study a language and become a global citizen
Languages offer a gateway to the world and enable learners to acquire global competencies and cultural experiences. Read full story.

Please keep your comments and reflections coming to me because I read every one. If you have an interesting story to suggest, please send it along. Faculty, course directors and staff are invited to share their experiences in teaching, learning, internationalization and the student experience through the “Innovatus” story form, which is available at

Again, my thanks to each of you for your interest and support.

Be well and I look forward to saying, “Hello!” as our return to campus continues.


Will Gage
Associate Vice-President, Teaching and Learning

New career readiness offerings prepare students for life after university 

Student working at home having a video conference with colleagues

A series of specialized workshops and online modules offered by the experiential education team in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies offer a dynamic, important resource for students who are preparing to enter the workforce.  

By Elaine Smith, special contributor 

Career readiness is top of mind for many students in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York, and there are new tools at their fingertips to help them enhance their preparation. 

The experiential education (EE) team in the dean’s office, staffed by Melanie Belore, Aleksander Golijanin and Irene Seo, has recently unveiled a series of online modules, templates and learning pathways that focus on upskilling and specific career preparation tasks, such as writing resumes and cover letters, creating LinkedIn profiles, networking, interviewing and being professional in the workplace. The modules were created for eClass and are readily available to students, as well as staff and faculty who wish to incorporate them into a syllabus. 

“Aleks is the mastermind behind these modules, and they are hot off the press,” said Belore, associate director of EE for LA&PS. “We are such a large Faculty, so we’re trying to complement central York supports and collaborate with others in putting career and life goals at the centre of the student experience.” 

Golijanin, the office’s career specialist, joined LA&PS a year ago and began by teaching resume and cover letter writing workshops for students who were doing internships. In doing so, he saw that there was an opportunity to assist students and faculty with a wider range of supports. When the pandemic struck and classes moved online, Golijanin realized that he could make his synchronous offerings more in depth if there were asynchronous modules that taught students the basics first. 

“When I work with students who have already done the modules, we can work on refining and finessing their output and answering questions,” Golijanin said. “The students feel more confident as a result.” 

Students gather online through Zoom
The workshops, online modules and learning pathways offer a dynamic and innovative way for students to gain important skills they can use when searching for employment

Golijanin deliberately designed the modules for eClass since that is a platform with which everyone at York is familiar.  

“I knew that professors were already using eClass and so they could make use of the modules easily,” he said. “They don’t necessarily choose to have me come to class to do a workshop; many now have me create targeted sessions once their students have done a particular module so we can create a conversation that is more in depth.” 

The modules are also a perfect fit for EE leaders and placement course directors, says Seo, the Faculty’s EE co-ordinator. 

“The modules will help students prepare for various work-integrated learning opportunities within the Faculty and will also help prepare them for post-graduate career opportunities,” Seo said. “Faculty say the resources are much appreciated, given the growth of EE and work-integrated learning.” 

The templates on the website complement the modules, helping students take the lessons they learn online and apply them to create copy that sounds professional and opens doors. 

They have also curated a set of LinkedIn learning pathways that target the skills that will set students apart in the workplace. 

“These plans grow out of the feedback we get from employers who partner with us to provide internships and EE opportunities for students,” said Belore. “We’re curating the key skills that employers are looking for and targeting students from a range of disciplines with varying career interests.” 

Through York’s partnership with LinkedIn, the relevant instruction is available; it’s simply a matter of bringing it to the students’ notice. 

“Students aren’t always aware that they have access to this information, but it’s a buffet of offerings and they can select those that are relevant to them,” said Golijanin. “There are opportunities to brush up on Outlook, learn how to run a meeting, teach yourself Excel for accounting or understand what a business report should contain. They are chances for upskilling or refreshing knowledge.” 

Of course, as with any new initiative, the team expects it to change and grow.

“These tools and pathways won’t be stagnant,” said Belore. “As we receive feedback from students, faculty and employers, they’ll evolve to better meet our students’ career needs.” 

