Teaching Commons leader in bringing DEDI lens to classroom 

Equity, diversity, inclusion

By Elaine Smith 

York University’s Teaching Commons (TC), the office that provides leadership in the pursuit of engaged teaching practices centred on the student learning experience, is also a leader in fostering an awareness of how to incorporate a decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion (DEDI) perspective into pedagogical practices. 

As reflected by its statement of practice, the TC team has embraced equity, decolonization, diversity, inclusion and accommodation and continues to bring equity-informed pedagogy to York University faculty, introducing relevant ideas and practices through its workshops and courses.

“Since Ameera Ali, our educational developer, EDI, joined Teaching Commons in February 2022, we have been able to ramp up our support in this area, in alignment with York’s DEDI Strategy,” said Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, director of Teaching Commons.

Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier
Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier
Jessica Vorstermans
Jessica Vorstermans
Robin Sutherland-Harris
Robin Sutherland-Harris

TC takes the responsibility for DEDI leadership seriously, as its activities demonstrate. Ali and fellow educational developer Robin Sutherland-Harris currently co-lead a DEDI in Teaching and Learning community of practice (CoP) with Jessica Vorstermans, an assistant professor in the Critical Disability Studies program. With online monthly meetings, it has about 130 members who participate as their schedules allow; it has also spawned a trauma-informed reading group. The CoP meetings are an opportunity for members to share what’s on their minds. This year, they plan to offer some in-person sessions, too.

Susan Dion
Susan Dion

TC held its first DEDI conference this past spring with the help of an Academic Innovation Fund grant, and during the past academic year, TC supported Susan Dion, associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives, in delivering Decolonizing the Academy, a course that discussed this shared responsibility, and what it means to decolonize teaching and learning from a pedagogical perspective. 

“This course offered the opportunity for a lot of inner reflection and considering what people’s roles as settlers mean,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “Professor Dion was very generous to partner with us and we will be looking for ways to deliver this course in the future without making major demands on her time.” 

This past summer, Ali and colleague Natasha May offered a course called Caring to Teach: Supporting Student Transitions Between Teaching and Learning Environments that helped instructors ease their students’ path between online learning and classroom studies.  

“Caring to Teach focused on the pedagogy of care, kindness and belonging, and it was especially important as we moved to and from online courses,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “It reminds us that students are more than simply someone sitting in class, and the more attuned we are to them, the better we can help them to be fully present in the classroom. 

“World events like the pandemic, the murderous attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., and the University of Waterloo stabbing keep reminding us how vulnerable we are. If we’re not in a mental space to learn, it won’t happen.” 

These ideas lead directly to TC’s new 10-part workshop series, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion. The series grew out of inquiries during the pandemic from faculty who were wondering how to make the classroom a more inclusive space. 

The workshops “will explore how trauma influences learning and how it manifests itself inside the classroom or elsewhere,” said Ali, who is leading the course along with Sutherland-Harris and Vorstermans.  

The first five sessions, running this term, lay the foundation by examining what trauma is and who is affected by trauma, Ali noted. “The second five sessions, taking place during the winter term, discuss how we respond: the pedagogical strategies and techniques we can use. 

“We’re bringing everyone to a common understanding of the subject and then giving them concreate strategies to use.” 

Maheux-Pelletier underscores TC’s ongoing commitment to DEDI and willingness to lead the way. 

“To me, there is no bulletproof approach,” she said, “but a commitment to the work is important, even if it is messy, imperfect and uncomfortable.” 

Hands-on green screen course an AMPD hit 

Shooting the Set, AMPD students at Cinespace using the green screen

By Elaine Smith 

An intensive five-week course called Shooting the Set offered 30 students valuable experience working with a green screen, taking advantage of York University’s Motion Media Studio (YUMMS), which is based at Cinespace Film Studios, the company’s one-million-square-foot industry studio space in Toronto. 

The experiential education (EE) course – created during the pandemic by Ingrid Veninger, assistant professor of cinema and media arts, and John Greyson, associate professor of cinema and media arts at the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) – made its in-person debut in May. Students in the course had the opportunity to study current aesthetics and practices of new neo-realist cinema; workshop a broad range of film studio and green screen methods; be trained in professional on-set and studio production techniques; work in teams to develop, script and shoot original short dramatic films; and perform key creative roles on at least two dramatic shoots.

AMPD students in Shooting the Set course working with the green screen
AMPD students in the Shooting the Set course working with the green screen.

