Schulich ExecEd launches municipal leadership training program

Business team training session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C4 partnership to tackle climate anxiety

image shows a forest and stream

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

York University’s C4: Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom program has partnered with GHD – an award-winning international company that offers engineering, architecture and construction services – and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to help students tackle climate anxiety.

Over the course of the upcoming 12-week winter term, up to 70 undergraduates will work with the partners to pursue multidisciplinary projects exploring the term’s challenge question: “How can we help young people in the Greater Toronto Area overcome climate anxiety, to be empowered to inform and drive our future pathways to an equitable and sustainable city?”

As the students develop their collaborative projects, GHD and TRCA will provide 10 to 20 hours of guidance throughout the term, including bringing in subject matter experts to participate, encourage and answer any technical questions that might arise.

Danielle Robinson
Danielle Robinson

GHD became interested in partnering with C4 while working on an environmental project with York, eager to find an opportunity to collaborate further with the University. “We were instantly interested in the C4 Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom and how it engages multidisciplinary teams to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,” says Tina Marano, GHD’s future communities leader, Canada, who will be involved with the program and students throughout the C4 winter term.

Early meetings with C4 made clear that a partnership would be a natural fit. “With GHD there was a clear alignment around our interests and values,” says Danielle Robinson, associate professor and co-founder of C4.

Like C4, GHD prioritizes sustainability in its work – with a focus on water, energy, infrastructure, and sustainable cities and communities – and seeks to drive positive change and make meaningful contributions to global sustainability goals.

Tina Marano
Tina Marano

GHD also shares an optimism that’s rooted in the capstone program and experience. “We’re a very positive, hopeful space. We think that we and our students can make a difference in the world and that we just need to figure out how to organize ourselves in order to do that,” says Robinson. “We need a partner that believes in those things.”

GHD does, says Marano. “Working with young professionals and new graduates across our organization and through partnerships like this, we nurture a culture that embraces optimism, collaboration, experimentation and curiosity,” she says.

The partnership with the TRCA acting as the community stakeholder followed soon after, and the organization echoes the shared goals of its partners. “We’re a community-based organization, so we want to look to our communities to help us find the solutions to the problems that we all face together,” says Darryl Gray, director, education and training at TRCA.

In the weeks ahead, the aim – as it is for all C4 partnerships – for the program is to benefit both partners and students.

Franz Newland
Franz Newland

For partners, the participating students provide fresh insights and point-of-views that are needed to right the future. “What we have found is getting the student and multidisciplinary perspective can often bring new ideas and approaches to the partners that they might not have considered before,” adds Franz Newland, professor and co-founder of C4 with Robinson.

“We need to work and think differently. We need to collaborate and exchange ideas with bright, young minds and emerging leaders that believe that change and impact is possible,” agrees Marano.

Partners working with undergraduate students also provides an opportunity through experiential learning to develop skills needed for them to, potentially, pursue a sustainability career. “Among the broader conversation we are having with York is, ‘How do we make sure that post-secondary institutions are meeting the workforce development needs of future employers?’ ” says Gray.

Opportunities like these can help provide that, closing a potential onboarding gap with developing skills students will need if they enter the sustainability field – whether with C4 partners or other organizations.

In addition to benefiting with real-world experience and connections to leading organizations, students also gain critical confidence in their abilities and potential to create change. “One of the things that we hope we uniquely offer our students is a chance to really find out who they are as leaders,” says Robinson.

“Organizations like GHD and TRCA help empower their voices so that they can feel there are people who are keen to listen,” says Newland.

That, he says, is a crucial element for this generation of students who can often feel anxious about the climate crisis without knowing what they can do about it, and if their point-of-view will even be heard.

“Often in these spaces there’s a sense of impotence or inability to actually take action, which is part of that challenge,” says Newland. “The fact that organizations like this are looking to engage students’ voices really points to the fact that they recognize that the existing solutions maybe aren’t doing what we need, and we need to be thinking about listening to other voices that may actually have a better path forward.”

The C4 program and its partners help them do that. “They get a chance to find out what skills and knowledge they have and what they can do with them to address a particular challenge the world is facing. It gives them a chance to see what they’re capable of in a really safe space where they can test their boundaries, fail, succeed,” says Robinson. “They want to feel empowered, to help repair the world. They need to see what their contribution might be.”

Applications for C4 are still open: yorku.ca/c4/apply-for-c4/winter-2024.

