York University releases new strategic research plan

FEATURED image Research theses

York University’s strategic research plan, Knowledge for the Future: From Creation and Discovery to Application, has now been finalized and is publicly available for download.

The plan was officially approved by the Senate on May 25 after a series of open forums, public consultations and faculty presentations that first began in September 2022, and engaging with over 1,500 York community members.

“As an international leader in purposeful research, York University is a modern and progressive institution ranked among the top universities in the world for its impact on advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “York’s reputation for excellence in research and related creative activities is rooted in interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches focused on driving positive change. Our faculty work with local and international partners building cross-sector networks that enhance our efforts to build equitable, inclusive, and sustainable communities. The new research plan lays out York’s strategy for intensifying our scholarly activities over the next five years continuing to propel the University forward as one of the most influential universities in Canada and beyond.”

The plan was developed with the help of an advisory committee made up of members from across the University. It showcases the depth and breadth of research at York and will be utilized beginning this year through to 2028.   

“The strategic research plan offers a comprehensive and clear vision for York to grow its global impact and excel in its high standing as a research-intensive university,” said Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “York stands ready to further its expertise and leadership in such fields as artificial intelligence, digital cultures, global health, Indigenous futurities, sustainability and more.”

The plan identifies six areas of existing research strengths, in addition to six areas of opportunity for the University to prioritize.

The six research areas of strength include:

  • Advancing Fundamental, Discovery and Theoretical Research and Scholarship
  • Illuminating Cultures and Cultivating Creativity
  • Building Healthy Lives, Communities and Reimagining Futures
  • Reaching New Horizons in Science, Technology and Society
  • Pursuing Justice, Equity and Sustainability: From Urban Dynamics to Global Challenges
  • Elevating Entrepreneurship Through Socially Responsible Innovation

The six areas of research opportunity include:

  • Digital Cultures and Disruptive Technologies
  • Healthy Communities, Equity and Global Well-being
  • Indigenous Futurities
  • Climate Action for a Sustainable Planet
  • Social Justice, Peace and Equitable Relations
  • Inter and Transdisciplinary Research Innovation 

To learn more about the plan and download it, visit yorku.ca/research/SRP.

The strategic research plan brings the York community together around a shared vision and is used as a tool by senior administration and the University Secretariat to make decisions about the institution’s research investments, infrastructure and services. The plan supports the University Academic Plan (2020-2025), which outlines York’s overall strategic objectives.

“I want to thank the advisory committee for their work and their passion, as well as to the entire York community who helped to develop and contribute to this plan alongside us,” said Asif. “I am confident that this community of changemakers can take this strategic research plan and bring it to life.”

Book highlights the importance of supports for university students

Campus walk spring students

By Elaine Smith

“Education will get you to the station, but can you get on the train and will you know where to get off?” says Professor Carl James, York University Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, building on a quote by a Ghanaian refugee, Kofi, that refers to the experiences of first-generation students attending university. In other words, being admitted to university is only the first step; the next is navigating the terrain. 

A book written by James and Leanne Taylor, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, profiles York alumni who participated in a 2002 pilot project, or, as Taylor calls it, “an intervention,” as incoming undergraduates. The project was designed to support first-generation university students during their undergraduate years, recognizing that they didn’t have parents who could offer them insights into the world of post-secondary education. 

“The barriers that they face in accessing higher education don’t go away once they’re on campus,” Taylor says.

First-Generation Student Experiences in Higher Education: Counterstories (Routledge: 2022) catches up with a selection of these students 20 years later and profiles their experiences prior to university, during university and in the years afterward. It is subtitled Counterstories “as a way of pushing back on ideas of the ideal student,” Taylor said. The book highlights the students’ successes and challenges and offers insights into the types of supports that first-generation students find most useful. 

The participating students faced barriers due to race, community, class, gender and/or sexual orientation. 

“We wanted to see how we could assist them when they got to university,” James says. “We as professors don’t necessarily realize that they have no idea how to negotiate university or the campus.” 

The “intervention” 

The pilot project required each participant to take part in an entrance life history interview and follow-up interviews and to keep journals of their experiences. They interviewed family members to learn more about their perceptions and expectation and also had work placements. In addition, Taylor ran a weekly group session, referred to as the ”common hour,” where students could discuss their experiences, goals and aspirations. 

