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.

Professor’s book details care home labour exploitation

Exhausted nurse, doctor, medical practitioner sitting on care centre floor

By Joseph Burrell, communications officer, YFile

York University Distinguished Research Professor Emerita Pat Armstrong’s latest book, Unpaid Work in Nursing Homes: Flexible Boundaries (Policy Press, 2023), follows unpaid labourers in nursing homes across six wealthy countries, including Canada, and launches on July 18.

Pat Armstrong
Pat Armstrong

Armstrong, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, leads a team of international researchers who have, over a decade, produced a series of books identifying hazardous trends in health-care systems as well as “promising practices for making nursing home care as good as it can be.”

“You may assume that in nursing homes most of the labour is provided by staff paid and trained for the job. But you would be wrong, especially in Canada,” Armstrong says. “This book is about who does what kinds of unpaid work, under what conditions in nursing homes. By comparing the nature and conditions of this gendered work in different countries, the book shows that the boundaries between paid and unpaid work are flexible not only for families and volunteers, but also for paid staff and residents.”

This latest entry features the results of ethnographic studies carried out in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Norway, Sweden and Germany – each country among the most resource-rich in the world and employing an array of contrasting approaches to long-term care. The follow-up entry to Armstrong’s latest book, Care Homes in a Turbulent Era (2023), also launches in August.

For all of the cultural and practical differences in each country’s approach to delivering care, a common element throughout the team’s research was that many nursing homes were dependent on unpaid labour to varying degrees.

“One of the many things that stood out for us was the amount and range of labour undertaken without pay by families, volunteers, residents and even by staff otherwise paid for the work,” Armstrong explains. “However, the amounts and kinds of unpaid work varied significantly from country to country, indicating that such work is not inevitable.”

This breadth of unremitted work, particularly the work carried out by staff who were paid in some circumstances but not in others, gave rise to the “flexible boundaries” referred to in the book’s title. Although Armstrong emphasizes that these inequities have existed in nursing homes around the world for many years – a fact demonstrated throughout the nearly 30 books that she’s published on the topic since the 1980s – she also points to the COVID-19 pandemic as a recent force stressing the limits of the workforce and illuminating the severity of workers’ situations.

Unpaid Work In Nursing Homes: Flexible Boundaries by Pat Armstrong
Unpaid Work In Nursing Homes: Flexible Boundaries (2023) by Pat Armstrong

As homes were quarantined and family members barred from entering, the dependence on unpaid labour became apparent to the public. But even in light of COVID-19’s global repercussions, some countries proved better equipped to handle the health crisis in nursing homes than others.

“Staffing levels are much higher in Norway and Sweden,” she says. “The ownership of care homes also differs significantly. Norway especially has very few for-profit homes while in Ontario, nearly 60 per cent are for-profit. A poll in Sweden found that a majority would like to enter a nursing home if they needed help with two or more issues, while 90 per cent of those polled in Canada say they don’t want to go into a nursing home at all.”

Noting the similarities in age demographics as well as illness prevalence across all of the countries, Armstrong suggests that differences in health outcomes and perception of nursing homes are owed to “differences in both the quality of care and values.”

Despite their comparative successes, Armstrong cautions that countries like Norway and Sweden shouldn’t rest on their laurels. According to her research, each country shares the common issue of overworking majority-female labour forces and increasingly depending on immigrants from lower-income countries to fill jobs seen as undesirable, making the problem of exploitation one that intersects with sexism, racism and classism.

“Staff members talk about lying awake at night worrying about not having had the time to help Mrs. Jones eat her dinner, to help Mr. Banerjee walk down the hall, or to comfort a daughter when her mother died, even though these staff members came in early and stayed late,” Armstrong says.

A key takeaway throughout all of Armstrong’s work is the variety of solutions applicable to these problems. Such health-care crises are mitigated not just by training more medical professionals, but by educating citizens in effective policy, like increasing public investment in long-term care facilities.