Schulich triumphs in fall case competitions

Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building

This semester, the Schulich School of Business sent several case competition teams to universities across North America – to much success. Each student team received coaching from alumni and faculty as part of Schulich’s highly regarded Case Competition Program, which serves as a platform to develop essential skills in strategic thinking and presentation.

Schulich School of Business Fall 2023 case competition teams. Left photo, from left to right: Ian Chang, Disha Mittal and Abilash Sathyakumar. Right photo, top row: Siddharth Dave, Jack Goodwin and Omer Rahim; middle row: Kian Rastegar and Sophia Katzell; bottom row: Sophie MacLellan, Joanne Estephan, Joe Fayt and Mikayla Wronko.

Team Schulich clinched the $10,000 top prize at Duke University’s 2023 Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition. Ian Chang (JD/MBA ’24), Disha Mittal (JD/MBA ’24) and Abilash Sathyakumar (JD/MBA ’25) competed against 60 teams from over seven countries, including finalists from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Judget Business School at the University of Cambridge. Their winning proposal offered a practical business model addressing the electrification challenges in Nigeria’s rural areas. The team’s achievement, with support from alumna Neda Riazi (BBA ’14), reflects Schulich’s commitment to developing solutions with positive social and environmental impact.

The DeGroote Innovative Solutions Competition (DISC), which took place virtually earlier this month, saw two new Schulich case teams secure second and third place. Students Mikayla Wronko, Sophie MacLellan, Sophia Katzell, Joanne Estephan, Jack Goodwin, Omer Rahim, Kian Rastegar and Siddharth Dave tackled two real-life business cases sponsored by industry leaders. The competition tested their ability to quickly devise business strategies, with one week of preparation for the first case and a three-hour timeframe for the second. The DISC teams received guidance from alumni coaches Michael Chan (MBA ’19), Santoshi Tadanki (MMAI ’23), Kristen Ferkranus (MBA ’20), Adam Wexler (MBA ’11) and Ollie Adegbulu (MF ’23).

All student teams were coached by Professor Joe Fayt, who teaches several marketing courses at Schulich and is responsible for training the graduate-level case teams. Fayt brings over a decade of experience to the Case Competition Program and has earned over 60 international competition victories through his coaching of Schulich teams.

“Congratulations to the Schulich teams on their top-tier placements at recent national and international case competitions,” said Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick. “Kudos as well to the case competition coaches, alumni advisors and supporting faculty who did an outstanding job preparing our students to compete at the very highest levels.”

Deadline extended: call for nominations for President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards

Female conference lecture teacher professor

The President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards honour those who, through innovation and commitment, have significantly enhanced the quality of learning by York University students.

The nomination period has been extended until Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Nominations are now open for the four awards that are offered each year in the following categories:

  • full-time tenured faculty with 10 or more years of full-time teaching experience;
  • full-time faculty (tenured/tenure-stream/CLA) with less than 10 years of teaching experience;
  • contract and adjunct faculty; and
  • teaching assistants.

The purpose of these awards is to provide significant recognition for excellence in teaching, to encourage its pursuit, to publicize such excellence when achieved across the University and in the wider community, and to promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement.

The awards demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching. Recipients of the awards, selected by the Senate Committee on Awards, receive $3,000 (less applicable deductions), have their names engraved on the University-Wide Teaching Award plaques in Vari Hall and are recognized at convocation ceremonies.

Nominators are encouraged to approach the Teaching Commons to explore ways to best highlight the teaching strengths and accomplishments of the nominee. Nominators may schedule a consultation –  by phone or Zoom – with an educational developer at the Teaching Commons to discuss the preparation of a nomination package by sending a request to teaching@yorku.ca. Interested parties are also invited to view the recording of the Teaching Commons’ Award Winners Roundtable to hear reflections from Teaching Awards recipients.

Only online nominations for the 2024 Teaching Awards submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, will be accepted.

The Teaching Awards criteria and nomination form are available on the Senate Committee on Awards web page.

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies sheds light on new projects, global opportunities

Header banner for INNOVATUS

In this issue of Innovatus, you will read stories about how the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is responding to the needs of our students with innovative new projects and programs to help them succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Dean J.J. McMurty
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Dean J.J. McMurty.