“This is a studio-based, collaborative course that teaches the art of the green screen and shows that it isn’t just useful for stories about superheroes,” said Greyson, who taught the in-person version. “There’s a unique approach to how you can tell stories with actors using the green screen. 

“As a student, having that entrée and exposure is an extraordinary gift.”  

The course was open to all third- and fourth-year film, theatre, visual arts and dance students at AMPD, as well as graduate students, but it required an application and an interview.  

“The application focused on their skills and on the stories they wanted to tell – stories told in a neo-realistic style with a social justice theme,” Greyson said. “These are social justice stories coming out of their own lives; the stories that Hollywood ignores. We chose salt as a theme that tied them all together.” 

Fourth-year acting student Natasha Advani Thangkhiew drew on personal experiences with eating disorder and anxiety that inspired a story written by classmate JJ Mokrzewski. It became one of six screenplays the class filmed and told of the challenge the protagonist faced in going out on a dinner date with someone on whom she had a crush. 

Advani Thangkhiew found the process of acting in a story based on her own experiences “enlightening.” 

“When it comes to telling a personal story, what I learned is that as an actor, it is very important to detach yourself and look at the experience as an entity that is separate from yourself, because this allows the story to evolve in the way that it is supposed to,” she said. “Eventually, it is not only my story; it becomes a story where every person in the group finds ownership and meaning.”

A production group meeting with the core creative team for Shooting the Set
A production group meeting with the core creative team for Shooting the Set.

Veninger agreed that although each writer took one of the stories selected and wrote the draft of a script, the feedback and commentary turned the process into a collaboration that brought out the students’ creativity and allowed them to find ways to make the story their own. 

“It became an amazing think tank of ideas around social justice, and the best ideas won,” she said. “There was a general attitude of receptivity, active listening and meaningful collaboration. Everyone had a desire to see the script improved.” 

Added Greyson, “Having the writers in the same room as the actors from the beginning meant they could tailor the roles to the actors, which transformed the stories.” 

The cinematography crew shot the location footage in advance, and it was added during post-production. A still from the footage was projected onto a video screen before the actors began working so they could imagine the location in their minds and adjust their movements accordingly. 

“It was my first time acting in front of a green screen, and it forced me to activate my imagination,” said Advani Thangkhiew. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it in class where the stakes aren’t as high.” 

Working at YUMMS in the Cinespace facility was also a revelation. 

“Even having access to that kind of space, equipment and property houses is amazing,” Advani Thangkhiew said. “The studio is such a valuable resource and being able to shoot scenes in one of the best studios in the city was incredible.” 

Veninger noted that AMPD is grateful to have such outstanding studio space, originally a gift from the Mirkopoulos family, the owners of Cinespace, and recently renewed by TPG Real Estate Partners. It has two sound stages, equipped with teaching resources, a standing set, a green screen stage and professional equipment.  

“Students are working in a space with real productions such as ‘Law & Order’ swirling around them,” she said, “and they get inspired knowing that shows like ‘The Umbrella Academy’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ were shot just down the hall.” 

Shooting the Set received generous contributions from industry collaborators. In addition to the gift from Cinespace Film Studios, in-kind sponsorships were received from Wiseacre Rentals and MBS Equipment Co., as well as an iHUB innovation grant from CEWIL Canada that allowed them to provide students with a stipend. CEWIL is a leading organization for work-integrated learning in Canada and champions it through partnerships with educational institutions, governments and others.

students and faculty posing at the Showcase event
Students and faculty posing at the showcase event.

At the end of the five-week course, Greyson and Veninger organized a movie preview night at the York U Motion Media Studio to showcase the films to family, friends, colleagues and industry guests, followed by a networking mixer. 

“This is one of the best courses I’ve taken at York,” Advani Thangkhiew said. “Everyone who came learned and grew so much.” 

Shooting the Set will be offered again in May 2024. Contact Professor Greyson for more information. 

Model for Engaged Teaching basis for conference presentation

Female conference lecture teacher professor

By Elaine Smith 

York University’s Model for Engaged Teaching (MET) will take centre stage during an upcoming presentation by educational developers from the Teaching Commons (TC) at the International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference in November. 

Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, director of TC, and Mandy Frake-Mistak, a TC educational developer, will present preliminary findings from the qualitative research they are conducting into MET’s impact at York. They are currently conducting focus groups with faculty to obtain feedback about the model and how it shapes an instructor’s practice in the context of their own teaching and learning experience, disciplinary tradition and prior exposure, as well as whether it is used at York for activities such as operationalizing “excellent” teaching, helping faculty articulate their practice, and mapping out professional growth related to teaching and learning.

