Two York faculty members receive Minister’s Award of Excellence

Colored confetti flying on blue background

Professors Pina D’Agostino and Andrew Maxwell have each been recognized with the government of Ontario’s 2022-23 Minister’s Award of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is given to people within the province’s post-secondary institutions and career colleges who demonstrate dedication and achievement in their respective fields.

Recipients of the Minister’s Award of Excellence are selected based on their accomplishments in teaching excellence, research innovation, student engagement and community partnerships. The award aims to not only recognize individual excellence, but how winners have made an impact in shaping the future of Ontario’s education sector.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Pina D’Agostino

This year, the minister received over 480 nominations. In their award category – Innovation and Entrepreneurship – D’Agostino and Maxwell represented two of the three total winners, demonstrating their, and York’s, leadership in the field.

This year, D’Agostino was recognized – as noted by the award committee – for her “track record of founding leading-edge initiatives … that [have] supported countless startups across the province.” Notable examples are D’Agostino’s founding and directing of the IP Innovation Clinic and the Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program, as well as being the founding director of IP Osgoode. Through these initiatives, she has helped to provide vital support to hundreds of innovators and startups in Ontario and across Canada, helping advance knowledge and the application of intellectual property (IP) and offsetting over $2 million via pro bono assistance while helping to train the next generation of IP practitioners.

D’Agostino is also the inaugural co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society and played a critical role in securing York University’s historic $318-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund award for the Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy and Just Society project, where she served as its co-principal investigator and was named its inaugural vice-director. As of March 1, she has also been promoted to director of Connected Minds.

The Minister’s Awards of Excellence additionally recognized Maxwell – a Bergeron Chair in Technology Entrepreneurship – for his dedication to transforming student educational experiences and driving economic development through pioneering initiatives.

Andrew Maxwell
Andrew Maxwell

Those initiatives have included the establishment of the living lab, which fosters collaboration between academia and industry through strategic partnerships. Among collaborations overseen by Maxwell is the prototyping, testing and deployment of the SARIT micro-mobility electric vehicle on campus. The SARIT vehicles are a flagship project for the new Manufacturing, Technology & Entrepreneurship Centre, which has provided students with invaluable opportunities to engage directly with industry leaders and work on cutting-edge technologies poised to impact mobility and the growing electric vehicle industry. Maxwell has also helped secure multidisciplinary research funding from York and the Ontario Research Fund to explore the social impact of the SARIT and enhance its safety and ride experience.

As the director of the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) Lab at Lassonde, he has also been instrumental in supporting entrepreneurial ventures, enhancing university research commercialization and revolutionizing educational paradigms.

As a professor, Maxwell was also recognized for his efforts to link sustainability, experiential learning and community with innovative pedagogical methods – including weekend hackathons, multidisciplinary entrepreneurship certificates and intense, three-week, experiential international visits.

Further information about the Minister’s Awards of Excellence can be found on the Government of Ontario website.

Financial Times ranks Schulich ExecEd among world’s top executive education providers

Schulich School of Business entrance

The Financial Times of London has ranked York University’s Schulich ExecEd among the world’s top 30 executive education providers. The result marks a significant milestone for Schulich ExecEd as it continues its upward trajectory on what is widely regarded as the world’s premier executive education ranking, climbing an average of 17 spots in four years across the Open Enrolment and Customized programs categories.

In the Financial Times’ 2024 executive education ranking, Schulich ExecEd ranked 27th in the world, its highest-ever rank in the annual survey, in Open Enrolment programs – non-degree programs open to professionals looking to expand their skills and on-the-job responsibilities. Among North American executive education providers, Schulich ExecEd ranked third in the Open Enrolment category and sixth in the Customized programs category – non-degree programs for employees from the private or public sector, commissioned by senior managers to address specific training needs. Schulich ExecEd also earned the No. 1 spot in Canada for customer satisfaction in the Customized programs category.

“We’re honoured to achieve our highest ranking to date and once again be recognized by the Financial Times,” said Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “This acknowledgment is a testament to our exceptional instructors, the talented team at Schulich ExecEd, and our dedicated clients and participants. We remain committed to delivering innovative learning experiences across all programs and are very excited for our next transformation in executive education.”

For complete details regarding the 2024 Financial Times executive education ranking, visit: rankings.ft.com/home/executive-education.

