The students, faculty and staff of York have accomplished a great deal over the past year as we work together as a community to fulfill the priorities and objectives of our University Academic Plan (UAP). I am delighted to update our community and partners on our progress.
With more than 300,000 alumni living and working around the globe, and campuses in Toronto, India, Costa Rica, and a new Markham Centre Campus opening its doors in 2021, a York education is taking our students everywhere.
In these pages, you will see the progression from vision and pillars to concrete plans and extraordinary results. York University is a remarkable place; Times Higher Education recently ranked York 26th in the world in terms of the positive impact we are having locally and internationally. I have the great honour of being the President and Vice-Chancellor of this institution, and the unique privilege of sharing the story of our success with you.
Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor
York University is committed to giving a broad demographic of students access to a high-quality, research- intensive university experience committed to the public good.
Since our founding in 1959, making higher education accessible has been a central part of York’s mission. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds make up the diversity that defines our community.
Access is woven throughout the University Academic Plan (UAP), but is most evident in three key priorities: Innovative, Quality Programs for Academic Excellence; A Student‑Centred Approach and Enhanced Campus Experience. While it is vital that we open the doors to higher education to more students, ensuring their success with flexible learning options, a supportive and caring community, and services geared to their unique needs is equally important if they are to realize the full benefits of a university education.
EMBRACING INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE, CULTURES AND PEOPLES
York is committed to putting Indigenous knowledge, cultures and Peoples at the core of our work as a university. The need for a university-wide Indigenization strategy was identified in the University Academic Plan, and in 2017, we launched the Indigenous Framework for York University: A Guide to Action. We have been making steady progress on fulfilling its principles with a host of initiatives across the University. In the fall of 2018, we launched our innovative Indigenous Studies program in the Department of Equity Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Relying on theories developed by Indigenous scholars, the teachings of Elders, participation in ceremonies and a focus on treaty rights and relationships, York’s program is unique in its additional focus on Metis identities, non-status and/or urban Native peoples, and Indigenous-Black relations. In 2018 we announced the creation of Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education, a new degree program offered in partnership between our Faculty of Education and the Toronto District School Board. Waaban is an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) word meaning “it is tomorrow.” Grounded in Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy, the program will educate a new generation of teachers to address the needs of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, families and communities. These new programs join long-standing initiatives like Osgoode Hall Law School’s acclaimed Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources & Governments, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Students need access to mental health and wellness supports to achieve their maximum potential. Following the launch of York’s Mental Health Strategy in 2016, we continue to work toward an overall Well-Being Strategy, a key objective of the University Academic Plan (Priority 6: Enhanced Community Engagement). In 2018-19, York International led a mental health awareness campaign to broaden awareness about mental health challenges faced by international students while introducing the international student body to the many services available at York. We also undertook a reorganization of our Learning Disability Services, Mental Health Disability Services and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services into a single entity – Student Accessibility Services. This change is helping to provide consistent and transparent wellness services for students across our campuses.
SERVING OUR STUDENTS BETTER — WITH AI
Developed collaboratively by York and IBM, a new bilingual virtual student assistant was successfully piloted at the University. The new system provides students with support services designed to improve their university experience by delivering both academic and personal guidance in real time. The virtual assistant uses information about a student’s program and year of study to respond to questions submitted in a freeform chat window. This is the first time that IBM AI technology has been used in this way at a Canadian university, and more than 100 York students are engaged in refining the system, helping the virtual assistant improve its ability to guide students to the right self-service or in-person contact for academic support or counselling in areas such as advising, campus involvement and career services.
"If the university wants to be engaged with the community, the best way is to be in the community."
At York, we understand the importance of fostering strong connections – to one another, to our neighbours and partners in the communities we serve, and to the world around us, creating new relationships across sectors and geographical boundaries.
Priority 6 of the UAP, Enhanced Community Engagement, recognizes the importance of engaging with the local and global communities we serve. Universities have an important role to play in bringing together citizens, experts, employers and policymakers to tackle the complex social, scientific and technological challenges facing society. From climate change to poverty, healthcare to smart cities, York is embracing its role as a hub for multi‑sector collaboration.
