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Past, Present, Future: Founder’s Day 2021 goes virtual

Campus news - Wed, 02/17/2021 - 16:41

On February 11, nearly 200 members of the McGill-Macdonald community came together virtually in honour of Founder’s Day, a celebration of Macdonald Campus founder Sir William Christopher Macdonald’s mission to support higher education and cultivate the next generation of leaders. This year’s event – whose theme was Past, Present, Future – was emceed by Paul Meldrum, Manager of the Macdonald Campus Farm, and drew audiences from across the globe.

Alumnus Marc Bieler, DipAgr’58, BA’64 – who recently made landmark $15 million donation toward the building of interdisciplinary teaching, research and experiential learning capacity in the McGill School of Environment – kicked off the event with a roundtable discussion alongside McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier, and Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Anja Geitmann. Bieler reflected on his time spent at McGill, his career in agriculture, and the importance of supporting the University in finding solutions to the environmental challenges we are currently facing.

When asked about his outlook on the future, he said, “You have to be optimistic; yes, we face challenges, but if we aren’t optimistic, it will be a disaster. We need to find solutions.”

Following the roundtable, Macdonald Campus students – through video submissions – revealed their perspectives on the future of McGill, the Faculty, the environment and the world. Associate Professor Jeff Cardille (Natural Resource Sciences and Bieler School of Environment) then moderated a live student panel composed of Nik Dworek (U2 student, Environment), Patricia Sung (U2 student, Environment), Anikka Swaby (RD, MSc student Human Nutrition), and Philip Addo Wiredu (PhD candidate, Bioresource Engineering), who shared their hopes and fears for the future and deliberated over how to move from feelings of hope to actionable change.

Finally, it would not be Founder’s Day without acknowledging the hard work and contributions of Macdonald Campus staff and students.

Award of Excellence

This year, Human Resources Advisor Danielle Côté – who has spent 25 years guiding and supporting Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Studies employees through the different stages of their careers – was the recipient of the Macdonald Campus Award of Excellence for Administrative and Support Staff. The award recognizes outstanding performance and contributions to the Macdonald Campus and community both in the execution of their duties and in the effort and commitment towards service.

“Danielle has one of the most difficult jobs in our faculty, balancing the application of the University’s HR policies and regulations against the best interest of the employee–this is no small feat,” said presenter Christine Butler, Director of Academic and Administrative Services, who also added.  “She’s thoughtful, thorough, judicious and fair in everything she does.”

2021 Gold Key honourees

The Macdonald Branch of the McGill Alumni Association selected seven exceptional recipients of the Gold Key Award in recognition of their leadership and excellence in the promotion and development of extra­curricular activities at Macdonald, to the benefit of the Macdonald community as a whole. The 2021 Golden Key recipients include:

Mohammed Antar, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Plant Science Through his roles in the Macdonald Campus Graduate Student Society (MCGSS) and the Association of Graduate Students Employed by McGill University (AGSEM), Mohammed has established himself as a respected representative of his peers in the university community, ensuring a collaborative link between the Macdonald graduate student body and the Faculty Administration. Mohammed has also shown a deep commitment to addressing issues related to diversity, equity and inclusivity in his role as a member of the Faculty Planning committee, as well as in his role as the liaison between the local IGA and the campus community, helping to distribute food donations to those in need. A talented organizer, Mohammed has been heavily involved in organizing Hot Bagel Breakfasts, movie nights, trivia and game nights for the graduate student community, and volleyball and soccer intramurals.

Mary Bergen, BSc (AgEnvSc)’20 MSE. Mary has actively participated in university life, first as a volunteer international student buddy and peer mentor, and later as President of the Macdonald Campus Student Society (MCSS), where she created a more visible and interactive relationship between the MCSS and the greater student body. An advocate for student health and well-being, Mary also collaborated with Student Services to organize a seminar series on mental health awareness. In her time at McGill, Mary has also dedicated herself strengthening the relationship between MCSS and the McGill Office of Sustainability – raising awareness of the multitude of sustainable efforts being carried out on the Macdonald campus – and was instrumental in the organization of the Climate Strike protests for the Macdonald campus undergraduates in the fall of 2019.

Nik Dworek, U2 Environment. In his various roles in the MCSS–from elected a member at large on the MCSS to current President – Nik has done everything from organizing student activities and represented their concerns to actively participating in the Memorandum of Agreement discussions with university administration. He has been instrumental in raising awareness of the Divest McGill movement on the Macdonald Campus, has represented student concerns with regards to COVID-19, and has worked diligently with Dean Geitmann to helped coordinate the administration’s emergency committee to shed light on student needs.

Sourour Harfouch, U2 Dietetics. A former committee member of DHNUS (Dietetics and Human Nutrition Undergraduate Society) and current President of the McGill Global Food Security Club, Sourour has been described by many of her nominators as “a driving force in resurrecting the GFS club”, believing the GFS organization should be actively engaged in education and service roles aimed at alleviating global health disparities. She dedicates her time to CIME– a club that devotes their time and resources to helping asylum seekers – as well as to raising awareness about food insecurity through food drives, educational booths and events, including organizing the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at Macdonald Campus in 2020.

Leela Riddle-Merritte, U3 Global Food Security. In her roles as VP communications and most recently VP external with the MCSS, Leela has undertaken many large projects – including the difficult task of re-writing the MCSS constitution to improve its transparency and legibility – and also led the efforts to obtain provincial accreditation for the MCSS as a student body, which is now recognized as an official student group and protected by government regulations. As a student senator and member of the Racialized and Ethnic Senate sub-committee, she has worked to assist McGill student groups’ solidify their commitment to help improve racial equality, while making the institution more aware of the racial inequalities that exist within its boundaries.

Keel Scruton, U3 Bioresource Engineering. Keel, as a former Business Operations committee member and current VP Finance for the MCSS, assists the committee in overseeing the financial operations of the student society. In these roles, he has carried out a detailed analysis of the MCSS budget and is always looking to improve the efficiency of spending. As such, he created a new club funding system that reduced the time required for MCSS to process club budget requests by 50%, while also managing to reduce the society’s budget deficit from $50,000 per year to the current $5,000 per year, and expects to have a balanced budget very soon. When he’s not dealing in finances, Keel acts as the voice of the Macdonald Campus undergraduate student body on the Board of Governors.

Meha Sharma Ph.D. Candidate Plant Science. Described as kind-hearted, bright and cheerful, Meha – the current President of the Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS) and recipient of a Schulich Graduate Fellowship – has always been focussed on improving grad student engagement and the well-being of her colleagues throughout her time at McGill, organizing countless events for her peers and volunteering as an International student buddy for new graduate students. Meha and her executive team continued to find ways to serve incoming students during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating an informative video tour of Macdonald Campus and highlighting newly implemented campus safety measures while also sparking a new initiative that sees care packages distributed to new student arrivals.

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Dr. Michael Ngadi: Serving up solutions to food insecurity

Campus news - Tue, 02/16/2021 - 04:17
Michael Ngadi, James McGill Professor, Bioresource Engineering Alex Tran

Growing up in Nigeria, Michael Ngadi knew he wanted to make an impact on the world, and although the bioresource engineer always dreamed he would catalyze big, new ideas, his career path was not a linear one.

“I knew very early on that I wanted to do engineering for sure; that was quite clear in my mind,” he recounts. “I had decided on aeronautical engineering, but just as I was filling out my application form, it dawned on me that aeronautical engineering would not make sense in the Nigerian context.”

