Christine Brooks-Cappadocia: A Visionary Leader Empowering Learners & Transforming Education

Christine Brooks-Cappadoci

In a rapidly evolving world, education plays a crucial role in empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of the modern economy.

York University’s School of Continuing Studies, under the visionary leadership of Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, Assistant Vice-President of Continuing Studies, stands out as a beacon of inclusive and innovative education.

By providing professional education and language instruction to learners from diverse backgrounds, the School of Continuing Studies is not just a place of learning but a community where growth and opportunity converge.

A Journey of Creativity and Impact: Crafting a Career Beyond Conventions

Christine’s career has been a tapestry of diverse experiences, reflecting the modern trend of non-linear paths. She recalls, “Right from the beginning, I had the kind of non-linear career path that’s become the norm now – of course with continual bursts of formal and informal learning to support each transition.” Armed with a fine arts degree from York University, she ventured into supporting fellow artists with her business acumen.

Christine’s fascination with community art projects, blending voices into a unified expression, spurred her transition from healthcare and social services to higher education. She reflects on her journey, saying, “The themes and skills have been consistent – I’m still interested in innovation, creativity, connections and systems – just the context changes.” Throughout, her focus on innovation, creativity, and systems thinking remained steadfast, adapting to new environments.

Among her many achievements, Christine takes pride in orchestrating a speaking event that brought together luminaries like former President Clinton and Premier Rae, benefiting at-risk youth. She elaborates, “One of the projects I’m most proud of was a speaking event that bought former President Clinton and former Premier Rae together to build a foundation for at-risk youth. The usual donors were in the audience but so were a few thousand of the kids – kids may not otherwise get a chance to hear from these inspiring leaders. We effectively leveraged the event to provide value well beyond just money.”

This project epitomized her approach, going beyond monetary value to create a meaningful impact. If Christine could define herself in one word, it would be “Opportunity.”

Redefining Success: A Journey of Collective Achievement

In Christine’s view, success transcends personal accolades, embodying a collective effort toward positive change. She shares, “We are in a time of huge challenges, whether related to the environment, global migration, or unemployment. We often speak of these issues as though we can’t deal with them, but we can tackle them by connecting talent from other regions, becoming more sustainable, and reducing barriers so others can reach their goals.” Her definition of success revolves around making incremental progress together daily, leading to a significant cumulative impact.

Reflecting on her proudest moments, Christine emphasizes the success of those she has worked with who surpassed her and then extended a helping hand to others. She believes in the power of agency and creating equal opportunities, stating, “I’m a big believer in agency and the ability to create change for ourselves and a place for equal opportunity for others. The impact of someone who cares and exercises their agency for others is extensive.”

For Christine, creating an equal playing field is not just a noble pursuit but also a pragmatic one. She sees it as a pathway to tangible, objective improvement with exponential gains. She explains, “Part of my path is to create an equal playing field. It’s a bit of a selfish proposition because it benefits everyone including me. It’s tangible and objective. I can see the improvement and the exponential gain. When it’s someone other than yourself, it lives beyond you. It’s optimistic, it’s joyful. Who doesn’t want to live in that world?”

This optimistic outlook shapes Christine’s vision of success, where the impact of one’s actions extends far beyond oneself, creating a world of opportunity and joy for all.

Empowering Learners, Connecting Communities

Under Christine’s leadership, the York University School of Continuing Studies has become a beacon of inclusive and relevant education, helping learners navigate the transforming economy. She explains, “York University’s School of Continuing Studies helps learners to grow and navigate the transforming economy through inclusive and relevant education. We provide professional education and language instruction to motivated learners everywhere, throughout their adult lives.”

The School offers innovative programs that create meaningful connections with Canadian and international employers, such as certificates in product management and DevOps, setting it apart as a leader in continuing education. The School’s learner community is diverse, ranging from those improving English skills to career-focused individuals seeking to change, start, or enhance their careers. Despite their varied backgrounds, what unites them is a growth mindset.

Christine emphasizes, “Our learners are diverse – those improving English to career-focused programs, throughout someone hoping to change, start or enhance careers, many have degrees – what unities them is a growth mindset.” The School works closely with employers to provide full-cycle solutions to their talent needs, from recruitment to reskilling and retention, making it one of the largest continuing studies schools in North America.

As the leader of the School, Christine oversees its strategic direction both academically and as a business unit. She shares, “I’m responsible for the strategic direction of the School academically and as a business unit and its relationship to the larger University.” With approximately 6,000 students served annually and over 1.5 million hours of learning provided last year, the School is entirely supported by earned revenue and contributes significantly to the University financially and in enhancing access to education.

Looking ahead, Christine envisions a future where the School continues to be a vital part of the University’s growth and success. She notes, “The vision and plan for the future of the university will be something that’s led by the President and Provost but to which every part of the university will contribute. I can’t predict what the outcome of that collaborative process will be but based on the conversations I have with colleagues every day and some of the big projects we are coming together to contribute to – including the new Markham campus – the future of York University will be bright.”

Under Christine’s leadership, the School is poised to continue empowering learners and connecting communities for years to come.

Navigating Challenges, Creating Opportunities: A Leader’s Journey

Christine’s career path has been a dynamic blend of experimentation and innovation. She reflects, “My career journey has been one of trial and error. I come from an innovation background: you try new things, pilot them, and the community tells you if it works for them.” Leading a school amidst significant challenges in the education sector, including declining government funding and shifting policies, Christine embraces the opportunities for creativity and collaboration. She sees the current landscape as akin to the early days of the pandemic but with even greater potential for transformative change. She envisions a future where creative solutions amplify value for learners and employers alike.

Central to Christine’s leadership is a commitment to building connections and community. She explains, “It is a privilege to listen to employers and learners and create community and connections. We build infrastructure to connect them to opportunity, which is cyclical. We are building an ecosystem of opportunity.” This commitment is exemplified by a partnership with the Jean Augustine Chair to study the impact of continuing education on social capital, recognizing the potential for multigenerational change and opportunity.

One of Christine’s proudest moments highlights the transformative power of education. She recalls a graduation ceremony where a mature student, who had earned a degree years ago and had just completed another certificate, was accompanied by her daughter, also a degree holder, and her grandson. For Christine, this moment symbolizes the intergenerational impact of education, ensuring that future generations inherit the benefits of higher learning.

Christine’s approach to education emphasizes both “hardscaping” and “softscaping.” Just as hardscaping in landscape design creates structure, Christine focuses on reducing barriers to registration and providing real-world connections for learners. She emphasizes, “Giving work-integrated learning and giving connections is a huge advantage to our learners.”

Softscaping, on the other hand, involves creating a nurturing environment for growth. Christine ensures that the School’s design and culture support diversity and inclusivity, creating a welcoming and safe space for learning. She notes, “Feeling welcome and safe is a key element for effective learning. We’ve created a successful community where the social aspects enhance the learning of content.”

Christine’s leadership journey embodies resilience, creativity, and a commitment to creating opportunities for all. Her vision for education goes beyond imparting knowledge, focusing on empowering individuals and communities to thrive.

Embracing Innovation: Lessons from a Problem-Solver

Christine’s professional journey has been shaped by the roadblocks she encountered along the way. She reflects, “I spend much of my time problem-solving: no two learners are the same, no two employers are the same, and no two days are the same. I enjoy this because solving problems leads to new opportunities, and building a community means so much because we are richer together.” For her, these challenges have been valuable lessons, opening doors to new possibilities and reinforcing the importance of collaboration.

In a world filled with complex challenges, Christine recognizes the necessity of innovation and collaboration. She emphasizes, “We live in a highly complex world with highly complex challenges. If one person could fix it, they’d have done it. We need innovation to tackle these complex challenges, but innovation is impossible without collaboration.” True collaboration, she believes, goes beyond mere participation; it requires listening and coming together to create something new that is only possible through collective effort.

Christine’s commitment to collaboration was exemplified during a recent trip to Rome, where she had the opportunity to collaborate with other global leaders. She shares, “I was excited during a recent trip to Rome to meet and collaborate on tackling these challenges with other global leaders in this space.” This experience reinforced her belief in the power of collaboration to drive innovation and address complex issues effectively.

For Christine, roadblocks have not been obstacles but rather stepping stones to growth and innovation. Her journey is a testament to the transformative power of problem-solving and collaboration, highlighting the importance of embracing challenges as opportunities for learning and advancement.

Balancing Acts: Navigating Challenges with Grace and Authenticity

For Christine, maintaining a balance between her personal and professional life is an ongoing journey. She reflects, “Life is a little messy. I’m a little messy, and I’m OK with that. There are days when I’m not perfect. There are days when I forget to put lipstick on—does it make me less competent? No, I just forgot to pick up the tube.” Embracing imperfection and allowing herself to be vulnerable are key aspects of her approach to maintaining balance.

As a woman in a demanding industry, Christine is keenly aware of the pressures of being a “superwoman.” She acknowledges, “The expectation of being the superwoman is the norm—it’s not the exception. Women can burn out.” Despite this, she remains optimistic about women’s ability to tackle global challenges, emphasizing the importance of seeking support and letting others help.

Christine’s personal goals reflect her commitment to authenticity and empathy. She surrounds herself with children and animals, explaining, “There’s a reason I surround myself with children and animals—they are empathic and in the moment—and we need to learn that.” By modeling vulnerability and imperfection, she creates a safe space for her staff to take risks and be their whole selves.

Looking towards the future, Christine sees innovation and creativity as key drivers of positive change. She envisions a world where creativity and innovation converge, leading to a more inclusive and kinder society. She concludes, “We are all traumatized by the pandemic. If we work together creatively to educate and innovate, we can emerge from this as a kinder, more inclusive world. Why wouldn’t we take this option? I see all of these things that I care about converging— like nuclear fusion—and what will explode will be cool. Innovation and creativity are coming together …and it will be very cool.”


Christine Brooks-Cappadocia’s leadership at the York University School of Continuing Studies  has been nothing short of transformative. Through her strategic vision and commitment to excellence, the School of Continuing Studies has become a beacon of inclusive and innovative education, empowering learners to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Under Christine’s guidance, the School has not only provided valuable skills and knowledge to thousands of students but has also forged meaningful connections with employers, contributing to the growth and success of individuals and communities alike.

As Christine looks towards the future, her dedication to creating a vibrant and inclusive learning environment shines brightly. With her at the helm, the School is poised to continue its journey of excellence, shaping the future of education and empowering learners to achieve their fullest potential.

The impact of Christine’s leadership extends far beyond the walls of the School, inspiring countless individuals and organizations to embrace innovation, collaboration, and lifelong learning. As we look ahead, we can be confident that the York University School of Continuing Studies, under Christine’s guidance, will continue to be a driving force for positive change in the world of continuing education.