C/O Mike Wong
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.
Mike Wong: My name is Mike Wong and I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences.
What inspires you to research what you do?
Personal and interpersonal experiences. I think I'm at a point in my life where I don't want to do things that aren't meaningful to me. I'm fascinated by neuroplasticity. I'm fascinated with research in all the areas I've done in the past but I've gotten to a point where I want to do things that are also meaningful to people on a broader scale. For example, stress-related research. I teach and stress comes up a lot. Feelings of burnout or being overwhelmed is something students really struggle with. I always try to think back to when I was a student and I definitely struggled with that. With this work, eventually, I'd like to use it for recommendations to student wellness centres to find different strategies for students. With the educational practices, I'm interested in getting the word out there to make our classes more inclusive, to make our classes less stressful. What can we do as instructors to improve the student experience? How do we build a community, how do we reduce stress and how do we support students as they go through what is arguably one of the most difficult chapters in their lives? I find that really, really meaningful.
You said in a previous interview that if you didn't pursue science that you might want to go into culinary arts. Has this changed?
I struggled a lot with what I wanted to do as a career in my third and fourth years. I went all over the place. I had a really big interest in ancient Greco-Roman history, I actually wanted to do [graduate school] in ancient history. I thought about politics. I thought about business. I thought about teaching at a high school level. I had a huge list and I made a spreadsheet of all the pros and cons of all the different careers I could see myself in.
Another part of me wanted to leave academia, wanted to leave science. I looked into the real estate world. I looked into culinary arts. I was exploring. My brother always wanted to be a chef but he never did so that trickled in my mind. If I were to ever leave academia, I think I would still consider becoming a chef and going into the culinary world. I love food. I love plating my food. There's just everything about food that I love. It makes me so happy.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share?
I won't frame it as giving advice, I'd frame it just from personal experience. You can plan and plan and plan but sometimes the unexpected happens. When I hear the word success and I hate the word success, I'm always reminded of this diagram where you have the word success and you see a linear arrow. When we look at people and I know I am guilty of that, too, you see someone who seems really put together and you think they're so successful, they're so smart. But I think for most people, that journey isn't linear. There are a lot of these twists and turns. That learning journey is very messy and life is no different. I remember when I was an undergrad, I thought “Oh, I'm going to finish undergrad, I'll do some postgraduate work and I'll get a job and everything is going to be great and dandy.” But that isn't my experience. I've had to face a lot of ups and downs over the years but I've learned to really trust the process. Things will work out in the end. It may not be what you expect, but I think it will work out. It may be tough at times but I'm a true believer that things do work out in the end.
The other thing I've learned is to let the journey take you; let the journey guide you. I think sometimes we get tunnel vision. We think, “This is what I want and I'm going to focus all my experiences on this end goal.” But I think by doing that, we're sometimes depriving ourselves of all the other experiences that could have been. I know uncertainty is scary, but there's almost a beauty to that because rather than funnelling all your experiences to this angle, you're allowing yourself to explore all of these different opportunities that can ultimately lead you to something that may be more meaningful to you.
C/O Patrick Malleret, Unsplash
TikTok and Instagram’s image of “that girl” is not the only way to live a fulfilling life
TikTok has slowly developed an unhealthy obsession with a recent phenomenon termed “that girl.” For those unfamiliar with this trend, “that girl” refers to an individual (not necessarily a girl) who seemingly is well-put and has their life together.
“That girl” has a perfect routine that has made her fit, mentally healthy and motivated. Instagram and TikTok creators have been posting their daily routines in the promise of helping their followers also become “that girl.”
However, I strongly take issue with this newly risen phenomenon.
One of the less serious issues I have with these countless “routine videos” is the repetitiveness of it. In other words, every single influencer is telling you to do the exact same set of activities in order to achieve greatness. They only slightly change their wording and use varying camera shots and angles to differentiate themselves from other bloggers.
According to almost all of them, the pathway of success has four simple steps.
Firstly, you must wake unreasonably early between the hours of 5:00-6:00 am. Secondly, you are obliged to exercise and meditate immediately after you have woken up. Thirdly, you need to eat incredibly healthy and have a daily consumption of lemon water, avocado toast and berry smoothies. Finally, the last requirement is to replace all forms of technology with journaling.
