Celebrating another wonderful year at Arts & Science

June 29, 2023 by A&S News

Dear Arts & Science alumni, supporters and friends,

As the academic year comes to an end, I am looking back with pride and reminiscing about heartwarming, inspiring conversations and milestones. Here are some highlights I’d like to share with you.

We are still basking in the tremendous warmth of Reunion 2023. What a remarkable turnout this year with more than 12,000 registrants! It was a delight to welcome so many alumni in person back to campus again and virtually from all over the world.

This spring we also celebrated Arts & Science’s efforts to make the world more sustainable, equitable and just. As part of the Defy Gravity campaign, the most comprehensive university campaign in Canadian history, A&S is supporting and attracting the most brilliant minds from all over the world, and across disciplines, through inclusive excellence. Our scholars are tackling the most urgent challenges facing humanity today, and teaching the next generation of creative, engaged and caring citizens. You are invited to explore the meaningful ways you can support student success and build a better future for Arts & Science.

What a thrill to celebrate A&S graduates earlier this month at traditional Convocation Hall ceremonies and wish them well as they venture into the world to make their mark on society. Congratulations to the Class of 2023, our newest alumni! I know they will do great things.

Our remarkable students were hard at work this year and have so much to be proud of.

Iakoiehwáhtha Patton.
Arts & Science alum Iakoiehwáhtha Patton is headed to Oxford University as the first female First Nations Rhodes Scholar.

Just a few notable mentions include soon-to-be Rhodes Scholar Iakoiehwáhtha Patton, an art history graduate and member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) First Nations community in Quebec. On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate Iakoiehwáhtha for this historic achievement as the first female First Nations Rhodes Scholar.

And an ambitious and innovative group of graduate students — Ilya Musabirov, Mohi Reza, Pan Chen and Harsh Kumar — is developing a platform to improve students’ learning experiences as part of the Adaptive Experimentation Accelerator team. Led by Joseph Jay Williams, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, the team has developed infrastructure that supports traditional, adaptive experiments in online instructional settings. Congratulations to them for receiving the grand prize in the XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge, a global competition.

It’s no wonder our students are so inspiring; they are following in the footsteps of our incredible faculty. A&S researchers have an incredible impact in a range of fields — sustainability, astronomy and astrophysics, global and urban affairs, and so much more. A team including University Professor Marie-Josée Fortin, Associate Professor Martin Krkosek, Adjunct Professor Emily Darling and alum Ariel Greiner is one of 20 Frontiers Planet Prize National Champions from around the world. Led by Fortin, the Spatial Ecology Group’s research focuses on biodiversity conservation, using mathematical and statistical modelling to understand how connectivity influences the dynamics of ecosystems worldwide.

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic these days, and Arts & Science is playing a crucial role in advancing ethical AI to positively impact the world. U of T was awarded a remarkable $200-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to revolutionize the speed and impact of scientific discovery through its Acceleration Consortium, led by Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry and computer science professor, and CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute for  Artificial Intelligence. This support advances the consortium’s work on self-driving labs to combine artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced computing to discover new materials and molecules in just a fraction of the usual time and cost. Applications include life-saving medications, biodegradable plastics, low-carbon cement, renewable energy and more.

We are always so delighted to hear about the amazing work of our global alumni. This year, Toronto Life Magazine named several A&S alumni on its list of the top 50 most influential Torontonians, including acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood. Hundreds of students, faculty and alumni packed Hart House last September for a much-needed exploration of democracy with Atwood, host Professor Randy Boyagoda and moderator Sam Tanenhaus, a Munk School visiting fellow and former editor at the New York Times.

The list included alumni such as renowned Anishinaabe author Tanya Talaga, celebrated for her books Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations and who received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University in 2022, and Mattea Roach, a Jeopardy whiz and host of The Backbench.

Bosco Law.
Bosco Law created the Bosco Law Award for Student Leadership in Anti-Racism and Inclusion with a generous gift of $100,000.

In addition, we connected with Bosco Law, who is tackling racism to promote inclusion and create opportunities for today’s students. The Hong Kong-based alum, who serves as deputy chairman and CEO of LAWSGROUP, established the Bosco Law Award for Student Leadership in Anti-Racism and Inclusion with a generous gift of $100,000. The prestigious award supports Arts & Science students who are engaged in anti-racism efforts through volunteerism. Thank you, Bosco.

I could on and on, so I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about just a few impressive members of the A&S community.

As I complete my fourth year as dean, I continue to be inspired by everyone I have the privilege to meet and work with here. This is a testament to the outstanding value of universities and the vital contributions they make to build and maintain healthy societies.

I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all members of Arts & Science for another terrific year. And to those who have supported A&S philanthropically, thank you for your generosity!

I wish you all a wonderful and restful summer. Warm regards,

Melanie A. Woodin
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science
Professor, Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto

P.S. Looking for some summer reading? Check out our book list by alumni authors.