Prof’s new book reveals communicative capacities of textile

Peruvian Andes weaving patterns

Long before the invention of the typewriter or the telephone, and even before humankind had a functioning alphabet, communication was taking place through textile craft. Ganaele Langlois, a professor in York University’s Department of Communication & Media Studies, has published a new book exploring just that – the often-ignored transformative communicative capacities of traditional textiles.

A Shipibo-Conibo (Peruvian Amazon) design being drawn on textile using natural pigments. Photo by Ganaele Langlois.
Ganaele Langlois
Ganaele Langlois

How Textile Communicates: from Codes to Cosmotechnics (Bloomsbury, 2024) is a thought-provoking contribution to the fields of both fashion and communication studies, challenging readers’ preconceptions and shining new light on the profound impact of textiles on human communication.

Textile, Langlois explains, has been used as a medium of communication since the prehistoric period. Up until the 19th century, civilizations throughout the world manipulated thread and fabric to communicate in a way that she believes would astound many of us now.

“We often think of the digital as something that is brand new and contemporary, but the fact is that digital modes of communication such as textile weaving, knitting, lace-making, and so on have existed and been used as means of communication and information storage long before the invention of the alphabet,” says Langlois.

In the book, she dissects textile’s unique capacity for communication through a range of global case studies, before examining the profound impact of colonialism on textile practice and the appropriation of the medium by capitalist systems.

“I was intrigued as to why in my own field, communication and media studies, textile has never received the same in-depth treatment as other media,” she says. “I explain the reasons for this in this book – mostly related to colonialism and capitalist appropriation – and explore how traditional textile practices continue their important and unique work of communication today.”

Bestselling author to share publishing secrets at upcoming event

Pile of books

If you’ve ever fantasized about becoming a published author, or are simply curious about how the book industry works, you won’t want to miss this upcoming event. On Wednesday, Jan. 31, York University’s Writing Department and Creative Writing program are hosting a talk and Q-and-A session with Cody Caetano, a literary agent and award-winning Indigenous author whose bestselling debut memoir, Half-Bads in White Regalia (Penguin Random House Canada, 2022), won the 2023 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English.

Cody Caetano
Cody Caetano

Caetano, who is of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent and is an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation, holds a master of arts in creative writing from the University of Toronto, where he wrote his memoir under the mentorship of Indigenous Canadian writer and academic Lee Maracle.

The highly successful memoir that resulted, Half-Bads in White Regalia, was longlisted for the 2023 Toronto Book Award, the 2023 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and Canada Reads 2023. It was also named one of the best books of the year by the Globe and Mail and CBC Books.

To make his career trajectory even more impressive, Caetano was writing his bestselling debut memoir while working his way up the corporate ranks in the publishing industry, from his entry-level role as contracts administrator to his current job as a literary agent at the CookeMcDermid agency.

At this in-person event, the author and agent will speak about how to break into the book publishing industry and the challenges and rewards of being an author while also working a day job. After his talk and Q-and-A, he will read from his forthcoming novel and sign copies of his memoir.

The event will take place in the Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson Building, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Registration is not required and all York University community members are welcome to attend.

Students launch clothing drive for job seekers in need

Clothing donation

In competitive careers like law, first impressions can be last impressions if prospects don’t present a professional image. But for some law students, having the appropriate clothing for on-campus interviews or other formal occasions is not always a luxury they can afford. That’s why the Osgoode Venture Capital Law Society (OVCLS) is holding its first-ever clothing drive on Jan. 17 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Goodmans LLP Junior Common Room in the Ignat Kaneff Building on York University’s Keele Campus.

“Outside of the financial burden associated with attending law school, interviewing and recruitment periods also bear less obvious but equally burdensome costs associated with the process,” said Osgoode student Emma Kirwin, director of communications for the OVCLS.

“The cost of formal business attire can create an additional financial barrier that often goes unacknowledged,” she added. “Alleviating this burden can help students feel more confident, prepared and less stressed during an already stressful and arduous period.”

Emma Kirwin and Yianni Patiniotis
Emma Kirwin (left) and Yianni Patiniotis (right) of the Osgoode Venture Capital Law Society.

Yianni Patiniotis, a second-year student in Osgoode’s Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration Program and the co-director of external relations for OVCLS, said the organization hopes the inaugural clothing drive will become an annual event that involves other Osgoode student clubs.

“During recruitment and at other times when we’ve been in corporate business settings, we’ve realized how fortunate we were to not have to stress too much about the business attire that we were required to wear,” said Patiniotis.

“If anything,” he added, “we had options to choose from. But we recognized that not all our peers and colleagues have that luxury.”