This image represents engaged teaching practices: the left side focuses on improving one’s own teaching, while the focus of the right is on dissemination of teaching-related knowledge in a manner that is appropriately public. For a more in-depth description, see this document.

“Our job at TC is to think deeply about teaching and learning and look at ways our York community of instructors can think about teaching in much broader strokes than just through their own individual classroom lens,” said Maheux-Pelletier, who co-chaired the Sub-Committee on Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning that produced York’s Model for Engaged Teaching in 2019 (updated in 2021). “The model looks at what informs teaching, and considers four dimensions:  

  • an instructor’s classroom practice; 
  • sharing practice; 
  • systematic, intentional use of evidence in teaching; and 
  • formal research: the scholarship of teaching and learning. 

The diagram of the model adopted and adapted by York shows flexibility and an interplay between the dimensions that remind faculty that tasks may be more than one thing rather than neatly categorized. It also shows the interplay between tasks and, says Maheux-Pelletier, “opens up perspectives and opportunities to see teaching in a richer way. 

“It gives people language and anchors their practice differently and in an aspirational fashion; their practice may develop over time.” 

Frake-Mistak noted that the MET is the starting point for “changing the perception of what it means to be a teacher.” 

She noted that it is a more robust practice than many people realize. Instructors tend to downplay all the tasks that they take for granted, such as building relationships and creating an inclusive classroom environment. 

“We want to shift the language we use and the perception of teaching,” said Frake-Mistak. “There’s so much that teachers do that can be rendered invisible in an institution of this size.” 

Added Maheux-Pelletier, “The MET helps instructors grow over time with intentionality.” 

The preliminary findings of their research indicate that the model is helpful in defining concepts such as teaching excellence from a broader perspective than just the classroom, because it takes into account myriad activities, such as reflecting on teaching, developing a curriculum and writing a review or meta-analysis for a journal. 

“When we presented the model itself at last year’s conference, people grabbed onto it as a productive way of thinking about teaching,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “They seemed to find it useful.” 

Frake-Mistak expressed hope that the preliminary data will be only the beginning of a broader study. 

“There are more boundaries around discussing teaching and learning than around research and we’d love to tear them down,” she said. 

“Ultimately, from a professional standpoint, teaching is a scholarly practice and we need to recognize the power and significance it brings along with it, as well as the responsibility.” 

Maheux-Pelletier noted that the team at TC is involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning in addition to the work they do to disseminate evidence-based information through workshops, seminars and courses. 

“We’re actually a group of scholars who specialize in teaching and learning,” she said. “Yes, we are service providers and our work is influenced both by the literature and by our own research.” 

Envision YU eases student transition to and from university

Students and mentor gathered around a table

By Elaine Smith 

With support from York University’s Academic Innovation Fund, Professors Carolyn Steele and Lynda van Dreumel have created Envision YU, a curriculum complete with tools and a pressbook in both English and French, to aid faculty in guiding students into university life and through it to the career world, building useful skills throughout.  

Van Dreumel, an assistant professor and undergraduate program director for the Faculty of Health, was exploring ways to assist students in building necessary skills for success while transitioning to university when she met Steele, an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Steele was working on a project to assist students with their transition from university to the working world by building on classroom knowledge, skills and experience. The two teaching-stream faculty members decided to join forces to equitably support the student transition continuum from the time they enter the University to the time they graduate to the next stage in their lives – whether that meant the workforce or more schooling. 

“We felt that this same continuum could happen in a single course, not only across courses,” Steele said. “An instructor could begin with preliminary reflection skills early in the course and advance to more complex applications of reflection later in the course to enable students to identify career interests emerging out of the course content.”

Along with a team of instructors, students and subject matter experts, the pair created the Envision YU curriculum with “tools and resources that professors can embed directly into courses and customize to fulfill learning objectives using course content, so students engage naturally and can build skills,” van Dreumel said.  

Steele noted that when this is done iteratively, the students become more fluent with these skills and transition to the next stage of their lives with more agency and confidence.  

The Envision YU resources and supporting materials include interactive activities (H5P-based lessons), videos, infographics, tip sheets and worksheets. Instructors can use the resources as-is, or they can tailor the resources based on their specific course requirements. Many of them have been student- and instructor-tested.   