“We worked with two cohorts of students over three years and there was a weekly group meeting, a common hour, where we discussed their experiences, goals and aspirations,” says Taylor, who served as the research assistant for the project while working toward her PhD at York. Combining those sessions with all the other information, “We had a rich, rounded idea of what they needed.”  

During the course of their weekly sessions, Taylor became friends with many of the students, who weren’t much younger than she was. These strong ties made it easy to reconnect with them after many years and arrange further interviews. 

“It was something special to go back and see where their lives have shifted,” she says. 

Many of the students said the weekly common hour was pivotal in their success in navigating the subtleties of university culture and in helping them balance peer and parental expectations with their actual university experiences. They were able to identify the existing conflicts and the areas where there was a lack of support – a gap that parents didn’t always know how to fill. 

“The students also challenged the idea that people from marginalized backgrounds are always behind,” Taylor adds. “They drew on other types of capital, such as community, to help them succeed. They also framed themselves as belonging, but were aware that others saw them as students who were admitted as part of an access program.” 

Taylor says the book challenges the idea that all first-generation students are similar; they are complex and “understood the intersectional pieces of their lives.” She believes universities and schools need to understand from where students draw support and how to help support and mentor them. 

“We also see the counterstories as telling us how students resisted and challenged the university structure and pushed back on the dominant narrative,” she says. “We have to realize that there are inequities in the institution itself.” 

Practical applications 

These discoveries should help inform the ways universities and individual faculty members work with first-generation students and how they address the students’ needs. 

“The book is a useful teaching tool,” James says. “I have used it with teachers and assigned various teachers a student in the book so they could compare their own stories, and participants identified with different stories. Many of them talked of having similar students in their classes.” 

He has also used the book with graduate students when teaching Education in the Urban Context. 

“They liked the book and were able to identify with some of the experiences, and they pointed out that some of the students didn’t always see their own privileges.” 

The book also dovetails nicely with York’s academic priority, from access to success, as set forth in the University Academic Plan. 

Celebrate the launch of largest York-led research program on May 15

Driving Simulator

Celebrate Connected Minds, the largest York-led research program in the University’s history, and explore the world of artificial intelligence and disruptive technologies, at an official launch event and interactive showcase on Monday, May 15.

York community members are invited to attend and experience York research first-hand. Attendees will have the opportunity to enter an Indigenous metaverse in an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience, test their skills behind the wheel in a driving simulator, take in a VR art installation, jumble their senses in a tumbling room that can spin 360 degrees, interact with some of the latest robots used in University research, and more.

Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society is a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary research program, funded in part by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), that will work to ensure technological progress and the future of AI is fair and equitable. For more about the program and the researchers, see this story: York University leads groundbreaking research to ensure technology revolution leaves no one behind.

Connected Minds was officially announced as a recipient of the CFREF grant on April 28. It is the largest single federal grant ever awarded to York University. Join University officials, the research team and the program’s many partners, to mark this significant milestone for York research and the beginning of Connected Minds.   

RSVP today to attend in person, or virtually through a live stream, at https://www.yorku.ca/go/connectedmindsreception.

Date/time: Monday, May 15 at 1 p.m.
Location: Sherman Health Science Research Centre, 281 Ian MacDonald Blvd., Keele Campus

York launches new Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

DEDI three diverse adults in conversations

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

We are excited to share York University’s first Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy. York is among the first Canadian universities to incorporate decolonization in a meaningful and substantial way throughout a document of this kind, and this strategy will formalize and coordinate DEDI efforts across the institution.

The DEDI Strategy acknowledges York University’s colonial structures and recognizes that many forms of discrimination and oppression exist both in society and in higher education. It provides a lens on the University’s past, present and future, allowing it to focus clearly on the efforts and resources needed to drive positive change. The strategy includes five strategic directions – teaching and learning, research and innovation, representation and success, campus climate and environment, and leadership and capacity building.

The strategy is rooted in the University’s Academic Plan 2020-2025, which outlines York’s commitment to championing diversity and inclusivity, embracing differing perspectives, peoples, and ways of knowing, and fostering global fluencies and cross-cultural knowledges. DEDI values are also infused into other key planning documents, and the strategy augments existing frameworks, including the Framework and Action Plan on Black Inclusion and the Indigenous Framework.

