Students can explore career paths, meet alum at Connections events

A virtual classroom displayed on an open laptop

A series designed to bring York University students and alum together for career conversations returns this fall for the sixth consecutive year, with the first event scheduled for Sept. 27.

Students and alumni at a previous Connections event
Students and alumni at a previous Connections event

Launched by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies development team, the Connections: Speed Mentoring and Networking series presents five events that put students and alum together for a fast-paced evening of conversation. The events present an opportunity for students to ask questions, make connections and learn more about potential career paths.

“As a student struggling to choose a career path, it provided me with a lot of insight,” said previous attendee, third-year student Kigi Abaiowei. “It also relieved some of the pressure that comes with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what to do after university.”

Guest alumni mentors attending include vice-presidents, chief financial officers, and entrepreneurs who each bring breadth of experience and knowledge from their various fields.

For this academic year, upper year and graduate students can register for the following events:

  • Careers in Economics Accounting and Finance, Sept. 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. – register here;
  • Leveraging my Liberal Arts Degree, Nov. 21 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. – register here for this in-person event;
  • Careers in HR Management, Jan. 31, 2024, from 5 to 7 p.m. – register here;
  • Careers in English or Creative Writing, Feb. 13, 2024, from 5 to 7 p.m. – register here; and
  • Careers in Information Technology, Feb. 28, 2024, from 5 to 7 p.m. – register here.

For more information about Connections and event details, visit yorku.ca/laps/connections.

Book examining portrait of Black life longlisted for prestigious award

Black woman reading book

Christina Sharpe, a professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies at York University, was recently recognized by the National Book Foundation for her new book, Ordinary Notes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan Publishers, 2023). Longlisted for the National Book Award for non-fiction, Sharpe’s book was named among nine other finalists for the prestigious award, out of 638 publisher submissions in the non-fiction category.

Christina Sharpe close-up portrait
Christina Sharpe

This year’s longlisted authors have been previously honoured by the Orwell Prize, the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize and the Pulitzer Prize.

Ordinary Notes has received overwhelming praise for its literary innovation and careful examination of profound questions about loss and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. In a series of 248 notes that gather meaning as they’re read, Sharpe skillfully weaves artifacts from the past – public ones alongside others that are poignantly personal – with present realities and possible futures, intricately constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence.

Sharpe’s previous book, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, was named one of the best books of 2016 by the Guardian and was a non-fiction finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

The 74th National Book Awards shortlist will be announced on Oct. 3 and the winners will be revealed on Nov. 15, at a special ceremony and dinner. For more information about the awards, visit nationalbook.org.

Desjardins Group funding helps expand entrepreneurial programs at York

diverse group of workers collaborating in meeting room

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.

Health professor elected president of prestigious sociology association

basketball resting on court

Parissa Safai, a professor in York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Faculty of Health, has been elected to serve as president of the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA), effective Jan. 1, 2024 and until 2028.

Parissa Safai
Parissa Safai

Established in 1965, ISSA is an international scholarly organization in the field of the sociology of sport. ISSA is affiliated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), collaborates with the International Sociology Association by leading Research Committee 27 (Sociology of Sport) and is responsible for producing the International Review for the Sociology of Sport journal.

Safai has served as general secretary of ISSA since 2020, and when she assumes her new role in January, will be the first York faculty member to serve as president of the association. “The opportunity to lead and support the international sociology of sport community through the ISSA is exciting and very meaningful for me,” she says. “The association represents a scholarly home for many from all over the world, a place where we can continue to safely engage in dialogue and debate about sport and physical culture through a sociological lens. Maintaining and protecting such a space is critical, as some of our members in some areas of the world are increasingly facing restrictions on what they can freely study and teach.”

Representing a community of diverse scholars, ISSA works to promote international co-operation in the field of the sociology of sport; exchange information gathered through research; convene international congresses, seminars and symposia; identify sociological problems in sport and organize international research programs to address them; oversee and co-ordinate ISSA’s official publications; and co-operate with other committees, groups and organizations to solve problems of mutual interest.

“ISSA is a critically important community for scholars, exploring the social, political economic, historical and cultural complexities of sport,” says Safai. “Sport is truly a global phenomenon, and its sociological study affords us opportunity to interrogate the intricate ways it can be used to reproduce inequity or to advance social justice.”

At ISSA, she says, she will be working alongside colleagues who share her vision of the association as an inclusive global scholarly community. “One of my top priorities as the incoming president will be to continue to increase the diversity and accessibility of our association and its journal, especially for Global South scholars and scholars for whom English is not their first language,” she says.

Beyond ISSA, Safai’s research and teaching interests focus on the critical study of sport at the intersection of risk, health and health care, as well as sport and social inequality, with focused attention paid to the impact of gender, socio-economic and ethnocultural inequities on accessible physical activity for all. She served as interim associate dean, teaching and learning in the Faculty of Health from 2017 to 2018; and from January 2021 to April 2022, she served as special advisor to the president for academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response.

For more information about ISSA, visit issa1965.org.

Women entrepreneurs thrive thanks to York, Visa Canada partnership

Two Black women at a boardroom table

By Lindsay MacAdam, communications officer, YFile

Last month, Visa Canada announced the 10 recipients of its 2023 She’s Next Grant Program in partnership with York University, supporting women-owned businesses spanning a wide range of consumer products and services. The program rewards business owners with a $10,000 grant and a four-month mentorship from York’s YSpace ELLA accelerator program.

David Kwok
David Kwok

“We are so excited to be partnering with Visa and their She’s Next program to support women entrepreneurs across the country,” said David Kwok, associate director of entrepreneurship at Innovation York. “By pairing the $10,000 grant with expertise mentorship that is catered to business needs, we are driving tangible impacts with each business we support. This partnership will not only elevate York University’s brand as a premier entrepreneurial hub, but also position YSpace ELLA, our women’s accelerator program, as an exceptional resource for women entrepreneurs.”

ELLA is providing the Visa She’s Next Grant Program recipients with valuable mentorship, access to educational resources and networking opportunities. “We offer a bespoke experience by ensuring each participant sets up objectives and key results, and uses the mentorship to drive those,” said Kwok. “The participant connects with the mentors on a biweekly basis to drive through strategic elements, while working with our team to ensure progress and accountability.”

Out of the thousands of applicants to this year’s Visa She’s Next Grant Program, 10 inspiring entrepreneurs were selected as winners, and here are three of their stories.

Nuria Madrenas

Nuria Madrenas
Nuria Madrenas

Nuria Madrenas is the founder of Tacit, an online art gallery and consultancy dedicated to amplifying female creatives to the emerging art collector. Madrenas graduated from York with a bachelor of arts in communications in 2016 and worked in public relations and marketing for various fashion and lifestyle brands before her foray into entrepreneurship. As an artist herself, and having worked with many artists on campaigns and events, she recognized a gap in the market between the entry-level art marketplaces and the often intimidating world of high-end art. Tacit occupies that space in between.

“I would always ask [artists], ‘Where do you sell your work?,’ ” she said. “It felt like there was no suitable platform. It was either these entry-level, oversaturated marketplaces, where you’re competing with makers of all kinds, or the intimidating world of blue-chip art that felt out of reach at the time.”

After doing some research, Madrenas discovered a disturbing disparity between women and men in the visual arts: women account for a mere two per cent of all art sold. “So I set out to create this platform that solved the many pain points I found,” she said.

Madrenas started her business back in 2019 with 10 local artists, and has since expanded to upwards of 70 – from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia. Beyond the e-commerce site, Tacit also provides art consultancy services for both residential and commercial clients.

This was Madrenas’s third time applying to the Visa She’s Next Grant Program, and her persistence finally paid off with this full-circle moment: “I graduated seven years ago, and now to get that mentorship from my alma mater, it’s really exciting,” she said. “I’ve been on my own throughout this process, and I find that sometimes it’s a bit isolating. I’m excited to get some fresh, new perspectives, and to get support from somebody with B2B experience…. I’ve identified that as an area of focus.”

Natalie Sabri

Natalie Sabri
Natalie Sabri

Natalie Sabri is the founder of The Dough Parlour, which manufactures sweet, fruit-scented play dough made from non-toxic, all-natural, food-grade ingredients. The mother of four has an undergraduate degree in political science, and studied early childhood education before becoming a preschool teacher and eventually opening her own preschool business.

But after spending nearly a decade experimenting with homemade play dough recipes for her children that other parents would always ask about, Sabri decided to pivot into consumer packaged goods. She branded her sweet-smelling play dough around the idea of an old-fashioned ice-cream parlour, where customers choose their own scents, and that has been her main differentiator in the market.

“Everything that goes into our play dough is food grade,” said Sabri, “so if a child puts it in their mouth by mistake, it’s it’s 100 per cent safe.”