Ngadi was looking for more than just a career – he was looking to make a positive contribution to his chosen field, his community, and the world. “Agricultural engineering held so much potential. At that time, it was an opportunity to do something new and exciting, something that had not been done before,” he recalls.

That leap of faith changed the course of his life in many unexpected ways – leading him to Halifax on a Canadian government scholarship to work on control sensor development and later, to pursue his PhD in Biochemical Bio Processing Engineering. His evolving career also revealed an underlying passion for food engineering and with it a desire to use his skills to help solve some of the world’s most pervasive food problems.

The first wealth is health

Most recently, Ngadi and his research team traveled to remote communities in Bolivia, Laos, Zambia, Malawi and Ethiopia to examine elements of the local diets, assess their nutritional status, and build programs that would introduce nutrient-dense foods into local cuisines.

“Normally, if a project designer examines a rural area and determines that residents’ diet is mostly made up of high energy carbohydrates, he would likely introduce some meat, vegetables or legumes to increase protein in their diet, and bring in some vitamins and minerals,” says Ngadi. However, what is critical to the project’s success is not simply the introduction of nutrient-dense foods but giving people the skills and knowledge that are necessary to incorporate new dietary habits into their regular routines, he explains. “That requires more than just the promotion of backyard gardens or poultry farming for the community – it requires education, training, and ongoing follow up and support.”

The result was the development of a unique ‘large scale nutrition communication method’ (LaScaN) to educate, train and assist vulnerable populations to own their dietary changes. Further, the three-year project – made possible through funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – involved not only local participation, but also buy-in from governments and key actors in the food development chain.

Tracking progress

With programs in place, the next challenge was to determine the best way to track participants’ adoption of these new dietary practices and to evaluate their impact.  To accomplish this, Ngadi’s team developed an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to collect appropriate metrics and evaluate the success of nutrition-sensitive intervention programs. And so, in partnership with an IT company, the Diet Tracker application was born.

“The idea is to give people either a phone or a mobile device and have them photograph their foods. The app is smart and recognizes what kind of food it is and then proceeds to analyze the nutritional profile of the food,” Ngadi explains. “Once the data is accumulated, it can be used to calculate relevant index and assign score for diet quality or diet diversity. That information can then help drive evidence-based decisions on nutrition-sensitive programs.”

Ngadi points out that the tool – although it gives policy makers and project designers valuable insight into participants’ dietary status – does not necessarily indicate how to address the unique food challenges facing each of these communities. “A tool allows people to know the situation and to plan accordingly. Aligning appropriate planning and intervention is important for better outcomes in mainstreaming nutrition and dietary changes.”

His team has also developed a separate platform – the ‘multi-criteria decision system’ – to complement the AI tool. “This system allows evaluation of dietary situations based on data collected from a region or community and offers specific recommendations that can be used to optimize strategies to mainstreaming nutrition,” Ngadi says. The system also allows his research team to track implementation of the recommended strategies and to gauge the success of their outcomes.

Making an impact

To date, the preliminary design of the AI tool has been completed and is being tested in different countries along with the multi-criteria decision system. The goal is to establish an effective tool and process that will ultimately make nutritious, affordable and sustainable food options more accessible to the rapidly expanding global population.

And evidence on the ground suggests that their approach is working, says Ngadi. “We’ve been tracking these programs for about 18 months to see whether our intervention strategies work, and all indications show that they do – I’m told, for example, that our LaScaN has been adopted by the World Food Program in some of their projects.”


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Macdonald Campus Dairy Cow Pasture Project uses sustainable best practices to bolster education

Campus news - Tue, 02/16/2021 - 02:18
Tess Ryder, a third year student at the Macdonald Campus, and Maxime Leduc at the farm in summer 2019 during the first phase of the project. Dairy Cow Pasture project team

Nearly forty kilometres or a shuttle ride away from Downtown Montreal lies McGill’s abundant and innovative Macdonald Campus Farm. Despite the farm remaining hidden away from the day-to-day lives of several McGill community members, particularly those studying and working at the Downtown Campus, these pastures serve as both a sustainable natural environment for several species and an enriching educational demonstration site.

Since 2019, McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) has helped to fund the Macdonald Campus Farm’s Dairy Cow Pasture Project. With a two-fold mandate, the project focuses both on the environmental sustainability of pasture operations and on educating individuals through integration with course curricula and public visits.

Best Management Practices

Led by Paul Meldrum and Maxime Leduc, the project is run by a team of dedicated McGill students and staff who help to maintain the operations of the farm’s new and efficient pasturing methods.

Using Best Management Practices (BMP) to tend pastures, implement animal-friendly fencing, and optimize water usage, the project’s rotational grazing systems help make the Macdonald dairy herd more sustainable overall.

“This system of pasturing uses the cattle to manage grass growth, and in return, the cattle get highly nutritious grass at the peak of quality while spending the spring, summer and fall outside in a natural environment,” says Meldrum.

Through its knowledge transfer strategy, the project also serves as an educational opportunity for numerous McGill students, dairy producers, and other visitors who are interested in learning about both the new rotational grazing systems and campus farm operations as a whole. Paired with McGill’s course offerings in Animal and Plant Science, Farm Management and Technology, and Natural Resource Science, the project equips students and local communities with the tools and knowledge needed to continually work towards a future with more sustainable farm practices.

Tess Ryder, in the third year of her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is one of these students and has been assisting with several facets of the pasture project including landscaping and grazing management.

“It helped me develop a more well-rounded skillset, which was satisfying,” says Ryder. “Watching happy cattle out in their pasture is really fun and rewarding and I’m glad people can experience that at Mac Farm.”

Since its inception, the project has planted approximately 500 trees and shrubs and even held a field day in September 2019 with over 200 students, farmers, and agronomy professionals in attendance.

Award-winning efforts

The project team has also recently been recognized at the 2020 Catalyst Awards, as the winner of the Sustainability in Operations Award. Given to a team which encompasses activities that support the ongoing function of the University, the award recognized the Dairy Cow Pasture Project’s commitment to helping McGill reach its long-term sustainability target of carbon neutrality by 2040.

On top of its already numerous sustainable successes, the Dairy Cow Pasture Project is looking to further the unique progress it has contributed to the sustainability movement at McGill. As of March 2020, the project has entered a second phase of SPF funding which has already planted 1,200 additional trees and shrubs, created grass buffer zones to prevent erosion, and installed a portable irrigation system.

“It is extremely rewarding for me to work with such dedicated students and colleagues, and to know that what we have started will provide benefits to the Farm, the environment and the McGill community for many years to come,” says Meldrum.

Students plant trees and shrubs around the dairy cow pasture during the first phase of the project in summer 2019. Dairy Cow Pasture project team

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Campus update - February 5 - Distribution of mandatory procedural masks

EOC updates - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 11:00
<p>T<i>his message is sent on behalf of Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre. </i></p> <p>Dear members of the McGill community, </p>
Categories: Campus news HP

McGill researchers collaborate on potential design for Bank of Canada digital currency

Campus news - Thu, 02/11/2021 - 14:07
Katrin Tinn is an Assistant Professor of Finance at the Desautels Faculty of Management. Christophe Dubach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering.

The Bank of Canada has announced the top three proposals of the Model X Challenge, a project seeking new designs and business models from North American institutions for Central Bank digital currency (CBDC). These proposals help the Bank of Canada explore the best solutions for digital currency systems if the decision is made to issue a CBDC. Among the leading participants are McGill researchers, Prof. Katrin Tinn (Desautels Faculty of Management) and Prof. Christophe Dubach (Faculty of Engineering).

