Continuing Studies Building earns gold for sustainable design

School of Continuing Studies Building

Further solidifying York University’s place as an international leader in sustainability, York’s School of Continuing Studies Building has achieved LEED Gold certification from the Canadian Green Building Council. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the global building industry’s premier benchmark for sustainability.

School of Continuing Studies Building
School of Continuing Studies Building exterior.

The six-story, 9,012-square-metre, 50-classroom building, which opened last spring at 68 The Pond Road on York’s Keele Campus, was designed by global architecture firm Perkins&Will, led by architects Safdar Abidi and Andrew Frontini. Its twisted design is said to symbolize the school’s twist on the traditional mission of continuing studies – that is, to solve Canada’s most pressing labour challenges by connecting employers to a highly skilled talent pool through innovative program offerings.

“Our stunning, architecturally twisted learning facility emphasizes sustainable practices, safeguards the environment and lowers operating costs,” said Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, assistant vice-president, Continuing Studies. “This purposeful design, with its abundant natural light and other innovative features, is welcoming and promotes a healthy atmosphere so we can focus on what matters most: excellence in programming and a vibrant community for student interactions.”

Some of the building’s most notable environmental features include: a self-generating heat recovery system; an infrastructure-ready, solar-powered water heater; a high-performing façade system for weather resistance; and daylight harvesting to offset electric lighting requirements. The building is believed to be well positioned to achieve net-zero emissions in the future due to its low energy consumption and ability to accommodate solar photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

But contrary to popular belief, LEED is not only about energy-efficient design. It also considers occupant wellness, an area where the School of Continuing Studies Building focused much attention. Designed with the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in mind, the building houses a lactation room for nursing mothers and a payer room, plus guide rails, automated doors, standing desks, screens for the visually impaired, elevators and large, wheelchair accessible hallways.

“LEED is a comprehensive sustainability objective,” explained Norm Hawton, director of design and construction for Facilities Services at York, “ranging from site selection and recycling of materials to designing for energy performance, minimizing waste, encouraging wellness – from daylighting to healthy commuting, by providing bicycle racks and showers – and thinking holistically about how this building will contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.”

According to Hawton, the LEED Gold certification could not have been achieved without the contributions of the School of Continuing Studies students, instructors and staff who were instrumental to both the scoping and design phases of the project, the University administrators, consultants, and construction and design teams.

“It was the collaborative participation by all throughout the project, from the initial building concept through to successful operations supporting continuing education, that led to LEED quantify the success of the School of Continuing Studies Building in this way,” he said.

In addition to this new sustainability certification, the building has also been recognized for its interior design achievements. Last October, the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) named it one of the most vibrant, innovative and inspiring educational spaces of the year – a true testament to York’s visionary leadership in the higher-education building space.

Teaching Commons seeks presenters for upcoming TiF conference in May

Speaker giving a talk in conference hall at business event. Audience at the conference hall.

By Elaine Smith

With a new vice-provost teaching and learning and an interim director of the Teaching Commons in place, York University’s annual Teaching in Focus (TiF) conference this May will have a slightly different look and feel, and a theme reflective of the times.

Mandy Frake-Mistak, the Teaching Commons’ interim director, and her team are seeking presenters for the two-day conference, which will be held in person this year on May 8 and 9. The theme for this year’s conference is Engaged Teaching in Times of Crisis and proposals are due on Feb. 29.

In addition to crisis-related presentations, there are opportunities for presentations about Academic Innovation Fund projects and experiential education/work-integrated learning. Presenters may speak individually, in teams or as panel members, and all faculty and graduate students are encouraged to consider taking part.

“Based on feedback from the Task Force on the Future of Pedagogy, we know that faculty members want more opportunities to communicate about what they’re doing in the classroom, and TiF will continue to be a great place for that to happen,” says Chloë Brushwood Rose, vice-provost teaching learning. “However, we also want to offer opportunities for conversations around philosophical and critical issues in teaching and learning, not only about practices. We want to highlight people who are thinking in interesting ways and from a range of perspectives about teaching and learning, especially in complex times.”

