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Laurier establishes new Office for Student Diversity
“Diversity is everybody’s business.” It’s the motto for Laurier’s new Office for Student Diversity, and it’s a message that student diversity coordinator Majorie Brown hopes everyone on campus – from student groups to professors – will take to heart.
Since Brown took on her new position, she’s actively spread the word about the Office for Student Diversity and how important a focus on diversity is to the Laurier community. She’s met with university president Dr. Robert Rosehart, she’s held a training session with WLUSU volunteers and has one planned for the WLUSU management board, met with teaching and support services, spoken to classes, set a date to speak with both university council and senate, lined up speakers for a speaker series, and planned an open house for November 6 and a Faculty Diversity Brunch for December 2006 – all since she arrived at Laurier just over a month ago.
“I’m attempting to develop collaborative relationships at all levels of the university and within the larger community,” explained Brown. “We need to ensure that we meet the needs of our diverse students in every facet of university life, and provide outreach for programming – we can’t do it alone.” Brown explains that when a student drops out of university because they were inappropriately transitioned or not engaged, it has an impact on the future generation of applicants to the university, in turn creating significant costs to both the university and the student.
“The role of the Office for Student Diversity is to enhance diversity on campus through the development, coordination and delivery of programs and projects that will contribute to an open and accepting quality of life for all students,” explained David McMurray, dean of students. “The campus’ collaborative and collective enthusiasm for this new student initiative will be vital to its success.”
The relationships being built today will go far to support the mandate of the Office for Student Diversity: to enhance student engagement and identify gaps in program offerings for students with respect to access, inclusion and diversity. The office oversees the Women’s Centre and the Rainbow Centre, and plans to establish a First Nations’ House and Centre for Race, Ethnicity and Multicultural Experience. It aims to be an inclusive destination point on campus.
Brown’s strategy, which is aligned with the Laurier Century Plan’s focus on internationalization and a student-centred environment, includes painting an accurate statistical picture of the diverse nature of the Laurier community. Painting this picture will inform programming and allow the university to project future needs. While much of this information will come from university applications, they do not complete the scene. “We are creating web pages as part of wlu.ca and My Laurier which will encourage students to provide feedback on a wide range of diversity issues on campus, which will supplement the statistical data available to us,” said Brown. “Our websites will be up and running soon, and I encourage everyone to visit.”
In addition to documenting Laurier’s diversity, Brown has three immediate goals. Her first goal is to establish the Student Diversity Council, which will allow presidents of all student organizations to come together to discuss ideas. Secondly, she wants to work with student leadership and campus clubs to create new leadership diversity models that include diversity content, and will lead to ambassadors who could work as interns in the Office for Student Diversity, or act as mentors to high school students. Brown’s third goal is to create a speaker series, which would feature a new speaker each month beginning in January, as she believes that a speaker series is a “key component of diversity in higher education.”
Brown comes well equipped to accomplish these goals. She is the founding chair of the Equity in Diversity International Foundation, which supports active learning with boards of education and post-secondary student mentors. She has focused on diversity as a consultant, sensitivity trainer, educator and advocate. She chaired the advisory committee on race, ethnicity and culture at Carlton University, and wrote the strategic plan to implement the committee’s policy.
Brown encourages all students, faculty and staff to visit the Office for Student Diversity in person at room 118 MacDonald House, at the wlu.ca website, or at My Laurier. Everyone is welcome to the open house week and official launch beginning on November 6. Open house events will encourage interaction among students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds and interests. Further details to follow.
Lori Chalmers Morrison