Study a language and become a global citizen

Languages offer a gateway to the world and enable learners to acquire global competencies and cultural experiences.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

Maria João Dodman
Maria João Dodman

Studying another language is a gateway to world citizenship, said Professor Maria João Dodman, Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics at York University.

Language courses aren’t only about learning another language, Dodman said. Languages are embedded in specific cultures, enabling learners to engage and acquire global competencies that can include, for instance, important historical, ideological and literary references; students learn how to live appropriately within those languages.

“What we do is about character building, making sure that our next generation of leaders is engaged at a deeper level,” said Dodman. “We want students to acquire the skills of tolerance and open-mindedness, able to understand and value cultural difference while viewing the world through the eyes of another. In our differences, we see the plurality of cultural experiences and ourselves through the connectivity of the human condition.”

Antonella Valeo, an associate professor and undergraduate program director, said language courses help students decode other cultures.

“Often, students go abroad to study and are left to decode the culture,” Valeo said. “Language programs have this embedded in them; they are about the larger picture. For example, a Portuguese language student may not be in Portugal, but they are immersed in it through their intellectual and academic experiences.

“We want students to understand that internationalization means more than an exchange. Learning a language is a way to move away from the cruise ship version of internationalization.”

Dodman agreed, noting that it is possible to live internationally in Toronto, given the diversity of ethnic communities here. Faculty members that teach language have access to these local diasporas, where students can expand and practise their skills. Access to international film festivals and authors, events promoted by cultural institutions and community associations, for example, serve as a sort of international passport, enabling our students to build their global fluency.

“Learning another language with us is an immersive and authentic experience on and beyond campus, filled with various experiential opportunities,” Dodman said. “It gives you a respect for another culture and helps you to understand your own place in the world.”

Samia Tawwab, a sessional assistant professor and co-ordinator of the Italian Studies program, offers a perfect example of language experiential learning. With celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of the death of poet Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, being held worldwide, the Italian Centro internazionale di studi Francesca da Rimini invited students of Italian language and literature across the globe to take part in the events. The students were to recite the verses spoken in the poem by Francesca da Rimini, one of its most notable characters. Tawwab participated in the event with six of her students, whose involvement took them beyond the understanding of the meaning of the lyrics to grasping the sociocultural, historical, literary and religious context of da Rimini’s story. 

“Our students loved it,” said Tawwab. “We met on Zoom and rehearsed. They asked questions they would have never asked in class. They were very excited about being part of such an authentic experience. It was an amazing experiential learning opportunity for our students, and we were the only Canadian university taking part.”

Meanwhile, faculty members from the Japanese Studies program are also eager to offer students cultural opportunities and experiences.

“From day one, we focus on culture as well as language,” said Noriko Yabuki-Soh, an associate professor and co-ordinator of the Japanese and Korean Studies program. The program’s offerings include courses on anime and manga, as well as a course about Japanese foodways.

Prior to the pandemic, Japanese studies faculty joined with their Korean studies colleagues annually to host Japan-Korea Week, bringing speakers and participatory activities to campus for their students, events such as exhibitions by martial arts practitioners and tea ceremony masters demonstrating their art.

They also regularly enter students into the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest, an event supported by the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto and the Japan Foundation. Each Ontario university is allowed to enter a specific number of students based on the enrolment in their Japanese Studies program. Each student is required to give a speech in Japanese for judges and an audience.

“It’s extracurricular and requires lots of commitment, but it brings the students together,” Yabuki-Soh said. “We faculty members meet regularly with them to help them refine their speeches and get the pronunciation right. They also help each other regardless of level of expertise.”

This year, York student Peter Wenxiang Zhang, competing in the intermediate category, won the grand prize for best speech in the competition. He earned a round trip to Japan and spending money, but the pandemic has prevented the trip to date. In addition, York students swept the top three prizes in the beginner category and won prizes in the open and advanced categories, too. The first-place winners in each category automatically moved on to the National Japanese Speech Contest, where the three York entrants also took first-place prizes.

