UNESCO Chair to speak at global conference

York University UNESCO Chair Charles Hopkins will speak at the 2023 Global Conference on Sustainable Development on Oct. 4 and 5 in Hong Kong to discuss how to transform higher education towards embracing sustainability and elevate action to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Charles Hopkins
Charles Hopkins

This is the first international conference organized by the Hong Kong Chapter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The centre of discussion during the conference will be about strengthening the world’s commitment to the SDGs in all sectors of society and finding solutions to current and future climate and societal challenges.

Hopkins will speak on the potential of education for sustainable development (ESD) in promoting transformative, holistic change in universities, as higher education can play crucial roles in reorienting student learning, supporting a sustainable future with evidence-based knowledge, and providing support for local and global communities.

“Since ESD has been recognized by the United Nations as a key enabler of all SDGs, it is imperative to be implemented at all levels of education, in particular in higher education, as universities are important influencers within society,” says Hopkins.

In August, Hopkins, as well as Katrin Kohl, executive coordinator to the UNESCO Chair, were appointed members of the High-Level Advisory Council for the SDG Academy, representing SDSN’s education and training division.

At the upcoming conference, Hopkins will join a group of world-renowned speakers, including Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations secretary general, and co‐chair of the Ban Ki‐moon Centre for Global Citizens, as well as Professor Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN president. Both will share their visions for a sustainable future and discuss practical solutions from around the world for the implementation of the SDGs.

The event will take place as a hybrid event in-person at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and will be streamed live on Oct. 4 and 5. Online registration is free. More details can be found at gcsd2023.sdsn-hk.org.

New opportunities await York study abroad students

Map plane travel international world

By Elaine Smith

York University has a robust global learning program, and this fall, 31 York students will travel abroad to study at institutions in 15 countries outside Canada.

These exchange students embody York’s priority for advancing global engagement, as stated in University Academic Plan (UAP), and its commitment to expand inclusive global an intercultural learning, as set forth in the University’s new Internationalization and Global Engagement Strategy. “More than ever,” states the UAP, “universities have a responsibility to contribute to positive change through global co-operation and borderless education.”

Photo of Sarah Persaud (centre) shows Japanese exchange student at left and York student at right
Photo of Sarah Persaud (centre) with Japanese exchange student (left) and fellow York student (right)

Sarah Persaud and Anthony Chedid are among exchange students heading abroad this fall, and they are eager for the adventure. Persaud is off to Asia for the entire year to study art at Yamanashi Gakuin University in Japan, where she’ll focus on visual arts in the International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA). Chedid is going to England to spend a semester at the University of Leeds.

“Before I begin teaching, I want to do my final year of courses abroad,” said Persaud, a fifth-year student in the visual arts and concurrent education program. “Over the past couple of years, I took a lot of art history courses and focused on East Asian art, so this is a wonderful opportunity.”

Chedid has been dreaming of going abroad since high school.

“I read the blogs of a number of travel bloggers talking about travelling the globe,” said Chedid, a third-year student in the joint political science/Master’s of Management program, “and they all had the same origin story: they studied abroad and travelled while they were there. I want to travel, and York offers all these incredible opportunities.”

Both students attended the pre-departure training for exchange students run by York International and found it beneficial.

“It actually changed my plans,” said Persaud, who also took a York study-abroad course in South Korea this summer. “I met an exchange student from Japan and her friend who were in Japan all summer, so I stopped in Osaka to see them, and I’ll be able to connect with the Japanese student once I’m at the iCLA.”

Chedid was thrilled by the session.

Anthony Chedid
Anthony Chedid

“I got to meet exchange students from Britain and it was exciting to hear their experiences,” he said. “I was able to connect with a student who was here from Leeds and he gave me a lot of useful information about the city and the culture. It was also really helpful to get travel advice and information about health insurance.”

Both Persaud and Chedid have applied for bursaries and scholarships to help defray the costs of studying abroad. York International has bursaries available to students studying overseas, as does the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and there are also external awards available – topics that are also discussed in the pre-departure training.

“The York International Safety Abroad office is committed to enhancing the safety of students’ experiences during their time abroad,” said Sara Jane Campbell, manager, safety abroad for York International. “As part of the pre-departure training, we support students in understanding and mitigating risks they may encounter. All students are also required to enrol in York University Safety Abroad Travel Registry to enable us to monitor travel advisories and safety/security concerns and provide help in case of an emergency overseas.”

Although her courses will be taught in English, Persaud took Elementary Modern Standard Japanese (JP 1000) in preparation and plans to continue learning Japanese while she’s at iCLA.

“You never stop learning kanji (written characters); there are always more of them to know,” she said.

In fact, she hopes to have the opportunity to tie language and art together through a course at iCLA called Calligraphy and Kanji Culture.

“I’m going to a whole new country, so I hope I’ll be inspired to try different things,” Persaud said. “I am excited about the new opportunities.

Chedid plans to  take courses in British politics. “Our system is based on theirs and it’s important to understand where our legal system originated,” he said. “It will also be interesting to see the effects of Brexit. This will be a great way to experience international politics, something for which I have a big passion.

“It will also be cool to explore a city that isn’t as widely known.”

Both students will experience the benefits of borderless intercultural education first-hand, and will be able to share their greater understanding of the global landscape with their York classmates upon return.

C4 students turn gaze toward York University Libraries, SDGs


By Elaine Smith 

Summer 2023 saw the C4 (Cross-Campus Capstone Course) team turn its gaze to a challenge issued by York University Libraries (YUL). 

The C4 course, inaugurated in 2019 by co-founding faculty members Franz Newland (Lassonde) and Danielle Robinson (School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design), provides students with an opportunity to work effectively in interdisciplinary teams on real-world challenges with social impact. Since C4’s inception, YUL faculty have collaborated on the design and development of this initiative, offering important interdisciplinary wisdom and insights along the way.

Dana Craig
Dana Craig

The relationship changed this summer as YUL became a C4 project partner for an entire class of C4 students, searching for insights into how its own programs could more directly support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). After four years of contributing to the C4 initiative, Dana Craig, director of student learning and academic success for YUL, was seconded to the C4 leadership team in 2022-23. In this new role, she began to explore new and deeper ways that C4 and YUL could collaborate. She pitched a challenge to C4 students that focused on SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals): how can a university library be reimagined as a platform for local and global community engagement, knowledge mobility and sharing economies? 

“The question was perfectly aligned with both our Keele Campus and our Casita Azul library project on the Las Nubes Campus in Costa Rica,” said Craig, “but that’s the beauty of C4. The students take a look and break the question down into what they think it’s all about. These students – five groups of 10 – wanted to apply the question in a variety of spaces. 

Casita Azul
Casita Azul

“It became a beautiful opportunity to get students to shake us up a bit by telling us what they need and how they want us to operate. The library should not just be viewed as a support – we are constantly innovating in different ways, too. What else can we do to benefit students and our communities?” 

Each of the groups decided on a topic to explore. They were also required to establish a budget, do research, determine how to promote their idea and think about how to make it sustainable. Craig connected them to the library personnel and resources most suited to their research. She also introduced them to the Media Creation Lab, where they could work with digital technology to create a podcast, borrow a 360-degree camera or learn how to edit a video, among other possibilities.  

The student teams presented their solutions to the leadership team. One group suggested connecting with the community by offering skills workshops that focused on topics that would appeal to 18-to-25-year-olds, such as financial literacy or how to assess the validity of online information. A second team reimagined the library’s website, designing a simpler gateway to make it more user-friendly. A third group created an artificial intelligence (AI) bot to make it easier to search for open-access resources in any language. A fourth team envisioned a platform where authors could publish open-source material and converse with other authors on the same topic, while the final group designed a book exchange where students could bring a book and take a book in return. 

“I could see every single one of these projects being explored by the library, with us working towards some implementation based on the students’ final projects,” Craig said. 

Robinson was delighted to have YUL take a project partnership role this summer. 

“York University Libraries have been a strong partner of C4 from the very beginning,” Robinson said. “Libraries foster vital interdisciplinary spaces on campus, just like C4, so our values are in direct alignment and energize our collaboration. I am glad the project partnership this summer gave us a chance to give back to the libraries. 

“Now, Dana has a 360-degree view of C4 – she has supported students in the classroom and as a member of our leadership team. She has seen, close up, what the students can do and their extraordinarily creative problem solving. Being inside C4 in this way provides a unique perspective; it allows you to see the power of a York degree in action and the unique talents our students bring to the challenges the world is facing.” 

For her part, Craig had nothing but compliments for the C4 course and its impact. 

“I’m quite impressed by C4’s way of teaching and involving students,” Craig said. “Students love it, and I can see them learning to apply skills, such as compromises about work and having respectful conversations. They are learning through doing and it’s a fantastic experiential education opportunity.” 

She was also pleased to have the students brainstorm ideas for the library to consider. 

“We don’t know what we don’t know, and additional lenses on how students see and experience their learning and research environments are always valuable and welcome as additional avenues for us to explore.” 

Desjardins Group funding helps expand entrepreneurial programs at York

Multi-ethnic startup business conference banner image

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

A new gift from Desjardins to York University’s Innovation York will expand two critical accelerator programs that provide training and support in entrepreneurship and help promote innovation.

The funding will continue both Desjardins and York’s commitment to fostering positive change for diverse local communities and uniquely global perspectives.

The gift supports two initiatives at York, with an infusion over five years to GENIAL (Glendon Entrepreneuriat et Innovation A L’International) and over two years to ELLA (Entrepreneurial Leadership & Learning Alliance).

“We are thrilled to partner with Desjardins to create greater access and opportunities for women-led businesses,” says Jennifer MacLean, assistant vice-president, innovation and research partnerships at York University. “This partnership will enable York University’s YSpace to expand our impact in the community and continue to foster the skills and talents of young entrepreneurs.” 

GENIAL is a bilingual initiative that offers training, extracurricular activities, and a research program in entrepreneurship and innovation. Desjardins’ gift will allow GENIAL to scale up its bilingual Entrepreneurial Skills Passport (ESP) program that is currently offered to Glendon students. Through the ESP program, GENIAL has trained a diverse population of students from liberal arts and business backgrounds, including domestic and international students enrolled in business, economics, communications, translation, international studies, sociology and psychology. GENIAL was launched in 2017 by Angelo Dossou-Yovo, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship.

Desjardins also supported York’s first accelerator focused on supporting women-led product- and service-based businesses. The donation to ELLA – a program created by women, for women – will support the program for the next two years. The funding will help with the sustainability of ELLA’s accelerator programming that provides women entrepreneurs with access to the community, knowledge and resources they need to scale their business. 

“With Desjardins’ support, YSpace’s ELLA program will be able to help more women entrepreneurs, particularly those in consumer packaged goods and professional services, take their businesses to greater heights and scale up into national and international markets,” said David Kwok, associate director, entrepreneurship. “This gift recognizes the value in supporting women-led product- and service-based businesses, providing them with resources as robust as those currently found in the tech sector.” 

To recognize their contribution and commitment, Desjardins is invited to take part in ELLA’s national advisory committee and act as subject-matter experts to help shape the program’s future. 

“Entrepreneurs play an important role in our society. They are creating innovative solutions to the needs of Canadians and the challenges they face,” said Guy Cormier, president and CEO of Desjardins Group. “We are proud to support York University and their young entrepreneurs. They will help shape the world of tomorrow and we’re incredibly happy to be part of something that will give them the resources and tools they need to pursue their goals in life.”

Students and other members of the York community are invited to attend a public talk by Cormier on Sept. 12 at the Schulich Executive Learning Centre on York’s Keele Campus. Hear Cormier’s professional journey, starting as a cashier, and how he worked his way up through Desjardins to become the youngest president in the history of the organization. He will also talk openly about the challenges he’s faced in his career and his vision of modern leadership, and answer audience questions.

Click here to register for the event on Sept. 12: go.yorku.ca/desjardins-visit2023.

Le financement du Mouvement Desjardins permet d’élargir les programmes d’entrepreneuriat à York 

Un nouveau don de Desjardins à l’Université York permettra d’élargir deux programmes accélérateurs cruciaux qui offrent une formation et un soutien à l’entrepreneuriat et qui contribuent à promouvoir l’innovation. 

