Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization in Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Studies

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) recognizes Indigenous rights to sovereignty and is committed to having these rights reflected in our mandate, and in policies and procedures that govern graduate education and postdoctoral studies at Western. 

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is deeply committed to working with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Accessible Education, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, the Society oGraduate Studentsgraduate programs and the Postdoctoral Association to embed principles of   Indigenization and decolonization, equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and antiracism into all components of graduate education and postdoctoral training, from recruitment and admission through to completion.  For example, with respect to graduate education, this includes, but is not limited to, the course content, learning environment and the examination process.

We are revising the SGPS regulations and key aspects of Western’s graduate program review processes to support transformative changes in graduate education curriculum and practices, graduate program development and innovation, and graduate program review and ongoing improvement.  By drawing on lived experiences, we will intentionally and proactively work in partnership with all units to cultivate an inclusive culture of belonging and safety and accountability that supports all individuals personally and academically studying across Western and our wider community.   

These transformative changes will create space for, and embrace, the unique nuances related to academic and research activities undertaken by Indigenous students and students of other equity-deserving groups.  Examples of such work includes research and academic activities that embrace and value Indigenous epistemologies, Indigenous and decolonial research methodologies, critical race theory, feminist and intersectional approaches, TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law), LGBTQ2S+ theories, critical and feminist disability studies and other forms and methods for anti-oppression research. 

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies’ Academic Policy and Regulations Committee’s Terms of Reference is to review and revise policies and procedures on behalf of the Graduate Education Council.  In the Fall 2020 the Committee struck an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization (EDI-D) Working Group. The EDI-D Working Group is reviewing SGPS regulations and procedures with an Indigenization, equity,  diversity, inclusion and decolonization and anti-oppression lens to ensure that they reflect and support principles of EDI-D, antiracism, and Indigenous rights to sovereignty.  The committee will then compile a list of recommendations and concrete policy changes for SGPS, to be presented to the Committee of Academic Policy and Regulations and the Graduate Education Council.  

We invite all members of the Western community to reach out to any of the Working Group members with feedback and advice.  New members are welcome.

Thank you to Nicole Kaniki, Special Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism, and Candace Brunette-Debassige, Special Advisor to the Provost, Indigenous Initiatives, for their participation, involvement and advice.  

We have benefited from and we appreciate the advice provided in the April 19th, 2021 memo “Guidance for Western’s Administrators on EDI and Indigenous Initiatives” by Nicole Kaniki Special Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism, Bertha Garcia Special Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism, Candace Brunette-Debassige Special Advisor to the Provost, Indigenous Initiatives and Christy R. Bressette Vice-Provost/Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Initiatives. 

Progress

Graduate Admissions

  • In consultation with Offices of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI), began a review of SGPS's admission practices across all Faculties (Fall 2021)
  • Based on Western’s Equity Census, began work on demographic EDIAD questions to be added to the graduate program admission application (Fall 2021)
  • Developed the “Graduate Admissions Guide to Unconscious Bias” (adapted with permission from a guide created by Boyden Executive Search) to support graduate admissions committees reflect on their admission practices (Winter 2022)
  • In close collaboration with the Faculty Associate Deans – Graduate (ADGs), developed a “reflection exercise” that all graduate program admission committees were asked to complete under the leadership of their Faculty Associate Dean – Graduate (Winter 2022)
  • Hosted Dr. Cynthia Pickett (Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DePaul University) and expert in the field of inclusive graduate admission practices.  Dr. Pickett presented to graduate program leaders about biases inherent in admissions processes and how to address them, and then led a question & answer session (Winter 2022)
  • Hosted two retreats to discuss findings of the reflection exercise and to identify priorities for changes to our admission application and processes (Winter 2022) 

Graduate Student Exit Survey 

  • In partnership with the Faculty of Social Science, piloted an exit survey to students to improve program quality, address barriers to diversity and inclusion, and support student success (Fall 2021)

Graduate Student Housing 

  • The Graduate Education Council EDID Working Group explored how SGPS could better support students looking for housing by consulting with Western International and Housing and Ancillary Services (Fall 2021)
  • Met with leaders from Western International, Housing, Student Experience to discuss the housing situation for graduate students (Winter 2022) 

Own Your Future 

  • In consultation with OII, OEDI, OYF partners and students, began the action-plan to implement recommendations from the EDID Review of Own Your Future (OYF) (Fall 2021)
  • Hosted a retreat with Own Your Future partners to discuss the recommendations of the EDID OYF review and establish steps to address them in our programming (Winter 2022)  
  • Own Your Future collaborated with Dr. Melanie-Anne Atkins (Associate Director, Graduate Programs) to deliver two new workshops for racialized students: Responding to Micro-Aggressions; “Being Yourself” on Campus and in the Workplace (Winter 2022) 
  • Hosted a Design Studio to integrate racialized graduate students’ voices, lived experiences, and needs, into co-designed workshop topics and learning outcomes (Summer 2022)

Thesis Regulations

  • In consultation with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the Graduate Education Policy committee updated and streamlined the SGPS Thesis regulations be to submitted for approval to the Graduate Education Council in Fall 2022 (Winter 2022)

Western University is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek (Ah-nish-in-a-bek), Haudenosaunee (Ho-den-no-show-nee), Lūnaapéewak (Len-ahpay- wuk) and Attawandaron (Add-a-won-da-run) peoples, on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. This land continues to be home to diverse Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) whom we recognize as contemporary stewards of the land and vital contributors of our society.