OVCLS is seeking donations of lightly used suit jackets, dress pants, dress shirts, belts, ties, dress socks and shoes, including heels or flats for women.

The organizers plan to donate the clothing collected to Dress for Success Toronto and Suits Me Fine at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. Osgoode students who need business attire will need to access it through those charities.

York Circle Lecture Series presents experts on topical subjects

York Circle Lecture series

In collaboration with Jennifer Steeves, the York Circle Chair and associate vice-president research, the Office of Alumni Engagement invites the community to York University’s Keele campus for a new instalment of the York Circle Lecture series.

Beginning Nov. 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Life Sciences Building, prominent faculty members will delve into a diverse array of compelling subjects, reflecting the defining themes of York University.

The York Circle Lecture Series is held four times a year and is open to York’s community, including alumni and friends. Tickets are $5 and include coffee, light snacks and lunch.

Sessions will feature the guest speakers, and attendees will be asked to select one lecture from each session during registration.

10 a.m. sessions

Maxim Voronov
Maxim Voronov

Maxim Voronov, professor, organizational behaviour and industrial relations, Schulich School of Business, presenting “The good, the bad, and the ugly of authenticity.”

Authenticity seems ever-present in today’s society, and it has become an important research topic among organizational scholars. Much of the time, both scholars and practitioners see authenticity as unambiguously good. But we need to acknowledge the darker side of authenticity and explore its implications. The purpose of this talk is to explore “the good, the bad and the ugly” of authenticity, shifting the focus away from authenticity as an attribute of people and things and toward unpacking the process by which people and things are cast as authentic. A particular focus will be on unpacking the contribution of authenticity to both social good and social harm.

Emilie Roudier
Emilie Roudier

Emilie Roudier, assistant professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, presenting “Wildland fires: studying our blood vessels to better understand the impact on health.”

Over the past decade, the intensity and size of wildland fires have increased. Wildland fire seasons have lengthened, and these fires contribute to global air pollution. This presentation will highlight how wildland fire-related air pollution can impact our heart and blood vessels.

11:20 a.m. sessions

Usman Khan
Usman Khan

Usman Khan, associate professor and department Chair, Department of Civil Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, presenting “Harnessing the power of AI for flood forecasting.”

Floods are the most frequent weather-related natural disasters, affecting the largest number of people globally, with economic damages in excess of $900 billion (between 1994 and 2013). Globally, climate change and urbanization have led to an increase in floods in recent decades and this trend is projected to continue in the coming years, including in Canada. Despite this, Canada is the only G7 country without nationwide flood forecasting systems, which are key to saving lives and reducing the damages associated with floods. Hydroinformatics, the study of complex hydrological systems by combining water science, data science and computer science, attempts to improve traditional flood forecasting through the use of advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence (AI). This talk will outline recent research in this area and plans to build a Canada-wide, open-source, real-time, operational flood forecasting system that harnesses the power of AI to improves our ability to predict and prepare for floods.

Antony Chum
Antony Chum

Antony Chum, assistant professor, Canada Research Chair, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, presenting “The impact of recreational cannabis legalization on cannabis-related acute care in Ontario.”

This presentation will discuss the effects of cannabis legalization on cannabis-related acute care (emergency department visits and hospitalizations). The research conducted discovered specific impact patterns among different demographic groups. Additionally, the talk will delve into regional disparities and analyze the policy implications arising from the legalization process.

Since 2009, York Circle has showcased the ideas and research being generated by York University’s community. Topics come from every Faculty and have included discussions around gender issues, brain function, mental health, international aid, sports injuries, financial policy and many more evolving subjects.

Researcher’s report considers farmers’ mental health

harvester in field

Zsofia Mendly-Zambo, a researcher and PhD candidate at the School of Health Policy & Management at York University, has released a report looking at a mental health crisis among Canadian farmers.

The report, titled “Field Notes: Looking upstream at the farmer mental health crisis in Canada” and commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the National Farmers Union, considers the source of high rates of stress, depression and anxiety experienced by farmers.

Zsofia Mendly-Zambo

The report identifies economic uncertainty as a primary factor behind the ongoing mental health crisis, as market fluctuations and farmland consolidation has made it more difficult for farmers to remain competitive. Similarly, the climate crisis – and its impact on their crops and work – continues to cause anxiety for farmers.

The report also provides six recommendations to address farmers’ mental health, including proposals to pursue policies to improve economic stability, exploring more support of sustainable farming practices and food systems, investing in rural infrastructure that can provide more mental health-care access, and community support, to name some.

