FGS Standing Committee Elections: Biographical Statements–June, 2021

Graduate Student Biographical Statements

Academic Planning & Policy Committee graduate student nominees

Thomas Frattaroli (Graduate Program in Education)
My name is Thomas Frattaroli, a first-year PhD student in the Faculty of Education. I believe that we as graduate students have a critical role to play in contributing to the academy through direct participation in various university committees and structures; I have lived out that belief throughout my post-secondary career. While completing my degree at the University of Guelph I served as a General Director for the Graduate Student Association and in my last few years at York University, I have served as the Faculty of Education Coordinating & Planning Representative and I am currently a representative for YUGSA on Senate.

Speaking directly to my interest in this committee, from my experiences as a high school teacher and graduate student, I have experienced first-hand the implications of policymaking on the student population. It is imperative to have a representative on this committee who will advocate for the graduate student voice as I have for my many years at York. My own research interests focus on inclusive policies and pedagogical practices in relation to gender-diverse student populations in higher education: my research, then, will benefit me in my service on this committee.

As a member of the Senate, I have seen the goals of Academic Planning and Policy come to fruition and I hope to be a part of that process. I believe that I have the academic background and proven experience in collegial service to be an effective representative for all graduate students on this committee.

Munjeera Jefford, Graduate Program in Social & Political Thought
I am a 4.5-year PhD student in Social and Political Thought. I worked at the TDSB as an ESL instructor and supervisor for adult immigrants at several schools across Toronto for many years. Together with my supervisory peers and under the direction of upper management I wrote a manual about safety procedures, staff protocols and a Mental Health Crisis Policy. I checked teachers’ assessments and reports regularly to ensure compliance with the federal government. At the private high school where I have worked for the last 10 years, I wrote curricula for Grade 9-12 English, Canadian, American and World History and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test compliant with Ministry of Education requirements. From 2016 - 2018, I worked at Sheridan College. I wrote term plans and assessments for international and domestic students to meet the Ministry of Colleges and Universities' expectations.

My research area is anti-oppressive education management. For my MEd I researched an instructional strategy called the funds of knowledge to increase student engagement for writing skills. The funds of knowledge strategy shows teachers how to solicit funds of knowledge from diverse communities and then incorporate diverse social capital into the curriculum and lesson plans. Currently, I am conducting research in the Jane and Finch area to test out the funds of knowledge strategy for music education with a generous grant from the Helen Carswell Chair in Community Engaged Research in the Arts.

If selected, I will resign from the Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee.

Noah Khan, Graduate Program in Education
Hey! I'm Noah, and I don't feel like blurbs or profiles truly do people justice. I feel that rigorously listing out all of my qualifications is a disingenuous representation of who I am.

I've had many successes, but I've also made a ridiculous amount of mistakes in my life. I've brought benefits to many people, but I've also undoubtedly caused suffering in the world. I also speak from a place built on the silence of others, so I try to listen more than I talk.

I want to sit on the Academic Planning & Policy Committee because I want to make sure the student voice is heard in a group whose results ultimately affect students. As Co-Chair of York Graduate Students in Education (YGSE), I'm in a good position to hear from graduate students in Education as well as from the other heads of Departmental Graduate Students Associations, so we can get student voice into the committee effectively. As Co-Chair of YGSE I also have access to MachForm, so I'll set one up that is always available to students so any student can have their say heard and put forward. Thanks for reading.

Laura Keane, Graduate Program in Mathematics & Statistics
I am a second-year international PhD student studying Applied Mathematics at York. Throughout my academic career I have always had a keen interest in volunteer and outreach activities. During my final years of undergraduate, I undertook the roles of vice-chairperson and class representative of my Financial and Actuarial Mathematical Society. Following my undergraduate, I was motivated to partake in initiatives to encourage women in STEM such as recording an alumni video for the university to encourage females to study mathematics.

