In January 2013, Ryerson University’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) launched Soup and Substance, a monthly series of noon-hour, moderated panel discussions. While enjoying a bowl of soup and refreshments, participants engage panelists in an open conversation on a range of compelling diversity topics (e.g., Your PRIDE is My PRIDE; Intersecting Identities: The Place of Disability; and the EDI of Mental Health).

Dr. Denise O’Neil Green, Assistant Vice President/ Vice Provost for EDI serves as moderator, and panelists, including faculty, staff, students, and senior administrators, are selected based on their expertise, interest, and engagement.

Soup and Substance, which is free and open to the public, is not a typical lunch-and-learn series. Its purpose, which is a simple but powerful one, is to create safe spaces for Ryerson community members to come together and talk about challenging topics—some difficult to tackle, but key to fostering cultural understanding and creating an inclusive work and learning environment. The core principle behind the series is that everyone brings something important to the discussion—lived experience, research expertise, or practitioner know-how. Through open, inclusive panel discussions, participants gain new knowledge and new ways to apply it.

So far, EDI has hosted a total of 12 Soups and Substance sessions, which have been so popular the Office has had to change venues to accommodate the growing number of participants. Videos of the sessions, made available on a special video channel for those unable to attend, have enjoyed more than 1,200 views to date.

According to Green, program benefits are two-fold:

  1. The program places the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion front and center for the organization; and
  2. it challenges community members to go beyond their comfort zone.