Mendly-Zambo’s report builds upon ongoing interdisciplinary researchdrawing on health sciences, policy, agriculture and food systems – to explore health equity and farmer mental health, as well as food security and sovereignty. Furthermore, it reflects her drive to identify areas where policy can improve the ongoing crises, as “Field Notes” will form the foundation for future postdoctoral research seeking to help push policymakers to further prioritize the economic and social well-being of farmers instead of financial growth.

“The importance of mental health resources for farmers and the need to improve them cannot be understated,” Mendly-Zambo emphasizes in the conclusion of the report. “It is critical, however, that governments address structural factors to improve the living and working conditions of farmers.”

Osgoode Fellow to focus on environmental law, Indigenous land rights

Trowbridge Conservation Area Thunder Bay Ontario Canada in summer featuring beautiful rapids and Canadian Forest with blue sky on summer

Osgoode Hall Law School master’s student Julia Brown, the 2023-24 Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic (EJSC) Fellow, hopes she can play a part in ensuring the development of Ontario’s mineral-rich Ring of Fire region, on First Nations land in the environmentally sensitive Hudson Bay Lowlands, does not take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous people who live there.

Julia Brown
Julia Brown

Brown will work with leaders of Neskantaga First Nation in an effort to draft the terms of a workable partnership with the Government of Canada as it prepares to undertake a regional environmental assessment prior to any mineral development. The assessment is taking place under Canada’s Impact Assessment Act, which replaced the Environmental Assessment Act in 2019.

Brown said the original terms of reference for the regional assessment gave First Nations in the area only token participation in the process. After strong pushback, the federal agency involved agreed to review the terms.

“That was disappointing,” she explained, “because this legislation was supposed to be a real improvement in terms of the roles that First Nations would play.

“That was a glaring omission,” she said. “Whether development should go ahead really should be up to the people who live there and whose land it is.”

While various levels of government have recognized the importance of reconciliation, they are still reluctant to give up control – especially when it comes to mineral wealth, Brown remarked.

The federal assessment will be among the first to look at a whole region; environmental assessments are typically project specific. Brown said the Ontario government has, to date, declined to participate in the federal process and is carrying out separate assessments focused only on proposed roads connecting the area to the provincial highway system.

“There is no precedent for the federal government in terms of how this regional assessment has to be structured,” she explained. “So we’ll be working on how it could be structured so there is a real partnership between First Nations and the federal government.”

Last year, Neskantaga First Nation marked its 10,000th day of being under a hazardous drinking water advisory, despite federal commitments to fix the problem. Located 463 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., the fly-in community is situated amid a vast wetland that acts as a huge carbon sink.

Some have called the region the “lungs of Mother Earth,” and the First Nations people there call the region the “Breathing Lands.” In total, the Ring of Fire region spans about 5,000 square kilometres and is rich in chromite, nickel, copper, platinum, gold, zinc and other valuable minerals – some of which are required for battery production.

Brown, who previously worked as a lawyer for Toronto-based OKT Law, the country’s largest Indigenous rights law firm, said she feels fortunate to be working with the Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic and its current director, Professor Dayna Nadine Scott – and the feeling is mutual.

“We feel very fortunate this year at the EJSC to have someone with Julia’s depth of knowledge and experience to be stepping into the role of clinic Fellow,” said Scott.

As part of her graduate research, Brown will focus on the issue of emotion in judicial reasoning and how that influences Indigenous title cases. Her research adviser is Professor Emily Kidd White.

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.

Faculty of Science sees record growth in experiential education

Diverse students working together

Over 2022-23, the Faculty of Science’s experiential education (EE) program has seen record growth, with co-op applications increasing by 180 per cent and internship applications increasing nearly 140 per cent over the previous year. As well, this summer, 110 student opportunities were posted by 21 employers.

“Much of the growth has been due to the efforts of our EE staff and faculty members in establishing connections and proper channels for support and feedback, such as creating our EE Advisory Committee and connecting with the YU Experience Hub, Career Centre and YSpace. We also built a partnership with BioTalent,” said Michael Scheid, associate dean of students in the Faculty of Science.

EE opportunities through the Faculty allow students to deepen their learning and apply theories learned in the classroom to hands-on, paid work experiences. These opportunities consist of co-ops, which allow students to alternate between periods of work experiences and periods of study, and internships, which offer students, who have completed their third year, to start a work placement for four to 16 months before returning to school to finish their degree.

Three students share highlights of the program’s ability to provide a positive and excellent way to learn new technical and collaboration skills, to gain work experience and to expand professional networks.

Wania Khan

Wania Khan
Wania Khan

Biomedical science student Wania Khan is participating in a one-year internship at Sanofi, a health-care and pharmaceutical company, on the Bioprocess Research and Development team, where she is assisting with experiments as part of a vaccine research project.

