Sarah Ortiz is a second-year Honours Bachelor of Counselling Psychology degree student who is passionate about changemaking. During Changemaker in Residency Week (CRW) taking place March 14 to 18, she’ll be co-facilitating a session for students called How can I contribute to a more equitable, diverse and inclusive environment?
She’s involved with promoting and modelling the college’s five flourishing pillars to support student success: engaged learning, academic determination, positive perspective, diverse citizenship, and social connectedness. Sarah is also in the process of completing the changemaker micro-certificate, open to all students.
Sarah will wrap up her role as Vice President, Equity and Inclusion at the Orillia Campus for the Georgian College Students’ Association (GCSA) in May before moving into her new role as President of GCSA at the campus.
Why should students attend CRW?
The amount of growth, personal and professional development, and passion that can arise from these events could be pivotal for your educational journey. All it took was participating in one panel on equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDI&B) for me to be hooked. CRW shows students that we don’t have to have all the answers – we just have to be willing to ask questions, and actively listen to the folks who do. CRW also gives students the opportunity to hear from experts in their fields, professors, support staff, incredible scholars and educators who are dedicating their lives to making a difference. We get the chance to be a part of that … for free!
Tell us about the session you’re co-facilitating.
First, we were very mindful to gear the conversation toward individuals from all walks of life – whether they’re familiar with EDI&B or have never heard of the acronym before. We hope to convey our gratitude to all students for attending these sessions and investing in themselves.
We also hope students start to recognize their unconscious and systemic biases. We clarify that we all hold biases. Every single one of us. As uncomfortable as that can make us, it’s important we become aware of our biases in an effort to dig deeper, question them, and slowly work toward reframing them. Slowly. This CRW session will not explain EDI&B to the fullest – rather, it will give students an introduction and prompts for further self-discovery. And lastly, we want to convey that the “small” things make the biggest impact.
Why is EDI&B important to you?
I was born biracial with white privilege. I’m an immigrant. I’m bisexual. I live with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. There are a million personal reasons why EDI&B is important to me. But, there are a billion reasons why being an ally, regardless of my lived experiences, is even more important. I find that when we think and speak about EDI&B, our minds automatically go toward: “How does this affect me? Can I even speak on this? Who am I to advocate for people who are different than me?” Those are stigmas and internalized self-stereotypes that we need to dismantle. Anyone and everyone can (and should) find EDI&B important. We can ALL benefit from a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive world. It’s that simple.
What CWR sessions do you look forward to attending?
The #ITSTARTS and Step Up events. I’ve heard wonderful things about these initiatives and am glad to see Georgian continuously investing in them.
What have been some of your take-aways from past CRW events?
It starts with you. No one can force you to learn what you don’t want to learn. No one can spark a fire in you if you’re holding onto the extinguisher. Let go. Be uncomfortable. Ask difficult questions. Georgian is not just trying to create a safe space to hold conversations. Georgian is trying to create a BRAVE space where we can be heard, respected, and challenged. I’ve learned that bravery varies for everyone. Although, where there is bravery, growth inevitably follows.
Do you consider yourself a changemaker?
I think everyone is a changemaker – some are just more engaged than others. I consider myself a changemaker because I want change and I strive to make positive change happen. I want to do small things to make Georgian a better place. Whether that be via event planning, a conversation with a peer, or expanding my horizons with a new learning opportunity. And, someday, I want to contribute to making positive change happen for this big wide world as well.