EDI Advisory Committee
In continuing our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we have created a community-nominated EDI Advisory Committee to work alongside our guide, Dr. Magassa.
The purpose of the EDI Advisory Committee is to represent stakeholder groups in the SMUS community related but not limited to themes of equity, diversity and inclusion (such as sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, appearance, ethnicity, culture, race, beliefs, socio-economic background) as well as the intersectionality of those themes. The Committee represents a cross-section of our community including alumni, parents, alumni parents, students, faculty and staff.
The EDI Advisory Committee is responsible for advising and supporting the work to:
- review mechanisms to gather stakeholder perspectives and information (such as surveys, focus groups and semi-structured interviews)
- refine, review, and interpret stakeholder information for the school’s usage
- discuss and complete other actions that may be relevant in our consultative process
- make recommendations to the SLT and Board of Governors to form the basis of the school’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan
EDI Advisory Committee Biographies
Shafiq Ebrahim is a Senior Portfolio Manager at British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) in Victoria where he leads the Quantitative Equity team. He has over 22 years of work experience across various financial organizations. His daughter is currently in the Junior School. Shafiq was born in Kenya and moved to Canada as a teenager. He has also lived in the United States for 15 years. He is a member of the Ismaili Muslim community. Shafiq earned a BA (Hons.) from UBC, and MA and PhD. degrees in economics from Queen's University. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence, at Columbia University. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder and holds the Associate of the Society of Actuaries, Financial Risk Manager, and Canadian Investment Manager designations.
Jenn’s connection to the school includes being a parent of a 2010 alumna, the spouse of a staff member, and a formal, part-time volunteer as our Indigenous Liaison Administrator. In her professional career, she held a similar title with the University of Victoria, where she served in this role for 10 years. Her time included acting as Project Manager for the planning and launch of the LE-NONET Project, a groundbreaking inquiry into improving the retention and success of Indigenous students in post-secondary education. Her early retirement from this work was brought on by the need to focus on her physical health. For the past 40 years, she has navigated life as a partial paraplegic and eventual amputee, encompassing her time as a student, a professional, and a volunteer. She’s pleased to join with others as the school deepens its work around equity, diversity and inclusion.
Douglas Freeman is the President of the EDI practice at UWG, an MBE under the WPP global marketing corporation of 200k employees. Mr. Freeman served as Vice-Chairman of the United Nations Gender Equality Experts Panel, was named a 40Under40 business leader by the NYC Network Journal and is a former board trustee of Georgetown College (Regents Park College, Oxford University partner). Mr. Freeman holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University, an MBA Essentials credential from the London School of Economics, along with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. Freeman is a three-time British Columbia Under-19, and was selected for the Canada Under-21 team as a Rugby All-Star. He is a minority owner of Pacific FC in Victoria, and the son of Emmy Award-winning conductor Maestro Paul Freeman, the former Chief Conductor of the Victoria Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta and Czech National Symphony in Prague. Mr. Freeman also sits on the Board of Governors at SMUS.
Jessica has been a houseparent at SMUS for six years and currently works as an Inclusive Learning Support Teacher with the Greater Victoria School District. She has a master's degree in Psych Ed and Special Education and works from a student-centred approach to removing barriers that lead to exclusion. Her undergrad in English and History had a strong focus on Indigenous Canada and Post-Colonial studies, and her more recent coursework for English Language Learners looked at anti-racist teaching in education and cultural responsiveness in the classroom. On a personal level, she is committed to unpacking her own biases and dismantling harmful colonial structures within the education system. She recognizes that as a cisgender, white woman who has not faced discrimination for her race, sexual orientation, or abilities, that she has many blind spots and much to learn. She is excited to participate in this committee and support the school to make improvements in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Lyra first came to SMUS in Kindergarten, 13 years ago. Having this lengthy experience with the school, she has a solid grasp on many of the issues and advantages at the school. In addition to this, she is openly queer, and she interacts with other queer students on a daily basis. This has allowed her to build connections and understand many of the challenges facing queer individuals at this school. She is also neurodivergent, and her experience in dealing with the complications that come with that has led her to advocate for the needs of all neurodivergent people here. It is her hope that she can make a safe and comfortable environment that allows students to learn and thrive.
Miranda Ji, in her role as Vice President at Destination Greater Victoria, is the Executive lead on their Diversity & Inclusion Program. Leading a commitment to cultivate a visitor economy that represents a wide variety of individuals at all levels, celebrating the broad range of human differences among us and embracing the commonalities we share. She also serves on Destinations International’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee which focuses on providing Destination communities with the resources and tools to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. In the local community, she serves as a Director on the Board of Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria. The mission of this organization is to encourage sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for individuals of all cultures in our community and to assist newcomers to Greater Victoria. Along with her various roles within this area, she has experience as an educator, with a Bachelor of Education Degree specializing in teaching English as a Second Language.
Wonjin, who graduated from St. Michaels University School in 2010, is a Middle School teacher by day and a Bolton House houseparent by night. He was born in South Korea and spent his childhood there with his family before immigrating to Canada at the age of 9. He has since lived in both Victoria and Vancouver, which has allowed him to enjoy both the bustling city life of the mainland and the quieter pace of the island. Wonjin has a passion for bridging gaps between people of all backgrounds and experiences – he tries his best to live by this principle in his everyday interactions, and continues to seek resources and learning opportunities that could help him grow in this area. He is very excited to begin work with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, where he hopes to tell some of his own stories and hopefully make a positive impact.