“Long before the pandemic, research had shown that for-profit care homes had the lowest staffing levels, lowest pay and lowest quality of care,” she explains. “Attending to the conditions of work is essential to… responding to the individual needs of residents. The conditions of work are the conditions of care.”

Unpaid Work in Nursing Homes: Flexible Boundaries is available for purchase in paperback format, or for free download as an e-publication, through Policy Press.

Professor’s new book redefines girlhood during Medieval, Renaissance era

Black woman reading book

Author and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) Professor Deanne Williams investigates the overlooked roles of girls in theatre – and performing arts in general – from the 10th through 17th centuries in her new book Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Performance and Pedagogy (Bloomsbury, 2023).

Williams’ research cites eyewitness testimony, stage directions, paintings and even records of payment to explore girls’ appearance in dramatic performances, as well as their contributions to writing and translating plays, singing, dancing and performing music. While previous histories of the actress have begun with the Restoration in 1660, this book charts this history all the way back to the Middle Ages.

Deanne Williams
Deanne Williams

Through its close analysis of plays from this time frame, as well as the broader cultural environments that produced them, Girl Culture demonstrates that girls were active and influential participants in dramatic culture, rather than passive observers.

“Girls have occupied a marginal role in theatre and cultural history, because of the assumption that performance was largely restricted to boys and men,” Williams explains. “But Girl Culture shows that they played an important role in medieval religious drama, Tudor pageants and royal entries, Elizabethan entertainments, and the Stuart court and household masque.

“My research shows that girlhood was a time of comparatively greater freedom for girls. Performing parts at home or in the schoolroom was a significant part of their education and they participated also in religious as well as civic performances. This book reveals medieval and early modern girlhood as a time of tremendous creativity and intellectual development,” she adds, before girls were “restricted by the expectations placed upon married women to run households and bear children.”

For over twenty years, Williams has devoted herself to research and redefining medieval and early modern girlhood. Her work includes staging readings of Jane Lumley’s Iphigeneia, the first-ever translation of the Greek drama into English, as well as Elizabeth Cary’s Tragedy of Mariam, the first female-authored original play (published in 1613), with Tom Bishop of the University of Auckland. With John Edwards, artistic director of the Musicians in Ordinary, she produced a podcast recording of Milton’s Comus and they are currently working with noted stage director Paul Hopkins on a film production of Elizabeth Brackley and Jane Cavendish’s play, The Concealed Fancies. With her colleague Bernice Neal and research assistant Asra Khonsari, Williams is also putting the finishing touches on a database called the Girls on Early English Stages (GEES) Project.

Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Performance and Pedagogy (2023) by Deanne Williams

Williams has also explored how even Shakespeare, whose plays were performed on an all-male stage, was influenced by girl culture and the participation of girls in the public sphere. In her previous study, Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood (2014), Williams devotes “entire chapters to Ophelia and Juliet, as well as to lesser-known girl characters, such as the Queen in Richard II.

In [that] book, I argue that girl characters are key to Shakespeare’s plays, and that Shakespeare’s ideas about girlhood developed over the course of his career and shaped our own ideas about girlhood today,” Williams says. “My new book, Girl Culture, takes a very different approach. Rather than exploring the influence of Shakespeare on girlhood, it locates the influence of girls on Shakespeare, whose lived experience of the girl actor, and girls’ significant cultural presence, shaped his conceptualization of girl characters such as Juliet, Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, Marina in Pericles, and Emilia and the Jailer’s daughter in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Two Noble Kinsmen.”

Among many other examples Williams hopes readers will be pleasantly surprised by, she highlights Anne Boleyn – whose life was marred by tragedy – as being a far more literary person than sordid histories tend to let on.

“[Boleyn’s] reputation was tarnished by Henry VIII, but her girlhood was bookish, pious and extremely musical,” she says. “I also think readers will be astonished to learn about Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, who wrote six Latin plays to match those of Latin comic playwright, Terence, in order to educate the girls of Gandersheim Abbey. I think she was horrified by what she found in Terence and wanted to provide her girl readers – and actors – with better role models.”