The Envision YU curriculum assists in building four capacities that are crucial to student success: reflection, self-regulation, teamwork and transfer. Faculty also have the option of incorporating resources developed for various stages of learning into their courses. The Envision YU curriculum has resources tailored toward different stages of skill development: comprehending, developing, applying and advancing. 

Steele says these Envision YU capacities are ubiquitous, needed by all students, no matter their academic focus. For instance, she said, “The ability to transfer knowledge, skills and experience from one context to another is critical in today’s dynamic world, but many instructors’ expertise is focused only on academic contexts, and they are uncomfortable including material that stretches beyond their disciplines.  

“Our toolkit helps instructors, so they aren’t expected to be experts in everything, yet can provide opportunities for students to master transition skills in their courses.”  

There’s a big cognitive load for professors when they get into the more nuanced aspects of teaching, especially in terms of classroom-based experiential education. Many instructors don’t know the theory of reflective writings and are, thus, ill-equipped to teach their students how to reflect critically. With the resources in Envision YU, they can use one or more of the several reflective assignments to guide their students to reflect critically on the syllabus, assignment feedback, course-based experiences, their skills, values, and the relevance of course topics and readings in their students’ lives. 

“Envision YU is about the impact you can have on your students – not only in class, but down the road. We want to provide instructors with the flexibility and self-confidence to integrate these skills in courses across the curriculum,” said Steele. 

Envision YU is an open access resource and is available through eCampus Ontario. Steele and van Dreumel are available to answer faculty questions and assist in customizing the tools. 

Kellogg-Schulich EMBA program earns No. 1 ranking in Canada

Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building

The Financial Times of London’s executive master of business administration (EMBA) ranking has named the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA program No. 1 in Canada.

The program was ranked 37th globally and 12th among programs based in North America. This year’s Financial Times ranking marks the 15th time that the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA program has been ranked No. 1 in Canada.

The program also ranked among the top 20 in the world in the following categories:

  • Career Progress (third in the world);
  • International Course Experience (14th in the world);
  • Environmental, Social and Governance (16th in the world), which measures the proportion of core courses dedicated to ethical, social and environmental issues; and
  • Research (18th in the world).

“We’re delighted to have once again been ranked the No. 1 EMBA program in Canada and one of the top programs globally in what is widely regarded as the world’s pre-eminent EMBA ranking,” said Schulich School of Business Dean Detlev Zwick.

The Kellogg-Schulich EMBA is a partner in the Kellogg School of Management’s global network of EMBA programs. With world-class connections and over 40 specialized elective courses, the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA offers the opportunity to personalize the learning experience while leveraging diverse perspectives from business leaders around the world.

For complete details regarding the 2023 Financial Times EMBA ranking, visit: rankings.ft.com/rankings/2950/emba-2023.

Join Academic Policy, Planning and Research Committee forum, Oct. 26

An image of a man's hands holding a card that says "Join us!"

The York University community is invited to attend the Senate’s Academic Policy, Planning and Research Committee (APPRC) planning forum to discuss and provide input on the preliminary recommendations of the Joint APPRC-ASCP (Academic Standards, Curriculum & Pedagogy Committee) Task Force on the Future of Pedagogy.

The forum, titled The Future of Pedagogy: Directions and Preliminary Recommendations, will take place Thursday, Oct. 26 from 9:30 a.m. to noon via Zoom.

Universities around the country and beyond are engaging in the exercise of redefining their pedagogical plans post-pandemic. York is in the process of defining its teaching and learning agenda to advance its distinctive vision, core values and academic goals. The future of pedagogy at the University was a priority for APPRC in 2021 and 2022, and the goal this year – through the Task Force and in collaboration with the ASCP – is to build on that work.

Members of the Task Force will join APPRC and ASCP in facilitating the event.

