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Identity, diversity, and supporting students

The Division of Student Affairs hosted a morning town hall to help staff consider how to incorporate diversity and inclusivity principles into their work.

Student Affairs staff members are better equipped to help build more inclusive living and learning spaces at Queen’s, thanks to a special town hall this week. The entire division participated in a series of sessions focused on helping them build a more inclusive Queen’s through their work.

“We want to provide staff with regular opportunities to consider how they can learn more about integrating equity, diversity, and inclusivity principles into the work they do,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “Events like our town halls also promote discussions and dialogue about these important issues and help build community and support for each other and for the students we serve.”

The session opened up with some context from Vice-Provost and Dean Tierney, helping to paint the picture of the progress the university and the division have made in the past year since two key reports – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) task force final report, and the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) final report – were issued.

Stephanie Simpson, Executive Director of the Human Rights and Equity Office and University Advisor on Human Rights, then led a discussion on privilege, bias, and how these two facets can influence our work.

[Erin Clow and Vanessa Yzaguirre]
Erin Clow (Human Rights and Equity Office) and Vanessa Yzaguirre (Student Affairs) preview new training being developed for student leaders. (University Communications)

Following Ms. Simpson’s presentation, staff chose between two sessions. In the first, Vanessa Yzaguirre, Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator with Student Affairs; and Erin Clow, Education and Communication Advisor with the Human Rights and Equity Office presented an overview of new student leader training they are developing to support peer-led conversations about diversity, and building an inclusive community, starting in Orientation Week.

“Traditions change and evolve – that’s part of being an inclusive community,” said Dr. Clow. “The traditions which tend to stick with people are the ones that help them build community, which of course is one of the key goals of orientation.”

The training is one piece of the university’s response to the Undergraduate Orientation Review Working Group’s report recommendations. Increasing student leaders’ exposure to diversity, inclusivity, and reconciliation matters was also part of the PICRDI and TRC reports.

[Teri-Lynn Brennan]
Terri-Lynn Brennan is the CEO of Wolfe Island-based Inclusive Voices Incorporated, a consulting firm which supports outreach to Indigenous community. (University Communications)

Another session was led by Terri-Lynn Brennan, CEO of Wolfe Island-based Inclusive Voices Incorporated. Dr. Brennan is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and her firm helps organizations as they work to build relationships and grow cultural competency.

Her remarks focused on titles, language, communication, and relationship building with Indigenous communities.

“There are over 50 different Indigenous identities in the Kingston region and many of those are represented at Queen’s,” she noted. “The word Cataraqui means ‘crossroads’, and my hope is that Queen’s both strives to meet the needs of the Indigenous communities within Queen’s while also acknowledging the broader communities that meet in Kingston.”

Dr. Brennan’s presentation was intended to provide broader context to staff so they can support the university’s efforts to include Indigenous identities, histories, knowledge and cultures into curriculum, trainings, engagement, and planning processes.

In addition to new and enhanced staff and student training, Student Affairs has increased resources dedicated to supporting equity, diversity and inclusivity in student services and increasing enrolment among under-represented student populations, expanded student programming, and is creating new online resources for staff and students.