AOK updates and reports

Here are summaries of the progress of the Anti-Oppression Knowledge Integrators (AOK) working group.

2021 Report

prepared by Alexandra Andratis, Anvita Desai, Allen Lu, Sally Lu, Vanessa Schweizer Chloé St. Amand

AOK mission statement, as of December 2021

The Anti-Oppression Knowledge Integrators (AOK) working group was established by the Department of Knowledge Integration to identify opportunities to advance anti-oppression in our curriculum and activities, and to contribute to the broader anti-oppression cause. This work includes but is not limited to dismantling racism, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and religious persecution, among other forms of oppression.

The working group will be charged with examining issues such as:

  • To what extent and how our curriculum supports anti-oppression as an educational objective;
  • To what extent and how our departmental activities and program offerings make the necessary space for members of the KI Community to develop their intersectional and especially racial identities and to understand their relationships to white supremacy and settler colonialism;
  • How to increase diversity in the applicant pool and examine processes that might perpetuate systemic oppression.

AOK consists of representatives from across the KI community: students, faculty, staff, alumni. They will identify opportunities to advance anti-racism and anti-oppression through KI’s curricular and extracurricular activities, and they will contribute to broader consultative processes within the University of Waterloo and extended community.


  • Alexandra Andratis, Second-year cohort representative: September 2020-December 2021.
  • Anvita Desai, Fourth-year cohort representative: September 2020-December 2021.
  • Allen Lu, First-year cohort representative: September 2020-December 2021.
  • Sally Lu, Alumni representative. Term start/end dates: September 2020-December 2021.
  • Vanessa Schweizer, Faculty representative. Term start/end dates: September 2020-December2022
  • Chloé St. Amand, Alumni representative. Term start/end dates: September 2020-December 2021.

Meeting dates

  • 12 February 2021
  • 1 March 2021 (seminar planning)
  • 19 March 2021 (seminar debrief)
  • 27 July 2021
  • 25 October 2021
  • 4 November 2021 (planning the town hall)
  • 16 November 2021 (Nov. town hall debrief)
  • 26 November 2021
  • 6 December 2021 (Nov. town hall debrief 2)
  • 20 December 2021

Summary of activities

AOK hosts a town hall during an INTEG 10 seminar (March 2021)

The working group hosted an online INTEG 10 seminar on 5 March 2021. This took place completely online using the platform Bongo. There were 3 breakout rooms. Good conversations were had amongst a total of 17 attendees, which included KI faculty, staff, and an Online Learning Assistant distributed amongst breakout rooms. Importantly, only 8 attendees were KI students not also serving on AOK; more representation among current KI students would have been preferred.

A total of seven questions were provided as points of possible reflection. These are listed below, along with summary responses from participants in breakout rooms.

  1. What are things with respect to anti-oppressive practices and equity that you would like to learn about, and how would you like to learn about these things? (See also question 4)
  2. How comfortable did you feel in applying to KI/interacting with the KI community? Did you feel supported? Do you feel the process is equitable and meets your needs?
    • Found out about KI through serendipity, social networks. This might limit who hears about KI (e.g. earlier classmates)
    • Homogenous group: How can we spread it to reach other groups, as we tend to have mostly white, females in the program?
  3. Would you like to see an “engaged citizen” breadth requirement? How would you like to see that requirement be met? (e.g. courses, HREI trainings, etc.)
    • Engaged citizen: could be added as a fifth pillar of KI
    • Addition of breadth requirement wouldn’t deter or interfere with achieving other credentials
    • 220 and 221 touches on some engaged citizenship, 230 might be a good opportunity
    • One of the regrets is not taking a course in Indigenous studies; but there may be a lot of overlap between some of those courses, and conflict resolution courses; perhaps it could be added onto the conflict resolution requirement due to their similar alignment
  4. Are there other seminars, like the one done by AOK in the past (tips for having tough conversations about oppression/prejudice), that you would like to see? What topics would you like to see discussed?
    • Seminar on having tough convos is needed, would like to see more of that kind of thing from INTEG 10
    • Oppression applies not only to race. Connect w/Jay Dolmage, UW Glow
    • Seminars on allyship
  5. Are there any on-campus groups you would like to see AOK collaborate with (e.g. residences, clubs, etc.)?
    • Connecting A-OK with RAISE → can help to spread the word about RAISE’s activities and vice versa
    • Black faculty collective & HREI
    • Could be worth looking into the Beyond Borders program at St. Jerome’s; consider the pedagogical model of Ursula Franklin Academy’s Wednesday “off” where there are no classes, but there are workshops instead; any door is the right one to go to in terms of equity
    • Connection with residences and their planning, because at residence we have specific modules for first-year students only; try to inject equity into those meetings and orientations
    • For UW Residence training, there was a lot of focus on health and safety, but there were HREI trainings (easy to skip…), guest speaker who came in on microaggressions (very common to see in residences)
  6. Do you feel that KI is an inclusive environment, especially if you are a member of an underrepresented segment of the student population? (See also question 7)
  7. Do you feel well-supported regarding anti-oppression and equity in KI?
    • Collab between KISS & A-OK so that KISS is better supported and vice versa
    • INTEG 10 announcements are a good way to disseminate info, better than KISS emails
    • Feel supported, e.g. talking with Kim

