Diversity Champion Awards Keynote Address Dr. Petra Hauf, Vice-President Saint John at UNB

I am pleased to see Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Brenda Murphy, and ministers and mayors from across our region here to recognize the crucial role inclusion plays in our province. Tonight, we are also celebrating PRUDE’s 40th anniversary of promoting multiculturalism and strengthening communities through public education and awareness. Thank you for having me here this evening. I am truly honoured to be selected as keynote speaker at such an event. You might ask yourself right now, who is this woman, what has she done to be a keynote speaker tonight? I can assure you, I asked exactly the same question. Let’s wait and see. PRUDE is dedicated to educating both newcomers and those born in Canada through programming and events. It has contributed to the growth of our city for 40 years and will continue to make Saint John a better place. They describe themselves as finding inspiration in movement, transition, and cultural difference. We find inspiration in them. I am pretty sure everyone in this room can share stories about PRUDE and their impact. I would like to take this opportunity to speak about my experience with PRUDE which is a very personal one. I met Ralph Thomas for the first time just a few weeks after I had started my position as the new Vice-President Saint John at UNB. Together with Dr. Eddy Campbell, we visited him in his office to talk about PRUDE. We used to go downstairs to one of his favourite restaurants, where we shared his favourite dish, and listened to his passionate stories. These occasions are memorable to me, because Ralph was very calm and he spoke with much passion. Ralph was given an honorary degree from UNB here in Saint John in 2019. It was an honour to have met his team and I guarantee you that you will recognize them, because no matter where they are, who they are with, or when, they are speaking up for diversity, loud and clear. Many of us have had an experience related to equity, diversity or inclusion, where someone was impacted by bias or where maybe you unintentionally did something offensive. I learned this myself when I came to Canada. I actually thought there would be no cultural differences. However, I quickly realized that this was not the case. While my colleagues in Nova Scotia knew my background and were supportive and welcoming, it was the little things that caught my attention.

For example, when I met people in the community for the first time, I could sense the change in their nature when they heard my name or my accent. I know not every newcomer has that experience, but in fact, many Canadians of different backgrounds and abilities are facing discrimination across the country, and it starts early. For example, when you are a girl and select mathematics as your high school major, when you are growing up in a working- class family and decide to go to university instead of taking a job in society, when you are first generation at the university and are excluded from student- led activities because you don’t have an academic pedigree. While these are not dramatic experiences compared to what some people are still facing, these experiences shaped my path and it brought to my attention that discrimination is always around us. Today, I am very proud to come from a working-class family and to be first generation. For a long time, I was the only one in my extended family with a graduate degree. I strongly believe in the power of education, to change lives, to change perspectives and to open minds. Now, as a researcher, an academic scholar, and an administrator at a post-secondary institution, I have the opportunity to be part of the change, to lead change. I believe that every step we take in the right direction will impact generations to come. That is why the work of PRUDE is so important. We need to follow in PRUDE’s trailblazing steps and every one of us must take these steps every day, and seize every opportunity. Recognizing and embracing diversity is key to achieving our collective goals. By respecting the needs, perspectives, and potential of every person, we can transform our community and our province. We must remove systemic barriers and biases and lift each other up. This is the only way forward. Every step matters, every action has an impact, and while it may seem small, it can result in significant change. Little things can become big things and often we don’t realize the effect we actually have on someone’s day. When I was a child, I became a leader without even knowing it when I stood up for my entire class in junior high. My classmates were not ready to take a test and they asked me to stand up and request another practice session and a different testing date. This does not sound like much, but I can tell you that this teacher was the scariest we ever had. This story is only one example that every single person can be an advocate for what is right, stand up for others and for yourself.

