Professor Jaclyn Brusso’s appointment as Vice Dean of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) & Professional Development — the first such position at the University of Ottawa — is just one example of the concrete steps that the FoS has taken to identify and address the challenges faced by members of the FoS community.
Recognizing the importance of EDI in STEM, as well as the systemic barriers faced by underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, FoS Dean Louis Barriault made the commendable decision to create a new high-level EDI position in his office in early 2020. Although it was initially meant to be an advisory role, the Dean soon transformed the position to Vice-Dean, allowing Prof. Brusso the independence to develop and implement initiatives within the FoS.
Only a year into her appointment, and despite interruptions caused by the ongoing pandemic, Vice-Dean Brusso had already made admirable progress by the summer of 2021. First, she established the FoS EDI committee, which meets 6 times per year to identify strategies and actions that strengthen the faculty commitment to EDI and to creating an inclusive climate in which systemic barriers preventing the full participation of all current and future members of the FoS, including those that are underrepresented and/or marginalized, are addressed. Along with the EDI committee, she also developed a seminar series open to the entire FoS community, dedicated to enhancing visibility of EDI-related topics in STEM. These seminars not only highlight the excellent research being done by members of underrepresented groups, but also cover topics that invite conversations as to why we need to speak about equity in science. Vice-Dean Brusso developed and offered workshops and resources, including sessions entitled “Making Education More Inclusive” and “Accessible and Inclusive Education” that provided valuable resources to faculty members to enhance diversity and accessibility within their courses.
In addition to her own initiatives, Vice-Dean Brusso is a member of several uOttawa committees such as the uOttawa EDI in Research Advisory Committee, which advised the Office of the Vice-President, Research on the development, implementation and evaluation of the uOttawa EDI Action Plan for Research. Among other responsibilities, this committee identifies barriers that impact the recruitment, retention and advancement of researchers, focusing on members of the underrepresented groups and recommending strategies to address these barriers. Vice-Dean Brusso is also a member of the Working Group on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence in Research, which develops proposals and makes recommendations to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research community at uOttawa. As the environment and academic culture at uOttawa evolves, Vice-Dean Brusso will continue to contribute her expertise on EDI considerations in STEM.
Vice-Dean Brusso had been interested and involved in EDI for the past 5 years prior to taking up this important position. She focused on outreach and bringing awareness about unconscious bias, as well as what it means to be an ally. She spends considerable time educating herself on various aspects of EDI and finding creative ways to engage others and bring diversity into the conversation. Her goal is to make real progress towards building a more inclusive environment by taking meaningful steps. While this takes time, she is encouraged by the number of people within the FoS and uOttawa already working hard to address various aspects of EDI within the classroom, in research, at the university, and many levels within the community.