A group of UBC Forestry grad students and the Assistant Dean, Diversity and Inclusion are carving out space for discussions with their peers on diversity, inclusion and intercultural issues. From producing a video and poster campaign showcasing the myriad ways to say “forestry,” to holding seminars on power dynamics and hidden bias, the Forestry Diversity team is an example of the Equity Enhancement Fund in action.
The Forestry Diversity team was sparked into action after the theft of the Pride flag during last year’s Pride Week. Estefania Milla-Moreno, recalls the catalyst that brought the students together. “We wanted to show our solidarity so we created a chalk Pride flag outside the Nest, with about 20 grads and undergrads students from UBC helping out.” Team member, Ana Elia Ramón Hidalgo also created a large Pride flag which was hung in the Forestry building for several weeks.
Following this action, a group of students approached Dr. Sarah Gergel, Assistant Dean, Diversity and Inclusion for the Faculty of Forestry, to discuss how they could start discussions around issues at their faculty. “It became apparent that rather than be reactionary we should be proactive and we applied for the Equity Enhancement Fund,” said Dr. Gergel. After receiving $1,000 from the fund, the group honed their plans and decided to make a video, poster campaign, and organize a series of diversity workshops.
The Forestry Diversity team includes grad students Yemi Adeyeye, Gillian Fuss, Estefanía Milla-Moreno, Ana Elia Ramón Hidalgo, Dave Williams, and Dr. Sarah Gergel. Several students had worked together previously through the International Forestry Student Association and the Forestry Graduate Student Association.
One of the team’s first projects, the “How do you say Forestry?” video, features students and faculty holding cards with the word “forestry” or “forest” handwritten in their own language. Gillian Fuss explained how the idea for the video came about. “We wanted to showcase the diversity in our faculty because there is so much. Our aim was to promote the idea of a diversity committee and why it’s important.”
Watch “How do you say “Forestry”?” by the Forestry Diversity team.
Team member Ana Elia Ramón Hidalgo said the process of making the video gave back to the group more than they expected. “One of the things I was struck by was how grateful people were to have the chance to get together to draw the words for forestry, and how it created awareness that the word means different things across the globe.” Several students, unsure of the word in their native language had to contact family members for help. “In some languages, forestry means literally ‘making business from trees.’ Other languages don’t even have a word so it made us realize how many biases we have.”
This year the team hosted a series of workshops with assistance from Adeline Huynh, Equity Facilitator from the Equity & Inclusion Office. The team brought together students, faculty, and staff for discussions ranging from interculturalism and inclusion to power dynamics and hidden biases that can arise during teaching, marking, or other student-staff-teacher interactions. Next up is an Active Bystander workshop to coincide with UBC Pride Week in March. The team created a Facebook and Twitter account to link people to resources and encourage conversations to continue.
Feedback for the Forestry Diversity team’s initiatives has been positive. “I’m happy and proud that we have people in Forestry that want to support each other and understand our differences and celebrate them, and not hide them or push them aside,” said Dr. Gergel.
However, the team realizes that real change requires a long term process. “There is a lot of work we have to do to learn how to thrive together in our faculty,” said Ramón Hidalgo. The team plans to apply to the Equity Enhancement Fund this year to continue their initiative which may include designing a diversity survey.
Learn more about the Forestry Diversity team: