Profiles

This is the place where YORKwrites will be shining a spotlight on some of York’s creators and innovators.
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Jeff Edmonds

algorithms_Edmonds

Computer Science Professor Jeff Edmonds’ wide-ranging research projects have produced an extensive list of published papers, journals, technical reports, and, in 2008, a textbook for his intermediate algorithms course.

Professor Jeff Edmonds, who is a part of a strong Computing Theory Group at York, didn’t set out to write a textbook. When he first began teaching, however, he found that he was not a particularly good at it and many of his undergraduate students were lacking the required fundamental skills. “The hard part was the huge gap between how easy I found the material and how overwhelmingly hard they found it. The ongoing struggle was to find out what that gap was and how to make it narrower. It turned out that we had completely different ways of thinking about the material. The students need to be retrained to think abstractly.” What didn’t help was that the existing material was too focused on concrete polished algorithms and polished proofs, and lacked step by step explanations of how to produce this work oneself. Towards this goal, Edmonds started writing notes and teaching supplements as he ran to class. After ten years of hard work on them, they had grown. Somehow Cambridge University Press found them and asked if they could publish them. After a great deal of work polishing, How To Think About Algorithms was published (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Edmonds explains, “Although solving problems does require brute force, hard work and attention to detail, the insight and understanding comes from somewhere in the subconscious. The subconscious, however, does not think in Java code. It requires abstract thinking.” This is what Edmonds tries to encourage with his textbook. Temporarily putting aside computer code in favour of using analogies such as fairy godmothers, little birds, and friends serves to train the students in a way of thinking about an algorithm that is better suited to daydreaming or chatting to a friend about it while on the subway. Edmonds believes this opens up students to a way of thinking about algorithms that ensures the ‘core’ of the algorithm is correct from the outset. He tries to get them to appreciate that this is not just an esoteric theory course, that not just the topics covered, but this whole new way of thinking is hugely useful in real-world scenarios. By raising their comfort level, Edmonds tries to instill in the students a love (or at least an appreciation) of the material.

His text has been widely praised for its innovative approach, called “a must-read for every teacher of algorithms” (SIGACT News), as it “leads an apprentice from knowing how to program to understanding deep principles of algorithms” (Times Higher Education Supplement).

Edmonds approaches his own research in a similar, organic way. Whether the problem involves scheduling, time-space tradeoffs, or data transmission, it first must be held as an abstract concept. “For research, I have to get kind of addicted to a problem. It has to come to me, stay in my brain, circulating around for days, months. I don’t know what makes me hooked on this versus that, just whatever catches my fancy.”

Collaboration is also key, as seen in his extensive work with Kirk Pruhs of the University of Pittsburgh on the topic of cake-cutting and resource allocation. When it comes to investigating a new problem, Edmonds believes “the most useful thing is having someone else around to talk to about it.” The depth and breadth of his research is a testimony to both his curiosity and his diversity of research partners. When asked about future research projects, Edmonds replied that he would follow whatever caught his interest next. “Industry always has problems that need to be solved, and no one really knows from which avenue the solutions might come or what might achieve the next breakthrough…”

“Why do I do it? Because it’s fun.”

[YORKwrites would like to thank Patrick Russel for providing this profile, and Ricardo Laskaris for his help with the interview process.]

Gendered Passages

Yukari Takai, professor of history at Glendon College, is establishing herself as an expert on the history of migration and demographic change. Her most recent study of migratory patterns into and throughout the Quebec/New England region in the 19th and 20th centuries offers a new framework for examining the immigrant experience. Having studied and taught in Canada and Japan, and as a Fulbright Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race at Columbia University in New York City, Takai brings a personal perspective to her research.

In her most recent publication, Gendered Passages: French-Canadian Migration to Lowell, Massachusetts, 1900-1920, Takai focuses on two distinct aspects of the French-Canadian experience in New England – the nature of mobility, and the family dynamics that changed and grew in response to the many pressures of an immigrant’s life.

In her view, French-Canadian culture, with its tradition of very high mobility and colonization, played an important role in establishing a presence in New England, “but I emphasize more the economic needs of the French-Canadian families, and also the labour demand of the textile industry in a dozen of mill towns in New England.

