July 31, 2023Print | PDF
Note: A previous version of this article noted Mistry was Laurier’s first director of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This is incorrect. Previously, Laura Mae Lindo held this role at Laurier. We regret the error.
Creating a Laurier for everyone is at the heart of Heena Mistry’s role as Wilfrid Laurier University’s director of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Mistry began the role in July 2023, which oversees the planning and implementation of recommendations and action items outlined in Laurier’s newly launched Strategic Plan for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). She will also lead further institutional initiatives that advance EDI across Laurier’s campuses.
Mistry joined Laurier in 2020 and has held previous roles managing and implementing EDI training, planning and strategic initiatives. She has a PhD in Global History and South-Asian Diaspora from Queen’s University and is an instructor in the Department of History at Laurier’s Brantford campus.
Below, Mistry discusses her role, how it will advance EDI work at Laurier, and her passion for creating a welcoming and inclusive community.
I am working closely with the interim assistant vice-president: EDI to implement Laurier’s strategic EDI commitments, including the Strategic Plan for EDI, the Dimensions EDI Charter and the Scarborough Charter. I work with Laurier's EDI data specialist to facilitate the development and implementation of the EDI data strategy and supervise engagement initiatives related to the Laurier Legacy Project.
I also work in collaboration with the manager of Laurier’s Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to support them in enhancing the student experience for students from equity-deserving communities.
Currently, I am working to break down the steps needed to implement the priority areas of Laurier’s Strategic Plan for EDI in the coming year. Part of this work is determining how we can coordinate the implementation of other strategic commitments to EDI that complement the plan, including elements of the Scarborough Charter, the Dimensions Action Plan and the Canada Research Chairs EDI Action Plan.
This work involves bringing members of the Laurier community from different departments and units to work together on the calls to action in the strategic plan. Coordinating, providing guidance and supporting these efforts are part of my role.
"It is important that universities represent and serve the communities in which they are situated."
Laurier is making progress in the areas of religious accommodation, EDI data, and resources to embed EDI in research and classroom teaching. We are also making strides with campus programming to support a culture shift towards EDI, and working with the Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to create student programming.
Laurier can continue to make progress on disability justice, which is a framework that values the lived experiences of disabled individuals and recognizes the need to address ableism: the system of oppression that views disabled people as inferior to non-disabled people. Disability justice needs to be included in institutional conversations about EDI.
We can also continue to improve support networks, resourcing, mentorship and activism for students from equity-deserving groups. This includes providing greater support for the work done by the Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
I am proud of the courses and training resources that Laurier has developed to support researchers and instructors embedding EDI into research and classroom spaces. The support work provided by the Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is also outstanding, and I’m excited to work on implementing the recommendations outlined in Laurier’s Strategic Plan for EDI. I think the proposed action items will make a difference in the lived experiences of students, staff and faculty from equity-deserving groups.
For me, EDI work at Laurier should create a university that actively serves its community members by creating ways to address and acknowledge past harms and ensure that research and teaching spaces acknowledge and center the experiences of members of equity-deserving groups.
The Laurier community is comprised of people with diverse lived experiences, perspectives and identities. It is important that universities represent and serve the communities in which they are situated. I see EDI as important work that helps the university serve students, staff and faculty at Laurier from communities that have been historically excluded from, marginalized and underrepresented within the university and academia.