In monthly EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) discussions, members of Aalto personnel gets together to discuss how to advance equity, diversity and inclusion at our work.
Aalto gathers monthly to talk equality, diversity and inclusion – Join us!
Author: Suvi Helko, Project Specialist, Oasis of Radical Wellbeing
When the Wellbeing Desk – which offers easy-to-try well-being services for Aalto staff – began in early spring, Suvi Helko wondered about the lack of references to EDI themes in the Wellbeing Desk’s schedule, despite talk of the services being developed with EDI viewpoints in mind.
Without further ado, Helko contacted Aalto’s EDI officer Ida Salin, and together they met to plan a mission strategy for a series of EDI discussion sessions, as well as a budget, agenda, possible topics and invited experts. The purpose of the discussion forums is to act as short and easily approachable stimulators, in addition to which training is also offered to deepen the understanding of EDI themes. Funding was obtained from the Oasis of Radical Wellbeing project, and March saw the dawn of the first session. The theme was ‘Everyone Included’, and the advance material featured an online lecture by EDI specialist Sara Salmani about inclusion and diversity.
The EDI theme for April, coinciding with Easter and Ramadan, was ‘Religions at Aalto’. The visiting experts were Saara Abdi and Nuura Mohamoud, representing Aalto Muslims ry (AaMu), and Aalto University Chaplain Anna Poutilainen. Policy specialist Fon Krairiksh of AYY also assisted with planning and facilitating the event. The May session put the question, ‘Discrimination-free Aalto?’, and the discussion was led by Shadia Rask from THL, who is knowledgeable in discrimination and inequality matters through her work.
‘Participants have given feedback on how rewarding it has been to make new Aalto friends and to have a chance to talk about themes that are so important and absorbing’, reports Helko. ‘As the sense of community has declined, particularly during the pandemic, the EDI discussions are an attempt to bring people back together in a safer space.’
At an EDI discussion, participants break into small groups after an introduction given in English by the specialists. The group participants can discuss the themes with the help of prepared questions. The splitting up into small groups is done by the organisers, as this helps participants meet new people and reduces the stress of those who are introverted or who don’t know anyone at the event. ‘There was in fact a bit of a blunder in the first session when making the small groups: Zoom automatically put all English speakers in one breakout room and all Finns in another, though the point was namely to mix the participants’, laughs Salin.
When talking about EDI, it is typical that those who show up already have knowledge and experience of the themes. ‘The groups have tended to be disproportionately female, so it would be nice to get more men or male-ascribed participants in the discussions. The question is “how?”’, ponders Helko. The participants of the discussion forums have also given feedback on how the majority of the participants seem to be women. ‘Inclusion and diversity in a safer space ultimately benefits everyone. In a safer space, it’s easer to voice minority points of view, take risks and present new ideas, which promotes innovation and better community well-being’, adds Helko.
The September session will feature the theme ‘LBGTQ+ at Aalto’ (LBGTQ: lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer), and the visiting specialist will Kasper Kivistö, chair of Trasek ry, along with board members of the Aalto student association GAYY. The event takes place 15 September from 14.30 to 16.00 in the Mordor room of the A Grid building. Sign up here and reserve yourself a place here!
On these page you will find information and interesting references to improve wellbeing at Aalto University!
Professor emeritus Esa Saarinen talks about teaching (and a lot more)
OASIS archives: Vice President Petri Suomala zoomed with Dr. Kamilah Majied and discussed equity, inclusivity and diversity. Watch the video!