Since its founding, York University has been committed to removing barriers to accessing education so that no talent is left behind. Recognizing education as a fundamental human right, we have continued to support the long-term success of our diverse student population through new scholarships, awards, bursaries, work-integrated learning programs, paid research opportunities and dynamic outreach initiatives.
Together, we are working to advance decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion across both academia and prestigious professional sectors, ranging from STEM and business to the legal field.
By the Numbers
- total # of undergraduate students (domestic and international)
- # of students that have interacted with SAVY, York’s student virtual assistant, since its launch in January 2020. SAVY had already exceeded 100,000 conversations by July 2023
- undergraduate scholarships and bursaries provided
- increase in Year 4 graduation rates compared to previous year
Founder and CEO, DGB Investment, Inc.
Faculty of Graduate Studies, and Faculty of Health
Director of Programming, k2i academy, Lassonde School of Engineering
k2i academy & Alumni (M.Ed.)
Generous $40,000 donation offers high school students an exclusive opportunity to study under jazz greats
AMPD’s Nick Nurse Foundation Summer Jazz & Groove Lab will create better access for Indigenous and racialized students
In July 2023, a $40,000 donation from the Nick Nurse Foundation provided a rare opportunity for 50 high school students to study under Juno-award winning and internationally recognized jazz and gospel artists at York’s School of AMPD.
The donation provided bursaries for equity-deserving students to attend the newly-named Nick Nurse Foundation Summer Jazz & Groove Lab – a week-long, intensive program that culminated in a public performance. A portion of the donation funded participation bursaries for high school students who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour, and young women. It also supported classes, workshops and guest artist visits at the Lab.
Artists who participated in the Lab include AMPD faculty members Professor Sundar Viswanathan, Professor Karen Burke, and Lorne Lofsky. The Lab began in Summer 2021 as an online opportunity for high school students, as the vision of music professors Cadó and Lemish. It is now a mainstay at York and began the inclusion of jazz and gospel in its Music degree program.
Rekindling in-person athletics and recreation
York’s athletics department promotes campus health and wellness with return to post-pandemic operations
The Athletics and Recreation division returned to pre-pandemic operations this past year, reinvigorating campus health and wellness with a full complement of fitness and recreation activities. This included a complete athletics season with more than 450 varsity athletes, varsity student support for equity-deserving athletes and teams and a partnership with Student Counselling, Health & Well-being focused on health education.
The varsity athletics season culminated with the first in-person annual Varsity Athletics Banquet since the pandemic, which took place in April 2023. Awards were presented to athletes, coach and rookies of the year, outstanding graduates and most valuable players. Basketball player Prince Kamunga was also awarded the Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy, which recognizes a student athlete who displays perseverance, a zest for life, consideration for others and sportsmanship.
In June 2023, Athletics and Recreation also welcomed its new Executive Director, Steven Chuang, who took over for Interim Executive Director Catherine Salole.
Increasing access to undergraduate research in science
Generous donation provides students with access to paid research opportunities
Science students at York now have more paid research opportunities, thanks to a $200,000 gift from York alumnus Earle Nestmann, and matched by the Faculty of Science for a total of $400,000 in funding.
The Earle Nestmann Undergraduate Research Award will support six students each summer until the funds are expended. Award recipients will participate in 16-week research lab positions during their Summer terms, where they will gain hands-on research experience and learn new skills.
Earle Nestmann earned a MSc and PhD in biology from York University. From 1974 to 1977, he worked as an assistant professor in York’s Biology department. He also served as a member of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors from 2006 to 2014 and on the Board of Governors from 2013 to 2021.
Sophisticated virtual assistant is connecting students to services
SAVY helps students succeed with access to help 24/7
SAVY, York’s student virtual assistant, provides access to critical information students need to succeed in their academic journey at York, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Since its launch in January 2020, SAVY has had over 100,000 conversations with students, and 23,000 unique students have interacted with the bilingual tool via its chat interface. During the first half of 2023, SAVY facilitated 13,624 conversations.