Outcomes from planning for Fall 2021 activities

While developing plans for a Fall 2021 AOK activity, such as an anti-oppression discussion group around a book or other media, the working group reflected on how it did not have a clear mandate from the KI community on what its activities should be. The working group discussed another town hall that would be more open-ended than the March town hall and would have the benefit of in-person participation as well as the participation on incoming first-year KI students. It was decided for Fall 2021 that it would be better to hold another town hall that could be more interactive.

AOK also selected a working group liaison with KISS, Alexandra Andratis.

AOK hosts a town hall during an INTEG 10 seminar (November 2021)

The town hall took place on 5 November 2021, and approximately 25 participants were present. The room was set up with clusters of chart paper, sticky notes, and markers for breakout groups. There was also an online group of 3 students (including AOK member Alexandra Andratis) participating online in one breakout group. The chart paper with sticky notes attached was collected after the INTEG 10 seminar for later analysis (see the Appendix for our synthesis). The town hall itself consisted of a brief introduction, breakout groups with reflection questions, and then a plenary to report back to the larger groups. Breakout groups were mostly self-formed, with the recommendation of cross-cohort representation (all groups were seeded with 1-2 first-year students). The staff/faculty present formed their own breakout group. Breakout group reflection question prompts were, “What does anti-oppression mean to you? What does it look like to you, for you? How well does UW/KI uphold your vision of antioppression? What would you like to see change?”. During the facilitated plenary, notes and emergent themes were written on the board.

Debriefs of Fall 2021 Town Hall

AOK members that were local to Waterloo got together to sort through the sticky notes collected from the Town Hall meeting to look for emerging themes and gain some insight into what issues students find most pressing and that AOK should prioritize moving forward. This took place over two meetings. Themes and ideas were plotted on a set of axes, easiest to hardest, and short-term vs. long-term.

New member selection

A call for statements of interest from students, alumni, and staff went out December 2nd with statements due December 17th. In making decisions about recruiting new members and reflecting on the terms of current members, it was decided that current members should have the option to renew their term if there were no new applicants.

No expressions of interest were received during the December 2021 call. Current members will continue to serve, but it has been proposed that there be another call for members during the Winter 2022 term.

Potential future work

Based on the analysis of the sticky notes collected from students at the November 5th 2021 Town Hall-style meeting, and notes from the plenary discussion, the following areas were identified as potential areas for future work for the department. A summary was reported at the November KI departmental meeting, with more detailed discussion scheduled with the department in January 2022.

