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Humber College works towards its well-being strategy by expanding its Employee Assistance Program.Provided

Within a week of joining the student success and engagement department at Humber College as a health promotion specialist in February, Ewnet Demisse felt she had landed in employee heaven.

“I love this work and had held a similar position at a different institution,” she says. “I was excited about starting at Humber yet hesitant; I thought things might seem too good to be true. But it was as if I had been here forever, and I fit in seamlessly.”

That first week, Demisse was particularly impressed by one of the quarterly meetings of the student wellness and equitable learning department, of which her unit is a part of. “Seeing that there are dedicated days when people can come together to learn, review our work, share our visions and connect on both personal and professional levels meant a lot to me,” she recalls.

Demisse was also buoyed by a welcome reception for new hires in her department that took place soon after she joined. “It was led by the associate vice-president and one of the associate deans of the entire department,” she says.

“I’d never had the experience where, so early in my onboarding, I had direct access to the leadership team, especially at such a large institution. It really highlighted the work that’s being done at Humber to bridge gaps, create connection and a sense of belonging for employees.”

Jennifer O’Brien, vice-president of people(s) and culture, takes great pride in the emphasis on supporting employee wellness at Humber, which comprises three locations – at Toronto’s lakeshore, the city’s northwest, and downtown, where its International Graduate School is based.

She says that focus started gaining steam in 2018, when Humber became the first college in Canada to sign on to the Okanagan Charter, which provides institutions with a framework to become promoters of health and well-being.

The organization reinforced that commitment in May with its new well-being strategy, the four pillars of which involve supporting faculty, staff and students’ physical, mental, financial and social wellness.

“We continue to implement programs that give our employees the opportunity to flourish and provide the best experience for students,” says O’Brien. “This is accomplished through an equity, diversity and inclusion lens, ensuring that we have a work force that is treated equitably and compensated fairly for what they do. It also involves training all staff to increase mental health literacy, diminishing the stigma attached to mental illness.”

Examples of that mandate include expanding the Employee Assistance Program and providing affordable, healthy meals to both staff and students on campus.

In addition, Humber encourages and supports employee resource groups. So far, there is an LGBTQ+ initiative and one for Black/African employees on campus, the latter of which – combined with Humber’s diverse staff – has been another positive for Demisse, who is of Ethiopian descent.

“I have been so blown away by how many employees there are who look like me,” she says. “They are building community, exchanging knowledge, and making incredible contributions to academia and student affairs. It’s empowering to see.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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