An Innovative and Inclusive Approach to Education

Emerging students are ready to radically uplift and enrich workplaces, while transforming our society into one where everyone is respected, appreciated and heard.

Traditionally, when we think of “career minded” initiatives, we think of focused job placements—but Dalhousie’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) questions the definition of “traditional” and digs deeper. FASS’ academic and experiential learning offerings can prepare students for a lifestyle and workplace grounded in Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI).

Faculty (Acting) Dean Dr. Roberta Barker says that what is essential for careers of the future is not only an awareness of EDI, but a strongly lived understanding of it. The faculty aims to “help folks be able to do better in terms of improving Nova Scotian society,” she explains. 

Take the Gender and Women’s Studies minor and major, which encourage students to think in an intersectional way about gender and sexuality along with topics of race, economic privilege and disability. Gender and Women’s Studies is a program in which the faculty members’ sheer love for and commitment to the field directly impacts students. 

Additionally, the minor and certificate in Indigenous Studies, led by Mi’kmaq scholar Dr. Margaret Robinson, can each be combined in an interdisciplinary way with Law, Sciences, Management or Health, not only sparking an appreciation of our sustainable future, but ensuring that Indigenous worldviews and knowledge are taken into account. Dalhousie is working on developing a major in Indigenous Studies as well. 

“We’re seeing the years of work from professors and leaders in these fields, who have been advocating and transforming the academy, come to fruition,” says Dr. Barker, commenting on the Black and African Diaspora Studies major, an exciting addition to the existing minor in the field, which is being proposed for 2021/22.  

Dr. Afua Cooper, leader of the Black and African Diaspora Studies program at Dalhousie, says the major is essential in bringing the work of EDI to the forefront. The Black and African Diaspora Studies major will surface new ways of thinking from community leaders in the field and bring them to the classroom. This will create a space for students to further their understanding of what “decolonizing education” really means, and where Anti-Black racism can be discussed at length.  

 “We need to be retrained on how to be a compassionate person in today’s society,” says Dr. Cooper. “Issues of race, class, sexuality and gender are all important to understand if we want to create a workforce and world where everyone is equal.”  

 Rachel Banks, graduate student  and research assistant for the Black and African Diaspora Studies program committee, says this program is long overdue and necessary. There is also significant  meaning in this being possibly the first BA major and honours degree in Black Studies among Canadian universities, given that Nova Scotia is a key birthplace of Black history and culture in Canada.   

“The Black Studies major will be helpful not only for introducing students to a growing field of scholarship and career opportunities, but also for challenging the standards of white-produced knowledge and providing radical and inclusive alternative education,” Banks says. “Having the intellectual tools to analyse, interpret and dismantle socially and historically inaccurate information will be invaluable for students in any career they pursue.”  

Students who emerge from the Black and African Diaspora Studies major or minor, and from FASS in general, are sure to radically uplift and enrich workplaces and transform our society into one where everyone is respected, appreciated, and heard.