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Building momentum

The Gazette speaks to Teri Shearer about how she is advancing diversity and inclusivity efforts on campus.

In spring of 2017, Teri Shearer’s role as Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) was expanded to take on leadership for diversity and inclusivity. In this interview, the Gazette speaks with Dr. Shearer about the importance of diversity and her work since the spring.

Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost. (University Communications)
Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). (University Communications)


Why are diversity and inclusivity important to Queen’s, and why should these matter to staff, faculty, students, and alumni?

It’s about excellence in our research, teaching, learning, and overall experience.

We’re all justifiably very proud of the student experience that is kind of a defining feature of Queen’s. If we do not make the student experience inclusive of the diversity of all our students, we’ll lose that strength that Queen’s has historically had.

The world is globalized. If we don’t reflect the diversity of the Canadian workforce and population, we simply won’t be able to maintain excellence. Research study after research study proves that diverse groups of individuals make better decisions. In our context, being a more diverse university means better pedagogy and more creativity in scholarship.


What have been some of your first priorities and actions in your expanded role?

The university has commissioned two strong reports to help us build a more inclusive campus, including the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) report and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force final report. We are taking both reports seriously.

It was important that we move quickly once the reports were released this spring. I spent the summer planning, preparing, and listening so we could be ready to hit the ground running this fall.

My first priority was to hire our inaugural Director of Indigenous Initiatives, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) in this new role.

Another priority was to establish the inaugural University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE). This group will help inform the overall vision and strategy for the university, and in particular will help ensure we continue to make progress on these important goals while building a two-way dialogue with equity-seeking groups on our campus.

At the same time, I have started working with the Equity Office and Human Rights Office to ensure, when we are hiring new staff members, that we are building employment equity into the process. We are also rolling out equity training for all employees in the coming years, starting with senior administrators this year.

“Things are being done at a departmental level, an individual level, a Faculty and School level, at a central level, and in the shared services…if we keep this momentum going, we will make a real difference. -Dr. Teri Shearer


Could you tell us more about those employment equity practices?

Not only is it is essential that we increase the diversity of our students, but we also need to diversify our staff and faculty. We have defined what we need to do to and have started to act on it.

For instance, diversity is one of the criteria we are using as part of our faculty renewal efforts. When I look at the faculty we have hired recently, there is a high percentage of faculty who identify as a visible minority – much higher than the percentage within the general Canadian workforce.

We have also implemented a new partnership with a national job broadcast service called Equitek. This company works with community organizations across the country who serve underrepresented groups. So, through Equitek, our job postings will be visible to a much more diverse job-seeking population.

We will also be providing additional training to hiring committee members, including some special training to employee equity representatives who will sit on our hiring committees. So we are making progress.


What are some other goals in the year ahead?

The university has made good progress on a number of the recommendations of the PICRDI report. I am working on some of the yet-to-be-completed recommendations to see how we can make them a reality. There is still plenty of work to do, and I am continually re-evaluating our progress and seeking ways we can improve.

On the student recruitment and retention side, I am chairing a working group to review Undergraduate Orientation and ensure it is a welcoming and inclusive experience for all students. Over the next few months, we want to hear from all members of our community about how we can enhance orientation at Queen’s.

Additionally, I am working with Advancement to secure additional financial support for Indigenous and racialized students. We look forward to making a significant announcement about this in the near future.

And now that UCARE is established, I will be working with that council to assist me in generating ideas and prioritizing the PICRDI recommendations.

I am also meeting regularly with student groups and others with ideas about how to foster inclusivity at Queen’s. It is critical that we keep the communications channels open.

I am also supporting the efforts of the Vice-Principal (Teaching and Learning) to incorporate course content that includes Indigenous content and reflects a diversity of Indigenous backgrounds and perspectives. A job was posted recently for an Educational Developer centred on Indigenous Curriculum.

As a personal goal, I aim to complete the Equity Office’s “Diversity to Inclusion” certificate for my own improvement.

All of this work will contribute to our big picture goal of creating a safe and inclusive living and learning environment.


What have been some of the biggest surprises over the past few months?

What surprised me the most is the commitment across the university to make change in terms of how we relate to Indigenous communities, in creating and furthering diversity in the Queen’s community, and in addressing systemic racism and implicit bias. I have been here for 21 years and I have never seen anything like this.

I am in a position where I get to see the change because people come and tell me what they’re doing. Things are being done at a departmental level, at an individual level, at a faculty and school level, at a central level, and in the shared services…if we keep this momentum going, we will make a real difference.