As the move towards digital payment methods increases, so does the need for more secure and compliant systems of digital currency. Their proposal, Central Bank Digital Currency with Asymmetric Privacy, investigates safe, accessible, and efficient applications of CBDC.

“We propose a novel, implementable technical solution using a Proof-of Authority-based blockchain and a Zero-Knowledge Proof approach for private coin ownership,” describes Dubach. “These design features have been chosen to ensure privacy of spending, system transparency and compliance with tax and anti-money laundering regulations, without compromising scalability.”

Privacy-Hybrid CBDC

Their solution, a Privacy-Hybrid CBDC, involves intentional asymmetry between the privacy of the digital currency spender and the privacy of the digital currency recipient. Using this model, the identity and transactions of the individual spender are protected, while those of the recipient are documented and validated for transparency.

“This type of hybrid design could help resolve many of the current privacy and compliance concerns associated with CBDC, and has the potential for financial institutions and technology firms to offer new and better services,” says Tinn.

A key aspect of the Model X Challenge was the partnership between business and computer science researchers. Through combining their economic and technical expertise, Tinn and Dubach were able to develop the Privacy-Hybrid CBDC model and address the challenges of previous designs. “The project offered an exciting collaboration opportunity between McGill’s Finance and Computer Science and Engineering areas,” says Prof. Tinn. “We also look forward to engaging in fruitful debates with the other teams.”

Read the complete report here.

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Happiness really does come for free

Campus news - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 19:43

Economic growth is often prescribed as a sure way of increasing the well-being of people in low-income countries, but a study led by McGill and the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technologies at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) suggests that there may be good reason to question this assumption.

The researchers set out to find out how people rate their subjective well-being in societies where money plays a minimal role, and which are not usually included in global happiness surveys. They found that the majority of people reported remarkably high levels of happiness. This was especially true in the communities with the lowest levels of monetization, where citizens reported a degree of happiness comparable to that found in Scandinavian countries which typically rate highest in the world. The results suggest that high levels of subjective well-being can be achieved with minimal monetization, challenging the perception that economic growth will automatically raise life satisfaction among low-income populations.

Measuring happiness

To explore how monetization affects people’s sense of well-being, the researchers spent time in several small fishing communities, with varying degrees of monetization, in the Solomon Islands and Bangladesh, two very low-income countries.

Over a period of a few months, with the help of local translators, they interviewed citizens in both rural and urban areas a number of times. The interviews, which took place both in person and through phone calls at unexpected moments, were designed to elicit information about what constituted happiness for the study subjects, as well as to get a sense of their passing moods, their lifestyle, fishing activities, household income, and level of market integration.

In all, the researchers interviewed 678 people, ranging in age between their mid-twenties and early fifties, with an average age of about 37. Almost 85 per cent of the study participants were male. The disproportionate number of men in the study was due to the fact that cultural norms in Bangladesh made it difficult to interview women.

In the Solomon Islands, responses to the study questions from men and women were not significantly different. However, this is not necessarily applicable to the situation in Bangladesh, as men and women’s social realities and lifestyles differ so much. Further research will need to address whether gender-related societal norms impact the association found in this study.

Early stages of monetization may be detrimental to happiness

The researchers found that in the communities where money was in greater use, such as in urban Bangladesh, residents reported lower levels of happiness.

“Our study hints at possible ways of achieving happiness that are unrelated to high incomes and material wealth,” says Eric Galbraith, a professor in McGill’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the senior author on the study, which was recently published in PLOS One. “This is important, because if we replicate these results elsewhere and can pinpoint the factors that contribute to subjective well-being, it may help us circumvent some of the environmental costs associated with achieving social well-being in the least developed nations.”

“In less monetized sites, we found that people reported a greater proportion of time spent with family and contact with nature as being responsible for making them happy,” explains Sara Miñarro, the lead author on the study who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at (ICTA-UAB). “But with increasing monetization, we found that the social and economic factors commonly recognized in industrialized countries played a bigger role. Overall, our findings suggest that monetization, especially in its early stages, may actually be detrimental to happiness.”

Interestingly, while other research has found that technology and access to information from faraway cultures with different lifestyles may affect people’s sense of their own well-being by offering standards to which people compare their own lives, this did not appear to be the case in these communities.

“This work adds to a growing realization that important supports for happiness are not in principle related to economic output,” adds Chris Barrington-Leigh, a professor in McGill’s Bieler School of the Environment. “When people are comfortable, safe, and free to enjoy life within a strong community, they are happy – regardless of whether or not they are making any money.”

Read the study.

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Les bourses McCall MacBain dévoilent 50 finalistes

Campus news - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 17:02

Cinquante étudiant·e·s de partout au pays, y compris cinq étudiant·e·s de l’Université McGill, ont été nommés finalistes pour les bourses McCall MacBain, le tout premier programme de bourses de leadership complet du Canada au niveau de la maîtrise. La bourse permet aux étudiant·e·s de faire une maîtrise ou de suivre un programme professionnel de premier cycle à l’Université McGill, en bénéficiant des relations de mentorat et de la participation à un programme intensif de développement du leadership. 

Les premier·ère·s finalistes, qui viennent de 28 universités canadiennes, ont contribué à la vie de leur campus ou de leur communauté de diverses façons : création de groupes de lutte contre le réchauffement climatique, direction de journaux étudiants, bénévolat dans le cadre de projets de robotique et d’intelligence artificielle, initiatives de lutte contre le racisme, aide aux membres vulnérables de la communauté, sans compter les projets en santé publique, éducation et collecte de données en relation avec la pandémie de COVID-19.   

Les finalistes ont été choisis en fonction de leur personnalité, de leur engagement, de leur potentiel de leader, de leur esprit d’entreprise et de leurs résultats scolaires et de leur curiosité intellectuelle. 

« Il n’y a pas de portrait type du boursier ou de la boursière McCall MacBain », observe Natasha Sawh, doyenne du programme de bourses McCall MacBain. « Nous sommes à la recherche d’étudiant·e·s de tous horizons, qui ont une ferme volonté d’apprendre, de faire bouger les choses et d’améliorer la vie des gens, à travers leurs études et leur action bénévole. »  

Rencontrez les finalistes de McGill 

Trois étudiants actuels de McGill, et deux diplômées récentes, figurent parmi les 50 finalistes :  