One such program is our 12 U Math waiver pilot class. After the COVID-19 lockdowns, it became clear that some students needed to catch up in math fundamentals. This prompted the development of the pilot class to help address the numeracy shortfall experienced by many incoming LA&PS students.   

We also know that students want paid work experience in opportunities related to their field of study; this is one of the reasons paid co-op placements will replace internships and be available for all LA&PS programs starting September 2024.  

And now, more than ever, we know global leaders need a global perspective. We’ve reactivated our fleet of summer abroad opportunities, offering seven study abroad courses in 2024.  

Finally, educators across universities are all grappling with artificial intelligence (AI). Learn more in this issue about how we are dealing with both the drawbacks and benefits of AI. 

Thank you to our entire LA&PS community for all the work you have put into making our teaching and pedagogy so great.  

I hope you enjoy learning more about some of the ways we are helping our staff, students and faculty.  

J.J. McMurtry
Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies 

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 tl.apps01.yorku.ca/machform/view.php?id=16573.


In this issue:

LA&PS study abroad program evolves, expands its offerings
Students in LA&PS have opportunities – at home and abroad – to engage in global citizenship and learning.

Summer course opens door for students missing numeracy skills
A pilot program created to close the gap on math skills is adding up to success for students in LA&PS.

LA&PS opens conversation about academic honesty and artificial intelligence
A recent event to educate students about generative artificial intelligence, and the University’s policies, sparked meaningful discussions about the changing landscape of education.

It’s co-op programs, not internships, for liberal arts and professional studies students
The introduction of an optional paid co-op program will allow students to participate in work-integrated learning earlier in the educational journey.

LA&PS study abroad program evolves, expands its offerings

Map plane travel international world


By Elaine Smith  

The slate of summer study abroad courses offered by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University is as popular as it was pre-pandemic and features new courses, as well as old favourites. In fact, its success has the Faculty looking toward a domestic version.  

Katie Gribbons
Katie Gribbons

“The program is back in full force with seven courses, and students are really excited to travel again,” said Katie Gribbons, study abroad co-ordinator for LA&PS.  

In 2024, three popular intermediate language courses – language and culture in China, Italy and Spain – will be reactivated, as well as three others: Anthropology Through the Visual in Lisbon; Greece: A Modern History in Athens; and the Politics of Youth and Old Age in Seoul. In addition, a new course joins the roster, Romantics en Route: Contexts of Literary Production in England. 

MJ Maciel Jorge
MJ Maciel Jorge

“We don’t offer the same courses every year,” said MJ Maciel Jorge, associate dean, global and community engagement for LA&PS. “The goal is to offer a variety of courses that engage students in global issues and provide an immersive experience they wouldn’t get otherwise. We work with instructors to promote attractive, value-added experiences and meaningful student learning. Our study abroad courses are very student-centric, with learning outcomes that provide added value and an opportunity to think globally.” 

LA&PS organizes the program itself. Gribbons works closely with York International (YI) so that LA&PS processes and policies are closely aligned with those YI co-ordinates. She works with faculty who are proposing summer abroad courses, shepherding them through the proposal stage, evaluations, review, the formal curriculum process and approval. Gribbons also works with study abroad partner institutions and organizations to arrange accommodations, activities and day trips. She promotes the program and recruits students, too.  

“We take a concierge approach to studying abroad that is tailored to student needs,” said Maciel Jorge. “In addition to being with an instructor they know while abroad, they are in contact with Katie, with whom they’ve been working for months. All of our students also get some financial support from LA&PS.”  

Both Maciel Jorge and Gribbons are happy to see the current interest in the courses, because many of the students enrolling are those who were constrained by the pandemic and have never travelled on their own. Gribbons said culture shock among the students is not uncommon but, luckily, the professors are incredibly supportive and are comfortable with the location, which helps the students adjust, too.

“Katie works with the students to build their confidence and stretch their comfort zone,” said Maciel Jorge. “They get to experience and learn from global perspectives and in doing so students are able to acquire intercultural skills and reflect on the value of global citizenship.

“Each year of the program, we learn valuable lessons and we are able to fine-tune our policies and processes for an enhanced experience for faculty and students.” 

Gribbons noted that LA&PS conducts pre-departure surveys and post-trip surveys to learn about the students’ experiences.  

“The top skills they gain are confidence and independence,” she said. “For many, it’s the first time they are travelling without their parents; it may be their first airline ride and first passport. They’re so nervous beforehand, but when they come back, they wish the trip was longer. They’ve been able to navigate a new place and learned to be resilient and resourceful.”  

