Meet the recipients of the 2021 Alumni Awards and Scholarships

Alumni Awards and Scholarships

The York University Alumni Board has recognized four distinguished York students with 2021 Alumni Awards and Scholarships for their academic excellence and leadership.

The Alumni Awards and Scholarships started in 2009 and are adjudicated by the York University Alumni Board every year. Awards include the Silver Jubilee Scholarship, the Alumni Golden GRADitude Award and the Harry Arthurs Alumni Families Entrance Scholarship.

Alumni Silver Jubilee Scholarship

Meena Shanmuganathan
Meena Shanmuganathan

The Alumni Silver Jubilee Scholarship is awarded each year to a graduating student who has demonstrated excellence both in and out of the classroom. This year’s recipient, Meena Shanmuganathan (iBBA ’21), has been recognized for her significant contributions within the Tamil community and the considerable leadership she displayed during her time as an international bachelor of business administration (iBBA) student at the Schulich School of Business.

“Schulich placed a lot of emphasis on excelling outside of the classroom as well as inside,” she says. “There were so many opportunities in the last four years to participate in case competitions and research studies, and not just go to school and come home.”

In 2020, Shanmuganathan became vice-president of academics for the iBBA program and faced the challenge of making Schulich still feel like Schulich for students, despite the global pandemic. This involved planning the school’s annual flagship conference virtually for the first time, which saw 125 delegates and 100 alumni successfully come together in an online environment.

Outside of York, Shanmuganathan has been a member of the Tamil Cultural and Academic Society of Durham since 2009, working to educate communities about Tamil culture in an effort to preserve it for future generations. Most recently, she helped spearhead the first month-long Tamil mental health awareness campaign, which included planning four successful events and securing over $3,000 in sponsorships.

In September, Shanmuganathan will attend the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law to pursue her interest in human rights.

“It is such a big honour to be recognized, not just within the Schulich community but the York community as well,” she says about her scholarship win.

Alumni Golden GRADitude Award

Anjelica Ramsewack
Anjelica Ramsewack

The Alumni Golden GRADitude Award recognizes graduating students who leave York University a better place thanks to the significant leadership they demonstrated during their time on campus. This year, there are two recipients of this award.

Communications studies graduate Anjelica Ramsewack (BA ’21) has been recognized for her vast contributions to the student community during her time at Glendon College.

Ramsewack held various senior positions within Glendon College Student Union, including vice-president of communications and vice-president of operations. In her role as vice-president of bilingual affairs, she became a key voice at York and Glendon by advocating for the importance of bilingual services and communications across the University to serve both francophone and anglophone students on campus.

In addition to her involvement in student governance, Ramsewack was co-secretary general of the Glendon Model United Nations, helping to develop and execute the first-ever bilingual conference for high-school students. Her experience in student government and clubs led her to establish the Glendon Communications Student Association, of which she was also president.

“Being a part of these organizations and being able to contribute significantly to the school and the students brought me joy during my time at Glendon,” she says. “I was able to grow as an individual and that is something I will take away with me.”

In September, Ramsewack will be returning to York to pursue a master of management at the Schulich School of Business, with the hopes of building a career in business management or marketing.

“The energy I spent during my time at Glendon was worth it,” she says, regarding her Alumni Golden GRADitude Award win, “and this puts into perspective for me that my work was valuable to the community.”

Moboluwajidide Joseph
Moboluwajidide Joseph

Moboluwajidide Joseph (BA ’21), a communications studies graduate and former president of the Glendon College Student Union, has been recognized for his noteworthy contributions to student life at Glendon College and York.

A vocal supporter of the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education on campus, Joseph assisted with campaigns and initiatives that aimed to tackle toxic masculinity on campus. He was also a student representative on the Sexual Violence and Policy Advisory Committee for two years.

As a national executive representative for the Canadian Federation of Students’ Black Caucus, Joseph has been a key voice in student-led and student-centred responses to the anti-Black racism framework development processes and lobbying efforts.

“My time at Glendon has been amazing and wondrous,” he says. “One of the reasons I wanted to go to university was to discover myself and figure out who I was, what my values and principles were and how these coincided with my goals and ambitions. Glendon created space for me to do that.”

