Reeta Roy urges Faculty of Education graduands to ‘make a difference in the lives of learners’

Reeta Roy

Reeta Roy, president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation – an international non-governmental organization focused on empowering young Africans with education – offered several calls-to-action to Faculty of Education graduands to help shape the future of education.

“You have an entire lifetime of impact ahead of you,” Roy promised graduands during their June 17 convocation, as she began her address to them. “Whether you stand in front of the classroom or you get to decide what is taught in the classroom, whether you focus on expanding access to education or you set standards of education, you will make a difference in the lives of learners.”

An advocate for the transformational power of education through her work at the Mastercard Foundation, Roy made several requests of graduands as they move ahead in their careers.

She urged them to lean into one of the most important qualities teachers can possess. “As educators, one of the most important things you do – and you will do – is to recognize promise and talent in others, even before they may perceive it in themselves,” she said. “You have the opportunity to truly see the whole person – not the boundaries and not the limitations around them.”

That, she explained, can lead to something educators are uniquely positioned to do. “More than just see them, you will enable their passions, develop their confidence and help them believe in themselves so they can walk their own journeys and create their own opportunities,” said Roy.

Kathleen Taylor, Reeta Roy, Rhonda Lenton copy
Pictured, from left to right: Chancellor Kathleen Taylor, Reeta Roy, President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton.

She also called upon graduands to transform the reality of who deserves an education, as she noted there are many who struggle to access learning due to poverty, conflict, distance, disability, lack of teachers, gender and more.

Roy noted she has seen – and worked to change – this directly, through her work with the Mastercard Foundation, which advances the development of educational opportunities for African youth and their families, and looks to empower 30 million young Africans by 2030 with the creation of educational and economic opportunities.

Roy delivered her final call to action in the form of an anecdote. She recounted a trip to Moosonee, a small town in northern Ontario sometimes referred to as “the gateway to the Arctic.” She was doing work there with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, training Indigenous young people to become health professionals who would help the larger medical system embody Indigenous knowledge and world views about what is healthy and what is wellness.

During her visit, she encountered – in person, for the first time – an ice road.

She learned that during winters, communities transform rivers, lakes and other bodies of water into ice that’s strong enough to sustain trucks and cars transporting food, fuel and necessities to otherwise isolated communities. “I was just stunned by the sophistication and the technical know-how to create these roads,” Roy said. “The ice road reflected Indigenous technology based on traditional knowledge of living with the natural environment.”

At the same time, she marvelled at the cutting-edge knowledge being integrated into the unique type of infrastructure. As climate change threatens those ice roads, making it hard to predict where dangerous cracks might form, she learned that university researchers are applying emerging technologies – like sensors and artificial intelligence – to create better predictive models that can identity where cracks and ridges may form.

The ice road – its past, present and future – reminded Roy of education. “The ice road isn’t just a bridge across waters,” she said. “It’s a bridge connecting communities and cultures. It’s a bridge connecting traditional knowledge with new forms of knowledge, connecting the past and the present.”

In that realization, she found the lesson she wanted to impart on the Faculty of Education graduands she was addressing. “You can be that bridge,” she urged. “Be that bridge.”

York University rises to top 35 globally in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

THE 2024 General_YFile Story

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Dear colleagues,

York University has risen an impressive five spots to be among the top 35 institutions in the world for advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to this year’s Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, published today.

This is a testament to the growing recognition for York’s global leadership on the SDG Challenge and has been made possible by our community of changemakers – faculty, staff, students, course directors, alumni and our many partners. It is your commitment to our shared values of sustainability, inclusivity and equity that has enabled us to achieve our highest ranking yet.

On behalf of the University, thank you for your individual contributions and collective efforts in interdisciplinary research, teaching, and a myriad of campus initiatives and community projects, which have led to this success.

With an additional 300+ universities joining the rankings this year, York has continued to hold its leading position among more than 2,100+ universities worldwide for the sixth consecutive year. York has a particularly strong global standing in the following categories: 

  • SDG 1 (No Poverty) – #2 in the world and #1 in Canada;
  • SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) – 33rd in the world and #1 in Canada; and
  • SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) – tied for 13th in the world.

This is an achievement we all share and one that the entire York community can take great pride in. We are delighted to see the community united by our common goals: to realize the University Academic Plan 2020-25 and to answer the call of the SDG Challenge.

When we work together to create positive change there is no limit on York’s ability to address the most pressing global issues of our time. Read the News@York story for more details.