The program for the forum is planned as follows:
9:30 a.m. – Welcome: APPRC Chair (Andrea Davis) and provost (Lisa Philipps)
9:40 a.m. – Remarks: Anita Lam, co-chair, Joint APRPC-ASCP Task Force on the Future of Pedagogy
10 a.m. – Organize into breakout groups built around the Task Force Working Group Themes: in-person teaching and learning; technology-enhanced teaching and learning; experiential education and work-integrated learning; scaling and sustaining pedagogical innovations; and rethinking assessments
10 a.m. – Breakout group discussions facilitated jointly by Task Force and APPRC/ASCP members
10:45 a.m. – Break
10:50 a.m. – Open plenary discussion and Q-and-A session (Davis)
11:30 a.m. – Summary wrap and followup steps (Kim Michasiw, ASCP Chair)

Breakout group questions for discussion will include:

  • Do the five primary recommendations set the desired path forward to support the University Academic Plan priority to diversify whom, what and how we teach for 21st-century learning?
  • Do the working groups’ recommendations capture the actions needed for successful pedagogical adaptations that enhance the quality of learning experiences for York’s diverse students in the context of ubiquitous technology?
  • In the world of finite resources, what actions should be prioritized for support and implementation?

RSVPs to the forum are kindly requested. The Zoom connection will be provided to participants. Participants are asked to prepare by reading the following background material: Task Force on the Future of Pedagogy: Themes and Preliminary Recommendations.

Additionally, all the information is posted on a dedicated Planning Forum web page on the APPRC website.

Faculty of Health shines spotlight on educational leadership

gold and red stars

York University’s Faculty of Health recognized six early-career faculty members on Oct. 4 for their accomplishments in curricular innovation, teaching, research and service during the annual Dean’s Awards.

Recipients this year are: Lynda van Dreumel – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation; Jodi Martin – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; Jessica Vorstermans  – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; Skye Fitzpatrick – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award; Andria Phillips – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award; and Tarra Penney – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research.

The annual awards alternate each year between “early career” faculty and “established career” faculty in the categories of Teaching, Research and Service. This year’s awards cover the 2022-23 academic year for early-career faculty.

“This year the Faculty of Health is recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of six faculty members whose dedication and leadership are contributing to positive change at York, and beyond, through outstanding research, service, or teaching. On behalf of all faculty, staff, students and community partners, I’d like to congratulate and thank this year’s award recipients,” said Faculty of Health Dean David Peters.

Award recipients picture left to right: Jessica Vorstermans, Jodi Martin, Skye Fitzpatrick, Dean David Peters, Tarra Penney, Lynda van Dreumel (absent is Andria Phillips).
Award recipients picture left to right: Jessica Vorstermans, Jodi Martin, Skye Fitzpatrick, Dean David Peters, Tarra Penney, Lynda van Dreumel.(Absent is Andria Phillips).

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation

Award recipient: Lynda van Dreumel, School of Health Policy and Management
This award recognizes outstanding educational leadership, pedagogical and/or curricular innovation.

Lynda van Dreumel
Lynda van Dreumel

Van Dreumel’s contribution to educational leadership, pedagogical and curricular innovation has been substantive and significant. Over the past four years her primary focus has been to create enabling opportunities to support students as they transition into and out of their undergraduate program.

Van Dreumel was at the forefront of the University’s transition to online education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the delivery of education. She curated multiple resources, collected lessons learned and developed a document with links to resources, tips and decision-making considerations for course design and delivery. This document was invaluable to the School of Health Policy & Management to successfully transition to online learning. Van Dreumel made herself available to share her expertise with CUPE instructors, new faculty hires and PhD students who were teaching courses. She guided them through important considerations for course and assessment design and served as a mentor to many through out the semesters. As the University was preparing for in-person learning, van Dreumel was one of the first to volunteer for the Hyflex Pilot Program. She co-authored a guidance document to assist instructors and schools on applying pedagogical theory to make student-centred decisions around course delivery format.

Van Dreumel re-designed an undergraduate course to focus on foundational personal leadership and system leadership capacities necessary for success. She played a key role in the development of a new undergraduate program – Racialized Health and Disability Justice (RHDJ) – specifically with supporting an integrated and collaborative curricular model that will work with the school’s existing undergraduate program.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. You clearly demonstrate excellence in faculty and student mentorship and contribute in innovative ways to the enhancement of pedagogy, curriculum and teaching and learning in the Faculty and York as a whole,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipient: Jodi Martin, Department of Psychology
This award recognizes outstanding commitment to high quality teaching.

Jodi Martin
Jodi Martin

Martin is an outstanding and committed educator who creates a high-quality and inclusive teaching environment, fosters collaborative approaches to teaching and contributes to an excellent experience for students. Martin creates a safe and welcoming classroom environment which enables students to master the core skills and leave with a sense of pride in how much they have been able to learn and accomplish.