And so forth, your phone addiction will slowly wear off and you will have a healthy obsession with journaling instead. I don't believe that these routines are inherently wrong, but rather disagree with the repetitiveness of them.
As I mentioned, almost all content creators are promoting the exact same and unvaried set of steps. This makes the audience question whether these four steps are truly the only route to success. One might ask themselves if they will ever achieve their goals if they don’t wake up early, exercise and eat healthy.
Unless it isn’t clear, no, the only way of achieving success is not through these four steps. To start, studies have shown that high productivity is not always linked to waking up early. Countless research articles have exhibited how some individuals are biologically more attentive and fresh in the morning, while others are more alert at night.
Furthermore, research has shown again that there is no objectively ideal time for exercising. Studies have shown how working out in the morning, afternoon and evening have respective advantages.
The same logic follows with replacing technology with journaling. Although it might be helpful to some, it’s not the objectively right method of accomplishing your goals.
To clarify, I don’t think that these routines are intentionally promoting the idea that these activities are objectively correct. However, social media can be incredibly toxic at times and swallow us in a tornado of insecurity, doubt and anxiety.
When we constantly see these routines, more often than not we doubt ourselves and our abilities. We question whether we’re behind in the “race of success” since we’re not following their advised typical four steps.
In these situations, we often have to take a step back, understand our individual situation and then proceed to make a decision on whether these routines are the best choice for us. If so, then great!
However, if not, we need to understand how it’s not a favourable routine for our lifestyle to immobilize the feelings of inadequacy and insecurity early on.
C/O Youssef Naddam, Unsplash
New psychoeducational groups at the Student Wellness Centre starting this month
Psychoeducational groups are designed to focus on teaching a specific topic with an emphasis on developing healthy coping mechanisms.
This month, McMaster University’s Student Wellness Centre is launching multiple psychoeducational groups. This includes the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, the Love Better group and the Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety group.
Psychoeducational groups at McMaster have been done in the past by counselors, health promoters or SWC staff. Simone Gomes, a counselor at SWC and facilitator of the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, explained that these groups are developed by these professionals based on their area of expertise and interest.
Starting Jan. 12, Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness is a consecutive five-week psychoeducational group that dives into what self-compassion and mindfulness mean and how students can develop these things in their lives.
It will take place online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Gomes explained that each of the five weeks highlights a different area within this topic. This includes introducing self-compassion and mindfulness, identifying self-criticism, practicing mindfulness and techniques to integrate that into one’s life.
Each session will aim to be informative by having students read articles or a particular website for discussion prior to entering the session. Gomes stated that this particular group tends to run once per semester (including spring and summer) and if curious, folks can contact her at [email protected].
“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience,” said Gomes.
Also starting Jan. 12, Love Better is another consecutive five-week psychoeducational group. This group will run online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Liz Nabi, a counselor at the SWC and facilitator for this group, explained that this group aims to educate students about healthy relationships and help them build skills that are crucial in developing these relationships.
Over the weeks, the group will touch base on qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the effect of past relationships on current relationships, tools to build long-lasting relationships and how to deal with conflict and/or breakups.
Nabi emphasized that love is not just a feeling but a skill that one can get better at with practice and that sentiment was actually the inspiration behind the group's name.
“I decided to run a relationship group because this is really a phase of life where dating/intimate relationships start to become a main focus for students. Students often describe wanting to have really positive, healthy relationships yet at times struggle to develop the types of relationships they want. We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being,” said Nabi.
Nabi shared that Love Better may also be running a second time in March. If students are unable to join the group in January, they can keep an eye out for the second recruitment.
Those who are interested or have questions can contact Nabi at [email protected].
Starting on Jan. 19, Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety is a four week group that uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and narrative skills therapy to explore social anxiety and strategies to cope.
This program will run Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Within the four weeks, four different topics will be covered. This includes defining social anxiety, models of social anxiety, self-reflection about one's own boundaries and understanding the implications shame has on one’s self. These concepts will be tied together at the end with an activity called Life Map where students will highlight significant people or events that shape their social anxiety.
If interested, students can contact Morgan Lucas, a facilitator for this group, at [email protected].
The variety of psychoeducational groups provided by the SWC gives students the opportunity to target specific topics they would like to work on. Aside from the groups mentioned in this article, other groups such as Embracing Gender Diversity and Mindfulness approach to Food and Eating are also available starting in January. For a full list of programs offered by the SWC, students can visit https://wellness.mcmaster.ca/programs/.