People are grappling with conflicts in the classroom and conflicts in the world simultaneously, explains Brushwood Rose. The role of the University, she believes, should be to provide a space to talk about pedagogy more broadly.

Frake-Mistak shares that view.

“When we see crisis on a global scale, we can’t help but bring it home, and it shapes how we process information and our dealings with our peers,” she says. “We are trying to support people through this. It’s one thing to share resources, but what about what happens in the classroom?”

And that is where TiF comes in.

The conference will also feature TiF Reads, a panel reminiscent of the popular Canada Reads competition on CBC Radio. Presenters can champion a teaching- or learning-related book, journal article or other resource that inspired them during the past year and attendees will vote for a winner.

“TiF has been a mainstay on our calendar since 2013 and we want to champion it so it is continually growing and getting better,” says Frake-Mistak. “We want to recognize the community who have dedicated their livelihoods to teaching and learning; there are so many unsung heroes. It’s an opportunity to bring people together to champion teaching and learning and propel it forward.”

Brushwood Rose agrees.

“We look forward to TiF being as well attended and energizing as ever.”

Take this opportunity to fill out a presenter’s application form.

Exhibit celebrates Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year dragon BANNER

York University’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) has mounted a Chinese New Year display as part of the World Cultures Celebrations initiative to appreciate and respect cultural diversities and festivals around the world.

Chinese New Year display
Chinese New Year display.

The Chinese Studies program is exhibiting artistic calligraphy, artifacts, drawings and narratives in the DLLL office, in S580 Ross Building, to present the traditions, customs and festivities of the holiday.

Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of the Chinese lunar calendar to honour deities and ancestors. This festival is widely rejoiced in China and in Chinese diasporic communities around the world. Traditional customs include family reunion dinners, dragon or lion dancing, firecrackers, red envelopes, paper cutting and couplets with blessings of good health and fortune.

“The Chinese program organized the Chinese New Year display to enhance Chinese cultural literacy in the York community to destabilize stereotypes and to co-construct a multicultural society in Canada,” said Professor Jessica Tsui-yan Li, co-ordinator of the program. “This exhibition offered students valuable experiential education opportunities to explore the cultural meaning and practices of the New Year of the Dragon.”

Chinese language instructors Professor Gang Pan, Anna Hui Wang, Jenny Jing Zhang and Renee Rui Wang worked together with their students to put together the display, which is free and open to the entire York University community during business hours until Feb. 16.

Public matters: York partners on project advocating for public education systems

classroom with desks and chairs BANNER

York University has joined together with five other organizations to create the Public Education Exchange (PEX), an initiative to investigate the future of public education by making research more available, providing policymakers with valuable insights and engaging the public.

Sometimes organizations are formed from a single source of inspiration – an idea, a spark, a challenge, a singular moment or movement. PEX’s inception was not triggered by a single event, but a recent shift in public education.

Private actors – whether parents, religious institutions, businesses or other non-governmental organizations – have become increasingly involved in public education systems. In tandem, there has been the emergence of new policies and practices in public schools that risk undermining public education and exacerbating inequalities.

Sue Winton
Sue Winton

With this shift, information and dialogue is needed, but hasn’t always been available. PEX was created to help provide that.

“The decision to pursue the PEX came from the challenges I faced accessing research on education privatization across Canada and concerns about the possibility for accelerated privatization during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sue Winton, the PEX project director, York Research Chair in Policy Analysis for Democracy and a professor in the Faculty of Education.

PEX is a collaboration between the University of Windsor, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. The joint effort secured funding from a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant in the spring of 2023 to pursue its mission of connecting researchers, advocates, policymakers, and the public to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange. “It’s about making information accessible to everyone and creating spaces for meaningful conversations,” Winton asserts.

education-privatization-illustration
An infographic featured on the PEX website.