Martin uses many different approaches to foster learning of challenging subject areas. For example, she uses asynchronous and in-person components. All students are expected to engage with asynchronous course material prior to in-person class time, as this time is used to apply learned material via active learning such as working on problems individually or in small groups. She incorporates formative assessment by using low-stake quizzes rather than anxiety-producing large exams.

Martin joined York in 2019 (in the teaching stream) and since then has supervised four specialized honours thesis students, 10 independent research project students and three undergraduate research assistants, in addition to her teaching load. These opportunities have led to publications and/or conference presentations.

Martin has consistently received excellent teaching evaluations from her students and leaves an indelible mark on their future.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your commitment to high-quality and innovative teaching and evidence-based practices in the scholarship of teaching and learning are making a lasting impact on students and ensuring York University meets its academic plan for 21st Century Learning,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipient: Jessica Vorstermans, School of Health Policy and Management
This award recognizes outstanding commitment to high quality teaching.

Professor Jessica Vorstermans
Jessica Vorstermans

Vorstermans’ teaching pedagogy and practice are grounded in the practice of anti-oppression by building a space for all students to belong in the classroom and curriculum. In 2021, Vorstermans co-founded York’s first community of practice on decolonization, equity, inclusion and diversity (DEDI) with two members of the Teaching Commons. They convene monthly community meetings on topics related to their mandate.

Vorstermans has demonstrated exceptional qualities related to teaching; she focuses on creating student-centred approaches to course work to ensure successes for all types of learners. The courses are thoughtfully designed so that students have class presentations and group projects as means to engage with the content. She works tirelessly at decolonizing learning of the course material, by emphasizing how colonialism is a central process in the creation of our world, and how this shows up in the spaces of health, disability and all other social systems.

Vorstermans, in partnership with SweetGrass Roots Collective, provides experiential learning engagement for both graduate and undergraduate students to collaborate with Black Creek Community Farm. This provides students with unique community-engaged learning experiences of harvesting sweet water at the farm, which is used by Indigenous community members in ceremony.

Vorstermans ensures that all of her students accessibility needs are met as she employs various course assessment criteria. She played a key role in the development of the new proposed undergraduate program Racialized Health and Disability Justice (RHJD), by leading the framing of an equity-based and supportive approach to academic integrity within the program.

Vorstermans consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations.

“Congratulations for your dedication to students at York University and ensuring we are achieving our academic priorities of 21st Century Leaning, From Access to Success and Living Well Together,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award

Award recipient: Skye Fitzpatrick, Department of Psychology
This award recognizes the outstanding service and impact of faculty members in the Faculty of Health who have gone beyond the usual service expectations.

skye fitzpatrick
Skye Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick received this award for her high-impact service to the unit, Faculty and York University where she brings her particular focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and justice (EDIJ) to the task at hand. Fitzpatrick joined York University in 2019 and immediately set out to increase York’s reputation in the field of psychology nationally and internationally.

Fitzpatrick, as a member of the Clinical Area Admissions Committee, developed and implemented a novel method of reviewing clinical psychology graduate student applications, that reduced workload for faculty reviewers and human error. This process has enabled the graduate clinical program to evaluate approximately 500 applications per year. Her efforts on the committee resulted in an important advancement for EDIJ. Fitzpatrick undertook the task of investigating how the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) – an admission requirement for graduate psychology programs at York – is predictive of graduate student success and whether it results in biased decision-making against applicants from marginalized backgrounds. She then developed a proposal for clinical area faculty to alter the graduate admission process, based on her findings; the clinical area is in the process of implementing several changes as a result.

Another area where Fitzpatrick has made an impact is in the role of Chair of the Senate Appeals Committee (SAC). She formed an EDIJ-focused working group within SAC to ensure that their procedures were equitable. In addition, they have been working on methods of collecting voluntary, deidentified demographic data from appellants to identify whether there are issues of systemic bias in the SAC procedures.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your service and engagement makes York University a welcoming and equitable community for all,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award

Award recipient: Andria Phillips, School of Nursing
This award recognizes the outstanding service and impact of faculty members in the Faculty of Health who have gone beyond the usual service expectations.

Andria Phillips
Andria Phillips

Phillips is committed to the success of the School of Nursing (SON) as evidenced by the many service activities she undertakes. She is associate director of undergraduate education at SON, where she provides academic leadership, strategic direction in program planning and curriculum design, delivery and evaluation. She is currently working with a team of people to create a new innovative approach to orientation of new clinical faculty that includes online interactive videos and an in-person simulations component that helps to prepare clinical faculty to manage real-life situations while teaching practicum and lab.