Sincerely,

Rhonda Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor

Lisa Philipps
Provost & Vice-President Academic

Amir Asif
Vice-President Research & Innovation

Those who wish to share the news in social media posts or email signatures can find instructions on how to do so in the THE Impact Rankings Toolkit.

York U study examines immigrant families’ experiences with autism stigma, caregiver stress

Woman and child hands holding together colorful puzzle heart on light blue background

A study by York University Faculty of Health Professor Farah Ahmad and her students Fariha Shafi and Amirtha Karunakaran, titled “Autism, Stigma, and South Asian Immigrant Families in Canada,” was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

While existing evidence suggests early autism diagnosis and support results in positive outcomes for children and youth on the spectrum and their families, Ahmad believed the same might not be true for children of racialized families, who are often diagnosed at later ages and are more likely to be misdiagnosed and experience barriers to service access. She also identified a lack of research examining the experiences of parents in Canada from specific immigrant groups – many from racialized communities – who are caring for their children on the spectrum.

With funding from York University’s Faculty of Health, through a Collaborative & Community-based Research Seed Grant, the York U researchers set out to address this knowledge gap by looking at South Asian Canadian immigrant parents with children on the autism spectrum and examining their experiences with available care programs and supports, as well as their perceptions of social stigma.

“Disability should not hinder people’s opportunities to reach their full potential,” said Ahmad, “so it’s a matter of human rights to bring forth hardship experienced by families caring for their children or adult family members on the autism spectrum. This is particularly relevant for racialized immigrant families, given the dearth of scholarly knowledge in Canada on their experiences.”

The team worked with community collaborators, including the SAAAC Autism Centre and Health Access Thorncliffe Park, to find suitable study participants. Nine South Asian parents living in the Greater Toronto Area were selected and interviewed individually.

The study’s findings confirmed barriers to an autism diagnosis and to service access. Additionally, parent participants reported that the stigma surrounding autism kept them from receiving a timely diagnosis, access to support services and guidance on health-promoting behaviours. The findings also revealed considerable caregiver stress and psychological distress.

“I believe in a proactive strategy,” said Ahmad, “where we as researchers examine the ‘ground reality’ of caregivers’ challenges and ways to cope, with the aim to enhance equity in practice and policymaking for improving structural supports for them, including efforts to reduce societal negative attitudes towards disabilities.”

Ahmad and her team expect the evidence revealed by their study to have wide-ranging impacts, including helping to inform equitable policy, programming, and practices that better support the needs of children on the spectrum and their immigrant families.

Three professors receive SSHRC Partnership Development Grants

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Social sciences and humanities research at York University has received a boost of more than half a million dollars from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), awarding Partnership Development Grants to three researchers in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

The latest round of Partnership Development Grant funding supports short-term partnerships (one to three years) between research teams from post-secondary institutions and organizations in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors.

“York University is grateful for SSHRC’s investment in our outstanding faculty and their mission to create positive change through community-engaged research,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “As an institution that excels in social sciences and humanities research, these three York-led projects exemplify our commitment to research excellence driven by impact and rooted in meaningful collaboration with our partners.”

Through their combined efforts, the research teams develop projects in the social sciences and humanities or design and test new partnership approaches for research and related activities, including knowledge mobilization.

The York U recipients include:

Annie Bunting
Annie Bunting

Annie Bunting, a professor in the Law & Society program in LA&PS, for a project titled “Youth-led initiatives for gender justice and peacebuilding,” which received $199,850. The project will bring together researchers, filmmakers, artists and others to study the long-lasting impacts of violence on youth, aged 15 to 29, in places affected by war and conflict. The project looks to gain a deeper understanding of how young people cope in such situations and involves multiple collaborating partners, with groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Marcello Musto
Marcello Musto

Marcello Musto, a professor in the Department of Sociology in LA&PS, for a project titled “War and the Left: A Global History,” which received the maximum $200,000. The project will examine how left-wing political forces and theorists have responded to war, deepening understanding of the intellectual and political history of numerous progressive social movements and political parties around the world. It aims to be the most comprehensive study of the topic to date and involves researchers from York University, five archives, six research-focused organizations and two museums, from eleven countries across four continents.

Jose Miguel Gonzalez Perez
Miguel González

Miguel González, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Science in LA&PS, for a project titled “Emancipatory Horizons for Self-determination of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples in Central America,” which received $199,840. The project will gain insights into the struggles and strategies of these peoples to protect their land, rights and way of life. It will promote the political and legal efforts of civil society organizations to advocate for autonomous self-governance and will involve a dozen Indigenous and Afro-descendant groups in Costa Rica, Panama and the San Andrés archipelago.

