Over the past year, Western has woven a tale of groundbreaking research and collective achievements.
From propelling a minisatellite into space to appointing Canada’s first university Chief AI Officer, to launching new sustainability initiatives and welcoming a Canada Excellence Research Chair as well as a new Chancellor, the pivotal moments of 2023 will help chart the trajectory for Western’s future.
Here’s a look back at 23 standout highlights from 2023.
Deborah Meert-Wilson, special collections librarian, acquired a leaf, originally from the first edition of The Canterbury Tales, one of the first books printed in England by William Caxton in 1476. “The beginning of print, and it changed the world,” she said.
The D. B. Weldon Library reopened with a new look, the first phase of revitalizing one of Western’s most iconic public spaces. Changes include new lighting on the main floor’s ceiling, art from McIntosh Gallery on the walls and colourful, modern furniture.
More than 2,257 species at last count, some endangered or at risk, were found on campus in a project to create Western’s biodiversity inventory. Hundreds of volunteers contributed to the undertaking over a year.
Professor Angela Roberts is heading the research team to study the first Canadian cohort of senior citizens with exceptional cognitive facilities. These ‘SuperAgers’, said Roberts, could help improve our understanding of cognition, aging and diseases.
A $30-million gift from renowned Canadian business leader and Ivey Business School graduate Donald K. Johnson to support a new Ivey campus in downtown Toronto is the largest single donation by an individual in Western’s history.
With the support of $24 million from the federal New Frontiers in Research Fund, a Schulich Medicine & Dentistry team has developed a groundbreaking approach to identify promising therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Western welcomes new leaders
Three new senior leaders joined Western this year: Marisa Modeski as university registrar on May 1 ; Lily Cho as vice-provost and associate vice-president (international) on July 1; and Penny Pexman as vice-president (research) on Sept. 1.
Western announced 74 new electric vehicle charging stations will be installed across campus over the next two years as part of a $1.45-million upgrade jointly funded by Western and Natural Resources Canada.
The first-ever miniature satellite built by a Western team was launched into space in June. The cubical satellite, known as a CubeSat, weighed about one kilogram and was built by a Western Engineering team in collaboration with Nunavut Arctic College.
Western hosted the eighth annual Building Reconciliation Forum in June. Created by Universities Canada in response to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the forum is hosted by a new institution each year.
Western launched a new global engagement strategy, called Western in the World, to increase its international reach and research through reciprocal partnerships around the world.
Western’s new Frugal Biomedical Innovations program supports projects seeking to create innovative medical technologies that improve health-care access for patients in remote and low-resource communities for a fraction of the cost of existing methods without compromising quality.
Western unveiled plans for two new buildings to house an additional 1,000 students on campus: an undergraduate residence on University Drive and an apartment complex on Platt’s Lane.
Geography and environment professor Godwin Arku received a national award and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant to support his research on the experience of young people, including Western students and Black youth in Southwestern Ontario.
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry welcomed 190 first-year medical students, the largest class in its 142-year history. The class included 16 additional seats made possible by funding from the provincial government.
Leading the world in sustainability
This year, Western was the only Canadian institution to place in the top 10 for sustainability in both the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024 and Times Higher Education 2023 Impact Rankings.
The award-winning course, Connecting for Climate Change Action, can now be accessed for free from anywhere in the world. The course uses a storytelling approach to educate and motivate action on climate change.
Artificial intelligence researcher and globally respected authority in neural computation, Mark Daley, was appointed Western’s first chief AI officer. Western became the first Canadian university to have such a senior executive role.
A new study by biology professor Liana Zanette showing animals fear human voices more than other predators made headlines around the world including BBC, The New York Times, The Atlantic and all three major U.K. daily newspapers.
Esteemed philanthropist and volunteer Kelly Meighen, BA’71, LLD’13, was installed as Western’s new chancellor this fall. “We have much to learn from each other if we listen. And I assure you, as your Chancellor, I will be listening,” she said.
History professor Jonathan Vance led a team of student researchers to send replicas of hundreds of First World War postcards to the addresses where the originals had been sent. A goal of the project is to remind people that those engaged in the war lived in our communities and neighbourhoods.
Renowned worldwide for her groundbreaking work on the effects of viral infections and neuroinflammation on memory, Dr. Robyn Klein will join Western as the new Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurovirology and Neuroimmunology.
The Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is now home to Canada’s first 15.2 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. This makes it the country’s most powerful MRI system and one of the most powerful in the world.