In her graduate and undergraduate teaching, Williams always seizes the chance to share the updated history that’s uncovered in Girl Culture and bring to light the seldom discussed influence on the arts by girls of a bygone era.

York to collaborate with Commonwealth universities to address global inequalities

Students stand outside of Vari Hall on York's Keele Campus

York University will host a full day symposium on July 19 together with The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) to explore the important role of higher education in addressing global inequalities. 

ACU is a convenor of a community of higher education institutions from across the Commonwealth and provides opportunities for learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. In addition, attendees will learn more about the ACU’s regional strategic priorities and its work and impact in Canada, and internationally. 

The 2023 symposium will bring together ACU members and prospective members to discuss distinct and shared challenges in addressing global inequalities, and learn how international collaboration can support these efforts. 

The day’s agenda of panel discussions, keynotes and a fireside chat will align with the symposium’s theme “Tackling inequality within – and through – higher education” and will feature York University faculty and senior leadership.  

The program will bring universities together to discuss topics of common relevance, such as access and inclusion, decolonization of higher education and social impact. 


10:45 to 11:45 a.m. – Panel 1: From rhetoric to reality: universities’ role in addressing systemic inequalities 
How can universities help to overcome deep-rooted structural inequalities in wider society? 
Chair: Joanna Newman (Secretary General and Chief Executive, The Association of Commonwealth Universities) 
Panellists: Mark Green (Queen’s University, Canada); Qui Alexander (University of Toronto, Canada); Jennifer Brennan (Mastercard Foundation); Andrea Davis (York University, Canada); James Orbinski (York University, Canada); and Mai Yasue (University of British Columbia, Canada) 

1 to 1:45 p.m. – Fireside Chat: What role does international collaboration in higher education play in helping to promote more equal universities and societies? 
International collaboration in higher education is key to meeting all 17 SDGs, but how can it help address inequality in particular? Is “inclusion” just an issue for individual institutions or does it have an international element? 
Chair: Cheryl de la Rey (vice-chancellor, University of Canterbury, New Zealand and ACU Chair of Council) 
In conversation with: Rhonda Lenton (York University president and ACU executive committee member) 

2 to 3 p.m. – Panel 2: Promoting equity in international partnerships and research 
Chair: David Phipps (assistant vice-president, research strategy and impact, York University; director, Research Impact Canada; ACU supporting research community Chair) 
Panellists: Sandeep Sancheti (vice-chancellor at Marwadi University, India); C Raj Kumar (vice-chancellor at O.P. Jindal Global University, India); and Barnabas Nawangwe (vice-chancellor at Makerere University, Uganda) 

Further information about the ACU symposium can be found here.

Schulich student wins Vector Institute AI scholarship


Darren Singh, a candidate for the Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence (MMAI) at York University’s Schulich School of Business, was named a winner of this year’s Vector Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence (VSAI).

Darren Singh
Darren Singh

Valued at $17,500, the merit-based VSAIs are bestowed upon top candidates pursuing studies in either Vector-recognized master’s programs, which provide students with the AI skills and competencies sought by employers, or individual AI study paths in Ontario.

“The Vector Scholarship allows me to have peace of mind while pursuing my MMAI and serves as a reminder that hard work does pay off,” said Singh. “The countless late nights that I had spent studying, working on assignments and programming during my undergraduate degree in astrophysics and computer science at York University played a large role in me receiving this award.”

Singh says the scholarship will allow him to focus more on his studies and less on funding his education. He is also looking forward to familiarizing himself with Vector Institute’s vast network which will accelerate his learning and education in AI.

“The MMAI, being a 12-month professional degree related to artificial intelligence, allows me to obtain a graduate degree without needing to remain entirely in academia,” says Singh. “The Artificial Intelligence Consulting Project (AICP) that is part of the degree will enable me to obtain relevant work experience before I graduate and enter the workforce.”