Multi-talented artist is learning from and giving back to the Hamilton community
Clairandean Humphrey is a jack of all trades, but far from a master of none. The oracle card reader, artist and movement instructor reads tarot cards, draws, paints, makes video art, sings, writes songs, teaches yoga, Pilates and much more.
Throughout their life, Humphrey picked up and refined these different practices. In all their work, Humphrey is guided by the principle of affirming that they’re here.
“[T]here's so many stereotypes and tropes that see past a person's existence. We don't really get to know people because of prejudices and our biases. And so a lot of my work now is exploring and investigating anti-oppression and gender-inclusive language and understanding that it's always changing,” said Humphrey.
Humphrey added that it is important for them to stay in conversation with others, adjust to the various nuances and be aware of the ways they are impacting others.
Awareness of this impact is especially important because of the multiple avenues through which Humphrey has interacted with the Hamilton community since moving to the city in 2019.
One of these avenues is through singing and songwriting. They grew up in a musical household and began writing songs in their early 20s. During the summer of 2019, they put together an extended play record, recording in it in a kitchen and an attic. In April 2020, they released the finished project called Moving in the Dark.
“[The process of making the EP was] very scary and I didn't want to do it. But for some reason, I need to record this EP. It's sitting inside and it wants to get out, so it feels like a restlessness . . . [I recorded it] and then I sat on it. And then 2020 happened . . . I did a mini-concert online when it was big and hot on the internet. And it was just fun, even though I was nervous and felt terrified. It was just fun to express that and to put that in the world. And I feel like that was a part of my healing from going from Toronto to Hamilton and allowing myself to learn here,” said Humphrey.
However, music wasn’t the only practice that Humphrey grew in Hamilton. Much of their time has been devoted to their involvement with Pilates, yoga, and mindfulness studio, Goodbodyfeel.
While Humphrey has always been an active person, it was in their 20s that they began practising yoga. After getting out of a toxic relationship, they re-entered a movement practice more seriously. They joined Goodbodyfeel in 2018 and completed training with the studio in late 2019.
Through Goodbodyfeel, Humphrey was introduced to trauma-informed movement and anti-oppressive wellness spaces. As an instructor with the studio, they teach a class exclusively for queer, trans and nonbinary folks and a Saturday morning class called Mantra + Movement + Mindfulness.
In this class, Humphrey pulls an oracle or tarot card at the beginning and then creates a mantra throughout this class. This class incorporates their role as a tarot card reader.
Humphrey was introduced to tarot through a partner who was also interested in the occult world. While living in Quebec for four years and learning French, they had the time to study the mythology and meanings of the cards. During this time, they also discovered they were a witch through understanding the uses of medicinal plants.
Now, through Clarity Tarot, Humphrey reads tarot for others. As with their movement practice, their tarot readings are trauma-informed, anti-oppressive and gender-inclusive. They are currently offering readings online through Zoom. In the past, they have also done readings at Hamilton store The Witch’s Fix.
“[T]arot has done a lot for me, but it's kind of hard to put it in all in words in one shot. When you're talking about the intuitive arts, it can sound really like up there. I think what I do is try to make it more practical. It's in your mundane world. It's how you make your tea. It's having a conversation with a friend. There's spiritual moments in that, even just connecting with someone else. I think people think the spiritual is very far away [but] it's right where you're at. You don't have to look far and it's a lot simpler than you think,” explained Humphrey.
Currently, Humphrey is working on a number of projects. They are doing a number of trainings to deepen their understanding of trauma-informed movement, teaching movement to youth, anatomy, physiology and merging justice work with yoga.
They are also working on a number of art projects. They are organizing their works so they can begin sharing them with the public. They are also part of an art collective that is trying to get grants to create movement pieces.
As they have in their own life, Humphrey encourages students to go after the things that they want.
“If you are truly passionate about something or you're feeling intrigued by something, don't let anyone stop you. And don't let your doubts stop you. And it's not to say you're not going to have fears or doubts, but don't let it stop you from expressing what you need to express,” Humphrey said.
Gugu Mpofu shares her experiences of self-discovery, wellness and being Black in South Korea
Travelling is a powerful way to broaden your perspective, grow your mindset and indulge in self-discovery. Every year, many students choose to study abroad or take a gap year to discover the world and seek new experiences. However, travelling for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, especially as a woman alone, can be scary.