As a leader and a change champion, I always say to our students, “everyone can be a leader.” You have to find the potential in yourself and today I am saying everyone can be a champion of diversity. We all have the potential to make a difference. At the University of New Brunswick, we have committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion to create a supportive environment in which to study and work. Ralph’s honorary degree is one symbol of our journey. We envision a community where everyone is respected and equity is rooted in all areas of life. At UNB, we are taking some necessary steps to do this. For instance, everyone has the option to choose how they are identified. We are also adding our gender and chosen pronouns to our email signatures and workspaces. Through the act of recognizing that our community is inclusive of all genders, we can create a more welcoming, supportive, and dynamic environment. We all have something to contribute so that every person should feel welcome and safe. In truly inclusive environments, each individual is treated with respect and fully able to participate and thrive. These are simple and important steps, but they are not enough. There is still a lot of work to do in achieving these goals. We as a university and a community have a role to play in building awareness, calling out problems and raising issues, and PRUDE is helping us to get there.

One way to overcome cultural differences is sharing stories, food, and music to learn about diverse traditions by creating synergy and harmony. But, equity, diversity, and inclusion are more than welcoming newcomers into our community. It is also about creating a space that is safe and respectful for all cultural values and backgrounds to thrive in their own respects – not only to help others to find a new home away from home, but also to enrich our own experiences and learnings. We can expand mindsets and change biases through inclusion of all voices. Don’t underestimate the impact of equity, diversity, and inclusion on economic growth. Employees feel empowered to grow their careers. Individuals may feel supported to branch out and create new opportunities for themselves, such as starting a new business. Newcomers who feel welcomed will stay in our community and become an integral part of our lives. UNB’s vision includes increasing the enrolment of international students. Saint John’s MBA program, for example, attracts students and faculty from around the world. The program is directly engaged with the community and has built-in experiential learning opportunities. This creates more interaction, dialogue and, ultimately, relationships.

Their orientation into the program also includes cultural sensitivity sessions and team-building exercises so that everyone feels safe to be themselves. We are always in touch with our international students. When flights are delayed or bags are lost, we make arrangements to pick them up or help get them much-needed supplies. In normal times, they have regular activities and events in the community to build connections and get more familiar with Saint John.

During COVID, the faculty of business helped the students to set up group chats on their phones so that they can informally connect with each other. This was especially important during self-isolation time. These are our next generation of leaders, bringing fresh ideas, fresh visions, and new energy to the city of Saint John. Instead of assimilation into our community, we should be striving for integration and multiculturalism, where cultures can mix in harmony and remain distinct and respected. I am proud of Saint John’s multiculturalism. Our city has many organizations dedicated to welcoming newcomers and celebrating the various cultures in our community, and we so often come together to support groups committed to making Saint John a better place for all. Championing the successes of newcomers is one way we can support each other. Tonight, is just one example of this. Saint John is a community. A community that deeply cares about each other, rolls up their sleeves, and gets things done. We have 20 outstanding nominees from our community who are leading the way for diversity and inclusion. No matter the outcome, we all win because of their tireless work and contributions to our society. In many regions around the world, newcomers, people of colour and Indigenous people continue to face discrimination and systemic racism. Any person labelled as “different” – be it their race, gender identity or abilities – is othered and excluded by those in power. Even Canada struggles with these issues. We are not perfect, but we are having these conversations and reflecting on how our actions have consequences. On the other hand, the actions we take can also create positive change. PRUDE is a crown jewel in Saint John. Forty years ago, a group of passionate individuals came together to inspire citizens to embrace all cultural communities living in the region. They also helped those facing racism. PRUDE is a shining example of how we can create a stronger, friendlier, and richer community.

We will continue to build upon the sturdy foundation PRUDE has provided as we transform Saint John for the better, for everyone. One thing I can promise you tonight is that I will do everything in my power to continue this progress. The stories we are sharing tonight will inspire current and future leaders and I hope my story adds value to this.

I hope by now I have answered your question of who this woman is and why she is our keynote speaker. I don’t have a long list of accomplishments to present, but I see myself as a symbol for the shared vision we have about equity, diversity and inclusion and as a reminder that every one of us has the potential to lead change. A young person will see how inclusiveness can positively affect their future. A business person will be inspired to commit to diversity and equity in their organization. A newcomer will see themselves represented and feel safe to pursue their dreams in our community and our country.

With this, I thank you for your attention and I challenge you to be the strongest advocate for diversity you can be, every day, step by step, loud and clear.

Thank you.

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