JEDII STEM Series: A step on the path to a just, equitable and inclusive UBC

 “This was all new to me when I started. […] I just wanted to help people and help make change. […] I think that is the most important core feeling, and as long as you have that, the rest of it you can learn.”  

Dr. Annie Ciernia, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine on starting out on JEDII work

So often we have a desire to help others but lack a clear path forward. After all, what can an individual do to change an institution as large as UBC?

It turns out, there’s quite a lot.

UBC has many resources and initiatives designed to support individuals and units motivated to embed justice, equity, decolonization, Indigenization, and inclusion (JEDII) into their policies, practices and behaviors. However, it can be daunting to get started doing this work in a large institution and with consideration of the many decentralized efforts already underway – particularly when doing so alone or perhaps without any local foundations to build on. To better support community members interested in advancing JEDII, the Equity and Inclusion in Action: JEDII STEM Series was launched in the summer of 2021.

Created by the Equity & Inclusion Office and co-facilitated by Skylight: Science Centre for Learning and Teaching, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, and the Faculty of Medicine Office of Respectful Environments, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, the series brings together faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who lead and support JEDII initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields so that they can access a cross-campus network of ideas, resources and expertise. 

Through monthly educational sessions, the series is designed to build a sense of community across STEM and enhance a sense of self-efficacy and solidarity amongst people working on JEDII initiatives. The series facilitates sharing of resources, knowledge and expertise, and supports the development of a deeper understanding of some of the systemic barriers to JEDII within STEM in order to coordinate action across different units. It also provides an opportunity to surface difficult topics and work through challenges together. 

“It’s been helpful to know who is working on what on campus. It’s really nice to see representation of different schools, different departments, different faculties who are coming together and talking about different efforts that they’re working on,” says Dr. Maria Tokuyama, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science. 

22 sessions have been hosted since 2021, with past discussions covering topics such as what actions individuals and departments can take to recruit and retain equity-deserving groups and ways to integrate trauma-informed practices in teaching and supervising. A total 1928 registrations were received across all events. While many of the discussions are centered on the experiences of people from equity deserving groups, allies are encouraged to attend, with an understanding that it is everyone’s responsibility to create a more just, equitable and inclusive university.  

While the series originated from a desire to better support individuals and units, it demonstrates UBC’s commitments to inclusion in action. For example, the series supports the advancement of several Inclusion Action Plan goals: recruitment, retention and success, system change, capacity building, and learning, research and engagement. It also aligns with UBC’s strategic plan’s theme of inclusion, and strategies such as great people, thriving communities, and inclusive excellence. 

To date, the network has engaged over 682 participants across 18 faculties, as well as administrative units across UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan. 

In addition to the JEDII STEM Series, women or gender-diverse persons who identify as an Indigenous, Black and/or Person of Colour, can also join the IBPOC STEM Network for community-building opportunities.