Researching the safety of the destination for BIPOC is an important part of preparing for a trip abroad. Nonetheless, this did not stop McMaster alumna Gugu Mpofu from moving halfway across the globe to South Korea to teach English.
Mpofu had wanted to become a teacher since she was in high school. It was also then that she was first introduced to South Korean pop culture through K-dramas and K-pop. Four years after graduating from McMaster in 2014 with a degree in anthropology, she made the bold decision to move to a small city called Jeoncheon in South Korea and teach English.
Although Mpofu was excited to start her new journey in Korea, as a Black woman, it still came with certain fears.
“I was really scared of racism. That was my biggest fear. I was scared to go outside during the day [for the first month] because I was like, “People could see me,” and so I [went] out at night and covered myself up just in case. But nothing [racist] happened in my city,” said Mpofu.
The locals’ response to seeing Mpofu was mostly of surprise and curiosity. Living in an ethnically homogenous country, some were seeing a Black person for the first time. They wanted to learn more about her and approached her with many questions about her story and background.
However, acts such as old ladies touching Mpofu’s hair have occurred throughout her time there. She also recalls one incident when one of her students was feeling her skin and comparing it to their own skin out of curiosity. Despite these incidents, Mpofu was glad that she was placed in a smaller city because to her surprise, she faced more overt racism in larger cities.
Most of the discrimination in bigger cities occurred in the night scene. She has been denied access to a nightclub that claimed to not allow foreigners in even though she witnessed white girls walk in before her.
Another time, she tried to tell a DJ not to use the N-word, only for the DJ to respond with hostility saying, “This is Korea, I can do whatever I want. If you don’t like it, you can leave.”
Much of the racism towards other people of colour in South Korea comes from stereotypes picked up from Western media and ignorance of the country’s own problem with racism.
Recently, with increasing global attention from the rise of Korean pop culture and movements such as Black Lives Matter, Mpofu has noticed more discussions about racism in South Korea. She has had conversations with her Korean co-workers and seen more conversations on social media platforms, such as TikTok, about BLM and Korea’s prejudices against other people of colour. Although small, there were also a few BLM protests held in South Korea.
Mpofu found her first few months difficult to adjust to the new culture. The greatest source of support and help for Mpofu was her students, who are still her favourite part of her job. She was her students’ first foreign teacher and they were excited to get to know her.
Living in a small city, teaching is one of the most popular work opportunities for foreigners. This has allowed Mpofu to also meet others who hail from outside of South Korea and even fellow Canadians.
Moving across the world to South Korea has taught Mpofu that she is resilient.
“I have much more strength than I thought I did and I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it. I don’t let fear stop me. I think [moving to South Korea] was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Mpofu.
Mpofu has also learned more about herself and become more adventurous and outgoing. She is proud of her growth as an independent woman who is able to handle difficult situations on her own and is comfortable being by herself. She has also travelled to other countries within Southeast Asia and discovered more about other culture’s ways of life.
Apart from her job as an English teacher, Mpofu shares her enthusiasm for wellness and travel through her Instagram account where she showcases ways of self-love, growth and self-care. By documenting her experiences in a foreign country as a Black woman, she hopes to show that it is safe for BIPOC to come to these places and have a positive experience.
The Mindfulness Passport is another aspect of her blog that focuses strictly on wellness and self-awareness. She offers free journal prompts to help people with self-doubt, confidence and healing.
With limited opportunities to travel during the current pandemic, these journal prompts offer a way to practice mindfulness and wellness at home. Being vulnerable and authentic with her own wellness journey has always been important to Mpofu and she is grateful for the positive responses from her audience who are on a similar path and have a similar passion for travel.
“I became this confident woman who was comfortable in her own skin [through travelling] and I just wanted to show other people that they could also be authentically confident,” explained Mpofu.
As a wellness coach in-training, Mpofu hopes to inspire and help others to be open-minded, curious and become their authentic selves.
Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative is making teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants
Representation matters. It’s an absolutely essential part of reclaiming and decolonizing spaces for the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community. Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative, Fueling Reclamation, is bolstering the fight for representation, by making their teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants. By doing this, they are helping to decolonize the wellness industry.
