Where is your favourite place on campus?
My favourite place on campus is the pond at Humanities. I love taking my lunch out there, sitting by the water - looking at the fish. I find it a very nice, quiet, reflective space. I’m also a fan of brutalist architecture and that’s a wonderful, brutalist building and I like looking at it.
Tablet or paper?
For writing, probably a tablet or something electronic. It’s really my laptop, truthfully. My big fat fingers can’t type on the little tablet letters. But for reading, I’m a paper person. I absolutely have to have that paper in my hand. And there’s less glare on the beach I find.
Name one thing you’ve brought to work from home.
The peace sign I made in junior high. I’ve carried this peace sign with me from place to place, from job to job just to remind myself that a peace based approach is really the way I choose to navigate the world. I think it’s an effective way to navigate the world. And when I need it, it puts me in touch with my inner hippie. So it works out really well.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
I’m very sad to report it’s probably my smartphone. Not only for work, it’s a small office, so it does keep me connected on a busy campus. And I may or may not catch the odd Pokémon between meetings.
If you won airfare to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I know that this isn’t what most people would say, but I would like to see the three Canadian territories. I have been broadly coast to coast. I’ve lived in New Brunswick, I’ve lived in Manitoba, I’ve lived in Alberta. I have long wanted to check out our territories, not only to see the scenery and the Northern lights but to check out the people and the culture. I think we have a whole different world just a three hour flight to the North of us and not many people get there. That would probably be where I’d like to explore. And it might be just as expensive going outside of the country.
You can invite anyone—alive or dead, real or fictional—to dinner. Who would it be?
I would actually like to talk to early LGBTQ activists. I’d like to sit down and not only hear about what it was like in the past and how horrific the oppression was but also let them know that their work has resulted in vast societal change where it’s now a community that’s quite accepted. Of course, there’s still lots of work to do but I would love to reach back to groups of people who fought oppression to let them know that their suffering and marginalisation was worth it and that many people benefit from it. On the flip side, I would like to bring the history of their experience back to modernity to share with individuals today.
If you could switch jobs with someone else on campus for a week, what would you do?
I think I would go into a science lab. I am not a very science minded person. My background is more on the Arts side. I tend to think along those lines and I would love to spend some time looking at the process of taking an idea, testing that idea, and developing whole new processes or ways of thinking that could potentially change the world. It’s not the way that I am used to functioning. I got away with taking astronomy for my Science. It was really fascinating to me when I came here to see the types of research we were doing and the ways in which it translates into real world change. My own experience was as an undergraduate at University where I wasn’t necessarily exposed to the research side as much. I am continually blown away by the types of things that people do. I also laugh at myself, because people come in and tell me what they do and I haven’t understood a word of what they’ve been saying. I just smile and nod, so when they leave I rapidly google it to try and find what they’ve been talking about. I think I would switch places with one of our research scientists.
What does “uplifting the whole people” mean to you?
That we better darn well mean the whole people. It really does mean to me that we look to the marginalised, that we look to the other, that we look to what makes every single individual on campus unique, and look to what it means for them to be lifted up. I think that it’s important when we talk about uplifting the whole people, we really and truly mean everyone. That includes different ways of thinking, different ways of being, different ways of acting, and that we are sincerely interested in every individual member of this community flourishing, developing, and contributing to the world.
If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?
Education for girls. I think the gap we see in childhood education for girls robs our world of such a huge amount of potential. I frankly think that a lot of people are scared of what education for young women could entail because they know exactly how powerful they can be and what they can do with that education. I really do think that we’re missing out on a whole portion of the world’s input, critical thought, advocacy and knowledge. So I would fix the problem of education for girls if I could snap my fingers.
What 3 words best describe your U of A experience?
Welcoming, positive-energy – and what I mean by that is, I’ve worked in other environments where people are often negative about their spaces and here I hear about people who are engaged in their research, attracted to their studies. So in as much as I hear a lot of negativity in my day-to-day world and “complaints,” what I observe on campus is people who are really engaged with what they’re doing. And thirdly, I would say overwhelming. It’s a big place with five campuses and tens of thousands of people. One of my jobs is to act as a process Sherpa to help people navigate the various processes. And there are a lot of them and they can be overwhelming. So I actually keep that in mind when I’m advising people, that it is a complex system, we need to give people as many maps and tools as we possibly can so they won’t be overwhelmed.
About Wade King
Wade King is the Safe Disclosure and Human Rights Advisor to the University of Alberta. He currently serves as President of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education (CAPDHHE). Wade has over 13 years of experience in the public and post-secondary sectors; primarily in the areas of human rights, diversity and inclusion, community relations and safe disclosure. Prior to his current position, he served as the Senior Diversity and Inclusion Consultant with the City of Edmonton, a position he held since the inception of that Office. Outside of work, Wade is active in various diversity and human rights organizations, such as the Pride Centre of Edmonton.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.