BCIT researchers receive $153,406 research grant for Indigenous diversity model

A BCIT research team has been awarded $153,406 over two years for Diversity Circles, an applied research project that is creating a model for supporting diversity at BCIT and beyond. The award was provided through the Community and College Social Innovation Fund, a new $15M federal grant program from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) dedicated to research projects addressing social challenges.

Recognizing that more resources are needed to support and engage diversity groups in post-secondary education, BCIT faculty member Shannon Kelly and BCIT Aboriginal Services advisor Zaa Joseph co-founded the Diversity Circles project in 2015.

Diversity Circles co-founders Shannon Kelly and Zaa Joseph. Photo by Maria Angerilli.

In May 2016 the team held two Diversity Circles events, which explored topics such as learning differences, neurodiversity, and Indigenous frameworks. Over the next two years, the SSHRC grant will enable the Diversity Circles team to deliver 40 workshops, launch mentoring and networking programs, and share their findings across Canada through the creation of a digital diversity map.

Grounded in Indigenous knowledge, Diversity Circles applies an Indigenous engagement model to supporting diversity at BCIT. “This approach serves as a much-needed counterpoint to traditional, often rigid institutional educational approaches—which, for example, reinforce standardized approaches to learning and teaching,” says Shannon Kelly. Zaa Joseph explains, “The Indigenous engagement model reflects the complexity, diversity, and interconnectedness of life.” Informed by this model, Diversity Circles positions the individual in relation to the family, the community, the environment, and the cosmos.

The Diversity Circles team has emphasized their commitment to leveraging community-based expertise and to empowering all participants in the diversity conversation. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with all who have an interest in and passion for how diversity benefits society,” says Kelly.

The team is also working with Coast Salish Artist and Researcher Aaron Nelson-Moody. According to Kelly and Joseph, “the project’s digital experience will be guided by Aaron’s work and the Coast Salish aesthetic, creating an organic, living feel that reflects the Indigenous connection to life and the planet.”

The BCIT Faculty and Staff Association (FSA) will also play a key role in developing and delivering the project. Diversity Circles will build on the FSA’s formalized diversity expertise, as well as the knowledge of individual teachers and academic staff. “This project is a unique demonstration of what FSA members do every day—use applied research to support student learning,” says Teresa Place, President of the BCIT FSA.

If you would like more information about this project or would like to get involved, please contact Shannon Kelly at shannon_kelly@bcit.ca.

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