The York University-TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) is a satellite office of the University in the heart of the Black Creek community. The CEC contributes to York’s efforts to build inclusive and sustainable communities by fostering collaborative research partnerships on issues important to residents, providing innovative experiential learning opportunities for students and fostering post-secondary attainment for members of the Black Creek community. The CEC also shares knowledge and resources to a wide variety of community groups and businesses. In 2019, we celebrated a decade of impact through the YU-TD CEC alongside the TD Bank Group’s announcement of a new $1 million contribution to support the continuing success of the CEC and the development of new programs focused on student mobility, career exploration, career training and reskilling.
BUILDING SMART CITIES
York Region has the fastest growing population rate of any large municipal jurisdiction in Ontario with an influx of more than 1.8 million people and 900,000 jobs expected within the next 25 years. As plans continue to evolve for a new Markham campus to meet the needs of the region, York has leveraged its academic and research resources to create a dynamic partnership with this emerging entrepreneurial hub. In 2019, we celebrated the first anniversary of YSpace, a 10,000-square-foot community innovation centre in Markham. YSpace supports entrepreneurs and innovators by providing dynamic co-working space, access to industry advisers, education, workshops and high-end technology. One year in, the innovation hub is already home to 22 start-up ventures and 11 entrepreneurs in residence, has created 63 jobs, generated more than $2.4 million of revenue and raised over $1.1 million in venture funding. In addition to YSpace, the University continues to grow our relationship with York Region through our partnership with IBM’s ventureLab. This fall, we will begin offering York courses at the IBM campus in a newly renovated space.
ACCOUNTABILITY IN SUSTAINABILITY
Professor Martin Bunch is spearheading York’s research involvement in a major collaborative initiative with the Global Footprint Network. In 2019, York became the global data centre for the National Ecological Footprint Accounts, which are the foundation of the Global Footprint Network’s ecological footprint calculator, the only metric that compares overall human demand on nature with biocapacity – what our planet can renew. Updated annually with UN data, the footprint helps determine the performance of more than 200 countries on environmental sustainability. The international hub at York not only updates the accounts, but is also building a network to coordinate methodological improvements to the ecological footprint metric among international research institutions. York is helping the National Ecological Footprint Accounts to become more dependable while showcasing the University’s leadership as a global academic leader in sustainability.
"I feel like I take away a lot more in learning from these courses than I would learning through a book or through a lecture because I actually get to apply it myself."
At York, we strive to excel in our core academic activities of teaching and learning, scholarship, research and creative activities. By building excellence into the University Academic Plan, we keep ourselves accountable to our ambitious goals.
We advance excellence through all seven priorities of the UAP, including the creation of innovative new academic programs responsive to labour market needs, the advancement of our research and creative activities, the continual enhancement of quality in teaching and learning, the improvement of our campus experience and the transformation of services that enable those plans. We ensure progress towards these objectives through our Integrated Resource Planning process.
INNOVATION IN EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
York is committed to enhancing the student learning experience through the advancement of technologyenhanced learning, international activities and experiential education. In the fall of 2018, we announced one of our most innovative offerings: DevDegree, a partnership between York’s Lassonde School of Engineering and Canadian tech leader Shopify. This unique program embeds students directly into Shopify’s development teams through a paid internship. Students split their time between Shopify’s downtown offices and their coursework at Lassonde, and earn a unique honours Bachelor of Computer Science degree.
CREATING THE SPACE TO INNOVATE
Excellence in teaching and research requires extraordinary spaces. In January, we celebrated the opening of the Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building at the Schulich School of Business, one of the most environmentally sustainable and socially responsible academic buildings in North America. Designed to bring industry into the classroom, this state-of-the-art facility is a space for interdisciplinary research in topics ranging from business ethics and big data to global enterprise and real estate. York also completed the revitalization of our Farquharson Life Sciences Building, providing students and researchers with modern lab spaces.
