“Teaching with Humanity” faculty retreat - June 2021

The School of Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities (SASAH), hosted a 2-day virtual retreat via Zoom to provide an opportunity for the Faculty’s community to advance the work of building anti-racist and decolonized pedagogies in courses and programs. The retreat brought together a large and engaged gathering of instructors, students, graduate teaching assistants, and staff, all committed to working towards positive changes across Arts & Humanities.

The “Teaching with Humanity” retreat, held June 15th and 16th, featured a presentation by students sharing their experiences and recommendations, two keynote speakers, an interactive workshop, and several breakout discussions. Over the course of the two days, more than 70 participants collaborated to envision how to create more inclusive learning spaces, curriculum, and pedagogical practices.

The first session of the retreat began with a student discussion hosted by SASAH/English student, Matthew Dawkins (SASAH/English) and featuring Diyasha Sen (Genders, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies/Media, Information and Technoculture). The conversation between Matthew and Diyasha offered a productive and articulate presentation of shared student experiences and proposed ways in which instructors could create anti-racist and inclusive learning spaces.

Both of the keynote speakers on June 15, Dr. Christy Bressette (Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President - Indigenous Initiatives), and David Simmonds (SASAH Advisory Council, and 2020 SASAH Visiting Professor), delivered powerful addresses based on their own histories and lived experience, as both learners and teachers. The contributions from Dr. Bressette and Mr. Simmonds created a framework for the conversations that followed amongst the retreat participants.

On Wednesday, June 16, Sara Mai Chitty (Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Advisor), and Aisha Haque (Acting Director, Western’s Centre for Teaching and Learning), led a workshop focused on decolonized, anti-racist, and Indigenized pedagogies. The workshop included a presentation and offered several questions for breakout rooms and a larger, engaged conversation.

The final portion of the event extended the opportunities of earlier breakout rooms in general discussion about next steps towards establishing and advancing anti-racist, decolonizing, and Indigenizing pedagogical practices in the Faculty. Elder Myrna Kicknosway, who opened the retreat with her welcome and thanksgiving, also offered the closing remarks for the event.

This retreat built on work that has already begun at Western and in the Faculty Arts & Humanities. The goals of the retreat were to emphasize lived experiences and to provide time and community for members of our Faculty to share questions, concerns, and suggestions as they advance the work of establishing an empowered, inclusive and equitable curriculum.

To learn more about other examples of the work that is being done in the Faculty, visit our Arts & Humanities Anti-Racism Committee webpage.