“We carefully select the participants based on their grades and proposed topics, as well as their willingness and ability to present,” said Yabuki-Soh. “It’s a fun experience for everyone.”

The department Chair says the value of the department’s many languages are particularly relevant now, as traveling has been discouraged.  Taking languages at the department enables students to discover the world locally.

“What we do and the skills that students acquire cannot be measured,” added Dodman. “You can’t fit cultural competency into a neat box. It includes empathy for others and a generosity of spirit; these are intangible assets that learners acquire while studying another language.”

Dean’s message: Innovations, student success, career readiness and more

JJ McMurtry

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Dean J.J. McMurtry introduces readers to “Innovatus” stories about the remarkable programs developed to help ensure student success.

By J.J. McMurtry

J.J. McMurtry
J.J. McMurtry

I am so pleased to introduce this month’s “Innovatus” and share more about some of the projects at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) to help ensure student success.

It is impossible to overstate the overall impact of COVID-19 on every aspect of university life. I owe a debt of gratitude to our extraordinary staff, instructors and students who have faced every challenge with innovation, creativity and resourcefulness.

In this issue you will learn more about the remarkable work our teams have developed to help our students achieve their goals. One such program, Advancing YU, provides third- and fourth-year women and Black students with a unique mentorship opportunity. Once matched, students receive invaluable feedback and coaching from York alumni.

Learn more about our new Student Numeracy Assistance Centre – Keele (SNACK) and the peer mentors who are helping to demystify math by assisting students with complex numeracy-related questions.

We have also introduced a new Work-Integrated Learning Database, among other career resources to assist our students as they prepare for graduation.

Despite travel bans, our Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics has integrated international cultural events, guest lecturers and much more through innovative online programs.

I am so proud of these groundbreaking programs, as they will contribute to real-world results for our students.

New mentorship programs focus on Black, women students

Two Black women talk together

Advancing YU, a new mentorship program launching this month by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, brings students together with accomplished alumni.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

JJ McMurtry
J.J. McMurtry

Advancing YU, a mentorship pilot program being launched by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) this month, focuses on women students and Black students, groups that have been historically held back in their pursuit of successful careers, said LA&PS Dean J.J. McMurtry.

“A number of our alumni have succeeded despite the obstacles they face (as our strong pools of mentors demonstrate), but the reality is that those barriers still exist, so it requires a special effort to overcome them,” McMurtry said. “In LA&PS, we see it as our obligation to do what we can to level the playing field for these students, and we are incredibly delighted that our alumni feel the same way and are enthusiastic about participating in Advancing YU.”

McMurtry says mentorship programs provide real benefits to students.

“All of our students are learning extremely valuable skills, but it isn’t always immediately obvious to them how to navigate the transition from a degree to a career, particularly in liberal arts programs,” he said. “Hearing from someone who has already made these transitions successfully, and having the opportunity to ask that person questions on a regular basis during the five months of the program, is incredibly important.” 

Advancing YU has been two years in the making, as Muneeb Syed, associate director of advancement for LA&PS, held brainstorming sessions and focus groups with alumni and interviewed staff and students to determine what type of mentorship program would be most meaningful to all parties involved.

Muneeb Syed

“The dean wanted to create a program that would draw alumni to the Faculty and discovered that they wanted real engagement with students, not simply to serve as referrals,” said Syed. “We also knew that 50 per cent of the students from our Faculty are either new Canadians or first-generation university students who might not have access to career planning resources in the form of advice-givers.”

After these key inputs were synthesized, Advancing YU was born. The program consists of two streams: Advancing Black Students and Advancing Women. Each program links an alumnus/a with three students. In addition to meeting with their mentor once a month, each student will: take advantage of professional development opportunities at York; volunteer at or attend a relevant York event; and write monthly reflections about what they are learning and how it is moving them toward their goals.

On top of benefiting from all of these resources, the students will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Beyond their generous contributions of time, mentors have supported these scholarships financially, which will defray some of the students’ expenses and, perhaps, make it possible for them to work fewer hours to pay for their education.