AMPD brings diversity of learning experiences to students

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Welcome to the May 2024 edition of Innovatus, a special issue of YFile devoted to teaching and learning at York University. This month, we showcase ways the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) is providing students with unique and impactful educational opportunities.

Innovatus is produced by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning in partnership with the Communications & Public Affairs Division.

In this issue, AMPD invites York community members to read stories about how it is empowering students with learning experiences that advance their knowledge and skills.


Greetings from the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York,

As we collectively navigate the turbulence of the past year, it is vital to remind ourselves of the excellence in innovative teaching and learning that inspires and empowers our students, faculty, and staff in our communities across Canada and beyond.

Mike Darroch
Mike Darroch

Instructors across AMPD have been at the forefront in new program development as well as research-creation initiatives that deeply integrate research and pedagogy. Two events in October 2023, led by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council-funded Partnership Grant Hemispheric Encounters Network, highlight these entanglements through the ever-growing need for cross-border communication – Transnational Gatherings: Activist Interventions with Archives and Performing Archives: The Practice of Gathering Residency. These events brought together artists and scholars from across the Americas to work with faculty and students through the Arts Activism Speaker Series and share methodologies, practices and strategies. 

In April, AMPD’s new pan-Faculty Integrative Arts program held its inaugural showcase, “Into the Kaleidoscope,” at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education, featuring works by students from Integrative Arts and from across AMPD programs. In March this year, we also celebrated the news that the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced over 40 AMPD alums were nominated in diverse categories, including Best Motion Picture and Best Cinematography.

The four stories in this issue of Innovatus emphasize the diversity of experiences we are excited to offer AMPD students in interesting ways. In these stories, you can learn about how our students are exploring research methodologies and strategies for building community-driven, site-oriented, collaborative approaches to art production; working with the community to create site-specific pieces in places where women’s history is often overlooked; developing a project with the creative coding library, p5.js, in tandem with Risograph printing, to challenge assumptions that are baked into the design process; and using visual design to amplify the results of a research project focusing on young women in Toronto, Melbourne and New York City. 

Meanwhile, AMPD researchers continue to bring success – with Tri-Council grants, the Collected Minds initiative, arts council grants and other major awards – to the classroom. Cinema and media arts Professor Janine Marchessault has been named one of the five recipients of the esteemed 2024 Killam Prize for her work in community-based and site-specific public art exhibitions, research creation and public outreach. Music Professor Noam Lemish has been nominated for a 2024 Juno Award in the Jazz category. York University’s Motion Media Studio at Cinespace Studios, under the directorship of Professor Ingrid Veninger, continues to thrive as a site of student-led exploration and innovation focusing on film production, performance, immersive environments and virtual production. 

We continue to expand opportunities for experiential education and work-integrated learning with initiatives sponsored by CEWIL, including Shooting the Set, an intensive, five-week course offering 30 students valuable experience working with green screen technologies. Our new program in Creative Technologies is set to open with the launch of the Markham Centre Campus in Fall 2024. 

In a world of constant change and amid deep international conflicts, artists, musicians, performers, and designers inspire us to bridge cultural divisions and find new paths to cross-cultural communication. We recognize that creativity continues to empower our stories, translate our histories and bind our communities and cultures. 

Come visit us in AMPD, either in person or through our new virtual tour.

Best wishes, 

Mike Darroch 
Interim Dean, AMPD 

Faculty, course directors and staff are invited to share their experiences in teaching, learning, internationalization and the student experience through the Innovatus story form.


In this issue:

Costa Rica provides canvas for Eco-Arts Residency
York University’s Las Nubes Campus is welcoming its first Eco-Arts Residency, where students will immerse themselves in the local community and culture.

Professor creates performances that reclaim women’s history
Professor Erika Batdorf looks to create experiences where students can bring stories of contemporary women to ancient sites across the globe.

AMPD design students learn to overcome fear of coding, algorithm biases
Professor Gabi Schaffzin has pursued a mission to ensure design students not only learn basic computer coding but consider biases baked into code and design.

Professional opportunity engages AMPD students
A group of researchers hired design students taught by Professor Angela Norwood to create data visualization for an important project: Congress 2023.

