Widening our circle

February 27, 2018 at 11:56 am

As educators in the health sciences, we’ve been striving for a long time to ensure that our expertise and resources are shared with people in need through our commitment to community service.

We have also taken significant steps to ensure that the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences is broadly inclusive and reflects the diversity of Manitoba’s population.

But there is much more to be done in both these areas. Today, I’m proud to announce two new Rady Faculty-wide initiatives: an Office of Community Engagement and a Diversity Committee.

As you know, the U of M is a publicly-funded institution with a responsibility to serve all Manitobans. From a newborn baby in inner-city Winnipeg to an Elder in a remote Indigenous community, every Manitoban is a U of M stakeholder. What we mean by “social accountability” is that no resident of the province can be left out of our circle.

Our new Office of Community Engagement will centralize, streamline and strengthen our community partnerships across all five colleges of the Rady Faculty. A new social accountability committee, made up of equal numbers of faculty and community members, will act as an advisory board to the office.

The Office of Community Engagement will help us listen and respond to communities’ needs and aspirations, recognizing that community members possess valuable expertise and knowledge.

We will collaborate respectfully with community organizations on health service, education and research projects that build community capacity. We will hold events to recognize and thank our partner organizations for the learning opportunities they provide to our students and faculty.

The Office, under the leadership of Dr. Ian Whetter and Karen Cook, will support knowledge-exchange events in community settings, such as Sunshine House’s widely successful “Science and Supper,” a series that combines a nutritious meal with an accessible talk by a U of M representative on a topic chosen by the community.

Our new Diversity Committee is also an initiative to widen our circle, similarly based on values of respect, inclusion, equity and collaboration. This committee will be diverse in makeup and include community representation.

It will advise me and make recommendations to ensure that the Rady Faculty further incorporates concepts of diversity and inclusion into its learning and working environments.

This committee will uphold our commitment to Indigenous peoples, women, people with disabilities, persons of colour, and people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities that their voices will be heard in Rady Faculty decision-making and they will see themselves equitably represented among our students, staff, faculty and leadership.

Every Manitoban has a story, a thirst for learning and the capacity to be a teacher. I firmly believe that each time we welcome another person who would traditionally have been excluded from the university circle, we are all enriched.

What should the new Rady Office of Community Engagement and Diversity Committee do to enlarge our ‘circle’?