A collaborative effort

This is important work requiring time and care. The launch of the new DEDI Strategy is the result of the efforts of many individuals and units over the last two-and-a-half years. This includes the 50-member President’s Advisory Council on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which provided advice on the development of this new strategy – and the York community, who provided feedback on the Draft Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, released in March 2022. We are grateful to everyone who participated in this process including the inaugural Vice-President of Equity, People and Culture, Sheila Cote-Meek.

Taking action

While the DEDI Strategy will build on the collective efforts of many in our community, it is important to recognize that much remains to be done if we are to realize our goals. It is also a living document that will undoubtedly continue to evolve as we evaluate our progress each year. Success depends on the combined efforts of the entire York community.

We encourage everyone to read and explore the strategy on its dynamic new website.

We also invite you to join us at the launch event, Taking Action, Making Impact: A Fireside Chat on York’s DEDI Strategy, on Wednesday, May 17 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. There, you will learn how key community members are taking up the strategy in their work, explore how each of us can engage in DEDI work and imagine together how we can transform this institution to right the future for everyone.

Visit this website to learn more about the panelists and register to attend this event, in person or virtually.

Along with other key equity initiatives, this strategy and its underlying principles will empower everyone at the University to respectfully have the uncomfortable conversations that will drive collective understanding, and lead to a greater sense of inclusion and belonging  by facilitating a decolonizing, inclusive, diverse and collaborative ecosystem that promotes well-being for all.

Thank you. Merci.

Rhonda Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

York lance sa Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion  

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

Nous nous réjouissons de diffuser la première Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion (DEDI) de l’Université York. York est l’une des premières universités canadiennes à intégrer la décolonisation de manière substantielle dans un document de ce type, et cette stratégie formalisera et coordonnera les efforts de DEDI dans l’ensemble de l’établissement.

La Stratégie DEDI reconnaît les structures coloniales de York et admet que de nombreuses formes de discrimination et d’oppression existent tant dans la société que dans l’enseignement supérieur. Elle offre une perspective sur le passé de l’Université, sur notre présent et sur notre avenir, ce qui permet de cibler précisément les efforts et les ressources nécessaires pour susciter des changements. La stratégie comprend cinq orientations stratégiques : enseignement et apprentissage, recherche et innovation, représentation et succès, climat et environnement des campus, ainsi que leadership et renforcement des capacités.

La stratégie est ancrée dans le Plan académique de l’Université 2020-2025, qui souligne l’engagement de York à défendre la diversité et l’inclusion, à accueillir des perspectives, des personnes et des modes de connaissance différents, et à encourager des savoirs mondiaux et des connaissances interculturelles. Les valeurs de DEDI sont également intégrées dans d’autres documents de planification, et la stratégie les complète, notamment le Plan d’action sur l’inclusion des personnes noires et le Cadre stratégique autochtone.

Un effort de collaboration

Il s’agit d’un travail primordial qui demande du temps et de l’attention. Le lancement de la nouvelle Stratégie DEDI est le résultat des efforts déployés par de nombreuses personnes et unités au cours des deux dernières années et demie. Il s’agit notamment du Conseil consultatif de la présidente sur l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, composé de 50 membres, qui a fourni des conseils sur l’élaboration de cette nouvelle stratégie, et de la communauté de York, qui a donné son avis sur le projet de stratégie sur l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, publié en mars 2022. Nous remercions toutes les personnes qui ont participé à ce processus, notamment la vice-présidente inaugurale de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture, Sheila Cote-Meek.

Passer à l’action

Si la stratégie DEDI s’appuie sur les efforts collectifs de nombreux membres de notre communauté, il est important de reconnaître qu’il reste encore beaucoup à faire pour atteindre nos objectifs. Il s’agit également d’un document évolutif qui continuera sans aucun doute à se développer au fur et à mesure que nous évaluerons nos progrès chaque année. Le succès dépend des efforts combinés de l’ensemble de la communauté de York.

Nous vous encourageons à lire et à explorer la stratégie, affichée sur ce nouveau site Web dynamique.