REALIZING THE POTENTIAL OF YORK RESEARCHERS
Research at York aspires to employ the knowledge we gain in the service of society, and this year our researchers achieved new levels of recognition. For the first time, York received more than $100 million in external research grants and awards. That figure includes Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé, who was recognized with the prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Impact Award (Partnership Category) for her work on the social impacts of the workplace on climate change. Similarly, a team of researchers led by psychology Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell, York’s associate vice-president of research, was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), SSHRC, and the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) (plus $387,000 in-kind contributions from community partners) to look at preterm infants’ subjective experiences of pain. As a testament to their promising and innovative research in the sciences, engineering and health, York researchers were awarded 48 NSERC Discovery Grants, an investment of almost $8.5 million.
SPACES AND SYSTEMS FOR SUCCESS
Over the past year, York has continued to build the systems and infrastructure needed to achieve the priorities and objectives outlined in the UAP. In 2018–19, we conducted a successful consultation process that engaged the York community on the University’s 2019–20 budget. After two years of data collection, we are also launching a service transformation process that will help York become more agile and innovative. The transformation process is a collaborative partnership that uses a human-centred approach to involve community members in redesigning services and service structures to best meet the needs of users.
"My humanitarian journey has followed the University’s motto of Tentanda Via: the way must be tried."
- Pernille Ironside (JD ’99)
Access, connectedness and excellence come together to allow York – its faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters – to create positive change in the world.
That is what we mean by impact – tackling society’s most difficult challenges with a combination of innovative pedagogy, cutting-edge research and multi-sector collaboration and partnership. York’s Strategic Research Plan and University Academic Plan make research intensification, the growth of community partnerships, and the expansion of entrepreneurship and innovation key priorities for the university.
INNOVATING SOLUTIONS TO YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
On any given night in Canada, there are at least 6,000 young people on the street, vulnerable to trauma, criminal exploitation, poor health and social and economic exclusion. The Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (MtS), a new initiative jointly led by Faculty of Education Professor Stephen Gaetz, head of York’s Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, in partnership with the non-profit A Way Home Canada, is taking a groundbreaking and collaborative approach to youth homelessness. MtS’s mission is to conduct and mobilize quality research that supports governments, communities and service providers to “make the shift” from managing the crisis of youth homelessness to a focus on prevention and enabling sustainable exits from homelessness. This year, MtS received $17.9 million through the Government of Canada’s Network of Centres of Excellence program to continue and expand their crucial work.
INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In addition to our successful YSpace incubator in Markham, we have also launched Glendon Entrepreneuriat et Innovation A L’international (GENIAL), a bilingual incubator and entrepreneurship training program at Glendon College, extending our support for innovators to the Francophone community. The new Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) program at the Lassonde School of Engineering combines experiential learning, international experience and a start-up incubator to train the next generation of tech leaders.
EXPERIMENTS IN SPACE, BENEFITS ON EARTH
When Canadian astronaut David St. Jacques blasted off to the International Space Station, he took a bit of York with him – an experiment designed by Faculty of Health Professor Laurence Harris and his team, Professors Michael Jenkin and Robert Allison from the Lassonde School of Engineering, as well as postdoctoral fellow Nils Bury and graduate student Meaghan McManus. The VECTION experiment is examining the effects of microgravity on astronauts’ perception of their motion. While it may seem literally out-of-this-world, VECTION could help develop potential treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s, enhance medical procedures and improve the quality of life for people who are ill. VECTION builds upon York’s leadership in vision science, through our Centre for Vision Research and the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program, funded through a Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).
IMPACT THAT GETS NOTICED
This year, York ranked 5th in Canada and 26th in the world in the inaugural Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. Based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the ranking highlights how the higher education sector is contributing to international efforts to build a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world. York did even better on individual indicators measuring our ability to build sustainable cities and communities (12th in the world) and deliver on climate action (14th in the world). These are exactly the kinds of global challenges that universities are uniquely positioned to address, by bringing together experts, community leaders, policymakers and leaders in the public and private sectors to collaborate on innovative solutions.
Celebrating world-class rankings, research with impact, award-winning teachers, innovative students, inspiring staff and alumni making a difference.