During my MSc I was involved in the organization of an Inspiring Women in STEM event and served as the postgraduate representative on the Athena Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN) committee in the Mathematics Department in the University of Limerick, Ireland. Athena SWAN is an initiative focused on equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) for all, with aims to advance and encourage the careers of all in STEM subjects.

I have continued my involvement in similar diversity initiatives at York through the Association for Women in Mathematics and as a volunteer presenter at this years Soapbox Science event in Toronto. Beyond this, I have also embraced opportunities to be involved in departmental activities such as being one of the organisers for the annual department TA training.

I would like to serve on the FGS Academic Planning and Policy Committee to further my involvement in the York academic community, to pursue a more active role in academic governance, and to advocate for EDI principles in shaping academic policy.

Tanice Lewis, Graduate Program in Social Work
My name is Tanice Lewis, and I am a registered social worker with a mental health streamed focused MSW, currently working in the clinical mental health sector. I am currently a second-year PhD student at the school of social work and will be entering my third year of the program as a PhD candidate by September 2021. My area of research focuses on mental health, and with an honours undergraduate degree in Psychology from York University, along with over 15 years work experience of working with all walks of life, in various environments, then including myself on the committee would be beneficial to both the committee members and the faculty. I would be honoured to uphold the policies and practices of the committee, and look forward to being an active contributing member of the committee. I look forward to the possibility of joining the committee in making a meaningful impact in the lives of many students.

Sanjida Sharmin Mohona, Graduate Program in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
I am Sanjida Sharmin Mohona. I am a 3rd year PhD student in Computer Engineering at Lassonde School of Engineering. I am highly interested to serve as a volunteer on FGS Academic Planning & Policy Committee. I would like to apply for this position as I am passionate to help students in their academic journey. I have completed MASc. in Computer Engineering from York University. Before coming to York, I served as a lecturer at Stamford University Bangladesh. I am a hardworking person and a quick learner. I can manage my time effectively, can lead a group as a team leader and can work in a group as a group member. I have good knowledge of student’s scholarship and their academic/leadership criterion as I have experience to work as a student member in FGS award committee. I strongly believe that I can contribute to the academic endeavour of the students at York University if I get this opportunity and I can fulfill my desire to work for the fellow graduate students as a student member.

Taha Sajjad, Graduate Program in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
My name is Taha Sajjad. I am a Ph.D. student in Lassonde School of Engineering, currently working in Eckford’s Lab on high-speed communications. I have initiated the IEEE women chapter in York university. The society provides women a platform to grow their skills in the field of science and engineering. Prior to coming to York, I have been associated with academia as a lecturer and a researcher. Besides academics, I was involved in administration and management of different projects which are beneficial for students as well as society. I proposed a solution for deaf kids regarding speech recognition issues. I developed a new communication engineering lab in (FAST) National University, Pakistan. Being a part of academia as a student, an educator and a researcher, I can see that policy decisions have a huge impact on the student’s academic as well as professional life.

I polished my project management skills as a project lead at AlKhwarizmi Institute, Pakistan for developing a new smart metering system, funded by Syed Bhais Private Ltd. a major industry leader in energy metering devices. I am presently leading a team of associates as a member of World Financial Group (WFG) and helping to grow them as an entrepreneur.

I always look for opportunities that help me to make a difference in the lives of people which in turn gives me a chance to learn and grow as well. Consequently, my purpose to apply for the role in academic planning and policy committee is the same.