The three York-led projects were among 75 projects across Canada to receive the new funding. A full list of the Partnership Development Grant recipients can be found on the SSHRC website.

Annual Walk with Excellence to celebrate achievements of local high-school graduates

2016 Walk with Excellence

Now in its 11th year, the Walk with Excellence is an annual event that celebrates the achievements of graduating students from high schools in Toronto’s Jane and Finch community. Signifying the beginning of their journey to post-secondary education, the event – taking place this year on Thursday, June 6 – will see over 500 graduating students walk from five local high schools onto York University’s Keele Campus.

The students’ supportive teachers and administrators will be cheering them on along the way, and all York University community members are invited join in welcoming the students onto the Keele Campus in true York U style.

“The Walk with Excellence signals new beginnings and a new season,” said Itah Sadu, founder of the Walk with Excellence and a York University honorary degree recipient. “Walking with the graduating students in this annual urban rite of passage is pure joy.”

Organized by a coalition of community partners – including the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre, local school principals and high-school leaders, the Blackhurst Cultural Centre and A Different Booklist – the Walk with Excellence will feature brief musical performances from each participating high school, remarks from community leaders and Toronto poet laureate Lillian Allen reading a poem she wrote specifically for the event. Organizers look forward to presenting several bursaries this year, generously funded by CUPE Local 4400/Toronto Education Workers, Blackhurst Cultural Centre and York University.

“We are proud to stand alongside our students and school board partners in celebrating the hard work and dedication that define the Jane and Finch community’s collective journey toward excellence,” said Byron Gray, manager of the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre. “Together, we are fostering a brighter future for all.”

All York University community members are invited to take part in the event by cheering for students as they enter the Keele Campus and witnessing the presentation of scholarships and remarks. The students are expected to arrive in front of Vari Hall at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Those who cannot attend or would like to further support the cause can consider contributing to Vice-Provost Academic Marcia Annisette’s Walk with Excellence campaign for 2025, which will offer bursaries to five future York U students – one from each of the five participating high schools.

“This event exemplifies the power of community, resilience and academic achievement,” said Annisette. “It is our vision that a newly initiated campaign will engage all of York University in funding an ongoing Walk with Excellence Bursary.”

York makes progress on Security Services Review recommendations 

York students walking in Accolade Building on Keele Campus

In the year since the release of the Security Services Review report in April 2023, a suite of committees has been actively working to scope, plan for and implement recommendations across the University to make it a safer space for all. 

The review of York’s Security Services, conducted by an internal expert panel, outlined a set of recommendations to transition York to a community-centric model for safety services that is equitable, bias-free, transparent, collaborative, representative and organizationally aligned.  

One foundational recommendation brought forward in the report was a formal acknowledgement of racism in law enforcement. This month, the Community Safety Department released its formal acknowledgement – marking a clear and serious commitment to dismantle systemic racism. 

The formal acknowledgement was established after York’s leadership met with over 120 members of the Black community – including students, faculty and staff – and learned that many had negative experiences related to safety on campus, including lack of personal and emotional safety, daily experiences of racial harassment, exclusion, discrimination, lack of representation, lack of respect, and barriers to academic and career advancement. Going forward, York will foster continuous dialogue and activities aimed at addressing systemic racism within its safety services and security practices. 

Already, action has been taken to address the recommendation to review current call centre procedures and programming. The Call Taker and Dispatch job descriptions have been completed, and all relevant standard operating procedures have been amended, along with the addition of a DEDI statement to each. 

Another recommendation made in the report was to develop alternative approaches to address the presence of individuals experiencing homelessness on York University campuses. York is currently developing comprehensive security protocols to ensure the safety of all members of our community, including those experiencing homelessness. In addition, a working group has been established and a comprehensive draft plan has been created that includes both short- and long-term objectives.  

As mentioned in the plan, a short-term objective York has prioritized is collaborating with external partners who offer comprehensive support services. For example, the University is actively partnering with organizations like the Agincourt Services Association and the City of Toronto to provide tailored assistance and housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness within its community. Individuals experiencing homelessness who need immediate assistance are now provided with emergency kits and essential items, and have access to medical and mental health services through partnerships facilitated by the University.  

Looking forward, York’s long-term plan encompasses mental health and well-being initiatives, as well as implementation and evaluation strategies. The University is committed to collaborating with relevant departments and external agencies to identify long-term solutions and address the root causes of homelessness on University campuses. One of the recommendations from this working group is to explore the possibility of establishing a temporary shelter in collaboration with the City of Toronto to offer support during extreme weather conditions.  

To address the recommendation to align service structures, culture and employment with a community-centric safety model, York has been actively engaging equity-deserving groups and the broader York community to continue the conversation on what makes a “safe” campus. Last November, an advisory group was created, comprised of York University academics, staff and students with expertise in anti-Black racism. This past January, a town hall was held for the York community to receive updates about the implementation of the Security Services Review recommendations and share feedback and questions. During Community Safety Week in March, a panel discussion was held with community leaders and experts to learn more about adopting a community-centric approach to safety. In addition, an engagement plan has been developed to ensure services are responsive and reflective of community needs; for example, by hosting networking opportunities, focus groups, additional roundtable discussions and more.    

“Opportunities for collaboration and honest discourse are vital for the path ahead,” says Orville Wallace, executive director of community safety. “By prioritizing both immediate support and future planning, we’re dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment for all members of our campus community.” 

To learn more about the Security Services Review, including other recommendations to be implemented, visit the Community Safety website

York University partnership supports social entrepreneurship

Two hands holding black heart

A collaboration between York University’s YSpace and Schulich ExecEd, and Toronto Montessori Schools (TMS), is nurturing and supporting the next generation of changemakers. The TMS Schulich Innovation & Entrepreneurial Experience (TSE) program has been empowering high-school students since 2019 to cultivate entrepreneurial skills and a sense of social responsibility.

“We are delighted to partner with TMS and YSpace on the TSE program,” says Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “Together, we have developed a program tailored for high-school students that enhances their business and leadership skills while guiding them to build scalable solutions to real-world problems.”

Recent participants, high-school students Ayden Lee and Lucas Wei, have been awarded a prestigious Global Youth Action Fund grant of US$3,000 for a project called Crew of Care. They developed it with their teammates Evan Leung and Sheng Yang during their time in the program.

The students embarked on their social entrepreneurship journey during the TSE prototype phase, where they together conceived the idea of a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing medical inequality and fostering reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Ontario. Crew of Care’s mission was to create more inclusive health-care solutions by hosting community fundraising events and educational workshops, and collaborating with larger organizations. The team received valuable feedback and mentorship during the TSE experience in July 2023, further igniting the passion and commitment of two of its founders, Lee and Wei, who continued to pursue the project beyond the program and worked to secure financial support.

The original Crew of Care team – Ayden Lee, Lucas Wei, Evan Leung and Sheng Yang – presenting their idea during TSE 2023.

The Global Youth Action Fund, an initiative of the International Baccalaureate education program, supports youth-led projects aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Crew of Care project stood out to the selection committee due to its potential impact, collaborative approach and commitment to social change. The awarded funding will provide vital support to Crew of Care as the organization continues to expand its reach and initiatives.

Looking ahead, the Crew of Care founders – along with executive team members Vincent Peng, Sebastian Churchill, Shabadleen Sandhu, Amber Kwong and Hussain Ladak – envision partnerships with health awareness non-governmental organizations like Water First, and aim to host city-wide fundraising events and workshops to advance their mission of enhancing health-care access for Indigenous communities.

The TMS Schulich Innovation & Entrepreneurial Experience remains committed to fostering youth-led initiatives aligned with the UN SDGs. The upcoming TSE 2024 program will focus on food security and sustainability, offering students a platform to explore various issues impacting global food systems.

“Since 2019, we have been committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders through the TSE program, cultivating entrepreneurial skills and a deep sense of social responsibility,” says Mayer. “This partnership equips the next generation with the expertise needed to make positive impacts in local communities and to emerge as visionary leaders of tomorrow.”

CHREI to launch its summer REDDI sessions

Student playing frisbee outside

York University’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion (CHREI) is kicking off its Rights, Equity, Decolonization, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) Series summer sessions on June 3 with one of its most popular events, Creating and Maintaining Positive Space, just in time for Pride Month.

The REDDI Series offers students, staff and faculty opportunities to learn through interactive sessions that emphasize engagement and skill building.

The REDDI Mini-series on Preventing Sex and Gender Harassment and Discrimination will feature four sessions running from June 3 to July 9. Three sessions from the core REDDI series, Addressing Discrimination Today, are scheduled in July.

