Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Grant Provides Boost so VIU can Enhance Efforts

September 16, 2019 - 10:45am

In the spring, Vancouver Island University was awarded the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Capacity Building Grant, a joint initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), collectively known as the Tri-Agencies.

The $400,000 grant, which will be awarded over two years, will assist VIU to undertake work to celebrate diversity, address unconscious bias in processes such as hiring and ultimately transform culture into one where all people feel represented and that they belong. Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has been identified as a priority in post-secondary not only by the Tri-agencies, but also by the Government of Canada.

As a values-based institution, VIU sees an opportunity to improve its own EDI.

“We know the experience of our students and employees is enriched when our composition is diverse and people feel they can share different perspectives. This type of environment widens and enhances the standards for excellence in our talent pool,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President, Scholarship, Research and Creative Activities. “The quality of academic activity is raised when a question is considered from as many angles as possible.”

VIU was chosen for the grant in large part due to the excellent work already taking place in this area. 

“This is a sector-wide concern that universities across Canada are facing, and this grant positions VIU as one of the leaders working to advance EDI,” says Vaugeois. “VIU has some solid achievements to build on, such as its indigenization efforts, support for international students, and the level of women’s representation in leadership.”

However, applying for the grant demonstrates that more needs to be done and now there is funding and resources to create a VIU plan to address the needs.  

To facilitate the grant Karen Bernard has been hired as VIU’s EDI Advisor and Sean de Maio as the EDI Policy Analyst. They will work with a committee to administer VIU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action (EDIA) program. The goals of the program over the next 3-5 years are as follows:

  • Identify areas for action to improve equity, diversity and inclusion, based on data, surveys and consultation processes
  • Develop and implement an Action Plan, based on evidence and analysis of the VIU context
  • Improve reporting mechanisms, supported by restorative justice circles
  • Develop and implement an education plan, with a focus on bias education and awareness
  • Create an ongoing EDI Advisor position at VIU
  • Celebrate diversity and our successes in this area, and share what we have learned

In addition to the grant, VIU is one of 15 institutions selected nationally to participate in the pilot of the Dimensions Award, announced August 15, 2019 by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan. This Tri- Agencies initiative is called Dimensions in recognition of the multitude of ways people self-identify. The program invites signatories to participate in a “post-secondary transformation to increase equity, diversity and inclusion and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem. Sound EDI-informed policies and practices improve access to the largest pool of qualified potential participants, enhance the integrity of a program's application and selection processes, strengthen research outputs and increase the overall excellence of research. The award considers how PSI address obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority/racialized groups, and members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities. It provides public recognition for institutions committed to achieving increased EDI.”

VIU has endorsed the charter and principles on the Dimensions Award, which helps participants celebrate their EDI wins publicly and holds them to account for creating meaningful change. As a participant in the Dimensions Program, led by Dr. Carol Stuart, Interim Provost and Vice-President Academic, VIU will have access to resources and a community of practice across the country to learn from. 

“The fact that the Tri-Agencies launched these initiatives demonstrates the federal commitment to diversity in academia,” says Stuart. “It recognizes that EDI improvements at universities will bring new perspectives and ways of knowing into classrooms and research programs to better represent the diversity of Canadian society. The fact that VIU received the grant and is participating in the pilot of the Dimensions Award recognizes what VIU has accomplished so far, and will support the challenges of a smaller institution working toward improving EDI. The challenge ahead of us is significant, as we identify the barriers that still exist and determine how we need to progress toward equity and inclusion.  I know we can do the work to go further.”

These programs are in line with VIU values and are captured in the VIU People Plan, in which the invitation to action “To foster diversity, fairness and truth and reconciliation” states that VIU will undertake exactly this type of work as an institution.

“The People Plan consultation process informed us that VIU employees believe this work is important and they are keen to see results on EDI,” says Dan VanderSluis, VIU’s AVP Human Resources. “It is wonderful to see both the grant funding and piloting of the Dimensions award, as they cumulatively will allow VIU to make progress on this important issue.”   

“The synergy between the People Plan and this grant gets to the essence of what VIU is about,” Stuart says. “It shows how the entire institution can come together to create real change.”

Read more about EDI at VIU.

Tags: Research