Home » Diversity & Inclusion » Intersectionality Key to Diversity and Inclusion at Humber College
Adam Benn

Adam Benn

Manager of Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity, Humber College

Christina Alecena

Christina Alecena

Manager of Equity and Student Life, Humber College

Humber College has dedicated resources for diverse students and staff that help foster academic and career success.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community in post-secondary institutions is a valuable way to improve academic and job performance for students and staff, respectively, and to enhance the quality of life across campus. When everyone is allowed to bring their whole selves to work, retention and graduation rates for students in the community improve. An intersectional approach — that is, one that takes into account the overlap of various identities, including race — compounds these benefits for the entire institution.

Supporting diversity and inclusion with dedicated organizations

“I work to engage the Humber community about their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as engaging them in broad conversations around issues like LGBTQ inclusion, racism, and how to create inclusive spaces in classrooms,” says Adam Benn, Manager at Humber’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity.

Benn has personal experience with the value of an intersectional approach. “Being black and queer, whenever I have conversations about my queer identity, it has to be in relation to being black as well. It’s about being mindful of those intersections and of how we can challenge different forms of oppression, even within our community groups,” he says.

Humber College and flags

The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity runs a wide range of programs to support these conversations in the Humber community, from education and training about working with diverse people to special events and regular speaker series.

Recently, the centre launched an LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG). The ERG works to support conversations around diversity and inclusion; to recruit, retain, and promote individuals from within the community; and to offer staff opportunities for professional development and community outreach. These activities previously fell under the umbrella of Humber’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee, but the centre’s new leadership role in revamping this group enhances its access to institutional resources. “The revamp was really about making sure the group continues,” says Benn. “Doing it through the centre gives it more sustainability, since our work falls under human resources. Employees at the centre also bring a great deal of experience and expertise to the group.”

COVID-19 hasn’t put a stop to Humber’s diversity programming

In response to the pandemic, all of Humber’s Pride Month programming, which began June 1, has moved online. “This year, our dedicated team, working alongside many campus partners, will be hosting the largest amount of daily Pride Month programming offered thus far as a centre,” says Christina Alcena, Manager of Equity and Student Life at Humber, whose portfolio includes the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre. A weekly online speaker series geared toward staff and faculty is hosted through Instagram Live arts, and community-based social programming. These are a major part of the effort to provide inclusive online spaces for students, with workshops ranging from rainbow origami to wall art and collaborative playlist making.

Pride Month isn’t the only part of Humber’s campus diversity strategy to have moved online. Humber’s Black Academic Success and Engagement (BASE) programming — dedicated to supporting Black, African, and Caribbean students — has shifted its collaborative student workshops online and plans to continue running virtual events and support through the summer. “In response to the recent global and local events of anti-Black racism and violence, it’s extremely important to provide opportunities for our students to connect with our staff and programs. We look forward to continuing to create online safe spaces for dialogue and support,” says Alcena, who was also part of creating BASE.

Programming focused on Indigenous student wellness and engagement, run by the Indigenous Education and Engagement Centre, has also shifted to the virtual space since mid-March. The centre, which offers year-round support to Indigenous students through a dedicated space, peer tutoring, academic counselling, and special events, has been running weekly virtual hangouts, an Indigenous Book Club, cooking lessons with Pow Wow Café, movie cafes, and a pow wow dance event, among other offerings.

Equal access for students and staff

Ultimately, diversity and inclusion programming at Humber College is accessible to students and staff — from collaborative events to a dedicated employee resource group, the institution’s diversity mandate centres on the idea that education, training, and support should extend across the campus community for maximum benefit.

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