Phillips, along with other faculty members, contributed to a new direction in experiential education efforts by developing the Virtual Escape Room for teaching and learning. The Virtual Escape Room is a series of escape rooms where groups of students must work together to apply their knowledge from a course to solve puzzles and accomplish tasks to unlock the room and escape. For this work she received the Ministry of Colleges and University Award of Excellence in the category of Future-Proofing Ontario Students.

Phillips’ creative problem solving is visible in her various approaches to student success; she organizes in-person creative workshops in the Nursing Simulation Centre titled Halloween Skiller Night, All About the Beats Valentine, an event that helps nursing students identify knowledge gaps such as post operative complications. These events are valuable in developing students’ competency and confidence as they work towards successfully completing the licensing exam.

“Congratulations Professor Phillips – your drive, passion, knowledge, leadership and dedication is truly valued in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and York University,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research

Award recipient: Tarra Penney, School of Global Health
This award recognizes outstanding contribution to research by faculty members in the Faculty of Health.

Tarra Penney
Tarra Penney

Penney’s research focuses on the application of novel methods in global food systems and disease prevention policy and a commitment to sharing these novel methods with global organizations and policymakers. Her research characterizes disease as an emergent property of a set of complex social, economic, political and environment systems.

Penney’s research is collaborative and multidisciplinary, and often includes extensive consortia style projects with collaboration between several multidisciplinary academic colleagues within and across institutions, international academic colleagues working in lower middle-income countries (LMIC) (e.g., Philippines, Senegal, DRC, India) and a range of government partners.

Penney is committed to sharing the outcomes from her novel research methods with global organizations and policymakers. She worked with the WHO Department of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) Prevention Office to develop and publish international guidance on the use of systems thinking for chronic disease prevention policy. This evidence was then used to develop guidance that could facilitate moving systems approaches into practice throughout the policy process to support member states.

Penney is a prolific researcher. Since she joined York in 2019, she has received 14 external research grants totaling over $25 million, with seven projects as nominated principal investigator totalling nearly $1.2 million. She is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), World Health Organization (WHO), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Wellcome Trust and others, demonstrating the wide appeal of her research and the potential for informing policy as evidenced by the collaborative nature of the grants. During this time, she has had 33 peer-reviewed publications in prominent journals in her field including PLOS Medicine, Journal of Community Health Epidemiology and BMJ. Penney has also published book chapters in BMC Public Health.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your dedication, expertise and leadership in your field of research is contributing to York University being recognized as a global leader in global health policy and practice,” said Peters.

York University bolsters international reputation through THE World Rankings

York University has climbed in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World Rankings and continues to establish itself as a beacon of excellence and a leader in international outlook.  

 York University is now in the 351-400 band – a significant improvement from the last few years where we were above the 400 mark.

The World University Rankings assess university performance to inform students, academics and those within higher education of institutional missions and successes. It considers data for three main areas: research, impact and teaching. This year, York has placed in the 300s out of more than 1,900 universities worldwide. 

The University’s upward movement in the rankings reinforces York’s exceptional international co-authorships, commitment to collaboration and overall international reputation as a global influencer.  

The World University Rankings also spotlight York as a leader in research quality, placing the University above the median score for Canadian institutions. This exemplifies York’s commitment to pioneering new knowledge and setting new standards of research excellence. This success builds off York’s recent performance in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, which saw York rise 103 spots to 353rd in the world.  

York’s performance in these rankings can be attributed to its steadfast commitment to advancing global engagement and transformative research, underscored by York’s status among the top 40 sustainable and progressive universities worldwide, as previously reported in the THE Impact Rankings, which measures universities’ contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

School of Continuing Studies launches new certificate

happy customers

In January 2024, the York University School of Continuing Studies will launch the Certificate in Customer Success Management, a five-week, part-time program allowing aspiring or current customer success managers to quickly upskill and pursue new roles or advance within their organization.

Christine Brooks-Cappadocia
Christine Brooks-Cappadocia.

Customer success management is a rapidly growing field, as many businesses shift from product-centric to service-based models, creating a need to focus on engaging and retaining customers. This has led to significant growth for this role in Ontario, with organizations requiring more skilled, personable professionals who can nurture customer relationships, maximize the value of purchases and gain new business.

“In our research phase for the Certificate in Customer Success Management, we spoke with Canadian leaders in the industry, and what they told us is there is little formal training in this field,” says Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, interim assistant vice-president of continuing studies. “Our program, which develops new, highly skilled talent, really resonated with employers.”

