Feb. 5, 2021

Making systemic change for the better

2021 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award winners inspire inclusion
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award

Speaking truth to power. Teaching people to challenge their biases. Building connection under challenging circumstances. The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion celebrated those who are fostering inclusivity across campus with the 2021 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Awards.

“In many ways, the pandemic has brought to light the pre-existing inequities that we always knew existed, as well as exposed new and emerging inequities. Inequities arising from exclusion, discrimination, harassment, and bullying exist on our campus and in the broader community. Faculty, staff, and students may be targeted based on race, indigeneity, religion, disability, gender identity and gender expression, and sexual orientation. We must acknowledge this reality and design interventions for sustainable change,” says Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion). 

While lockdowns and Covid-19 have made racism more visible, including anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and anti-Asian racism, it has also inspired many in our community to speak up and speak out. Honoured by the efforts of this year’s award winners, Smith hopes their success will inspire others to action.

“We are all needed to call out interpersonal and cultural racism when we see it. To challenge our institutions and the institutional inequities that continue to oppress and disadvantage some and privilege others,” says Smith. “Breaking down barriers that sustain injustice, whether gender, disabilities, LGBTQ2S+, isn’t easy, but it must be done. And we’re all going to be needed to make that change we want to see happen, together.”

Student Award – Keshia Holloman-Dawson, Faculty of Law

As president of the University of Calgary Black Law Students’ Association, Keshia Holloman-Dawson took the lead in developing the association’s Calls to Action: Addressing Systemic Racism in Law, which include strategies for addressing the underrepresentation of Black and Indigenous People of Colour in the Calgary law school and the legal profession as well as issues of discrimination against BIPOC.

Recognizing the barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination that are faced by BIPOC law students, the Calls to Action offer several strategies for dealing with the underlying issues. These include encouraging more diverse applicants through admissions reform, providing mentorship opportunities to BIPOC students, targeted mental health supports and incorporating a more diverse faculty.

Faculty Award – Dr. William Bridel, associate professor, Faculty of Kinesiology

Dr. William Bridel, PhD, has been conducting qualitative research on the LGBTQ2S+ population related to sport inclusion since his PhD. He sits on the LGBTQI2S+ Sport Inclusion Task Force Co-ordinating Committee and was the recipient of Calgary Institute for the Humanities Fellow where he further investigates the experiences of LGBTQ2S+ in sport. He is also the co-lead of the Faculty of Kinesiology EDI committee.

Bridel has worked with sport organizations such as Skate Canada to offer his perspective as a socio-cultural scholar on how to create an environment cultivated through anti-racist practices, and the dismissal of homophobia and transphobia. He teaches three courses where students are required to critically reflect on their privilege and taken for granted knowledge in society and sport. Bridel uses his platform to create an inclusive, diverse, and equitable environment within the Faculty of Kinesiology and in Sport Canada.

Team Award – Calgary Black Medical Student Association members including Aya Ebdalla, Chidera Nwaroh, McNeil-Inyani Keri, and Mursal Mohamud, Cumming School of Medicine

This summer, the students of the Calgary Black Medical Student Association released their Calls to Action to address institutionalized racism in medical education and health care. Their thoughtful, evidence-based framework to guide anti-racist action within the medical school included calls to increase representation within medicine of BIPOC students, equip all medical students to care for BIPOC patients and promote wellness among BIPOC students.

The courage and grace of these students in leading change has left a profound imprint on all those who work with them. Their efforts have resulted in a number of changes in policy and process to the Cumming School of Medicine’s anti-racist strategy. In many cases, members of this student team shared their own personal experiences of racism to help leaders better understand the need for the changes they sought. These students are brave EDI leaders worthy of being celebrated for their advocacy to make our university a more inclusive place.

Staff Award – Renée Huntley, Indigenous health program co-ordinator, Cumming School of Medicine

As the Indigenous health program co-ordinator, Renée Huntley co-ordinates and maintains the day-to-day operations of various initiatives within the Indigenous health portfolio of the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office at the Cumming School of Medicine.

This past year, Huntley has continually demonstrated resourceful ingenuity during the pandemic. She was responsible for moving weekly Indigenous Wellness Circles to an online platform and co-ordinating virtual information sessions. Her work continued with panel discussions to share and advance the work that began with the Indigenous Health Dialogue by hosting Indigenous lunch-and-learn sessions. Despite the move to primarily online, remote learning, students continue to connect with each other and with community through these programs.

Students have commented about how these programs help them navigate through medical school, provide teachings beyond the regular academic program, contribute to wellness, and allow them to maintain a sense of belonging and connection to community.

Find Black History Month events and stories from UCalgary.