SAVY is built on the IBM Watson platform. It was created as a partnership between the Division of Students, University Information Technology and York’s Faculties, and guided by students.
It leverages AI to provide immediate, real-time answers to common student questions on over 500 topics, including registrarial and financial services; important dates; academic advising referrals; mental and physical health resources; career guidance; and student life, including campus events and student services.
Students can access SAVY on eClass, on various York websites and by scanning QR codes around campus.
Expanding access to legal education for equity-deserving groups
York partnership to promote greater diversity in the legal profession
The Osgoode Hall Law School at York University partnered with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP to launch the Davies Fellows Award – a $1.2 million bursary that strives to eliminate systemic barriers to legal education and promote inclusivity and diversity within the profession.
Each year, the Davies Fellows Award will support a first-year student in Osgoode’s juris doctor program who demonstrates financial need, exceptional promise and resilience in overcoming obstacles such as monetary constraints, mental health issues, learning challenges or racial and gender inequalities. The award is funded by donations from Osgoode alumni at Davies with matching funds from the law school and is renewable for the student’s second and third years.
The Davies Fellows Award is a component of Osgoode’s No Barriers campaign, which seeks to make the law school one of Canada’s most diverse and inclusive.
Innovative initiatives are helping graduate students thrive
York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies’ (FGS) scholarships and programs are fostering student success through several initiatives
As part of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) program – targeted to top doctoral students pursuing graduate studies in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering and health – Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) tri-council (Vanier) reviewers undergo Unconscious Bias training. This encourages a holistic approach to evaluating applications and ensures that non-traditional career paths and metrics of research are considered.
The Bennett Family Graduate Scholarship for Black and Indigenous Students will be open to applicants who identify as Black and/or Indigenous both at the Master’s and Doctoral levels of study. In addition, 10 Ontario Graduate Scholarship allocations for the 2023-2024 academic year will be available for incoming Black scholars who exemplify excellence. The Academic Excellence Fund is also updated to offer up to an additional $1,000 to support students who have incurred additional expenses for accessibility accommodations.
FGS and other faculty members plan to host a Black Scholarly Success Information Session to promote available scholarship opportunities and resources.
Creating access to STEM for underrepresented youth
The successful k2i Academy is providing Black and Indigenous youth with real-life learning opportunities in STEM
The Lassonde School of Engineering’s Kindergarten to Industry (k2i) academy is creating equitable outcomes for underrepresented youth in STEM.
K2i has received $5 million in funding to-date from diverse partners, which range from government to the private sector. Included is two years of funding from the provincial government to develop WIL programs. This has enabled k2i to employ more than 400 high school students and over 130 undergraduate STEM mentors through the Bringing STEM to Life: Work-Integrated Learning program.
K2i also launched the Specialist High Skills Program – a microcredential program tailored for Black youth in Grades 7 to 12.
The academy merged Indigenous knowledge with traditional engineering when nine high school students in Blind River, a remote town in Northeastern Ontario, participated in the inaugural Indigenous Engineering & Innovation by Design program. During the program, the students at W.C. Eaket Secondary School utilized both Indigenous knowledge and traditional engineering processes on a variety of engineering projects to find solutions to their community’s challenges.
Since its inception in 2020, the k2i academy has offered over 175,000 hours of learning and has reached more than 6,000 youth.
Academic integrity for AI (AI for AI)
York launches a new webpage to help educators manage academic integrity and AI with students
In the 2022-2023 academic year, York University launched the AI Technology and Academic Integrity webpage to equip educators with strategies to work with students on the benefits and pitfalls of AI, while preserving the principles of academic integrity.
The site draws on York’s Senate Policy on Academic Honesty. Specific attention is given to ChatGPT, a new resource that can generate essays and code and math solutions in ways that may breach academic honesty principles. To mitigate this risk, the resource offers multiple recommendations for educators, ranging from communicating openly with students about their academic integrity expectations with respect to AI and its ethical implications; developing a method for students to communicate when they have used AI in their work; and redesigning assessments, for example, by asking students to do hand-written assignments in class.