Le financement permettra à Desjardins et à York de poursuivre leur engagement envers la création de changements positifs pour les communautés locales diversifiées et d’offrir des perspectives mondiales uniques.

Le don appuie deux initiatives à York avec un apport sur cinq ans pour GENIAL (Glendon ENtrepreneuriat et Innovation À L’international) et un autre sur deux ans pour ELLA (Entrepreneurial Leadership & Learning Alliance).

« Nous sommes ravis de nous associer à Desjardins pour améliorer l’accès et les possibilités d’entreprises dirigées par des femmes, déclare Jennifer MacLean, vice-présidente adjointe des partenariats en matière d’innovation et de recherche à l’Université York. Ce partenariat permettra au YSpace de l’Université York d’accroître son effet sur la communauté et de continuer à encourager les compétences et les talents des jeunes entrepreneurs et entrepreneuses. » 

GENIAL est une initiative bilingue qui propose des formations, des activités extrascolaires et un programme de recherche sur l’entrepreneuriat et l’innovation. Le don de Desjardins permettra à GENIAL d’amplifier le programme de formation bilingue Passeport Compétences Entrepreneuriales (PCE) actuellement proposé à la population étudiante de Glendon. Grâce au programme PCE, GENIAL a formé une population étudiante diversifiée issue des arts libéraux et du monde des affaires, notamment des étudiantes et étudiants nationaux et internationaux inscrits à des programmes de commerce, économie, communication, traduction, études internationales, sociologie et psychologie. 

GENIAL a été lancé en 2017 par Angelo Dossou-Yovo, professeur agrégé de gestion et d’entrepreneuriat.

Desjardins soutient également le premier accélérateur de York axé sur le soutien aux entreprises de produits et de services dirigées par des femmes. Le don fait à ELLA — un programme créé par des femmes, pour des femmes — financera le programme pendant les deux prochaines années. Ce financement contribuera à la durabilité du programme d’accélération d’ELLA, qui permet aux entrepreneuses d’accéder à la communauté, aux connaissances et aux ressources nécessaires pour développer leur entreprise. 

« Grâce au soutien de Desjardins, le programme ELLA de YSpace sera en mesure d’aider davantage d’entrepreneuses, notamment dans les secteurs des biens de consommation et des services professionnels, à faire progresser leur entreprise et à s’implanter sur les marchés nationaux et internationaux, a déclaré David Kwok, directeur associé, Entrepreneuriat. Ce don reconnaît la valeur du soutien apporté aux entreprises de produits et de services dirigées par des femmes, en leur fournissant des ressources aussi solides que celles que l’on trouve actuellement dans le secteur de la technologie. » 

Pour reconnaître leur contribution et leur engagement, les Caisses Desjardins sont invitées à participer au comité consultatif d’ELLA et à agir en tant qu’expertes en la matière pour façonner l’avenir du programme. 

« Les chefs d’entreprise jouent un rôle important dans notre société en créant des solutions novatrices pour répondre aux besoins de la population canadienne et aux défis auxquels elle est confrontée, a déclaré Guy Cormier, président et chef de la direction du Mouvement Desjardins. Nous sommes fiers de soutenir l’Université York et ses jeunes chefs d’entreprise qui contribueront à façonner le monde de demain. Nous nous réjouissons de participer à un projet qui leur donnera les ressources et les outils nécessaires pour poursuivre leurs objectifs de vie. »

La population étudiante et les autres membres de la communauté de York sont invités à assister à une conférence publique de M. Cormier le 12 septembre de 16 h à 18 h au Schulich Executive Learning Centre sur le campus Keele de York. Découvrez le parcours professionnel de M. Cormier, qui a commencé comme caissier et a gravi les échelons au sein de Desjardins pour devenir le plus jeune président de l’histoire de l’organisation. Il parlera ouvertement des défis auxquels il a été confronté au cours de sa carrière ainsi que de sa vision du leadership moderne et répondra aux questions du public.

Cliquez ici pour vous inscrire à l’événement du 12 septembre : go.yorku.ca/desjardins-visite2023.

k2i receives $400K donation from 407 ETR

Two Female Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class

York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy will put a $400,000 donation from the 407 ETR towards programming that will help dismantle systemic barriers for underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and prepare the next generation for careers in these fields.