This fall, Joseph looks forward to joining the University of Toronto as an MA candidate in geography.

“I hope to specifically focus on Black geographies and the experience of Black communities in Toronto when they come under surveillance and how that impacts their lived experiences,” he says. “I’ve always believed that research should have a practical impact on day-to-day life, and being given this opportunity to do this research at such an institution is beyond my wildest dreams and hopes.”

Harry Arthurs Alumni Families Entrance Scholarship

Ishi Madan
Ishi Madan

The Harry Arthurs Alumni Families Entrance Scholarship is awarded to an incoming undergraduate student who is the child, sibling or grandchild of a York University graduate and who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and accomplishments in community service, volunteerism or other endeavours.

Incoming Schulich School of Business student Ishi Madan has been awarded this year’s scholarship. She follows in her brother’s footsteps as she joins the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Schulich for the Fall 2021 semester.

Madan immigrated to Canada in 2017 and learned to adapt to a whole new educational system.

“Coming here to Canada in Grade 9 was really tough for me,” she shares. “I had to adjust to a lot of changes. The guidance counsellors and teachers at my school were very helpful and I think my drive comes from within myself. You can find support from unexpected corners.”

Outside of school, Madan has been a regular volunteer in her community. Harnessing her own experiences, she became a peer mentor for the World of Welcome program to help newly immigrated students acclimate and adapt to their new academic system. Most recently, Madan created an online community response group to combat the isolation created by the pandemic, while also co-ordinating food bank distributions. Having played piano for the past 14 years and earning her first class honours from the Royal Conservatory of Music, she regularly performs before live audiences and volunteers to teach piano to younger students in her community.

Madan looks forward to developing her critical thinking skills and exploring her personal and ethical values while studying at one of Canada’s best business schools this fall.

Interim update on provincial guidance for the fall term

People walk through Vari Hall, which is located on York U's Keele campus
People walk through Vari Hall, which is located on York U’s Keele campus

The following is an important message to the York community from York University Provost and Vice-President Academic, Lisa Philipps, and Provost and Vice-President Research and Innovation, Amir Asif.

Dear York community, 

Late last week, the deputy minister of colleges and universities (MCU) distributed a memo providing guidance to the post-secondary sector for Fall 2021 planning, based on progressing vaccination rates in Ontario and continued improvements in public health indicators. This guidance includes:

  • the resumption of all in-person instruction and on-campus activities without capacity limits;
  • no physical distancing requirements; and
  • the continuing requirement for masks and face coverings to be worn in indoor spaces.

It is important to note that post-secondary education (PSE) institutions will still be required to follow relevant public health and workplace safety requirements. The MCU will be releasing an updated Postsecondary Education Public Health Measures Framework in early August 2021 with further information, including the requirement for all PSE institutions to have Continuity of Education Plans in place before September, in the event of a disruption to in-person teaching and learning.

The guidance from the MCU is welcomed news, as it provides greater clarity for us as we continue to plan for the gradual reopening of our campuses. As has been the case in our planning throughout the pandemic, we will continue to put the safety and well-being of our community first, in order to allow us to resume in-person activities on our campuses with confidence.

We also appreciate that many course directors may have already made plans based on the confirmed mode of delivery loaded onto our system this past week. Students have also begun to register for courses based on the information provided, regarding requirements for on-campus/in-person or online/remote delivery. Those plans provide a strong foundation for increasing activities on our campuses while meeting the diverse needs of our students as we prepare for the fall. We will therefore proceed with the mix of in-person/on-campus and remote/online activities as planned.

Hopefully, the improvements in our public health situation will allow for increased in-person/on-campus activities, including instructor/student meets and co-curricular and extracurricular student events. However, broadly speaking, the MCU guidance does not materially impact our fall term plans. Specifically, the University does not intend to convert existing courses or meets that have been marked for remote or online delivery to in-person delivery.

For the remainder of the summer term, as mentioned in our last community update, York University continues to maintain existing two-metre physical distancing requirements, while some fitness and in-person research activities involving human participants will resume under Step 3. We also continue to ask that those who wish to come to campus at this time request access via the Campus Access System.

Further details about the fall term will be shared with you by early August. In the coming weeks, more information will also be shared via weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issues and on the Better Together website. If you have questions about York’s safe return to campus that are not currently covered under the FAQs, please feel free to submit them here.

Lisa Philipps
Provost and Vice-President Academic 

Amir Asif
Vice-President Research and Innovation

What Ontario’s Step 3 reopening means for York University

Vari Hall from the exterior
Vari Hall

On Friday, July 16, the province officially moved into Step 3 of its Roadmap to Reopen.  At this time, it is encouraging to see an improving public health situation and surpassed vaccination targets; however, it is important to be mindful of recent comments made by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health about the need to have the highest rate of vaccination possible heading into September, as more will begin to gather indoors.

The latest health data also shows that there is a disproportionate rate of infection among those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. The University continues to strongly recommend that all eligible members of the York community receive their COVID-19 vaccines this summer.

A preliminary review of the impact of Step 3 for York suggests that while there are no major changes posed to the delivery of the Summer 2021 term (with courses largely delivered remotely), some fitness and in-person research activities involving human participants will resume. The following will apply under Step 3:

  • Beginning on July 19, the Tait McKenzie Fitness Centre will have a limited reopening for York students only, with workout times available on a reserved basis. The Fitness Centre has scheduled fitness classes to resume the following week by reservation.
  • While indoor gatherings must allow for all to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres, in-person instruction will continue to abide by existing gathering limitations (10-person maximum), with an exception for a maximum of 50 persons allowed for in-person instruction in the School of Nursing.
  • All indoor gatherings must still abide by two-metre physical distancing, masking/face covering requirements and/or the proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • Students filming outdoors or undertaking other activities outdoors must abide by the 100-person outdoor gathering limit.
  • Beginning on July 16, in-person/face-to-face research involving human participants will resume with exceptions, subject to approved health and safety plans, current ethics and/or permit approval and applicable physical distancing requirements.
  • If you do need to come to campus, please request access through the Campus Access system or have pre-existing approval to access campus spaces. Completion of daily screening is also part of this process.

The University continues to await guidance from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on what will and will not be permitted for the Fall 2021 term and it is anticipated that this information will be shared with Ontario’s post-secondary sector soon. Plans continue to be developed to implement changes to on-campus activities, in-person classes and student experiences at the appropriate times.

In the coming weeks, more information will be shared via weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issues and on the Better Together website. If you have questions about York’s safe return to campus that are not currently covered under any of the existing FAQs, feel free to submit them here.

Two York PhD students awarded prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

research graphic
featured image for research stories

Two York University PhD students dedicated to the advancement of trailblazing research have been awarded 2021 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. Valued at $50,000 per year for up to three years, this prestigious scholarship is presented by the Government of Canada to support doctoral students who are conducting world-class research. The scholarship recipients embody all of the rigorous selection criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership.

This year’s Vanier Scholars, Debbie Ebanks Schlums and Maureen Owino, are advancing knowledge in areas that can stimulate positive change on a global scale. Both of their research areas have a diverse reach, from addressing the issues around the underrepresentation of small diasporic communities in formal archives to tackling injustices of pandemic responses that often overlook vulnerable populations.

“York University and its community are proud to support these incredible scholars in the advancement of their groundbreaking research and empower them for long-term success,” says Thomas Loebel, dean and associate vice-president of York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Debbie Ebanks Schlums, cinema and media studies/film
Debbie Ebanks
Debbie Ebanks Schlums

Ebanks Schlums acknowledges the important role small diasporic communities play in the constitution of the Canadian nation in her proposed dissertation titled “Community-Engaged Memory Preservation: Co-Creating an Audio-Visual Archive of the Jamaican Diaspora in the Greater Toronto Area.”

“Small diasporic communities significantly impact the national fabric of Canada, yet their contributions are marginalized within official archival collections and, therefore, within the idea of the nation,” says Ebanks Schlums of her project.

This cutting-edge study challenges the work done by official archives through creating an alternative presentation of artifacts that does justice to preserving the cultural heritage of the Jamaican diaspora in the Greater Toronto Area. Ebanks Schlums underscores that there are portable and non-material forms of archiving that carry history on and through bodies of communities that have a migratory nature. This project will embody a creative and collective imagining of a diasporic archive by creating a variety of unique artifacts from musical compositions to cellphone portraits of people and places. This innovative type of archive will be shared in mainstream spaces to provide as much accessibility to these cultural artifacts as possible.