“After the US Civil War, immigration became more important in Lowell. It was mostly women that provided the labour in that city’s cotton and wool factories. By the early 1900s, French-Canadians became the largest foreign-born population in the city. Because, geographically, they were very close to Quebec, it was relatively easy for French-Canadians to travel; it was not the same experience that was had by Asian or European immigrants,” said Takai. “It was easier for French-Canadians to keep their cultural connections intact. French-Canadians recreated whole neighbourhoods, including their churches, French-language newspapers, Catholic schools and a ‘Little Canada’, where commerce was mostly run by Canadians.”

Takai goes on to emphasize the importance of the “family network – French-Canadian women and men created human networks across the border. There were villages in Canada that would send many families to work in Lowell, so they recreated neighbourhoods in the new cities and built a very close-knit network.”

It was these family networks, and how they adapted to fit the socio-economic challenges, that most informs Takai’s work. “In the last third of the 19th century, one of the reasons whole French-Canadian families would migrate to a textile city in New England is that the children could work at textile factories, and provide an income,” she said. “But with anti-child labour laws more strictly implemented in the 20th century, this became more difficult. While the male family heads, husbands and fathers tended to get more stable, higher-paying jobs, it was still difficult for them to be the sole wage earner, so more wives and mothers were working for wages.

“This resulted in a situation comparable to many immigrant working families today, where the women work for wages, and once finishing their day work would return home and do all their unpaid, home work. Increasingly, in early-20th-century Lowell, as French-Canadian wives and mothers entered the labour market, they had to juggle many responsibilities,” explained Takai. “The historical context makes it very different from today’s working mothers – there was no paid leave, there was no maternity leave, they had fewer options. Some brought their children to the factories, and they sat next to their mothers, with the ear-breaking noise and humidity – not an ideal place for children to be, but at the time it was possible to do this. There was a different working dynamic among the families and in the industry.”

Takai also emphasizes that migration is not strictly linear, in which immigrants settle into their new home and become assimilated and “Americanized”; rather, populations move across borders and back again in a more circulatory journey. She stresses the idea of a more continuous movement in adapting to meet socio-economic needs – that “high mobility is a way of life for many people. It’s still playing itself out today.”

Takai continues her examination of migration, both past and present. Her next book will be about Asian migration into North America, and the movement of Japanese, Chinese and South Asians across the Canada-US border and the Mexico-US border.

“It’s not a story of migrant settlement, but about moving. Looking at the Canada-US border and the US-Mexico border, I want to find out what motivated Asian migrants to cross these borders after they arrived in North America, how they did so, and what their mobility meant at a time when Canada, the United States, and Mexico came to impose more and more restrictive and exclusionary immigration laws across the continent.”

[YORKwrites would like to thank Patrick Russel for providing this profile]

All The Footprints In My Sand
One woman’s memoir a study of hope in the face of adversity

A York alumnus has penned a remarkable account of her journey through fear, grief, resolution, and, ultimately, self-determination. All The Footprints In My Sand (AEG Publishing Grp, 2008) is the memoir of Tracy Hunt Casey (class of ’94), a chronicle of her experiences through her mother’s struggle with ovarian and breast cancers, and the decisions she was ultimately forced to make.

Direct and honest, the work is a series of journal entries marking her passage through the heartbreaking loss of her mother, and the subsequent shock of discovering her own chances of inheriting the condition.

“The journal began as a way of dealing with the loss of my mother – a way for me to cope, to get my feelings down on paper”, says Casey. “This became a series of conversations with her, a way of keeping her in my life”.

Researching ovarian cancer and the treatments available led Casey to discoveries both stunning, and ultimately, life-saving.
“I knew that ovarian cancer was genetic, “she explains. “I was looking for different tests that they can do. While looking I discovered that breast cancer could also be hereditary, and that’s when I stumbled upon the BRCA1 and DNA testing.”

The BRCA1 test can identify a genetic mutation which is known to lead to certain types of cancer. For those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing can yield important information, and while this is not recommended for all women, those in a high-risk group are advised to consult their doctor.

“I’m thankful my mother took the (DNA) test. She always wondered why she got the disease, and unbeknownst to her she saved my life. She passed before she found out (the results of the test).”
After testing positive for the mutation, Casey faced the options of “yearly, pinpointed physicals, MRIs and ultrasounds. Another option would be lifelong tamoxifin drug therapy. A radical prophylactic mastectomy was the surest way of beating the disease.” For Casey, opting for surgery allowed to her to take control of the disease and move on with her life.