The donation was announced at an on-campus event at the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, where leadership from Lassonde and 407 ETR were on hand to speak to the importance of the initiative and what this gift would mean for the programming offered through k2i.

“We launched the k2i academy three years ago with the idea of bringing STEM learning to life,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of Lassonde. “The k2i academy is a sandbox for innovation in STEM education, building a network of collaborative partners, committed to creating systemic change in our education system. With this gift, Lassonde will continue our work to increase equity, diversity and inclusion, and create a talent pipeline in STEM through job-ready training and innovative learning models.”

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

The donation will be divided equally between two programs, administered by Lisa Cole, director of the k2i academy.

The first program, the 407 ETR Path2STEM Fund, will support a micro-credentialled Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program. SHSMs allow students to gain experiences and develop skills toward their high-school diploma in Ontario while focusing on a specific economic sector. The 407 ETR Path2STEM Fund will be used to create a series of innovative SHSM experiences in engineering and digital technologies. Geared toward diverse learners, the program will prepare students for innovative post-secondary programs and meaningful STEM careers.

407 ETR President and CEO Javier Tamargo says his organization is keen to invest in a highly skilled and diverse workforce that can meet the challenges of tomorrow.

“407 ETR is a company rooted in STEM. In fact, about half of our workforce is employed in a STEM-related position ranging from data analytics and IT to traffic and tolling. These professionals are integral to our business, and so is ensuring that our team is reflective of the vibrant communities we serve,” says Tamargo. “That starts with doing our part to help foster a diverse talent pool, which is why we’re so proud to support the Lassonde School and York University’s work to move more youth into the pipeline towards rewarding academic and professional careers in STEM.”

The second program, the 407 ETR Work Integrated Learning Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Fund, will specifically be geared to help k2i expand its offerings to students underrepresented in STEM, including women, Black and Indigenous youth, and those from low-income communities. Since 2020, k2i has been offering paid summer work opportunities for students in grades 10, 11 and 12 while gaining school credit. The programming is done in partnership with the Toronto District School Board, York Region District School Board and Peel District School Board. Students receive 140 hours of paid work with an added opportunity to earn a high-school prerequisite credit for STEM pathways while learning skills in coding, design, electronics and more. This year’s on-campus program offered a unique Grade 12 English credit, rooting language and communication in hands-on science and engineering experiences.

Lassonde, 407 ETR, and k2i academy teams

Students are empowered to explore, question, wonder and discover through interactive learning experiences to strengthen skills in computational thinking, coding, electronics, engineering design, 3D modelling and creativity. Combining work and learning provides an innovative way for students to explore possibilities in STEM careers, connect with networks and mentors to launch their interests in post-secondary studies, gain experience in developing STEM skills, and strengthen professional skills in communication, collaboration and problem-solving.

“With this generous donation from 407 ETR, we will continue our journey of offering paid educational experiences to underrepresented students in environments that are dynamic, innovative and collaborative,” says Cole. “We’ve already reached 6,000-plus youth and offered more than 175,000 hours of learning, and we’re thrilled to be able to expand this work and hit our next milestones.”

407 ETR has been a supporter of the Lassonde School of Engineering and York for over a decade. In 2013, a donation was made to support the 407 ETR Learning Laboratory, home to pre-laboratory training, theory and application for a generation of civil engineering students.

Learn more at News @ York.

York students organize Ontario Exercise Physiology Conference


Students from both York University and Queen’s University, with faculty input, organized the annual Ontario Exercise Physiology (OEP) Conference, which will bring together over 180 trainees from Ontario and Quebec to share their passion and research in exercise physiology and related fields.

The core purpose of the OEP Conference, running July 25 to 27, is to help trainees develop their research aptitude, presentation skills, career development strategies and build a network through a program that gives them time to talk and have discussions about their work and common interests.

A fundamental characteristic of the conference is that it is student organized and oriented, intent on creating something that benefits their peers across the province. (Input from Associate Professor Christopher Perry from the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York and Christopher McGlory in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University was provided).

