“A lack of knowledge is a disgrace and it’s your problem. And there’s 100 ways to learn and to change.”
These are the wise, bold words of Myra Laramee [MEd/92, PhD/13], the University of Manitoba’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA) recipient for lifetime achievement, captured in this fall digital issue of UM Today The Magazine. The extraordinary community leader explains how a lack of knowledge “creates a sickness amongst people”—and how futile it is to “put our actions into work” without a full understanding.
Dr. Laramee’s words grabbed me. They made me reflect on the number of boardroom tables I’ve pulled my chair up to as a volunteer, an employee, a member of our Manitoba community, and how too often the voices around the table are homogenous, with no doors open to stretch our understanding. To grow. To do better.
If ever I saw the power of having an equitable, inclusive collective at the table it was during our process to choose our successful DAA candidates. It was a beautiful experience with the diverse voices of Indigenous people, people of colour, women and men, and people at different stages of their lives. I thought, “Wow,” this dialogue is powerful. Eye opening. Real. We found ourselves exploring some tough topics and, afterwards, I felt really emotional.
I remember telling my partner, “I learned so much in that meeting…. My eyes opened to new perspectives not only in the content of the sharing but the respectful, kind and generous teaching and exchange of thought.” This wouldn’t have happened without the intentional make-up of that group. Diverse voices brought together, not to tick a box, but to achieve better outcomes.
In our UM community, there’s a commitment to teaching one another. As alumni, the University of Manitoba is a place you can come back to, where you can engage in these transformational conversations and apply what you learn to your own life, whether in your work or through volunteering. These are also lessons we bring to the classroom, our research, and international partnerships. Lessons that drive innovation.
I’ve witnessed conversations where local women in Nairobi share their perspectives with UM’s HIV-AIDS researchers. Local mothers also sit down with UM researchers in India, bringing their lived experience to challenges in maternal health. We need these diverse voices. Transformation can’t happen without them.
Our UM logo, reimagined a few years ago, was itself a journey that brought everyone to the table. The result was a new visual identity for the University of Manitoba that reflects Indigenous cultures and traditions, and was designed and informed by Indigenous community members.
Making space to listen is the responsibility of everyone. Creating space at the table must be intentional. Leaning in to the diverse voices within communities and organizations, like millions of Canadians did on September 30—Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation—provides the opportunity for profound change.
May we continue to welcome diversity and see its power to benefit all of us, because a lot can change when we intentionally ask each other, “Who’s at the table?”