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New resources help students create a sense of belonging at Ivey

Sep 14, 2023

HBA students standing in a circle with their arms around each other

Ivey's new HBA students at the Ivey Olympics event.

Friends and connections are vital parts of the university experience, helping to improve your well-being and even your academic success. 

To support students in building relationships, Ivey has introduced a series of inclusion modules to help new HBA students reflect on who they are and share that with their peers. The series started with a module on positionality that challenged the students to write a statement about who they are.

“We’re asking people to introduce themselves on their learning teams through that statement because our first impressions often aren’t as nuanced as we are as humans or capture how much we have to share through our lived experience,” said Erin Huner, Ivey’s Director of Culture and Inclusion. 

Additional modules in coming months will focus on gender, sexuality, the Black lived experience, the Asian lived experience, accessibility, ageism, and Indigenous identity.

Building an inclusive Ivey community

Derek Worden, Director of Student Experience at Ivey, said the sessions will help students to define inclusion at Ivey and how they want to show up in the community.

“We’re trying to give them baseline tools and that concept of, Who am I and how did I show up?, so they’ll know when they didn’t show up the way the community expects them to and how to take accountability for that," he said.

Huner said research shows a low sense of belonging may cause students to worry or experience anxiety about other things so they can’t fully focus on learning. The goal of the sessions is to help students to build the muscles to proactively create a sense of belonging and to celebrate the diversity of the Ivey community as a strength.

Below, Huner and Worden share some advice to keep in mind.

It starts with understanding yourself

Consider what you bring to the table, says Huner, whether it be your skills, ideas, or enthusiasm. Once we understand what we bring to others, we can better attend to others through our actions.

Sometimes students come to Ivey with preconceived notions of what success should look like for an Ivey student and failing to achieve that sets them back. Worden encourages students to create their own definition of success by thinking about what they want to learn, experience, and work toward during their time at Ivey.

Derek WordenIf you determine where you want to be, then you might feel as though you are working toward something and a sense of purpose comes. This makes it easier to connect everything you do as being aligned with where you’re headed and your values.”
– Derek Worden, Director of Student Experience at Ivey

Really listen to others

We live in a world of constant disruption and distraction so it can be difficult to be really present for others. Huner says sometimes we’re so focused on how to respond that we aren’t truly listening to what others are saying. Remind yourself that your job is to listen and you don’t always have to have an answer.

“Sometimes just saying, ‘Thank you so much for sharing that,’ is enough and shows that you care,” she said.

Worden recommends asking questions such as, How was that for you? or How did that make you feel?, to move conversations from transactional to transformational.

“It can make someone feel like they really belong and are part of a community because you’re showing this deep and intentional care about them and their experience and you’re giving space to that,” he said.

Consider whether you need to be an ally or a supporter

There may be times when you see individuals being excluded or mistreated and you feel responsible to call out such injustices. But, since not everyone is comfortable speaking out in public settings, Worden says to keep in mind that there are other ways to approach such situations. Simply asking those at the centre of the experience how they feel is one of the best ways to show you care.

And while allies can play a critical role in helping to solve problems, Huner adds sometimes only those at the centre of the experience need to be heard. Determining whether you should be there in solidarity or as the centre voice comes from first getting to know what’s important to the person at the centre of the experience and what that person might feel vulnerable about.

Ern HunerIf we approach community and our responsibility to it through a lens of caretaking, we would spend a lot more time thinking about how we should act."
– Erin Huner, Director of Culture and Inclusion at Ivey

Most importantly, keep in mind that this is a learning process and you won’t always get it right, but there are people and resources at Ivey to support you, says Worden.  

“We’re here to support you in navigating this. You may learn things about your community that you think need attending to so come talk to us,” he said.

Additional resources that can help students to create a sense of belonging include the Foundations of Equity Practice Tool, Ivey Equity & Inclusion Community Learning Module, and the Thriving in the Classroom toolkit.