Through this research, new methods dedicated to the study of diasporas and under-examined archives will emerge through the creation of novel forms of artifact presentation. The project aims to support the Jamaican community in exploring their own identity and sense of belonging through creating connections to community members, their homeland and the society in which they reside.

In addition to the cutting-edge academic work that Ebanks Schlums performs, she is also an active leader in her community. She was a founding member of the Out of a War Zone and To Lemon Hill collectives, both addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.

Maureen Owino, environmental studies
Maureen Owino
Maureen Owino

Owino’s research, titled “When HIV and COVID-19 Pandemics Collide in Black Communities in Canada,” confronts issues relating to pandemic responses that impact already vulnerable communities.

Through institutional ethnography, the research will examine the cumulative impacts of existing and emerging social and public health policies on Black people’s health and well-being in Canada. “It will do so by: 1. Tracking the rapidly changing health and public policy landscape in Canada; 2. Using critical feminist and race theories to analyze, compare and contrast COVID-19 and HIV containment and mitigation strategies; and 3. Examining how these policies address, reify, challenge, and uphold existing health inequities from the perspective of Black people living with and at risk of pandemics in Canada,” says Owino of her research.

This research is vital, as it exposes how pandemics reveal inequities in health outcomes for vulnerable communities who also face racism, sexism, homophobia and poverty, which create acute conditions for these vulnerable populations. The findings will be accessible to a diverse audience base through a collaboration with Black organizations, community members, researchers, activists and scholars.

“Whereas most Canadians are reeling from the impact of COVID-19, Black people also remain in an HIV pandemic zone and must deal with the impact of both pandemics simultaneously,” says Owino. “This structural inequities creates conditions of vulnerability that are increased by barriers to effective and timely health care, and increases the Black communities’ risks to future pandemics.”

In addition to being a dedicated scholar who promotes these vital social causes, Owino also shows exemplary leadership skills. She is the director of the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment and a member of the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.

“Both Debbie Ebanks Schlums and Maureen Owino are outstanding examples of Vanier Scholars through their innovative research and dedication to the community,” says Loebel.

York scholars receive Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

Life Sciences Building FEATURED

York University Postdoctoral Fellows Mohammad Naderi and Vasily Panferov have been named among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Awarded by the Government of Canada, the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship is valued at $70,000 per year for two years, supporting postdoctoral researchers who will positively contribute to Canada’s social, economic and research-based growth. Following a highly competitive selection process, this esteemed award allows researchers the privilege of conducting ambitious work, while focusing entirely on advancing their respective fields.

Mohammad Naderi
Mohammad Naderi
Mohammad Naderi, biology

Naderi’s project investigates the impact of early-life exposure to environmental chemicals in the development of autism spectrum disorders. Identifying a dramatic increase in incidents of autism in Canada (from one in 94 children in 2008-10 to one in 66 children in 2018), Naderi’s research focuses on one of its possible causes, the chemical compound bisphenol, widely used in the production of plastic and packaging materials.

Titled “Understanding the role of environmental contaminants in the development of autism using the zebrafish model,” Naderi’s study focuses on uncovering the mechanisms through which bisphenol may contribute to the pathogenesis of autism. Recognizing the high level of genetic and physiologic similarities between humans and zebrafish, Naderi’s work uses zebrafish as a means of modelling relevant autistic behavioural characteristics.

“This project can be a crucial step towards identifying the role of environmental contaminants in the etiology of this brain disorder,” says Naderi, thus offering both governments and private institutions a means of redefining regulations while searching for safer alternatives.

Vasily Panferov, chemistry
Vasily Panferov
Vasily Panferov

Panferov’s study proposes an innovative technology for the diagnosis of sepsis, one of the major causes of death in hospitals worldwide. Combining a test strip (similar to those used in home pregnancy tests) with a smartphone, Panferov’s research focuses on developing an inexpensive diagnostic tool that can be widely accessed, thus expanding the opportunities for prevention of this life-threatening condition across the globe.