  • Étudiant en alternance travail-études en génie des matériaux à l’Université McGill, Sinan Abi Farraj (B. Ing., 2021) est aussi gestionnaire des activités d’un service de tutorat par les pairs de sa faculté. Depuis deux ans, il contribue d’ailleurs au développement de ce service en accentuant sa visibilité auprès des étudiant·e·s et en proposant des tutoriels collectifs hebdomadaires. Sinan a également participé à l’organisation des élections étudiantes et à la gestion d’un club de technologie spatiale, en plus d’enseigner à des réfugiés au Liban, le tout bénévolement. Cette année, il a aidé une organisation de défense de l’environnement à imaginer un procédé de recyclage des textiles. Il souhaite faire une maîtrise en génie chimique ou génie des matériaux à McGill. 
  • Somaya Amiri (B. A., 2020) a entrepris ses études universitaires après quelques années seulement d’éducation en milieu structuré. L’expérience l’a incitée à créer un groupe d’aide pour d’autres étudiant·e·s immigrants et réfugiés à l’Université McGill. Elle a été bénévole pour le programme comparatif des systèmes de santé de McGill pendant quatre ans, au cours desquels elle a organisé un congrès sur la santé des femmes qui a réuni 150 personnes.  Somaya a obtenu un baccalauréat ès arts (sciences politiques) à l’Université McGill comme boursière Loran. Elle travaille actuellement comme stagiaire parlementaire et compte étudier le droit à l’Université McGill. 
  • Ayant fait l’expérience de la guerre et de pertes, Mustafa Fakih (B. Ing., 2021) a choisi une carrière en santé pour aider la communauté. Depuis 2017, il est premier répondant bénévole pour l’Ambulance Saint-Jean. Il a siégé à plusieurs associations étudiantes de l’Université McGill et au conseil d’administration de l’Association étudiante de l’Université McGill (AEUM). Il dirige actuellement l’association des étudiant·e·s musulmans. Étudiant en bio-ingénierie à l’Université McGill, Mustafa a contribué à la formation d’une équipe de biodesign et enseigné la conception assistée par ordinateur aux membres de son équipe. Il vise maintenant un grade en médecine ou en ingénierie.  
  • Janson Kappen (B. Sc., 2021) est codirecteur du club Montreal Beyond Me, qui jumelle plus de 50 mentors bénévoles à des enfants ayant des besoins particuliers. Il a récemment achevé 700 heures de formation pour devenir préposé aux bénéficiaires dans un établissement de soins de longue durée pour personnes atteintes de la maladie d’Alzheimer. Janson a été membre de l’équipe d’aviron novice de l’Université McGill. Il terminera bientôt un baccalauréat en sciences (pharmacologie) à l’Université McGill, où il souhaite faire ensuite des études en neurosciences, en pharmacologie ou en médecine. 
  • Zeytouna Suleiman (B. Trav. soc., 2020). participe activement aux activités de l’Association des étudiant·e·s musulmans de l’Université McGill depuis plusieurs années et y est devenue récemment vice-présidente des affaires internes. De plus, elle a été coprésidente du comité de l’équité de l’AEUM. Elle travaille à temps partiel pour un centre local de ressources pour les femmes et un centre d’aide aux victimes de violence conjugale. Récemment, elle a créé une entreprise qui conçoit des outils d’aiguillage des clients, destinés aux travailleur·se·s sociaux et aux travailleur·se·s de la santé. Ayant acquis de l’expérience professionnelle dans un centre d’information juridique et dans un service de protection de la jeunesse, elle espère être admise au programme de droit (Juris doctor) l’an prochain pour répondre aux besoins des membres vulnérables de la communauté. 
Le processus d’entrevue  

Plus de 735 candidat·e·s ont postulé pour une bourse McCall MacBain, et 140 ont participé à des entrevues régionales avec des leaders de leurs régions, ce qui a mené à la sélection de 50 finalistes en novembre dernier. Jusqu’à 20 boursières et boursiers McCall MacBain seront choisis à la suite des entrevues finales, qui se tiendront les 11, 12 et 13 mars 2021.  

Le processus d’entrevue comporte des conversations avec un groupe diversifié de leaders de partout au pays, incluant des diplômé·e·s de l’Université McGill. 

Marcia Moffat (B. Sc. 1991), coprésidente de la campagne Forgé par McGill et membre du comité d’entrevues régionales de novembre dernier, décrit les entrevues comme une occasion de réflexion personnelle globale. « Les étudiant·e·s ont la chance de parler de leur personne tout entière plutôt que d’essayer de trouver des liens entre leurs expériences et un poste ou un rôle en particulier. En tant que membres du comité d’entrevues, nous recherchons du courage, de l’intégrité et un potentiel de leadership en nous intéressant aux différents parcours des candidat·e·s. Pour ce faire, nous écoutons ce que les étudiant·e·s ont à dire sur leur cheminement et leurs ambitions. » 

Plusieurs dizaines de diplômé·e·s de l’Université McGill se sont porté·e·s volontaires pour faire partie du comité d’entrevues régionales. Parmi ces personnes, citons Ram Panda (M. Ing. 1971, MBA 1977), président du Conseil des gouverneurs de McGill; Omar Masood (B. Ing. 2008), président de la Calgary Alumni Association; et Inez Jabalpurwala (B. A. 1989, M. A. 1991, MBA 2001), ex-présidente de l’Association des diplômés de l’Université McGill, entre autres. 

En plus de concourir pour la bourse intégrale, les finalistes sont admissibles à une bourse de finaliste de 10 000 $ applicable à des études de deuxième cycle à l’Université McGill. 

Cette année, le programme de bourses McCall MacBain a décerné 28 bourses de 5 000 $ chacune à des étudiant·e·s prometteurs, qui se sont distingués pendant les entrevues régionales. Trois étudiant·e·s de McGill figurent parmi les récipiendaires de ces bourses régionales. 

Toutes ces bourses sont le fruit d’un don inédit de 200 millions $ canadiens, fait en 2019 par John et Marcy McCall MacBain. Il s’agissait à cette date du don ponctuel le plus considérable de l’histoire au Canada.  

Le programme de bourses McCall MacBain connaitra une croissance internationale au cours de la prochaine décennie. D’ici 2030, près de 300 étudiant·e·s seront récipiendaires des bourses McCall MacBain. 


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McCall MacBain Scholarships announce 50 finalists

Campus news - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 16:57
The 2021 McCall MacBain Scholarship Finalists

Fifty students from across the country, including five McGill students, have been named finalists for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarships, Canada’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship for master’s and professional studies. The scholarship enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.

The inaugural finalists come from 28 Canadian universities from coast to coast. Their work on campus and in the community has included organizing climate action groups, editing and running student journals, volunteering with artificial intelligence and robotics projects, establishing anti-racism initiatives, providing support for community members in vulnerable situations, and working on several public health, data, and educational projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finalists were chosen based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.

“There is no typical McCall MacBain Scholar,” said Natasha Sawh, Dean of the McCall MacBain Scholarships. “We look for potential in students from all walks of life, with different academic and volunteer interests. What unites them is the inner drive to learn, lead, and make a positive impact in other people’s lives.”

Meet the McGill finalists

Three current McGill students, and two recent graduates, are among the 50 finalists:

  • A materials engineering co-op student, Sinan Abi Farraj (BEng’21) manages the daily operations of his faculty’s peer tutoring service. Over the past two years, he helped expand the service by introducing weekly group tutorials and increasing student outreach. Sinan has also volunteered his time to organize student elections, help run a space technology club, and teach refugees in Lebanon. This year, he also assisted an environmental organization in researching a textile recycling solution. Sinan is applying for a master’s degree in chemical or materials engineering.
  • Somaya Amiri’s (BA’20) experience as a refugee student, starting university after only a few years of formal education, inspired her to start a student group to support other immigrants and refugees on campus. She has also volunteered with McGill’s comparative health club for four years, during which she organized a 150-person conference on women’s health. Somaya graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from McGill University as a Loran Scholar. She is working in Ottawa as a parliamentary intern and aims to study law.
  • Having experienced war and loss, Mustafa Fakih (BEng’21) decided to pursue a career in healthcare to give back to his community. Since 2017, he has been volunteering as a first aid responder with St. John’s Ambulance. He has served as a representative for several student associations at McGill and was a board director of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). He now leads the Muslim Students’ Association. A bioengineering student, Mustafa helped start a biodesign team and taught computer-aided design to fellow team members. He hopes to pursue his next degree in medicine or engineering.
  • Janson Kappen (BSc’21) co-leads Montreal Beyond Me, a club pairing 50+ volunteer mentors with children with special needs. He recently completed 700 hours of training to become a personal support worker at a long-term care facility for seniors with Alzheimer’s and volunteers with another campus organization. Janson also participated in the novice-varsity rowing team at McGill. He is completing his bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and hopes to continue his studies in neuroscience, pharmacology, or medicine.
  • Zeytouna Suleiman (BSW’20) has been involved with the Muslim Students’ Association at McGill for several years, most recently as vice-president of internal affairs, and co-chaired the equity committee of the undergraduate student government. She works part-time at both a local women’s shelter and a resource centre for victims of domestic violence. Recently, Zeytouna started a company building tools to facilitate the client referral process for health and social service workers. Having worked at a legal information clinic and a youth protection agency, she hopes to start the BCL/JD program next year so that she can continue to help address the needs of vulnerable community members.
The interview process

More than 735 people applied for the McCall MacBain Scholarships, and 132 participated in regional interviews with local leaders in November before the 50 finalists were selected. Up to 20 McCall MacBain Scholars will be chosen after final interviews, which take place from March 11 to 13, 2021.

