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Two female students stand smiling. One is holding a large yellow smiley face and the other is holding a sign that says "you are making a difference"

Rylee Zondervan (left) and Mariana Jimenez (right) are leaders in the UVic Education Student Equity Advocates (UVic EDSEA) club and recently shared about how donors impact the work they do.

Mariana is a fifth-year undergraduate student, pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. She will be graduating in April 2023 and her hope is to go on and attend medical school to become a psychiatrist. 
Rylee is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the physical and health education program, pursuing a career in education. Rylee will be graduating in the Spring and will be returning to UVic in the Fall for the Elementary Education Post Degree Professional Program.

What is UVic EDSEA?
The UVic EDSEA is a student-led initiative of aspiring educators, healthcare professionals and more, driven by our desire to create safe and inclusive spaces for the members of our community to feel acknowledged for the ways in which systems of oppression have previously silenced them.

Why was the group created?
Our team came together in response to a survey that was conducted by a co-op student back in 2021 that asked students within the faculty about how they felt in regard to the inclusion, equity, and culturally-informed teaching practices within the institution. The results showed that students were continuously feeling disregarded, excluded and unseen in and outside their classrooms, and our group was built in an effort to bridge this gap.

Our purpose through the work that we are doing is to introduce others to the process and importance of critical reflection, critical thinking, radical empathy and intention. In doing so, we work to draw attention and action to anti-racism, and decolonization thoughts and behaviours to increase inclusion within UVic's culture and our Faculty. Our hope is that through this active work to spread awareness, and by equipping folks with the tools required to decolonize and become anti-racist, we will be able to inspire and motivate students to do the same in order to create more equitable and inclusive environments through cultural and social change.

We are extremely grateful for the way in which donor funds have allowed us to continue doing this work that we are so passionate about. The money we have received allows us to continue being compensated for our work as a team as we design, advertise, and deliver our own workshops for the UVic community on topics like decolonization, land acknowledgements, gender pronoun usage, inclusivity and diversity, and more. We will also proceed with the workshops that we run for specific UVic programs and classes such as the Teacher Education Office and the EPHE Professional Standards Courses on anti-racism and cultural competency in healthcare. This money also allows us to take our work outside of classrooms and into the quad, where we host our Conversation Cafes and invite all members of the UVic community to join us for treats and reflective conversations on equality and equity. Finally, we will be using a portion of our funds this summer to hire and train a team of ambitious, vision-oriented workshop facilitators to continue this work in the coming years.

During our first workshop series hosted in the Spring of 2022, we had a large turnout of folks from all over the country, including the United States. Feedback from the workshops expressed gratitude for the initiative and praise for the welcoming, and inclusive environment that was fostered for learning. After the anti-racism seminar series that we ran through partnership with the Teacher Education Office this fall, one student expressed: “This workshop provided an excellent overview of concepts and terminology, demystifying them in a way that has given me a deeper understanding of the important issues at stake. I also gained a greater appreciation of my own place of privilege and the systemic inequities that serve as barriers to many people. As a result, I feel more self-aware and able to challenge biases when I see them, including in my own thinking”. It is wonderful to identify the ways in which community investment in this work has a ripple effect beyond the bounds of the university.

What does it mean to you to have support from UVic Faculty and Staff? 
During Giving Tuesday, it was identified that the majority of the money donated was gifted through Giving Grams, a modem of donation exclusive to Faculty and Staff. The investment from UVic employees demonstrates to us the university’s dedication to our shared agenda to dismantle systems of oppression while advocating and facilitating change to create more inclusive and equitable learning spaces for all. The support from Faculty and Staff demonstrates to us a commitment to community, where every student is seen, heard, and valued.

What is the importance of student-led initiatives? 
Student-led initiatives are important because they give rise to powerful movements led by students, for students. As we tackle the ever-present barriers to equity and equality within our generation, the UVic EDSEA looks to be a voice for marginalized individuals at UVic and beyond. We hope that you will join our effort in amplifying the voices that most need to be heard, whether it is monetarily, or in your daily thoughts, actions and words. Small change leads to big change, and it is in this way that we can begin to build unity within our communities.

To learn more or to contact UVic EDSEA, visit their Instagram page.

Learn more about giving to UVic.