The University of British Columbia’s School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME) is a partnership between the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Applied Science. The School is a nucleus for education and training, research, and innovation in biomedical engineering; creating new knowledge, new academic and training programs, and fostering translation and innovation. The School was established in 2017 and contains an undergraduate program, two Masters’ programs, and a PhD program. The School has a Respect, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) Committee composed of faculty, staff, and students that meets monthly. As a new School, the School Director and the SBME leadership has worked to instill EDI as a part of the School’s culture from its beginnings.
The SBME embarked on an initiative to promote EDI within their faculty to combat the historical under-representation of women, and other minorities, in engineering.
EDI initiative(s) implemented
The School included EDI considerations as it relates to service activities as part of its faculty merit review process and evaluation criteria. This grew out of the culture of EDI already in place in the School, as well as the updated UBC Faculty Association Collective Agreement that reflects EDI considerations as a potential component of faculty service activities as per Article 4.05 – Service to the University and the Community, which stipulates:
Service also includes professional, academic, and public service work done to advance
the inclusion of all those who have been historically excluded based on gender, race,
religion, sexuality, age, disability, or economic circumstance.
In the SBME Merit Terms of Reference/Procedures document and evaluation criteria for faculty merit, the School included EDI considerations as part of the parameters related to service activities as follows:
Extent of service to UBC, the Faculties of Medicine, Applied Science and/or Science (if applicable), and the School of Biomedical Engineering (academic service), as well as service to the professional community, including but not limited to professional, academic, and public service work done to advance the inclusion of all those who have been historically excluded based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, age, disability, or economic circumstance (both streams).
As part of the annual merit review process, eligible faculty members complete the SBME Merit/PSA Consideration and Accomplishment Form where they have an opportunity to highlight their accomplishments related to EDI and culture building activities. The relevant section is entitled “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and Culture Building”. Faculty members are instructed to highlight any equity, diversity and inclusion activities and culture building activities they have been engaged in within the past calendar year. These could be related to research, teaching, service, professional development, or others. Examples could include: development or revision of teaching materials to align with EDI principles, efforts to increase equitable and inclusive participation from learners, or participation in EDI-related committees, initiatives, or programs.
Alongside these changes, the School also encouraged EDI training within their faculty. The goal was that by educating faculty on EDI practices and providing continuous training, faculty in turn would better support diverse students to succeed in engineering and would be better prepared to contribute to EDI as part of their service work.
Tracking progress and learning
The School reviewed merit processes in 2021, and tracked how many faculty were implementing processes in their labs taking into consideration EDI initiatives, such as implementing some EDI strategies in teaching materials (i.e. considering diversity when highlighting the works of scientists or in case studies), as well as representational diversity and gender parity of lab members. The School has also started to develop an EDI “library” of resource kits that can be signed out by labs around specific topics (eg. Terminology) which have been popular. Additional anonymous surveys will be sent out to gauge the full response.
The early stages of a new organization or structure can be an advantageous time to implement EDI initiatives and because the SBME was still relatively new as a School, there may have been more room to establish new practices instead of trying to change existing ones. Although at the beginning of the initiative, some faculty were concerned about how to go about adopting EDI initiatives in their activities and how to identify best practices, overall the response has been positive and many faculty have implemented changes that advance EDI in their work.
Tegan Stusiak, School of Biomedical Engineering
Rita Amisano, School of Biomedical Engineering
YEAR OF IMPLEMENTATION