Jan. 30, 2020

UCalgary diversity awards recognize inspiring students, faculty and staff

Awards celebrate those who make outstanding contributions toward creating an equitable, welcoming and inclusive environment

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awards were designed to celebrate individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions towards creating an equitable, welcoming and inclusive environment at the University of Calgary. This year’s awards were presented during the annual Diversity Days kickoff event.

The 2020 awards have four categories: students, faculty, staff, and one team award. With representatives from students, AUPE and MaPS staff, and faculty members, the adjudication team selected the following award winners:

Student award: Jasmine McDermott, mechanical engineering student

McDermott actively works to create welcoming spaces on campus through her involvement in several initiatives, including the Schulich Diversity and Inclusivity Advisory Committee, Writing Symbols Lodge, Indigenous STEM Students’ Association, Canadian Federation of Engineering Students, and Engineering Students’ Society. McDermott is also in the process of founding an Indigenous STEM Students’ Association as a Students’ Union club with the goal of creating a welcoming space for Indigenous STEM students and alumni to share their experiences.

As diversity commissioner, McDermott has piloted Failures Forum, an event where professors from math, science, and engineering share their failures and most embarrassing moments with the student body. This event promotes openness about personal struggles faced in academic and professional environments, and encourages a broader perspective on failure and engineering.

Pamela Beebe

Pamela Beebe receives her award from President McCauley.

Staff award: Pamela Beebe, Indigenous education and protocol specialist

Beebe is heavily involved with the creation of Indigenous training for the Indigenous Strategy and she is exceptionally skilled in working with Indigenous Elders. She is adamant that the Indigenous practices of smudging be available to students, faculty and Elders on campus. Beebe has assembled a large number of people across campus to breakdown the barriers associated with smudging. 

Outside of work, she is involved with the Treaty 7 Housing Committee where she advocates for safe, appropriate and affordable housing for Treat 7 members. She has worked across the province on human rights initiatives and on poverty reduction priorities, and she is also involved in filmmaking which showcases positive stories about the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples.

Elise Ahenkorah

Elise Ahenkorah receives her award from President McCauley.

Staff award: Elise Ahenkorah, programs and partnerships specialist, WELab, Hunter Hub

Ahenkorah leverages her expertise as an inclusion strategist and social entrepreneur to support an inclusive campus experience for all to build ideas into reality by designing and implementing the University of Calgary’s first women in entrepreneurship education program. Since the launch of WELab in October, it has reached over 100 female-identifying students across diverse disciplines through various workshops, social, mentorship and networking events.

In addition to her work in WELab, Ahenkorah leverages her expertise to build events and opportunities for staff, faculty and students in learn about how to build inclusive work and educational spaces in measurable and practical ways. She is also the founder and executive director of #shemeets, Alberta’s first entrepreneurial mentorship and educational program for women of colour and Indigenous female entrepreneurs, changemakers and innovators.

Faculty award: Dr. Tonya D. Callaghan, PhD, associate professor, Werklund School of Education

Tonya Callaghan is a leader in diversity in her research, teaching and learning initiatives and community.  She actively teaches about principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her online undergraduate course is available to people all over the world for students to address oppression in the forms of racism, sexism, classism ableism, heterosexism, and transphobia in order to developed strategies in addressing and preventing prejudice in all its manifestations.

The overarching goal of Callaghan's research is to integrate theory and practice so that educational stakeholders become motivated to free members of sexual and gender minority groups from religiously inspired heterosexist oppression.

In the community, Callaghan served as a facilitator with support groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. As a member of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, Dr. Callaghan provided input on professional development workshops designed to build safe and caring classrooms, schools, and communities.

Team award: Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta’s Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative: CV&Me

The CV & Me Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program within the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Calgary supports the conduct of novel cardiovascular research that impacts patients, trains future scientists and leads institutions in incorporating sex and gender considerations into research and care. Our work spans sex (biological attributes) and gender (socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions, identities) considerations in cardiovascular research and patient care.

In the first six months of the Initiative, CV&Me supported four of its members to apply for a prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research Sex and Gender Science Chair and three of its members to apply for CIHR Women’s Clinical Health Mentorship Grant. Furthermore, CV&Me has hosted three community engagement events featuring internationally recognized experts in sex and gender differences in cardiovascular health, reaching nearly 700 people in the community the past six months.

The next diversity awards nominations will open in the fall of 2020.