Ethnography of the University / Ethnography of the University: Focus on Diversity 2021 / Undergraduate Ethnography

Does Your Diversity Work Make a Difference, By Nana Koomson (Ethnography of the University 2021: Focus on Diversity)

This blog post was part of the coursework for the Ethnographic Practicum course, “Ethnography of the University 2021: Focus on Diversity.” It was originally posted in the category “Doing Diversity Work.”

While doing some ethnographic research on how Black students imagined themselves to be Diversity workers within the University of Toronto, I discovered that students imagined themselves to be diversity workers when they accomplished three things: when they created a space for Black students, inspired other Black students to partake in diversity work, and educated others on Black culture and history. Students were extremely proud of their diversity work and in many instances, felt they could do more.

Elizabeth is the current president of Vic BLVCK. Vic BLVCK is a Black student network within Victoria College at the University of Toronto. As a fourth year undergraduate student, Elizabeth aims to create spaces where Black students can connect with one another through the club. She also works to inform students of the available resources available at Victoria College.

Elizabeth is proud of her work as the President of Vic BLVCK. She believes she has made a real difference when it comes to student diversity and inclusion, and points to the impact and value of her activities: “I am educating students on Black issues, and teaching others about Black history by celebrating Black history month and other things like this”.

Similarly, Amy – the former president and founder of the Afro Dance and Culture Club (ADC) – is sure she is making a difference. ADC is a club that aims to improve Black student experience by creating a space where students can express themselves. The club also holds cultural awareness discussions where members can connect with each other through conversations about important topics within the Black Community.

For Amy, making a difference to diversity, equity, and inclusion is important, even if by a small scale. According to her, “Even if it only impacts one person, it is a success because it is one less person who feels as though they do not belong”.  Moreover, she vehemently explained, “Not only are we changing lives, but we inspire students to create more spaces where diversity work can be done”.

To Amy, diversity work was a matter of creating spaces for belonging. However, a real difference was made when other students were inspired to also partake in diversity work. To Elizabeth, diversity work was a matter of educating, and creating spaces. For both students, the value of their work did not lie in how many students they reached; it was in the impact they made in each person’s University experience.

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