Algoma University’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Climate Study

In June 2021, Algoma University initiated an institutional equity, diversity and inclusion climate study that will inform AU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy and action plan initiatives for equity-deserving groups.

Plan Overview

Phase I Report


Jane Omollo, EDI Manager

[email protected]

Dr. Vivian Jimenez Estrada

Associate Professor (Sociology) and EDI Academic Lead

[email protected]

Through a comprehensive competitive process, Algoma commissioned Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA), an external consultant, to help conduct the EDI climate study. This climate study is an opportunity for the Algoma community to support our institutional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and foster a welcoming environment across the three campuses. The EDI Climate Study has four major phases—exploration, consultations, report development, and final validation—with an objective of finalising the EDI Strategy and Action Plan by the end of Spring 2022.


As an institution moving towards healing, reconciliation and creating safety, AU has moved to a more robust EDI portfolio spearheaded by the President’s Office. It builds on external commitments such as the New Principles on Indigenous Education, leading to AU’s response to the TRC’s Calls to Action in 2015 and Honouring Our Commitments. The endorsement of other important commitments to EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Dimensions Charter and Universities Canada’s Principles on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) have shaped AU’s institutional strategy to address barriers to equity, diversity and inclusion.  The President and Vice-Chancellor and her Senior Executive team hold accountability through the signing of a governance mechanism, AU’s EDI Project Charter and more recently, through its 2021-23 Strategic Plan Extension, where EDI is a stand alone objective. More recently AU has signalled its commitment to endorse the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.

Plans: In the coming academic year, we will take more steps to create a place, climate and culture free of harassment, discrimination or intolerance of any kind including gender bias, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, and ageism. This year we continue to bring more resources and collaborations to strengthen these values. In June 2021, Algoma University selected Higher Education Strategy Associates as a successful proponent to conduct an EDI Climate study.

We envision the following purposes and timelines for each phase:

During the first phase in July through September 2021, Algoma U and HESA conducted preliminary consultations with key informants, complemented by an environmental scan on knowledge gaps and university-wide needs for students and employees. The Background Information document is coming soon. We invite everyone to become familiarised with the document and to participate in the next phase of consultations.


Phase I Report

There are two major goals for the second phase. First, AU and HESA invites all members of the AU community to participate in the demographic census and experience survey. Demographic data will help the University to gain a comprehensive understanding of community diversity, while the experience survey provides everyone at AU with an opportunity to share their experiences, sense of belonging and perceptions related to issues of diversity and inclusion. The census and survey will be launched at the beginning of October – everyone will receive a personalized link to complete the questionnaire. 

Secondly, we seek to engage with as many members of the Algoma community as possible to ensure that we hear a variety of perspectives on the AU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy and action plan initiatives for equity-deserving groups. For this purpose, HESA will facilitate group discussions and interviews with faculty members, staff, and students.

Following the data collection and public consultations in Phase II, HESA will prepare an EDI Climate Study report, including recommendations, for community discussion and validation. HESA will facilitate several presentations of the report, and every member of the Algoma community will be invited to comment on the first draft through townhalls and an online feedback form.

Having incorporated the community’s feedback on the first draft, HESA and the Algoma University EDI Committee will collaborate in developing the EDI strategy and action plan initiatives in response to the climate study results.


In July 2021, Algoma University launched the EDI Climate study. This climate study is an opportunity for the Algoma community to support our institutional commitment to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion to foster a welcoming environment across the three campuses. The EDI Climate Study has four major phases—exploration, consultations, report’s development, and final validation—and informs the development of a final EDI Strategy and Action Plan by the end of Spring 2022.

The current EDI Committee is charged with conducting Algoma University’s climate study. After a review of potential vendors, the committee selected Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) to conduct the study. Higher Education Strategy Associates reports directly to the EDI committee

The study relating to a very sensitive subject like campus climate is likely to yield higher response rates and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside agency. Members of a university community may feel particularly inhibited to respond honestly to a survey and other consultations administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation.

Confidentiality is vital to the success of campus climate research; particularly as sensitive and personal topics are discussed. HESA will take multiple precautionary measures to enhance individual confidentiality and the de-identification of data. In the event of any publication or presentation resulting from the assessment, no personally identifiable information will be shared. 

Confidentiality in participating will be maintained to the highest degree permitted by the technology used. In addition, HESA and Algoma University will not report any data for groups fewer than ten individuals, because such “small cell sizes” may be small enough to compromise confidentiality. Instead, we will combine the groups or take other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. 

Information in the introductory section of the survey will describe the manner in which confidentiality will be guaranteed, and additional communication to participants will provide expanded information on the nature of confidentiality, possible threats to confidentiality and procedures developed to ensure de-identification of data.

The consultant will provide a final report including: an executive summary; a report narrative of the findings based on cross tabulations selected by the consultant; frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations of quantitative data; and content analysis of the textual data. The report will provide high-level summaries of the findings and will identify themes found in the data. Generalizations for populations are limited to those groups or subgroups with response rates of at least 30%. The committee will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release.

Higher Education Strategy Associates has a rigorous research data security description and protocol, which includes specific information on data encryption, the handling of personally identifiable information, physical security and a protocol for handling unlikely breaches of data security. 

HESA will destroy gathered data six months after the project completion. The consultant will notify the committee chairs of any breach or suspected breach of data security of the consultant’s server. The demographic data will be transferred to Algoma University and stored by the Network and Security Administrator on Algoma University’s secure network.

The target participation in the survey is all students, faculty, and staff at Algoma University. Every response matters and is valuable.

The survey will be administered to all students, faculty, and staff at the three campuses of Algoma University. Climate exists in micro-climates, so creating opportunities to maximize participation is important as well as maximizing opportunities to reach equity-deserving groups.

Along these lines, HESA has recommended to conduct a census (a population survey) instead of using random sampling so as not to “miss” particular populations where numbers are very small.

The survey will be administered electronically by Algoma University in partnership with Higher Education Strategy Associates, a consultant agency in higher education. The survey will be open from Tuesday October 12 to Sunday, October 30, 2021.

We do not anticipate that participating in the survey will present discomforts beyond those experienced in everyday life. Still some questions are personal and might cause discomfort. In the event that any questions asked are disturbing, you may skip these questions, or simply stop responding to the survey at any time. It is also possible to take a break from the survey and resume it later.

If you experience discomfort while taking the survey, free and confidential support and resources are available to you at any time:


Using your student email address you can access the following resources anytime you need them:

If you prefer to speak to someone locally, you can connect with the Canadian Mental Health Association, which offers free counselling via phone or video chat.

  • Sault Ste. Marie: Mondays between 9:00am and 3:00pm at 705-759-5989 and then they will schedule an appointment for Tuesday with a counsellor.
  • Brampton: weekdays from 8:00am to 8:00pm at 905-451-2123 or 1-877-451-2123 to get immediate access to support from a Mental Health Worker.
  • Timmins: weekdays from 8:30am to 4:30pm at 705-267-8100 and they will schedule an appointment with a counsellor.

Contact Student Success for additional support.


University Employees: 

You can access support through the Employee Assistance Program. Consultants are available 24/7, and counsellors are available by phone 24/7.

Contact information: 

Other important national supports include: