Well-being and Belonging: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 4 of 6

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: September 22, 2020 5:00 a.m.

U of R strives to create an inclusive space where newcomers and people born in Saskatchewan alike feel they are an integral part of the community.
U of R strives to create an inclusive space where newcomers and people born in Saskatchewan alike feel they are an integral part of the community. Photos: U of R Photography

Creating an inclusive, welcoming, and healthy environment free from bias and discrimination for students, staff, and faculty is embedded in the University of Regina's Values statement and features prominently in the U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, kahkiyaw kiwâhkomâkâninawak -- All Our Relations. This concept is particularly important to the plan's third Area of Focus: Well-being and Belonging.

Well-being and Belonging is home to three main, interconnected objectives: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI); Healthy Living; and Mental Health Literacy and Research. By taking this holistic approach, the Strategic Plan highlights the importance of belonging and the many facets of well-being - emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual - to the success of students, staff, and faculty.

Both Kelly Kummerfield, Associate Vice-President of Human Resources, and Pauline Streete, EDI Officer for Research at the U of R, are keenly focused on the EDI objective, while Kummerfield's work extends to include the mental health and well-being of faculty and staff.

"Universities are social institutions, and as social institutions they are driven and governed by people, they support the needs of people, and they educate people," explains Streete. "EDI is about human interaction. Fundamentally, we all want to have a rewarding career and provide for our families,  whether or not we identify as being a member of one of the designated groups - someone who is Indigenous, living with a disability, from racialized groups or people of colour, a member of LGBTQ2S+ communities or a woman."

As Saskatchewan welcomes increasingly more people from other countries to live and work in the province, the U of R is striving through its commitment to EDI to create an inclusive space where newcomers and people born in Saskatchewan alike feel they are integral to community - at work and in their personal lives.

"If we can create an environment where people feel deeply that they belong and are part of something big, the outcomes for the University and the province will be incredibly positive," says Streete, describing the transformative power of EDI to help people realize their full potential as students, staff, instructors, and researchers and positively impact the lives of people here at home and farther afield.

The task of creating that inclusive and welcoming environment - where people are aware of their biases and free from discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, and policies - has become the institution's touchstone, guiding the University as it works to become a place where all groups are represented and respected.

To get there, the University is employing an EDI mainstreaming strategy that, along with associated policies and programs, will further its commitment by ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion are fully considered in all decision-making processes.

Mainstreaming is a strategic approach that directs attention to all inequalities and creates multi-level accountabilities along with extensive engagement and consultation.

"Embedding equity, diversity, and inclusion in our human resource policies, programs, and practices, as well as in our strategic decision-making, is transforming the way the University conducts business, how we interact with one another, and how we teach and learn," says Kummerfield. "The recruitment and retention of faculty and staff - and, of course, students - who embrace EDI are vital to making the U of R an even better, more inclusive, and equitable working and learning environment."

The University will develop an EDI Action Plan to promote and help build an inclusive organizational culture that integrates EDI considerations into teaching, research, and learning.  Human Resources, the Research Enterprise, and units across campus will lead specific initiatives to recruit a diverse workforce and student body and support the success of each group. Key activities include: reviewing and proposing changes to new and existing EDI-related policies; working together to create a "diversity meter" to assess the U of R's current cultural climate and identify areas for improvement; promoting a revised self-declaration to capture EDI workforce demographics; developing recruitment and retention plans for achieving and sustaining parity of underrepresented groups on campus; and, building institutional capacity and creating awareness of EDI through workshops and town halls.

"Ideally, by the end of the University's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, EDI will be embedded into all aspects of the U of R culture, from teaching, research, and learning to University recruitment efforts, policy creation, and advancement of the institution as a whole," adds Streete.

As well, workplace training programs are now offered through the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, which is running the Positive Space Network program, an informative and interactive program for University faculty and staff that teaches about building positive, inclusive environments and eliminating violence against sexual and gender-diverse communities.

Closely aligned with EDI, Healthy Living - the second objective within the Well-being and Belonging Area of Focus - recognizes the vital role that strong physical and mental health play in enhancing and supporting the success of students, staff, and faculty at the University of Regina.


U of R Strategic Plan supports students,
staff, and faculty in their journey to balance
academic and career achievements with
mental wellness and physical health.

