Happy Holidays Arts & Science!

December 10, 2021 by A&S News

Enjoy our 2021 holiday card! Wishing everyone peace and joy in the new year.

The 2021 holiday card can be seen below.

As 2021 comes to an end, we take a look back at the year to recognize the contributions of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. Read below Dean Melanie Woodin’s recent remarks at the December 8 Faculty Council meeting, where she highlights some of the successes of our community in 2021.

Dear A&S community,

It’s hard to believe we are in December and marking another year under COVID restrictions. It certainly has been a challenging 12 months, and with the recent emergence of the Omicron variant, it looks like COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come. But as a community we’ve demonstrated exceptional resiliency, and I have no doubt we’ll continue moving forward and adapting to whatever comes our way.

Speaking of our incredible community, I’d like you to join me now for a brief walk back down memory lane, as I highlight some special moments for our Faculty over the last year.


January began with celebrations, as two Arts & Science faculty were named to the Order of Canada.

Professors Yaprak Baltacıoğlu from the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and Morris Moscovitch from the Department of Psychology received the prestigious — and one of the country’s highest — honour.

Composite of Yaprak Baltacıoğlu and Morris Moscovitch headshots.



In February we recognized Black History Month with an inaugural decanal lecture. We hosted award-winning author Professor Vincent Brown of Harvard University who delivered an online public lecture to the A&S community on Canada’s ties to the slave trade that bankrolled the British Empire. It was an outstanding evening moderated by Professor Melanie Newton from the Department of History. I’d like to extend my appreciation to the faculty members who brought forward the proposal for this inaugural lecture series and their dedication to organizing this event.

Also in February, A&S student Riley Yesno was one of two students to receive the President’s Award for Outstanding Indigenous Student of the Year. She has been heavily involved in community advocacy for years, serving on the Prime Minister’s Youth Council and frequently addressing Indigenous, environmental, youth and LGBTQ2S+ issues in her work as a writer and public speaker. Congratulations to Riley, who graduated in June and is a true credit to our Faculty.

Vincent Brown in front of bookshelf.



Riley was just one of several accomplished women we celebrated in March for International Women’s Day. This was a solemn occasion this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a disproportionately negative effect on women in the workforce. Looking toward a brighter future, we also celebrated students and graduates, such as Anowa Quarcoo, who completed the Master of Global Affairs/Master of Business Administration at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and launched an innovative tech startup using technology to help address civic issues.

We also celebrated Professor Renée Hložek who won the Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal for her contributions to Astronomy.

Composite of Anowa Quarcoo, Riley Yesno, Ikran Jama, Qiyu Zhou, Lana El Sanyoura.



April was a big month for science news here in the Faculty when Juna Kollmeier was appointed the new director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, or CITA.

April also marked the opening of the Acceleration Consortium led by Professor Alán Aspuru-Guzik, which uses artificial intelligence and robotics to accelerate the design and discovery of materials that don’t yet exist.

And let me tell you, when you get Professors Kollmeier and Aspuru-Guzik in a room together, the sky's the limit (pun intended).

Juna Kollmeier portrait.



In May, A&S News featured a wonderful outreach initiative — an innovative series of workshops offered by science departments in our Faculty to Black students across the GTA. The program, which continued until August, covered every scientific domain imaginable — from astronomy to earth sciences to computer science.

And we certainly all realized how much of a debt we owe to science this past May, when Canada’s vaccine efforts ramped up in earnest. An enterprising Arts & Science alumnus named Zain Manji made a fantastic contribution by developing a unique tool called Find My Vaccine, which helped vaccine seekers find their nearest clinic. Users input or text their postal code to 1-833-356-1683 and immediately receive the addresses of the three nearest vaccine clinics.

Zoom screen grab of students and instructors at the online launch of Pursue STEM.
Photo credit: Image courtesy Sheela Manek.



In June we held our second virtual convocation ceremony, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. We also just celebrated Fall Convocation and I continue to be in awe of our resilient, hardworking graduates who managed to complete their entire final year virtually. But I’m not going to try and sugarcoat it, we all miss in-person convocation.

One of these is the remarkable science student Vivian (Qiao) Xie, who at only 16 years of age has already begun her master’s degree in applied immunology at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. She hopes to finish her PhD at 22 — the age when most students are just completing their first degree.

Vivian (Qiao) Xie.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Vivian Xie.



And in July, we had the bittersweet announcement that Professor Alexie Tcheuyap — who is the former Chair of French, and a scholar of African literary, cinema, and media studies — would be leaving his role as Vice-Dean, Faculty, Academic Life, and Equity to become the Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience. We of course are thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with Professor Tcheuyap in this new capacity.

Alexie Tcheuyap standing outdoors beside a mirrored wall
Photo credit: Johnny Guatto.



August ushered in ‘awards season,’ and that’s when we were proud to note 19 scholars from Arts & Science who were named Connaught New Researchers. We also applauded as Rotman Commerce launched the Francisco Bursary, which will be awarded annually to a Black or Indigenous Rotman Commerce student in financial need. The award is an embodiment of shared family values: the power of education to shape lives, the belief in helping others, and the pursuit of a more equitable world.

Convocation Hall in summer



And September saw the opening of two important centres at U of T and the promise to proceed with yet another.

Our new Data Sciences Institute is ground zero for the data revolution, finding new ways to store, process and make sense of the world’s increasing store of information.

And the new Queer and Trans Research Lab is the first ever of its kind, a place to break down barriers, rethink traditional academic practices and empower community activists.

Trans, Canadian and LBBTQS+ flags blowing in wind



In October, leading political scientist Peter Loewen was installed as the new director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, where he will implement an ambitious strategic plan

Portrait of Peter Loewen.
Photo credit: Alexis MacDonald.



And with huge excitement in November, we announced a transformative physical renewal to our home base at the Faculty of Arts & Science. The Sidney Smith Hall revitalization project will redefine Sid Smith, creating a sustainable, accessible and modern space for students, staff, faculty and the wider community.

Veronica Bergstrom and Andrew Yin in front of Sidney Smith Hall



Ending the year on a truly high note, Professor Lynne Viola, from the Department of History, has been honoured with the Gold Medal from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Viola is a leading scholar of Soviet History and a University Professor. With this award, she is only the fifth scholar ever to win the Molson Prize, the Killam Prize, and the SSHRC Gold Medal — our three top national humanities and social sciences awards. Now that’s an incredible achievement!

Lynne Viola.


And with that, I conclude my somewhat lengthy look back at 2021.

I hope you enjoyed looking back with me and I wish everyone an enjoyable and restful holiday.

Dean Woodin

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