Shaping the future: How the University of Alberta's colleges advance equity, diversity and inclusion

Discover how dedicated efforts across the colleges fosters a more diverse and inclusive academic environment.


At the University of Alberta, colleges are collaboratively advancing a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion by leveraging unique capabilities and insight to support the overarching strategic objectives led by vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion) Carrie Smith. These objectives will ultimately be articulated in the U of A’s first Integrated EDI Action Plan, which will complement and support Shape: A Strategic Plan of Impact and the People Strategy and be guided by Braiding Past, Present and Future. This collective effort is centred on creating an environment where all members of the university community can thrive.

The coordination between the colleges and the vice-provost’s office is critical to this next phase of the university’s EDI strategy. "Our collaborations across faculties and colleges allow us to work on shared interests such as student support and solution sharing, which are vital for inspiring change within the organization," explains Tim Ira, strategic initiatives officer for Indigenous Initiatives & Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“Actions to advance equity, diversity and inclusion can only flourish as a shared effort. In order to understand the needs of, assess impacts to or identify opportunities for the broader U of A community, we need to hear directly from students, faculty and staff,” says Smith. “The collaboration with the colleges has been and will continue to be essential as we move from understanding EDI as ‘in addition to’ to EDI as ‘what we do.’”

The colleges are actively implementing initiatives, such as conducting environmental scans to identify and address existing gaps in EDI practices. "We initiated a comprehensive environmental scan that led to a report setting priorities based on extensive feedback across the college," says Alexandra Marshall, EDI strategic initiatives officer at the College of Health Sciences. These reviews resulted in the development of tailored EDI supports for research, workshops and education sessions on EDI topics customized for faculty, staff and students.

Another focus has been on equitable hiring, onboarding and action planning. Tara McGee, associate dean, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, highlights the inclusive nature of their efforts. "We are working on an initiative to provide additional mentorship opportunities across the college, which we hope to launch as part of the new faculty orientation hosted by the colleges in August."

These efforts are also supported by communications channels, such as the launch of an EDI-dedicated website, which McGee describes as a "valuable source of EDI information and resources for our faculties." These college-specific channels provide discipline-specific context for the overarching institutional EDI information and resources led by Office of the Vice-Provost (EDI) to ensure practices come alive at all levels.  

The colleges' integrated approach refines individual strategies and enhances the university's reputation for leadership in EDI. "We are tackling challenging issues head-on by providing the venue, tools and resources to enable leadership in this area," Ira concludes.

Building on what Ira calls a “commitment to creating a culture of dialogue and civil discourse,” the Office of the Vice-Provost has introduced a series entitled “Universities in Times of Crisis: Conversations across Differences” roundtable forums that create a safe and encouraging space to have hard conversations while respecting individual differences. College-led offerings will be added as these become available. 

Recently, the Pan-African Symposium was held to facilitate the mobilization and promotion of an inclusive Black community into our university system, a first step towards decolonization of the institutional curriculum and an opportunity to showcase Black excellence. This was a joint effort between the College of Social Sciences & Humanities, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Education, which highlighted the importance of institutional-wide collaboration to break barriers and work towards progress and equality.

University leadership is dedicated to encouraging a welcoming environment by integrating EDI strategies in our recruitment and mentoring efforts. Colleges provide support through new faculty orientation, workshops and consistent mentoring across colleges to enhance understanding and strengthen inclusivity. These activities are paired with the Office of Vice-Provost (EDI) educational opportunities and classes, such as Foundations of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence training.

“Equitable hiring practices are being used to reduce barriers to recruitment for people from underrepresented and equity-deserving groups. We will continue to reflect on and improve these practices and provide resources to support their implementation across departments,” says McGee. 

Looking ahead, the colleges are committed to continuously evolving their EDI strategies to adapt to new challenges and opportunities and bring consistency across the institution. "Our vision for the college EDI portfolio is to be a leader within the university in implementing innovative and effective EDI practices," Marshall states. This vision is backed by an ongoing evaluation of initiatives, coordination through the Office of the Vice-Provost (EDI) and fostering an environment where all community members are empowered to contribute.