The Interview USA
Executive Director for EDI and Anti-Racism
Thompson Rivers University

Pauline Streete

Fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion within a diverse student body should be a crucial goal for any educational institution. While Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) calls for a multi-faceted approach, there’s real potential in leveraging student-driven initiatives. Peer-led programming can capture student attention and drive deeper engagement by directly involving the communities impacted by inclusion initiatives.

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, caught up with Pauline Streete, Executive Director for EDI and Anti-Racism at Thompson Rivers University, to speak about their comprehensive approach to EDI and its role in creating a culture of belonging.

Pauline Streete

Max: Let's start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution.

My name is Pauline Streete. I’m the Executive Director for EDI and Anti-Racism at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), a student-centered institution with roughly 25,000 students. I started at TRU in 2023, and I’m enjoying learning about its strong community presence. We’re nestled between several First Nations communities in Kamloops, British Columbia – the Secwépemc people are always consulted on new initiatives at the university.

Max: What drew you to working in EDI?

My pathway to working in EDI and Higher Education (HE) is quite unexpected. I initially worked in IT, often in outsourced roles with other organizations. I had the opportunity to invite the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to speak to my classmates about the work being done within the IT department to create awareness of Indigenous communities and possibly recruit from them; I was fascinated by his work. That experience inspired new career opportunities for me in the EDI space, including working for the utility, for a non-profit cross-disability organization, and an EDI advisory role at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Max: What’s your biggest focus in building a sense of belonging and inclusion on campus?

My role is pan-institutional across students, faculty, and staff. I’m currently working with our Planning and Effectiveness group to develop an institution-wide EDI strategy; something with teeth. Personally, I walk about campus; I talk with students all the time. It’s important they understand my role and purpose so they feel comfortable sharing their insights and feedback with me. I also support students in a mentoring capacity; they often plan for events like Black History Month and International Women’s Day and need guidance on who to invite or how to approach speakers to engage with students on these topics.

We also have a Student Development Office offering various support services for different student communities. Some specific examples include our Manager of Gender and Sexual Diversity services, offering support for students who identify themselves within the LGBTQIA2+ community, and TRU World creating space for our international students to open up about their experience studying abroad. Collectively, these initiatives offer tailored support to a diverse range of students and contribute to building an inclusive campus community.

Max: How are you looking to reach students who may be disengaged?

I applaud our Student Union on this front; they have a wonderful way of drawing students in. They’ve run programming around topics like cultural awareness and gender and sexual diversity with great success. We’ve found that student-driven activities really capture student attention, drive engagement, and go a long way toward building a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Where disengagement does exist, we need to learn more about what appeals to those students; without their involvement and feedback, our efforts will land flat. We need to call on the communities directly impacted by the initiatives we develop – they know what is best and what may cause harm. When we use the insight of our students as our guide, we can create programming that achieves its purpose of ensuring our students feel welcome and accepted as part of the TRU community.  

Max: How are you working to ensure students engage with one another respectfully, particularly in light of the increasingly polarized political landscape?

Young people in Canada typically attend schools with diverse communities, and they’re educated about diversity across the K-12 system. Small communities like Kamloops can be more homogenous, yet we see students come together and show their awareness. There are times when students lack understanding; they don’t know what they don’t know. Greater emphasis on educating students on what inclusion looks like, the different communities that exist, and the appropriate language to use can remedy this.

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Max Webber
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