The interview process involves conversations with a diverse group of Canadian leaders, including members of McGill’s alumni community.

Marcia Moffat, BSc’91, co-chair of the Made by McGill campaign and one of the regional interviewers in November, describes the interview as an opportunity for holistic personal reflection. “Students get a chance to discuss their whole selves, instead of trying to fit their experiences into a particular job description or role. As interviewers, we look for courage, integrity, and leadership potential through the lens of different lived experiences. We do that by listening to what students have to say about the path they’ve taken and where they want to go from here.”

Several dozen McGill alumni volunteered as regional interviewers, including Ram Panda, MEng’71, MBA’77, Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors; Omar Masood, BEng’08, President of the Calgary Alumni Association; and Inez Jabarpurwala, BA’89, MA’91, MBA’01, Immediate Past-President of the McGill Alumni Association, among others.

Finalists who are not selected as McCall MacBain Scholars will be eligible for a $10,000 entrance award for their studies at McGill.

This year, the McCall MacBain Scholarships program also granted 28 awards of $5,000 each to promising candidates who distinguished themselves at regional interviews. Among the regional award recipients were three McGill students.

The scholarships are the result of the 2019 landmark gift of $200 million (Canadian), the single-largest gift in Canadian history at that time, by John and Marcy McCall MacBain.

The McCall MacBain Scholarships will expand internationally over the next decade, with nearly 300 McCall MacBain Scholars selected by 2030.

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McGill named one of Montreal’s top employers

Campus news - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 08:43

There will be no triskaidekaphobia at McGill, at least not today.

As announced this morning, for the 13th consecutive year, the University is being celebrated as one of Montreal’s Top Employers.

The annual competition is organized by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers to recognize the employers in Greater Montreal that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. This year’s winners were announced this morning, February 9, in a special magazine featured in the Montreal Gazette.

Stellar working conditions, time-off opportunities

McGill scored high marks for employee health and well-being initiatives featuring “resources, tools and strategies to help employees adopt and sustain positive mental, physical, financial and nutritional health, and social connection.”

The University was also touted for flexible work hours, in-house training for employees, onsite childcare options and its health plan premium.

On top of stellar working conditions, McGill was praised for the time off it offers employees. The University “encourages employees to take time off to recharge with three weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving to four weeks after only three years on the job,” said the Top Employers citation. “Additionally, the organization offers paid time off during the summer and winter months, as well as four paid personal days that can be scheduled throughout the year.”

Commitment to employees

For Diana Dutton, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources, the good news only reinforces McGill’s long-term commitment to its employees.

“With the personal perspective of a quarter century at McGill, I can see the progress that the University has made as an employer in that time. As a knowledge-based institution, our employees are our most important asset,” said Dutton. “McGill recognizes this and has invested in benefits to support employees’ quality of life both at and outside of work.”

“It is a systematic and continuous improvement process,” she continued. “Engaged employees not only enjoy their work and are able to perform better, they are also a significant source of feedback and inspiration in McGill’s process for implementing the kinds of policies and programs that the Top Employer award evaluates. In short, when you feel connected to and balanced in your work, it has a positive effect for everyone involved.”

Putting people first

The criteria used during the Montreal’s Top Employers selection process focuses on physical workplace; work atmosphere; health, financial and family benefits; vacation and time off; employee communications; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement. Employers are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offer the most progressive and forward-thinking programs.

“The project has always aimed to highlight best practices of this nature, and the past year has demonstrated that these kinds of ‘essential’ benefits really do matter,” said Richard Yerema, Managing Editor of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. “Whether it’s helping employees take time to take care or enabling them to have an impact in the community, the best employers recognize the need to put their people first.”

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McGill wins big in online publishing competition

Campus news - Mon, 02/08/2021 - 16:56

McGill University’s Advancement team continues to pile up the accolades, having won three top prizes at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards on February 4. The competition recognizes outstanding achievements in digital publishing, content creation and multimedia production, and attracts competitors from both the for-profit and non-profit sectors across Canada.

McGill’s two Gold Medals were in the categories of Best Email Newsletter, for McGill Checks In, and Best Feature Story for a profile of gaming executive Jade Raymond, which appeared in the McGill News alumni magazine. The Silver Medal, in the category of Best COVID-19 Coverage, was awarded to UA’s Alumni Webcast series.

The McGill Checks In newsletter and the webcast series were both launched last March, within a week of the COVID-19 lockdown, and were intended to provide McGill alumni and donors with insight and information about the pandemic. The newsletter was sent every Sunday for several weeks to 185,000 alumni around the world, with links to stories about how McGill’s faculty, staff and students were addressing the health crisis. It also played a critical part in the rollout of the McGill Student Emergency Support Fund, which raised more than $1-million to support students in need.

The Alumni Webcast series, moderated by Derek Cassoff of the UA Communications team, with technical support from Stewart McCombie and Jonathan Roy of Multimedia Services, included 22 hour-long episodes featuring faculty experts discussing different aspects of the pandemic from the infectious disease and global health implications to psychology, food security, law and economics. Episodes in the initial series have been viewed by more than 165,000 people on McGill’s You Tube channel.

In a survey of donors to eight of Canada’s top universities, conducted las fall by an international consulting group, McGill’s supporters were the only ones who said they were more inclined than not to turn to their alma mater for information about COVID-19.

The McGill News award was for a feature article that appeared in the January, 2020 issue of the magazine. It was written by freelancer Eric Leijon and edited by Daniel McCabe.

The COPA awards cap a terrific stretch of accolades for McGill’s Advancement team: three weeks ago, McGill won seven awards in the CASE District 1 competition. Last summer, the team won a record nine awards from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education.

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Man of Bronze: Dr. Phil Edwards, McGill’s first Black Olympian

Campus news - Mon, 02/08/2021 - 16:00

McGill Medicine grad Phil Edwards (MDCM ’36) was the University’s first Black athlete to compete in the Olympics. A revered Canadian athlete, he captured five bronze medals in middle distance races over three Olympiads and came to be known as the Man of Bronze.

Phil Edwards was captain of the McGill track and field team

Guyana-born Edwards moved to the United States to study at New York University, where he was on the track team. He wasn’t eligible for the US Olympic team but, as a member of the British Empire, was eligible for the Canadian team, whose coach saw his potential and quickly recruited him in 1927. In 1928, he represented Canada at the Amsterdam Games, where he won a bronze medal for the 4x400m relay.

When he graduated from NYU, he changed course and chose to study medicine at McGill, rather than his original plan of following his father into law and studying at Cambridge. He arrived in Montreal in 1931 and immediately joined the University’s track and field team, which he captained and led to many victories. In 1932 he was part of Team Canada at the Los Angeles Games, where he had astounding success, winning three bronze medals: another for the 4x400m relay; one for the 800m and a third for the 1,500m.