This month, LA&PS is launching a community of practice around studying abroad, targeting both instructors scheduled to teach in summer of 2024, but also colleagues considering the 2025 experience.  

“We want to bring together all our colleagues who teach abroad or are interested in proposing courses for deep reflection on a student-centred approach,” said Maciel Jorge. “We will share best practices and look at how to continue providing tailored resources. We’ll also be revamping our website to include a variety of tools for students and faculty.” 

A potential domestic study away program is being discussed, and the Faculty is hoping to run a pilot program in 2024.   

“This is very meaningful to the Faculty and the University as a whole,” said Maciel Jorge. “It will give our students an opportunity to learn about global issues from a national perspective. Global citizenship starts at home. We plan to work with historically marginalized, immigrant and Indigenous communities on issues that often go unnoticed. We want to see how we can advance the University’s mission of decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion and our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. So much of what we do domestically, such as water management and sustainable economics, for example, is of a global nature. 

“Either domestically or abroad, the benefits for students are immense. Learning about new ways of being and seeing the world makes one take notice of one’s own place in it, a collective human experience. We gain a notion of empathy and connectedness to the world at large from these global interactions.”  

Those interested can learn more about the LA&PS Summer Study Abroad Program by visiting the website.     

LA&PS opens conversation about academic honesty and artificial intelligence 

AI


By Elaine Smith 

With generative artificial intelligence (AI) top of mind for many members of the York community these days, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) decided that Academic Honesty/Integrity Month was a perfect opportunity to discuss the topic with students. 

LA&PS held a tabling event at Vari Hall on Oct. 24 to educate students about generative AI, address the current parameters for using it in courses and build digital literacy around these emerging tools. They also posed scenarios involving AI so students could consider what is appropriate in various contexts. Approximately 150 students stopped to talk with faculty and staff on hand. 

“We’re really thinking about being proactive and connecting with students around academic honesty and AI in more engaging ways,” said Mary Chaktsiris, a historian and associate director of teaching innovation and academic honesty for LA&PS. “We hope that as a result of this event, students will reach out to instructors to talk about generative AI and connect with available supports at York.”

Students at Vari Hall learn more about academic integrity in the context of artificial intelligence.
Students at at tabling event in Vari Hall learn more about academic integrity in the context of artificial intelligence.

Chaktsiris and the LA&PS academic honesty team co-led the Vari Hall event with Stevie Bell, head of McLaughlin College and an associate professor with the Writing Department. They had support from Michelle Smith, a learning innovation specialist, and academic honesty co-ordinators Namki Kang and Angelica McManus. Neil Buckley, associate dean of teaching and learning, and knowledgeable representatives from the Writing Centre, Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) and Student Numeracy Assistance Centre (SNACK) instructional teams were also on hand to converse with students. 

“We wanted students to get the facts about academic honesty and give them some guidance regarding AI now that the York Senate’s Academic Standards, Curriculum and Pedagogy (ASCP) Committee has given a policy clarification,” said Buckley. “It was an opportunity to inform students about this, because every student experiences AI in different contexts, and this is a domain that will be growing and growing.” 

ASCP states that “Students across York are not authorized to use text-, image-, code- or video-generating tools when completing their academic work unless explicitly permitted by a specific instructor in a particular course.” As part of a regular review process, a newly revised Senate Policy on Academic Honesty is expected to be announced in coming months. 

Bell noted, “In my experience with academic honesty since I began teaching writing in 2002, I’ve never found a student who wanted to cheat; they want to find out how to do things correctly. 

“So, we brought the conversation to Vari Hall. We wanted this event to be an inviting space for students to discuss AI openly, because the landscape is shifting. In some courses, professors suggest that students use it to do specific tasks, while in other courses, it’s a no-go zone. We wanted students to know how to talk to their professors about it. From talking to students in the Writing Department, I know they are very confused about if, when and how to use AI, so this was very generative for all.”

Students at a tabling event in Vari Hall.
Students at a tabling event in Vari Hall.

Students had a variety of concerns to share at Vari Hall. Some wanted to talk specifically about academic honesty, but others wanted to discuss generative AI more specifically. Faculty, too, are exploring AI, Buckley noted. For example, the Teaching Commons has a community of practice dedicated to discussing AI and how it is being used across campus and recently held a Summit on Generative AI in Higher Education. With the use of AI expected to grow exponentially in the workplace, understanding how to use generative AI will be essential. 