Robin Lacambra had already been working in the movement and wellness industry for many years when she moved to Hamilton. As she began to practice in studios in her new city, she recognized the lack of representation of the BIPOC community in studios not only in Hamilton but also in Toronto where she grew up.
“It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political. So it was in trying to find a movement community here in Hamilton that I woke up to a need of mine, which is to have a space that felt safe for me to be in my full expression as a queer woman of colour,” explained Lacambra.
This realization prompted Lacambra to create the space that she needed. She started teaching pop-ups in 2018 and then that same year ran her first teacher training. Many of the graduates from the course went on to be the teaching staff for Goodbodyfeel when it officially opened in 2019.
While Goodbodyfeel is a Pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio, at its core it’s a place of inclusion, healing, empowerment and representation.
“[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion,” said Lacambra.
This philosophy is at the heart of Goodbodyfeel and everything they do, from the classes they offer to the individuals they employ.
“We really centre values of equity and representation, equity and accessibility. I don't ignore the hard realities of systemic oppression and the studio works to challenge systems of oppression, both in the way that we run our business and the way that we share our offerings to the broader public, in the folks that I employ . . . and we do our offerings, don't shy away from creating exclusive spaces for safer spaces. So we have classes that are exclusively for folks of colour, we have classes that are exclusively for queer, trans and non-binary folks, we have classes that are exclusively for folks in bigger bodies. And so yeah, we believe in creating these inclusive spaces for healing,” said Lacambra.
Goodbodyfeel’s teaching staff is mostly made up of BIPOC women, with 10 of 14 teachers being BIPOC and of these 10, seven are Black. Lacambra continues to offer a teacher training program at Goodbodyfeel and also offers scholarships for BIPOC individuals in an effort to make the training more financially accessible.
In February, Goodbodyfeel launched a crowdfunding campaign, Fueling Reclamation, to offer the teacher training program free of charge this year to the 15 individuals who applied for BIPOC scholarships and to help finance a BIPOC specific edition of the teacher training in 2022.
“For me, it is the way to radically shift representation of leaders in wellness. Many wellness practices are from brown and black cultures of origin and why isn’t our mainstream leadership reflective of that . . . It started off as just scholarships or subsidies that I could afford to give and seeing that the folks who would apply for the scholarship and subsidies were growing every year. I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?” explained Lacambra.
This campaign is an example of an easy, concrete way the larger Hamilton community can support the BIPOC community and contribute to decolonization.
“It's overdue. This kind of investment into BIPOC leadership is overdue [and] it's easy reparations for the folks who are like, “Oh, I'm so overwhelmed. How I can contribute to anti-racist work?” Here you go, here's a really easy way to do it. Just help fund it, help spread the word, help empower our future changemakers. If we're fully fueling BIPOC leadership, we are fueling an equitable future,” emphasized Lacambra.
cw: this article references eating disorders/disordered eating
Body Brave Canada is a charitable organization that provides resources and support for individuals struggling with eating disorders/disordered eating. On Nov. 10, they will be holding a Book Swap at The Spice Factory (121 Hughson St. North) in order to being the community together and raise awareness about their work. There will be a reading by local author Anne Bokma for her new book, “My Year of Living Spiritually: From Woo-Woo to Wonderful” and a pop-up shop for the body-positive clothing brand Mettamade.
Julie Shea, the chair of Body Brave’s Board of Directors, says that she hopes the event will help people realize how important it is to have adequate resources for eating disorders/disordered eating.
“Eating disorders are sometimes not given the validation that they need to have. They’re a very serious mental health disorder and I don’t think enough people realize how serious and prevalent they are, and that they have a 10% mortality rate. This is in our community. There are people dying in our community, there are people suffering in our community, and there are no resources,” said Shea.
Body Brave Canada seeks to fill the gap left by traditional health care. They offer a number of accessible options and resources, both in-person and online.
Mettamade is a manifestation of the good work Body Brave has done for the community. It was created by mother-daughter duo Carol Davies and Morgan MacDonald, both of whom have worked with Body Brave in the past. They create clothing that is more forgiving for people who struggle to shop and find clothes that fit. They have designed a sizing system based around gemstones instead of numbers. Rather than a size eight or a medium, you might be a topaz. The fabric is bamboo-spandex, making it both comfortable and sustainable.
“When you wear them it’s like giving yourself self-compassion,” said Davies.
Mettamade frequently collaborates with Body Brave and donates a portion of their sales to the organization. For the Book Swap, 50 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to Body Brave.
