CRAM: Free festival features bright lights from across city's universities

CRAM, founded by CBC Toronto journalist Mary Ito, features more than 30 interactive events across a multitude of disciplines by researchers from OCAD University, Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and York University.

Lecture series features free events held at 4 Toronto universities on April 5


From preparing Toronto for a wave of climate-change migrants to the science behind luck, the first-ever collaborative series of talks involving Toronto's four universities, will cover a wide range of topics with surprising connections.

It's called CRAM and it will include events on the campuses of the University of Toronto, Ryerson, York and OCAD. 

The free event will be held April 5, but space is limited and registration begins Monday.

James Miller, an assistant professor who teaches environmental design at OCAD University and is a native Hawaiian, says there's much Toronto can learn from the experience of climate change migrants who left the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific to settle in Springdale, Arkansas.

Prof. James Miller, who teaches environmental design at OCAD University, is a native Hawaiian. He says there’s much Toronto can learn from the experience of climate change migrants who left the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. (submitted)

"The issue in the Marshall Islands is rising sea levels. I became really interested in how does Indigenous knowledge help to prepare communities for resettlement," Miller told CBC Toronto.

He says in Arkansas, municipal codes that limit how many people can live in a dwelling based on square footage were at odds with the islanders' tradition of intergenerational communal living.

"I think there'll be a lot of connections that can be made. How can we help communities of different cultural backgrounds maintain that culture and celebrate it within an urban environment and be inclusive of all identities," he said.

His will be just one of dozens of talks.

Jeffrey Rosenthal, who teaches statistics at the University of Toronto, authored a book that explores the concept of luck in its various forms through the lens of a statistician. (submitted)

Jeffrey Rosenthal, who teaches statistics at the University of Toronto, will share his research into the existence of luck.

"Academics tend to just communicate to each other and I see CRAM as a great opportunity where professors who are working on interesting ideas will be able to communicate not just with their own colleagues, but with a broader audience," he said.

"And it's great that it involves all four of the universities in Toronto because they don't do very many events as a team."

In his talk, titled Prisoners of Gravity, York University's Laurence Harris will explore how Earth's gravity influences such things as our perception of distance and may even contribute to our recognition of our own bodies and even our perception of self.

Laurence Harris, a professor of psychology, kinesiology and health sciences and biology at York University, will explore how Earth’s gravity influences our perception of distance and may even contribute to our perception of our own bodies. (submitted)

Harris, who has an experiment aboard the International Space Station, says CRAM is a great way for researchers to update the public on what they've been working on.

"Not only the general public, but also the students that attend the universities, because they are often quite unaware of the fact that we professors do things other than just teach them in the classroom," he said.

"It could be that the very professor that's standing in front of them has actually contributed to or even discovered the things that they're reading about."

Presentations may use technology, such as drones, multimedia, or in Coralee McLaren's case, a performance.

Coralee McLaren, an assistant professor at Ryerson's School of Nursing, is also an instructor at the university's school of dance. She has used her understanding of the body to do research on how to help children with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. (submitted)

She teaches nursing and dance at Ryerson University and did her dissertation on inspiring movement in children with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.

She says this kind of surprising intersections in topics is the whole point of CRAM.

"In an event like this, we move outside of our silos to be able to talk to one another in a different ways and consider how these ideas might integrate," she said.

"It's a really exciting adventure to really begin to bridge ways of thinking and promote new ways of thinking."

And Toronto's universities welcome CRAM as an opportunity to highlight innovative, multidisciplinary research that the general public may otherwise not get a chance to learn about.

"Initiatives like CRAM show how Toronto's universities are ideally positioned to serve as hubs for engaged researchers, policymakers and experts to collaborate with communities on pressing local and global issues," says York University's President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton.

"From climate change to homelessness, by working together we can ensure that our research provides useful solutions to the serious challenges facing our communities." 


  • This story has been updated from a previous version to include a new interview.
    Mar 01, 2019 12:28 PM ET