Awards Committee graduate student nominees

Revital Bonder, Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science
Revi Bonder is a third year PhD candidate at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University. Her research interests lie primarily in the area of compulsive overeating behaviours. Revi collaborates actively with researchers in several other health-science disciplines, mainly on research surrounding weight-related topics with children and youth with disabilities. Revi has been a Course Director and Team Lecturer for the Department of Global Health Studies at York University. In her role as a Course Director and Team Lecturer, Revi was involved in the development and organization of the course curriculum, which included creating lecture material, examinations and assignments. Revi has held over 10 teaching assistantship positions throughout her time as a graduate student. Revi is also a Research Coordinator and member of the Research Professional Development Committee at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Revi’s role in the Research Professional Development Committee is to assist with determining funding allowances for professional development activities for internal research staff. Revi currently holds several grants with other researchers at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Revi has also received a Senior Teaching Assistant certificate from the Staff and Educational Development Association accredited course at Teaching Commons at York University.

Kathleen Cherrington, Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies
My name is Kathleen Cherrington, and I am a first year PhD student in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies (GFWS). My proposed mixed methods research creation project will specifically analyze the intersections of sex, class, race, ability and gendered power inequalities affecting sex workers’ lives in a North American context using sex radical and intersectional feminist theoretical frameworks. This project will contribute towards the improvement of society in a social justice capacity while evaluating the significance of the arts as a mode of activism against stigma, criminalization and structural violence. I am particularly interested in imaginative research methodologies and my PhD supervisor is Dr. Denielle Elliott who is a founding member of The Centre for Imaginative Ethnography. The graduate program in GFWS, has provided me with a strong foundation in anthropology, sociology, humanities and history, specifically within the cultural and socio-political aspects of gender and sexuality. The three areas of specialization I will focus my research on will be: 1) Cultural and Literary Studies, Performance and Fine Arts; 2) Politics, Economies and Societies; and 3) Sexualities. With regards to my service roles at York University I am: 1) currently a member on the GFWS Executive Committee; 2) have been a participant on the Sexuality Studies Research Methods Roundtable Group; 3) a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society; 4) past experience as an Executive Member for the Undergraduate Sexuality Studies Association (USSA); and 5) was nominated as the Undergraduate Student Representative for the Sexuality Studies Program Council in 2014/5.

Hadil Elsayed, Graduate Program in Biology
Hadil Elsayed is a first-year PhD student in Biology, researching the long term impacts of climate and landscape changes on insect communities in protected areas. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. In 2018, she joined York University for her Masters of Environmental Studies where her research focused on the impacts of managed honey bees have on wild bees in urban landscapes. As an undergraduate, Hadil served on the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Student Union (EEBU). During her time serving on the EEBU, she worked on helping first year students acclimate to the program and aided them when choosing their area of concentration.

Hadil has been working and volunteering the past four years at the Royal Ontario Museum. Working in the Hands-On and Schad Galleries, she connected with the public, educating them on various ecological concerns and species at risk. In addition to her time spent with the public, Hadil has worked within the curatorial and educational departments to create new workshops, help with the Entomology Lab, and collections management. As a graduate student, Hadil has spent time mentoring students and volunteers in various capacities, including both lab and field settings.

Hadil has extensive experience in working with and on committees in a variety of roles. Between her work, her time spent working within this field in various capacities, and her commitment to giving back to her community, Hadil would make an ideal representative for the FGS Committee.

Homa Hedayat, Graduate Program in Humanities
My name is Homa Hedayat. I am currently a PhD student in Humanities department and a researcher in urban studies at the City Institute of York University. I have had a long-lasting interest in social sustainability, community development, quality of life enhancement, social sustainability, urban resilience, urban design and architecture, environment favorable healthy lifestyles, as well as in the realm of environmental psychology, impact of the pandemic on daily lifestyle, sense of belonging and attachment, cultural identity, informal settlements, diaspora, and immigration. I have worked in interdisciplinary fields, involving research projects related to inclusive environments and communities, which have given me a deeper understanding of the requirements of the environment which caters for mental and physical wellness. One of these research projects which I was awarded by Mitacs organization was about studying of the perception of public places and sense of belonging in residential neighborhoods by younger and older Iranian immigrants living in the Toronto metropolitan area.

