March 3, 2023

Shedding light on unappreciated issues: GSA hosts inaugural Intersectionality Symposium

Student-organized symposium March 10 includes curated speaker panels
Intersectionality Symposium

Addressing equity, diversity and inclusion — or EDI — is a crucial part of our conversations in the moment. Our society recognizes the need to build an environment where everyone feels safe and equal to any other member of their community.

The University of Calgary organizes events such as the recent EDI Week to raise the awareness of EDI issues across campus. Focusing on graduate education, three committees of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) launched the inaugural Intersectionality Symposium on March 10, aimed at students, faculty and community influencers.

What is intersectionality?

The term “Intersectionality” was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to identify a framework that considers that a collection of factors coexists to affect an individual’s social identity. These intersecting identities must be considered when we attempt to understand the experiences of those who are marginalized.

  • Photo above: Panellists from left to right, top to bottom: Patrina Duhaney, Lana Bentley, Tonya Callaghan, Ashley King, Alex Mertens, Erin Novakowski, Gregor Wolbring, Cynthia Seow, Regine King.

The graduate student body at UCalgary is also growing quickly with increasing diversity and need for safe and equitable spaces. “Graduate students come from diverse social groups and backgrounds; therefore, it is important to create a safe, inclusive and brave space for all students,” Neha Bhatia, vice-chair of the GSA EDI Committee, says.

Ariel Kim, the chair of the GSA Gender and Sexuality Alliance Subcommittee and a graduate student in the Cumming School of Medicine, ponders on the meaning of true EDI action and the idea of intersectionality. She says, “To ensure that no one is excluded from this discourse, the community needs to recognize and understand the experiences of people who are placed at the intersection of multiple minority identities.”

About the Intersectionality Symposium

The GSA acknowledges the imperative for understanding intersectionality issues to prompt action and change within and outside of UCalgary community. In 2019, the University of Calgary began actively pursuing EDI goals. Collaboration has been the focus in the development and execution of EDI work at the university.

As such, three GSA committees (EDI, Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Mental Health and Wellness) are collaboratively organizing the inaugural Intersectionality Symposium funded by the Quality Money program in which panellists will share their professional and lived experiences through semi-structured interviews.

This event will be an opportunity to bring together UCalgary students, faculty, and community influencers to develop awareness about intersectional social identities and promote social justice. Participants will be able to add their attendance to their UCalgary co-curricular trackers (CCT) to track their EDI involvement on campus.

Symposium details

When: Friday, March 10, 2023, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: Science Collaborative Space (ST 142) (hybrid option available via Zoom)

What: Three panel discussions on Intersectionality in Academia, Disability Awareness, Black Mental Health

Price: free (registration required for lunch)

Learn more about the symposium and register.

Panellists for Intersectionality in Academia include Dr. Tonya Callaghan, PhD, Dr. Gregor Wolbring, PhD, and Cynthia Seow, MBBS, MSc, FRACP, three UCalgary professors in diverse faculties.

Disability Awareness highlights Ashley King, Alex Mertens, and Erin Novakowski, local disability advocates.

Black Mental Health will feature experts Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD, Dr. Regine King, PhD, and Lana Bentley, MSW, RCSW.

Partnership with Stonewall Recovery Centre

The Intersectionality Symposium also recognizes the importance of highlighting other organizations working on EDI issues. As such, the symposium has partnered with the Stonewall Recovery Centre, Canada’s first 2SLGBTQIA+ addiction recovery centre. The centre is hosting their inaugural Bricks and Mortar Gala the same day to raise funds to support 2SLGBTQIA+ people and provide a safe space for them to recovery from addiction.

Buy tickets to Stonewall Recovery Centre’s Bricks and Mortar Gala.

Donate to Stonewall Recovery Centre:

“We created Stonewall Recovery Centre so that each 2SLGBTQ+ person has agency in their recovery," says Steven Archambault, co-founder of Stonewall Recovery Centre. "We live by the adage 'Nothing about me without me.' Stonewall will provide each 2SLGBTQ+ person with the dignity that they deserve and a fighting chance to recover from their problematic substance use."