Q&A with Alyssa Reyes: Advancing a More Inclusive UBC

Alyssa Reyes, Intramural Events Coordinator with UBC Recreation, recently won the President’s Staff Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion at UBC. We connected with her to learn a bit more about how she’s championing diversity and inclusion in her work.

Congratulations on the award! Can you tell us a bit about your efforts to advance diversity and inclusion within your work portfolio?

I’ve worked with UBC Recreation in a full-time staff member capacity for the past five years and as a student staff for four years prior to that. As the previous events coordinator, I’ve always strived to provide a space for everyone in our programming. Whether it was intentional programming, such as Parasport Games, or working with individuals to adapt games and spaces for their participation, it was always at the forefront of my mind.

A few years ago the department introduced a new role, the Physical Activity Manager, to help facilitate diversity and inclusion in sport and recreation at UBC. The role is targeted towards reducing barriers to physical activity for all on campus. The choice to dedicate a full-time staff resource was a great reminder of the amount of work there is still left to do in sport and recreation so as to make it more inclusive for all. It was early in my professional career and it really sparked my interest as an area I wanted to contribute to.

Specifically to my work recognized by the President’s Staff Award, the questions were “if not now, when?” and “if not me, who?” I think we often wait for a solution or someone to come and fix a problem. For me, I recognized that our practices were not reflecting our written policies. We have always practiced self-identification in regards to gender allowing people to participate wherever they truly feel comfortable. One summer when those questions popped into my mind, the answers were “the time is now” and “I need to be the person pushing this forward.” That’s really how the process of change and review began.

Changing our participation structure is one step towards where sport and recreation needs to be globally – in terms of creating a more inclusive environment. We currently have an Inclusivity Working Group within the Recreation department dedicated to making further strides in this area and they have been an incredible point of support. Together with the Equity & Inclusion department we have created an inclusive staff training module, assisted in securing universal change spaces in various recreation facilities and implemented a cross-department accessibility prompt to provide participants with a better experience within our programs.

What inspires you? Why are you passionate about diversity and inclusion work?

I am constantly inspired each and every day by the work others do in this area. There is so much to be done to create an equitable environment for all and seeing how others contribute to that drives my work. I have found a recent passion in Indigenous studies in Kinesiology and finding ways to provide equitable spaces for Indigenous communities to be physically active.

What does “inclusion” mean to you?

Inclusion is a feeling of belonging. Making sure there’s a space for everyone.

What’s next? Or, are you involved in any other inclusion efforts at UBC?

I’ve been exploring research in the area of Indigenous studies in Kinesiology and looking for ways to better support those communities in a respectful and intentional way. I am currently helping a Master’s Degree student with her research and am in the midst of a study seeing how the UBC School of Kinesiology can support Indigenous communities.

Through UBC Recreation I am still actively involved in the Inclusivity Working Group. We are continuously evolving our inclusive staff training to keep it relevant and applicable. We are also currently surveying the UBC community to see how we can reduce barriers for various demographics and completing an accessibility audit of our facilities.

Thanks Alyssa! Keep doing great work!