Participants can earn a core REDDI Series Certificate and a REDDI Mini-series Certificate by signing up for sessions on YU Learn. If not enough sessions are not completed during the summer, additional sessions will be held in the Fall and Winter terms.

For more information on the REDDI Series, visit the CHREI website.

York students publish research on workplace gender discrimination

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A paper by undergraduate students in York University’s School of Human Resource Management, titled “Discrimination against women in the workplace: Review and recommendations for more inclusive organizations,” was published in the esteemed International Journal of Employment Studies. It examines the pervasive issue of discrimination against women in the workplace, addressing key areas such as gender bias, motherhood and pregnancy discrimination, and the gender pay gap.

Students Nicki Nguyen, Nishana Ganesh and Sarah Versteeg initially began their work in Professor Duygu Biricik Gulseren’s Occupational Health and Safety class, where one of their assignments was to review 10 recent research articles on a workplace health and safety topic of their interest. Gulseren was so impressed with their work, she invited the students to expand their review and collaborate with her.

Together, the team conducted a larger literature review on workplace discrimination against women, focusing on three common types: gender bias, pregnancy and motherhood discrimination, and pay gap. Investigating why, how and when discrimination against women occurs in the workplace, they found that the discrimination is directly related to factors like gender, pregnancy or motherhood status, and compensation in the workplace.

“This paper aims to provide a research synthesis and evidence-based recommendations for [human resources] leaders wishing to prevent gender discrimination demonstrated through gender bias, motherhood and pregnancy discrimination, and the gender pay gap,” says Gulseren. “It also serves as an up-to-date review for researchers interested in this topic.”

Drawing upon the latest evidence available, the paper offers practical recommendations for organizations striving to bolster their gender diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. It serves as a valuable resource for businesses aiming to foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

Under their professor’s guidance, the students have made a significant contribution to the field of workplace diversity and inclusion, an accomplishment most undergraduate students can’t claim. Gulseren is proud of her students’ impact.

“The paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal listed in the selective Australian Business Deans Council journal list along with papers from other, mostly PhD-level, researchers,” she explains. “This is a tremendous achievement for undergraduate students. They pushed the field forward by making a novel and meaningful contribution to the academic discourse on gender diversity in organizations.”

Student-led group tackles Indigenous food sovereignty

Learning Spirit Alliance workshop group photo

After personally experiencing food insecurity, and witnessing its effects first-hand, a group of York University Faculty of Health students decided to do something about it.

The Learning Spirit Alliance is an Indigenous student-led group, open to all York students, committed to educating the community about food sovereignty and helping to prevent poverty and food insecurity on campus. Led by current students Leo Manning and Rainingbird Daniels, and former student Shanice Perrot, the initiative was established as a result of discussions with Indigenous students about access to food – particularly healthy and traditional food, and especially for students who had moved away from home.

“Members of our leadership team have personally experienced the effects of food insecurity and lack of food access throughout their time in post-secondary education,” explains Daniels. “There are many Indigenous students facing the increasingly high cost of housing both on and off campus; required meal plans at institutions and/or inflation of food costs; transportation costs associated with travelling home; and a lack of sufficient funding while completing post-secondary education.”

Launched last year with funding from a national organization called Indigenous Youth Roots, the Learning Spirit Alliance held three Food is Medicine workshops this semester, where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students were welcomed at Skennen’kó:wa Gamig – the gathering space for York’s Indigenous community – and taught how to make traditional Indigenous foods such as elk stew, bannock, three sisters salad and various soups. Each participant was also given an honorarium towards groceries.

According to Daniels, the feedback received from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The different dishes we learned to make gave me the knowledge to make affordable and healthy meals while in residence and away from my traditional territory,” said workshop participant and York student Doreen Scow.

“The workshop helped me feel more culturally involved and connected,” said another participant, student Miigwan Mainville. “This initiative allows us to share stories and laughter with others while sharing cultural food; food is truly medicine.”  

In addition to the workshops, the Alliance held weekly free lunch events for the community, to help bring more traditional and nutritious meals to students in need.

With no plans currently in place for the next academic year, the group’s leadership is using its resources to apply for more grants in hopes that they can continue to host events and workshops on culturally relevant food and food sovereignty, giving Indigenous students the tools they need to cook at home at a low cost.

“We are striving to make a difference in ways that strengthen community and provide relief,” said Manning.

To learn more about this initiative and its future events, follow the Learning Spirit Alliance on Instagram or email learningspiritalliance@gmail.com.