Documentation:Student Services What’s in a Name?

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A few Advisors originally contributed scenarios to help build a session for the a 2018 UBC Advising Conference session, Making Diversity & Inclusion Work: Three Supportive Approaches to Student Advising at UBC. This session was developed and presented by staff at the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO). The EIO then further developed the case study for this website with additional materials.

Target Learners & Contexts

This case study was created for student services professionals in higher education settings (e.g., Academic Advisors, Career Advisors, Study Abroad Advisors) for their professional development purposes. However, it could also be used in other settings (e.g., a higher education administration course, an inclusive teaching workshop for faculty and TAs) with or without modifications.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this case study activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify key concerns around inclusion and equity in the case scenario
  2. Develop strategies for more inclusive and equitable outcomes


Instructions for main facilitator:

Ahead of the workshop

  • Review the case study scenario(s) and adapt them to your context if necessary.
  • Review the talking points, which are suggested points for discussions. You may want to adapt the talking points (e.g., modify the language, make additional points) to your specific context.
  • Consider how you would like to facilitate the activity by thinking of the following questions:
    • Would you like to identify people who are going to facilitate small group discussions ahead of time so that you have a chance to discuss key points to be covered in the small group discussions? Or will the session participant work on their own in small groups?
    • Will someone be taking notes during small group discussions? How can these be shared back with the whole group?
    • Would you like to have students read the case studies and discussion questions ahead of time as “homework,” or do you have enough time to do that during your session?

During the workshop

  • Divide participants into groups of 4 or 5. You may want each group to include a facilitator with knowledge of the issues discussed in the scenarios, and who can help guide the conversation.
  • Give groups 10-15 minutes to discuss each scenario. You may want to give each group a large piece of paper where they can write 3-4 things that they would do in response.
  • Debrief as a large group. One by one, read the case studies before inviting each group to share what they discussed before opening it up to a discussion among the larger group.

Instructions for learners:

Read the case study that has been shared with your group. Take a moment to think about the discussion question then discuss them with your group.

Case Scenario

Your colleague, Sam Smith, who works in Science Advising, comes to you to for advice on how to get one of his students, Njoki Wane, more engaged.

He tells you the story of the first time he met Njoki. He was unsure how to pronounce the student’s name. When she arrived to the session, Sam introduced himself and listened carefully to the way she pronounced her name. However, Sam didn’t quite catch it so he asked Njoki to say her first name again. Njoki carefully and slowly repeated, “My name is Nn-Joke-E.” Feeling a bit flustered, Sam asked if Njoki had a nickname or preferred name. Njoki looked at Sam with some confusion and shook her head. Sam replied, “I’m terrible with names, is it okay if I call you Jo for short?” Njoki shrugged and said, “That’s fine, I guess,” but Sam noticed that Njoki seemed disengaged for the rest of the meeting and has avoided coming back for a follow up appointment. What advice do you have for Sam? How might approaching this situation with an intersectional lens have changed the interaction?

Discussion Questions

  • From your lens as an Advisor, what issues does this scenario highlight?
  • As an Advisor, what is your role and responsibility?
  • As an Advisor, how should you respond at this point? What could have been done differently to support the students in this scenario? Consider these questions at both the local level (e.g., what you can do in the moment or in a short term) and a broader level (e.g., long-term, structural changes).

Talking Points (for Facilitators)

These talking points are meant to help the facilitator generate meaningful conversation with the group. There are not final or comprehensive answers!

Name as a key element of our identities

Names are more than words or labels. They are related to our sense of who we are. Discuss questions such as: What does your name mean to you? How would a change in the way people call you change the way you feel about yourself?

Strategies for pronouncing unfamiliar names

Advisors may find many of their students’ names unfamiliar or difficult to pronounce, but it is their professional responsibility to respect students’ names and try to get them right. Instead of trying to get away with saying, “I’m terrible with names,” like Sam did, how could Advisors develop strategies for pronouncing different names properly? What might be a strategy that works well for you? What else can you learn from others’ strategies? In addition, can you think of a way to make a change in the system of your institution (e.g., student database) to help faculty and staff pronounce their students’ names right?


Power and privilege - What are the elements of Sam’s power and privilege that played a role in this scenario? How did these elements come together to shape a particular relationship with Njoki? To apply an intersectional lens to this analysis, locate the relationship of Sam and Njoki in the social structures that are comprised of multiple and intersecting systems of power and oppression (e.g., institutional hierarchy, sexism, colonialism, racism). For example, in an institutional context, Sam as an Advisor has positional authority over Njoki as a student. In addition, as a man Sam occupies a privileged social space over Njoki as a woman. Moreover, Sam’s assumption informed by Western normalcy (i.e., Njoki’s name is ‘different’; therefore it can be Anglicized) marginalizes Njoki. All these dimensions of power relations between Sam and Njoki shape a unique experience for each of them and a particular power dynamics between them in this scenario.


Sam’s behaviour in this scenario is a form of microaggression. Regardless of his intent, and regardless of whether he was conscious or unconscious, it is possible that his behaviour had a negative impact on Njoki, and he needs to be accountable for the impact of his words. Discuss some of the ways in which you could help Sam be accountable for this microaggression toward Njoki. For example, this blog article suggests “Listen. Reflect. Apologize. Do Better” as steps for those who made a mistake like a microaggression. How can you help Sam walk through these steps? Keep in mind that we do not know how Njoki experienced this situation so the first step of listening is crucial.

Sharing Permissions

Some rights reserved
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document according to the terms in Creative Commons License, Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. The full text of this license may be found here: CC by-sa 4.0

When re-using this resource, please attribute as follows: developed by Rachael E. Sullivan and the Equity and Inclusion Office at the University of British Columbia.

Additional Resources