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January 2, 2013

Diversity Working Group planning new initiatives for 2013

by Arnica Rowan

Students could soon be offering up their perspective on diversity at Okanagan College as part of new initiatives for 2013, led by the College’s Diversity Working Group. “We’re looking at a few initiatives,” said James Coble, Coordinator of Aboriginal Access & Services, who chairs the volunteer committee.

“One of the ideas is a contest where students can submit a photograph that best reflects their experience of diversity at the College,” Coble said. “We’re also talking about surveying students about their perceptions and experiences so that we can get a better idea of what activities we may need, or not need, and even how diversity can be rolled into the classroom experience.”

Coble said diversity is more than a feel-good exercise. Emerging research is now showing that students who work in an atmosphere that places emphasis on diversity benefit greatly in several education-related outcomes.

It also sets students up for greater success in a global job market.

“Diversity has even more implications in today’s global society,” he said. “There are more jobs that require people to have that perspective and people who have the ability to communicate and relate to people from all different kinds of backgrounds are better able to succeed in the real world.”

Launched in March 2011, the Diversity Working Group now has about 15 to 20 volunteers (including support staff and faculty members, plus an international student) who meet monthly.

Coble said there is room for more.

“The more diversity attributes we have on the committee itself, the better,” he said. “For example, as it stands right now there are only two males who participate regularly on the committee.”

The group defines diversity as: “people who differ by background and circumstances including, but not limited to, those of age, colour, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities and socio-economic background.”

The committee was initiated as part of the College’s participation in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System – known as STARS. Diversity is one of the STARS measurements. The checklist includes such things as the presence of support programs for under-represented groups and future faculty, affordability and access programs, and gender-neutral housing.

The next Diversity Working Group meeting takes place 2 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18 in the executive boardroom at the Kelowna campus. Volunteers from all campuses are welcome to attend.

Anyone interested in taking part can email James Coble. Information about the group is also available on the Diversity Working Group website.

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