There are two reasons Casey wanted to share her personal story. “I hope it draws attention to the fact that breast cancer is hereditary, and preventable. Prevention is key in fighting any cancer. Whether it’s eating healthy, getting blood tests, getting a physical every year, or getting more information on your family history, prevention is the key to fighting this disease. “
“Also, the importance of a positive attitude, never giving up. Move forward, and be grateful for the people in your life.”

All The Footprints In My Sand can be ordered through the University Bookstore, or online at Amazon.com (author: Tracy Hunt Casey; ISBN: 978-1-60693-154-7) or through AEG Publishing Grp.

[YORKwrites would like to thank Patrick Russel for providing this profile]

Margaret Beare (Faculty of Arts/Osgoode Hall Law School)

Margaret Beare, a joint appointee of the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Osgoode Hall Law School, has made a career out of researching for, and about, the police. She argues that in every era the police, in concert with politicians and others, tend to develop a perceived threat that she calls the “dangerous class”.

After leaving the offices of the Solicitor General in Ottawa where, from 1982-1993, she researched organized crime and worked on issues related to crime enforcement policies and practices, Beare put in a brief stint as a visiting instructor at Queen’s University where she claims to have been “cleansed” of her bureaucratic coating. She arrived at York in 1996 and became the inaugural director of the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security. Beare’s research turns a critical eye on law enforcement.

Her PhD dissertation, involving a study of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force from 1957 to 1987, was titled “The Selling of the Police”. Beare examines the rhetoric of policing – the language and the arguments used by police, consciously and unconsciously, publicly and privately, to engender a sense of danger or hysteria from often innocuous circumstances.

In Beare’s co-authored book Police and Government Relations: Who’s Calling the Shots? (U of T Press, 2007), she cites the example of the hippies who began populating the Yorkville area during the 1960s. Initially, the police viewed them as harmless folks hanging out in coffee shops. Then, suddenly, they were labelled as disease-ridden and fire trucks were sent in to disperse them; zoning rules were changes to drive them away; politicians all clamoured for their removal; then the police drew attention to their drug use; the rationale continued that if there were drugs, there must be organized crime. Hippies quickly became the “dangerous class”.

Beare doesn’t throw all the blame at the police. She says, “The packaging of the argument varies.” However, it involves a partnership among politicians, the police force and the media. She also isn’t saying that a threat doesn’t exist, simply that the response to it is often incommensurate or inappropriate.

Why does this happen? Beare argues, “When you have a political motivation around a notion of dangerousness, the police will buy into it. But it’s also really advantageous to them because it means they will receive more resources, a higher profile and media attention.” Why is this bad? Beare would contend, in part, that one of the issues is the resultant misallocation of government resources to combat the perceived threat.

Beare points a finger at money laundering and alludes to her recently co-authored book Money Laundering in Canada: The Chasing of Dirty and Dangerous Dollars (U of T Press, 2007). She states, “There’s an international hysteria surrounding money-laundering and, to combat it, Canada is reputed to have created the second largest financial intelligence unit in the world – FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.” The successful seizure and forfeiture of illicit funds from criminal activity is a very expensive enterprise and may not justify the cost of its undertaking, says Beare. Cases are difficult and time-consuming to prove and due to issues of privacy and security, there is no mechanism for public accountability to prove the effectiveness of the policy. Since the creation of this vast government operation in 2000, Beare argues, it has not achieved any greater results than those achieved before its existence. However, she says, Canadian law enforcement policies and legislative powers are directly influenced by international formal agreements and informal pressures. And, she continues, now that terrorist financing is being linked to all money laundering rhetoric, resisting what is deemed to be an ‘adequate’ response by our neighbours is, politically, very difficult.

Beare is very excited about her next book titled Honouring Social Justice: Honouring Dianne Martin. She edited it, contributed two chapters and shot the cover photograph. The book, due out in November, is dedicated to late Osgoode professor Dianne Martin, a co-founder of the Innocence Project and champion of those mistreated by the justice system. All proceeds will go to the Dianne Martin Scholarship Fund.

Beare’s areas of expertise cover transnationalization of crime and law enforcement; public and private policing; organized crime; women and the criminal justice system; money laundering; public policing strategies and corrections. Beare’s Criminal Conspiracies: Organized Crime in Canada (Nelson Canada, 1996) was the first academic book to look at organized crime in Canada and remains the authoritative reference for scholarship in the field. She continues to provide expert counsel during legislative committee readings of bills in development in Parliament.

Click here to read the YFile article.

[YORKwrites would like to thank David Wallace, interim communications coordinator, Faculty of Arts for providing this profile]

Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten (Schulich School of Business)

Professors Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten have received international acclaim for their collaborative research in Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics. When asked to define what the two fields encompass, the two professors concluded that “people have different ideas of what they are”, but basically, it’s an exploration of ‘what it means to practice responsible business’.

Crane and Matten’s research pursuits involve a good deal of global travel. This recent photo was taken in South Africa, where they attended, presented, and engaged in a launch of two recent books, at an international conference organized by the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics (ISBEE).

In light of current world business trends and directions, providing a global context to business ethics is an important focus of their recently published textbooks: Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Corporate Social Responsibility: Readings And Cases In A Global Context (Routledge, 2007), co-edited with Dr. Laura Spence of Brunel University. A global outlook is also prominent in another recent scholarly co-edited work titled Corporate Social Responsibility (Sage, 2007), an impressive three volume work. Producing textbooks has been a priority for Crane and Matten lately as it provides the opportunity to educate and make their fields accessible to a large audience – and their books have been adopted at business schools worldwide. Another title they co-edited is The Oxford Handbook Of Corporate Social Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 2008), which, Crane explains, is a different kind of work again, providing those new to the field with an introduction to the development of corporate social responsibility over time, key debates and theories, and current and emerging issues.

In light of current world business trends and directions, providing a global context to business ethics is an important focus of their recently published textbooks: Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Corporate Social Responsibility: Readings And Cases In A Global Context (Routledge, 2007), co-edited with Dr. Laura Spence of Brunel University. A global outlook is also prominent in another recent scholarly co-edited work titled Corporate Social Responsibility (Sage, 2007), an impressive three volume work. Producing textbooks has been a priority for Crane and Matten lately as it provides the opportunity to educate and make their fields accessible to a large audience – and their books have been adopted at business schools worldwide. Another title they co-edited is The Oxford Handbook Of Corporate Social Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 2008), which, Crane explains, is a different kind of work again, providing those new to the field with an introduction to the development of corporate social responsibility over time, key debates and theories, and current and emerging issues.

Aside from publishing successful books on business ethics and corporate social responsibility, Crane and Matten also share their insights and knowledge in these areas through a blog (http://craneandmatten.blogspot.com/), which was created in January of this year. In addition to enabling them to strengthen connections with their audience and readers, Crane and Matten also enjoy the flexibility of using the blog as a medium to share their ideas and comment on up-to-the-minute global issues. For students and faculty using their textbooks, they are able to use the context provided and apply them to current affairs, making the blog a useful learning resource.

The blog regularly attracts visitors both locally and worldwide, which also achieves the goal of reaching a broad audience. “I think what surprised me most – is that we have people from all over the world finding the blog often by accident and reading it…it’s a mixture – from colleagues down to complete strangers”, Matten commented. In Fall, they plan to create a direct link between the use of their publications and the blog in their teaching.

Crane and Matten explain that what drives their research in Corporate Responsibility and Business Ethics is the fact that there are few clear answers, but a myriad of questions and debates that emerge regularly. “For us, this is a great area where there are no clear rights or wrongs, where there are different perspectives where you can analyze a problem in all its complexity” Crane explains.

Crane and Matten have found that the interdisciplinary aspect of their fields also adds to the challenge and appeal of research. The motivation to explore real life issues and problems, is also a key focus in their research pursuits. “I think that we are very much driven by the approach of trying to understand issues and problems rather than advance a certain theoretical school of thought”, Crane explains. “We make contributions to theory along the way but I think that’s not how we are driven and what interests us, and (it’s not the motivation behind) the kinds of questions we ask.”

Currently, Crane and Matten are exploring the political realm of corporations and more specifically political responsibility around businesses. Their newest publication will be launched this month called Corporations and Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2008) which they wrote with Professor Jeremy Moon from Nottingham University Business School. Matten reminds us that “Business is not just an economical or social institution, but also a political institution.” Crane added that “…many people don’t want to even acknowledge that businesses are involved in politics – but they simply are involved, whether they like it or not. So our work is on how to conceptualize that best, and how to theorize about it.”