I also have experience working on practical projects. I was involved in revitalization and rehabilitation projects. I organized meetings to brainstorm ideas collaboratively with municipalities, stakeholders, and people as well as people’s representatives. It gave me a strong grasp of qualitative and quantitative research methods, involving focus groups and interview data collection. These projects entailed guidelines and policies which are meant to improve daily lifestyle, enhance well-being, and support physical activities in order to have more sustainable communities.

Sasan Heidarzadeh, Graduate Program in Humanities
I am writing to apply for the volunteer position on the Faculty of Graduate Studies Award Committee at York University. I am a first year Ph.D. student of Humanities at York University and before being admitted to this program, I had earned two master’s degrees, one in English literature and another in Humanities (the latter from York U).
I have the experience of working with the Canadian Arab Institute and Institute for Social Research at York University, among other organizations, in the capacity of research assistant, interviewer and data collection clerk. I am also part of the Humanities Graduate Student Association (HUGSA) at York University.

Working with The Canadian Arab Institute, I was involved with a project entitled “the Impact of COVID 19 on Equity-seeking Groups across Canada”. As a research assistant and interviewer, I was responsible for interviewing participants and gathering information on their experiences in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This position afforded me the opportunity to develop strong interpersonal and communication skills as well as multi-tasking potential. At Institute for Social Research (ISR), I often employed verbal persuasion strategies in interacting with research participants and was able to hone my communication skills.

Although I have not yet had the opportunity to serve on a similar committee, I believe that given my passion for representing my fellow students, I will thrive in this position and thus eagerly look forward to the results of the adjudication for the said position.

Petitions Committee graduate student nominees

Md Abdullah Asad, Graduate Program in Civil Engineering
I am Md Abdullah Asad. I hold an MASc. degree in Civil Engineering from York University and currently I am a PhD Candidate. During this time, I served in some committees as graduate student representative which has improved my leadership abilities. I worked as Secretary of the Geoenvironmental Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS). I also worked as a Counselor, Secretary and Treasurer for the civil engineering graduate student association (CEGSA) where I attended meetings, managed funds, and helped organizing events for fellow graduate students. My goals were to know the needs of the fellows and represent their interests as I believe if I can work collaboratively, I can contribute to graduate student’s success. I am deeply interested to serve as a graduate student representative to the FGS Petitions Committee as I believe reviewing petitions is very important for the development of graduate student’s academic performance.

Emily Hoffman, Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science
My name is Emily Hoffman, and I am a first-year PhD student in the department of Kinesiology and Health Science. I earned a BA in the same program and worked (a) in a neuroscience lab at SickKids and (b) in my current lab before starting my MSc in 2019. I then pursued and was granted an internal promotion to the PhD program, which began in Sept. 2020. I was awarded the CGS-Master's as an incoming graduate student, and OGS the year after (applied to PhD 1). I have recently submitted a first-author manuscript for publication, which is currently in revision. My research focuses on the prevention of low blood sugar in diabetes, which is the most common and fatal complication of insulin therapy.
I am applying for a two-year volunteer position on the FGS Petitions Committee, beginning July 1, 2021. As a member of this community, I am dedicated to supporting the faculty in delivering fair and impartial judgements as well as identifying opportunities to improve current policy. I plan to remain in academia long-term and am eager to gain experiential knowledge of committee operations with the intention of growing my involvement and leadership over time. I appreciate the weight of this responsibility and would treat this position ethically and conscientiously. Thank you for considering me.

Rubin Pooni, Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science
I am a second-year doctoral student in the Kinesiology and Health Science program at York University. I previously completed my MSc and BSc Honours in Kinesiology and Health Science at York. My current research involves examining the association of physical activity with diabetes, autonomic function, and mortality under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Kuk.

Over the past 5 years, I have worked as a teaching assistant for 8 different courses in Kinesiology and Natural Science at York. For the past 2 years, I have also been working as lab coordinator for KINE 1020, a compulsory, first-year course for Kinesiology undergraduate students.