Nous vous invitons également à vous joindre à nous lors de l’événement de lancement, « Taking Action, Making Impact: A Fireside Chat on York’s DEDI Strategy » le mercredi 17 mai, de 13 h à 14 h 30. Vous y découvrirez comment des membres clés de la communauté intègrent la stratégie dans leur travail, explorerez comment chacun d’entre nous peut s’engager dans le travail de DEDI et imaginerez comment nous pouvons transformer ensemble cette institution afin d’être présents pour l’avenir.

Visitez ce site Web pour en savoir plus sur les panélistes et inscrivez-vous pour participer à cet événement, en personne ou virtuellement.

En lien avec d’autres initiatives clés en matière d’équité, cette stratégie et ses principes sous-jacents permettront à tous les membres de l’Université d’avoir, dans le respect, les conversations difficiles qui augmenteront la compréhension collective et conduiront à un plus grand sentiment d’inclusion et d’appartenance en facilitant un écosystème décolonisant, inclusif, diversifié et collaboratif qui promeut le bien-être de toute la communauté.

Sincères salutations,  

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

York-led $318M project to create transformational change in inclusive tech research 

York University's Amir Asif, Pina D'Agostino and Doug Crawford with representatives from Queen's University

York University is leading a $318.4-million, interdisciplinary, first-of-its kind research project that aims to advance the understanding of relationships between human minds and machines, and how society – or as the researchers have dubbed it, the “techno-social collective” – can evolve with these emerging technologies in a socially responsible way.

An initiative focused on inclusive technology research that partners with Queens University, “Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society” is supported by $105.7 million in funding from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) with $82.8 million dedicated to York and $22.8 million to Queens.

Susan Boehnke, Queen’s University with York University’s Pina D’Agostino, Doug Crawford and Gunnar Blohm, Queen’s University

Connected Minds will fund 35 strategic faculty hires, partner-focused seed, team, and prototyping grants, knowledge mobilization and commercialization activities, and an ambitious multi-institutional micro-credential training program with 385 trainees and cross-sector stakeholders. All activities will require interdisciplinary participation, and projects that benefit Indigenous and other equity-deserving groups will be prioritized. 

“The current technological revolution will have transformative positive impacts, and likely unintended negative impacts, on humanity for generations to come,” says Doug Crawford, York University Distinguished Research Professor in Neuroscience and inaugural scientific director of Connected Minds. “To predict these impacts and steer toward positive outcomes, one requires transdisciplinary expertise, multi-sector community engagement and research and training at levels that can only occur in a large-scale program. We thank CFREF for providing Connected Minds with the resources to lead Canada and the world in this timely and critical enterprise.” 

The directorate will be shared with York University Professor Pina D’Agostino, intellectual property and technology law expert, as vice director, and Professor Sean Hillier, Indigenous health scholar, as associate director. Engineer and neuroscientist Professor Gunnar Blohm joins as the vice director from Queen’s University. 

Experts across various fields – from eight of York’s Faculties and three of Queens’ – will focus on how emerging technology is transforming society and work to find a balance between the identified risks and benefits for humanity. The program will engage more than 50 community partners – from hospitals, policymakers, artists, industry partners and Indigenous communities – with emphasis on inclusive, interdisciplinary research. 

Connected Minds will combine York’s leadership in science and technology research, and longstanding institutional priorities in social sciences, arts and humanities, with Queens’ strengths in neuroscience, health and AI, as well as with partners across multiple sectors.

Amir Asif
Amir Asif

“York is an international leader in interdisciplinary research involving artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies, social justice, and human science like biology, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology,” says Amir Asif, York University vice-president, research and innovation. “The government’s substantial investment will unite York’s incredible strengths with Queen’s health specialties to chart new territory in socially responsible, community-engaged research for a rapidly changing digital world. 

“Connected Minds is the result of the incredible work and collaborative efforts of our faculty and staff, and will enable Canada to lead the creation of more inclusive technologies for the world.” 

Some of the program’s proposed projects include explorations into a more inclusive metaverse, virtual reality and community organizing, technologies for healthy aging, Indigenous data sovereignty, and how the human brain functions when people interact with AI versus each other. 

