A group of study abroad students from Wayne State University in Michigan visited York University’s Keele Campus on March 14 for an inclusivity workshop hosted by York International.
Faculty of Education Professor Vidya Shah, along with support from Professor Roopa Desai Trilokekar and five undergraduate students, facilitated the workshop titled “Creating Inclusive and Equitable Classrooms for All Learners” for the group of 21 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors.
The Wayne State University students are part of one of three learning communities – Warrior Vision and Impact Program (VIP), RISE and the Network. These learning communities are focused on students (who may be first generation) from Detroit Public Schools who are interested in collaborative work with other students of colour, or use their respective learning communities to develop their “belonging” on campus.
Toronto was selected as the destination for the program, not only for its proximity to Detroit, but also because both Detroit and Toronto are home to diverse immigrant communities that include different ethnicities and races. These diverse communities provide an interesting setting for exploring differences and similarities on a number of issues, including integration, belonging, diversity and equity.
Specifically, the goals of the programs are to:
- expose students to their first global/study abroad experience (many of the students are leaving Detroit for the first time);
- explore/compare the political, social, and cultural structures of both countries (health care, transportation, education etc.) and their respective impact on local communities;
- explore/compare the immigrant experience, race relations, equity and justice concepts in Canada versus the U.S.;
- allow students to explore their own cultural values in the context of a global society; and
- experience the food and culture scene in Toronto.
“This was the first international experience for this group of first-generation students from Wayne State University,” said Trilokekar. “We’re thrilled they chose York University and particularly that the Faculty of Education offered them a safe space to allow for learning from and with one another. International experiences offer students tremendous experiences to reflect on their own identities, gain new knowledge of inequities and injustices, challenge understandings of international politics/history/geography, and develop self-confidence, empathy and maturity.”
Participants shared their thoughts on the program, and agreed it was a valuable experience.
“It was interesting to hear the students from Detroit’s perceptions of Canadians and what our role is in making the world a more equitable place,” said Tomika McIntosh. “I really enjoyed and appreciated the open conversations we were able to have on our lived experiences in everyday life and education. I learned so much from everyone. I am now fighting for liberation opposed to just equity.”
Roberto Melendez said it was an incredible learning experience that helped to not only put faces and stories to American education experiences, but offered an opportunity to reflect.
“In exploring how two very different paths ultimately allowed for us to be in the same room, I was forced to question what exactly it means to be Canadian and how that influenced my own lived experiences,” said Melendez.