Supporting global learning opportunities
Paulina Lau Scholar Program is helping to fund students’ learning overseas
The Paulina Lau Scholar Program, launched in 2022, is increasing access to global learning opportunities for York University students in the Lassonde School of Engineering, Science and LA&PS. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 in funding towards students’ learning overseas, which includes coursework, research or internships.
Established by York alumni and life partners Hian Siang Chan and Paulina Lau and their family, the scholarship will inspire students as they develop global competencies, and build the skills needed to solve complex challenges.
Rehan Rashid, a mechanical engineering student in at Lassonde, was named a Paulina Lau Scholar for his second internship at NASA in Virginia. He credits the program with helping him to excel in his internship, by providing the financial assistance that allowed him to focus on his studies and bring him closer to his dream of helping to land the first human on Mars.
Recognizing Black excellence
The Janes Family Foundation grants $500,000 to York University’s Tom Janes Award for Black Scholars
In October 2022, the Janes Family Foundation made a transformative contribution of $500,000 to York University to continue its support of the Tom Janes Award for Black Scholars, setting talented students up for long-term success.
This prestigious award, offered through LA&PS, was established in 2021 to foster Black students’ success throughout their academic journeys. The award grants $5,000 per student and is renewable for up to four years. Thanks to the renewed funding, students who joined the program in 2021-2022 will receive support for their fourth year of study. Additionally, 23 new students will be awarded $5,000 per year for up to four years.
In addition to the Tom Janes Award for Black Scholars, five other donor-funded awards were introduced in 2021. Other awards include the Melissa Grelo Entrance Award for Black and Indigenous Excellence and the LA&PS Black Student Support Fund.
Creating pathways for the next generation of Black business leaders
York joins a tri-school initiative to launch the University Pathways Program
The Schulich School of Business, the Ivey Business School and the Smith School of Business have teamed up to create the University Pathways Program to create paths to university business education for Black high school students.
Since its official launch in January 2023, the program has been increasing awareness of academic options and career opportunities in business among racialized Grade 11 students in the Greater Toronto Area.
In addition to mentorship, virtual education and experiential learning through placements with corporate partners, students who complete the year-long program and choose to pursue business studies at any one of the three partner schools will receive financial support, ranging from tuition assistance to full scholarships.
The University Pathways Program is one of the many collaborative initiatives that York University is engaged with to provide equitable opportunities for racialized students in line with its Framework to Address Anti-Black Racism and Action Plan on Black Inclusion.
Fostering inclusion for international students
York First Friend program helps international students transition to university
LA&PS is fostering international student success with the York First Friend (YFF) program, an innovative program designed to support international students in their transition to university life.
Through the program, two international students are matched up prior to their arrival at York, where they share experiences, discuss the process of moving to Canada and ask any questions they have about topics such as housing, enrolment and the visa process.
By the end of the program, York First Friend (YFF) program students should be well-equipped to navigate their first year at York, identify campus services for transition and academic support, engage in productive social interactions with peers and mentors and connect with other international students.
The program operates in tandem with other pre-existing student supports, which include but are not limited to student peer mentorships; specific mentorships for Black and racialized individuals; in-person and virtual academic, career and mental health resources; and the expert services provided by York International.
Addressing food insecurity
YUeats value meal program offers students affordable, nutritious meals
York University has launched the YUeats program – a value meal program that provides York students with access to healthy, affordable and filling meals for $5.99. The program was launched in response to the 2022 Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey, which identified food insecurity as a concern for York students.
Value meals are available at Stong and Winters Colleges, and at the Glendon campus, and offer a diverse menu that spans a variety of dietary needs.
“I’m delighted the Food Services team worked quickly to provide students and the community with a selection of cost-effective and nutritious meal options. It’s progress towards supporting our community,” said Nona Robinson, vice-provost, students. “We are continuing to work with partners across the University to provide additional food supports for students.”