Paris arrived as a boarding student in 2010 and graduated in 2014. During those four years, she developed great empathy and understanding for all people. She worked to consistently celebrate with diverse groups on campus to demonstrate her support for their initiatives, strived to be open to discussions with a different perspective other than her own, and advocated for the inclusion of the African American culture through establishing an annual Black History Month celebration on campus. Now as a SMUS alum, she has since pursued a Bachelor of Sociology and a Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her current work has entailed supporting youth with special needs, advocating for gender equity, and conducting research that identifies how racism impacts the health of communities of colour. Through both her time as a student and public health researcher, she has gained practical experience with centring the voices of students, facilitating equitable stakeholder engagement, and conducting data collection as well. She is excited to contribute her expertise to the Committee.
A graduate of SMUS in 1998, and a teacher here since 2007 – after years spent travelling, studying, volunteering and working across Canada and abroad – he is committed to helping our school evolve and improve. In his first year back at SMUS, he helped to found the Pride Alliance, and he has done his best to be an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community ever since. A historian by training, he is particularly fascinated by the history of colonization in BC and has been working to better integrate Indigenous perspectives into our teaching practices at SMUS. Most recently, in his teaching, he has been trying to show how Chinese and Black Canadians contributed, historically, to our evolution as a country, and highlight the challenges they faced in doing so. He is eager to participate in this process, and expects to come away from it with many new insights that will not only improve his professional practice, but also equip him to be a better ally in the effort to create a more inclusive school culture.
Katie Marti currently teaches Humanities in the Middle School, but her career has spanned the country in a wide range of classroom settings. Before arriving at SMUS, she taught in the public system in both New Brunswick and British Columbia, led wilderness expeditions with disenfranchised and at-risk youth in an outdoor education context through Outward Bound Canada in Ontario, and served as Head of Modern Languages at York House, an independent school for girls in Vancouver. As an educator, she strives to make meaningful connections and to create and facilitate authentic opportunities for learning; as a global citizen, she seeks to do the same.
Raised by Persian parents, moved to Canada from the Netherlands and extensively travelled the world confirms her beliefs that the world is one country and unity in diversity is definitely achievable! As a member of the Bahai faith she has participated in multifaith and multicultural committees to embrace and encourage inclusion in different places. In her teens she participated in youth conferences about moral leadership and youth empowerment to build communities and she is very happy to see that her three boys are following in these footsteps and are equally engaged in neighbourhood building and transforming activities. As a surgical gynecologic oncologist, the advancement, education and equality of women has been her special interest. She has given many lectures and sat in different panels to bring awareness on this subject.
Jody Nishima is a current parent to a child at the Senior School and a parent to two alumni. He feels privileged to contribute to the discussions with a perspective built from years working within dynamic multi-cultural environments. Some of his early experiences focused on refugee and humanitarian aid operations in various countries, then to policy development, and now he has a longstanding role in supporting Indigenous communities forge new relationships with their federal and provincial partners.
Gaby has attended St. Michaels University School since Grade 6. As a member of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, she has gained firsthand experience on the inner workings of diversity within the student body. She also provides insight from personal experiences on campus as well as more general life experiences. She is very passionate about every single individual on campus feeling a sense of belonging and community, and she hopes to utilize this opportunity, her experiences on campus, along with her history of public speaking, to participate in making this a reality.
Subaig is in his second year at SMUS as a boarding student. He enjoys the culture and contributes to many clubs and sports teams. While slowly getting used to boarding life, he is looking to better the community around him, and he is looking forward to this opportunity. From Grade 2-10, he attended Meadowridge School in Maple Ridge and there had a very active role in school councils and groups. His first leadership role was in Grade 5 as a junior school leader, and then in Grade 8 was elected as a Junior Council President. It is from these roles that he has learned leadership skills and qualities.
Grace Vickers came to SMUS from Hazelton, British Columbia where she saw the challenges of her peers and teachers in overcoming intergenerational trauma. Although she has found being disconnected from her culture difficult, she has been determined to succeed at SMUS and fulfil her dreams of studying Indigenous Studies at a higher level and to learn more about the suppressed history and trauma of Indigenous people in Canada. By joining the Committee, she hopes to create a more culturally involved atmosphere for students who feel out of touch with themselves, their home, and their cultures as well as to make strides in setting a foundation for greater recognition and understanding among the student body.
Cassandra (Cassie) Zawilski ’08 has long been committed to social justice from co-founding the SMUS Pride Alliance to now leading her employer’s EDI work. While at McGill, she was involved in advocacy and education around addressing gender-based violence. In her final year, she served as Equity Commissioner, overseeing the student union’s Equity Committee and supporting its mandates on anti-oppression and accessibility. After her undergrad, Cassie interned with the Office of Diversity & Equity, addressing mental health disparities among marginalized communities in her county. She also assisted in organizing the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) conference, convening 700 LGBTQ API and their allies. Cassie now works in the philanthropic sector where she has been focused on redistributing power and resources to groups targeting root causes and consequences of inequity. She also organizes young people leveraging their wealth and class privilege for racial and economic justice through Resource Generation.