On June 23, 2020 the Wellness Collaborative hosted a virtual university-wide event that focused on sense of belonging. Our goal was to become more familiar with the role of sense of belonging at UWaterloo, while identifying meaningful actions for creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, and staff.
We heard belonging stories from UWaterloo’s president and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur, alongside students, faculty, and staff. Jennifer McCorriston, chair of the Wellness Collaborative, revealed the proposed wellness priorities for the University of Waterloo, which include:
- Institutional Commitment for Wellness at all Levels
- Mental Wellness
- Sense of Belonging
- Supportive Environments for Active Living and Healthy Eating
- Spiritual Wellness
We also heard from Christine Logel about her research that focuses on sense of belonging among post-secondary students.
Christine Logel is an associate professor of Social Development Studies at Renison University College. She is also the co-founder and head of research at the College Transition Collaborative. Logel’s research focuses on creating inclusive and caring campus communities by addressing barriers to belonging that many minority groups face on university campuses.
Logel highlighted the idea of creating bright spots: opportunities on campus that foster equity and sense of belonging. We can all contribute to creating these bright spots at UWaterloo, and Logel outlined four ways in which we can do so:
1. Check in with others
Sometimes, something as simple as a check-in email can be especially impactful for both yourself and the individual you are checking in on. Showing your support and care for others creates a stronger sense of belonging that has the potential to initiate a snowball effect, creating a community that actively pursues stronger sense of belonging in many different ways.
2. Show others that you see them as a whole person
While this can be challenging in a virtual environment, there are always things you can do to show others that you value them. Words are powerful, and doing something as seemingly simple as sharing a few words of empowerment at the beginning of a lecture or meeting has the ability to enhance sense of belonging.
3. Normalize struggling
A crucial aspect of supporting others who are struggling is to prevent them from concluding that their struggles mean that they don’t belong. There are many ways you can do this, including normalizing shared experiences that deal with feelings of not belonging, talking openly about mental health, and even sharing your own belonging story to help decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness.
4. Connect others to resources
If you feel as though you have the capacity, being able to help connect individuals to resources is one of the most impactful things you can do to support someone. For academic advisors, this could mean teaching a student how to approach their professor with a question in a way that can help guarantee a meaningful response. For students, this could mean being able to support a friend in the decision to reach out to receive additional help. It is important to recognize that something as short as a minute of support could mean the difference between accessing or avoiding resources.
There are so many resources available on campus with the potential to give students, staff, and faculty the power to embrace sense of belonging in many different ways. Thinking to the future, it is time to start utilizing these resources to their full potential in order to create a campus in which everyone has the chance to feel as though they belong. It is crucial that we continue to consider how we can embed wellness and belonging into all of our operations here at UWaterloo, which is something that cannot be done unless we continue to support and honour others in their own sense of belonging stories.
What is one thing you are going to do to foster sense of belonging today and every day?
If you're interested in watching the entire event, click here.
Documents from the Event
These documents are from the Wellness Collaborative sense of belonging event: