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One million dollars in funding to help students

Dean Lisa Barnoff has made equitable access to education a priority
June 09, 2021

The virtual convocation season that is coming this June follows a year described as ‘unlike any other.’ For Lisa Barnoff, it will mark her final convocation as dean of the Faculty of Community Services (FCS). However, her indelible imprint will be felt by students for many years to come, thanks in part to one million dollars in funding that she has allocated to provide financial support for students. 

Reducing barriers to access to education is an ongoing priority for Barnoff and FCS. This funding complements initiatives to expand recruitment to FCS and new pathways of entry to FCS programs initiated by Barnoff through the Student Experience team in the Dean’s Office and is a milestone in a series of initiatives to provide support to equity-seeking students. 

The funding has been organized into four key areas: 

PhD in Urban Health

Recently, FCS announced a new PhD in Urban Health, hosted at the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing (DCSN). New funds have been set aside to cover the first-year tuition fees of the first three cohorts of five students in this program. “This marks exciting growth within the faculty,” said Barnoff. “As the reputation of this program builds, this will help to recruit the best students regardless of financial circumstance. If this year has taught us anything, we know that investments in health and education need to consider the most vulnerable around us. We must recognize recruiting the best students for this program also means ensuring that those students have the financial support needed to complete the program.”  

Black Student Awards 

Barnoff has been unwavering in her leadership of action on anti-Black racism. In addition to creating key advisory roles, funding for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, funding to advance curricular programming to address anti-Black racism, and recruiting Black faculty, she has set aside funds for scholarships specifically for Black students. When launched in the fall of 2020, this program saw an overwhelming financial need and disbursed $92,500 among 80 undergraduate and seven graduate students in its first year. Funds have been set aside for the next three years to support nine undergraduate and six graduate students each year.  

“We are deeply committed to taking action and continually working to address anti-Black racism. We will continue to take concrete steps to do this important work and grow this funding,” said Barnoff. 

Retention Bursaries

Recognizing that students face many financial challenges and that the current pandemic has exacerbated those challenges, Barnoff has allocated a significant portion of funding for retention bursaries. This funding will be distributed directly to students through the existing student aid infrastructure. “We know that many students were struggling financially before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has severely impacted their ability to earn income. Some may face difficult choices and be unable to finish their programs without financial support. We recognize how much work students put into their studies each year, and we want to do what we can to bridge that gap,” said Barnoff. “The funds will be disbursed in Fall 2021 with the goal of helping students cover educational expenses for the 2021-22 academic year. They will automatically be disbursed to students who are deemed by OSAP to have the highest financial need and will be applied directly to their tuition costs,” she explained. “We hope that this will help ensure more students can continue their programs into the next semester and complete their studies. Students who need to leave their studies for financial reasons often face significant challenges returning to school to complete their degrees. These bursaries are one way to help ensure that does not happen.”  

Match Funding

In furtherance of her social justice leadership,  Barnoff has set aside a fund of $500,000 to match philanthropic commitments for new or renewed awards, scholarships, and bursaries in FCS for students who self-identify as a member of an equity-seeking group, including:

  • Black students
  • Racialized students
  • Indigenous students
  • First-generation students
  • LGBTQ2S+ students
  • Trans students
  • International students
  • Students who grew up in the child welfare system
  • Students with disabilities

Barnoff and FCS leadership aim to reduce barriers to access to education. “This fund both supports equity-seeking groups and encourages our community of supporters to join us in this effort. We are fortunate to have a community that shares our belief in the importance of more equitable access to education, and we invite them to partner with us to create impactful and sustained funding for students to that end. Every concrete action that we can take in furtherance of equity-seeking groups is a concrete action to reduce barriers of access to education,” said Barnoff. “The recent gifts made by Craig Fairclough, Ramesh Somalingam and Satheesh Somalingam have already been matched and serve as an excellent example of the goal of this fund,” said Barnoff.  Encouraged by the matching fund program, Fairclough, Somalingam, and Somalingam made a combined commitment of $25,000 to endow the Craig Fairclough Black Students Award in Occupational Health and Safety, ensuring that this award will be funded in perpetuity. In establishing this award, Fairclough seeks to encourage Black students in the program, remove barriers to pursue their goals, and recognize those who give back to the surrounding community. “Encouraging philanthropically minded folks who want to help us create more opportunities for students and equity-driven impact is exactly what this matching fund is intended to do,” said Barnoff. “With these generous gifts, we will be able to make much more progress than we could on our own.” Donors who may be interested in learning more about this program or to make a gift, are encouraged to reach out to Claudia Hughes, Associate Director of Development, Faculty of Community Services at

Although Barnoff will be leaving the Dean’s Office for a post-administrative leave after June, it is clear that her efforts and the efforts of the generous and philanthropic donors who support these initiatives will positively impact the lives of many students and their families for years to come.