Smita Bharadia wanted to create something that would have a lasting impact on Carleton’s campus.
“When I started in Equity Services about six years ago, I was looking at some way of finding a program that would create change and awareness,” she recalls.
That’s why Bharadia, Carleton’s equity services adviser, launched Allies in Equity – a non-credit program offered to students that teaches them how to affect change on campus.
Six students have gone through the program this semester, working evenings and on weekends.
Now, they are wrapping it up with a campus-wide awareness campaign to teach others what they’ve learned.
Jessica Prominski, a third-year human rights and law student, took part in the course because she recently became more aware of homophobic and sexist remarks being made on campus and noticed that there were also accessibility issues.
“Even though Carleton is accessible, things need to be fixed,” Prominski says.
Peter Eromosele is an international student from Nigeria who’s in third-year engineering who sought out the Allies in Equity program to take part in an extra curricular activity.
In Nigeria, he wasn’t exposed to issues of accessibility and he says the Allies in Equity program opened his eyes.
“In my country, you don’t see places where they create special roads and elevators,” he explains. “When I came to Canada and I saw these things, I didn’t understand the reason why they were there.”
Eromosele notes the program also exposed him to mental health issues and taught him how to respect people more.
Both Eromosele and Prominski believe the program has a special value to a university campus where there is still misunderstanding and judgement – especially about mental health issues.
They say this program could lead to a more unified campus and awareness of issues.
“A university has people from all different places and it’s important to be open-minded and more understanding, especially when you (are going to be out in the workforce) one day,” says Prominski.
Bharadia adds this “ripple effect” is what she wanted the program to achieve.
“I’m a great proponent of the ripple effect,” she explains. “Ripples can be felt much wider than we realize. A student can touch 100 other students in a day.”
Allies in Equity gives students the opportunity to become leaders and be part of creating change within the Carleton community and later in life, she says.
These students also learned the value of teamwork and the program helped with their self-esteem – other values that will benefit them after graduation.
“These were students who would have normally not worked with each other or interacted,” says Bharadia. “So what you’ve created is a sense of community, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment – which is above and beyond the academic pieces.”
The next Allies in Equity session begins in January.