CoGS Staff Recognized for Advancing Anti-Racism and Inclusion

At last month’s Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Town Hall, several employees were recognized for their outstanding service to the university at the annual Staff Awards of Excellence. One of those individuals was the College of Graduate Studies (CoGS) own Damien Bell, who was awarded the Advancing Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Award.

Damien Bell, Advancing Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Award recipient, with Dr. Lesley Cormack, Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Damien is a Graduate Academic Services Officer and has been working with CoGS since 2018. Graduate students know Damien well as the friendly face who supports them as they tackle the last hurdle of graduate school – the defence.

As the Advancing Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Award recipient, Damien was recognized for taking a leadership role in advancing equity, diversity and inclusive (EDI) excellence practices within CoGS as well as in the broader UBC community. He is committed to continuous learning in the equity, diversity and inclusion space and puts the knowledge he gains into practice for the betterment of CoGS, students, staff, faculty and the community. Damien is constantly going above and beyond the requirements of his role to make UBC Okanagan a more supportive and inclusive space.

“While the normal requirements of his job expect him to interact with a diverse student body respectfully and sensitively, it does not require him to review and provide feedback on UBC-wide policy, to advocate for research funding and graduate scholarships for Black and minority students at the local and national levels, to sit on black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) support groups on campus, nor does it require him to initiate and support professional development on equity, inclusion, and anti-racism within our office and campus. Damien has done all of these things,” says Caitlin Voth, Graduate Awards and Special Projects Officer with CoGS.
Over the past year, Damien has assisted in the development of a Cultural and Social Awareness Graduate Student Credential, provided feedback on the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Final Report, advocated for and helped develop a BIPOC award to support graduate students, volunteered to attend undergraduate orientation as a staff member who could assist Black students and families who may have questions about UBCO, and much more.

Damien Bell, Graduate Academic Services Officer with CoGS

The staff at CoGS also benefit from Damien’s learning and commitment to EDI. Damien takes what he learns in his professional development courses and brings that knowledge to CoGS by regularly recommending resources, books, and workshops. In 2021, Damien worked with CoGS staff to start an EDI book club for staff to question processes and admin support to identify gaps and implement changes that will advance equity, diversity, inclusion and justice on campus, provide a better graduate studies experience for BIPOC & 2SLGBTQ+ students, faculty, & staff, and develop staff facilitation and communication skills.

“Damien is not only willing to have open and honest conversations about his own lived experiences with CoGS staff and faculty, but he educates staff and faculty on inclusive language and practices,” says Alicia Meehan, Associate Director with CoGS. “Although some of these topics may be difficult to broach due to the inherent power structures and systemic barriers that exist within the university system, he is brave enough to bring them forward. Damien is a true example of someone who leads from and to all levels.”

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