“We’re giving back to a group that was instrumental in my daughter’s recovery,” said Davies.
Mettamade was in part created to make more forgiving clothes for MacDonald while she was struggling with an eating disorder. It was during that time that she and Davies started to work with Body Brave. MacDonald wasn’t able to find resources elsewhere, but Body Brave helped her.
The Book Swap takes place this Sunday Nov. 10 from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. at The Spice Factory. Tickets are $20 each. Bring five books with you and take five away. If you are interested in supporting Mettamade, they have a few pop-up shops coming up this month and a brick-and-mortar store in Westdale.
“We need people to know we’re here, and to support the cause,” said Shea.
To find out more about Body Brave Canada, you can take a look at their website or drop by the Book Swap. If you or someone that you care about is struggling with disordered eating and are not sure where to turn, reach out.
By: Neda Pirouzmand
One of the key issues that the MSU points out in the “Health and Wellness” policy paper is that referrals from the Student Wellness Centre are not tailored to the needs of students.
The MSU suggests that the SWC neglects to account for how students will reach community referrals or how much it will cost them.
The policy paper brings forward a number of recommendations to combat these issues, proposing the SWC connect with MSU peer support services to provide support for McMaster’s diverse student population.
The MSU also recommends that the SWC offer harm reduction services and feedback opportunities to students.
The policy paper also includes recommendations for other university stakeholders, suggesting that professors and teaching assistants be required to undergo mental health first aid training.
According to this policy paper, McMaster off-campus resource centre resources are underused by students. The OCRC has not posted on Facebook since April 2017.
Another issue is that demand is overtaking supply in the student housing market. The quantity and quality of available housing opportunities is on the decline.
In light of these issues, the MSU recommends the city of Hamilton to proceed with its proposed investment of $347,463 to hire three full-time employees for a two-year rental licensing pilot project beginning in 2019 to annually inspect buildings in Hamilton.
The MSU also suggests that McMaster seek more public-private partnerships to improve the supply of nearby student housing.
This policy paper first notes that McMaster has a ten year plan to make its campus “car free,” which would reduce accessibility by moving the HSR bus stop from University and Sterling Street to the McMaster Go bus station.
According to the paper, another accessibility concern lies in the fact that most McMaster professors neither consider nor actively incorporate strategies and recommendations outlined in McMaster’s accessibility resources.
The paper also points out that learning materials are often inequitable and the university has significant work to do when it comes to promoting and implementing accessible pedagogy.
The MSU puts forward a number of recommendations to improve the university’s accessibility practices.
The paper argues that all professors teaching in rooms fitted for podcasting should post podcasts and use accessible formats for supplementary class material.
In addition, the paper suggests that intramurals reduce their pre-playoff participation requirement from 50 to 30 per cent, as students with disabilities may not be able to make all games.
According to the paper, student accessibility services should have an open catalogue for student notes, where students in need would not be limited to resources from one student.
The dominant issue highlighted in this policy paper is the fact that faculty staff and many student groups do not receive mandatory anti-oppressive practices training.
In addition, according to the paper, McMaster Security Services has been involved in the excessive carding and racial profiling of students.
Another issue concerns the fact that there exists no record-keeping system of student demographics in relation to enrollment and dropout rates by faculty.
Students are also largely unaware of the McMaster Religious, Spiritual, and Indigenous Observances policy.
Some recommendations in the paper call for McMaster to explore alternative enrollment application streams for underrepresented groups.
The paper also suggests that applicants looking for research funding from Mcmaster identify how their research will appeal to or account for marginalized populations.
According to the paper, McMaster should mandate equity and diversity requirements for all undergrads.
Chairs of hiring committees, security staff, teaching assistants and faculty members should undergo mandatory AOP training.
Another recommendation calls for the EIO to investigate carding and racial profiling trends centered around McMaster Security Services.
Statistics Canada data suggests that persons with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized identities are vastly underrepresented in workforces in Canada. To help marginalized students and alumni seek employment, the Student Success Centre launched the Career Access Program for Students, a suite of services offered in collaboration with the Student Accessibility Centre and Maccess.
CAPS focuses on skill building and career development through career advising, strategic goal setting and personal branding. Students also work on creating an employment action plan that is customized to meet their needs.