The program’s curriculum was created in partnership with leading Canadian customer success managers. Learners in this program will develop business acumen, problem-solving and communication skills to strengthen the relationship between an organization and its customers.

The new program will be highly experiential and will feature workshops and simulations that mirror the duties of a customer success manager. Instructors who work full-time as customer success managers will bring their real-world expertise and insights to every course. 

“Learners will practise their skills in real and simulated business scenarios and will complete the program in five weeks, graduating with skills they can immediately apply in the workplace,” says Brooks-Cappadocia. “In a little over a month, they will be prepared to enter a customer success role or pursue new opportunities at their current work, accelerating success for both them and their employer.”

“In today’s dynamic business landscape, where success hinges on fostering lasting relationships, the demand for professionals skilled in customer success management has never been more vital,” says Michael Hsu, senior vice-president of client services at Achēv, a leading employment services non-profit. “The School of Continuing Studies’ specialized program not only meets this industry need but also equips learners with the strategic insights and practical skills, positioning them to excel in the competitive field of customer success.”

For more information on this program starting in January 2024, visit the School of Continuing Studies web page. Registration is now open

Upskill digital storytelling through new course at Glendon


By Elaine Smith

Raiman Dilag, director of information technology services (ITS) at York University’s Glendon College, and his team are working to ensure their students have access to the most current technology to enhance their storytelling capabilities.

They will make this possible through an Academic Innovation Fund grant that allowed them to create a new eight-week extracurricular course – XR Storytelling in Extended Reality / XR Accroche Narrative en Réalité Étendue – that will provide interested Glendon students and faculty, with an introduction to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360-degree cameras, podcasting and 3D printing. The course is not for credit, but those who complete it will earn a microcredential and a digital badge that can be affixed to their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Glendon 360 video screenshot
Glendon College offers a new course for all students that allows them to upskill digital storytelling. This photo is a screenshot from a video showing 360-degree photoraphy. For another example, go here.

“While it’s expected for STEM students to be exposed to technological tools, at Glendon, we are deeply rooted in the liberal arts tradition,” Dilag said. “I saw the opportunity to complement resources currently in place, and enhance our students’ access to these and other new tools. Our students have stories to tell, and they benefit from sharing them using new media.”

For those on the outside looking in, the idea of using these tools can be confusing and/or daunting. VR and its sleek headsets can immerse users in another space, such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris before and after the fire. Fans of Pokémon Go know that AR allows users to employ a device to interact digitally with the real world, bringing images to life. 360-degree photography brings the viewer into the space, letting them experience that moment from all of the photographer’s points of view. Podcasts stream on digital devices and are excellent audio/video tools for storytelling, while 3D printing enables the creation, and customization, of 3D objects crafted in one’s imagination or modified from previous designs.

Each of these technologies, independently or in combination, are valuable for storytelling in a digital era.

The eight-week course created by the ITS team will familiarize students with these key tools and require them to work on a group project to show their facility with one or more of them. The project will also reinforce teamwork skills, and in true Glendon nature, is conducted in English or French by the bilingual XR technology co-ordinator.

“I’d like students to think about the stories they want to tell,” said Dilag. “These are just tools; however, a course like this can open doors, because opportunities following graduation may be influenced by things beyond academics, such as exposure to any or all of these XR technologies.

“We’re all about the student experience, recruitment and retention. If this course helps them graduate more career-ready, it’s a great way for us to add value to their university, and post-graduation, experience.”

The in-person course is open to all Glendon students and will be offered during both the Fall and Winter terms. Dilag hopes the success of the course will lead to expansion for all York students.

The team has been planning the course since February: designing the curriculum, writing the proposal, purchasing necessary equipment and making the space attractive. The course will be conducted by the XR technology co-ordinator with oversight from Dilag.

“Let’s get technology in the hands of this dynamic generation and see what they can do,” Dilag said. “I think they’ll impress us.”

He is proud of his team’s work and reminds the larger community that the ITS department “is about more than resetting passwords,” he said. “We aim to humanize technology, and to use it to enable the telling of great stories.”

XR Storytelling in Extended Reality / XR Accroche Narrative en Réalité Étendue begins the week of Oct. 16. Glendon students can register online.

Faculty who may be interested in the course can contact xrglendon@glendon.yorku.ca to discuss their needs and learning objectives.