York University nursing professor wins teaching excellence award

hand holding heart near stethoscope BANNER

By Lindsay MacAdam, communications officer, YFile

When Archana Paul arrived in Canada in 2010 – with her husband, two children, a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing, and 10 years of experience as a nurse educator and frontline registered nurse under her belt – she was shocked to discover that she couldn’t get a job. Even entry-level positions at places like McDonald’s and Tim Hortons wouldn’t hire her without prior Canadian work experience.

Fast forward to 14 years later and Paul is now a highly regarded professor in York University’s School of Nursing who has recently been recognized by the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards for excellence in teaching – one of the first internationally educated nurses to receive this honour.

Archana Paul
Archana Paul

“I held a certain degree of skepticism regarding my decision to settle in a new country and practise in a different environment,” admitted Paul during her COUPN Awards acceptance speech. “My initial experiences were marked by hardships and challenges, including the loss of my professional identity, as I felt I was ‘nobody’ even though I had more than 10 years of experience in nursing.”

Having to adapt to new ways of living, acquire clinical competency, deal with cultural displacement and perfect her language skills made the transition to Canadian life more difficult than she had ever imagined. However, with an unwavering determination, Paul went on countless interviews and gradually learned how to advocate for herself until she secured her first Canadian job a year and a half later, as a nurse in the emergency department at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. Four years after that, she was hired as a nurse educator at Humber River Health, and then shortly thereafter she joined the faculty of York’s School of Nursing, which was seeking educators like Paul with clinical expertise in mental health nursing.

Today, while teaching full-time at York, Paul maintains her position as a frontline nurse in Humber River Health’s mental health crisis unit. She feels it is important to her teaching to remain a practising nurse, allowing her to bring that real-world perspective into the classroom. And that perspective is a big part of why Paul has been recognized by her peers, students and COUPN for her teaching excellence.

Paul is known for using creative teaching strategies to bridge the gap between classroom theory and real-life experiences, like engaging users of mental health services as guest speakers in her courses to help critically examine the power divide between patients and health-care providers.

Viewing herself as an instructor and her students as “co-creators” in knowledge, Paul seeks to shift traditional, hierarchical approaches to teaching.

“After years of practising as a nurse and nurse educator in Canada, I have confidently redefined power dynamics in education,” explained Paul in her speech. “I now see myself as a facilitator, mentor, guide and advisor who empowers students to achieve their full potential.”

Paul is committed to continuing to serve her community through support and mentorship, especially for international students and internationally educated nurses like herself who are facing challenges similar to those she faced upon arrival to Canada.

Quoting famed British nurse Florence Nightingale in her speech, saying, “‘Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses…. We must be learning all of our lives,’” Paul is a firm believer in lifelong learning. In fact, she plans to continue her learning journey by pursing her PhD in the coming years. And despite being a teaching-stream professor at York, she has involved herself in small-scale research focusing on student well-being, as well as teaching and learning.

“I am convinced that by being open to change, building knowledge and developing relationships, we can create innovative approaches to teaching effectiveness, optimize student learning outcomes and ultimately improve client care,” she said.

Despite her many career accomplishments over the past 14 years, having her teaching recognized with a COUPN Award – requiring nomination and support from colleagues, peers and students – has made Paul finally accept that she has achieved success in Canada.

“I now believe that I am ‘somebody’ in this country,” she concluded. And she’s right.

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.

Students present sustainable solutions, enhance career-readiness at Spring Capstone Day

Photo by Singkham from Pexels

Five monetary awards were presented to teams of upper-year students at York University’s 2024 Spring Capstone Day, a public event hosted by the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) in celebration of innovation, creativity, ambition and impact.

Held on April 26, this year’s Spring Capstone Day drew more than 350 members of the York community and external visitors to York’s Scott Library Collaboratory. There, attendees learned about the work of the 225 presenting students, whose capstone projects – finishing-year projects where student teams work with external clients to solve real-world problems – focused on innovative and sustainable design solutions, aiming to address societal issues, advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create positive change. This biannual project showcase is an invaluable opportunity for students to share their experience and develop professional skills to enhance their career-readiness.

“For three hours, the entire Collaboratory was sparkling with conversations between project partners; York staff, professors and librarians; and students from every Faculty at York,” said Danielle Robinson, co-founder and co-lead of C4, a high-impact experiential education course intended to uniquely prepare students for the next phase of their career. “Our collective focus was on launching these students out into the world as the powerful changemakers they are ready to be.”