A new, dedicated Indigenous research space on York’s Keele Campus supports the program’s, and the University’s, focus on decolonizing, equity, diversity and inclusion (DEDI). 

“Connected Minds is informed by Indigenous perspectives and priorities to achieve outcomes that are culturally relevant and responsive to Indigenous ways of being and doing that impact how we think about and engage in life, health and education,” says Hillier, who is also director of York University’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & Languages. “Our work will seek to address the unexpected consequences of technological innovation, like the growing digital divide for Indigenous communities to access remote health care, and issues of data sovereignty, ownership and digital colonialism.” 

The CFREF funding positions York as a national leader in creating and adopting scientific and technological innovation and an agent of change in the promotion of a healthy and just techno-social collective. 

“We believe our inclusive, interdisciplinary approach that aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals makes York University the perfect place for anticipating the way humans and machines will, and should, connect in an equitable society,” says D’Agostino.

Watch a video on Connected Minds below.

School of Continuing Studies marks official opening of new building

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York University’s School of Continuing Studies celebrates the official launch of its new, signature home – a state-of-the-art building with a unique, twisted design located at the York University Keele Campus.

“The York University School of Continuing Studies is transforming the Canadian workforce by reinventing traditional models of education and transforming barriers to education into opportunities. Our leading edge, cohort programs are co-developed with industry to develop graduates prepared to thrive in a skills-based economy. Last year alone we delivered more than a million hours of learning,” says Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, interim vice-president of continuing studies at York University.  

The May 1 event is an opportunity for the School of Continuing Studies to formally unveil its new facility – located at 68 The Pond Rd. – to the York University community and showcase how a post-pandemic learning space can blend in-person and virtual learning formats using the latest technology to support the needs of students.

School of Continuing Studies
An interior shot of the new School of Continuing Studies building

The building allows the School more capacity, space and resources to support York University’s Academic Plan 2020-2025. The York University English Language Institute’s pathway programs, for instance, are core to the University’s international student growth and help the University achieve its priority of reaching a 20 to 25 per cent international student population within the next five years.

This new building also enables the School to continue growing its programming and support York’s priority to create 21st century learning opportunities with innovative programs in emerging fields that meet the diverse needs of adult and non-traditional learners.

“The School of Continuing Studies embodies York’s commitment to 21st century learning which identifies access to a high-quality education and global engagement as core components of York’s University Academic Plan,” says York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “We have been a leader in the lifelong learning space since our inception and we had the goal to create dedicated space to accommodate the unique needs of continuing education students locally and from abroad, many of whom are seeking to complement degree programs and/or upgrade and reskill in a labour market that is being profoundly impacted by automation and AI.”

The invite-only event to officially mark the building’s opening includes a plenary session with speeches from Lenton and Brooks-Cappadocia, to be followed by a keynote address from world-champion Canadian hurdler, author, TV host and public speaker, Perdita Felicien.

Invited guests will be offered guided tours of the building, networking sessions attended by York University leaders and industry-expert instructors, and the opportunity to visit an exhibit hall with information on the School’s roster of programs.

York University staff and faculty are welcome to visit the new building and experience its features.

After nine years of planning, the School of Continuing Studies opened its doors to students in December 2022, uniting under one roof its programs, staff and students.

School of Continuing Studies
Inside the new School of Continuing Studies building

The building is designed by the architecture firm Perkins + Wills, with architects Safdar Abidi and Andrew Frontini leading the project. The signature twisted architecture of the building symbolizes the evolving nature of post-secondary education today.

The structure is built to ensure complete adherence to sustainability in design. The building is designed to meet LEED Gold standards as well as the City of Toronto Green Standards. Strategies used include a high-performing façade system, direct outside air system with heat recovery ventilation, and daylight harvesting. The building is well positioned to achieve net zero in the future due to its low energy consumption. Additionally, the building is designed with the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability. 

“Students, instructors and staff were included in both the scoping and design phases of the project. To ensure the building is meeting the needs of students of different ages, religions and cultural backgrounds we designed the structure with the highest accessibility standards,” says Brooks-Cappadocia.

“From having guide rails for students with sight impairment to touch-free surfaces to the lactation room for nursing mothers and a prayer and meditation room. Everyone is welcome and supported in pursuing their educational goals.”