The program is for students and alumni that identify as persons with disabilities, First Nations, Metis and Inuit persons, members of racialized communities, First Generation students and LGBTQA2S+ students.
Students and alumni can book one-on-one appointments through OSCARPlus, participate through events, or utilize online resources to learn about financial accommodations for students with disabilities, wellness support services, a transit accessibility initiative and campaigns to promote diverse practices.
The SSC also introduced a new position.
Katherine Hesson-Bolton started her position as the diversity employment coordinator in July 2018.
Her initial goals were finding her way around campus alongside first-year students, reading reports, developing a network with faculties, students, campus services and partners and identifying service gaps and needs.
Hesson-Bolton’s role places her in a unique position as a connecting link between McMaster and the greater community.
She regularly meets with employers in hopes of coming away with jobs and opportunities for students while also having conversations around diversity hiring and removing barriers.
She then is able to provide employers with on-campus and external resources, such as ones coming from Pride at Work Canada, to help them address diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“It’s really about having a conversation with the employer to hear what their needs are, what McMaster students’ needs are, and then finding that fit… So it’s really about relationship building on both sides,” said Hesson-Bolton.
“It also comes back to reaching back to those campus partners, whether it’s student accessibility services or Indigenous services,” said Hesson-Bolton. “I also work a lot with and involve students on campus because it’s really important to get students’ perspective and their feedback.”
Hesson-Bolton also strategizes with employees on branding. Some employers have identified that they want to focus on inclusion, but do not know how to identify and address the needs of new employees.
“You may have employers who will want to hire students with disabilities. And the question back is ‘have you thought about how your workplace is set up? What are your policies, procedures, your staff education, so that the new employee feels included?’,” said Hesson-Bolton.
Hesson-Bolton starts the conversation by discussing meeting the needs of new hires, whether that be identifying the accommodations that would allow persons with disabilities to work, establishing prayer spaces or recognizing that always having social events in establishments that serve alcohol may exclude some individuals.
Hesson-Bolton also has important conversations with students and alumni around disclosure in the workplace and accommodation plans.
She also provides a space for students to talk about their frustrations, experiences with discrimination, while also connecting them to mentors and peers with similar lived experience.
There is a strong need for university services to support students entering the workforce and address the barriers to diversity and inclusion. The CAPS program and the role of the diversity employment coordinator are just getting started.
By: Rida Pasha
It is unsurprising that there is an increase in mental health issues among university students, especially here at McMaster University. Whether it is stress, relationships, family or work, there are numerous factors that can contribute to developing mental health issues.
While professional help is encouraged, such as therapy or counselling, these services can be very expensive for the average student.
Though McMaster prides itself on the mental health resources it provides, such as those at the Student Wellness Centre, it is commonly known that the university has much room for improvement.
One of the ongoing concerns at the SWC is the amount of time it takes to actually see a counsellor.
The lack of counsellors present at McMaster has been an issue for a while and though various students have advocated for the SWC to hire more counsellors in order to meet the demand, it is important that any counsellors hired reflect the student population at McMaster.
The university is home to various groups of people that come from diverse backgrounds and communities. Not only is it important for students to see more representation at the SWC, it is also important to acknowledge that many students feel more comfortable seeking help from counsellors that they can relate to.
For a university that is home to thousands of students of colour and members of the LGBTQA2S+ community, it is essential that the SWC hire more counsellors that are able to relate and provide a sense of understanding to these students’ struggles.
As someone who is an Indian immigrant that grew up in Canada, I personally would feel more prompted to seek counselling if I knew there were Asian professionals that had a similar background to mine.
I would feel more encouraged to discuss details of my life such as my culture and heritage, which is something that my counsellor could likely relate to without misunderstanding.
Additionally, as it can be difficult for international students to adjust to Canadian culture, they may wish to seek counselling. As it stands, there are not many services specified for international students concerning mental health and wellness.
If the SWC were to hire more counsellors aimed at improving the mental health of these international students, more students may be inclined to use their services to improve their mental health and overall experience at McMaster.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 34 per cent of Ontario high school students have indicated psychological distress on a moderate to serious level and these levels are only bound to increase during university.
Though McMaster has attempted to provide services aimed at improving mental health and wellness, it is time the university took active change.
It is vital that McMaster acts to not only increase the number of counsellors, but also to increase the diversity of counsellors available for the numerous groups of students who call McMaster home.