One of Dr. Delores V. Mullings’ goals is to help make Memorial University become an EDI-AR “giant.”
The university is in its infancy for EDI-AR, says Memorial’s vice-provost, equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.
She sees it as a great opportunity for the university to both learn from more established institutions and be a leader charting new territories for others to embrace.
“We have an increasing population with nuanced lived experiences,” said Dr. Mullings, who is also a professor in the School of Social Work. “This is part of the excitement, because people with these varying perspectives will help Memorial set the standards for what a university campus can look and feel like when everyone who comes in contact with any part of the institution feel valued, welcomed and honoured while seeing a reflection of who they are embedded in all areas of our university.”
Focus groups and surveys
As an important step toward making the vision a reality, Dr. Mullings and the EDI-AR Strategic Planning Team are asking all members of Memorial’s various communities, including students, staff, faculty and alumni, to share their thoughts and experiences about EDI-AR.
The team will hold ongoing consultations through focus groups and surveys.
Current Memorial students across all campuses can participate anonymously in the EDI-AR student survey, which is available online until Friday, April 28.
Also, all Memorial alumni are invited to participate in one of two upcoming consultation sessions, to be held virtually and on the St. John’s campus on Thursday, May 4.
“Applying an EDI-AR lens in the classroom has really helped build deeper and more trusting relationships with students.”
The first session is at 10 a.m. (NT) both online via Webex and on the St. John’s campus in UC-3015 of the University Centre, which is an accessible space.
Parking is available across from the University Centre in the parking garage. The second session is at 7 p.m. (NT) via Webex.
Other sessions are planned and will be advertised on Newsline and on the office’s website. Members of the Memorial community who have not had the opportunity to participate in a consultation session can contact Cherry Ralhan-Khanna.
These activities are part of the EDI-AR consultation process, which began last fall and should wrap up soon. The EDI-AR Strategic Planning Team has facilitated more than 50 focus groups with more than 500 participants.
The formation of the EDI-AR Strategic Planning Team and its wide-ranging consultation process has been a pan-university undertaking, involving representation from students, staff and faculty across disciplines.
The team helped finalize the consultation content. As well, an EDI-AR advisory committee, with representative membership from the Labrador, Grenfell, Signal Hill, Marine Institute and St. John’s campuses, is in place.
For Dr. Mullings, the specific addition of anti-racism in Memorial’s EDI-AR priorities is important to the mission of Memorial University.
Around the world, there is an increasing realization that EDI or any version of inclusion and diversity is insufficient and ineffective to accomplish genuine institutional transformation, she says.
“In response, institutions have embraced various terms, including decolonization, racial justice, anti-racism, human rights and indigenization,” Dr. Mullings said. “Since we have a vice-president (Indigenous) and an indigenization agenda, I chose to add anti-racism.”
A focus on transformation
Student input is crucial to the success of Memorial’s EDI-AR initiatives, says Dr. Chad W. Cuss, assistant professor of environmental inorganic/geochemistry at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus.
The survey is an important tool for identifying and addressing the wide range of barriers and challenges faced by students and other members of the Memorial community, he says.
He also says its strength is that it draws upon the wide-ranging experience and perspectives of students, staff, faculty and the broader community to find innovative and impactful means to address the barriers and challenges.
“This includes barriers and challenges experienced by individuals that can otherwise be overlooked because they are not typically recognized as a distinct equity-seeking group, such as first-generation university students.”
Dr. Cuss views the university’s EDI-AR focus as enriching students’ learning experiences.
“Applying an EDI-AR lens in the classroom has really helped build deeper and more trusting relationships with students, which are critical for student engagement, motivation and developing critical thinking skills,” he said. “Students excel under these conditions and develop the resilience and love of learning needed to continue their own education and research as continuous learners.”