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Fostering a More Inclusive Dalhousie

“What I’d like to see is a campus that at all levels reflects the populations we serve,” says Norma Williams (BA’77, CPA’90), who joined Dalhousie late last year as its first-ever executive director, diversity and inclusiveness.

In a position that reports directly to President Richard Florizone, Williams works with partners across the university, including its many diverse faculty, staff and student communities, to foster pluralism, equality of opportunity and a more respectful and inclusive environment for all who work and study at Dal.

Norma Williams, Dalhousie’s first-ever executive director, diversity and inclusiveness reports directly to President Richard Florizone. (Danny Abriel Photo)

Her focus: “Policy is going to support where we end up, how outcomes are framed and provide some direction but if people don’t take up and implement the policies by their actions, policies will sit on a shelf and gather dust,” she says.

Highlights: Despite being relatively new to Dal, she says she’s already seen many positive initiatives take flight, including the launch of a new needs-based bursary program for Black Canadian and Aboriginal students funded entirely through payroll deductions from faculty in the English department. “I see people learning together, initiating programs, at times making mistakes, but also having great success.” It’s like working together on a puzzle, says Williams, except “when you get all the pieces together it’s not flat—it has dimension, it has substance and can be ongoing.”

Why I Do It: Williams has devoted most of her career to helping institutions implement change in the broad area of diversity and sees her new position at Dal as an extension of that mission. “The mix of diversity theory and practice is to a great extent what has always motivated me: the opportunity to make positive change that’s going to impact our diverse communities and push forward to guide us all.”