On Friday, May 26, members of the McGill community were feted during the 11th annual Equity and Community Building Award celebration. This award highlights the work of students, faculty and staff committed to advancing equity, diversity and community building at McGill.
Serving as emcee for the event, Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity & Academic Policies), kicked off the festivities by reading a message from Principal Deep Saini, who was unable to attend.
“Each of you being honoured here this afternoon have shown exceptional achievement, initiative and impact in the areas of equity, inclusion, and community building, setting a wonderful example for the entire McGill community,” said the Principal. “Through your support, McGill continues to build on its commitment to equity and diversity, and to fostering a welcoming and diverse learning, teaching and work environment.”
Before presenting the awards, Campbell spoke to the audience gathered in the Thompson House Ballroom.
“In recent years, collectively, we’ve come a long way on our road to equity at McGill despite some major challenges. But the McGill community, you in particular, have shown determination and resilience, and we have achieved some significant EDI milestones,” said Campbell. “The progress that we have made would not have been possible without the dedication of many talented individuals who have contributed their creativity, ingenuity, and often their very courage, to move our university forward on this path.”
“Among them are the nominees and winners who are here in this room today and to whom we are paying tribute this afternoon,” continued the Associate Provost. “Sustainable change is difficult to achieve and requires the determination, input, and efforts of real change makers and trailblazers and there are plenty of you here today.”
Switching roles, Campbell presented winners with their plaques while Tynan Jarrett, Director, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), read the citations.
Winner: Student Category
Citation: Gabrielle (Gabby) Smith is a Tio’tia:ke (Montreal) based musician, music teacher, music teacher educator, PhD candidate, course lecturer, and workshop facilitator. Her experiences teaching preschool through university, organizing in community, as well as supervising student-teaching in the field have motivated her to engage with abolitionist education, queer and disabled pedagogies, decolonizing and healing-centered approaches to music (teacher) education.
Gabby facilitates workshops and support groups for teachers, health care workers and community organizers who are working to deepen liberatory practices in their respective spaces. She is interested in the messy dynamics of intersecting positionalities; how they inform the ways in which educators perceive themselves, their students, build curriculum and community as well as how they approach pedagogy.
She is currently carrying out research on the community-building potentials of healing-informed teaching, common and harmful misunderstandings about liberatory work, and, how to begin this work with ourselves as individuals and educators.
Winner: Team Category
Citation: The Teamwork Initiative is an innovative program within E-IDEA (Engineering Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Advancement) with the goal of incorporating teamwork skills and applied concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion into undergraduate courses in the Faculty of Engineering. The Teamwork Initiative partners with course instructors across departments to offer in-class workshops, along with support, advising, and pedagogical tools. Their approach aims to build instructors’ capacity to improve student teams’ abilities to work together in more effective, equitable, and engaging ways.
Winner: Staff Category
Citation: Adi Sneg is the Equity Education Program Administrator at Teaching and Learning Services. She oversees the Our Shared Spaces (OSS) program which offers equity programming to McGill students of all levels. Adi connects with on- and off-campus student groups and sits on various EDI working groups, bridging McGill students’ equity needs with local and global conversations as they evolve over time. She is passionate about moving past theory and towards actions grounded in accessibility and anti-oppression, as well as modelling equitable labour practices in her supervision of OSS’ workshop facilitators. Adi holds a BA in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and Sociology from McGill.
Co-Winners: Academic Staff
Citation for Charles Gyan: Dr. Charles Gyan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at McGill University. He embodies a harmonious blend of intellectual pursuits and a deep-rooted passion for effecting social policy change, transnational social work practice, and community development. His multifaceted journey has seamlessly interwoven his academic and research interests with a profound dedication to advancing social justice.
At the heart of Dr. Gyan’s scholarly pursuits lies a conviction that society can be transformed through the pursuit of equity and fairness. His program of research reverberates with a resolute commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and championing the rights of marginalized communities. In every inquiry, he seeks to unveil the invisible threads that perpetuate inequality and inequity, striving to pave a more just and inclusive path forward.
Dr. Gyan is the founding chair of Black Access McGill (BAM), an initiative that echoes his unwavering mission to create pathways that empower Black students within the McGill School of Social Work. Under his leadership, BAM has ignited transformative pathways, forged avenues that amplify outreach, recruitment, retention, and the graduation of Black students within the McGill School of Social Work.
Citation for Laura Nilson: Laura Nilson joined McGill in 2000 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology. She held a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Genetics from 2001-2011 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2017.
In 2012 she took on an administrative role as Associate Dean, first at Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and then in the Faculty of Science as Associate Dean (Graduate Education). Through her work in the Faculty of Science, she chose to take on an additional role in thinking about issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and institutional climate.
In 2018 she launched the Faculty of Science Equity and Climate Committee (SECC). With representation from each department and other Faculty units, the SECC serves as a hub for communication, capacity building, and initiative development. In general, the SECC focuses on addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion directly, through the development of targeted policies and support mechanisms, and also indirectly, by promoting a climate for working and learning in which all our students, faculty and academic and administrative staff feel included and capable of success as full participants in McGill’s academic mission.
Community comes together to create a better McGill
Taking the podium, Provost Christopher Manfredi praised the nominees and winners, and the larger McGill community for ongoing EDI efforts.
“I take great pride in the inclusive and welcoming campus community that we are building together, a community where diversity is not only embraced but cherished. Your presence here today serves as a testament to the shared sense of pride that resonates across our campuses,” said the Provost.
“Today’s celebration also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the significant progress we have made since the establishment of McGill’s EDI Strategic Plan in 2020 which made equity and inclusion explicit priorities, recognizing their critical importance in fulfilling our University’s mission,” he continued. “By creating an environment that embraces and celebrates diversity we remain steadfast in upholding the fundamental principles that define our University – academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity, and inclusiveness. These principles serve as the bedrock of our commitment to fostering intellectual openness and achieving academic excellence.”
“Today we come together to honour McGill students, faculty, staff, and teams who have dedicated themselves to enhancing this commitment. I am deeply grateful to all members of the McGill community who actively engage in this important work, and to those who acknowledge and value their contributions.”