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Recommendations for Social Engagement

Institutional cultures and inclusive environments have been identified as a critical success factor for supporting student engagement and success, thereby positively impacting student mental wellbeing.

Both the institutional cultures and the degree to which an institution has an inclusive environment are influenced by the policies and procedures that support students of all identities and backgrounds to be able to engage equitably. To create an equitable environment, institutions must build processes and structures that are responsive to students’ diverse needs and backgrounds, as well as ensuring that they are not reaching just one type of group within the student population.

You can access our Anti-Oppressive Practice Toolkit Part I and Part II on practices that promote equity and inclusivity and our Intersecting Identities Toolkit on engaging 2SLGBTQ+ students

1 – Inclusive Policies and Procedures

At the highest level, institutional policies and procedures should promote inclusion and accessibility. For example, an institution may make all physical and digital environments and resources accessible, coordinate anti-racism initiatives, and implement psychological safety frameworks. Further, institutions should enshrine diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as core values guiding institutional activities.

2 – Community level

At the community level, research shows that interventions that support collaborative and compassionate climates foster belonging and social engagement. Initiatives to develop these climates can include anti-racism and allyship training, orientation programs, or constructing environments that leverage inclusive design principles, for example.

3 – Interpersonal level

Supportive social relationships are a key factor to fostering belonging and social participation, especially for underserved groups. These types of relationships can be promoted through training and implementation of inclusive teaching practices (e.g., collaborative learning, group discussions and problem-solving, interactive learning strategies), provision of a variety of extracurricular activities, and peer and faculty mentorship programs.

Example: Open Path International Student Service Centre

“Mentor Navigators” are upper year students who provides connection on wellness, academic and other realms to specific communities, whether it is African Black Caribbean students, first generation students or southeast Asian students. These mentors help students navigate novel experiences and barriers during their post-secondary experience through appointments, drop ins, and events.

4 – Individual level

Finally, support at the individual level effectively promotes social engagement by ensuring students have the resources necessary to participate and profit from their educational experience. Social and academic support should be flexible and personalized for students in terms of accessibility, learning style, and background.

Example: “Thriving on Campus”

The “Thriving on Campus” initiative strives to promote belonging, wellbeing, and academic development of 2SLGBTQ+ university students across Ontario by using research to inform policy reform in post-secondary institutions. This initiative explores the experiences of students of diverse sexual and gender identities and provides recommendations for campuses to support their wellbeing and success.


Guide: PDF Version