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Journeys Along the Path to EDII in Advancement

May 2022
Written by: Janet Gottlieb Sailian

Every Canadian educational institution finds itself in a different place on its journey to understand, define and implement principles and strategies of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity.

CCAE recently interviewed advancement leaders at four Canadian educational institutions, asking them to report on their school’s — and specifically, their advancement operation’s — plans  and progress to embed EDII in their outlook and their work.

These four distinctly different institutions revealed certain common steps along their EDII journey:

  • Strategic and action plans designed to increase EDII in many aspects of school life and governance.
  • Prioritizing research into EDII and funding scholarships and bursaries earmarked to increase diversity and inclusion.
  • Widening the pool of candidates for advancement jobs and volunteer positions using a EDII lens for job descriptions and search techniques.
  • Training and information resources for all members of their community.
  • Focus on diverse alumni, donors and leaders, showcasing their voices and experiences in a range of forums and media.

Below are edited, condensed responses from advancement professionals at University of British Columbia and Algonquin College. Our next article will profile EDII in advancement at McMaster University and Branksome Hall School.

Please share your insights and stories about EDII in your advancement operation — and any other advancement innovations — with the author at

Natalie Cook-Zywicki
Executive Director, UBC Alumni Association & Associate Vice President, Alumni Relations
University of British Columbia

What steps is your advancement operation taking to diversify and Indigenize educational advancement specifically?


We are actively, as an institution, looking to raise funds to reflect and support our diverse UBC community. This includes partnering and fundraising for awards to support students from marginalized communities, but also supporting research and community partnership initiatives. 

Alumni engagement

We have been working to create programming and partnerships to provide broader access to EDII-related programming for our global alumni community.

  • Learning opportunities such as workshops and training, speaker series, and more. 
  • We’ve developed frameworks and guidelines to ensure diversity in our speakers and volunteers, to ensure they reflect the broader UBC community.
  • We’ve worked in partnership with our Equity and Inclusion Office and our Ceremonies Office to ensure our strategies are aligned with broader UBC initiatives in advancing UBC’s strategic goals related to indigeneity, equity, diversity and inclusion.

We launched a staff-led EDII Committee, with a mandate to:

  • Create and continually update a roadmap for enhancing a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • Undertake research and data analysis to identify barriers, gaps and systemic issues within the advancement context to help prioritize EDII initiatives that will promote a culture of inclusion;
  • We’ve supported grassroots efforts from our staff to create safe spaces for our 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues.
  • UBC is providing management training and broad-based staff training for various EDII-related considerations, and have made these part of our ongoing staff development curriculum.
  • We are also working with our HR teams to ensure recruitment strategies take into account EDII considerations, including implementing methods to reduce barriers to applicants, such as standardizing a review of all postings through an EDII lens.

Mark Savenkoff, Vice President, Advancement and Strategy
Algonquin College

What steps is your advancement operation taking to diversify and Indigenize educational advancement specifically?

In 2019, Algonquin College made a historic decision to dissolve its externally governed Foundation and create a newly reimagined Advancement Division within the College itself.

Policy and strategy

That same year, the College launched its Inclusion and Diversity Policy and Strategic Blueprint to ensure the organization was equipped to identify, nurture and leverage our diversity.

As the Advancement team grew, the 2019-2022 Inclusion & Diversity Blueprint became the first institutional articulation of the actions and strategy the College would be taking to live our value of Respect: We value the dignity and uniqueness of the individual; We value equity and diversity in our community.

There was a natural alignment to Advancement work, and this genuine, demonstrated commitment to inclusion and diversity was well received by new employees, as well as by our alumni and donor community.

Diverse donor community support

Our diverse Advancement team was able to engage a diversified donor community to support initiatives such as the We Saved You A Seat Program. ‘We Saved You a Seat’ is a three-year pilot project at Algonquin College to establish a diverse learning environment where all of our learners can succeed. This project is delivering a series of interconnected barrier-reducing activities to actively and effectively recruit a critical mass of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) programs and create spaces where belonging and inclusion for women thrive.

Alumni support for diversity

The team also worked with proud alumni, like Carl Clergé (Business Administration 2016), who wanted to support Black students through a newly formed Empowering Black Students Bursary. This bursary — awarded to a student in the School of Business who wants to pursue an education but may not have the full means to do so — raised over $15,000 and was recently featured during Black History Month. Carl established it in response to racial injustices with the knowledge that Black immigrants do not always have the resources to pursue higher education. 

Indigenization and governance

The Advancement Division works in close partnership with the Office of the Vice President, Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization to support reconciliation and indigenization efforts at the college, including support of our Indigenous students. Several new bursaries to support Indigenous learners have been created within the past two years alone.

There is ongoing work with corporate and industry partners such as PCL on the DARE 6 initiative — a concept based on an Indigenous governance model derived from the Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, Confederacy dating back a thousand years.

The Confederacy, sometimes described as one of the world’s oldest participatory democracies, included the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Occupying what is now upper New York state and southeastern Quebec and Ontario, these six tribes united under the Great Law of Peace, with its emphasis on living in peace, harmony, and respect.


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