An important day for all participating students, Robinson described it as similar to a graduation or a professional debut, where students get dressed up and present their work to attendees and judges.

According to Mahogany Lopez, a Faculty of Science student whose team won the Sustainability Award, the day was bittersweet. “It marked the end of my journey with the C4 class, where I made new friends and had an amazing time,” she said. “However, I was happy to see our project well-received and to witness the impressive work of different groups. This experience emphasized the value of interdisciplinary learning and collaboration in solving real-world problems.”

Donna Nguyen, a student in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, whose team won the Community Impact Award, appreciated the event for shining a spotlight on student work: “This event and this win was important to me as a student because our hard work was acknowledged and it signified that our ideas genuinely made an impact on the community,” she said.

Faculty of Health Professor Asal Moghaddaszadeh, who acted as a project shepherd, guiding students through their project journey in the C4 class, believes the Capstone Day event is pivotal for the University.

“It’s about instilling teamwork, fostering community partnerships and preparing students to tackle workforce challenges boldly,” she said. “Additionally, by working in interdisciplinary teams, students learn the importance of collaboration across diverse Faculties, enriching their problem-solving skills.”

Lassonde School of Engineering student Mehrshad Farahbakhsh agreed, calling Capstone Day a “transformative experience.”

“It taught me the value of collaboration and how diverse perspectives can lead to innovative solutions,” said the international student, whose team won the Innovation Award for their project focused on making the automotive industry more sustainable. “Each member of our group brought a unique background and approach to the table, which allowed us to brainstorm innovative solutions.”

The awards students were competing for included the YSpace-sponsored Innovation Award, with a prize of $100 for the winning student team; and the GHD-sponsored Community Impact Award and Honda Canada Foundation-sponsored Sustainability Award, both offering prizes of $1,500 to the winning teams and $500 to the runners-up.

The day’s award winners were determined by a committee of 16 York University judges – from YSpace, Alumni Engagement and the Office of Sustainability. The full list of award winners and project titles are as follows:

  • Innovation Award winner: “Finding Our Way through Sustainable Choices (Weins Auto Group)” by Team BF;
  • Community Impact Award winner: “Fostering Food Sovereignty (HiGarden)” by Team BE;
  • Community Impact Award runner-up: “Policy Pal (Engage)” by Team AC;
  • Sustainability Award winner: “Reconstructing Education (Sensorium)” by Team AA; and
  • Sustainability Award runner-up: “Saving the Planet (Independent)” by Team BD.

For more information about these projects, the winners and the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom, visit the C4 website or email c4class@yorku.ca.

York University program offers teaching practicum in Japan

mount fuji

York University’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certificate program offers students a unique experiential education opportunity: participate in an international teaching practicum in Japan, in partnership with Meiji University, where they can practice teaching in an English immersion program.

Setting teachers up for success when they’re at the front of a classroom is at the heart of every teaching program. York U’s TESOL Certificate program provides a 50-hour teaching practicum that allows participants to observe and apply what they have learned in a range of English language teaching contexts, including internationally. The Meiji University partnership provides a field experience in a global setting and enables participants to explore their new skills while enjoying the rewards of teaching abroad.

This year’s field experience with Meji University took place in March. TESOL students Denise Suarez, Kelvin Luk and Veronica Ward-Bone travelled to Japan where they worked with 50 students and five faculty from Meiji University. They were able to do so through funding support from York International Mobility Award and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS).

York language students with Meiji University students
From left to right: York students Kelvin Luk, Veronica Ward-Bone and Denise Suarez with Meiji students.

Under the supervision of Antonella Valeo, professor and TESOL Certificate Program coordinator in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics of LA&PS, York students participated in a week-long course with formal English language classes led by Meiji instructors.

The York TESOL students helped provide lessons and support, while living together with Meiji students and faculty at a seminar house in a mountain setting just north of Tokyo. Teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom, the experience provided the York students with an opportunity to learn how to run a class, as well as how to support other instructors as teaching assistants.

“Getting to observe the teachers’ different instruction methods and activities, while seeing how the students respond to it in a new context, improved and expanded my own perspectives on teaching,” reflected Suarez.  