Instead of principal investigators, only undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral Fellows, present their research to their peers and to volunteer faculty in attendance. Trainees receive feedback on their theses to help develop their perspectives and stimulate new ideas. Feedback is provided during a standard question-and-answer period, but also through the structured program that brings students and faculty together through additional activities.

OEP student organizing committee

The conference also features two keynote faculty speakers to serve as an early career and established career mentor at the meeting. Rather than present their research, both mentors will share their path from undergraduate studies to their present-day roles as faculty, including their experience of journeying through uncertainties and identifying passions through each step of their process.

The CEO of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology will also provide an exciting presentation on careers that can be pursued with a kinesiology and health studies degree. This talk will emphasize the many ways that trainees can make an impact on improving the lives of people through exercise prescription and related professions. There will also be a mentor from industry to talk about the experience of transitioning from graduate school to a career outside of academia.

The event wasn’t just organized, in part, by York students, but the University helped sponsor the event, spanning all major tiers of the institution including the School of Kinesiology & Health Science, the Faculty of Health and the Office of the Vice-President, Research.

Further information about OEP can be found here.

New Lassonde facility explores how climate impacts infrastructure

New York City parks and public infrastructure stock image banner photo

Professors from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering have established the Climate-Data-Driven Design (CD3) Facility for Built Infrastructure in order to become Canada’s leading field-testing laboratory for studying the effects of climate variability on the behaviour of materials, ensuring more resilient infrastructure in the future.

Usman Khan
Usman Khan
Matthew Perras
Matthew Perras
Liam Butler
Liam Butler

The CD3 facility project is shepherded by Liam Butler, Matthew Perras and Usman Khan from the Civil Engineering department through funding support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) and will look at how climate conditions such as chilling snow, rain, intense humidity and heat can negatively influence the behaviour of infrastructure materials used in systems such as roads, bridges and tunnels.

The CD3 facility, located at York’s Keele Campus, will allow for outdoor testing and monitoring of natural and infrastructure materials to evaluate their performance under realistic conditions, using advanced sensing and data analysis techniques. Using existing indoor lab facilities and artificial intelligence (AI) methods, data collected from outdoor experiments will be used to interpret the effects of climatic conditions on the tested materials and develop models to predict their future performance over a variety of time scales and climate change scenarios.

Experiments performed at this facility will also establish critical information about the behaviour and long-term performance of emerging infrastructure materials, allowing for proactive measures to be taken when developing the next generation of infrastructure.

It will also provide local and global industry partners with an innovative space to test infrastructure materials, while advancing the reach and reputation of the facility and School – collaboratively driving solutions to some of the most pressing infrastructure-related challenges in Canada and around the world. Furthermore, student training and recruitment at Lassonde will allow for experiential learning opportunities that promote skill-building and inclusion.

“There are very few facilities like this in the world,” says Butler. “We want to leverage Lassonde’s state-of-the-art High Bay Lab for testing structural materials but also have the capability for testing in an outdoor setting. This way we can understand how our infrastructure materials behave in realistic conditions and therefore, develop methods for improving their design.”

Those interested in learning more about the CD3 Facility at York University or to explore future testing and research collaborations are encouraged to get in touch with Butler (liam.butler@lassonde.yorku.ca), Perras (mperras@yorku.ca) or Khan (usman.khan@lassonde.yorku.ca).

York to host virtual event on water sustainability crises at UN HLPF

water droplet

Associate Professor and York University Research Chair in Global Change Biology, Sapna Sharma, will moderate a 90-minute virtual panel on July 14 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. entitled “Humanitarian responses to emerging water crises as a result of extreme climatic events” at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The panel – which will be proceeded by opening marks from President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nikhil Seth – is a virtual event hosted by the University in preparation for the UN Global Water Academy at the UN HLPF, which runs until July 19.

The event also marks the inauguration of the UN Global Water Academy, announced at the UN Water Conference in March 2023 in New York City as a multi-stakeholder collaboration between the United Nations, academic institutions, and private sector partners, with York University as academic lead. The UN Global Water Academy will tackle diverse aspects of the water sustainability crisis: training, research, and knowledge mobilization, ultimately used to inform decision-making and public policy. The preparations to launch the UN Water Academy are well on its way.