Based in Oakville, Ont., the company launched in 2017, and Sabri made an appearance on CBC’s “Dragons’ Den” just four months later, where she happily accepted a business deal from Boston Pizza founder Jim Treliving.

Her e-commerce business has been steadily growing ever since, with a recent, unexpected boost from famous moms Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen, who accepted her unsponsored product gifting and decided to share their delight on Instagram. “[Kardashian] called it the best-smelling, cutest play dough she’s ever seen,” said Sabri, “and our business saw $25,000 in sales overnight. That’s why they call them influencers, right?”

The Dough Parlour also has a presence in well-known retailers such as Indigo and Anthropologie, and Sabri hopes to take the business overseas in the coming years with the help of the Visa She’s Next Grant Program and the accompanying YSpace ELLA mentorship.

Coincidentally, Sabri enrolled in the ELLA Ascend program in June, just two weeks before finding out she had been selected as a recipient of the Visa grant. The win will extend the length of her existing mentorship by four months, and she couldn’t be more grateful.

“I have three amazing mentors in the ELLA program,” said Sabri. “They have a wealth of knowledge that they so lovingly give to to us. The mentorship has really helped with structuring my business and directing me to loans and government programs. And even from a therapeutic perspective, having them listen to the daily struggles that [women entrepreneurs] go through and offering support has been so valuable.”

Chantal Bekhor

Chantal Bekhor
Chantal Bekhor

Born and raised in Montreal, Chantal Bekhor, founder of VG Gourmet Vegetarian Foods, worked as an elementary school teacher for a decade before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey in 2015.

As a consumer of plant-based products for many years, Bekhor saw a gap in the market for a burger made with fresh, gourmet ingredients and without the preservatives and fillers that are all-too common in meat alternatives. She decided to set out to find a partner kitchen to produce her vegan burger recipes, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Today, VG Gourmet has over 13 products available in more than 1,500 grocery stores and restaurants throughout Canada, including Whole Foods and Farm Boy, and she’s hoping to expand to new markets with the help of the the Visa She’s Next Grant.

“I was specifically interested in the mentorship that Visa was offering,” said Bekhor. “I thought this could be a really great opportunity for me to grow personally. I find, as an entrepreneur, it’s a little bit lonely. I’m hoping to learn a lot, and to be able to connect with the other entrepreneurs.”

And even though the program has barely kicked off, Bekhor has already benefited from the supportive community it has provided: “We had an event in Toronto a couple weeks ago,” she said, “and it was so refreshing to talk to other women entrepreneurs. We’ve built a little community after spending only one day together – we clicked.”

About YSpace ELLA

ELLA is the women’s accelerator program offered by YSpace, York University’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub, with funding from the Government of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. The ELLA team consists of experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds in business and entrepreneurship, who provide the tailored support that women entrepreneurs need to be successful.  

YSpace works to facilitate and maximize the commercial, economic, and social impacts of research and innovation, and to create a culture of engaged scholarship and experiential learning. To learn more about YSpace and its initiatives, visit yorku.ca/yspace.

York community supports Black inclusion through action

Black female students women alumni

York University’s second Annual Report on Black Inclusion is now available to the community. The annual report provides highlights and updates to the community on work and progress relating to York’s Framework on Black Inclusion and Action Plan on Black Inclusion.

Annual Report on Black Inclusion

The report outlines the progress made on the 81 calls to action under the nine thematic areas in the framework. In addition to renewing York’s commitment to addressing anti-Black racism, the report highlights that many partners across the York community encountered challenges in implementation and calls on the community to be supportive, collaborative and creative in finding solutions to overcome these challenges.

The community has continued to advance the work and supported more than 100 activities that took place across the University in the second year of implementation. Continued support from community members and efforts toward combating anti-Black racism on York’s campuses will be significant in working toward systemic change based on the guiding values in the framework.

“The actions reported in the Annual Report on Black Inclusion are aimed at breaking down the systematic barriers that for too long have affected the Black community on our campuses,” said Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture, Alice Pitt. “York continues to be committed to social justice and addressing the impact of anti-Black racism and white supremacy that pervades academia. Transformation of systems and colonial institutions takes time, and the York community is taking up the work to enable such transformation.”

York University remains a signatory to the Scarborough Charter and is committed to promoting intersectional Black flourishing, fostering inclusive excellence, enabling mutuality and ensuring accountability. In addition, the recently launched Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy connects to plans across the University, including the Framework on Black Inclusion.

For a detailed review of the actions undertaken across the University community, visit: Annual Report on Black Inclusion.

