York U president picks up backpack as student takes reins in role reversal


TORONTO, September 28, 2015 — Tomorrow, Sept. 29, Sayjon Ariyarathnam will gain a unique experience as he takes the reins of York University, the institution that provides post-secondary education to 52,000 students, including himself. Ariyarathnam will swap roles with President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri for the day in the ultimate experiential learning adventure.

“I have no doubt that the University will be in excellent hands for the day given Sayjon’s leadership experience and participation in a variety of student organizations,” says Shoukri.

Ariyarathnam is currently a Student Senator and President of the Student Council of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (SCOLAPS). He is also an active member of York’s Tamil Students Association and the Criminology Society.

As the President for a Day, the fourth-year student pursuing a double major in Criminology and Human Rights and Equity Studies will learn about the management of the institution and attend presidential meetings and engagements.

During the course of the day, he will experience it all, from one-on-one meetings with Vice-Presidents and Vice-Provosts, to a roundtable discussion with York Student Federation President and other President for a Day applicants. He will also undertake a speaking engagement at Our Blue Future, an event to celebrate the phasing out of water bottle sales on campus.

Ariyarathnam landed this select opportunity as a result of his winning answer to the contest question – “If you were appointed President of York University, what would be your top three priorities that would directly impact students?”

His winning entry articulated the need to promote and develop experiential education opportunities for students, to ensure students are aware of University policies and procedures that are in place to support them academically, and to increase communication between York community members.

“Academic life and communication are both connected to the notion of community and belonging,” writes Ariyarathnam, of the need to keep students informed and involved. “Community plays an integral role in the success of a university.”

This is the fourth consecutive year of the President for a Day contest at the University, and one of the few, if only, such initiatives held at a Canadian university.

“This contest is one of the ways that we are able to receive direct feedback from our students so we can continue to enhance the overall experience for them here at York,” says Shoukri. “Every year I gain a fresh perspective on campus life and what it takes for our students to be successful in pursuing their education here.”

As the Student for a Day, Shoukri will pick up his backpack and head to a workshop for graduate law students by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, followed by a Crime and Corporation class at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Shoukri ‘s busy schedule will also include an upper-body workout with the help of a personal trainer at the Tait Mackenzie Centre’s gym, before rushing off to chair a faculty student council meeting, in place of Ariyarathnam.

NOTE: Interested media members are invited to follow the President for a Day

York University is known for championing new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our 52,000 students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-discipline programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 24 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide.

Media Contact:
Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416 736 2100, ext. 22097, sandramc@yorku.ca