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Lassonde is funding innovative initiatives through 2023 spring cycle of EDI Seed Funding

The Lassonde School of Engineering has announced the 2023 spring cycle winners of EDI Seed Funding. This funding initiative plays a pivotal role in uplifting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts at Lassonde, and since its launch in 2021, has supported various projects for inclusive recruitment strategies, meaningful training opportunities and unique pilot programs that inspire positive change.

In this most recent competition, four recipients were selected to receive funding:

“We are excited to see the development and depth of ideas and applicants as Lassonde’s EDI Seed Funding is offered for the second year to our community,” says Lassonde Dean, Jane Goodyer. “Our aim is that this funding will inspire and activate our community, fostering a greater proactive collaboration to address both the small and significant challenges facing our School and extending to the broader societal context.”

Learn more about the funded projects below.

Participatory Processes Towards Increased Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Inclusion

Led by: Melanie Baljko, associate professor in the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science department

Melanie Baljko
Professor Melanie Baljko

Participatory Processes Towards Increased WIL Inclusion extends from an existing, large-scale research project which aims to create more accessible and inclusive WIL experiences for neurodiverse students and students with disabilities enrolled in STEM programs at higher education institutions.

To support this goal, Professor Baljko and co-applicants, Professor Iris Epstein in the School of Nursing at York University and Professor Lindsay Stephens in the Department of Urban Planning and Geography at the University of Toronto, will develop two different programs to gather and disseminate information on the WIL experiences of neurodiverse students and students with disabilities. Each program will only recruit individuals from Lassonde with lived experiences as neurodiverse students or students with disabilities.

One program, Student Co-Design Working Group(SCDWG) will provide students with opportunities to serve in paid research assistant (RA) positions, while taking part in weekly meetings to offer insight into their experiences and develop supportive tools for other students. The second program, Lived Experience Expert Panel (LEEP) will allow students to share their journeys in the SCDWG program – with the goal of mobilizing knowledge to inform future innovation of WIL opportunities for neurodiverse students and students with disabilities.

Students who are interested in these RA positions are invited to apply on the job postings page of Experience York.

Recruitment Activities for NSERC CREATE: Additive Manufacturing in Engineering Design and Global Entrepreneurship (AM-EDGE)

Led by: Aleksander Czekanski, professor in the Mechanical Engineering department

Alex Czekanski
Professor Alex Czekanski

In collaboration with post-doctoral fellow Elli Gkouti, Professor Czekanski will enhance his research training program, AM-EDGE, by incorporating EDI principles into program activities.

Part of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE), AM-EDGE was designed to provide Highly qualified personnel (HQP) with technical and professional training in additive manufacturing, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and global entrepreneurship. With support from the EDI Seed Fund, Professor Czekanski aims to revamp the recruitment process and establish equal opportunity for participants, by dismantling barriers which commonly restrict members of underrepresented groups from pursuing prestigious research opportunities and thriving in professional research environments.  

Through various initiatives, this project will develop a diverse pool of HQP candidates, facilitate partnerships aligned with EDI values, embed EDI principles into project management protocols and create an inclusive research environment. Initiatives include a podcast program which will increase awareness of EDI issues, mandatory EDI training for AM-EDGE program members, a committee dedicated to implementing EDI principles in recruitment strategies and research conferences geared toward individuals from underrepresented groups.

Training Opportunities

Two Lassonde students and global ambassadors for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Peace Ikpotokin and Tasneem Naheyan, received EDI Seed Funding to support their attendance at international SWE conferences. SWE is the world’s largest organization for women in engineering and technology, striving to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders.

Building on former EDI training, Ikpotokin, graduate student in Civil Engineering, will attend the SWE conference in Los Angeles to learn new strategies and gain knowledge about EDI in the workplace and educational institutions. She will utilize this experience to benefit the Lassonde community by creating an SWE-affiliate group at the School.

Naheyan, PhD candidate, received EDI Seed Funding to attend the SWE conference in Barcelona, Spain, giving her the chance to present her master’s research, engage with other researchers and connect with members of SWE. This opportunity uplifts her position on the Board of Directors of SWE Toronto and supports her plans to engage Lassonde students in SWE Toronto events and programs.

About EDI Seed Funding

The Lassonde School of Engineering created the EDI Seed Fund to help support the development of original initiatives that promote EDI culture at the School and beyond. Applications are accepted for three different streams: Fund for Recruitment Initiatives, Training Opportunities and Pilot Initiative Funds. Each stream encourages applicants to embrace creativity and find ways to make the School a more diverse and inclusive space.