The Global Water Academy will aspire to foster training and capacity development, empower community-based networks, weave traditional knowledge, and inspire innovation to co-create sustainable water solutions and ensure equitable access to water for all. By doing so, the Global Water Academy will empower policy and decision-makers, government officials, industry and the communities most affected by water insecurity, with the knowledge, expertise and capacity to ameliorate the water crisis.

Sapna Sharma
Sapna Sharma

The panel led by Sharma will consider how extreme climatic events, including heatwaves, droughts and storms, are increasing in frequency and intensity over the past few decades, with consequences for freshwater. For example, extreme climatic events have been associated with changes in freshwater availability and degradation of water quality, including elevated concentrations of nutrients, contaminants of emerging concern and potential for algal blooms, some of which may be toxic. As humans and wildlife rely on freshwater for life, alterations in the freshwater supply in response to extreme climatic events can have catastrophic impacts, particularly during humanitarian crises. Women and marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by freshwater insecurity.

This panel aims to raise the voices of communities affected by water insecurity, including Indigenous communities in Canada, women and girls in Africa, and families living in refugee camps. They will explore the humanitarian responses, challenges and solutions to alleviating the freshwater crisis, particularly in the face of global environmental degradation and extreme climatic events.

Those interested in registering for the event can do so here.

York language students work with Japanese writing buddies

Students in the Intermediate Written Communication in Japanese course

By Elaine Smith

A new course at York University offered Japanese language students an opportunity to connect with a group of pen pals in Japan.

Intermediate Written Communication in Japanese (JP2010) is a full-year elective that focuses solely on writing, says Noriko Yabuki-Soh, an associate professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. And, no wonder.

Noriko Yabuki-Soh
Noriko Yabuki-Soh

“Learning to write in Japanese takes time because there are three different writing systems which also incorporate Chinese characters,” she said.

Yabuki-Soh was eager to connect her students with the Japanese community through their writing as a way of ensuring the students had an authentic experience and learned some of the colloquial expressions commonly used in Japan today. She turned to York International, experts in globally networked learning (GNL), for assistance. GNL is an approach to teaching, learning and research that enables students, faculty and non-academic researchers from different locations around the world to participate in, and collaborate on, knowledge-making processes and concrete research projects. 

York International connected Yabuki-Soh with faculty at York partner universities and she found an interested colleague, Professor Jin Abe at Hitotsubashi University, a Tokyo-based national university and York University exchange partner.

To interest Japanese students in taking part, Yabuki-Soh created a recruitment poster and promotional video. Not only did local students apply; there were responses from students from other countries who were studying at Hitotsubashi, as well as Hitotsubashi students studying on exchange programs in other countries. Sixteen students joined the program to work with Yabuki-Soh’s class, which also had 16 students.

“It was a very diverse group with students from all over the world,” she said. “It was good for our students to work with other people their own age who had similar interests.”

The two groups interacted every two weeks throughout the course through various writing projects and using Google Docs. For example, Yabuki-Soh assigned her students to write opinion pieces for posting online on topics that interested them, providing samples in Japanese newspapers for guidance, and their Japanese peers would comment about the ideas put forward. 

“We’d review opinion pieces together in class, ensuring they understood the grammar, and I’d lecture about the writing style appropriate to the task,” she said. “Posting the pieces to Google Docs worked well, given the 14-hour time difference. The Japanese students could comment at any time of day.”

For another project, Yabuki-Soh paired each York student with a Japanese student, provided them with a list of questions and asked them to interview each other about the city where they lived or the town where they grew up. The York students were required to create an essay about their partners using the proper format for quotes. The York students also used the content for their final course essay, comparing their own hometown to their partner’s.

“They learned a lot about each other,” Yabuki-Soh said.

While class interaction was confined to Google Docs, students who expressed an interest in sharing their email addresses had the opportunity to connect individually with their overseas counterparts.

Jessell Miranda
Jessell Miranda

Jessell Miranda, a graduating economics major, said she studied both Korean and Japanese because she loves the languages. With no advanced Japanese class offered during the winter semester, she opted for the writing course.