  1. Near-term items, easier to implement
    • Amplify EDI events, training, groups (students seem to not be fully aware of all the activity happening on campus)
    • Celebrate the diversity of KI beyond Whiteness (students perceive that more diverse students do not come to KI because we – staff/faculty as well as student contingent – do not look diverse)
    • Do some market analysis (e.g. with a focus group) on whether KI is attractive to diverse applicants; if not, why not?
    • Interest in providing compensation to BIPOC speakers, trainers (as KI is a financially strapped dept., perhaps opportunities for meaningful non-monetary exchange could be pursued)
    • Update the “why KI” student and alumni story videos hosted on the Faculty of Environment’s YouTube channel and embedded on KI’s website to better reflect the experiences of the community
    • Find ways to promote departmental, staff, faculty, and student successes to raise KI’s profile, help attract more funds, and become more attractive to diverse applicants
    • Host discussion group – similar to a book club. Discussion material can include short books, articles, TED talks, current events, etc.
      • More generally, make space for conversations about things like current events. Could be during classes or INTEG 10 (even if just a few minutes at the beginning of a class meeting), digital space like on Learn discussion boards, or physical space, like in the studio
    • Make an effort to correct pronunciation of names, including proactively finding ways to ask students how to pronounce their names. Could be similar to the LinkedIn feature that allows one to upload short soundbites.
    • Reinforce personal reflection around EDI issues
    • Demystify how faculty/staff are hired for transparency purposes. Blurb could be hosted on the AOK website.
    • Possibly create an anti-oppression role in KISS
  2. Near-term items, but may be less easy to implement (because of approval processes, budget, etc.)
    • BKI changes, e.g. add history of colonialism breadth requirement? HMW direct students to anti-oppression courses?
    • Introduce some anti-oppression content in first year
    • Lobby new Univ. leadership about the value of KI (e.g. Pres. Goel, new ENV Dean)
    • Hire professional consultant to audit KI practices with an eye towards EDI. Relevant practices include but are not limited to recruitment, curriculum, pedagogy, hiring, and budgeting.
  3. Long-term items, may be less easy to implement
    • Recruitment that targets more diverse students
    • Create an “Information for parents” section on the KI website to help ease the minds of anxious parents and make it easier for students who are interested in KI to choose to attend
      • Translate this “for parents” page into multiple languages, such as mandarin.
    • If employing a professional consultant is not a viable option, potentially AOK could be tasked with assessing recruiting, hiring, engagement of international/exchange students (e.g. possible collaboration with Renison?)
      • Another example: AOK could gather information on current recruitment/hiring practices to understand current practices, AOK to go over and identify potential intervention points
    • Increasing the visibility/value of KI training outside KI (e.g. KI Minor, encouraging students who start in other programs to do Joint Degree with KI)
    • Diversifying KI faculty & staff hires

Fall 2020 Update

Hi KI Community! Here is an update from us (the A-OK team) on what we’ve been up to during the Fall term:

  • Since our inception in August 2020, the Anti-Oppressive Knowledge Integration Working Group (A-OK) has been working hard to build a strong foundation to contribute to the anti-oppression cause within KI and the university setting more generally.
  • As a team, we have attended various HREI trainings such as EQ204 -- Anti-Blackness at the Intersections: Racism, Resistance & Resilience Workshop and EQ202 – Anti-Racism Workshop: Understanding Racism & Racial Microaggressions within the University Context – using these university resources as a basis to inform our work. These trainings are part of A-OK’s ongoing commitment to learning and building our capacity for well-informed equity work.
  • Furthermore, we hosted two INTEG 10 sessions for the KI community. The first was a share back, hosted by Dr. Vanessa Schweizer, about Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture’s Diversity Challenge conference. The theme of the conference was “Goodbye ‘Isms’, Hello Future.” The second session, hosted by 4th year student Anvita Desai, was a presentation and discussion on “How to Have Tough Conversations about Racism”. The materials for that session were created in partnership with KISS, A-OK and the UW Equity Office.
  • Last but not least, most of A-OK’s time over the Fall was spent developing the first iteration of our AOK website! The site includes our statement of intent, values, resources, a contact forum and some more information about us as representatives of A-OK. We will be continuing to update the website in the coming months.

If you have input, questions or curiosity about A-OK and our plans for the coming term(s), come check out our Town Hall during INTEG 10 on March 5th.