“It was amazing to see the students’ quick progress in their English proficiency as they became more comfortable talking to us in the new setting,” added Ward-Bone.

“The most valuable things I got out of the trip were the teaching practice in real classrooms and the opportunities to learn about Japanese culture through authentic interactions with Meiji students,” said Luk.

According to Valeo, that is an important part of this opportunity. “This unique international experience helps students broaden their perspectives and experience teaching abroad with personalized support and mentoring,” she says. “For many students, it is a life-changing experience that stays with them long after graduation.”

Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change advances student learning and careers

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Welcome to the April 2024 edition of Innovatus, a special issue of YFile devoted to teaching and learning at York University. This month we showcase the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), and its latest efforts to advance the creativity, learning, wellbeing, and careers of its students.

Innovatus is produced by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning in partnership with the Communications & Public Affairs Division.

In this issue, EUC invites York community members to share stories about its efforts in improving the learning – and lives – of its students.

As York’s newest Faculty, EUC takes pride in bringing innovative approaches to our teaching and learning environment. Less than four years into its existence, with a suite of newly designed programs, the Faculty is building a reputation for pedagogy that is inclusive, experiential and interdisciplinary, as well as being oriented towards shaping active citizens and changemakers. 

Our commitment to inclusion is most clearly manifested in the new Black Community Space that serves as a hub for Black students, staff and faculty from within EUC and beyond. Not just a place for relaxation and connection, the Black Community Space is also a site for the staging of discussion panels, dialogues and art exhibits, as well as our new Black Mentorship Program. An active approach to community inclusion is also evident in our Maloca Community Garden, where urban gardening is taught and practised, both for the York community and for adjacent local neighbourhoods. 

If the “hands-on” ethos of our community garden reflects our focus on experiential education locally, it is also found in field courses that allow our students to experience other urban settings and environments and to appreciate the circumstances of those who live there. This issue of Innovatus highlights an excellent field experience that takes students to Montreal. But it can also be found in many courses that integrate experiential components, and in our commitment to offering courses at the Las Nubes EcoCampus in Costa Rica. 

For a relatively small unit, EUC offers a unique breadth of ideas and approaches. Like many academic units focused on the environment, our teaching ranges from laboratory- and field-based science to the social sciences and the humanities, but we also go much further.  Unlike any equivalent Faculty in Canada, our teaching and research encompasses the arts as a form of understanding, expression and persuasion. This dimension of EUC’s teaching is manifested in our annual Eco Arts Festival, but is also found on a daily basis in our in-house gallery spaces and our newly renovated Wild Garden Media Centre, where Indigenous arts, languages and cultural production will be foregrounded. 

All of this work is intended to empower our students to make a real impact in the world. Our inaugural Green Career Fair in January was mounted in partnership with the Green Career Centre – founded by EUC graduate student Lauren Castelino. Such events help to connect our students with organizations that are fostering sustainable living worldwide. The same thinking lies behind our exciting new co-op program that will launch in the fall and will see EUC students placed in firms and organizations that are promoting a just and sustainable future. 

EUC is York’s smallest and youngest Faculty, but we like to think that our community – faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, staff, students and alumni – is making an outsized contribution to the University’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and a brighter future for both people and the planet. 

Thank you, 

Phillip Kelly
Interim Dean, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change 

Faculty, course directors and staff are invited to share their experiences in teaching, learning, internationalization and the student experience through the Innovatus story form.


In this issue:

Eco Arts Festival to showcase students’ environmental art
The Eco Arts Festival is an annual event that highlights artistic work from Environmental Arts and Justice students that looks to start conversations about ecological change.

Urban Studies students advance learning with Montreal field trip
In order to enhance her students’ urban studies learning, Professor Teresa Abbruzzese took a group of undergraduates to Montreal to apply their analytical skills.

Inaugural fair helps EUC students explore green career possibilities
The Green Career Fair, held in January, looked to welcome Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) and high-school students in order to help them pursue sustainability careers. 

Initiative provides community space for EUC Black students
Black students in York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) now have a dedicated community space in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building (HNES) to use for meetings, workshops and informal gatherings. 

