People of SFU

People of SFU: Meet William Chan-Gill, SFU Ceremonies & Events

August 05, 2021

This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.

For William Chan-Gill, community is a cornerstone of his personal and professional life.

“I’m very community oriented—I like to be very deliberate about surrounding myself with people who are able to support each other and experience life together. ”

Chan-Gill is a longtime member of SFU’s community, having completed his bachelor’s degree in history, and now working as a Data Coordinator with SFU Ceremonies & Events (C&E).

As part of the C&E team, Chan-Gill aspires to make events more accessible, inclusive, diverse and culturally significant. He lauds the C&E team’s cohesion and compassion.

“They are very people-focused. Individual needs and experiences are taken very seriously and prioritized.” As a self-identified member of the queer community, Chan-Gill has long been passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and has been happy to find an environment in which he can bring an EDI lens to a receptive group.

“The places [in which] I’ve found the most comfort and community are the places that are inclusive and accessible in the truest sense–that anybody can walk through the door and be welcomed right away.”

Chan-Gill has taken this work and his values beyond C&E, serving the entire SFU community as a member of SFU’s EDI Advisory Council, where he is now in his second term.

“It has been a really positive experience,” says Chan-Gill.  “I’ve sat on other councils and boards where a lot of talk occurs and nothing really happens, or it’s not well-received, but that’s not the case here. Everything is taken very seriously, it’s all very intentional. It makes me really optimistic about the university moving forward in a very accessible and inclusive manner.”

Chan-Gill has taken pride in being able to advise President Joy Johnson directly, including on SFU’s new bullying & harassment policy.

He is also excited to be part of a new working group within the council focused on identifying challenges for transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people on campus, and proposing solutions to address them.

When describing his approach to equity and inclusion, Chan-Gill describes “green flags” of acceptance and accessibility, as opposed to the red flags often encountered by equity-deserving groups. Green flags serve as signifiers of an environment’s considerations of a diversity of identities and abilities. He gives examples such as normalizing including one’s personal pronouns in introductions, the ease of identifying accessible or gender-neutral washrooms, or simply seeing oneself reflected in media, images, and the population of a space.

 “I think the more welcoming any space is, the more signals people have that it is somewhere to be comfortable.”

Chan-Gill will also be a speaker at SFU’s upcoming LGBTQ2+ Forum (August 11), an event which will bring together members of the LGBTQ2+ community at SFU to discuss opportunities and challenges ahead. Chan-Gill hopes the forum will serve to connect people with one another and build a stronger community network.

“As a staff member, I think there’s not a lot of opportunity to connect with other queer people on campus.”

As a panelist, he hopes to discover what interests SFU’s LGBTQ2+ community and develop further events to bring people together.

“For my vision of SFU, I want to see that attitude [of welcoming],” says Chan-Gill. “To see people committed to creating truly welcoming spaces, where people are comfortable walking into any place and can feel a sense of belonging.”