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Building bridges

EDI-AR conference brings together global audience on Signal Hill

By Terri Coles

Memorial University’s inaugural International Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (EDI-AR) Conference brought together more than 200 attendees and presenters from around the world on May 14.

Dr. Amoaba Gooden (left) and Dr. Delores V. Mullings.
From left are Dr. Amoaba Gooden and Dr. Delores V. Mullings at Signal Hill Campus on May 14.
Photo: Kristine Breen

It was a day of education, discussion and bridge-building.

“This is a great success story,” said Dr. Delores V. Mullings, vice-provost, EDI-AR at Memorial. “We are pleased with the outcome. Our small portfolio made history by hosting the first EDI-AR conference in the province.”

Dr. Mullings says there was “unprecedented excitement, appreciation and joy” from presenters and attendees.

“We received a lot of positive feedback and suggestions for a two-day event in the future. This is the beginning of Memorial assuming its place among EDI-AR institutional leaders.”

Dr. Donna Hardy Cox (left) and Dr. Paul Banahene Adjei stand together in a conference room.
From left are Dr. Donna Hardy Cox and Dr. Paul Banahene Adjei.
Photo: Kristine Breen

The hybrid conference took place at Memorial’s Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s; guests could attend online or in person.

The theme of the 2024 conference was Creating and Maintaining EDI-AR Momentum.

Moving work forward

The day opened with a video message from Dr. Neil Bose, president and vice-chancellor, pro tempore, at Memorial University.

Dr. Bose congratulated Dr. Mullings and her team on the event and reiterated the importance of her portfolio’s work to Memorial.

During each session throughout the day, presenters and attendees focused on the need to continue the work towards a clear EDI-AR mandate, keep it moving forward and scale it through their respective organizations.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Dr. Amoaba Gooden, vice-president, Division of People, Culture and Belonging, at Kent State University in Ohio.

Heather Crane (left) interprets in ASL as Dr. Amoaba Gooden speaks at a podium.
Standing from center to left are Heather Crane, American sign language interpreter, and Dr. Amoaba Gooden, of Kent University in Ohio, at Signal Hill Campus on May 14.
Photo: Kristine Breen

She addressed the importance of developing initiatives related to equity, inclusion, diversity and anti-racism with clear goals and measurable success metrics.

Dr. Gooden pointed to American author, theorist, educator and social critic bell hooks’ work when developing EDI-AR strategies and frameworks.

“For change to really happen, it needs to come from the people.” — Dr. Amoaba Gooden

Pay attention to who is at the margins of communities, and find out how they will be affected or excluded.

“The role of all of us as leaders is to move to the margins to partner [there],” she said.

She also outlined the scholarship and approaches informing her work.

Next, Dr. Gooden shared how Kent State University put those concepts into practice, emphasized the importance of measuring progress and shared her experiences in re-imagining how decision-making can look at post-secondary institutions.

“For those who are leading change, one of the things we really need to be mindful of is we’re helping to craft a vision, but we’re not dictating the vision. For change to really happen, it needs to come from the people.”

Wide range of topics

Other conference presenters covered a wide range of topics related to work in the EDI-AR space.

Cherry Ralhan-Khanna (left) and Shazia Shaheen stand among a crowd in a conference room.
Standing from centre to right are Cherry Ralhan-Khanna and Shazia Shaheen of the Office of the Vice-Provost, EDI-AR, at Memorial University.
Photo: Kristine Breen

Topics included using Canada’s human-rights framework to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in Canadian higher education; navigating whiteness in EDI-AR leadership; exploring best practices for EDI-AR in hiring practices; and integrating neurodiverse people in educational spaces, among many others.

In closing the conference, Dr. Mullings acknowledged the often challenging nature of discussions centred on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.

She closed by thanking volunteers, staff, presenters and attendees for their participation and support during the event.

Memorial University’s second International EDI-AR Conference is tentatively scheduled for May 2025.

Visit the EDI-AR website for updates.

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