Other key accessibility features include automated doors, standing desks in all classrooms, elevators and large hallways spaces for those requiring wheelchair access.

One student praised the design of the building, and how it shapes her approach to critical thinking. “The building is so open, meaning there aren’t walls everywhere, it’s not constricted. It helps you think out loud, and I really like that concept of the building,” says Shilpa Pradeep.

Another student said the accessibility features of the building are inspiring. “This building is amazing – from the exterior and once we enter the interior, everything is completely accessible,” says Ismail Sibgatullah Mohammed.

“We’re all in one area and we have access to these amazing facilities,” says Leigh Mitchell, instructor for the Post-Graduate Certificate in Digital and Content Marketing. “I think it is a game-changer for the engagement and also just getting to feel like you’re part of the community.”

Learn more about the School of Continuing Studies.

York among Canada’s Greenest Employers for 11th consecutive year 

Keele campus bikes trees Lassonde

On the heels of ambitious new sustainability goals, appointment of the University’s first chief sustainability officer and targeted plan to achieve net-zero sooner, York celebrates its 11th consecutive year as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.   

This year’s list of organizations recognized as Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2023 was announced April 18 by Mediacorp Canada Inc., the organizers of the annual Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. The editorial competition, now in its 16th year, is designed to highlight employers in Canada that are leaders in creating a “culture of environmental awareness” through “exceptional sustainability initiatives.”

Mike Layton
Mike Layton

“York has long been a leader in sustainability and we have ambitious goals for the future,” said Mike Layton, York’s new chief sustainability officer. “This recognition as one of Canada’s 2023 Greenest Employers provides us with continued momentum to expand our sustainability portfolio and create lasting change for our community and the world around us.” 

York’s track record as a greenest employer is due to its strong suite of sustainability initiatives aimed at reducing the overall environmental impact of the University through conservation and measurement, decarbonization and innovation. This year’s recognition highlighted many of the University’s long-standing initiatives across York’s multiple campuses locally, including Keele and Glendon campuses in Toronto, and globally in Hyderabad, India and Costa Rica. One such example is Zero Waste, York’s comprehensive, multi-faceted waste management program that was first established in 1990 and has been expanding for over three decades. The program has continually surpassed its targets, growing from an initial goal of 50 per cent waste reduction to a recent achievement of 70 per cent of waste diverted from landfills in 2019.  

In addition to waste reduction and recycling, York’s commitment to embed sustainability into all facets of teaching, research, operations and campus life further solidified its recognition as a greenest employer. The University is governed by the Sustainability Policy that outlines its responsibility for and commitment to sustainability, provides the framework for ongoing implementation of the policy and assists the community in incorporating sustainability into decision-making. The policy is enacted in conjunction with the University Academic Plan (UAP) which underscores York’s overarching social and environmental responsibility and its commitment to net zero.  

In the areas of teaching and research, York has over 500 course offerings across several Faculties that focus on sustainability and the environment, and is home to the Waste Wiki program in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, Canada’s largest research initiative devoted to waste management and policy. The University has also developed a research collaboration with Stronach International to develop and test a new generation of affordable, electric micro-mobility vehicles. The SARIT electric micro-mobility vehicles are currently being tested within University operations while faculty and students continue to study the impact and develop custom solutions for different industries and uses.  

Operationally, the University has undertaken a variety of energy management programs over the past decade to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, including the installation and expansion of building automation systems, modifications to heating and cooling plants, implementation of energy efficient lighting, installation of green roofs and motor replacement. Other notable operational improvements include the installation of 33 electric vehicle recharging stations at the Keele and Glendon campuses, expansion of on-campus cycling infrastructure and the University’s green cleaning program which has become the benchmark for institutional cleaning.  

“York was built on a strong foundation of social change and is guided by values that continually challenge us to innovate and be at the leading edge of solutions to the most pressing issues of our time,” said Layton. “As a university community, we must continue to work together to advance our work in sustainability and achieve our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable universities in Canada. The sum of our individual actions will fuel our collective progress.” 

Learn more about what makes York University one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.

Groundbreaking global health simulation slated for May

Global health

Students will be immersed in an unparalleled learning experience on May 1 and 2 as York University’s School of Global Health unveils an innovative global health simulation event designed for Faculty of Health students.

