Maria Gomes has devoted the past 11 years to ensuring Vancouver Island University (VIU) embraces the values of equity and diversity.
The VIU Human Rights Advisor recently received a Diversity Champion Award from the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society (CVIMS) in recognition of her efforts.
The CVIMS launched the Diversity Champion Award in 2009 to recognize community members who have promoted inclusion and respect for all people.
Gomes received the award in the ‘individual category’ last week at a gala celebration. She’s been honoured for taking a leadership role in promoting a welcoming and inclusive community in the central island region, embracing the values of equity and diversity, and promoting diversity in innovative and unique ways.
“This award is a great symbol of how much Maria is valued and respected in our community,” says VIU President Ralph Nilson. “VIU is committed to the values of equity and diversity, and Maria’s work clearly demonstrates the importance we place on inclusion and respect for students, staff, faculty and all other members of society.”
As Human Rights Advisor, Gomes has initiated numerous programs to expand VIU’s role in promoting equity. Board member and chair for several non-profits, supporter of myriad community projects, Gomes is widely respected for transforming organizations into ones that are prepared to make diversity a commonplace community attribute.
“I was surprised (about winning the award) but it feels very good,” said Gomes.
In her work at VIU, Gomes is most proud of initiating the highly successful Positive Space Campaign.
“We have staff, students and faculty who are gay, lesbian or bi-sexual and that’s something that didn’t get talked about very much in previous years,” she said. “Thanks to the Positive Space Campaign, people are more respectful and comfortable in addressing issues relating to gender or sexual orientation.”
Gomes has also helped develop policy at VIU around preventing personal harassment, accommodating religious obligations, ethics, teaching and conflict of interest for employees. “These are all are important pieces in ensuring we have a respectful and ethical working environment,” she said.
Awards are issued in several categories including small business, corporations, individual and group, and not-for-profits or public institutions.
The CVIMS and its Immigrant Welcome Centre has offices in Nanaimo and Parksville. With its community partners, CVIMS has developed an interactive, multimedia website at www.cvims.org to encourage broad community engagement in creating a welcoming and inclusive community.