Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor, and Vinita Srivastava, host of The Conversation Canada's new podcast, Don't Call Me Resilient.

On race, recovery and what it means to be safe: A conversation with Dr. Annette Trimbee

April 22, 2021 | Campus Life, Society

The past year has shown us that all must do more to support, discuss and act on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. Continuing its own discussions on April 9, MacEwan University hosted a special conversation between Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor, and Vinita Srivastava, host of The Conversation Canada's new podcast, Don't Call Me Resilient.

The event was organized by Dr. Craig Kuziemsky, associate vice-president, Research, Office of Research Services, and Irfan Chaudhry, director of the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity (OHRDE). Engaging in challenging conversations around race and racism is going to feel uncomfortable, but Chaudhry says that he hopes viewers of this particular event will listen, learn and reflect on the realities and impact of race and racism.

"The purpose of this event was to engage in brave conversations about a topic which creates discomfort," says Chaudhry. "The conversation provided a space for sharing and vulnerability; addressing the challenges of the topic of race and its impact everyday."

Did you miss the live conversation? Watch it now.

During their discussion, Dr. Trimbee and Srivastava talked about the challenges of race and its everyday impact, as well as Dr. Trimbee's involvement in chairing the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force. The task force, created in response to Black Lives Matter protests in the city, had released Safer For All, its report and 14 recommendations for city council, just a week before the interview.

Dr. Trimbee became involved in the task force because of the way she sees MacEwan's place in the community.

"MacEwan is downtown and we have a role to play in recovery," she explained, defining recovery as not only economic and the return of people to the downtown core, but also in terms of having a leadership role in anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Though Safer For All is about the whole community, part of making our cities safe includes ensuring that university campuses pay attention to equity, diversity and inclusion and looking at our policies and procedures with this lens in mind. We want our campuses to be safer for all — though I might argue that I prefer the word 'brave.'"


Students work with the City of Edmonton to support anti-racism recommendations

"Having the opportunity to apply research methods to a real-world project made me feel like I was aiding in the process of meaningful change."

She continued that safety and bravery go hand in hand on university campuses. "We can be brave and we can feel safe, but I don't want people to think being safe means you're always comfortable.” Introducing new ideas that sometimes make people uncomfortable, she explained, is an important part of a university education.

The idea that those challenging conversations in classrooms are important, but those classrooms are part of a system and that changing that system starts with leadership.

"Cultural change is influenced by tone at the top," she said. "But I've also learned, as this is my second time around as president, that I'm not a big fan of grand gestures, proclamations and moonshots without a real understanding of how to accomplish that."

Dr. Trimbee believes in setting and inspiring a vision but knows that such a vision must be thought through. "I want to move beyond the superficial and beyond the obvious, and dig a little deeper."

While her role on the task force has wrapped, Dr. Trimbee said there is more work to be done — especially at MacEwan. The university is going through a strategic visioning exercise to determine where it wants to be in 2030, and equity, diversity and inclusion, reconciliation and recovery are coming up in those discussions.

"The thing about MacEwan that I love is we have embraced being a downtown university, and there is a real desire to be connected with community, to be porous and to have impact," said Dr. Trimbee. "There's a lot of openness to thinking about students and how the world of work is changing, and how people will be continuously learning and moving in and out of our systems."

The organizers of the event and Dr. Trimbee want everyone at MacEwan to know that we all own the conversation around equity, diversity and inclusion, and that we must be brave and ensure that these conversations continue. Don't Call Me Resilient is a helpful resource to begin your own conversations.


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