Scholarship recipients become part of the Vector Institute’s community of renowned researchers, major Canadian companies and AI startups solving high-impact problems. Recipients receive support for their education, and affiliation with Vector can open high-quality career options through Vector’s networking and career events, Digital Talent Hub and professional development programming.

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.

Leader in student success earns Lynda Tam Guiding Light and Legacy Award

a man holding a trophy

Agata Stypka, student success coordinator in the Faculty of Health, received the award from the Advising Community of Practice and Peer Leader Community of Practice in recognition of her unwavering commitment to students through her work in delivering excellence in student success and peer leadership programming.

The annual award was established in honour of Lynda Tam, who served as the first assistant dean, students in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) where she had a profound impact on the student experience through shaping student services, advising, and peer mentoring programs. She was also a founding co-chair of the Peer Leader Community of Practice.

Agata Stypka
Agata Stypka

Through her creative and imaginative approach, she developed programs and initiatives that helped students excel and reach their academic, personal, and professional goals. Tam exemplified student service excellence across York University and was a coach and a guiding light to students, staff, and faculty.

Stypka received this year’s award for exemplifying many of Tam’s qualities. Stypka is known as a leader in student success, who contributes to and has impact in student success programs and initiatives across campus. As the longest standing student success coordinator in Calumet and Stong Colleges, Stypka is credited with the delivery of high impact initiatives such as Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS), Agents of Change, Orientation and Peer Leadership Training.

“Agata is a welcoming and empathetic partner who works tirelessly to support her colleagues and champion student success and peer leadership across York’s campus and within our alumni community,” shared Jennine Rawana former head of Calumet College and Department of Psychology associate professor.

“Agata works tirelessly to support peer leaders to help them become proficient in their roles and brings a level of excellence to her programming, all with the intention of support students and their development,” says Mazen Hamadeh, associate dean, students, Faculty of Health and former head, Stong College.

As part of the award, art was commissioned from AMPD student Paria Shahverdi. The artwork is named “Peace” and was inspired by Tam, her illumination of shine, beauty and care, and the hope that she is now at peace. “This painting exemplifies the light and hope Lynda shared with those around her,” shared Catherine Salole, a member of the Selection Committee.

The award was presented to Stypka in a surprise meeting that included colleagues from the Faculty of Health, members of the selection committee and her nominators – Rawana and Robert Bishop, director, Student & Academic Services & Strategic Initiative. 

“It is an immense honor to receive this award and I am humbled. I had the opportunity to meet and work with Lynda and she certainly was a guiding light for me as I began my career at York. The beautiful painting of the dove is a wonderful reminder of the important work that universities do in the pursue of justice and peace and creating positive change,” said Stypka.

York students learn side-by-side with Colombian classmates

GNL Zamora

By Elaine Smith

Students are easily tempted by courses that include a trip abroad as part of the curriculum, but Hispanic Geopoetics: Geography, Literature, Identity, taught by Alejandro Zamora, offered an extra treat: classmates from the Universidad del Magdalena (UniMag) in the Colombian Caribbean region of the course’s field study.

Zamora, an associate professor of Hispanic studies at Glendon College, York University, has taught the course previously, but the 2023 edition became a joint venture, thanks to the use of a Hyflex classroom that allowed students to participate regardless of location. Throughout the winter semester, the 12 York students and eight UniMag students participated together in class discussions, class projects and assignments. By the time the field visit to Colombia came around, the classmates were fast friends.

Students in the Hispanic Geopoetics: Geography, Literature, Identity course taught by Alejandro Zamora, offered an extra treat visited the Colombian Caribbean region
Students in the Hispanic Geopoetics: Geography, Literature, Identity course taught by Alejandro Zamora, offered an extra treat visited the Colombian Caribbean region

“This was the first time we had a globally networked learning (GNL) component as part of the course and it was fantastic,” Zamora said. “The Colombian students could enrol, attend via Zoom and get course credits.” 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.

“From day one, I constantly ensured that both sets of students interacted through group work and assignments and it made a real difference when we visited Colombia; relationships and joint projects were already established.”

Geopoetics is a critical approach that investigates the relationships between literature, geography and natural and built environments; how literature can enrich understanding of a place or a territory, and vice versa. Zamora’s course explores One Hundred Years of Solitude, the influential novel written by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.

“This novel is deeply rooted in the Colombian Caribbean, and is also a synthesis of various regions,” said Zamora. “This course is a unique opportunity to study this novel in relation to the place that infuses its pages and language.”

As part of the Spanish program at Glendon, the course is taught in Spanish and has intermediate Spanish as a prerequisite. Students outside the program have the option of reading the novel in English or French, but still need the ability to converse in Spanish. In addition to Glendon students, it draws students from various Faculties on the Keele Campus.

During Reading Week, the York students travelled with Zamora to Colombia to meet their classmates and visit many of the locations depicted in the book, starting and ending in Santa Marta.

“There was full immersion on both sides,” Zamora said. “We travelled, visited sites and museums together, had meals together and learned about each other’s cultures. The students had meaningful conversations well beyond the scope of the course. What we experienced there surpassed expectations.

“In addition, the trip brought the book to life. We explored the villages and the local narratives that inspired the novel. In order to get a real sense of the history and political struggles of the region, you need to be there, talk to the people, and feel it. As one of my Colombian students put it: ‘We were reading the novel with our five senses.’” Students also got the opportunity to interact with local faculty and artists, “who were decisive to the success of the field trip.”

Two of the York students in the course agreed that the trip and the involvement of Colombian classmates offered invaluable insights into the book.

“It’s a tough read,” said Diego Pereira, a second-year Glendon psychology major who is originally from Brazil, “but I understand things better and everything is clearer after the trip and being where Marquez got his inspiration.”

Nicole Davis, a fifth-year Glendon student is majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish.

“Being in Colombia helped provide a clearer picture of the book and why the geography is so important,” she said. “It’s a great mix of fact and fiction and it probably couldn’t have happened elsewhere.”

They couldn’t say enough about the joys of learning side-by-side with classmates from another culture and the opportunity to travel with them.

“All the students from Colombia enriched the experience and made a difference,” said Pereira. “Examples from their lives helped illustrate the book.”

Davis added, “I really only knew two people going into the course and I cried the last day. It was a really good group and we built the type of relationships where if we haven’t spoken for years and message each other, the bond will be there.

“I’m also really grateful for the Global Skills Opportunity (through CALAREO) bursary that let me go on the trip. I’d never been to South America and I was able to confront all the stereotypes and biases you see in the media and meet all these wonderful people. I didn’t expect a school trip to be the most amazing trip I’ve ever gone on.”

For information on faculty-led programs and GNL project collaborations connect with York International helencb@yorku.ca and swhlam@yorku.ca.  

Engineering faculty receive Lassonde Innovation Awards

3d golden star golden with lighting effect on black background. Template luxury premium award design. Vector illustration

In early June, at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, the Research Awards Celebration honoured four of its faculty members who demonstrated excellence in research, knowledge translation and student mentoring carried out in the last three years.

“This year’s recipients of the Lassonde Innovation Awards (LIA) embody the vision of our School,” says Magdalena Krol, associate dean of research, innovation, enterprise and partnerships at the School. “They each have made incredible efforts to create positive change at Lassonde and throughout our wider communities. We are excited to see what amazing work they will do next and look forward to supporting their endeavours.”

The Lassonde Innovation Awards (LIA) were part of a celebration that further honoured a total of 60 faculty members for their positive contributions to Lassonde and beyond, with half of the achievements representing interdisciplinary work and addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

“World-class research and teaching are of critical importance as we cultivate new ideas, knowledge and contribute towards a more sustainable world for all,” says Lassonde Dean Jane Goodyer. “Our faculty members are creating local and global impact, in addition to raising Lassonde’s reputation as a first-rate engineering and science School on the international stage.”

