Vancouver Island University is pleased to be chosen to participate in the Dimensions Program Pilot, along with a 16 other institutions of varying size and geographical location. This award recognizes the significant progress made to date by these post-secondary institutions toward advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in their research and wider academic communities.
The award winners were announced by the Honorable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, and the Honorable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, on August 15th at Ryerson University in Toronto.
The evidence clearly shows that embracing EDI in university policies, practices and culture enables research excellence. This entails creating an environment in which people with the widest range of talents, perspectives, experience, backgrounds and ways of knowing can thrive and work together harmoniously. This type of collaborative environment unleashes creativity and innovation, in turn optimizing research insights and findings.
VIU has made strides toward greater diversity and inclusion. It holds diversity as one of its core values under the Academic Plan, and is in the process of developing an EDI Action Plan. VIU is recognized as a leader in indigenous education, through innovative programmes such as peer navigators, who reach out to First Nations communities and support indigenous students closely before, during and after their time at VIU. The Elders in Residence program provides another dimension of support for indigenous students and the entire campus, providing advisory support and guiding indigenization of the curriculum. VIU also has noteworthy accomplishments in gender equity, with women comprising more than 50% of students and employees, and currently holding the highest executive positions, including our new President Dr. Deb Saucier - a Metis woman and former Canada Research Chair. At the same time, some inequities persist at VIU, and focused action planning is needed to analyze and address these.
The Dimensions Award is modelled after the UK’s very successful Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic network), which has a guiding charter signed onto by 159 institutions, and has proven very effective in increasing the presence and advancement of women researchers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) fields. The program certifies participating institutions with a bronze, silver or gold award, based on an assessment of their achievements in advancing gender equality. It is named after Athena, the Greek goddess embodying strength, courage, wisdom and strategy.
In the Canadian adaptation, the Dimensions Program adopts an expanded focus, to address inequities and systemic barriers faced by women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, visible minorities and LGBTQ2S+. The Dimensions Program encompasses all disciplines, in addition to STEMM. The Dimensions Program is a Canadian Granting Agencies Initiative supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
This award does not provide funding, but rather resources and a network of like-minded colleagues. Institutions participating in this pilot program will work together to further define and build the program, which eventually will be rolled out on a larger scale.