By Eula Mengullo, February 11 2021—
On Feb. 3, the University of Calgary held its annual Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) awards ceremony which takes place during EDI week on campus.
The virtual event celebrated award winners of different categories — Student, Faculty, Staff and Team — highlighting the dedication of the campus community upholding equity, diversity and inclusion at the university.
The event began with an introduction by new vice-provost, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Malinda Smith, followed by ceremonial acknowledgements by Dr. Reg Crowshoe, who offered his blessing through the use of sweetgrass, representing sanctified kindness for all, which is a traditional call-to-order in Blackfoot culture.
Dr. Ed McCauley, U of C president, congratulated the award recipients for their notable contribution in promoting equity not only on campus, but also in the broader society.
“Achieving equity means that we need to translate our words into meaningful action and change. You’ve shown this and we’re tremendously proud of the impact that you’ve created, not only here at our university, but also in the wider community,” McCauley said.
He also further remarked the significance of this year’s EDI week as it falls within the same week of the beginning of Black History Month, and the fourth anniversary of its official recognition in Alberta.
“Black History Month provides an invaluable opportunity to reflect on the stories of change makers who played pivotal roles in building up our city and our province,” McCauley added.
McCauley reminded everyone of their role in ensuring that equity, diversity and inclusion are reflected in research, student experience and the connections that we build with our communities.
Here is a list of this year’s EDI Award recipients:
EDI Student Award: Keshia Holloman-Dawson, President of Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) at U of C for her efforts towards calls-to-action initiatives in addressing systemic racism in law, using and evidence-based approach to combatting racism and for cultivating respectful and collaborative relationships.
EDI Faculty Award: Dr. William Bridel, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology for his work in LGBTQ+ sport inclusion. He is also a co-lead of the EDI committee in his faculty, and is heavily involved in cultivating an anti-racist environment and working to fight homophobia and transphobia in sports.
EDI Staff Award: Renée Huntley, Indigenous Health Program Coordinator, for her work in maintaining the operation of initiatives within the Indigenous health portfolio of the Indigenous local and global office in the Cumming School of Medicine. She also demonstrated her resourcefulness by transitioning various programs, including Indigenous wellness circles and lunch and learn sessions to online platforms, which helped many students maintain their sense of belonging and connection to community.
EDI Team Award: Calgary Black Medical Students Association (CBMSA) for their work towards calls-to-action to combat institutionalized racism in the medical and health care field, which led to changes in policy and process within the Cumming School of Medicine’s anti-racist strategy. Their members include Aya Ebdalla, Chidera Nwaroh, McNeil- Inyani Keri and Mursal Mohamud.
Dr. Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president academic at U of C, expressed the importance of EDI in helping individuals flourish and reach their full potential. She remarked on the individuals at the U of C and how each of us could thrive in a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment.
“Imagine if we created an environment where everybody was allowed and encouraged to reach their own potential,” said Marshall. “If we want people to flourish we must commit to an equitable, diverse and inclusive campus. We must strive to make University of Calgary a place free from harassment, bullying and discrimination.”
Marshall also remarked that it is not sufficient for us, as a collective, to only speak of anti-racism, we must commit to racial justice.
This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Verna St. Denis, Professor of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, shared her insight on racism and education through her keynote address: An Indigenous Journey with Anti-Racist Education. She spoke of the pivotal role of universities in dismantling racism, but also emphasized that in order to move forward, universities must also acknowledge their past behaviours that have hindered growth by maintaining the status quo and excluding racialized minorities.
“In fact, if universities are to truly be places of open dialogue and promotion of knowledge, then the university must acknowledge its past as well as the present harms that are perpetrated as we envision a better future,” she said. “If universities are truly to be responsive to the public, then the diversity of that public must be acknowledged and respected. Not only must doors open, but more importantly, the foundation must shift towards the diverse perspectives and voices that constitute our nation and our communities.”
St. Denis’s work as an Indigenous scholar allowed her to bring a renewed perspective in education, and to advocate for the reassessment of curriculum that no longer serves only a portion of the population, but is inclusive to everyone.
Furthermore, she also noted the need for graduate programs to diversify and take into consideration Indigenous perspectives as they produce the next generation of scholars, who will then transmit their knowledge through education.
The EDI Awards were created in 2009 to recognize inspiring students, faculty members and staff, and celebrate their notable courage in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment on campus.