Eco Arts Festival to showcase students’ environmental art

artistic crafts earth hands heart BANNER

A banana fish is set to be one of the hits of the 2024 Eco Arts Festival, an annual explosion of artistic talent organized by the students in the Environmental Arts and Justice (EAJ) program in York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

The Eco Arts Festival is an environmental initiative where art is a catalyst for ecological change and a way to highlight the intersection of art and the environment in the EAJ program. It takes over the lobby and two exhibit spaces – Zig-Zag and Crossroads – in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, displaying visual arts and offering performances and readings.  

EUC_The Great Banana Fish migration cover 1

The banana fish, an organically shaped yellow creature, is the star of visual artist and an EUC master’s degree student Michael Bradley’s illustrated book, The Great Banana Fish Migration, a tale that he’ll be reading aloud at the festival later this year.  

This mythical creature fits well with this year’s theme, Beast Friends Forever, a title conceived by festival co-ordinator and EUC doctoral student Giuliana Racco and inspired by Professor Andil Gosine’s research into animal-human interactions and species loss. Gosine is an artist and curator who is the EAJ program co-ordinator. 

“Arts are a place for the students to contend with their anxiety about what is happening in the world, and to think about how we might respond to the crisis we face,” Gosine says. 

Many of the student-artists displaying their work in the festival were enrolled in one or both of Gosine’s two EUC summer courses: Environmental Arts Workshop (for undergraduates) and Cultural Production: Image (for graduate students). These three-week intensive courses are akin to “an arts residency,” says Gosine, who brings artists to class and encourages the students to take their research and passion for environmental issues and translate them in a way that challenges them to explore their creative instincts.  

A similar fourth-year course in the undergraduate EAJ program, Arts in Action, brings together both undergraduate and graduate students to realize the project they have been dreaming up.  

“Fourth-year undergrads and first-year master’s students use the course to deeply explore their interests, with dedicated attention to each of their projects,” Gosine explains. “It’s a rare opportunity to move from research on an environmental concern to exhibition of an artwork that might stimulate conversation and action.”  

As for the undergraduate EAJ program, Gosine considers it unique; he accepted a teaching position at York to be part of it. 

“It’s rare to have such a confluence of learning styles,” he says. “We are allowed to have an interdisciplinary approach. Here, you can be both an artist and a social scientist.”

Chrocheted Chickens

Among the art that festival attendees will see are Tess Thompson-van Dam’s crocheted chicken sculptures harking back to Victorian times when the elites brought chickens to tea parties; drawings by Andrew Carenza that reinterpret horses pictured in historical European paintings through a contemporary, Queer lens; work on historical and contemporary ideas of Eden; and the travelling banana fish. Bradley’s reading of The Great Banana Fish Migration and an Eco Arts collaborative workshop offer participatory opportunities. 

Bradley, an Ottawa Valley native, had a thriving art practice in Taiwan but returned to Canada for master’s studies. He has been drawing banana fish daily since 2018 and creating stories about them. The current book talks about the fish’s journey to find its place in the world and how that might always be changing. 

“I’m not commenting on the politics of migration in a direct way, but when people migrate they have a confused sense of place. I hope people can relate,” he says. “There are a lot of ways that art and environmental science can intersect,” Bradley adds. “I’m not a politician or a policymaker, but artists, creators and curators are part of the cultural community, so if the environment requires a cultural shift, artists are the best people to usher in this change.” 

Bradley’s work, and the Eco Arts Festival, will have that on full display.  

Inaugural fair helps EUC students explore green career possibilities

Briefcase with potted plant on it

Over 300 interested York University and high-school students attended the inaugural Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) Green Career Fair in January. 

In partnership with the not-for-profit organization Green Career Centre, the event welcomed students to the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building to explore possibilities for careers that aren’t often well promoted, but for which there is a growing need among employers. A recent worldwide survey by the Manpower Group found that 70 per cent of employers are urgently recruiting or planning to recruit green talent and people with sustainability skills. 

The idea for the fair came from Lauren Castelino, a master of environmental studies student at EUC and founder of the Green Career Centre, who organized a fair last year, attended by EUC staff. The centre focuses on providing under-represented youth with green career opportunities, advancement and inclusion. 

