Equity Ambassadors working towards social change at UBC

Reading and writing about history and current social issues can lead to feelings of frustration on top of the daily demands of student life. Noticing the inequalities we face and how we are systematically oppressed can be eye-opening but also overwhelming. For problems so big, how does one even begin to tackle it? If you have ever experienced any of this, or have simply wished that your classes incorporated more social justice learning, why not start with cultural change on campus? Social change does not happen overnight, or even after one successful protest or rally. It can, however, begin with something as simple as having a conversation and discussing issues with others.

The Equity Ambassadors are a diverse group of UBC student leaders, mostly (but not always) in their undergrad years of study, who raise awareness about social justice and human rights issues through education and outreach activities on campus. ​Equity Ambassadors is a Peer Program run by the Equity & Inclusion Office in partnership with the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers who work towards building and sustaining an inclusive working, learning and living environments for all students, staff and faculty at UBC. Members receive training and get opportunities to engage in facilitation and event planning in creating ways to engage with students on issues of social justice. Some examples include online social media campaigns, educational boothing as parts of larger initiatives on campus, collaborating with other like-minded student groups, panels, and more. The group is most active from September to March and meet once a week.

Here are 2 highlight events put on by the 2016/2017 Equity Ambassadors group:

The flyer for “Sex in All Languages” dialogue facilitated by the Equity Ambassadors during SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

Sex in All Languages was a dialogue event that took place in late January. Students of all cultures and sexual identities & orientations were invited to join in a dialogue over dinner sharing their experiences and perspectives on sex in a welcoming and inclusive space. The aim of the dialogue was to expand our understanding of norms, expectations and practices around sex by encouraging a variety of voices to have a seat at the proverbial table. After a peer-led panel and large group discussion, participants broke off into smaller groups choosing a topic that interested them for more in-depth discussions.

Table topics included:

  • Virginity and sexual debut, sex before or after marriage, first time experiences
  • LGBTQ, gender non-binary
  • Sexual norms in different cultures. Approach, initiation, and negotiation.
  • Consent and talking about sex in a healthy way
  • Interracial and intercultural relationship/sexual experience.
  • Your sexual journey. First-time and starting off, body image, sexual desire, developing your sexual identity, fetish/BDSM/kink.

Does “…But where are you REALLY from?” sound familiar? The Equity Ambassadors presented this question as the theme for the Intercultural U dialogue organized in late March with a broader theme of UBC as an intercultural campus. The group worked to unpack this question through different questions: What are the experiences and who are the people that made you who you are today? Who is a part of your social circle, and how do you relate with them? How do YOU navigate through intercultural spaces and communities? Participants engaged in dialogue on interculturalism, relations, and friendships.

Sound interesting and want to get involved? The Equity Ambassadors are a part of the larger Peer Programs umbrella at UBC. Applications for the following September begin around January for a month. There is an interview process, then selected applicants meet for the first time in April at the Spring Welcome organized by Peer Programs for community building and training. The first official meeting begins later that year in the Fall.

Adeline Huynh is an Equity Facilitator here at the Equity & Inclusion Office who mainly works in educating students, staff, and faculty through workshops and presentations as well as offering knowledge, experience, and insights on committees and working groups on campus around equity. She also supports the Equity Ambassadors as an advisor. If you have any questions or are interested in getting involved with the Equity Ambassadors you can contact her at adeline.huynh@ubc.ca.