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Spotlight on Tracey King

Spotlight, Human Resources

By Aboriginal HR Consultant Tracey King, Essinhs Kwe (Little Shell Woman) shares what she loves about her role and how to make space for Indigenous peoples’ experiences and knowledges in the hiring process.

Tracey King.

“One thing that I love about my role is that it is a fluid one where I work in many settings as a resource and builder, using my Indigenous knowledge, community connections and lived experience. Fundamentally, I’m working for Indigenous peoples on a wide array of issues and areas within the university.”

Tracey supports Aboriginal recruitment and retention at Ryerson in Human Resources, working with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS) and the Aboriginal Education Council. She is also part of the leadership team in the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion. This involves her in a variety of initiatives on campus, from participation on departmental and manager hiring committees to making connections in the Indigenous community to supporting leaders with Aboriginal hiring and retention.

“We have 133 First Nations reserve communities in Ontario — many people don’t know it’s that vast.”

As Tracey shared, part of her role is increasing and promoting Indigenous hires but also the overall Indigenous visibility and presence at the university. This means that when advertising and promoting positions, it’s important to not only work with organizations in urban centres or surrounding towns, but to also promote these positions in reserve communities. “Some reserves might not have good internet access. This means that in some cases, we still have to fax position postings, and we’ll continue to do so.” Tracey’s expertise in recruiting Indigenous faculty and staff has been crucial — in her time at Ryerson, the number of faculty and staff who self-identify as Indigenous has more than tripled. She believes her supportive role to Aboriginal candidates at the application stage and beyond has been critical in the hiring process.

“The truth is I’m a sensitive individual. I’m sensitive to my workplace environment and my total environment.”

Tracey shared that she knows that to thrive at work, she needs quiet space to think, write and create — it’s her learning style. She stressed the importance of managers taking the time to understand what their employees need to succeed and then supporting them in setting up that environment. You never know what background and experiences someone is bringing to their role, but it’s important to make space for someone to bring their whole self to work. Sometimes it’s as informal as learning about a colleague’s background.

“Our cultural identity as Indigenous peoples is very important to us and so is being able to bring that identity to work. Before, we were prohibited from practicing our culture and ceremonies, and prohibited from speaking our language through many colonial historical and traumatic events.”

One of the things Tracey’s been proud of is working with HR and Ryerson to create culturally-relevant recruitment materials and hiring practices for Indigenous applicants. Bringing one’s whole self and ceremony into the interview process can ease a lot of stress and enable candidates to share their narrative. This can be done through candidates bringing in sacred items to their interview or smudging with their hiring panel.

Additionally, inviting a candidate to share their own experiences and knowledges and to then apply those to explain how it ties to the position they’re applying for Indigenizes a Western process. As Tracey explained, it demonstrates to a candidate that you’re honouring who they are and what they bring to the position. It illustrates that your interview process is flexible so that they can show what they can bring to Ryerson from an Indigenous perspective.

Fast five with Tracey

Favourite community event:

All the events RASS hosts!

Favourite season:


Favourite TV show:

Little House on the Prairie - Still watch the reruns!

One thing you can’t live without:

My family

Any pets:

A Yorkshire Terrier dog named Sage