Organizers from both the Green Career Centre and Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. From L to R: Joel Famadico Jr., Emma Bramante,  Kenneth Ebhomeye Oko-Oboh, Lauren Castelino, Gayathri Baiju, Joanne Huy, Rosanna Chowdhury, Shaniah Hutchinson, Tomisona Oludairo, Bottom: Lester Pinlac
Organizers from both the Green Career Centre and Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.
From left to right: Joel Famadico Jr., Emma Bramante, Kenneth Ebhomeye Oko-Oboh, Lauren Castelino, Gayathri Baiju, Joanne Huy, Rosanna Chowdhury, Shaniah Hutchinson, Tomisona Oludairo, Bottom: Lester Pinlac

“We mutually thought it would be a great idea to expand the reach of the initiative by working together,” said Castelino, who is also pursuing a diploma in Business and the Environment from EUC and the Schulich School of Business. “EUC’s facilities were much larger than the first venue we used … and we were also appreciative of the staff support we could receive through the collaboration.” 

“We intentionally held our full-day event on the same day as the university-wide Career Fair hosted by the York Career Centre as a way of taking advantage of the synergy,” said Joanne Huy, an alumna who graduated in 2015 and is now the alumni engagement and events officer for EUC. “Staff at each event suggested that attendees visit the other fair, too. It was a win-win situation.” 

The partners invited EUC students and alumni to participate and invited everyone from York and the local community to attend. The day featured a morning of workshops followed by the career fair. The workshops included a presentation about net-zero programs given by staff from York’s Sustainability Office, a session focused on green job resources and a panel featuring EUC alumni. There was also a speed networking event matching alumni with groups of students for more intimate conversations. 

Participants speaking to vendor at the fair
Participants speaking to vendor at the fair

“I’m dedicated to empowering the next generation of changemakers, so it was great to invite our alumni panellists back to campus to share their career paths and discuss how EUC prepared them for the future,” said Huy. “We have 13,000 alumni worldwide and they are eager to contribute. It’s meaningful to them and to our current students.” 

The Green Career Fair itself featured booths set up by more than 20 organizations involved in environmental work, including the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, the Community Climate Council and Outward Bound. Participating organizations focused on issues such as food insecurity, environmental policy, environmental arts and environmental education. Exhibitors showcased jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. 

Muzamil Gadain, an alumnus who graduated from EUC in 2023, works as a project co-ordinator for the Black Environmental Initiative, an organization that works to foster change that considers cultural roots, including issues such as food security and food sovereignty. He, along with a co-worker and a volunteer, used their booth to recruit volunteers. 

“We weren’t actively hiring, but there were volunteer roles we needed to fill,” said Gadain. “About 20 volunteers signed up, so it worked very well. We also had an opportunity to network with other like-minded organizations and made some good connections. 

Muzamil Gadain and his colleagues from the Black Environmental Initiative boothing at the fair
Muzamil Gadain (left) and his colleagues from the Black Environmental Initiative boothing at the fair

“Our supervisor was very pleased to have access to university youth and we are happy to be able to help them develop their skills. Some of them have already made contributions by developing social media content and contributing to articles. It was a worthwhile event and we would definitely do it again.” 

Emma Bramante, an EUC work-study student who is majoring in sustainable environmental management, helped organize the event by doing outreach to organizations and potential employers. She also contributed to the development of marketing materials and helped to raise awareness to students, alumni and organizations. 

The high turnout delighted her and she is eager to see the Green Career Fair blossom and grow. 

“I anticipate an expansion in the scope of exhibitors, with a broader range of organizations participating, including both established environmental companies and emerging grassroots organizations and non-profits,” Bramante said. “Furthermore, I anticipate the integration of virtual components into the fair to increase accessibility and reach a wider audience beyond the local community.” 

Castelino, too, was thrilled by the interest the Green Career Fair generated. 

“I was so ecstatic to see this event come to life, and to reach more under-represented youth,” she said. “Some highlights included having three workshop presenters, four speakers, eight sponsors, 21 vendors and 300-plus attendees. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to share my knowledge through a Green Jobs Resources Workshop.” 

In June 2023, led by Castelino, Huy and Rosanna Chowdhury, the Green Career Fair was one of four applications awarded funding through the Sustainability Innovation Fund. The Faculty has now built the event into its annual budget. 

“Going forward, the fair will also give us a chance to build relationships with organizations as we develop our EUC co-op program,” Huy said. “The synergies are beautiful to see.”