His outstanding success led to him being named Team Canada’s captain for the controversial 1936 Berlin Games, where he was part of the famous upset of Adolf Hitler’s racist agenda, along with US track star Jesse Owens. As the Montreal Gazette wrote in his obituary notice in 1971, “His third-place bronze medal in the 800-metre run and his fifth place in the 1,500-metre race not only added to Canada’s point totals but added Phil to the ranks of black athletes from many countries who shot holes in Hitler’s pure Aryan track army on their home field in Berlin.” (Montreal Gazette, September 8, 1971)

Despite this triumph, Edwards was frequently the object of anti-Black racism. In one famous incident, on his way home from the Berlin Olympics, he was refused a room in the London hotel booked for the team because he was Black. The rest of Team Canada refused to stay there if their captain couldn’t. His sporting exploits were regularly featured in the sports pages in Montreal and across Canada, but rarely was his skin colour not mentioned (“the dusky Negro,” “dark-skinned Canadian Olympic star”), even while he was being heaped with praise for his successes.

For 66 years, Dr. Edwards was Canada’s most decorated Olympian (speedskater Marc Gagnon tied his record in 2002; the current record – six medals, just one more than Dr. Edwards – is held jointly by Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen). Dr. Edwards was also the first recipient of the Lou Marsh Trophy for best Canadian athlete, in 1936 (the most recent recipient was NFL player and fellow McGill MDCM, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif). Dr. Edwards has been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame and the McGill University Hall of Fame.

Career in medicine Dr. Phil Edwards led a distinguished career in tropical medicine, specializing in parasitology and chest diseases at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Edwards earned his MDCM degree in the same year of his triumph at the Berlin Olympics, 1936, after which he retired from competitive running. His older brother, Edward “King” Edwards, graduated in medicine the same year and was also on the track team (in the McGill yearbook, King listed his pet peeve as “Being mistaken for Phil.”) Their younger brother Benjamin was also a sprinter on the McGill track team.

Dr. Edwards left Montreal to practise in Trinidad for a couple of years after graduating. But when war broke out, he enlisted in the Canadian Army, serving in the Royal Canadian Medical Corps. After the war, he returned to McGill to do graduate training in tropical medicine in 1945. He stayed in Montreal where he led a distinguished career in tropical medicine, specializing in parasitology and chest diseases, including tuberculosis, at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

He also took part in international humanitarian missions. In 1960, just after the Congo gained independence from Belgium, Dr. Edwards took part in a three-month Red Cross mission to help get the country’s medical system back on its feet after the flight of its Belgian physicians. Despite the country’s top-notch facilities, Black Congolese citizens had been barred from medical school, and Dr. Edwards feared it was doomed to suffer outbreaks of preventable diseases due to the lack of qualified staff. “The Belgian Congo lagged badly behind in educational facilities for the Congolese,” he told the Montreal Gazette in an interview in September 1960. “That is the crux of the whole present crisis.”

Dr. Edwards died in Montreal on September 6, 1971.

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American Astronomical Society honours McGill astrophysicist

Campus news - Sat, 02/06/2021 - 02:03
Vicky Kaspi has been named a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society

McGill astrophysicist Vicky Kaspi is among 31 people to have been named new Fellows of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Kaspi was honoured for her “innovative work in the field of neutron stars and pulsars.”

The physics professor and Director of the McGill Space Institute was cited for her “innovative work in the field of neutron stars and pulsars.” Kaspi’s research is focused on neutron stars and their utility for constraining basic physics. More recently, she has also made fundamental discoveries on Fast Radio Bursts.

The AAS press release.says the new Fellows are being recognized for “original research and publication, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy and to the Society itself.”

The AAS Fellows program was established in 2019, to recognize AAS members for their contributions toward the Society’s mission of enhancing and sharing humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Fellows may be cited for original research and publication, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy.

This is the most recent in a long list of honours and awards for Kaspi.

In 2020 alone, she won the Royal Society of the United Kingdom’s Bakerian Medal, made the Clarivate Analytics’ Highly Cited Researchers 2020 List and was named a Distinguished James McGill Professor. Kaspi and her colleagues on the CHIME Radio Telescope team also won a 2020 Governor General’s Innovation Award.

Other honours include the Steacie Award, Fellow of the Royal Society, member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Killam Prize, the Herzberg Gold Medal, and being named Companion to the Order of Canada, in addition to many others.

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Campus update - Distribution of mandatory procedural masks

EOC updates - Fri, 02/05/2021 - 14:53
<p>T<i>his message is sent on behalf of Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre. </i>  </p> <p><i>La version française suivra lorsque disponible dans un courriel séparé.</i>  </p> <p>Dear members of the McGill community,  </p>
Categories: Campus news HP

Campus update - Gradual implementation of additional in-person academic activities  

EOC updates - Fri, 02/05/2021 - 12:55
<p><br /> (February 5, 2021) <em>T</em><i><em>his</em> message is sent on behalf of Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre. </i>  </p> <p><i>La version française suivra lorsque disponible dans un courriel séparé.</i>  </p> <p>Dear members of the McGill community,    </p>
Categories: Campus news HP

Leadership in sustainable research and planning bring in big points for McGill’s latest sustainability rating

Campus news - Fri, 02/05/2021 - 10:40
A Farm Management and Technology student and a Macdonald Campus staff member plant a tree in October 2020. Applied activities, like the one pictured here, offered through academic courses contributed to advancing McGill’s STARS scoreCaitlin MacDougall

McGill’s strength in research, coordination, planning, and procurement have bumped up the University’s sustainability score, bringing it closer to achieving its long-term target of a Platinum rating by 2030.

The score is calculated through the Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS®). It is an internationally recognized, transparent, self-reporting framework that is widely used by colleges and universities. Over 1,000 universities and colleges have used it thus far.

“Updating our score helps us hold ourselves accountable,” said Francois Miller, Executive Director of Sustainability. “By tracking our strengths and weaknesses, we are able to ensure that we’re doing all we can to make McGill a more sustainable place to work and study.”

STARS® is built around four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. A score is provided to each organization based on more than 1,000 datum across 70 credits. Data collection for McGill’s report involved was a collaborative effort that involved the participation of over 30 McGill units.

McGill has been reporting to AASHE using STARS® since 2012, when it received its initial score of 50.63, giving the University a Silver rating. In the years since, McGill has made the jump to Gold, where it now sits with an updated score of 76.63. This new score places McGill in the top three among its peer institutions in the U15. McGill also scored 23 points higher than the peer institutions’ average score in the Planning and Administration category.

An overall score of 85 is needed to achieve a Platinum rating.

Student engagement is sustainability research pushes McGill forward

McGill’s successes in sustainability research contributed substantially to McGill’s high score, with the University receiving 95 per cent of available points in the Research sub-category. Over one-fifth of McGill faculty and staff are engaged in sustainability-related research, while 72 per cent of research-producing departments at McGill are engaged in the area.

“Building a sustainable future, both at McGill and beyond, is a multisectoral, multidimensional endeavour that requires systems-level thinking and novel solutions,” said Dr. Heather McShane, Program Director and Catalyst-in-Chief of the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI).

“The McGill community has shown great enthusiasm in taking interdisciplinary and holistic approaches to sustainability and climate issues as these propel us towards new innovations and discoveries,” Dr. McShane continued. “The MSSI would like to congratulate the entire McGill community for its accomplishments under STARS® and looks forward to supporting our students and faculty as they continue to conduct trailblazing sustainability research.”

