At the Academic Success Centre, we are committed to creating learning spaces that welcome diversity, encourage inclusion, and enable equitable learning experiences. We are so fortunate to have a team of student staff and professionals that genuinely reflects the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of the students and staff at Ted Rogers School of Management. But what does it mean to put these ideas of diversity, inclusion, and equity into practice? This blog post will start by parsing these words to create a shared understanding of terminology. Next, it will share the actions the ASC and staff take on a daily basis to contribute to the work of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Finally, it will end with some suggestions of how you can bring this work into your own daily life.
Defining Equity Terminology
Three of the most common words you’ll hear when talking about social justice are diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have a previous post written by Academic Success Centre students staff called How to Incorporate Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Your Daily Life. Here’s how they define these terms:
- “Diversity is the existence of differences. This can be the existence of different personalities or skill sets within a company, or even the existence of different genders, ethnicities and cultures within an organization such as Ryerson University.”
- “Equity…is about ensuring everyone has access to the opportunity/ resource that best fits their needs…. Equity takes into account the fact that not everyone begins at the same starting point or requires the same resources to succeed.”
- “Inclusion is making people with different identities feel appreciated and welcomed. This can be as simple as giving someone the chance to voice their opinion in a conversation.”
Here’s what I notice about these definitions. Diversity is something that exists or is observable. Equity and inclusion are actions whereby individuals or groups take action to ensure everyone has the support they need for equal opportunities and inclusion encapsulates actions undertaken to ensure everyone feels like they belong.
Some other terms that you might find useful to explore are intersectionality, microaggression, unconscious bias, and ally. What other terminology do you think it would be helpful for you to learn? Make a list and take some time to figure out what they mean. A blog post by Catalyst, 12 Diversity & Inclusion Terms You Need to Know may be a helpful starting point.
Welcome to Our World!
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that the ASC is committed to creating welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environments. But how do we do it? Here are four important steps that we take on a regular basis to demonstrate our commitment and to make you feel welcome at our programming.
Regular engagement with diversity statements: At the beginning of our team meetings, we read and discuss a prompt about one of the statements available to us at the university: the land acknowledgment, anti-Black racism, and diversity statement. At the beginning of each term, we collectively create questions we want to address during the semester. This practice involves the whole team. We also benefit from the learning of returning staff sharing their learning with new staff members so that we are never starting from zero with this work; rather, we are always building, building, building.
Consistent Conversations about Implementing Equitable and Inclusive Practices: Similar to the statement engagement, at our regular team meetings we also discuss questions related to equity, accessibility, inclusion, community-building, mentorship, active listening, and facilitation models. This supports the growth and development of our wonderful team of student staff. Although the prompts are not all centered around equity, they all work toward creating an inclusive atmosphere for students who use our programming.
Creating Deliverables and Activities to Engage the Team: Our student staff participation in small working groups called Communities of Practice (CoP). This allows them to work together across the tutoring, PAL, and peer coaching teams, learn more about the ASC, and create resources to share with each other and their peers in Ted Rogers School. One of these CoP groups focuses on ways to support the student staff team’s growth related to equity and inclusion. Because we know that relationship building is seminal to this work, we also have a group dedicated to self-care and community building. This helps us fill our cups before we can help you fill yours, so to speak.
Connect with campus partners: We are very lucky to have an education and outreach coordinator in the equity office of our university. We invited this facilitator to our student staff training to present on Anti-Black racism and microaggressions. In the year or so leading up to our most recent training, we had already begun the work by engaging in the three activities mentioned above. This pre-work is important because if we are going to ask Black, Indingeous, or People of Color for their knowledge and support, we need to be sure that we have done some of our own learning first. Plus, learning is more meaningful when we have some prior knowledge before layering on new information and skills.
What can you do?
Equity and inclusion work can feel really BIG. Like all new things we embark upon, it can be challenging to know where to start. Here are a few strategies I like to use to find a way in.
- Start with what you know from your own experiences. In learning theory lingo, this is called accessing prior knowledge. What words have you heard used in the context of equity and inclusion work? Which words seem important and why? Make a list of these words and include the context in which you heard or read them – this will help you to apply them in context later.
- Seek out definitions. Once you have a list of words you’d like to define, take the time to look them up. As you do this, note down the meanings and a concrete example. Associating a concrete, real-world example that has meaning for you will help you remember their meanings and make it more likely you will be able to use them later in conversation or writing.
- Start conversations about equity with your friends and family. Talking about equity and inclusivity with people who care about you can be a safe way to begin and practice your language and think through ideas before putting them into practice. Sharing your equity journey with trustworthy people will also help to keep you accountable to your growth. You can even ask them to check in on your progress to give you that extra motivation to take action and learn.
- Take action. Sometimes starting is the hardest part. This is because we often think about finishing before we even begin. Find a way in, any way in. Read a book, watch a film, go to an art exhibit, talk to friends. Feel your way through your equity and inclusivity journey, embrace your mistakes, apologize, reflect, and find a new way.
What will be the next step on your equity and inclusivity journey?
Ajobena, M., Rajaratnam, E., Agarwal, A., & Siddiqui, M. (20201, May 3). How to Incorporate Equity, Diversity and Inclusion into your Daily Life. This Is TRSM. https://this-is-trsm.com/2021/05/how-to-incorporate-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-into-your-daily-life/
Catalyst. (2019, May 30). 12 Diversity & Inclusion Terms You Need to Know (Blog Post). Catalyst. https://www.catalyst.org/2019/05/30/12-diversity-inclusion-terms-you-need-to-know/