York developed its most recent University Academic Plan (UAP) in 2020, which included a university-wide challenge to contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs act as a framework to take urgent action in 17 areas that are critical to ensure peace and prosperity for people and the planet. York’s SDG challenge has enabled faculty, staff and students to think outside the box and create meaningful change in the community. From addressing SDG #4 (Quality Education) to SDG #10 (Reduced Inequalities), here are just a few of the important initiatives that took place at the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) in 2022.
Over 400 research and professional development initiatives have been funded through the Academic Excellence Fund (AEF). Many graduate students rely on internal funding in order to cover and subsidize research expenses. This easily accessible fund provides the resources necessary to present and publish research, collaborate with others and participate in professional development activities. Supporting quality education (SDG #4) embodies York’s commitment to fostering a positive educational experience for all.
Graduate Student Wellness Services welcomed their first clinical practicum student. The addition to the Wellness Consultation & Counselling team during the 2021-22 academic year provides greater access to grad-specific counselling at York University. This initiative promotes good health and well-being (SDG #3) through the easily accessible wellness consultations, which can provide a starting point for students seeking to enhance their personal mental health.
Meta endowed a prestigious $250k fellowship. This endowment establishes the first-ever corporate-sponsored graduate fund for sustaining vision research at York, which the University has dedicated to its Centre for Vision Research. SDG #9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure) emphasizes how important it is to promote innovation in order to enable positive change and foster a successful community. York has been producing cutting-edge work in vision research for decades and now has further support to continue this globally impactful work.
Four outstanding scholars were named recipients of the 2022 Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars. Sylvester Aboagye, Landing Badji, Leora Gansworth and Graeme Reed are this year’s recipients of the fellowship. This important initiative sets individuals up for a successful career by providing four scholars annually with a salary of $70,000 per year for a two-year term and supporting their research and collaboration endevours.
FGS partnered with the OUR and the Indigenous Council to build an Indigenous Queue in Grad Adjudication. This new feature enables the review and contextualization of Indigenous applications by Indigenous Faculty members and responds to the Indigenous Framework's call to increase the recruitment and admission of Indigenous applicants. This initiative acts as a key opportunity area for York to facilitate greater access to higher education and is reflective of SDG #10 (Reduced Inequality). York aims to promote an inclusive research culture by creating policies and initiatives that encourage equality and hopes that other institutions follow suit.
The number of Indigenous Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) Awards increased annually for Indigenous graduate scholars. The additional resource will enable Indigenous researchers to access much needed funding, promote culturally responsive research and engage in collaborative initiatives.
Academic integrity training becomes mandatory for incoming Graduate students. FGS’ commitment to academic honesty is at the forefront of this initiative. By establishing a mandatory academic integrity training requirement for incoming graduate students effective 2023, York is committed to academic honesty.
FGS standardized program-level guidelines for Graduate Milestone Examinations. To enhance the graduate student experience and support timely completion of studies, FGS supported the creation of Standardized program-level guidelines for Graduate Milestone Examinations such as the comprehensive examinations and research evaluations.
Postdoctoral researchers now have access to the Individualized Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is employed to structure conversations with one’s supervisor concerning professional skills development and to provide a framework for navigating various opportunities at the institution. This resource acts as a valuable tool for postdocs that can enable them to build a successful career.
FGS partnered with UIT to build an online portal for graduate petitions. Digitizing the petition process eliminates a paper based and manual process, allowing submission tracking and online access for ease of file review. This initiative is a key opportunity to support the graduate student experience and improves the quality and efficiency of services. Introducing online platforms into the community and eliminating paper use also promotes sustainable lifestyles, which is an important part of SDG #12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
Future students can find out more about York and everything the university is undertaking for the success of the community through the newly Launched Choose Grad York initiative– the first ever graduate conversion event. These events include: 1) a breakdown of the different parts of an offer of admission, which may include different types of funding; 2) a networking opportunity with alumni who have translated their studies into successful careers; 3) a chance to compare admissions offers and learn how to navigate the degree once the applicants have accepted their offer from York.
York’s SDG Challenge is ongoing, and the new year will welcome a number of other important initiatives, inspiring members of the York community to act as agents of positive change.