McGill’s offering of applied student research (ASR) courses, which allow faculty and students to use the campus as a living lab, also bolstered the University’s standing. One such course, ENVR 401:

Environmental Research offered by the Bieler School of Environment, has previously examined creating a carbon offset program for University travellers. The research resulted in the creation of the McGill Offsetting Program, under the advisement of an Offset Selection Committee.

Sustainable plans and policies put McGill on track

Strong efforts from Procurement Services, evidenced through McGill’s formalized sustainable purchasing policies and supplier codes of conduct, also brought in high marks.

“I think our ranking reflects, among other things, how McGill has made Sustainable Procurement one of its priorities,” Sustainable Procurement Program Manager Stéphanie Leclerc said. “We have been actively leveraging our supply chain to support positive social and environmental outcomes. It’s an ongoing effort and more and more community members have been working towards this with us.”

McGill’s Procurement Policy, adopted in 2018, ensures that all those who purchase goods and services for the University “source exclusively from contractors who demonstrate a steady record of compliance with all environmental regulations and an organizational commitment to responsible environmental management, by minimizing waste and promoting environmentally friendly products and services.”

The progress made on behalf of Procurement Services ensures that the entire lifecycle of a product and its associated environmental and social impact are considered.

Building towards a Platinum rating

The McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025 was designed with a Platinum rating by 2030 in mind, putting more emphasis on the areas that need improvement.

While existing McGill policies and programs promote a high standard for indoor air quality, green cleaning practices, and energy management, the University has, for example, set an objective that all new construction and major renovation projects must be, at minimum, LEED Gold certified. This new level of certification will create accountability in the way the University constructs and renovates its buildings by adhering to high standards related to material selection, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water management.

Under the latest STARS® rating system, the inclusion and support of social sustainability has also been given more weight. The University’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategic Plan 2020-2025 will allow McGill to implement a structured EDI assessment process that addresses campus climate, and student and employee outcomes. This means McGill will better understand how it is doing in the social sustainability sphere, as McGill recognizes the interconnections between the environmental, social, and economic dimensions, also referred as the three pillars of sustainability.

The goals of the EDI Strategic Plan include, among others, increasing the representativeness of the student body, enhancing capacity of teaching staff and Student Services to create and maintain respectful, accessible, and inclusive student life and learning settings, and ensuring University policies establish prompt, effective, and confidential channels to address EDI concerns and complaints. These improvements are all crucial to creating a socially sustainable place to work and study.

McGill’s STARS® score will be reevaluated in 2024. For more information about the Platinum sustainability rating long-term target, please read the McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025.


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Meet Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo, McGill’s inaugural Black Student Affairs Liaison

Campus news - Thu, 02/04/2021 - 17:44
Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo, McGill’s inaugural Black Student Affairs Liaison Claire Pageau-Lucier

Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo understands the power of a university education, but he is also a champion of experiential learning. He will lean heavily on both in his role as McGill’s inaugural Black Student Affairs Liaison.

In line with McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism, the University created the Black Liaison position. Mauffette Alavo’s mandate is to ensure that McGill’s Black students are supported and that their concerns and needs are communicated with McGill’s senior leadership in a timely and effective manner that is centred on their success and wellness.

“It’s classic liaison work – I will facilitate two-way communication,” says Mauffette Alavo via Zoom. “I am to be the voice for Black students, and I will communicate their concerns to administration. Then I will report back to them with answers and concrete results. Or, I can help them if they want to bring forward investigations or start processes.”

Working within the Equity Team within the Office of the Provost & Vice-Principal (Academic), Mauffette Alavo will collaborate with faculties and key university offices – such as Student Services, Enrolment Services, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and Teaching and Learning Services – on relevant initiatives, particularly those related action items within McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism.

Wealth of experience

The Montreal native comes into his new position, which began officially on January 11, with wealth of experience.

Mauffette Alavo knows firsthand what life is like for Black university students, having earned his BA (double major in Political Science and International Development Studies) from McGill in 2007, and a Masters in Global Studies from Université de Montréal in 2011.

But he’s also spent eight years advocating on behalf of McGill students, first as the Student Liaison with the Arts Internship Office, and most recently as the Field Studies Internship Officer in the Faculty of Science. He knows how to navigate University processes and who to talk to when problems arise.

“When I was working in Arts, people would naturally come to me looking for help in securing funding for an internship. But they also came to me to discuss finances, visas, all sorts of things,” says Mauffette Alavo. “I was referring them to the right people and the proper channels.”

“I’ve also had to deal with a few crises, like [students experiencing] discrimination abroad. In my role as Student Liaison, a big part of my role is say ‘OK, something happened, this is what we have to do.’”

“I understand how important it is for students to have a person with whom they can confide one-on-one,” he says.

Strengthening links between McGill and Montreal’s Black community

While pursuing his BA at McGill, Mauffette Alavo himself benefitted from internships that helped him work in Peru and Brazil. The internships “changed my life,” he says, and he is determined to have similar opportunities for McGill’s Black students.

One of his goals is to establish funded internships within Montreal’s Black community – a situation that would benefit students, faculties and the larger community.

“I want Black students who come to McGill to have access to long-term funding,” says Mauffette Alavo. “This will help increase enrolment of Black students,” he says.

Mauffette Alavo also wants to promote McGill as a viable option for Black Montrealers. This includes helping to strengthen the links between McGill student groups and the local community, and “reaching out to underserved communities like CEGEP Ahuntsic and Montreal North high schools.”

Building upon success

Not even a month into his new job, Mauffette Alavo is aiming high, hoping to build on the successes he helped nurture in his days in the Arts Internship Office. “Sometimes, two or three years after we helped a student get an award or funding, they would become a Rhodes Scholar, or get into Yale Law,” he says with a smile. “We see Black excellence all the time in our alumni. It’s inspiring.”

But for now, he wants McGill’s Black student body to know he is their go-to person.

“I understand what students are going through and how they feel – depending on the period of the year, the period of their studies, and what their goals are,” says Mauffette Alavo. “I was there, with the same hopes and aspirations. And then, I also saw the possibilities that are there after graduation.”

“I will support our students’ success and help them get to where they want to be.”

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In Conversation with Order of Canada Recipient B. Denham Jolly

Campus news - Thu, 02/04/2021 - 15:06
B. Denham Jolly, BSc(Agr)’60, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in November 2020

B. Denham Jolly, C.M., BSc(Agr)’60 is a human rights activist; author of In the Black: My Life (2017); Toronto Book Award Winner; Founder of FLOW 93.5 FM, Toronto; the Harry Jerome Awards; the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), and Co-Founder & President of the Committee for Due Process. 

This past fall, Jolly was named a Member of the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest civilian honours, for “his contributions to the promotion of equality and opportunity within the Greater Toronto Area’s Black Community.”

In the following Q&A, Jolly speaks about everything from his formative years as a student at Macdonald Campus, to his tireless work in the Black community, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Please tell us about some of the community outreach, professional organizations and philanthropic support for which you have been recognized with the OOC, and what does this honour mean to you?

Receiving the Order of Canada has been very humbling and it is a profound honour to be recognized by such a great country as Canada. Even though one does not expect rewards for their empathetic actions, it is satisfying to know that good deeds are not always unnoticed in society – [for example] paying off the mortgage for the Jamaica Canadian Association’s centre; starting a breakfast program for 60 students at my old high school, sponsoring a youth soccer club in Regent Park, Toronto, for underprivileged boys; or giving scholarships to various institutions.

I have also served on a number of institutional boards, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the YMCA of Greater Toronto, the Black Action Defence Committee, Caribana (North America’s largest outdoor cultural festival), the Toronto Mayor’s Economic Development Committee and others.

