Apr 13, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
According to the 2012 Georgia Tech Climate Assessment Survey, some faculty, staff, and students expressed feelings of marginalization based on gender, race, and ethnicity. In response to these findings, a Strategic Plan Advisory Group (SPAG) proposal was submitted in 2016 to launch the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program in an effort to accelerate cultural transformation.
With support from Institute Diversity, the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program brings together faculty, staff, and students who individually and collectively advance their action, research, or teaching objectives while improving inclusivity on campus.
“This program is a bottom-up initiative, tapping into the creativity and diversity of thought among our campus community to crowdsource ideas that create long-term culture change,” said Beril Toktay, ADVANCE Professor in the Scheller College of Business, Brady Family Chair and faculty director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, and co-director of the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program.
The goals of the program are to cultivate a network of ambassadors who will advance a culture of inclusive excellence and to create an environment where people feel safe, comfortable, and empowered to discuss diversity and inclusion at Georgia Tech.
Following an application period last fall, 21 faculty, staff, and students were selected as fellows based on their submitted proposals, which were scored on their inventiveness and likelihood to change the campus culture. The fellows were then grouped into three teams. Each team has a leader or co-leaders, and teams are expected to meet at least six times per year.
“Diverse collaboration often sparks great innovation,” remarked Magnus Egerstedt, professor and Julian T. Hightower Chair in Systems and Controls in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, executive director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, and co-director of the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program. “Some of the teams’ ideas may be institutionalized and scaled to the broader campus community over time.”
Initial ideas from the fellows include symposia, workshops, improv performances, surveys, mentorship programs, and journaling exercises focusing on the dimensions and intersectionalities of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, and disability.
On March 7, some of the fellows hosted the Talking Race@Tech: Student Voices panel discussion with student leaders, which was sponsored by the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts; School of Literature, Media, and Communication; Writing and Communication Program; and Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program.
“Through the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program, I was able to draw broader support and diverse audiences to this panel discussion,” said Lauren Neefe, Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, and Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. “The more we make spaces for these conversations, the more likely they are to occur again.”
SPAG solicits new ideas from the campus community each year that will continue the implementation of the strategic plan and address gaps in advancing the goals of the Institute. The three-year Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program is one of three diversity and inclusion initiatives funded through a SPAG proposal; the other two are the Diversity and Inclusion Councils and the Transformative Narratives project.
“This program is one example of Georgia Tech being steered in the right direction,” commented Brienné Coates, alumna of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. “We are helping to create ideal outcomes instead of waiting for these outcomes.”
For more information on the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program, visit www.diversity.gatech.edu/DIFellowsProgram.