Georgian will create a Centre for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The centre is part of a bold and exciting project entitled Equity, diversity and inclusion at Georgian College: A three-fold transformative approach.
Georgian, along with 11 other postsecondary institutions across Canada will share close to $4.8 million through the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Institutional Capacity-Building Grant. The objective of the grant is to help identify and overcome systemic barriers that impede the career advancement, recruitment and retention of underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.
“This is an excellent opportunity to augment the good work we’re already doing, re-affirm our commitment about the type of organization we are striving to be and set a clear vision and action plan to ensure the entire Georgian community of students, employees and stakeholders feel and are being treated equitably and are being included,” said Dr. MaryLynn West-Moynes, President and CEO of Georgian College. “We’re continuing to seek out and welcome diversity across the college and this exciting project is aligned with our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in our strategic plan.”
The funding will allow Georgian to continue its important work around EDI with a more consolidated and focused mandate. Inclusion has always been a core Georgian value with internationalization and enhanced Indigenization built into the strategic plan and the college continues to be committed to institution-wide change that supports diversity at all levels of the organization. While important priorities, they don’t capture the full integration of other groups, such as women, Black individuals, domestic students and staff of colour, Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGBTQQIA) individuals, as well as people living with disabilities.
This project aims to create structural and cultural change by using equity lenses, decolonization and anti-oppression frameworks to review, assess and plan training as well as recruit and retain faculty and staff who identify in the target groups. It will build capacity in three ways: key roles, strategic action plans, professional development and EDI events.
An extensive environmental scan with both internal and external college stakeholders will be conducted within the first six months of the project to document the status of EDI at Georgian and identify opportunities and challenges to help develop strategic and action plans.
The centre will be focused on the staff and their expertise, rather than a physical space. Staff will conduct the important emotional work required around EDI, and will be responsible for planning, implementing and reporting on Georgian’s progress with fostering and maintaining EDI change.
The work will be stewarded by an EDI Working Circle (EDIWC) comprised of a broad group including students, faculty, support staff, and administration, representing people from the core target groups as well as members from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, anti-Black racism forums, academic and service areas college-wide.
Liberal Arts professor Clem Bamikole is a member of the EDIWC and said the centre is a dream in the making for him. “I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment, gratitude and cautious optimism about the new centre,” he said. “I’m grateful to everyone who is listening to the shared experiences and voices of those who’ve experienced discrimination and worked tirelessly to make the centre a reality. Our collective hope is it will focus on addressing systemic challenges faced by underrepresented individuals with lived experiences who require restorative justice. While this centre will undoubtably outlast us all, its legacy will have an enduring impact on the many lives that will benefit from this liberatorywork.”
Other project objectives include developing and testing evaluation tools to measure attitudinal shifts and behaviour changes across the college and establishing HR processes through an EDI lens and building capacity to ensure ongoing EDI-focused hiring, evaluation, and promotion of faculty and staff.
“This is a turning point and a sign of maturity for us,” added West-Moynes. “We have been on this journey for some time, with many working on this already across different areas of the college. Change, as important as this is built on the realization that we must listen to the stories of those who experience discrimination, an understanding that structural and cultural change is required and that this will take persistence, courage and time. I’m confident this project will help us move forward in building capacity through structural and cultural change.”
This pilot funding program is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). NSERC is administering it on behalf of the three federal research granting agencies.