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Graduate Inclusivity Fellows help promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity

Eight members of the Queen’s graduate community are working together to foster a culture of belonging for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Compilation image of the inaugural Graduate Inclusivity Fellows.
The inaugural Graduate Inclusivity Fellows (GIF) are, clockwise from top left: Adaku Echendu; Andrés Ramos; Sabrina Masud; Jacob DesRochers (PhD, Education); Nishana Ramsawak; Allen Tian; Jodi Webber; and Suyin Olguin. (Submitted photos)

With a goal of fostering a culture of belonging for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at Queen’s, the School of Graduate Studies last year launched the Graduate Inclusivity Fellows (GIF) initiative.

Eight members of the Queen’s graduate community were selected through an open application process for the inaugural year, with each offering diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise from various academic programs.

Adaku Echendu, a PhD student in the Department of Environmental Studies and one of the initial GIFs, understands firsthand the impact mentorship can have. As a graduate student driven to find solutions to environmental problems, her passion is rivaled only by her willingness to help others learn, grow, and succeed.    

“I became involved with GIFs because the objectives strongly align with changes I want to see happen to foster a sense of belonging in the School of Graduate Studies,” says Echendu. “Going through graduate school is an arduous journey and can feel overwhelming at times. My biggest accomplishment during my tenure would be students having whatever support they need for their social, academic, and mental wellbeing. This feeling alone is enough to bring out the best in every one of us.”

The GIFs – Echendu; Jacob DesRochers (PhD, Education); Sabrina Masud (PhD, English); Suyin Olguin (PhD, English); Nishana Ramsawak (PhD, Civil Engineering); Andrés Ramos (PhD, Biomedical Engineering); Allen Tian (PhD, Biology); and Jodi Webber (PhD, Aging and Health) – facilitate inclusivity by applying their lived experience and professional skillset to support current and prospective graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Serving a two-year term, GIFs also advise the School of Graduate Studies on matters related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII), including the development of strategies and programs to improve learning experiences for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. GIFs use their valuable insights to also support recruitment processes to Queen’s by promoting EDII-focused initiatives in an effort to make graduate and postdoctoral studies more welcoming to diverse populations. 

“At the School of Graduate Studies, our mission is to foster a learning and research culture that inspires graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to cultivate a better future for our global community,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies “A key aspect in achieving this mission is the continuous evaluation of our programming and processes in a way that supports the diversity of our community and nurtures a sense of belonging. The launching of this fellowship reinforces our deep and continued commitment to equity, diversity, indigenization and inclusion. I am excited to learn from and work with these students as they identify priorities to make Queen’s a more welcoming academic home.”

Whether supporting an international student as they adapt to a new environment, adjust to the pace of a new workload, or are just looking for someone to talk to who can relate to the challenges of exploring their identity, GIFs are a resource to help build a community of respect where all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows feel accepted, empowered, and thrive.

Understanding the need for the student body to better reflect the broader Canadian population, the School of Graduate Studies recognizes the importance of being responsive to differing perspectives and experiences in the academic process, as well as the development and implementation of programming and initiatives. Working to remove barriers to participation and assisting students who are integrating into the Queen’s community will ensure graduate students and fellows feel supported from admission to graduation.

To learn more about the Graduate Inclusivity Fellows visit the School of Graduate Studies website.