This is a pivotal moment in time for UTS, where all of the groundwork has been laid for deeper progress on equity and inclusion, and now with Dr. Kimberley Tavares on board as our Coordinating Vice Principal of Anti-Racism, Equity, Inclusion, Access and Program Innovation, we have the leadership in place to further this vital work.
“UTS, for me, is the possibility of what excellence – not only in academics which UTS is renowned for – but what excellence in inclusion and diversity can really look like,” says Kim. “When you are given authentic time, space and opportunity to do the work with people who are willing and engaged, the conditions are set to create inclusive spaces where everybody feels they have the genuine right to be there.”
This is a chance to create new models of what excellence and inclusive education can be and explore the possibility of what this work could mean, not just for UTS students, but for students everywhere. “The work for me is about influence,” says Kim. “The partnerships and the relationships that UTS has are far-reaching. How could this work help others to rethink what affirmation in independent education can look like?”
Kim will further work on the recommendations laid out by Dr. Avis Glaze O Ont in the 2022 report, Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Our Shared Responsibility. One of the goals is to build representation at UTS among traditionally underrepresented groups, but for Kim it is less about numbers and more about ensuring inclusion for all students during their time here. “We want the students who come to UTS to feel affirmed, be part of the community, and know that the possibility of being here is accessible to anyone, inclusive of all human rights code grounds, demographic and social identities.”
UTS puts anti-racism first, when talking about anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion, which shows a clear commitment to human rights, she says. “Many places talk about equity, diversity and inclusion. Nobody talks about anti-racism first because that requires an acknowledgment of historic and systemic wrongs that need to be righted. The fact that that was first on the list at UTS anchored it in a commitment larger than just wanting to feel good.”
Already, Kim is changing how the school thinks about equity, transforming it from a pillar in the strategic plan and a strategic initiative to a mindset that is embedded into everything that we do.
It’s how Kim worked for the last four years at the Education Equity Secretariat in the Ministry of Education, where she was seconded from the York Region School Board administration to work in a team alongside the Assistant Deputy Minister. “We practiced what we preached. We tried really hard to treat each other in the same ways with the same policies and practices that we were thinking about for education in our province.”
Now Kim brings that ethos to UTS. It’s challenging work, but she believes in the power of ‘failing forward.’ “We will make mistakes, but we can own them and correct them. We can think about them and build upon them.”
Kim’s deep commitment shines through her actions – she became a donor months before her first day at UTS. “If I’m a part of this community and I’m going to be working within this community, then I want to contribute to this community.”