Ahmad Firas Khalid
Ahmad Firas Khalid

Spearheaded by Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid, a physician and assistant professor of global health and faculty Fellow with the Faculty of Health, this first-of-its-kind simulation will transport students into the heart of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Assembly.

Participating students will have a unique opportunity to collaborate, tackle multi-sectoral challenges, and deepen their understanding of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The deadline to register is April 17. Students must register using this link. Those who would like to attend the opening and closing plenary sessions and the side sessions as an observer are also welcome; the registration deadline is noon on April 21 using an online form.

Khalid has created a state-of-the-art simulation of the World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO’s supreme governing body, giving students the chance to participate in creating collaborative governance approaches to multi-sectoral and multi-jurisdictional global challenges. The simulation, the first of its kind, also provides a deeper understanding of the UN SDGs.

“This project is groundbreaking because simulation-based learning in global health training is new,” Khalid said. “Presently, there is a distinct lack of continuous efforts aimed at advancing experiential education through simulation-based learning in global health, especially beyond the traditional clinical settings.

“In accordance with the University Academic Plan, the WHA SIM advances experiential education (EE) at York beyond the classroom by pioneering a novel EE strategy that combines the opportunity to explore and analyze real-world problems by applying theory and skills to a concrete experience and producing outputs that are collaborative and action oriented.”

The simulation, which takes place at the Keele Campus, begins with an opening ceremony and a welcome address by York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, followed by a panel discussion on “Building Solidarity for Worldwide Health Security” moderated by Professor A.M. Viens, director of York’s School of Global Health. The panel features Dr. David Peters, dean of the Faculty of Health; Dr. James Orbinski, director of York’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research; and Krishnan Shankar, science advisor and community partnerships lead at ScienceUpFirst Initiative, Canadian Association of Science Centres.

Afterward, students will immerse themselves in the simulation, joining one of three committees: Public Health Emergencies: Preparedness and response; Strengthening Infodemic Management; or Universal Health Coverage: Reorienting health systems to primary care. Students will discuss the issue facing them and draft a related position paper and resolution. Each committee will work with a York University mentor who is an expert in the field: Godfred Boateng, assistant professor of global health; Matthew Poirier, assistant professor of social epidemiology; and Farah Ahmad, associate professor in the School of Health Policy and Management.

On the second day of the simulation, each committee will take its resolution through the WHA approval process, aiming to have it passed.

“The WHA simulation should be eye-opening for students as they are exposed to the procedures and politics involved in global health initiatives,” Khalid said. “This amazing opportunity will offer valuable lessons that will be transferable to their future careers.”

Participants will also attend a career session focused on opportunities in global health and enjoy a lecture by Anthony Morgan, the new host of CBC’s acclaimed television program, The Nature of Things.

The simulation will end with an awards ceremony, recognizing the best delegate, best collaborator and best position paper.

“This is a fantastic EE opportunity for our students,” said Viens. “York’s undergraduate global health program was the first in Canada and one of the first in the world to offer a free-standing undergraduate global health degree. Its reputation and record of educating the next generation of global health leaders will be further advanced by this innovative, real-world simulation-based experiential learning initiative. It’s something we hope to enlarge upon in years to come.”

Call for applications to Provostial Fellows Program


The Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic at York University is issuing a call for applications to the Provostial Fellows Program for 2023-24.

Applications are due by May 4 and the call is open to all tenured faculty members who are interested in future leadership opportunities at the University. Indigenous faculty and those from equity-deserving groups are encouraged to apply.

The program offers a unique opportunity for tenured faculty to advance the University’s commitment to building a better future and creating positive change.

In 2022, four Fellows were selected to lead projects that advanced the priorities of York’s University Academic Plan (UAP) alongside United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These projects are focussed on reducing the University’s carbon footprint by changing transportation patterns, to ensuring that 2SLGBTQIA+ students can access support to successfully launch their careers, among other key areas.

Now in its third year, the program aims to keep advancing York’s position as world-class teaching institute through projects that directly address University Academic Plan priorities. Academic career development is also a key feature, as Fellows have the opportunity to create, collaborate and receive mentorship directly from University leaders.

