EDI Champions and Allies Series: Dr. Oyèdélé

Meet a UBC faculty who is creating an impact

EDI champions and Allies Series: Dr. Oyèdélé

In this edition of the EDI champions and Allies, meet Dr. Oyèdélé Co-chair of the EDI Committee, Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences

Dr. Oyèdélé was born and raised in Nigeria, in the heart of a community-oriented culture. His parents, both educators, unknowingly instilled in him from an early age the call for a teaching career. However, it was not until many years later that he discovered his passion for teaching. Initially he focused on general practice after graduating from Medical School at Olabisi Onabanjo University. 

Dr. Oyèdélé says, “my mother was the disciplinarian” and a source of encouragement who motivated him to pursue medical school based on his natural inclination for the hard sciences. He eventually moved on to obtain a Master of Science degree in Anatomy from the University of Ibadan and later completed his PhD in Development Biology at the University of the Witwatersand in South Africa. It was there that he established his teaching career as a Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Health Sciences Education.

Moving to Kelowna

After 10 years in Johannesburg, Dr. Oyèdélé moved to Kelowna with his family.  “I have never seen so much snow!” he says while also noting that the adjustment was not only difficult due to the inclement weather but also because, as Dr. Oyèdélé describes, “the culture in Kelowna is insular.” At first it was difficult to build community and to feel at home. Passersby would often stare at him awkwardly, provoking in him a sense of self-consciousness about his skin colour. In 2011 there were not many black people in town. In fact, says Dr. Oyèdélé, “One day, a black man ran towards me on the street saying, “this is the first time I have seen a black person here; where are you from? What is your name, etc.?” It was not an effortless process to adapt to the lifestyle in Kelowna; however, after 10 years he and his family have made the city, which has also changed gradually, opening up to immigrants from diverse backgrounds, their home. 

Why EDI?

Awkward and disturbing experiences with microaggressions and racism have provided Dr. Oyèdélé with the experiential knowledge to become involved in this work. Concomitantly, such lived experiences incited him to engage in initiatives that aim to transform our culture.  Dr. Oyèdélé has lived in different nations that have experienced colonial systems and continue to face the consequences of such systems of oppression. He firmly believes in the importance of fostering equitable and respectful working and learning environments.

 “I think the biggest thing for me is to have HUMILITY. Yes, I have experience but I also have a lot to learn”. 

For Dr. Oyèdélé, it is a priority to start working on building relationships with Indigenous peoples and learning about the Indigenous experience in Canada. “I find that everyday there is a lot to learn and I cannot assume I understand their experience.”  

What initiatives is your committee working on?

Up to this point, the focus of the EDI committee for CAPS has been trainingand educating members on all topics related to EDI. Training has been offered to staff and faculty. In the fall, training will also be offered to post-doctoral fellows, postgraduate students and undergraduate students. 

“In the last 18 months, we have been trying to learn as much as we can as well as working to set best practices in terms of hiring, education, staffing and research. We have been providing recommendations to different sectors within the department when they are hiring and performing their functions so that they consider EDI.”

The CAPS EDI Committee released a series of recommendations for best practice in four different areas:

1.     Department Awards Committee – how are awards given? Is the process equitable and inclusive?

2.     Hiring and staffing

3.     Research

4.     Teaching

What is your vision?

“The whole REDI committee in CAPS will meet and decide what is next and which area we should be turning our attention to. For now, we have identified TRAINING as one of the most important areas. We are looking at the issues of EDI and Anti-Racism. This is a big area to explore in order to see how our department will be doing research in collaboration with Indigenous peoples.” Dr. Oyèdélé notes that the EDI CAPS Committee is still in the initial stages of determining how to approach this initiative. He says, “we need to start hearing the stories on how Indigenous faculty, staff and students experience life in our departments and from their point of view what needs to change.”

What are the challenges?

“There is still a lot to learn.  You look at issues such as hiring, and some may say that we should just look for the best person; however, that may not work. We need to ask what are the unearned advantages of this person?”  Dr. Oyèdélé notes that there are still concerns regarding unconscious bias and how the “best” is often determined by a particular cultural lens. “We cannot make a blanket statement by saying that everything will be okay as long as we look for the best candidate. That disregards factors that go with being inclusive and being equitable.”

According to Dr. Oyèdélé, another challenge is that people who have a different mindset need to be brought to the journey of implementing EDI even if they are not there yet. Some of these individuals hold very senior positions and occupy spaces where they have influence. You need to bring them along in the process of transforming our culture. 

Sometimes you feel overwhelmed with the scale of the work that needs to be done.  “This looks too big, this looks too hard.” Nonetheless, Dr. Oyèdélé applauds the contribution of the Community of Practice. Despite the challenges, this space allows for EDI champions to meet regularly, to encourage each other, and to exchange ideas and success stories, “seeing people who are doing great things is very fulfilling and it helps to re-energize us to continue the work.”

Connect With Us

We invite members of the community to connect and collaborate with REDI. You can participate directly by:

  • Writing a post for the Community Voices series
  • Telling us about work or projects supporting these goals
  • Identifying a champion or early adopter of culture change

To bring about meaningful change we need each member of our community to be committed and involved. Contact REDI

More from the EDI champions and Allies series:

REDI presents EDI champions and Allies, a new series featuring members of the community who are champions of culture transformation. We invite you to connect and collaborate with REDI.Learn More

The Community Voices Series: Alix Wells
November 30, 2021Meet a UBC student who is creating an impact Read more >

The Community Voices Series: Lisa Renaud
October 28, 2021Get to know one of our students who is making a difference Read more >

The Community Voices Series: Dr. Farah Shroff
October 10, 2021Meet our latest champion of culture transformation Read more >