York researchers publish study on cannabis-related acute care

Operation table in hospital

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

A new paper by York University researchers, titled “Disparities in cannabis-related emergency department visits across depressed and non-depressed individuals and the impact of recreational cannabis policy in Ontario, Canada,” was published in the journal Psychological Medicine, and considers the prevalence of cannabis use among people with depression, the possible resulting risk of cannabis-related emergency department (ED) visits and whether legalization may lead to more adverse events.

Antony Chum
Antony Chum

With $295,000 in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the study is the first of its kind to examine cannabis-related acute care rates and disparities in people with depression versus people without depression. Its aim was to better understand exactly how significant rates of ED visits were, then use subsequent findings to consider how those rates have been impacted since the legalization of marijuana in Canada in 2018 with the federal Cannabis Act.

“Hospital services represent one of the largest sources of public spending. We wanted to understand whether there are any ways to do cannabis legalization in a way that can help reduce some of these expenditures and adverse health events,” says Antony Chum, assistant professor in the Faculty of Health and Canadian Research Chair, of the desired outcome.

The study examined three time periods: the pre-legalization period, from October 2015 to 2018; phase one of legalization, from October 2018 to February 2020; and phase two, from March 2020 onwards.

The first stage of the study, indeed, found that people with depression in Ontario have a four times higher risk of cannabis-related acute care. But the research team discovered something unexpected in the data since 2018.  

Chungah Kim
Chungah Kim

“Probably the biggest surprise is that recreational cannabis legalization wasn’t associated with a subsequent increase in ED visits in this depressed group,” says Chungah Kim, postdoctoral researcher at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science.

“It’s not to say that this group are not at risk, or additional risk, compared with general population,” adds Chum. “But when cannabis became more available through legalization, we didn’t see a subsequent increase.”

Chum, Kim, and the rest of the team hope the study helps raise awareness around the risks of mental health and excessive cannabis use, as well as promotes potential policy considerations and adjustments.  

“The biggest takeaway is that the study highlights the importance of integrating mental health support with screening in the context of cannabis legalization. I think that policy-makers should consider initiatives, for example, that promote integration of mental-health services for cannabis use screening in primary care. This can help identify people with depression who might be at risk for cannabis-related adverse events, and provide appropriate support and intervention programs,” says Chum.

Lassonde dean earns honorary doctorate for dedication to accessible education

Award stock image banner from pexels

York University Lassonde School of Engineering Dean Jane Goodyer received an honorary doctor of technology degree from her alma mater, Coventry University in the United Kingdom, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to engineering education and her dedication to promoting women in engineering.

“I am deeply honoured,” said Goodyer. “While it was very challenging for me, as a first-generation learner who faced many personal struggles, to first earn my BEng (Hons.) in production engineering and to return to complete a PhD, my education has completely changed my life. The doors it opened have driven me to make education more accessible for other women and underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”

Dean Jane Goodyer receiving honorary degree
Jane Goodyer receiving her honorary degree

The honorary doctorate marked an occasion to celebrate not just Goodyer’s dedication to making education more accessible at York, but over the course of her career, such as her 12 years at Massey University, New Zealand, in various leadership roles, including head of the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology. While in New Zealand she also launched engineering outreach programs for girls across the country, as well as a Degree Apprenticeship pilot program and a fully work-integrated Digital Technologies degree program that is a uniquely flexible, cost-effective alternative to traditional university study, allowing learners to be fully employed and gain a qualification without going into debt.

Goodyer continues this work at Lassonde with initiatives like the k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy, engaging youth and Kindergaten to Grade 12 educators in hands-on, free STEM programs. Since 2020, k2i has reached 6,000-plus individuals in 175,000-plus hours of engagement and generated more than $5 million in funding. In Fall 2023, Goodyer will also be introducing the Degree Apprenticeship pilot program at York, the first of its kind in Canada.

In her role as Lassonde’s chief academic and administrative officer, Goodyer also leads an inclusive community of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs towards achieving Lassonde’s strategic academic goals. Goodyer is driven to make education more accessible, advancing women and other underrepresented groups in engineering.

“I’m passionate about collaborating with others to dismantle barriers and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable future in which every aspiring engineer is empowered to thrive,” said Goodyer.

Lassonde research advancing astronaut training

View of the Earth from space

To help inform more inclusive astronaut training, Professor Michael Jenkin from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering is gearing up for a project, “The Influence of Partial Gravity on the Perception of Self-Motion: Sex Differences (SMUG-PS),” which specifically focuses on women and their changes in perception of self-motion when exposed to partial gravity.

