UBC conference to highlight issues related to diversity, equity and intercultural understanding

On April 5, the Interdisciplinary Roundtable on Diversity (IRD) is presenting a conference at UBC to discuss issues of equity, diversity and intercultural understanding.

Futures of Change: Equity, Diversity and Intercultural Understanding Colloquium will showcase the work of students and members of the UBC community. The conference will be held at the First Nations House of Learning.

Peter Wanyenya and Francine Burning are members of the IRD colloquium organizing committee.

The Idea

Francine Burning.

Francine Burning.

Burning says that the IRD was formed more than a year ago by “a group of grad students [who] decided they wanted to address issues around inclusivity, diversity and equity that they experienced.”

The IRD began with a series of conversations, and included events such as the Dean’s Speaker Series. Burning says that a year later, the colloquium is “the culmination” of these events and discussions. The aim is to bring students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty, staff and the community together to discuss and share ideas.

Burning says that when organizing the IRD “we realized there [were] so many people working in different ways within different disciplines and reaching the same topics, but from different places.”

The colloquium has many collaborators. Wanyenya says that the IRD has received “a lot of support,” and that “everyone we approached found a way to contribute.” What started out as a grassroots discussion quickly got faculties, other groups and the university administration on board.

“As the year went on, we just added more people into the event,” says Wanyenya.

Peter Wanyenya. Photo by Sheena D. Robertson
Peter Wanyenya. Photo by Sheena D. Robertson

The invitation

The interdisciplinary conference will begin at 9:30 a.m. on April 5. A Musqueam elder will open the day, and Stephen Toope, UBC president, will introduce the colloquium.

Sessions throughout the day will feature presenters who will address a variety of topics, including access to healthcare, community-based issues, a look at cultural education through critical race theory and language revitalization research. There will also be roundtable discussions.

Wanyenya says that members of the general public are encouraged to participate. He adds that the presence of community members “will enrich the dialogue with new perspectives.”
Burning adds that the IRD is “trying to get as many people together as possible to show interest in each other’s work.” She notes that there are “lots of people working on issues of diversity, inclusivity and equity” and this is a chance for everyone to come together to learn and discuss.

The award-winning venue

The IRD colloquium will take place at the Sty-Wet-Tan Hall in the First Nations House of Learning, which is part of the First Nations Longhouse. The Longhouse has won a prestigious architecture award and displays carvings by many West Coast artists. The building is unique, and Burning believes “the choice of location was significant. In a way it brings a sense of locality.”

The Longhouse is situated “on unceded Musqueam territories and the university openly acknowledges [this],” says Burning. “It’s a beautiful venue that highlights who we are.”

Wanyenya remarks that the IRD “is unprecedented” because it is a grassroots initiative put forward by grad students. He also adds that while it’s an initiative that “all collaborators organized under one mission,” the office of the UBC president became involved in it as well.

Highlighting the different ways people reach concerns around equity, diversity and intercultural understanding is, according to Burning, “what [the] event tries to do.”

For more information, or to
register for the colloquium, visit: