The organisational changes that helped embed inclusion and diversity within the core of the University of British Columbia

The University British Columbia

In the seventh of our interviews with key speakers who are presenting at SEC 11th -12th October 2018, Dr Sara-Jane Finlay talks about the organisational changes that helped embed inclusion and diversity within the core of the University of British Columbia.
Dr Sara-Jane Finlay is the Associate Vice President, Equity & Inclusion for the University of British Columbia, Canada. She did her graduate work in the UK at Loughborough University, receiving an MA in Women’s Studies and a PhD in Social Sciences. She has held academic positions at Solent University, UK, the College of St Marks and St Johns, UK, and the University of Toronto, Canada. 


Could you begin with a little about the background behind the Equity & Inclusion Office at the University of British Columbia?

The Equity & Inclusion Office (EIO) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) operates in a number of key areas:

  • Through fostering and supporting strategic leadership on issues of equity and inclusion
  • Through capacity building of faculty, staff and students to ensure all members of the community can succeed
  • Through structure and system change that brings those who have been traditionally marginalised or under-represented in higher education to the centre of our work
  • Through strong accountability measures and compliance with relevant policies and legislation

What is the Equity Enhancement Fund and what prompted its formation?

The Equity Enhancement Fund supports community-based, grass-roots initiatives that enhance equity, diversity and inclusion at UBC. Each year, we receive about 60 applications across the two campuses. While the requests often total in excess of $300,000, we have only $90,000 to distribute each year.


Reviewing the applications and determining who will receive funding is one of the highlights of the year. We have been able to fund very exciting projects that have the potential for long lasting impact. For instance, last year one of the projects focused on assessing the experience of new racialised faculty and another was a joint application between First Nations and Critical Indigenous Studies and the Indigenous Media Collective at CiTR, to include more indigenous content in both their print and audio channels. It is easy to get excited about the potential of projects such as these.


Could you talk more about the new Student Diversity Initiative? For example, what organisational changes have you found are necessary in order for inclusion and diversity to be embedded within the core of the University?

Embedded is probably the key word here. The organisational change we have found necessary is to embed expertise in equity and inclusion into key units across UBC. This has resulted in a model whereby a staff member from the Student Diversity Initiative is embedded in key units. Each of our partner units, working closely with our Strategic Support Team, undertakes a needs assessment and designs a position to support the work of embedding equity and inclusion into the structures and systems of each of the units.



What problems and challenges have you faced thus far in terms of embedding inclusivity within the University?

Traditional models of excellence and scholarship can also be a challenge. While we know diversity in approaches, experience, ways of thinking, scholarship, methodology, epistemologies and ontologies leads to more innovative research, our methods of assessment and evaluation within academia are often too rigid or bound in disciplinary traditions to work with the flexibility and fluidity that might be required.


You can find out more about the STEMM Equality Congress here

You can find out more about Dr Sara-Jane Finlay here