I founded the Black Business and Professional Association 38 years ago, and the Harry Jerome Awards, Canada’s most prestigious Black award, which in 2020 awarded over 100 scholarships to institutions of higher learning and has, so far, awarded millions of dollars in scholarships over the years.

Of this I am very proud, having contributed to filling a real gap in the Black Community, considering there were still 1,500 unfulfilled applications this year. Other honours received include the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and Canada’s 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal. In 2019 the City of Toronto recognized me by naming a city street in my honour: “Jolly Way,” for my activism and philanthropic contributions.

How did you end up at McGill? Was it always your aspiration to study at Macdonald College? What role do you think universities such as McGill need to play in society today? Is it about teaching the next generation, fostering innovative research, building bridges to society through public outreach… or all three?

I arrived from Jamaica to attend the University of Guelph with the intention of obtaining a degree in agriculture. This led to further studies at Dalhousie University and finally McGill, where I graduated with a degree in science in 1960.

McGill/Macdonald is universally recognized as a most prestigious institution. The role of McGill is all three, as it plays an important role in research, building bridges to society and especially, extending opportunities to the less privileged, which is a very important role given that student costs have exploded exponentially compared to the past, when government contributed more to education. In fact, this is one reason why I have always made an effort to contribute generously to McGill/Macdonald.

What role has your McGill/Macdonald education and experience played in your business success? 

Having a degree from such a prestigious institution as McGill opens doors to various opportunities. It being regarded as the “Harvard of the North” has opened doors and commanded respect both in the academic and business worlds. Not being a privileged student, I learned resilience and determination; making sacrifices to succeed was great equipment for forging a path for life after university.

 Your book, In the Black: My Life, won the Toronto Book Award in 2017. This memoir speaks to the “polite” racism experienced in Canada. Do you think the current situation with the Black Lives Matter movement is making a difference?

It is quite propitious that my book In the Black, which was written in 2017, prophesied the situation that Black Lives Matter is so vigorously, appropriately and comprehensively addressing today. One invaluable effect of what Black Lives Matter is doing today is forcing dialogue, and hopefully creating greater understanding, because it is only with empathy that there can be any meeting of the minds.

If you could offer one piece of advice to younger alumni, what would it be?

The best advice for a young student today would be to maintain a tenacity of purpose and patience. There is a strong tendency today, with the present generation, to expect instant results. One has to have the strong attitude of the marathon runner, and sometimes even after “hitting the wall” have faith in the second wind or even the third.

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McGill students create inaugural Sustainable Development Goals Week

Campus news - Thu, 02/04/2021 - 08:58
McGill SDG Week is in support of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

The McGill Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Student Hub is hosting its first annual McGill SDG Week from Feb. 8-12, part of a global plan of action by the United Nations to provide concrete solutions for the world’s sustainability challenges.

The week-long campaign is in support of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

Geneva Yang, a U2 student in International Development and Psychology and the president-founder of the McGill SDG Student Hub, said that “the goal of this week is to help students learn more about the SDGs and to raise awareness on sustainable development goals and the necessity of having a more sustainable future.”

Student hubs supporting the UN initiative have been created at universities around the world. The McGill Student Hub is part of “a diverse and global network of young leaders passionate about and eager to contribute to the SDGs.”

Yang is also the SDG campus coordinator at SDSN Youth Canada, the youth wing affiliated with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Ways to take action

On December 14, the McGill SDG Student Hub launched a 51-day information campaign on social media to promote awareness of the 17 UN goals and ways to engage with them. Aiming for a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future, these objectives target pressing global issues, including poverty and hunger, clean and affordable energy, inequality, sustainable cities, climate change, quality education and gender equality.

“There are three ways mainly for students to take action,” said Yang. “One is to volunteer with an NGO [non-governmental organization] related to that SDG. The second is to donate through NGOs, businesses or governmental agencies that help address problems related to SDGs; and the third way is to join a McGill club that is related–[that is] similar to volunteering, but that also builds more of a community.”

SDG Week, she noted, was conceived, organized and developed by students.

“We’re really happy that McGill recognized the event and helped promote it. I’m working with the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative and the Office of Sustainability, and both have been really helpful in promoting our events and suggesting speakers.”

Harmonized with McGill’s priorities

The week’s theme also dovetails nicely with McGill University’s own sustainability strategy priorities, Yang said, which include achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

“Number one, I would say, is McGill’s research and education priorities. This week certainly fits under this category of educating, raising awareness and helping students and members of the McGill community learn more.”

“We have an event [on the last day] on the future of sustainable cities. We’re going to discuss important sustainability tips – how to live more sustainably in an urban environment. These can all be applied to our lives and how we live in the McGill community.”

No fewer than 10 McGill student associations collaborated on the launch of the inaugural event.

The week-long activities split the 17 goals into five thematic groups:

The primary target audience is McGill students, but SDG Week events are open to all. All times are EST. Get more information on the SDG Week Facebook Page.


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MUHC’s Dr. Lucy Gilbert named one of the Top Women of Influence for 2021

Campus news - Wed, 02/03/2021 - 17:51
Dr. Lucy Gilbert is Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the MUHC

Dr. Lucy Gilbert has been named to the Top Women of Influence for 2021 on the strength of her ground-breaking work on early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers that could save the lives of countless women.

The Top Women of Influence list is a celebration of Canada’s most accomplished women.

“The annual Top 25 Women of Influence awards recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of Canada’s self-identified women and gender-diverse role models,” says the Women of Influence website. “The recipients have all left their mark over the past year: contributing to the greater good through their initiatives; using their influence to drive positive change; or reaching inspiring heights on a global stage.”

Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Women’s Health Research Unit at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Dr. Gilbert has developed a test to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers early (DOvEE).

Silent killers

Ovarian and endometrial cancers are known as “the silent killers” because they present no symptoms until they have spread to other parts of the body. By the time the cancer is detected, it is difficult to treat and, as a result, many women die.

“Dissatisfied with the sad reality that the cure rate of ovarian and endometrial cancers have not improved in the last 30 years, Dr. Gilbert and her team worked relentlessly to design a genomic uterine pap test that uses AI to analyze cells – creating the only test capable of making the distinction between cancer and non-cancer cells in pre- and post-menopausal women,” says the Women of Influence citation. “The DOvEEgene has the potential to detect the third highest cancer-killer of Canadian women before it’s too late.”

Strengthened resolve

Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Quebec Science 2018 Discovery of the Year for the DOvEEgene test. Last May, Dr. Gilbert received a Genomics Applications Partnership Program funding grant worth $6.24 million to finalize the development of the test. As well, the MUHC Foundation is raising $2 million to support Dr. Gilbert’s research and the DOvEE clinical trials through its Dream Big campaign.

Dr. Gilbert’s goal is to make the DOvEEgene test a routine part of women’s health. Clinical trials for DOvEEgene are set to begin in May 2021.

“It’s a great honour to be recognized among the top 25 Canadian Women of Influence, as it means that the goal I have pursued for much of my career – to find an early detection test for ovarian and endometrial cancer – is important to Canadians at large,” says Dr. Gilbert. “This recognition strengthens my resolve to get this test to the public without delay.”

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Campus update - February 3, 2021

EOC updates - Wed, 02/03/2021 - 14:28
<p>T<i>his message is sent on behalf of Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre. </i></p> <p></p> <p><i>La version française suivra lorsque disponible dans un courriel séparé.</i></p> <p>Dear members of the McGill community,</p> <p>I have two short but important updates to share with you today. This email will cover:</p>
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