Two students looking through a microscope in a research lab at MSVUEarlier this year, university participants in the Federal government’s Dimensions program learned that funding for the initiative has not been renewed.

Dimensions was a collaboration of the three federal granting agencies to foster equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) across postsecondary research. It also sought to foster broad transformational change at Canadian post-secondary institutions by identifying and eliminating barriers experienced by equity-denied people.

MSVU was an early participant – one of just 17 Canadian university participants selected for the pilot program in 2019 (and the only one in Atlantic Canada). It was a program that aligned well with the university’s deep commitment to advancing EDIA. That’s why the Dimensions initiative will continue at MSVU.

“Our dimensions action plan was put together by a committee of internal experts at MSVU. Then it was peer-reviewed by experts both nationally and internationally. Getting us to this point was a significant undertaking and the value of these efforts can’t be overstated. While this plan remains embedded in the history of Dimensions, we remain accountable to the plan and we will continue to move this initiative forward,” said Dr. Joël Dickinson, MSVU President and Vice-Chancellor.

Work to date

Over the past couple of years, a Dimensions committee at MSVU (that was at various times led by Dr. Gayle MacDonald and Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal) prepared a thorough program submission that required reflection on many aspects of our organization. The development of the submission involved much consultation with the university community (e.g. through town halls and surveys). “We learned a lot about our institution, our systems, and what needs to change. We benefited from evaluation by external reviewers and we learned from other participating universities,” said Dr. Dickinson.

This extensive work culminated in the development of an action plan (read the action plan here). The MSVU submission and action plan received a “Foundation” recognition under the Dimensions program in the spring of 2023. The Dimensions recognition program included four stages: foundation, construction, consolidation, to transformation.

What’s next

The Dimensions committee at MSVU continues to meet and is now chaired by Dr. Phillip Joy, Assistant Professor of Applied Human Nutrition. Dr. Joy noted, “There is great EDIA work happening across the MSVU community and members of the university community are encouraged to keep that up – and connect with others.”

Dr. Phillip JoySome of that work will be overseen by the new Associate Vice-President of People and Culture who will be named soon. In fact, the AVP People and Culture role came about at MSVU because of the Dimensions action plan. “Through the university’s Dimensions work we identified the need for a new leadership role to help break down silos when it comes to EDIA work, improve our recruitment and hiring practices, etc.,” said Dr. Dickinson. “It is important that we bring EDIA leaders at MSVU together and facilitate close ties with HR to help inform practices.”

Another Dimensions action plan element that is underway is a data collection initiative being supported by Information Technology & Services, Human Resources and the Research Office. Through Dimensions, we are developing a comprehensive EDIA data collection, storage and reporting system for the university. Chioma Okorie joined MSVU as EDIA Business Analyst and is managing this project. An experienced professional in the field of business analysis, she previously held a similar position in the post-secondary sector. Her work involves consultation with many people across MSVU.

“In addition to foregrounding our new Research Strategic Plan in EDIA, we are also examining our existing research policies and practices through the lenses of EDIA to ensure they are not, for example, disadvantaging equity-deserving researchers at MSVU,” said Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan, Associate Vice President, Research. In the meantime, MSVU is also working with other former Dimensions program members to advance discussions with the Federal government about having funding for this important program reinstated.

Current members of MSVU’s Dimensions Committee:

  • Delvina Bernard
  • Joël Dickinson
  • Derek Fisher
  • Lori Francis
  • Jacqueline Gahagan
  • Kelly Gallant
  • Phillip Joy, Chair
  • Tracy MacKenzie
  • Tammy Mercer
  • Chioma Okorie
  • Karen Smyth