Those interested in applying or who have a particular project in mind should consider the following: 

  • There will be an opportunity to work with the provost and relevant members of senior leadership on an innovative project or initiative that advances one of the UAP priority areas at an institutional or faculty level.
  • Projects do not need to be limited to a Fellow’s home Faculty.
  • Projects must seek to enhance and intersect with, the University-wide challenge to elevate York’s contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The proposed project should also seek to create an opportunity for personal professional growth and learning, and the exploration of leadership at the Faculty or institutional level.

Details on program eligibility, how to apply and relevant timelines can be found on the Provost Office website. Fellows will be selected by a panel that includes the provost and vice-president academic (Chair), and representatives from the Offices of the VP Research & Innovation; the VP Equity, People & Culture; Vice-Provost Students; and others as appropriate.

York professor’s expert testimony helps win asylum-seeker case


When Professor Yvonne Su was asked to provide expert testimony at the refugee hearing for a gay Venezuelan man seeking asylum in the United States, she jumped at the opportunity.

“My whole academic career led me to this point,” said Su of the request made earlier this year. “I’ve written journal articles, policy papers and been involved in activism, but rarely do I get to do something that has such a direct impact.”

Yvonne Su
Yvonne Su

Su, an assistant professor in the Department of Equity Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is an expert on forced migration. Since 2019, her research has focused on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from Venezuela, where, as in many countries, a confluence of politics, religion and culture make living an openly gay life dangerous.

“Given the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, many people aren’t even out to their family members,” Su said. “They remain closeted so their families don’t disown them. Some are married with children and living double lives. There is fear of violence and concern about job discrimination, and there are few laws to protect LGBTQ+ people. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in the country as the Venezuelan constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The pandemic made things worse for the LGBTQ+ community, because fake news stories circulated on social media at the start of COVID-19 blaming LGBT people for the spread of COVID-19.”

The lawyer for the asylum seeker learned of Su’s research and reached out to her to ask her to write a report about the living conditions for gay men in Venezuela that addressed whether it was possible for them to live authentic public lives as gay men, free of violence. Su wrote the report based on her research; she never met the applicant, because her work had to be impartial. 

Next, she testified as an expert witness at the immigration hearing.

“The lawyer for the asylum seeker practised with me for an hour to prepare me for the type of questions I might be asked,” Su said.

Her testimony was given by phone, something she assumes is fallout from the pandemic.

“The government’s lawyer really wanted hard evidence and concrete numbers about incidents of violence against gay men, but states like Venezuela don’t collect statistics on hate crimes or violence against certain groups,” she said. “They don’t want that information publicized.”

However, in the survey Su previously conducted of gay Venezuelan men through her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded research, she asked them if they faced discrimination and violence in Venezuela due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In answering those questions, some respondents volunteered examples of violent incidents: beatings by police and civilians, as well as gang rape. She was able to present the results from the 162 surveys completed by LGBTQ+ Venezuelan asylum seekers in Brazil and Colombia as evidence and to explain the cultural context.

As one of the first migration experts to research these high-risk and hard-to-reach groups, Su’s data set of experiences of violence is rare and necessary for informing policy.

“North Americans have a difficult time conceptualizing the LGBT culture in other countries,” Su said. “Their concept of what constitutes a gay life is very narrow. In many countries in the Global South, it’s not like North America, where teenagers come out to their parents or friends at 14 and there are few political consequences.

“In many other countries, it’s a serious political and social issue, people don’t want to talk openly about how state authorities mistreat LGBTQ+ people, because the state may persecute them for speaking out and it makes them more vulnerable or it identifies them to others as LGBTQ+.”

Su’s testimony lasted 20 minutes, but the hearing itself went on for five or six hours. Afterward, the judge decided in favour of the asylum seeker.

“They emailed me and I jumped for joy,” Su said. “Someone’s life has changed. They will be able to live in the United States and will be free to be their authentic selves.”

Although this was her first experience as an expert witness, she will be happy to do so again. It’s part of her commitment to York’s ideal of righting the future as laid out in the University Academic Plan.

“If I hadn’t done this research previously, these statistics wouldn’t be available,” Su said. “They don’t exist elsewhere. So, if others ask, I’d happily help out. I’ll present what I know and hope for the best.”