In space, unusual environments such as zero and partial gravity can significantly alter human perception of self-motion, leading to challenges with self-orientation and visual processing. Effective astronaut training is critical to ensuring survival and mission success. However, current training measures are based on heavily skewed data from human performance studies that concentrate on a very specific group of people.

Professor Jenkin floating in aircraft during parabolic flight
Professor Michael Jenkin floating in aircraft during parabolic flight

“People who are trained to go to space fit a very narrow superman type; they’re fit, young, healthy … and usually men,” says Jenkin. “Back in the day, most astronauts were men recruited from the military, but in the present day we want to send all kinds of people to space. We won’t be able to do this if training measures are only developed for a very specific group.”

Most research to date focuses on human responses to zero gravity; however, understanding the effects of partial gravity is becoming increasingly important for developing training methods to prepare astronauts for space missions involving the surface of the moon, Mars or other planets.

SMUG-PS is built on a previously conducted study, “The Influence of Partial Gravity on the Perception of Self-Motion (SMUG-P),” which focused solely on men. “We want to see if women respond differently to partial gravity than men,” says Jenkin. “If they do, we’ll need to change the way we’re training astronauts.”

Female study participants will undergo a series of repeated tests to measure their perceived distance of self-motion while aboard a thrilling, parabolic flight that ascends in a steep, curved pattern to simulate partial gravity conditions. Each test will be performed at various segments of the flight, including before and after, to develop a model of multi-cue integration processes.

Throughout the duration of the study, participants will wear a head-mounted display that simulates a virtual-reality environment, mimicking a long corridor. Participants will be asked to estimate their distance from an indicated target and will then experience a simulated forward motion towards it. When they believe they have reached the target, they are required to press a button. It is expected that this process will be easier said than done, as the partial gravity environment established by the parabolic flight will influence their perception of self-motion.

Results obtained from SMUG-PS will allow for a better understanding of how women process visual information in partial gravity conditions, to address issues in space and on earth. “By extending experiments to women, we can identify changes that need to be made to astronaut training measures to maximize mission success,” says Jenkin. Combined results from SMUG-P and SMUG-PS will also be used to inform the development of training and countermeasures to prepare astronauts for environments governed by partial gravity, thereby improving mission success as well as astronaut health and safety. Ultimately, these projects will be used to produce the first sex-balanced partial gravity perception of self-motion dataset.

In addition, these projects will establish crucial information that can advance global understanding of medical conditions affecting human perception of self-motion. “If we can understand how people respond to altered perception of their environments, we can provide stronger cues, like modifying the lighting or visual appearance of objects in someone’s home,” he says.

SMUG-PS will bring meaningful partnerships to Lassonde, through the collaborative efforts of Professor Robert Allison from Lassonde’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Professor Laurence Harris from York University’s Department of Psychology, as well as Nils-Alexander Bury and Professor Rainer Herpers from Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

New book examines feminist strategies to advance gender justice

Black woman reading book

A new book that explores how feminist strategies have influenced federal policy is based on research from York University’s Centre for Feminist Research (CFR).

Feminism’s Fight: Challenging Politics and Policies in Canada since 1970, published by UBC Press, is edited by York Professor Emerita Barbara Cameron and Professor Meg Luxton both of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Feminism’s Fight: Challenging Politics and Policies in Canada since 1970 book cover

The book is one outcome of the Gender and Public Policy research cluster organized by associates of the CFR. This edited collection consists of 13 chapters based on the research collaboration of the cluster and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded grants housed in the CFR.

Feminism’s Fight assesses feminist strategies to advance gender justice through federal policy from the 1970 Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women to the present. It outlines the transformation in how feminism has been treated by governments and asks how new ways of organizing and emerging alliances can advance a feminist agenda of social and economic equality.

The authors examine the ideas that feminists have put forward in pursuit of the goal of equality and traces the shifting frameworks employed by governments in response, and evaluate changing government orientations through the 1970s to 2020, revealing the negative impact on women’s lives and the challenges posed for feminists.

Feminism’s Fight asks two key questions: What are the lessons from feminist engagement with federal government policy over fifty years? And what kinds of transformative policy demands will achieve the feminist goal of social and economic equality?

The book will help inform researchers, graduate students and faculty in gender and women’s studies, political science, sociology, history and social work as well as those engaged in work relating to, or with an interest in, inequality, social justice and activism.

Find more information on the book here.