This year’s LIA winners are:

Innovation Award (Early Career Researcher): Hina Tabassum, assistant professor, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Hina Tabassum
Hina Tabassum

Tabassum, who leads the Next Generation Wireless Networks (NGWN) research lab, is focused on developing solutions for 5G/6G wireless networks, addressing their performance, design, modelling, analysis and optimization, as well as problems related to mobility management, traffic offloading and resource management. Tabassum’s extensive research output has significantly contributed to elevating York University’s telecommunications ranking, which is currently among the top 150 schools globally, according to ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Tabassum has been named one of the 10 Rising Stars in N2Women: Rising Stars in Networking and Communications List and recorded in the Stanford’s List of the World’s Top 2% Researchers in 2021 and 2022. Demonstrating enthusiasm for her research field, Tabassum is an active senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), served on technical program committees for over 26 different conferences, held editorial roles for six prestigious journals and continues to commit to her position as the founding Chair of IEEE ComSoc RCC Special Interest Group (SIG) on Terahertz Communications. Tabassum was also the Chair of Lassonde’s Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WiCSE) from 2018 to 2020, providing opportunities for students to develop essential engineering skills and serving as an exceptional role model to women in engineering.

Innovation Award (Established Researcher): Jinjun Shan, professor, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering

Jinjun Shan
Jinjun Shan

Recognized as an international expert for research on space and autonomous systems, Shan founded the Spacecraft Dynamics, Control and Navigation Laboratory at York University nearly 20 years ago and continues to conduct innovative work in areas such as space instrumentation, multi-agent systems and unmanned vehicles. His research output has contributed to several national and international space missions, including Canada’s Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) – the world’s first space telescope used to track both celestial objects and man-made resident space objects (RSO).

In recent work, Shan has been highly focused on the development of autonomous systems, including self-driving cars, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV).

He has secured over $5 million in research grants, produced over 200 publications and holds two patents. He is currently leading related projects with substantial funding ($2.5 million) from Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security (IDEaS), the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Mitacs Accelerate and Canadian Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI JELF). Shan was also elected as a Fellow of Engineering Institute of Canada in 2021, American Astronautical Society in 2022 and Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2023.

Graduate Mentorship Award: Sunil Bisnath, professor, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering

Sunil Bisnath
Sunil Bisnath

Bisnath’s contributions to global navigation satellite systems research have led to over 100 publications, $4 million in research grants, and numerous collaborations with industry leaders, including Honeywell Aerospace, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Union.

He has also demonstrated exceptional commitment to the mentorship of his graduate students, encouraging his students to pursue competitive internships, world-leading international conferences and publishing numerous papers.

In addition, his guidance has led his graduate students to obtain positions with notable organizations following graduation, including Rx networks, MDA Ltd., NovAtel, the Canadian Space Agency, NASA and more.

Students commend his efforts to create a family-like research environment that exemplifies equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) principles. His graduate students often refer to their research group as a “miniature United Nations,” with the majority of members being visible minorities or belonging to underrepresented groups in STEM.

Public Engagement Award: Solomon Boakye-Yiadom, associate professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Solomon Boakye-Yiadom
Solomon Boakye-Yiadom

With Boakye-Yiadom’s research in advanced and structural materials and related applications, such as metal additive manufacturing, he actively brings his passion and expertise outside of the laboratory and classroom.

Collaborating with local school boards and educational programs, including Lassonde’s k2i academy and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO), Boakye-Yiadom has led panel discussions and presentations on various science and engineering topics.

He is especially dedicated to supporting underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM, providing educational opportunities for women and Black students, as well as taking part in motivational and informative discussions organized by the Harriet Tubman Institute and Canadian Black Scientist Network (CBSN). In 2021, Boakye-Yiadom hosted a summer camp for international high school students across Africa, offering hands-on experience with projects that explore programs in the fields of STEM, arts, business and entrepreneurship. Encouraging women to get involved in engineering, Boakye-Yiadom also pioneered programs to recruit female African students to York.