During my experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student and while working as a teaching assistant and lab coordinator, I have seen how extenuating circumstances can arise and impede a student’s ability to meet academic deadlines. As a lab coordinator for a course that has an enrollment of approximately 1000 students per year, I have worked with many students who have requested accommodations for completing course requirements. During this process, I have learned that the reason for accommodation requests can vary greatly and that requests must be examined and addressed on a case-by-case basis in an equitable manner, without compromising course integrity. By serving on the Faculty of Graduate Studies Petitions Committee, it would allow me to use and expand my knowledge and experience to help other students whose academic progress has been affected by extenuating circumstances in an equitable manner in a larger capacity.

Amanvir Virdi, Graduate Program in Biology
Amanvir Virdi is an active personality in the Biology Graduate Program where she currently holds the position of co-chair for the Symposium Committee, a division of the York University Association of Graduate Students in the Biological Sciences (YorkU AGSBS). Organizing a fully online research conference has given her unparalleled experience in science communication and has given her the opportunity to highlight skills such as flexibility, creativity, organization, and teamwork. During her undergraduate career, Amanvir was involved in clubs such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the YorkU Jam for Justice Chapter. After completing her Bachelor of Science with Honours and an undergraduate research thesis, she continued her academic career by pursuing a Master of Science in biology with a focus on cardiac physiology. She encourages scientific thought and critical thinking skills in her students and holds such traits as pillars in her teaching philosophy when overseeing undergraduate labs. Outside of YorkU, Amanvir works as a receptionist for Apex Blinds, a local woman-owned business that serves the interior decorating community of the GTA. Maintaining a steady line of communication with local vendors and international suppliers has helped develop her interpersonal and business management skills. Through such ventures, her communication skills, multitasking abilities and dependability have been exemplified. When she is not splitting her time between work and school, Amanvir can be found engrossed in a book or dabbling in the art of writing.

Faculty Member Biographical Statements

Appeals & Academic Honesty faculty member nominees

Nikola Kovinich, Graduate Program in Biology
Dr. Kovinich received his Ph.D. in 2011 from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. His Ph.D. research focused on understanding the genetics and biochemistry of specialized metabolite biosynthesis in medicinal black soybean, and on engineering soybean metabolism to produce a visible color marker that could be used to identify genetically modified soybean grains. His postdoctoral studies at Ohio State University in the United States focused on understanding the fundamental processes of metabolite transport in plants. In 2012, Kovinich was awarded a Pelotonia Postdoctoral Fellowship to investigate his novel approach for producing derivatives of natural anticancer drugs using a combination of semi-synthesis and metabolic engineering. In July of 2015, joined West Virginia University at the rank of Assistant Professor to research the genetics of plant metabolic responses to stress. He taught undergraduate- and graduate-level molecular genetics courses. In September of 2019, Dr. Kovinich joined York University in Toronto Canada to continue researching gene regulatory networks that control plant metabolism and teach undergraduate and graduate Biology students. Dr. Kovinich was nominated for awards in mentoring undergraduates in research at Ohio State and West Virginia Universities. His current research focuses on understanding gene regulatory networks that control the biosynthesis of defense and anticancer metabolites in soybean and nanoparticle-based bioengineering approaches to manipulate specialized metabolism in Cannabis sativa. This research is currently funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and York University.

Alexey Kuznetsov, Graduate Program in Mathematics & Statistics
I am currently a Professor in the department of Mathematics and Statistics (Faculty of Science). After joining York as a faculty member in 2008 I have had extensive experience related to Graduate Studies. I supervised a number of Master's and PhD students, I served on various graduate committees in my department and in 2017-2020 I was the Graduate Program Director in Math and Stats. I also have experience serving on various Petitions and Appeals Committees at York University: one term (2014-2016) on the FGS Petitions Committee and one term (2016-2019) on the Senate Appeals Committee.