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Creating a sense of belonging

Students' project seeks to broaden the discussion around diversity and inclusivity at Queen’s.

"Student Diversity Project"
Queen's first-year students Sara Drimmer and Nicole Osayande present the Student Diversity Project at a Fall Preview event in November. (Supplied Photo)

First-year computing student Nicole Osayande (Artsci’21) has only been on campus a few months, but she has already launched a diversity project with her peers, and created a video speaking to inclusivity at Queen’s that is now being shared online with prospective and current students.

“There is literally something for everyone at Queen’s, but some future students may not have that mindset. I can relate, as I, too, came to Queen’s thinking I was going to be outcast as 'the only black girl,’ she says. "I will admit that it’s an easy assumption to make, but that has been far from my personal experience. I wanted to start an initiative to tell prospective students why they should come to Queen’s. I’m all about conversations that allow people to share ideas, because, well, Queen’s can only become more inclusive and diverse, as our spectra of students becomes more varied.”

Ms. Osayande, who attended high school in Toronto, mobilized some of her friends to form the Student Diversity Project. One the group’s first creations is a video that reflects the strength and breadth of the campus community.

“Diversity is about people of colour, it’s about LGBTQ, it’s about introverts and extroverts, it’s about students without families and different upbringings, it’s not a linear construct,” she says. “We need to stop putting our school in a box.”

She approached Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney at an event for major admission award recipients to talk about the project. Ms. Tierney watched the video, and invited Ms. Osayande and her peers to set up a booth at Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment’s November Fall Preview events on campus to show the video, and talk to prospective students and families.

“I have been so impressed by Nicole’s initiative and committment, and we are thrilled to collaborate with the Student Diversity Project as part of our ongoing outreach to all prospective students,” says Ms. Tierney. “We recognize the importance of student voices in promoting an inclusive campus environment with a sense of belonging.”

The video is now posted to Queen’s Undergraduate Admission website. At Fall Preview, the group also gave out information about campus support services, including Student Academic Success Services, peer tutoring, and study groups, and the group created a poster showcasing many of the clubs at Queen’s that reflect diverse interests and experiences.

The Student Diversity Project’s next steps are to set up a Facebook page, and work with current students to help them articulate their experiences and perspectives about diversity and inclusivity at Queen’s.

“We want to ask them: ‘On a broad level: what to say, and how to say it? What bugs you about things people say about the Queen’s community? Is it the approach, is it the question? How do we help you moving forward?’,” says Ms. Osayande. “We want to help more people start conversations and encourage positive change.”

Watch the Student Diversity Project video.