Dr. Claudine Bonner is leading change as Acadia’s first Vice-Provost, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Dr. Claudine Bonner is leading transformational change at Acadia University as its first Vice-Provost of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). She is the senior leader responsible for providing vision, excellence, and leadership to support the University’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.
“My goal is to enact change, which begins with education and understanding,” says Bonner, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s Gender Studies, who was appointed to the new role in September. “There is much work ahead to ensure everyone at Acadia feels accepted and supported in a way that provides them opportunities to thrive.”
Currently, Bonner is focused on gauging the institutional EDI climate as well as working alongside senior administration to align the University’s strategic work with institutional EDI goals.
Advancing institutional goals
Bonner brings a wealth of experience teaching and researching gender, equity, and social justice, focusing on African Diaspora migration and identity issues. Before taking on the role, she helped identify gaps and develop recommendations as a member of the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) and the President’s Advisory Council on Decolonization.
As Vice-Provost, Bonner represents the institution locally and nationally on matters related to EDI. She is also responsible for planning, implementation, and evaluation processes to advance institutional diversity, inclusion, and equity goals.
“Acadia is fortunate to have Dr. Bonner take on this important position. EDI has a significant place in our strategic plan, and her leadership in this area will be crucial to our campus community’s ability to enact meaningful change,” says Dr. Peter Ricketts, Acadia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “We are all eager to work together toward much-needed improvements to enrich our ability to offer an increasingly diverse body of students a transformative education and conduct impactful research for the benefit of society.”
A 2021 report submitted by the PART made many recommendations on addressing racism and discrimination at Acadia. The creation of the Vice-Provost EDI position was a direct response to assist Acadia in following through on the recommendations.
Bonner holds an HBSc and MEd from Toronto, an MA from Dalhousie, and a PhD in gender, equity, and social justice from Western. She has led research projects on Diversity and Equity in Education, African-Caribbean Migration to Cape Breton, and Canada’s 19th-century Black press. She currently serves on the board of the Council of the Canadian Historical Association, Valley African Nova Scotia Development Association (VANSDA), and the Nova Scotia Women's History Society.
Working together to ensure equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism
Acadia’s strategic plan, Acadia 2025, calls for actions to advance EDI across the campus and amongst our university community. Chaired by the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, the University has created its first Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (EDIAR) Council, which Bonner serves as Vice-Chair.
The Council, comprised of a diverse group of campus and community stakeholders, will provide leadership, oversight, coordination, and advice on all matters relating to equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism at Acadia.
“The makeup of the Council is important because it includes diverse perspectives crucial to making our efforts impactful,” says Dr. Dale Keefe, Acadia’s Provost and Vice-President Academic.
The members will meet regularly to contribute to the university's policies, practices, and processes to build consistency and participation in EDIAR principles and initiatives.
“Acadia has been a leader in creating opportunities for all their students, and for being courageous in addressing social inequalities,” says Angela Simmonds, MLA for Preston, and an external community member of the Council. “I am excited to be part of Acadia’s EDIAR Council, where I know my voice will contribute to a more equitable institution."
New hiring initiative to increase faculty diversity
In January, as part of Acadia's strategic priority to advance EDI, the University and its Faculty Association collaborated to launch open searches for three Mi'kmaw or Indigenous scholars and three African Nova Scotian or African Canadian scholars.
“Acadia’s cluster hiring initiative is a way to expedite closing gaps in diversity of our faculty,” says Keefe. “The University is committed to recruiting and ensuring the success of new scholars from equity-deserving groups.”
The new cluster hire came about in recognition of the systemic underrepresentation of Indigenous and Black faculty at Acadia. Positions are available in any academic area within Acadia's three faculties and at any academic rank.
Recruitment for these positions is open and will continue until all positions have been filled.
Acting on commitment
The University Strategic Leadership Council is participating in equity training offered by the Acadia Employment Equity Committee, including Transforming Practice: Learning Equity, Learning Excellence modules.
The curriculum was developed by a working group of post-secondary professionals in Nova Scotia and aims to address an existing gap in professional development opportunities for faculty and administrative staff in higher education and is part of training for faculty and staff.
At a recent January meeting, Equity Committee representatives facilitated a discussion and reflection to address issues with action with the leadership group.
Other recent online learning modules include two developed by a political science class and the University’s Indigenous Student Advisor to help the campus community learn about the history of Indigenous peoples across Canada and in Mi'kma'ki, the unceded territory of L’nu, on whose land the Acadia campus sits.
In November 2021, Acadia joined more than 40 other universities and colleges across Canada in signing the Scarborough Charter, which identifies critical barriers to Black inclusion and approaches to identifying and responding to them — including recruiting Black faculty in clusters.
In October 2019, Acadia signed the Dimensions Charter, thereby committing to its principles and actions to address systemic barriers in research faced by women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority and racialized groups, and members of the LGBTQ2+ communities.
Also, in 2019, the University signed unique partnership agreements with the Valley African Nova Scotia Development Association (VANSDA) and the Glooscap First Nations to tackle improved structures and supports for students.