Titled “Technology for Rapidly Diagnosing Sepsis at the Bedside,” Panferov’s device monitors the blood levels of several inflammatory biomarkers capable of confirming a diagnosis of sepsis even before the onset of symptoms. In the form of a 10-minute test to be performed by nurses at the bedside, this technology would eliminate the current need for expensive laboratory equipment and time-consuming practices.

Privileging “early-stage diagnosis and long-term prognosis,” says Panferov, this reliable yet cost-effective tool will inevitably “benefit patients’ health worldwide.”

Study shows arts-based relational caring helps those living with dementia thrive

hands relationship love heart
hands relationship love heart

A newly published study addresses the compelling call for connection and relationships for persons, families and communities living with dementia.

The qualitative research study, “Free to be: Experiences of arts-based relational caring in a community living and thriving with dementia,” aims to address the gaps in literature by focusing on experiences at an arts-based academy for persons living with dementia that is guided by a relational caring philosophy.

It shares what is possible when the focus is on relationships and where the arts are the mediums for meaningful engagements that are both human and non-human.

Christine Jonas-Simpson
Christine Jonas-Simpson

Led by York University Associate Professor Christine Jonas-Simpson from the School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health, the study’s findings contribute to the growing body of knowledge about both relational caring and arts-based practices that highlight an ethic of care that is relational, inclusive and intentional.

The research was conducted in collaboration with: Gail Mitchell, York University School of Nursing; Sherry Dupuis, University of Waterloo; Lesley Donovan, Unity Health Toronto; and Pia Kontos, KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network, and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

Few studies explore the meaning of arts-based, relationship-centred care or relational caring with an entire community living with dementia where the voices of persons living with dementia are also included. For this research, 25 participants were recruited from the arts-based academy and interviewed one-on-one or in small groups. Participants included five persons living with dementia, eight family members, four staff, five artists, one personal support worker and two volunteers. Participants were asked to describe their experiences of relational caring or relationships in the academy space.

Three themes were identified in the analysis of the interviews with participants:

  • freedom and fluid engagement inspire a connected, spontaneous liveliness;
  • embracing difference invites discovery and generous inclusivity; and
  • mutual affection brings forth trust and genuine expression.

“Findings from this study shed light on what is possible when a relational caring philosophy underpins arts-based practices – everyone thrives,” the study states. “As new settings and programs are developed, grounding them in a relational caring philosophy from the beginning and providing ongoing support of the principles will better support the transfer of the philosophy into practice.”

Relationships, human and non-human, are essential for human flourishing and this is no different for a person living with dementia, says Jonas-Simpson, adding that when engagement in the arts is guided by relational caring philosophy, the arts become powerful mediums for connection and for relationships to grow and thrive.

Study provides insight to help parents reduce post-vaccination stress in young kids

A photo with a black backgroud that features two vials of COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe
The Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium is playing a pivotal role in providing locally nuanced analysis of data to inform public health decision making, as well as vaccination rollout strategies

Looking forward to a fall with hopefully one of the most important vaccination uptakes of children in a generation, a new study provides insights to help parents with reducing post-vaccination distress in younger kids. The study, published in the journal PAIN, looked at preschool children who were at least four to five years old and what their parents said that could help reduce distress during their vaccination.

This study is part of the largest study in the world – coined the OUCH Cohort – looking at caregivers and children during vaccinations from birth to the age of five. The OUCH Cohort originally followed 760 caregiver-child dyads from three pediatric clinics in the Greater Toronto Area and were observed during vaccinations during the first five years of a child’s life.

Rebecca Pillai Riddell
Rebecca Pillai Riddell

“What we found is that in the first minute after the needle, the more parents said coping-promoting statements such as ‘you can do this’ and ‘it will be over soon’ or tried to distract them with talking about something else, the higher distressed the children were. This really surprised us,” said Rebecca Pillai Riddell, senior author, professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, and director at the OUCH Lab at York University. “We found, however, during the second minute after the vaccine when the child was calmer, these same coping-promoting statements resulted in them calming down faster. On the other hand, distress-promoting statements such as criticizing the child or reassuring them that they were fine had no relationship with child distress in minute one, but in minute two the distress-promoting comments were strongly predictive of higher distress in kids. We also showed with preschoolers that the more distressed they were prior to the needle, the more distressed they were after the needle – like a domino effect of previous pain.”