The initiative is still in its early stages, with plans to build a network of collaborators, researchers and advocates across the country, but it has already made notable progress. For instance, the project’s website serves as the online hub for the network and features information and resources. However, Winton envisions the PEX as more than just a website; it will be a dynamic network of individuals engaging through online webinars, in-person meetings and community-based dialogues.

Through these offerings, Winton explains, PEX will look to advocate for a robust public education system that prioritizes collective benefits over individual gains. “We believe in highlighting the successes and potentials of public education while pointing out the potential damage caused by privatization policies,” she says. “The focus is on fostering a system that embodies equity, reflects democratic values and prioritizes the collective well-being of society.

“I truly believe that by coming together and sharing our insights, we can shape a future where public education remains a cornerstone of our democratic society,” she adds.

Call for nominations: Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award

Students walking on Keele Campus in winter

The heart and soul of a university is made up of so much more than academics alone – it is the passionate teachers, the dedicated staff, and the students who go above and beyond to help make their community a more welcoming, inspiring place. The Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recognizes those students, whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development and vitality of York University. All York students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to submit nominations for this award. 

Established in 2012, the award is named after Robert J. Tiffin, who served as York’s vice-president of students, for nine years. Through his strong leadership, dedication and integrity, Tiffin transformed his team into one of the leading student service organizations in the country, serving one of Canada’s largest student populations. 

Award nominees must be current undergraduate or graduate students who exhibit leadership, dedication, integrity, enthusiasm and the pursuit of excellence through their endeavours. Winners will be selected based on leadership and/or involvement in the York community and outstanding academic achievement. Recipients will be honoured at an awards reception, have their name permanently added to the awards display in the Vari Hall Rotunda, receive a certificate and have the award noted on their transcript. 

Winners – as was the case last year – span a range of faculties, degree programs, disciplines and fields.

Nomination packages are submitted online, using templated questions, and must include the following: 

  • a primary nominator submission (maximum of 500 words); 
  • a secondary nominator representing one nominating constituency (York University students, staff, faculty or alumni) not represented by the primary nominator (maximum of 350 words); 
  • a candidate submission that describes how co-curricular involvement at York University has affected their post-secondary experience and helped to enhance the quality of life on campus (maximum of 500 words); and 
  • a current resumé/CV, including detailed descriptions of involvement at the University, submitted by the student. 

The nomination package deadline is Friday, March 15. Submissions must be completed through the online submission form

Visit the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award website for more information. For any other questions, email the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students at vpstudents@yorku.ca.

CHREI workshops to spotlight anti-racism and Black inclusion

group of diverse York students

Engaging in the work of equity and inclusion requires reflection and capacity building, which is why in celebration of Black History Month, the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion (CHREI) is offering a series of four workshops (three in English, one in French) throughout the month.

Titled “A Spotlight on Intersectional Anti-Racism Work and Black Inclusion,” the series is tied to CHREI’s ongoing Rights, Equity, Decolonizing, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) Mini-Series of workshops. Those who attend three sessions can receive a special course certificate.

The ongoing workshop series focuses on various themes and topics covering human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion and is open to all faculty, staff and students at York University. Sessions are interactive and instructor-led by members of the CHREI education team.

Acknowledging and Addressing Racism
Feb. 5, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This workshop will help participants gain an understanding of how to recognize racism, how it can manifest and its impacts. Participants will learn strategies to address barriers to inclusive spaces and become familiar with relevant tools, policies and legislation.

Register for the Acknowledging and Addressing Racism workshop.

Black Inclusion: Historic and Current Efforts to Dismantle Anti-Black Racism
Feb. 14, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This session will follow the birth and development of anti-Black racism globally and locally, and the efforts to dismantle it. Through case studies and scenarios, participants will gain tools to respond to anti-Black racism in effective and sustainable ways.

Register for the Black Inclusion workshop.

Do the Work: Intervening on Racism
Feb. 26, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

This workshop will be highly participation-based and will ask attendees to design strategies and tools to intervene in moments of racial discrimination, harassment and microaggressions. Prior familiarity with these concepts is recommended.

Note: Participants are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one of the workshops above before attending this session.

Register for the Do the Work workshop.

[En Français/In French] Reconnaître et aborder le racisme
29 février, 10h00 à 11h30

Cet atelier aidera les participants à comprendre comment se manifeste le racisme, et quels sont ses impacts. Les participants découvriront des stratégies visant à éliminer les obstacles aux espaces inclusifs et s’exerceront à interrompre les commentaires racistes.

Register for the Reconnaître et aborder le racisme workshop.

Visit the REDDI Workshop Series website for more details.

Faculty of Health helps students take their learning global

airplane landing at dusk banner

The world, as the saying goes, is a classroom, and a special award from the Faculty of Health is making it easier for students to access it. The Global Health Travel Award provides students with funding to help cover travel and accommodation expenses, empowering them to pursue global learning opportunities that can make an impact on their academic and career paths.

The Global Health Travel Award is among several opportunities the Faculty of Health extends to support its students looking to pursue global learning, and it ties to the University’s larger active efforts to reduce financial barriers to international experiences for students, encouraging the development of global citizenship, interpersonal skills, adaptability and more.

The award is given to Faculty of Health undergraduate students who want to complete a global health project as part of a single-term (11-week) international placement that meets the requirement of their academic program.

During the Winter 2024 term, nine students will be able to travel to countries such as Jordan, Ghana, Kenya, Denmark, Germany and Belize thanks to the award. They will gain experiences echoing those of the following current and past students from the Global Health Promotion & Disease Prevention program within York’s School of Global Health whose journeys illustrate the impact the international opportunity and award can have.

Autumn Langford, current student

Langford, who will be graduating following the completion of her practicum, recently won the travel award to journey to Kenya to focus on HIV prevention, particularly among adolescent girls. There, she’ll observe and seek to understand how Kenyan communities address health issues, acknowledging the unique differences from handling HIV in Toronto.

Langford credits the bursary for being pivotal to the opportunity because she is juggling part-time work to cover her other expenses. Without it, her Kenya plans might have faced a financial roadblock. It covered essential needs and unforeseen expenses, such as mandatory immunization for global travel, ensuring her health and safety during the stay.

Daniel Ramlogan, alumnus

Ramlogan saw his academic journey at York culminate with a global health practicum in the Middle East. With the $5,000 of support from the award, he was able to travel to Amman, Jordan, to pursue a placement with the Jordan Health Aid Society International.

The relief from financial concerns, which he describes as a significant weight lifted off his shoulders, allowed Ramlogan to fully engage in the cultural and learning experience. In the process, his passion for research and program development were sparked, resulting in two successful projects: workshops on gender-based violence and sexual health in Amman, and a grant for the Za’atari refugee camp’s medical facilities. Recognized by the Jordanian government and donors, Ramlogan’s contributions continue to positively impact lives, even after his departure.

Mahilet Girma, alumna

The funding Girma received from his award allowed her to travel to Brazil to pursue an opportunity to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). There, she played a key role in crafting a training module for community health workers, and she emerged from the experience more confident and with more polished social and professional skills. Her journey wasn’t just an academic and professional, though – it ignited personal growth.

To learn more about awards issued, visit the Global Learning website.

Creative writing feedback available from writer-in-residence

female student journalist writing

No matter your profession, creative writing is a healthy way to disconnect from reality, stretch the limits of your mind and tap into your imaginative side. And regardless of your experience level, feedback is always beneficial. As part of the York University English Department’s Writer-in-Residence Program, esteemed Toronto author Emma Healey is offering appointments to York students, faculty, staff and alumni to discuss their fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction projects.