Aside from publishing successful books on business ethics and corporate social responsibility, Crane and Matten also share their insights and knowledge in these areas through a blog (http://craneandmatten.blogspot.com/), which was created in January of this year.  In addition to enabling them to strengthen connections with their audience and readers, Crane and Matten also enjoy the flexibility of using the blog as a medium to share their ideas and comment on up-to-the-minute global issues.  For students and faculty using their textbooks, they are able to use the context provided and apply them to current affairs, making the blog a useful learning resource.The blog regularly attracts visitors both locally and worldwide, which also achieves the goal of reaching a broad audience. “I think what surprised me most – is that we have people from all over the world finding the blog often by accident and reading it…it’s a mixture – from colleagues down to complete strangers”, Matten commented. In Fall, they plan to create a direct link between the use of their publications and the blog in their teaching.

Crane and Matten explain that what drives their research in Corporate Responsibility and Business Ethics is the fact that there are few clear answers, but a myriad of questions and debates that emerge regularly. “For us, this is a great area where there are no clear rights or wrongs, where there are different perspectives where you can analyze a problem in all its complexity” Crane explains.

Crane and Matten have found that the interdisciplinary aspect of their fields also adds to the challenge and appeal of research. The motivation to explore real life issues and problems, is also a key focus in their research pursuits. “I think that we are very much driven by the approach of trying to understand issues and problems rather than advance a certain theoretical school of thought”, Crane explains. “We make contributions to theory along the way but I think that’s not how we are driven and what interests us, and (it’s not the motivation behind) the kinds of questions we ask.”

Currently, Crane and Matten are exploring the political realm of corporations and more specifically political responsibility around businesses. Their newest publication will be launched this month called Corporations and Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2008) which they wrote with Professor Jeremy Moon from Nottingham University Business School. Matten reminds us that “Business is not just an economical or social institution, but also a political institution.” Crane added that “…many people don’t want to even acknowledge that businesses are involved in politics – but they simply are involved, whether they like it or not. So our work is on how to conceptualize that best, and how to theorize about it.”

[YORKwrites would like to thank Beverly Chan, Yorkwrites Assistant for 2007 and Sophie Bury, Business Librarian for providing this profile]

Christina Petrowska-Quilico (Fine Arts)
[Appeared in YFile on August 14, 2008]

Christina Petrowska Quilico is a leading pianist and interpreter of 20th and 21st century music, and a professor in the Music Department at York. Petrowska Quilico recently returned from performing the world premiere of “Soundstill: Ponds, Creeks and a Noisy River,” a new cycle of piano works written for her by Canadian composer Ann Southam, at the Sound Symposium music festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Also at the Sound Symposium, she gave the world premiere of another piece by Southam titled “Simple Forms of Inquiry” with dancer/choreographer Terrill Maguire, who teaches in York’s dance department. The premieres were equally successful, if not more. Petrowska Quilico claimed that she could “hear a pin drop,” which is usually a good sign of an attentive, satisfied audience – an important component in the performance of a new work.

“People looked really happy and blissed-out when they left…” said Petrowska Quilico. “…It’s that kind of program – it’s spiritual. But it’s also complex playing, and especially virtuosic for the left hand.”

Petrowska Quilico will perform “Soundstill” again on October 7th at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall in the Accolade East building. She also enjoys making art in different media. She had a book titled “Opera Illustrated” published in 1994, consisting of drawings of various opera sets and portraits of world-renowned opera tenors including Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and her late husband Louis Quilico, a Canadian-born baritone with whom she toured and recorded. While Petrowska Quilico has performed and recorded a huge amount of repertoire across a variety of musical genres, including those found on her new solo CD Ings (a compilation of CBC-recorded live performances), what she enjoys playing the most is what she grew up with – orchestral and chamber music. She made her concert debut with the Royal Conservatory of Music orchestra at age 10, and her New York City debut with the orchestra at the Town Hall at the age of 14.
“I love playing chamber music and I love performing with orchestra,” she said. “I think my favourite is playing piano concertos. I do love solo work, but it’s a lot more fun to play with somebody else.”

Christina Petrowska Quilico will perform works from Ings as well as a work by Bill Westcott, who is also from York’s music department on August 25th at 12:15pm at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto as part of the Music Mondays series. For more information call (416) 598-4521 x222.

[YORKwrites would like to thank Beverly Chan, Yorkwrites Assistant for 2007 for providing this profile]