“Previous research has shown that the vast majority of preschoolers calm down within two minutes after a vaccination; however, about 25 per cent of children did not,” said Ilana Shiff, first author and master’s student in Pillai Riddell’s lab. “We wanted to determine what parents were saying before or during the vaccination appointment that could be leading to these children feeling distressed during and after a vaccination.”

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that in first minute after a vaccine parents should not start encouraging coping right away, but rather keep children calm by using physical strategies such as hugging, cuddling or hand-holding. This should be done instead of trying to give a child verbal direction on how to cope when they are in peak distress. Once children get over that initial minute of high distress, Pillai Riddell says, they think children are more able to benefit from parents’ coping-promoting statements. The findings also provide insight for health-care providers and caregivers on how to support children during immunization appointments. 

Researchers say that because preschool children show the prior pain “domino effect,” it is critical for health-care providers to try to vaccinate calm preschoolers. Routinely adopting techniques that allow the child to be approached without distressing them prior to the needle (e.g. allowing a child to stay close to their caregiver while viewing a video on a smartphone as a distraction) will help minimize the pain domino effect these findings suggest. Moreover, for both groups, supporting caregivers to avoid distress-promoting behaviours before and during the vaccination will be critical.

“This type of data has never been found in preschoolers before,” said Pillai Riddell. “It’s important to understand post-needle reactions at this age because needle phobia and phobias in general start coming on at five to 10 years of age, so understanding how children can be coached and how parents can have a really powerful role in reducing stress post a vaccination is key.”

York professor inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre
Marin Litoiu
Marin Litoiu

Marin Litoiu, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Lassonde School of Engineering and the School of Information Technology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has been inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

Litoiu joins exclusive and prestigious company with this honour. He was recognized for his outstanding achievements and service to the engineering profession in Canada and around the world.

Litoiu leads the Centre for Research in Adaptive Software at Lassonde, which focuses on the development of adaptive and self-managing systems. He is considered one of the pioneers of the field of self-adaptive software (SAS), which actively modifies its own behaviour and structure as conditions or user requirements change. His contributions to the design, architecture and implementation of self-managing software systems have been adopted widely by both public and private sectors. Litoiu has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, with one receiving over 2,000 academic citations. He is the recipient of two most influential paper awards, three best paper awards and was recently honoured as the 2020 IBM Faculty Fellow of the Year.

With strong ties to the software industry, Litoiu has been recognized with the IBM Outstanding Achievement Award for top innovators and the Leo Derikx NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation, awarded together with the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies. He patented 11 different technologies and systems with industrial partners and founded a burgeoning startup company in 2016, Bitnobi Inc., which was ranked among the top 20 cybersecurity innovators for 2019 by Technology Innovators.

Litoiu has secured more than $16 million in external research funding, including a recent $1.65-million Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council CREATE grant to start the Dependable Internet of Things Applications program at York University.

As a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, he will contribute to the mission of the academy, providing leadership in engineering and social responsibility that is in step with the evolving needs of our society.

Newly elected Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering were inducted virtually on June 14, during the academy’s 2021 Annual General Meeting. The Canadian Academy of Engineering is a founding member of the Council of Canadian Academies, along with the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Rare artifacts find their way home to the Philippines thanks to a York professor

FEATURED image Patrick Alcedo_new_AMPD

A museum in the northern Philippines has received a treasure trove of local artifacts, all thanks to a connection made during the Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference organized by York University and partners in January 2021.

Patrick Alcedo
Patrick Alcedo

Patrick Alcedo, associate professor of dance in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), was one of the conference speakers. He gave a presentation about using dance as a pedagogical tool. Alcedo is a dancer, dance ethnographer and documentary filmmaker who specializes in the folk dances of the Philippines.

In the audience for Alcedo’s talk was Faye Snodgress, an American education consultant and granddaughter of a man who taught English in the northern Philippines in the late 1800s.

Following the conference, Snodgress wrote to Alcedo to explain her family connection to the Philippines. She sent along photos of some cultural artifacts that her grandfather had brought home as mementos of his stay in the rural Philippines. Snodgress expressed a desire to donate them to a museum or an appreciative audience. She asked Alcedo if he had any ideas about a good home or any connections to someone who could assist her with the donation.