“Our mentors’ financial contributions send a message to our students that the alumni are all in; they are invested in the program,” said Syed.

Student applications to Advancing YU programs give students an opportunity to talk about their goals and interests. This helps LA&PS make mentor-mentee matches that will maximize the benefit to both sides.

Tina Powell
Tina Powell

Children’s author, communication specialist and women’s rights advocate Tina Powell is looking forward to mentoring a trio of students.

“As soon as I heard about the program, I was eager to support young women advancing their careers,” Powell said. “People often see mentorship as a one-way street, but there also is so much coming back to the mentor. I think the program will create a very special bond between mentors and mentees.”

Powell is no stranger to the power of mentorship and has mentored writers throughout her career. Powell also inspires thousands of women across Canada through her Instagram page, Canadian Women Who Rock.  

“Experience is such a priceless commodity and to be able to tap into and get the insights someone has to share is invaluable,” Powell said. “Women supporting women is amazing and essential. I absolutely applaud York for bringing this program into being, especially with the pandemic ongoing. It will undoubtedly give the Advancing Women mentees a meaningful advantage in the marketplace.”

Anika Holder
Anika Holder

Anika Holder, vice-president of human resources for Penguin Random House Canada, will be serving as a mentor to Black students.

“My experience at York is an integral part of where I am today,” Holder said. “One of the reasons I wanted to participate in the program is because at this point in my career I felt it was time to reach back and lift up. When I was a student, I didn’t know where to turn. There was no example readily available who represented me, no role models. As students start thinking about their careers, it’s helpful to have a real-life example who can offer their thoughts and help them to uncover and shape their vision.

“Even when I did have a career mentor, there were important parts of my lived experience this person didn’t share and often did not understand – further impacting my sense of belonging, my ability to feel seen and, at times, my professional growth. There’s a risk in sharing lived experiences (of being racialized) if you don’t perceive that person as having relatable lived experience or as being open and curious enough to learn from it and integrate it into their guidance.”

Holder is eager to meet her mentees.

“It’s nice to be connected to York University and to younger people; I’m broadening my community.”

McMurtry is delighted that LA&PS has registered 20 mentors in the Advancing Women stream and 26 mentors in the Advancing Black Students stream of Advancing YU.

“Every mentor we’ve ever talked to says they get more out of our mentorship programs than they put into them,” McMurtry said. “Alumni have so much great advice to offer, and sometimes they’re even surprised to learn how much knowledge and wisdom they’ve acquired over 10, 20 or more years in the workforce.”

It’s what Powell calls a “win-win-win” situation: students, mentors and York University will all be enriched through their participation in this innovative new program.

Faculty members can co-create community of practice on UN SDGs

United Nations SDGs

Calling all faculty who infuse the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their classrooms!

Provostial Fellow Cheryl van Daalen-Smith is searching across York’s campuses to identify faculty who have begun to find ways to infuse the UN SDGs into their teaching, courses and classrooms. Whether it’s incorporating SDGs though guest lectures, linking SDGs to disciplinary foci and in-class discussions, providing options to students to consider the SDG of an assignment, or other examples of teaching and learning with a UN SDG focus, van Daalen-Smith wants to hear from any and all faculty members.

The goal of the call-out is to co-create a community of practice, and perhaps organize a teach-in, to highlight what is already happening at York and inspire others to “see the SDGs” in their respective areas.

Many faculty members are finding innovative ways to tether their disciplinary/programmatic/course focus to an SDG, or several – with some selecting their relevance by the 3P model of dividing the SDGs up into people, prosperity or planet. Students are reporting a zeal for the ability to consider real-world issues and to look at them through their own disciplinary lens. Faculty members in departments including dance, engineering, nursing, kinesiology, biology, children’s studies, business, and gender, sexuality and women’s studies are already finding ways to tie their existing foci to the SDGs.

Faculty members interested in participating are invited to contact van Daalen Smith as soon as possible by emailing with the subject line “SDGs in my classroom.”