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Gift supports strengthening of Philippine studies at York University

Gift supports strengthening of Philippine studies at York University

November 25, 2022

By Elaine Smith

The agreement is the first of its kind for a Canadian university to receive direct funding from the Philippine government, and will enhance academic and research collaborations between York and Philippine universities.

York University and the government of the Philippines signed a historic donation agreement on Nov. 21 that provides York with a contribution of 5 million Philippine pesos ($115,000 CDN). The funding is the result of the strong academic and research collaborations between York and Philippine universities and will be used to enhance relations between the Philippines and Canada through academic programs, projects and activities related to Filipino history, cultures and society.

The Philippine Studies Group at York University, located within the York Centre for Asian Research, will spearhead the initiative, which will be led by Ethel Tungohan, associate professor of politics and Canada Research Chair in Canadian Migration Policy, Impacts and Activism, along with Professor Patrick Alcedo from the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, and Philip Kelly, associate dean, research and global affairs, for the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC).

York University is the first and only Canadian university to receive this direct funding contribution from the Philippine government for education co-operation activities specifically for Philippine initiatives programming. It joins the ranks of other prestigious universities worldwide in this regard, including the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and New York University in New York City.

Orontes V. Castro, Philippine consul general, and Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University met at the University to formally sign the memorandum of understanding, which was made possible thanks to the initiative of Senator Loren Legarda, president pro-tempore of the Senate of the Philippines.

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with Orontes V. Castro, Philippine consul general
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with Orontes V. Castro, Philippine consul general. Featured image (above) and this image by Alex Felipe

“On behalf of York University, we are grateful to partner with the Government of the Philippines to further strengthen people-to-people ties between the Philippines and Canada,” said Lenton. “This Memorandum of Understanding will enhance impactful academic and research collaborations, particularly through York’s Centre for Asian Research, focusing on Filipino history, culture and society in Canada and beyond. This partnership is built upon mutually shared values that recognize the importance of higher education, knowledge exchange and cultural well-being in contributing to successful societies.”

Legarda, in a message read by Castro, said, “The Philippine initiatives at York University will highlight the relevance of academe in enhancing our countries’ relations and opening opportunities for more collaboration in various fields. … I believe that this will create more prospects for meaningful exchanges, deepen and widen the Philippines-Canada relations in various areas of co-operation, and promote a greater appreciation of Philippine history, ways and culture and the Filipino people.”

Faculty members are equally enthusiastic about the opportunities this agreement will make possible.

“When the Consul General first contacted me and Helen Balderama [director, global engagement programs & partnerships, York International] to discuss the donation that the Philippine government wanted to give York University, he emphasized how York is one of a handful of universities around the world who was given this honor,” said Tungohan, who teaches in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “York, in fact, out of all universities in Canada, was chosen because of the strengths of our research on the Philippines and the Philippine diaspora. The grant will support scholarly exchanges between researchers in Canada and the Philippines, provide research funding for students and faculty members, and allow us to build a “Filipiniana” section in our library.

“I anticipate that this donation will catalyze the creation of a bigger community of Philippine initiatives scholars at York, allowing us to hopefully build an official Philippine studies program at York.”

Alcedo, Chair of the Department of Dance, said, “The historic donation from the Philippine government is a testament to York being the leading university in Philippine initiatives in Canada. York now houses the most faculty and graduate students in this part of the world whose areas of research cut across multiple disciplines: politics, cultural geography, cultural studies, education, diasporic and immigration studies, and the performing arts.

“As a dance ethnographer, whose focus is on Philippine traditional dances, I am very much looking forward to building on this grant to activate artist-to-artist exchange between the Philippines and Canada, leading toward robust community engagement and cultural diplomacy.”

Kelly, a professor of geography, added, “York has a long history of research, teaching and community collaboration in Philippine initiatives (including Filipinx diaspora initiatives). The generous support from Senator Legarda, via the Philippine Consulate in Toronto, will raise our efforts to the next level, allowing an enriched array of programming at York in Philippine initiatives. I am especially excited by the possibilities it opens up for supporting graduate student research and engaging with academic colleagues in the Philippines.”

Vinitha Gengatharan, York’s assistant vice-president, global engagement & partnerships, said, “This historic gift offers York an excellent opportunity to strengthen and broaden these initiatives and to become a global leader in Philippine initiatives. We are joining an influential global network of universities that includes Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany and SOAS at the University of London in the United Kingdom in engaging with partners in the Philippines through such a gift. This initiative at York is sure to grow and expand given all the interest it has generated already.”

Originally posted on YFile