“AI is already a tool in the workplace,” Bell said. “If you look at job postings on the Indeed site, for example, many of them request experience in using generative AI technology productively. As a result, in the Writing Centre, we’re looking at building digital literacies. Students need to understand generative AI’s incentives and motivations to tell you what you want to hear, and they need to learn to fact check. 

“The questions can become very nuanced. For instance, are you giving away a company’s proprietary information if you use it?” 

The success of the Vari Hall event inspired the LA&PS team and they would like to see the conversation continue. Bell has begun holding ongoing workshops at the Writing Centre with a student focus; the first one drew 75 people, including teaching assistants.  

“From a pedagogical perspective, connection and conversation are important parts of navigating the emergent aspects of AI,” Chaktsiris said. “More connections with students will be important to building digital literacies and helping navigate the shifting contexts of generative AI. A focus on connection and support also leans into more inclusive pedagogical practice. I hope there are more touch points for us to discuss AI and academic honesty more generally.” 

Students who have questions can turn to available LA&PS resources such as the Writing Centre, PASS, SNACK, peer mentors, academic advising and academic honesty co-ordinators to discuss generative AI and academic honesty in more detail.

It’s co-op programs, not internships, for liberal arts and professional studies students

A man shaking a woman's hand at a meeting or interview


By Elaine Smith 

Beginning in September 2024, students in all programs in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University will have the option to choose to enrol in a paid co-op program as they pursue their education.

Previously, said Neil Buckley, associate dean of teaching and learning for LA&PS, the Faculty had internships associated with its programs, but internships in general aren’t well-defined; some are for credit, some are paid and some are voluntary, leaving students and employers confused. 

“With the transition from an optional internship to an optional co-op program, people will understand that the co-op is a paid work-integrated learning (WIL) experience that is related to a student’s area of studies,” Buckley said. “It will help us to better communicate this opportunity to students and allow them to communicate with future employers exactly what their WIL means.”

Fahima Elsani
Fahimeh Ehsani

Fahimeh Ehsani, manager of employer engagement for LA&PS, said the Faculty wants to ensure that students are compensated for their work, and the change to co-op programs addresses any confusion, because co-op programs are traditionally paid work terms. 

“When students are choosing York, they will know that they can contribute toward their tuition, which makes a difference,” Ehsani said. “It was immediately obvious to us at this fall’s Ontario Universities Fair. One of the main questions parents asked was, ‘Do you have a co-op option?’ We are hoping that it will bring us more prospective students.” 

Buckley said that a 2020 report written by the C.D. Howe Institute supports the value of co-op programs, noting that Canadian university graduates from such programs are significantly more likely to get a first job that is closely related to their field of study, and three years afterward they have significantly better incomes than those students who don’t participate. In addition, regardless of their employment status, three years after graduation they have significantly lower debt levels than non-co-op students. 

The introduction of an optional co-op system will allow students to participate in WIL earlier in their educational career, beginning in the second year, rather than the third or fourth. They will have the opportunity for more work terms, experience and remuneration before leaving university as a result and more opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom, ultimately making them more competitive in the workplace. 

“Co-operative Education & Work-Integrated Learning Canada also says that it’s essential for students to have a study term between each work placement so they have time to reflect on what they’ve learned,” Buckley said. “We incorporate reflection into the co-op process so that students can integrate workplace experience and practise with the theory they learn in the classroom; it’s completing the loop.” 

Ehsani views co-ops as valuable in helping students decide what type of work suits them. 

“Co-ops open their eyes to multiple career paths,” she said. “They can also help students land full-time jobs. They are often offered jobs by co-op employers; it makes their recruitment easier to hire a known candidate who does good work. For students, this can be a relief, because finding jobs is extremely stressful. 

“In any case, successful co-op placements demonstrate that they have skills and are ready to learn, employers are ready to mentor and train them.” 

Before students begin their co-op terms, LA&PS’s co-op team prepares them with some non-credit training, addressing soft skills, resume preparation and what to expect in the workplace. 

“Our students compete with those from other schools, so support from our team is valuable,” Ehsani said.  

