Articles & Updates

V5I4: Working Towards Equitable Outcomes for the People of Simon Fraser University

Jul. 5, 2023 ⋅ Categories: Beacon, Equity, Institution, Institution Topic, NWCCU


Dr. Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, Vice President People, Equity, and Inclusion, Simon Fraser University

Increasingly, post-secondary institutions are focused on creating an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategy that embeds EDI values in decisions and institutional strategies. At Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, my team at the Office of the Vice-President, People, Equity, and Inclusion, have solidified steps forward to achieve equitable outcomes for the people of SFU, by transforming the SFU experience through Inclusive Excellence and people-centered practices. This key work is aligned with and supports the University’s vision to be a leading research university, advancing an inclusive and sustainable future.

A New Strategic Plan for the University

In 2023, Simon Fraser University released a new strategic plan for the university, detailing four priorities: to uphold truth and reconciliation, engage in global challenges, make a difference for the province of British Columbia, and to transform the SFU experience.

What’s Next: The SFU Strategy acknowledges that to achieve these priorities, the university needs to create the conditions for faculty and staff to flourish, actively embrace possibilities and new ways of doing things, and put students at the heart of all they do.

With the priority of “transforming the SFU experience,” SFU aims to break systemic barriers, and biases, and create systems that promote student success, and create space for everyone to do their best work. We are committed to:

My colleague Rumanna Khan Hemani, Vice-Provost & Associate VP, Students & International, and myself will be co-leading this transformational work to support the SFU experience. Through this priority, the university also emphasizes the need to focus on the well-being of all those who help prepare students for an uncertain and complex world – our faculty and staff. Facilitating strategic change and systematic organizing for social change and transformation is an area of focus that I am passionate about and have championed throughout my career and I am excited to uncover the opportunities at SFU.

Research has shown that leaders and organizations that are able to transcend the stress, burnout, and difficulties of our times are those that cultivate positive cultures grounded in positive interactions and experiences such as gratitude and joy. Fellow Scholars Jane E. Dutton and Barbara L. Fredrickson in a course on positive organizing and human flourishing describe it as a life rich in purpose, relationships, and enjoyment, requiring building and capitalizing on human strengths and capacities.

The work at SFU aligns our actions towards addressing the challenge of our time, working to co-create a better world for human flourishing – proactively working towards the most positive outcomes for individuals, organizations, communities, and society as whole. This of course is not an easy challenge to take on.

SFU has taken steps to ensure people-centered practices begin at the executive level, establishing the VPPEI portfolio in 2021 to bring together the functions of human resources, the equity office, and aspects of faculty affairs related to faculty equity and experience. It was an early commitment from the University to move forward with a focus on transforming the people experience at SFU, along with our institutional vision for advancing an inclusive and sustainable future. I am excited to work with my team towards an SFU that is known for practicing inclusive excellence and achieving equitable outcomes for members of our community.

In the past year, my focus has been on tackling a number of priorities, including establishing a leadership team and structures to improve relationships, services, and the overall SFU experience. We have also launched two major strategies to help transform the SFU experience for students, faculty, and staff: the Equity Compass and a new People Plan.

About SFU’s Equity Compass

“The road towards creating a strong sense of belonging on our campuses has been a collaborative effort across many years by students, faculty and staff working together to create change,” says Joy Johnson, President and Vice-Chancellor of SFU, about the Equity Compass. “We have heard strongly from our communities that Equity and Belonging are values we hold dear – informing our learning, research, teaching and work. The Equity Compass will ensure that we bring these values to life in everything we do at SFU.”

Working towards Inclusive Excellence at SFU, the Equity Compass is a strategic framework outlining the focus for SFU’s institutional EDI work over the next five years to help build an SFU where all can thrive. The Equity Compass upholds SFU’s values but in particular operationalizes the value of equity and belonging. Our focus on the concept of Inclusive Excellence defines the University’s recognition that EDI and academic and organizational excellence are intertwined in delivering a quality education.

The Compass includes: core definitions for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at SFU; the values, purpose, vision and principles upholding the Equity Compass; and five EDI strategic goals:

The five strategic goals in the Equity Compass include 11 associated objectives and 34 calls to action. These will be worked on at the institutional level, led, supported, or coordinated by SFU’s inaugural Equity Office.

About SFU’s People Plan

The compass is also aligned with the People Plan, a five-year blueprint for transforming the faculty and staff experience at SFU. Over the past few years, SFU has received a significant amount of feedback and has made commitments to advance opportunities that foster an environment where people can do their best work.

SFU’s people are central to the university’s academic mission and success and the People Plan is designed to listen to the needs of the SFU community and support the delivery of our academic mission.

With six key themes, 23 early actions and four working groups, the people-centred plan will guide success and support faculty and staff at SFU. These key areas include a focus on:

Together, faculty members and staff uniquely fulfill the academic mission by delivering and supporting leading-edge research and teaching the leaders of tomorrow, our students.

An SFU for All

Nearly a year ago, I stepped into the newly created role of Vice-President, People Equity and Inclusion, with a clear mandate: to align our people strategies, equity office and faculty experience at SFU. Our work is just beginning, and our People, Equity, and Inclusion portfolio is excited to get started. We look forward to sharing our progress as we work to create a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming university experience for the SFU community.


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