Learn more about the award winners and their prestigious accomplishments in research and impact on the Lassonde website.

Osgoode student, incoming instructor sees string of successes in June

a man holding a trophy

For his acclaimed doctoral research centred on the history of hate speech prosecution, Osgoode Hall Law School PhD student, incoming instructor and lawyer Kenneth Grad won four academic awards amidst another celebration at home.

Kenneth Grad portrait
Kenneth Grad

On June 7, Grad was awarded this year’s Peter Oliver Prize by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. A few days later, in the early morning of June 10, he and his wife welcomed their second daughter into the world. Later that same morning, he was notified that he had been named a co-winner of the Osgoode Society’s other major student prize: the R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History, valued at $10,000.

Receiving both the Peter Oliver Prize and the R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship – let alone in the same year – is a rare accomplishment. Then, on June 16, Grad was also awarded the Switzer-Cooperstock Student Prize by the Jewish Heritage Centre for Western Canada. In addition, he also recently received the Avrom Silver Graduate Research Fund Award from York University’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies.

A former criminal lawyer with the prominent Toronto firm Henein Hutchison Robitaille LLP, Grad received the awards for work produced in connection with his doctoral research. His dissertation is entitled “Prosecuting Hateful Speech: An Historical Analysis of Zundel, Keegstra, and the Criminal Law’s Ability to Protect Vulnerable Communities.

The Peter Oliver Prize is awarded annually for a published work on Canadian legal history written by a student and is named for the Osgoode Society’s founding editor-in-chief. The R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History was created in 2007 to help graduate students, or those with a recently completed doctorate, to conduct research on Canadian legal history for one year. It is named for the former chief justice of Ontario, attorney general and founder of the Society. The Switzer-Cooperstock Prize, established by the Switzer family to honour their parents and grandparents, is awarded for the best student essay on Jewish history in Western Canada. And the Avrom Silver award supports the research of graduate students affiliated with York’s Centre for Jewish Studies.

“It’s a huge honour,” Grad said of the awards. “The Osgoode Society does such great work in legal history and it’s just personally rewarding to be recognized by them. The same goes for the Jewish Heritage Centre for Western Canada and Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, which do incredibly valuable research in the area of Jewish history.

“It’s nice that all the work I’ve put in is paying off,” he added, “and it shows the relevance of my research – especially with the increase in transphobia, racism and hate speech, especially during the pandemic.”

Professor Patricia McMahon, who was on the selection committee for the Oliver Prize, said the Society received an exceptional number of strong submissions from students this year, but Grad’s work rose to the top.

“His article, ‘A Gesture of Criminal Law: Jews and the Criminalization of Hate Speech in Canada,’ stood out not just for its clear prose and excellent research,” she said, “but for telling a compelling story about the role of the Canadian Jewish Congress in the development of Canada’s hate speech laws more than 50 years ago.”

Grad said the award-winning paper and his dissertation both combine his legal interest in criminal law with his personal background as the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“Issues of racism and empowering minority groups are important to me – and that’s how I landed on this topic,” he explained.

He said his PhD studies at Osgoode have been “incredibly rewarding” but very hectic with the birth of his two daughters and the COVID-19 pandemic. He paid tribute to the support he’s received from his PhD supervisor, Professor Benjamin Berger, and his PhD committee members, Professors Philip Girard and Emily Kidd White.

Berger also paid homage to his accomplished doctoral student. “Kenneth is already a tremendous scholar, making creative and rich contributions to our understanding of Canadian legal history, pluralism and the complexity of public law,” he said. “I am so proud of the careful, compassionate approach he takes to his work and so pleased that he has received this recognition.”

Grad will teach a course on criminal law at Osgoode in the fall of 2023.