A letter from ECUAA board president, Patrick Christie, on the subject of diversity and inclusion
Patrick Christie outlines his own experience at Emily Carr, what being on the ECUAA board looks like, and what he's hoping the future of the board will look like.

I don’t know… and that’s where I am going to start.

In my work in design and in spaces where I have leadership roles, I’ve begun to discover the true value and impact of not having an answer or solution for everything but instead actively holding for space those who are knowing and capable, those who embody what’s needed to provide solutions for today. 

As leaders today, we need to radically shift how leadership happens within our organizations. This involves processes of letting go, unlearning, and deconstruction. As an Industrial Designer, educated through a westernized or colonial system, I’ve had to let go of much that I have learned. I have to practice new ways of creating – fueled by listening, collaborating and connecting around differences. 

As a human being I’m actively trying to smash my own internal mechanics and structures which have isolated me from my own self-expression and authentic connection with others. This work, both externally and internally, has led me down a path where I had the opportunity to take on the role of President of the Emily Carr University Alumni Association (ECUAA). 

The ECUAA had little to no impact on my experience as a student at ECU, nor as an alumnus – at least not that I was aware of. When speaking to both current students and alumni, they have expressed similar feelings. I had a great experience at ECU but I am aware that it is not a shared experience by all students and alumni. Recent events have sparked actions led by the ECU Anti-Racism Initiative and because of their work I have become aware of other experiences and stories that are not being shared through university or ECUAA channels. 

The fact that one’s self-expression has been oppressed, limited or censored is fundamentally wrong, especially in a school that participates in cultural activities. We have to do things differently, and we have to be better because our student body has the capacity to change the course of the future. 

In the nine years I have been away from the university and the five years within it, I saw the university go through a series of evolutions: from an Institute on Granville Island to a University on Great Northern Way among others. My first year at ECU was the year of the first iPhone and since then technology has transformed our campus and the way we make, create and collaborate on art and design projects. 

I have seen the school become further disconnected from the city, and the city become more disconnected from itself through the loss and upheaval of arts and culture spaces. In an age of connectivity, our culture couldn’t be more fragmented and disconnected in this city, and within the walls of the school this is no different. Bring on 2020 and we are living in a new context and will be doing so for an undetermined period of time. 

I’ve seen change in my time at ECU, but now we have an opportunity for transformation.

Our school has a deficit of culture. We prioritize our creative output without focusing on the impact we are having on our own ecosystem. Like many systems in our world, we need to shift away from the industrial mindset and return to the regenerative systems, the ways of being and knowing embodied by Indigenous people across the globe. Within our alumni network and our current student, staff and faculty body we have all the right pieces to have a flourishing ecosystem, but we have fallen behind in updating the systems to allow diversity to thrive.

When more things interact more often, more happens. In the context of an art school, that is evident through interdisciplinary expression and radical acts of collaboration. Connection breeds culture, and who we need in connection is an impressive array of human beings, using our diverse experiences at ECU as a catalyst to transform our culture. 

What was clear after spending a year on the board was that the ECUAA needed new leadership to breathe new life into an organization in a vegetative state after its previous stint as a fundraising mechanism for the new campus. I took on the role because I believed I could contribute to reinventing the organization and making it relevant for the needs of our evolving community of students, graduates and alumni. 

My primary focus on the board is to facilitate connection in the 21st century, through supporting the implementation of The Leeway, a tailored platform we have invested in for our community to connect. In addition to this we have set a course to rebuild the board from the ground up, with our current membership focusing on transitioning the association and redefining its purpose. I strongly stand in the belief that if we enhance our connection as a community we can transition to where we need to go together, as the solutions we seek lie within our relations to one another. 

I hope that our work over the next few years can help transition the ECUAA into an organization that our foundation students are aware of day one and where they see themselves in the alums they meet within the first week of school. I would like to see the board and the alumni network viewed as a wealth of experience that can be tapped into by both the university and the students for the purposes of enhancing learning experiences and navigating complexity. 

For those who are reading this, I encourage you to ask yourself if your voice is missing from our board. This transformation requires more than who we have on our board today as we need to expand our board’s ability to listen, to act, understand and to support our current and future alumni. With the formation of a strong board we can play a larger role in enhancing the culture of the school by being a resource for key decision makers, an advocate for students and a mechanism for accountability, ensuring the school follows through with its commitments to its community. Together we can participate in reuniting Emily Carr with the city and having it be an agent in local culture as we move to recognize our 100th year as an art school.

I look forward to continuing this conversation and invite you to reach out to me at any time with questions, to voice interest in joining the board, or just for a chat. Reach me through email.

Best,
Patrick Christie
BDes 2011

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