“I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned, and I wanted to test my understanding of the language,” Miranda said. “It was really fun and enjoyable, because we were communicating with people from our own age group, not simply talking to the professor.

“I feel more confident about writing as a result, but I also realize how much more there is to learn.”

Risha Pelchat, a fourth-year translation major at Glendon College, called the class “amazing.”

“It gave me the chance to apply what I’ve learned in real life,” she said. “In addition to being able to apply Japanese in a real-life situation, I was able to deepen my cultural understanding. Moreover, the Japanese students were from the same generation and relatable, which made our interactions especially enjoyable.

“The course was invaluable. It took my Japanese to another level. Now, I can write and be confident that people will understand what I’m saying in just about any situation.”

Lisa Endersby, the educational developer from the Teaching Commons who assisted with the GNL portion of the class, added, “GNL is a powerful, practical model for faculty to engage in the same experiences they hope to share with their students – meaningful collaboration, cross-cultural learning and academic work to impact timely, global issues. The faculty I support in GNL projects often share how these experiences are uniquely impactful for their students’ personal and professional development, connecting them to people and places they may have previously only read about.”

For more information on JP2010 and other JP courses, visit the Japanese Studies Program website.

York faculty members interested in exploring a GNL project with a partner overseas can connect with Shirley Lam and Helen Balderama through gnl@yorku.ca.

Co-operators awards $300,000 grant for youth mental health research at York

Hugging friends

A $300,000 gift from Co-operators will establish an innovative research fund to enhance resilience and combat mental health struggles among youth in Canada through initiatives at York University.

The new Co-operators’ Accelerator Fund for Youth Mental Health Research is dedicated to decreasing the prevalence and severity of mental health struggles and bolstering the resilience of underserved youth in Canada.

Specifically, the Accelerator Fund aims to support practical and impactful mental health research focused on young people aged 18 to 25 years old. Priority is given to those projects that are already underway or have the potential for short-term implementation, have evidence-based frameworks and have the potential for scalability and tangible community impact.

Recognizing that young adults face disproportionate mental health challenges during the transition between adolescence and adulthood, Co-operators has chosen to focus the efforts of their social wellness pillar exclusively on improving mental health for young people at this critical junction in their lives.

“We believe that equipping youth with the mental health tools they need to thrive is an essential part of setting them up for success long-term,” says Jessica Fisher, senior partnerships and social impact advisor at Co-operators. “The work being done at York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research aligns well with the impact we’re hoping to have on young adults across the country.”

Adds Fisher, “Co-operators is particularly excited about funding opportunities that are community-led and have the potential for broader influence.”

The Accelerator Fund’s first project is set to make strides on both fronts.

Led by Dr. Jennifer Connolly, professor and Chair of the Psychology program at York, and Dr. Jennine Rawana, associate professor of psychology and head of Calumet College, the grant’s inaugural initiative will scale up the community-based Milestones Program for youth transitioning from Child Protective Services to independent living. This project, created by foster parents at Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions (SMFC), an integrated child and family services agency, aims to provide the necessary supports youth need for a successful transition into adulthood.

Youth who are involved with child protective services or living in out-of-home care face significant challenges to their mental health and well-being due to insufficient support during this critical time of change. Despite current Ministry directions to better assist them during this critical life stage, there are few evidence-based programs available to meet their unique needs.

With support from the Co-operators Accelerator Grant, Connolly and Rawana aim to develop a modified Milestones Program to better support youth, and deliver helpful online resources, publications and presentations to the Ministry and Child Protective Services, as well as for parents and workers who are supporting youth through their transitions.

“Co-operators is excited about the potential scalability of this work,” says Fisher. “The project has tremendous potential to positively impact at-risk youth.”

As an expendable grant, the Co-operators’ Accelerator Fund will support innovative and forward-thinking research initiatives at the LaMarsh Centre for the next three years. Grant recipients are selected by an independent selection committee based on the successful submission of a competitive application.

“The Co-operators Accelerator Fund will undoubtedly have deep and long-lasting effects on the lives of Canadian youth,” says Faculty of Health Dean David Peters. “This support is a testament to Co-operators’ commitment to being a catalyst for sustainable and resilient communities and their dedication to fuelling a brighter future for young people from across the country.”