Ehsani is busy working with various other Faculties and the Career Centre to bring recruiters to campus and will work with employers to get feedback about how the program could be improved or which other courses might augment a student’s career potential. 

“Many students are just in a hurry to finish their degrees, but they may end up behind,” says Buckley. “Experience on their resumes is often worth the extra year or two until graduation, especially since that experience is paid. We are excited for this transition and looking forward to welcoming all LA&PS students to our optional co-op program next fall.” 

Summer course opens door for students missing numeracy skills 

Students from LAPS


By Elaine Smith 

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University has created a new summer course to assist students without Grade 12 math skills to acquire the knowledge they need to enter math-dependent university programs in the fall. 

In the summer of 2023, LA&PS introduced a pilot, Mathematics for Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, a 12U Math waiver class, to help address the numeracy shortfall experienced by many incoming students. The non-degree, online synchronous course was open to all incoming students required to complete a 12U Math course to meet their condition for admission, or to any York University undergraduate students required to complete a mathematics pre-requisite for an eligible program – such as economics and bachelor of commerce. Thanks to the success of the course, LA&PS plans to offer it again in Summer 2024. 

Robert McKeown
Robert McKeown

“We wanted to make sure these students had the math they needed to learn more advanced topics once they arrived at York, such as linear algebra and calculus,” said Robert McKeown, an assistant professor (teaching stream) of economics, who helped create the curriculum alongside members of the LA&PS Numeracy Steering Committee. McKeown also played a pivotal role in overseeing the development of the instructors’ weekly lessons and assessment components for the course.  

The course ran twice a week for 12 weeks. It covered polynomial functions and some probability and statistics, and was structured like a standard university course with two tests and a final, along with asynchronous class activities.

Mona Frial Brown
Mona Frial Brown

Mona Frial-Brown, director of student success for LA&PS, said the course has been a few years in the making, first proposed by LA&PS academic advisors and Sean Kheraj, the former vice-dean and associate dean of programs. It provides a pathway for LA&PS students, so they aren’t required to return to high school to obtain the necessary skills. Previously, students were able to take a relevant course at the School of Continuing Studies, but it no longer exists. 

“Sean wanted us to think about a non-credit option that was equivalent to an advanced functions course,” said Frial-Brown, who also credits former associate dean Anita Lam and the LA&PS Numeracy Steering Committee, who created the Student Numeracy Assistance Centre at Keele (SNACK). “Numeracy is closely linked to student success, and this initiative is focused on improving access. It was a collaborative effort, and being a part of it from start to finish was a rewarding experience.” 

The collaboration drew on the skills of a variety of people and teams. The LA&PS recruitment and academic advising teams were involved in promoting the course to students. York’s recruitment and admissions team were involved in developing offer letters and explaining to applicants that acceptance was conditional on passing the course. Once the curriculum was created, Marc Anderson, a learning technology support specialist from eLearning Services, built the content in eClass. SNACK peer tutors got involved in assisting the students who took the pilot class. Maggie Quirt, the current associate dean of programs at LA&PS, also had a hand. 

“It’s a baby I delivered this summer,” Frial-Brown added with a laugh. “In addition, it’s not just a course; it marks the beginning of a non-degree framework for the Faculty. We might consider other non-degree courses, so we wanted to carefully plan this pilot program and create a structure for the non-degree landscape. We consulted with colleagues across the University, including the Faculty of Health, where non-degree courses are already offered, and established a framework for enrolment, admissions and course payment. Many factors were at play.”

Neil Bucklkey
Neil Bucklkey

Neil Buckley, current associate dean of teaching and learning for LA&PS, who was involved with the Numeracy Steering Committee throughout the development and launch of the class, added, “There is a huge move in education for micro-credentials, some for credit and some not. This was a great opportunity for LA&PS to pilot test a non-academic course.” 

The class drew 61 students, almost half of them international students. This meant breaking the class into two sections to make it accessible from various time zones. One class met online in the mornings; the other in the evenings. All but one of the students passed the class.  

“At the end of the semester, we are planning to assess the success of the participants to see how well they performed in their courses compared to students who took the course in high school and see if success varies according to discipline,” said Buckley. 

The team will also follow them through the next few years to determine if the course has an impact on retention. 

“This course opens the door to a larger, more diverse group of students,” Buckley said. “It helps us achieve access and equity. We pride ourselves on being student-centric, and this offers students flexibility.” 

Frial-Brown is equally enthusiastic. 

