Increasing access and diversity
November 22, 2022
Queen’s undergraduate recruitment staff are back on the road this fall after two years of mostly online engagement with high school students and families, guidance counsellors and community-based organizations. They are currently visiting schools and attending community events across Canada and in more than 20 countries.
For Richard Mitchell, Shoshannah Bennett-Dwara (BScH’21), and a group of 19 peer equity ambassadors that form the Access and Inclusion Team in Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment, it’s a particularly busy time.
This team connects with students and families in under-served communities, in-person and online, to increase awareness and access to higher education, provide knowledge, resources, and support to help them navigate the application and decision-making process, and encourage them to see themselves at Queen’s.
“It has been both an incredible privilege and honour to witness, first-hand, the extraordinary growth and impact the supportive services offered through Access and Inclusion has had on students,” says Bennett-Dwara. “It is often the case that first-generation and equity-deserving students are told to dream big, without sufficient access to the knowledge and resources that enable them to do so. Our program works to bridge the gap between where a student currently exists, and the goals that they’ve been conditioned to believe are unattainable. The one-on-one support, programming, and workshops that work to increase accessibility to higher education are opportunities that would’ve changed my life as an equity-deserving youth who found it difficult to navigate post-secondary.”
The equity ambassadors are a group of undergraduate students who share their lived experiences and offer support in accessing post-secondary education from a student lens. They connect with prospective applicants and their families through workshops, webinars, and community programming, as well as one-on-one.
The team also partners with community-based agencies and high schools serving equity-deserving youth to extend their reach and promote the university’s First-Generation Admission Pathway and financial aid programs that aim to support a path to Queen’s and reduce financial barriers so more high-achieving students from lower socio-economic backgrounds can accept their offer of admission.
“The relationships developed with our community partners are critical to the success of our outreach strategies for the First-Generation Admission Pathway Program,” says Mitchell, Manager, Access and Inclusion. “We've increased our affiliated community organization partnerships from 11 to 22 across Ontario and will continue to expand Canada-wide.”
One of the team’s community partners is Ladder2Rise, that recently hosted a Take Your Child to Work Day event with over 200 students from across the country participating in-person and virtually.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are our shared responsibility and now more than ever, our efforts to create pathways for underserved youth communities is of critical importance. Through Ladder2Rise’s partnership with the Access and Inclusion team at Queen’s, we’ve moved from conversation to demonstrable action to remove barriers and enable access to post-secondary education for youth who now believe that a post-secondary education is possible, and more critically that we are all committed to seeing them rise to their greatest potential,” says Ruth Nyaamine, founder & CEO, Ladder2Rise.
“We are grateful for the dedication, collaboration, and commitment demonstrated by Richard and Shoshannah to date. They have incredible abilities to center all voices, drive forward action and more importantly bring forward sound recommendations and aligned resources to empower our youth. The lives changed are many and the impact is everlasting.”
The team has invited its community partners to SmithToronto, the Smith School of Business’ downtown Toronto facility, on Friday, Nov. 25 to talk about the First-Generation Pathway, the Equity Ambassadors, Queen’s Financial Aid, including our new Major Access Awards, and Queen's commitments and actions under the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education. Attendees will be invited to share their perspectives on what more Queen’s can do to support and empower equity-deserving students to pursue a path to higher education.
“The continued expansion of our longstanding efforts to increase access and diversity at Queen’s has most recently been guided by the recommendations of Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment’s campus-wide 2020 Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII) Task Force, and a subsequent cross-campus review of financial aid programs that led to the establishment of new admission bursaries to enable more students from underserved communities to accept their offers to Queen’s,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “I want to recognize the incredible work of the team, and the progress made to date through collaborations among our staff, students, faculty members and community partners, as we advance these important initiatives, in support of the University Strategy and commitments.”