By Neale McDevitt
The seeds of Woo Jin Edward Lee’s commitment to social equality were sewn back in his childhood. The fruits of his dedication to that end, however, came recently when he was named one of four winners of the inaugural McGill Award for Equity & Community Building.
The Award recognizes the work of students, faculty and staff committed to advancing equity and diversity at McGill. Other winners included Sara Houshmand, a PhD student in the Dept. of Educational and Counselling Psychology, in the student category; and co-winners of the academic staff category, Melissa Park, a professor in the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy; and Charmaine Lyn, Director of the Office of Admissions, Equity and Diversity in the Faculty of Medicine.
The child of Korean immigrants, Lee remembers how hard his parents worked both to provide for himself and his sister and also as vibrant members of the Korean community. “They tirelessly volunteered at their church and provided essential social and economic support – whether it was advocating for families navigating complicated immigration policies, giving financial aid to other families – even when we were financially struggling – or providing emotional and social support to those around them,” said Lee, a Course Lecturer in the School of Social Work. “They did this while my mom worked full time (and a half) operating a convenience store, while my dad often worked two or three jobs. And they did this while facing ignorance and racism every day of their lives here.
Another person having a positive impact on students from demographically diverse roots is Charmaine Lyn, Director of the Office of Admissions, Equity and Diversity in the Faculty of Medicine, who maintains that diversity is essential for the health of universities everywhere. Call it the changing face – or faces – of higher education.
“McGill is a public institution: publicly funded, and publicly purposed. We are accountable to the public and the public is plural,” said Lyn, a first-generation university attendee of Chinese-Jamaican descent. “A university – a place that is meant to cultivate leaders, thinkers, teachers and ideas – can only be enriched by the presence and active participation of more diverse voices – including those which have been historically under-represented in post-secondary education generally and at McGill in particular. Making the campus a more welcoming and inviting and culturally safe place for learners and teachers alike can happen only by meaningfully engaging with the public – the communities which we serve and to which we belong.”
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May 23, 2013