Emma Healey
Emma Healey

The Writer-in-Residence Program is aimed at supplementing the University’s creative writing courses by providing the community with access to a professional writer for personalized feedback and support, with a new individual being brought on each fall and winter term.

As the Winter 2024 writer-in-residence, Healey – whose most recent book, Best Young Woman Job Book: A Memoir (Penguin Random House Canada, 2022), was named a best book of the year by the Globe and Mail, Wired Magazine and CBC Radio – is available for four one-on-one manuscript consultations per week that might include editorial feedback or suggestions toward publication. Written submissions for review are due to her at least 10 days prior to each scheduled meeting.

In addition to the feedback sessions, Healey will serve the York community by hosting four public-facing, writing-related events throughout the term that allow her to showcase her expertise and knowledge as a working writer in Canada. Information about those events will be released as it becomes available.

For more details or to secure an appointment with Healey, visit the Writer-in-Residence Program web page.

Building pathways to education: a Q-and-A with Professor Carl James

Two Black students outside on York's Keele Campus

Studies have shown that Black students are significantly under-represented on Canadian post-secondary campuses, due in large part to systemic barriers. The Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, now fully endowed and housed within York University’s Faculty of Education, aims to address this disparity and others by advancing access, equity, and inclusivity to education through community engagement and collaborative action.

Carl James
Carl James

Distinguished Research Professor Carl James, who has held the position of Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora since 2016, met with YFile to discuss the Chair, his role within it and what the recent $1.5 million in federal funding means for its future.

Q: For those who are unfamiliar, can you describe the mandate of the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora?

A: We work with community to enable and support students from racialized and marginalized groups through education; not only through elementary, middle and high school, but through university and college as well.

Q: What is your focus in your role as Chair?

A: I’m very interested in programming because it is a useful reference for knowing about the experiences and concerns of Black community members and students. In this way, we get to know about the research questions we might want to explore. There’s a tendency to separate research from program, but I think Jean Augustine expects the Chair to combine research with programs. It is simply not research for research’s sake. Instead, once you do the research, we should act on it.

I particularly like the participatory action research we do, where we set up a program and then, as the program proceeds, we research the program – is it working, is it not working, and why? And as we conduct the research, we might put into place some adjustments to the program if it’s not heading towards the expected outcome. Hence, when we’re promoting the idea that a particular program works, we will be able to say the program works because we have done the necessary research and have some documented evidence. We use the participants as researchers, as well, collaborating with them about the information we’re trying to gather.

Q: Can you explain what it means that the Chair is now fully funded?

A: The federal government’s recent $1.5-million contribution towards the endowment means that the Chair is well positioned to continue with its activities. It also means that we now have endowment funds to create some of the programs we’ve been wanting to.

Q: What is the Day at York program?

A: The Day at York program, which has hosted over 450 students from Ontario (and some from Halifax, Nova Scotia) in the past year and a half, provides Black students enrolled in Grades 7 to 12 with an opportunity to imagine themselves at a post-secondary institution.

We can tell students to go to university, but it’s difficult to imagine if you don’t have something to stimulate or inform that imagination. This program helps insofar as students are able to attend lectures, workshops, campus tours, and networking sessions with students, alumni and Black faculty members.

When students think of, where should I go to university, sometimes familiarity with an institution might help them to choose a particular university or program. It provides many opportunities that students would not have otherwise had.

Q: What are your proudest accomplishments in this role so far?

A: One of the things I’m particularly pleased with is the Jean Augustine Chair (JAC) Student Network, which involves Black undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates. The group contributes to the work of the Chair by sharing their experiences navigating university and working to be successful in their respective educational programs. Members act as hosts and mentors to high-school students who come on campus; and they do not only help to inform and contribute to the Chair’s research agenda, they also participate in the research as respondents, research assistants and collaborators. Ultimately, the network provides members with opportunities for personal, educational, team building and work-related skill development in an affirming and supportive post-secondary educational environment.