“The most important learning skill I gained is dexterity, where I was able to take samples directly from fermenters using a syringe while also focusing on clamping and unclamping various tubes without contaminating the culture inside the fermenter promptly,” she said. “This experiential education opportunity has helped me gain new networks and friendships, i.e. working closely with scientists, technicians and other co-ops from different universities and educational backgrounds.”

Alexandria Nelson

Alexandria Nelson
Alexandria Nelson

Biomedical science student Alexandria Nelson is participating in a one-year co-op placement in the quality control stability department at Sanofi. Her responsibilities include handling and managing vaccine inventory and assisting with data analysis.

“So far, my placement has been helpful in understanding what the vaccine manufacturing process is like, which has been even more insightful considering the demand for vaccines throughout the pandemic,” said Nelson. “I’ve also enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and how their career paths have unfolded. I’ve learned that my journey may not be linear, but there will always be opportunities for growth in whatever I choose to pursue.”

Yibin Zheng

Yibin Zheng
Yibin Zheng

Statistics student Yibin Zheng is participating in a research internship in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. As a research intern, he is responsible for using the Bayesian statistics theory to work with R, a programming language, and help solve statistical problems.

“During this internship, I have enhanced my ability to collaborate with others as a team, such as organizing and distributing research chapters, and conducting discussions,” he said. “I believe this will be very helpful for my future career.”

Students can learn more about the Faculty of Science’s EE opportunities at yorku.ca/science/students/experiential-education.

Dahdaleh Institute summer interns to showcase global health research

Global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR) invites York University community members to its fifth Summer Global Health Intern Symposium on Aug. 30.

DIGHR poster

Throughout the summer term, Dahdaleh global health interns have been undertaking exciting research projects that address critical global health challenges.

On Aug. 30, eight interns will reflect on their internship and deliver a short presentation about the experience, knowledge and skills they have gained, and will share progress on their research projects, including:

DIGHR research
Global health interns
  • experiential-based simulation learning;
  • effects of resource insecurity on health outcomes;
  • mental and emotional health and wellness;
  • post-pandemic public health reforms; and
  • impact of human behaviour on antimicrobial resistance.

To learn more about this event, or to register to attend, visit yorku.ca/dighr/events/5th-summer-global-health-intern-symposium.

Lunch will be provided. All are welcome to attend.

The Dahdaleh Institute is currently hiring the next cohort of global health interns for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2023-24 academic year. All interested applicants are encouraged to visit the DIGHR website to learn more.

Osgoode professor’s book examines future of remote work

Black woman reading book

The Future of Remote Work, co-edited by Valerio De Stefano, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor and Canada Research Chair in Innovation, Law and Society, argues that companies forcing employees back to their offices to reinvigorate downtown economies are misguided. 

Valerio De Stefano
Valerio De Stefano

The book, published by the independent, Brussels-based European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), includes more than 20 contributors from a variety of disciplines, including lawyers, economists and sociologists. The book’s other co-editors are: Nicola Contouris, a labour law professor at University College London and director of research for the institute; ETUI senior researcher Agnieszka Piasna, a labour sociologist; and labour lawyer Silvia Rainone, also an ETUI researcher.

“Remote work is here to stay,” insists De Stefano, “because it is beneficial for both employees and companies.”  

According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of employed Canadians who work from home for all or part of their work week now stands at just over 25 per cent, down from a high of 40 per cent during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies, such as Royal Bank of Canada and Amazon Canada, have mandated their employees to return to the office for at least part of the week. But in a competitive job market, De Stefano believes that could backfire. Companies that want to retain talent will need to continue providing remote work options or risk losing their most talented people, he says.

But unlike the first panicked months of the pandemic, De Stefano thinks remote work going forward must differentiate itself from what he calls “lockdown work”: “If we want to reap the benefits of remote work, we have to get away from the constraints that we had under the pandemic and put more rigid boundaries between work and personal time.”

This, says De Stefano, will require giving employees more autonomy and creating a stronger spirit of trust between them and their employers.

In the early pandemic, he notes, remote work was sometimes accompanied by invasive surveillance software that often led to employee stress, anxiety and burnout. He believes this type of technology can actually reduce productivity, if workers end up wasting time trying to outsmart the system.

De Stefano says the rise of remote and hybrid work has brought distinct benefits, like helping companies trim their rental budgets, cutting the cost of commuting for workers and reducing the number of cars on the road. While the negative impact on downtown economies is real, he thinks it is imperative for cities to find creative solutions to their vacant office space dilemma.

“It would certainly be a loss to society if we decided to go back to a pre-pandemic scenario just because we don’t know what to do with our downtowns,” he says.