"Physical health and well-being go hand-in-hand with achieving academic and career success at the University," says Dr. Harold Riemer, Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology. "One should not have to come at the expense of the other. The University's Strategic Plan recognizes this and places a strong emphasis on helping students, staff, and faculty to realize the interconnected balance among academic and career achievements, mental wellness, and physical health."

By promoting physical and mental health and prioritizing related research activities at University venues such as the Dr. Paul Schwann Applied Health and Research Centre, the U of R's Strategic Plan extends its impact beyond the University and into communities throughout Saskatchewan.

"Providing our students with hands-on, experiential learning in community programs means that we are producing the next generation of leaders and researchers right here at the U of R, right now," says Riemer, noting that programs such as Rock Steady Boxing are now offered online to help people in Saskatchewan with Parkinson's disease continue their workouts from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Our research activity helps to improve people's quality of life by working to prevent disease and reduce disease symptoms, ultimately saving lives."

Creating an inclusive and welcoming
environment free from bias and
discrimination is embedded in the University
of Regina's Values statement.

Key to maintaining good physical health is having ready access to primary health-care services.

Aligning with the Healthy Living objective, the University plans to launch a new Student Wellness Centre under the direction of the Faculty of Nursing in the new year, in the event that COVID-19 restrictions can be lifted. The Centre will offer inclusive primary health-care services to U of R students by establishing regular clinics and walk-in schedules.

"Primary health-care services will be provided by Nurse Practitioners Monday to Friday for approximately five hours a day," explains Dr. Robin Evans, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Nursing. "There will be a referral system that will provide easy access to other on-campus services, such as mental health and physiotherapy."

In addition, the Centre will function as an inter-professional, interdisciplinary support facility where rooms in the facility can be booked by other University faculty and groups who wish to provide activities, use the rooms as a clinical practica site, or hold peer-to-peer activities provided by students.

Currently, the U of R offers an Interim Health Services program providing primarily non-urgent, non-emergency health services through virtual visits for students and others currently living in residence.

Developing a coordinated approach to primary health-care is crucial also for supporting mental health.

Mental Health Literacy and Research - the final objective of Well-being and Belonging - focuses on the importance of providing students, staff, and faculty with a variety of mental health supports and resources, early intervention, and counselling, which are key for building resiliency and reducing stigma.

"Mental health and well-being are important topics that have a significant impact on our overall University community," says Rob McCaffrey, Mental Health Advisor for Health, Safety & Wellness, Human Resources. "Within post-secondary institutions, the mental well-being of students, faculty, and staff has been increasingly acknowledged as an area that requires support and focus. In particular, there is a need for preventative and proactive mental health programs and services that foster resilience and coping skills."

The Mental Health Advisory Group, led by Human Resources and Student Affairs, developed a Mental Health Strategy for the campus community.

As one of the Strategy's key initiatives, this Fall the U of R is launching its new online Mental Health Hub.

"The development of the U of R's Mental Health Hub will provide a much-needed tool for the campus community," explains Dr. Jenny Keller, Manager of Counselling Services at the U of R. "This hub will play a pivotal role in achieving our objectives laid out in the University's Strategic Plan of providing internal and external resources for the education, training, and mental health literacy for our students, faculty, and staff."

In addition to providing a strong centralized network of support for the University community, the U of R - through its Strategic Plan - is also committed to prioritizing and supporting mental health research to improve the lives of people in Saskatchewan and throughout the country.

"The University of Regina recognizes that the mental wellness of our students, faculty, and staff is crucial in supporting their academic and career success, achieving our academic mission, and our commitment to our communities," says Keller.

The work of the U of R's mental health services, including the Online Therapy Unit and institutes such as the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment and Child Trauma Research Centre, together with that done by researchers, is part of the reason the University is a national leader in mental health literacy and innovation, creating a strong healthy workforce and communities.

This article is the fourth in a six-part series on the University of Regina's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan kahkiyaw kiwâhkomâkâninawak -- All Our Relations. In the next article, we'll look at Area 4 of the 5 Areas of Focus: Environment and Climate Action.

For more on the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, visit www.uregina.ca/strategic-plan/.


Truth & Reconciliation: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 3 of 6

Discovery: U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series, Part 2 of 6

U of R's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan Series Part 1: Vision, Mission & Values

5 by 25: U of R 2020-2025 Strategic Plan sets interconnected, achievable goals