Also, we have the Jean Augustine Chair’s annual Black History Month event that happens every year in partnership with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design’s music program. Called Word, Sound, Power: An Annual Celebration of Black Artistic Expression, it is a showcase of talent, creativity and cultural pride. It is taking place this year on Feb. 7. It is held in recognition of one of Jean Augustine’s legacies – that is, the crucial role she played in establishing Black History Month in Canada. Therefore, it seems logical to hold an event at York through the Chair.

Q: What are some other projects you’re working on as part of the Chair?

A: We’re currently conducting research on social capital, a significantly new area to explore. We’re looking at how individuals employ their social capital – that is, their cultural assets, interests, aspirations, education and consciousness of what is possible – to take advantage of opportunities by which they might access training and employment to realize their social, economic, career and other ambitions. In partnership with the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism and York University’s School of Continuing Studies, we will investigate the lived experiences and needs of racialized Canadians, using the three years of the project to collect data that will help to inform educational and employment program initiatives.  

As well, we recently received program funding from the RBC Foundation to put in place Securing Black Futures, a national partnership by which we might collectively work to build pathways for Black youth to pursue their educational goals and attain academic and career success. Led by us at York and working in partnership with colleagues from six universities across the country, the program activities will serve to inform us about relevant and appropriate educational and social interventions and supports for Black youth. We will also get to know how we might best mentor, enable, support and educate Black students in their pursuit of post-secondary education, as well as particular educational and career pathways – particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Q: Looking toward the future, how do you hope the now fully endowed Jean Augustine Chair will impact the lives of Black and marginalized youth in Canada?

A: I think that a fully endowed Chair is nicely positioned to continue with its current local, regional and national initiatives. These include: supporting students in constructing their aspirations, in their decision processes as they journey towards their future selves; facilitating the voices of Black Canadians as they tell of their experiences through the research we will conduct, report and publish; helping to build university-community partnerships through which we might help to address structural and institutional barriers to full inclusion and equity of Black and other racialized people within Canadian society; and making substantial research contributions about Black life in Canada, taking into account education, employment, health and housing needs. 

Q: How important is the York University community to the success of the Chair?

A: We cannot underestimate the support that York University has given the Chair, both financial and otherwise. Neither can we underestimate the contributions of the Faculty of Education, faculty members from across the University, our community advisory committee, and our partners at York University centres such as the Harriet Tubman Institute and the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean. It’s this whole network of people that enables the work of the Chair.

Osgoode leads in applications for third year running

Osgoode Hall Law School

For the third consecutive year, York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School has attracted more applications for its juris doctor (JD) program than any other law school in Ontario – and, according to school administrators, this is no coincidence.

Recently released statistics from the Ontario Law School Application Service, a division of the Ontario University Application Centre in Guelph, Ont., reveal that Osgoode received 2,867 applications in 2023 for its 2024-25 first-year class of 315 students.

Marcos Ramos Jr.
Marcos Ramos Jr.

“I think one powerful thing that our admissions numbers show is that we are highly desired, highly sought after,” said Marcos Ramos Jr., manager of admissions and student financial services at Osgoode.

“But also,” he added, “when you look at our numbers closely, we have one of the most diverse classes of students within Canada, if not the most.”

That impressive diversity, he said, is a reflection of the law school’s long-standing holistic admissions policy – which takes into account more than just grades or Law School Admission Test scores. When considering potential students, Osgoode’s recruiters look beyond strong academic skills to each applicant’s life story and passions.

“Show me the passion,” said Ramos Jr. “Show me how you want to contribute.”

Osgoode also prioritizes a determined effort by recruiters to create Canada’s most diverse law school because, Ramos. Jr said, law students educated in that environment simply become better lawyers.

“Academics are essential,” he noted, “but what makes an excellent lawyer is your social skills. And we’re bringing to students an understanding of different walks of life – be it class, race, or creed.”

In the process, Osgoode hasn’t just created a highly sought after and diverse law school. It’s helping make the legal field – and the world – a better place.