The Arts Co-op Program at UBC Vancouver offers undergraduate and graduate students enriched educational experiences through workplace learning in a diversity of organizations.
Arts Co-op’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiative was started in 2019 as a result of strong motivation from staff and leadership to understand what opportunities existed for advancing EDI through Arts Co-op’s internal processes, as well as the programs and services it offers.
In summer 2019, the program piloted an early version of the EIO’s Inclusion Self-Assessment Tool, which provided a foundation to launch further EDI initiatives in the years that followed.
EDI initiative implemented
In summer 2020, Arts Co-op undertook a comprehensive audit of practices, processes, materials, and all student and community facing written materials and programs. The program hired two student staff members to complete a comprehensive environmental scan (reviewing materials, surveying existing students, and conducting focus groups). Student staff were also involved in the creation, coordination, and analysis of the data collected from the survey and focus groups. From their data, they wrote a 65-page report outlining 43 recommended actions to improve inclusivity. Using this report, the Arts Co-op team used the prioritization tool from the Activating Inclusion Toolkit to determine where to begin the process.
The student staff also participated in an EDI advisory committee comprised of Arts Co-op staff members and other campus partners.
In Fall 2020, the program revised the student application process by creating two different intake forms: 1) to collect students’ personal information and 2) to answer open-ended questions to describe their experience. This allowed the Arts Co-op staff to adjudicate applications without any of the students’ personal information. They also held focus groups among undergraduate Arts students who didn’t apply to join Co-op.
In Fall 2021, the program revised and sent some of the interview questions in advance so that students could prepare for the group interviews. During these interviews, staff directly messaged questions to the participating student in the chat for more accessibility.
The program also requested funding for ten awards from the Dean of Arts in their annual budget submission to be distributed to Arts Co-op students who had financial need, highlighting their priorities for the coming fiscal year. Being able to tie this request directly to the Faculty of Arts strategic plan priorities and unit level priorities helped them make a strong case that was ultimately supported. To implement these awards in Fall 2021, the unit consulted within the Faculty of Arts as well as Enrolment Services and Student Financial Management to develop and design an application and adjudication process in alignment with general student recruitment policy.
Tracking progress and learning
During Summer 2022, program staff will survey the co-op students to understand the impacts of the recent changes the Co-op Program has made thus far. Staff also convened an Advisory Committee—with co-op employers, Arts co-op student reps, and Arts faculty members—to give advice to move the work forward. Committee members were recruited with an eye to their own expertise on EDI initiatives.
In the short-term the goal is to see more students applying to the Arts Co-op Program from a wider range of backgrounds, and hope to see those in the Program supported across their diverse career development needs. The longer-term changes Arts Co-op hopes to see are: new resources for employer partners to help increase their capacity to recruit a diverse range of students, and to provide effective workplace learning experiences for the students they employ. They will also look to develop assessment mechanisms that can be regularly used to gauge impact of the changes.
While implementing the Pilot Financial Support Award, the Arts Co-op Program ran into several challenges including difficulties assessing financial need, creating secondary evaluation criteria and questions in the financial award application, and having enough time and resources to implement the process.
Arts Co-op believes that using the ISAT and having all staff involved in the EDI conversations early on helped lay the foundations for a successful process. Also, gaining an in-depth understanding of their program materials as well as student experiences of the program, through the audit and focus groups, was crucial in helping them understand where to focus their efforts. Taking the time to find resources to carry out the work, including the funding to hire two student staff, was also key to their success.
Kathy Ma, Co-op Career Educator, Equity & Inclusion, Arts Co-op
Letitia Henville, Manager, Graduate Work Integrated Learning Programs, Arts Co-op
YEAR OF IMPLEMENTATION