“I’m truly proud of this project,” she said. “It was a genuine collaborative effort aimed at achieving a common goal, which was to provide access to our students. We’ve witnessed its successful development with thanks to everyone involved and with the backing of senior leadership.” 

York U Motion Media Studio a hub for future creative talent

YUMMS green screen studio

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

The York U Motion Media Studio (YUMMS), supported by Cinespace Studios, continues to see growth as it offers courses, workshops, talks and critical hands-on experiential education for those in the York University community looking to become the next generation of content creators across creative industries.

Originally gifted to York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) and York University in 2016 by the Mirkopoulos Family, the York U Motion Media Studio was branded and relaunched in its current iteration post-pandemic in February 2021. Located within Cinespace’s expansive content production complex in Toronto, YUMMS’ interdisciplinary studio space features a student lounge, two studios, a standing set, a green screen stage and state-of-the-art equipment provided by MBS Equipment Co. Its offerings are geared towards providing opportunities to receive hands-on experience with industry tools.

Students enrolled in AMPD courses have access to the space, and various courses – including production design, cinematography, virtual production, motion capture, creative producing and film production – integrate the space into the curriculum.

Ingrid Veninger
Ingrid Veninger

“We’re really on the ground with experiential education,” says Ingrid Veninger, director of YUMMS and associate professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts.

Beyond developing hands-on familiarity and mastering of filmmaking equipment, YUMMS intends to help students build up a resume of experiential accomplishments that will assist them with their future content creation careers. “The first thing they’re going to be asking you when you sit across an interview table will be, ‘What is your experience? What have you done? What sets have you worked on?’ ” says Veninger.

YUMMS empowers them with answers. It also aims to assist students navigating the industry by connecting them with creative professionals through the facility.

One way is through being located within the Cinespace complex – a hub of international filmmaking activity. “Our students and folks in the greater York U community can just open the door and look down the hall and see the world of productions swirling,” says Veninger. “They’re just one step away from the creative industries they want to be a part of.”

Another way is through workshops, masterclasses and programming like the YUMMS Industry Talks Series, a monthly career development and networking event, hosted in partnership with Cinespace’s CineCares program and OYA Black Arts Coalition, creating further opportunities to learn and form industry relationships. “We’re trying to help facilitate that extra step to foster meaningful connections, so that AMPD students can gain greater access, insight and opportunity to engage with our ever-growing on-screen industries.”

York U Motion Media Studio Industry Talk event
Ingrid Veninger moderating a session of the YUMMS Industry Talks series.

Veninger stresses that YUMMS isn’t solely meant for undergraduate students, however. “It’s a teaching, learning and research space for undergrad and graduate students, alumni and faculty researchers to utilize this invaluable resource for courses, labs, workshops, master classes and production,” she says. “The space is multifaceted. Media arts research faculty are building a three-panel installation on-site, graduate students are shooting thesis projects, AMPD alumni are returning to workshop feature film screenplays with actors, award-winning cinema and media arts instructors are launching new interdisciplinary courses like Shooting the Set, and more. We are continually receptive to new initiatives, which help us maximize the opportunity of this gift, originally from the Mirkopoulos family and now with TPG Real Estate Partners.”

Still relatively new, the use and awareness of the studio’s multiple offerings requires outreach through a variety of channels. In addition to social media, building excitement happens with students. “I’m sometimes surprised when I go into first- and second-year classes. And I’ll ask if they know about the Motion Media Studio and there will be crickets,” she says. “But as soon as I mention we are located at Cinespace, where award-winning features and shows have been produced – like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ­– their eyes light up.”

Awareness of YUMMS is changing quickly. As the University heads into the winter term, YUMMS currently has 13 student film productions booked back-to-back. “The space has never been more active. Our calendar is packed, which is a great problem to have,” says Veninger.

An ongoing $3.12-million investment of support, from 2022 by the Cinespace Film Studios, will continue to allow YUMMS to pursue its goals and build up momentum, not just to benefit those who use the studio but the industry as well.

“Our students are the next generation of original content creators. They’re the forward-thinking innovators,” says Veninger. “The industry wants to discover new talent? Well, here you go. Let us introduce you to the next wave of bold, new, fresh, original visionaries ready to ignite our creative industries across Canada and around the world.”

For more information about the York University Motion Media Studio, visit yorkumotionmediastudio.ca.