The Power of Stories to Shape a COVID Recovery

How can the way we understand and talk about the pandemic propel transformative change towards a more just, equitable and prosperous tomorrow?

Words create worlds. The language we use and stories we tell shape our understanding of the world, and, in doing so, they shape the world itself.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep societal divides and challenged us to reconsider our collective sense of belonging and recognition in society. The way we understand and talk about this story today has the power to propel transformative change towards a more just, equitable and prosperous tomorrow. Will we learn from the pandemic and finally shift the conversation around equity and belonging, or will the history of exclusion repeat itself?

Join Meredith Preston McGhie, secretary general of the Global Centre for Pluralism, and Dr. Malinda Smith, PhD, vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion) at UCalgary, to discuss the power of stories and language to shape belonging and a better recovery.

This webinar is part of UCalgary’s Pluralism and Global Citizenship webinar series

Watch the recording

Meet the panellists

Meredith Preston McGhie

Meredith Preston McGhie

Secretary General, Global Centre for Pluralism 

Meredith Preston McGhie has devoted more than 20 years to addressing conflict and instability in Africa and Asia in some of the most troubled situations. From working with the Naga in Northeast India and indigenous communities on the Thai-Myanmar border, to supporting U.N. efforts in Kosovo, Northern Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Kenya, her work has straddled frontline negotiation, policy and diplomacy. 

She became the Global Centre for Pluralism’s secretary general on Oct. 1, 2019. Most recently, as Africa regional director with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, she oversaw the Centre’s complex mediation and dialogue efforts in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan, among other places. During the Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process in 2007-08, she advised the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, led by the late former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. She has contributed annually to the Oslo Forum, a gathering of the world’s leading experts and policymakers in conflict resolution, and teaches mediation practice internationally. 

Preston McGhie studied military and international history at the University of British Columbia before pursuing graduate studies in global security at Keele University in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Malinda S. Smith

Dr. Malinda S. Smith

Vice-Provost (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) and political science professor, University of Calgary

Dr. Malinda S. Smith, PhD, serves on the Statistics Canada Working Group on Black communities in Canada, the Statistics Canada Committee on Immigration and Ethnocultural Statistics, and the Inter-Institutional Advisory Committee for National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities. She is a former vice-president of Equity Issues for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and currently serves as chair of its Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization.

Smith has published widely in areas of international and comparative politics, as well as equity, diversity and human rights. She is a co-author of The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities (UBC Press, 2017), and a co-editor of the forthcoming book, Nuances of Blackness in the Canadian Academy (University of Toronto Press, 2021). She is also editor of Securing Africa: Post-9/11 Discourses on Terrorism (2010), Beyond the ‘African Tragedy’: Discourses on Development and the Global Economy (2006), and Globalizing Africa (2003); and co-editor of the sixth edition of Critical Concepts: An Introduction to Politics, currently under revision with OUP, and States of Race: Critical Race Feminism for the 21st Century (2010).

Smith is a 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow. She’s won numerous awards and honours, including the 2021 Compelling Calgarians, the 2020 Susan S. Northcutt Award from the International Studies Association, and the 2020 Rosalind Smith Professional Award from the National Black Coalition of Canada-Edmonton. Other awards include being named to the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women (100ABCWomen) list for 2020; the 2018-2019 Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Studies Association-Canada; 2018-20 Provost Fellow EDI Policy at the University of Alberta; 2016 HSBC Community Contributor of the Year; 2015 Equity Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers; and 2011 Academic Woman of the Year from the University of Alberta Academic Women’s Association.


Meet the moderators

Deborah Yedlin

Community leader and Calgary journalist Deborah Yedlin became the 14th chancellor of the University of Calgary in 2018. She has been observing, commenting and writing about business and politics for more than two decades as a journalist for the Financial Post, Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald. In addition to her writing, she has been a regular commentator for the CBC and CTV since 1996. Follow @ddyedlin on Twitter. 

Dr. Aleem Bharwani

Dr. Aleem Bharwani, MD, is a physician, clinical associate professor, and director of Public Policy and Partnerships for the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office in the Cumming School of Medicine and O'Brien Institute for Public Health. He has been recognized nationally and internationally for his leadership. He chairs the UCalgary Pluralism Initiative’s Research, Social Innovation and Engagement Committee and curated the UCalgary Pluralism and Global Citizenship webinar series. He is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is an active community citizen serving on a variety of community and corporate boards. Follow @AleemBharwani on Twitter.


Pluralism & Global Citizenship webinar series

Valuing and creating value from difference in our local and global communities

The University of Calgary is proud to present the Pluralism and Global Citizenship webinar series. Co-hosted by University of Calgary Chancellor, Deborah Yedlin and Dr. Aleem Bharwani, Director for Public Policy and Strategic Partnerships at the Cumming School of Medicine, the series will explore the many dimensions of pluralism: the active process of inclusion – recognizing, respecting and valuing difference.

Register for our first webinar on Oct. 27 to receive an invitation for all series events.  

  • Oct. 27: Multilateralism – Canada’s role in the world 
    Guests: Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec and recognized multilateralist; and Dru Marshall, Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
  • Nov. 10: Integrative Thinking in Business
    Guests: Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Business; and Dr. Justin Weinhardt of the Haskayne School of Business
  • Dec. 1: Nurturing Empathy in Children
    Guests: Mary Gordon, Canadian educator, social entrepreneur, child advocate and parenting expert; and Dr. Diane Gereluk, Dean of the Werklund School of Education
  • Feb. 9: Truth vs civility online: Fact, fiction, and funny
    Guests: Tim Caufield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta
  • April 13: The Power of Stories to Shape COVID-19 Recovery
    Guests: Meredith Preston McGhie, Secretary General, Global Centre for Pluralism; and Dr. Malinda Smith, Professor and Vice Provost (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion)

Our partners

UCalgary’s Pluralism & Global Citizenship webinar series is presented with support from the Global Centre for Pluralism.

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