A rare bag from the Philippines
This embroidered bag is among the artifacts sent to the Museo Kordilyera. Photograph courtesy of Patrick Alcedo

Alcedo, who hails from the central Philippines, immediately thought of a colleague at OCAD University, Lynne B. Milgram, who conducts research in the northern part of the Philippines. He got in touch with Milgram and she told him that a new museum, the Museo Kordilyera, had opened in 2019 at the University of the Philippines. Milgram contacted the director of Museo Kordilyera and received an enthusiastic response: the museum would be delighted to add the artifacts to its collection.

“The artifacts are amazing,” said Alcedo. “There are wooden spoons with carvings of humans on the handle, for example, and a very rare bag that is used in a particular Philippine dance. Material objects are inextricably linked with Philippine dance; they are used as props. I used a similar bag when I was a dancer. These traditions still exist. The dance movements are specific, but they alone can’t signify the culture; the dances are so object-driven.”

Carved spoons
Included in the artifacts are two rare carved spoons and a vessel. Photograph courtesy of Patrick Alcedo

The artifacts are now in Baguio, the city that houses the Museo Kordilyera.

Alcedo, who often travels to the area to conduct research on regional dances, is planning a visit to the collection once it is safe to travel again.

“Imagine, these artifacts came to North America 120 years ago,” he said. “It is such a generous thing to do to return them to a place where they will be treasured.

“In addition, it is fitting that these artifacts are being returned home during the Philippines’ quincentennial year so that the entire country can enjoy them,” added Alcedo, who was named by the Philippine Consulate as a recipient of a 2021 Quincentennial Award.

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

Professor Susan Dion appointed inaugural associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives

Artwork by Métis (Otipemisiwak) artist Christi Belcourt

York University Vice-President Equity, People and Culture Sheila Cote-Meek issues the following announcement to the community:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Boozhoo, kwe kwe, bonjour and warm greetings,

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Susan D. Dion to the inaugural role of associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives, effective Sept. 1.

Susan Dion
Susan Dion

Professor Dion is a Lenape and Potawatomi scholar with mixed Irish and French ancestry and was the first Indigenous tenure-track faculty member to be hired in the Faculty of Education at York. Professor Dion joined York in 2001 and was appointed to the rank of full professor this year (2021).

Early in her time at York, Professor Dion demonstrated her commitment to supporting Indigenous initiatives. She worked with Indigenous students and the University administration to address student-identified needs and interests through her advocacy for and support of the establishment of Aboriginal Student Services and the Centre for Indigenous Students at York. She was a founding member of York’s Aboriginal Education Council (presently York’s Indigenous Council) and served as co-Chair for three terms between 2004 and 2015. In 2014, Professor Dion served as the first academic director for the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services.

In the Faculty of Education, Professor Dion has led development of the Wuleelham: Indigenous Education Initiatives including the Urban Indigenous Education MEd Cohort, an Indigenous PhD Cohort and the Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education Program. With a focus on Urban Indigenous Education, decolonizing systems of education, and most recently education sovereignty, her teaching, research and service deepens understanding of Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies; addresses gaps in educators’ knowledge of Indigenous peoples, histories, and cultures; and identifies and examines Indigenous students’ experiences, perspectives and hopes for education. Professor Dion has led numerous research projects including nIshnabek de’bwe wIn // telling our truths, (SSHRC, 2017) and inVISIBILITY INDIGENOUS IN THE CITY (SSHRC, 2013). She has followed up her successful book Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal People’s Experiences and Perspectives (2009) with Braided Learning: Illuminating Indigenous Presence through Art and Story, expected out in January 2022. Professor Dion has expertise in the skillful cultivation of equitable and respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Professor Dion holds a PhD, MEd and BEd from the University of Toronto, and a BA from the University of Waterloo. She is an internationally respected scholar and researcher in Indigenous relationships and education.

This is an important time for York as it works to decolonize and address issues of racism, including anti-Indigenous racism, and strengthen the community to be more welcoming, equitable and inclusive. In the role of associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives, Professor Dion will draw on her expertise, experience and energy to drive the further implementation of York University’s Indigenous Framework, support the implementation of the Decolonization of Research Administration Report recommendations, and several other Indigenous Initiatives across our campuses.

Please join me in welcoming Professor Dion to her new role. I look forward to working with her over the coming years as she works to advance Indigenous Initiatives across York and with our community partners.

Miigwech, merci and thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-President Equity, People and Culture


Nomination de Susan D. Dion, toute première vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones

Boozhoo, kwe kwe, Bonjour, Warm Greetings,

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer la nomination de Susan D. Dion (PhD) au poste nouvellement créé de vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones à compter du 1er septembre 2021.

Susan Dion
Susan Dion

Susan Dion est une universitaire lenape et potawatomi d’ascendance mixte irlandaise et française. Elle a été la première Autochtone du corps professoral à être embauchée pour un poste menant à la permanence à la Faculté de l’éducation de l’Université York. Madame Dion a rejoint les rangs de York en 2001 et a obtenu le titre de professeure titulaire cette année (2021).

Dès son arrivée à York, Susan Dion a démontré son engagement à appuyer les initiatives autochtones. Elle a travaillé avec les étudiants autochtones et l’administration de l’Université pour répondre aux besoins et aux intérêts des étudiants par son plaidoyer et son appui en faveur de l’établissement à l’Université York des Services de soutien aux étudiants autochtones et du Centre pour les étudiants autochtones. Elle a été membre fondatrice du Conseil autochtone de l’enseignement de York (aujourd’hui Conseil autochtone de York), dont elle a également été la coprésidente pour trois mandats entre 2004 et 2015. En 2014, Susan Dion a été la première directrice aux études du Centre de services aux étudiants autochtones.

À la Faculté de l’Éducation, Susan Dion a dirigé la mise en place du cheminement Wüléelham : Initiatives autochtones en enseignement, notamment la cohorte de maîtrise en Enseignement autochtone urbain, une cohorte de doctorants autochtones, et le Programme Waaban de formation des enseignants autochtones. Ciblant l’enseignement autochtone urbain, la décolonisation des systèmes d’enseignement et, plus récemment, la souveraineté en matière de formation, son enseignement, ses travaux de recherche et ses services permettent d’approfondir la compréhension des épistémologies et des ontologies autochtones, comblent les lacunes des éducateurs relativement aux peuples, aux histoires et aux cultures autochtones, et déterminent, en les analysant, les expériences, les perspectives et les espoirs des étudiants autochtones en matière de formation. Susan Dion a dirigé de nombreux projets de recherche, parmi lesquels nIshnabek de’bwe wIn // telling our truths (CRSH, 2017) et inVISIBILITY INDIGENOUS IN THE CITY (CRSH, 2013). Après la publication de son livre à succès Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal People’s Experiences and Perspectives (2009), elle a poursuivi avec Braided Learning: Illuminating Indigenous Presence through Art and Story, dont la publication est attendue pour janvier 2022. Susan Dion est une experte en culture maîtrisée des relations respectueuses et équitables entre les Autochtones et les personnes non autochtones.

Madame Dion détient un baccalauréat, une maîtrise et un doctorat en éducation de l’Université de Toronto, ainsi qu’un baccalauréat ès arts de l’Université de Waterloo. Elle est une universitaire et une chercheuse internationalement respectée dans le domaine des relations et de la formation autochtones.

Cette nomination constitue un moment crucial pour l’Université York, qui travaille à la décolonisation et à la résolution des problèmes relatifs au racisme, notamment au racisme anti-Autochtones, ainsi qu’à un renforcement de la communauté afin que celle-ci soit plus accueillante, équitable et inclusive. Au poste de vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones, Susan Dion s’appuiera sur son expertise, son expérience et son énergie afin de poursuivre plus avant la mise en œuvre du Cadre autochtone de l’Université York, d’appuyer la mise en œuvre de la décolonisation des recommandations du Rapport d’administration des travaux de recherche, et de soutenir plusieurs autres initiatives autochtones sur l’ensemble de nos campus.

Veuillez vous joindre à moi pour accueillir Susan Dion à son nouveau poste. J’ai hâte de collaborer avec elle au cours des années à venir dans le cadre de ses travaux pour faire progresser les initiatives autochtones sur l’ensemble de l’Université York et avec nos partenaires communautaires.

Miigwech, merci et thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture