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Leading, including, and transforming

Twelve students spent the weekend in training to prepare for fall orientation. 

[Queen's AMS Ramna Safeer Myriam-Morenike Djossou]
Myriam-Morenike Djossou (Artsci’18) and Ramna Safeer (Artsci'18) are among those involved in delivering some key inclusivity training to student Orientation leaders this fall. (University Communications)

A dozen Queen’s students are now ready to train 1,300 of their peers on the effective ways to create an inclusive environment during orientation.

These 12 students were selected and trained as ‘peer facilitators’, a new role created to help improve the experience of this year’s orientation.

In this role, they will be responsible for delivering a 90-minute workshop to orientation leaders in August called Leading, Including and Transforming (LIT). The training was jointly developed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Equity and Human Rights Office.

Enhancing student leadership training for orientation was a recommendation of the Undergraduate Orientation Review Working Group – and that review of Orientation Week stemmed from a recommendation of the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI).

“This initiative will help us strengthen the student transition experience by creating a common understanding of what a respectful and welcoming and accessible Orientation program would look like for a diversity of students. It will help to foster, for all members of the incoming class, a sense of belonging at Queen’s,” says Corinna Fitzgerald, Assistant Dean, Student Life and Learning. "We are proud of the inclusive living and learning environment here at Queen’s, and we are committed to continuous improvement through initiatives such as this one.”

The agenda for the two-day training session included learning the presentation, practicing the presentation, a session on presentation skills, and a session for facilitators on self-care delivered by the Cultural Counsellor. Having students serve as facilitators was a deliberate choice, according to organizers.

Coordinating the weekend session was Ramna Safeer (Artsci’18), Student Life Assistant with Student Affairs and past Social Issues Commissioner for the Alma Mater Society.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for student leaders to learn tangible skills for dealing with difficult conversations in contexts that are specific to them,” she says. “With my own experience, I am really passionate about the fact that all students are leaders in some capacity, which means every student should feel like they are agents in making their environments more inclusive and accessible. I feel honoured to be a part of an exciting new initiative that furthers the conversations about accessible, hands-on equity training that we're having right now.”

Myriam-Morenike Djossou (Artsci’18), one of the facilitators, believes delivering this training will help Orientation leaders understand the opportunity they have to help build an environment at Queen’s that is welcoming for everyone.

“Even though Queen’s is a big institution, and sometimes it can be hard to see how each of us, as individuals, have the ability to influence what happens on campus, there are in fact many ways through which we can shape the Queen’s experience and culture,” she says. “By reflecting and thinking critically on the activities we engage in, and what we witness, by knowing how to safely intervene when it is necessary, and by fostering inclusiveness in our daily lives, we have that ability to make a difference. It may not always be on a large scale, but that may make an important difference for one student, and that is already a win.”

The 1,300 orientation leaders will be trained on Thursday, Aug. 30 just ahead of Orientation Week.