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This is us...Vanessa Yzaguirre and Erin Clow

This is us...Vanessa Yzaguirre and Erin Clow

[photo of Vanessa Yzaguirre and Erin Clow outside the Queen's University International Centre]
Bernard Clark

Vanessa Yzaguirre and Erin Clow outside the Queen's University International Centre

A joint project from Student Affairs and the Human Rights and Equity Offices, a new training module for student leaders aims to make Orientation Week more inclusive to all new students. This was one of the recommendations from PICRDI and the Undergraduate Orientation Review Working Group.

Vanessa Yzaguirre, from the Division of Student Affairs, and Erin Clow, from the Human Rights and Equity Offices, have developed this training. One of the activities is to get students to examine what they consider Queen’s traditions, from songs to activities, and which of those traditions may be outdated and exclusionary.

The goal is to help students embrace a diversity of experiences, abilities, and opinions while helping to create an inclusive campus community.

Another component is to introduce students to strategies they can use to navigate difficult conversations and maintain lines of communication among people with differing experiences and opinions. [See boxed note on civil discourse.] The training aims to give student leaders new tools to model empathetic leadership: tools they can use long past Orientation Week and pass on to newer students.

The training will be premiered this August as Orientation leaders gather to plan their activities to welcome the undergraduate class of 2022 in September.

Vanessa Yzaguirre

Vanessa Yzaguirre, MA'16 (Gender Studies)
Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator,
Division of Student Affairs

Ms. Yzaguirre’s role is a fairly new one, created to address PICRDI recommendations. She bridges gaps and maximizes opportunities to support students across the division in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusivity. 

On unconscious bias:

“It’s important to acknowledge that we all have unconscious biases. It’s not a bad thing by itself – it’s simply a shortcut in the brain, a pattern of thinking. Even being aware of how the unconscious biases operate helps to counteract them, and to be able to prevent them from guiding our decision-making process.

“It helps to understand that this is how our minds work; be aware of your bias before making a decision that can impact someone else’s life. If we diversify our community, we are reducing the negative impact of these biases. My lived experiences are not the same as yours. I am a recent immigrant, from Venezuela. My positionality is that of a Latin American woman. It is a big part of my identity and how I define myself. By making sure that we include different voices and perspectives and that we all are aware of our biases and how they operate, we can make decisions that are not hurtful to others and we can also start combatting unequal power dynamics.”

Erin Clow

Erin Clow, PhD’14 (Political Studies)
Education and Communications Advisor,Human Rights and Equity Offices

Dr. Clow is responsible for the implementation of training and communication strategies relating to equity and human rights. The Equity Office has specific roles in employment equity, such as compliance with the Federal Contractors Program. The Human Rights Office provides services to clients, including students, staff, and faculty.

On listening to understand: “[In one training session] we were talking about diversity of perspectives and having different voices in the room. And then someone in the room said, ‘Yes, it’s great to have diversity of voices and perspectives, but you have to be willing to listen.’ And then they said, ‘There’s a difference between listening to understand versus listening to respond.’ And that was a lightbulb moment for me. Diversity is really important, we need to have people who come from different backgrounds and perspectives in our workplaces, in our student community, but that’s only the first step. If we don’t actually get to the part of listening to understand or listening to change or evolve, and really including the voices in our programs and institutions, that’s the next step. That’s what we actually need to be doing.

“I know from my positionality, as a white, able-bodied, cisgendered woman, I try to be very conscious of the privileges that I embody. And when I go into a room I carry those with me, and I try to be conscious of providing that space [for others]. And sometimes that means that I don’t say something, or I defer, or I say, ‘Okay, what do you think?’ and I listen, before I provide my thoughts on something.”

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 3-2018]