UMSI announces 2022 DEI Awards recipients
The UMSI Diversity Awards each year recognize students, staff members and faculty members who have had a positive effect on the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
The UMSI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the DEI Committee are proud to announce the recipients of the 2022 UMSI Award for Impact in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and UMSI Award for Impact in Gender Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Information and Technology. The nominations and awards continue to highlight the UMSI community’s strong commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I attended a webinar recently where the speaker noted that there is no such thing as a singular abolitionist. That to be engaged in the work of abolishing systems and practices of oppression is a collective endeavor,” says Devon Keen, director of inclusion, equity and outreach at UMSI. “Through the UMSI DEI awards, we see how all segments of our community are engaging in and creating possibilities for equity, diversity, inclusion and justice across many spheres.”
UMSI Award for Impact in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Aparna Ananthasubramaniam and Linda Huber
PhD students Aparna Ananthasubramaniam and Linda Huber have taken on leadership of the Race & Tech Reading Group, a space to engage in meaningful discussions about equity and racism in technology. The group was started by associate professor Sarita Schoenebeck two years ago.
Continuing the group has required a considerable amount of effort and skilled facilitation among inconsistent participation. Ananthasubramaniam and Huber try to recruit other people to lead discussions, but often take on that role as well.
Ananthasubramaniam and Huber are grateful to have additional organizers involved to lead the expansion of the reading group.
During the early stages of the pandemic, 2022 Master of Science in Information graduate Darrell Williams ideated and founded the Lawson Porter Scholarship Foundation (LPSF). LPSF is a nonprofit whose mission is “to foster equitable pathways to any area of study in higher education regardless of how Black students perform in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, all while emphasizing the importance of Afrocentric history.”
“Arts & Humanities or STEM, Black scholars matter,” says the LPSF homepage. LPSF has raised thousands of dollars, awarded two scholarships and will be awarding two more scholarships this year.
Williams has also served as a coauthor of the Black@SI charter, a DEI graduate student staff assistant in the College of Pharmacy and a DEI data science analyst through an internship at Humana. Williams’s master’s thesis option program research focused on Black people’s information-seeking behaviors as it relates to COVID, mitigating disparities specific to Detroit exposed during the pandemic.
2022 Bachelor of Science in Information graduate Joshua Mollison has worked tirelessly with the DEI Committee over the past two years as a true advocate for justice and inclusion at UMSI. He has not wavered in his mission to bring more Black students to the school and brought an invaluable student voice to a committee primarily of staff and faculty.
Mollison has bravely shared his experiences and amplified Black student voices in numerous ways. He represented the University of Michigan at a national event with Michelle Obama and earned a U-M Central Campus Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award.
As a member of the Black@SI eBoard, Mollison has shared portfolio, resume and networking tips with current Black UMSI students. He successfully lobbied for support for Black@SI members to attend the 2021 AfroTech conference, connecting the Black U-M community with recruiters at top tech companies and fellow Black students in tech. He has also leveraged networks within the Black Student Union, Black Business Undergraduate Society and the National Society of Black Engineers to promote UMSI’s mission.
Sophia Zhan Boettcher
Master of Applied Data Science student Sophia Zhan Boettcher is an ally for marginalized communities and humans in crisis around the world. Boettcher is the founder and executive director of PPEforHCP, a disaster relief charity dedicated to uplifting vulnerable groups and supplying them with free, vetted personal protective equipment.
Boettcher’s organization helped evacuate and resettle both Ukrainians and students from African countries fleeing Ukraine and partnered with identity-based organizations such as Black Women for Black Lives and Native Reentry Services to support their efforts.
During the pandemic, PPEforHCP donated face masks and personal protective equipment to Salish Cancer Center, Gullah Geechee elders, PickITup Chinatown, Black voter registration groups in Ohio, Black-Asian unity groups, homeless clinics, dialysis centers and hospitals.
Digital content strategist Anna Lawrence has led the work of the school's Marketing and Communications (M&C) unit in improving accessibility across various communications platforms. This work includes testing and improving accessibility of the UMSI website and ensuring that photos on UMSI social media and other platforms are accompanied by effective alt text. Lawrence also conducts periodic accessibility audits and develops tools that other team members can use in their work.
Lawrence has led the M&C team through a variety of presentations and informal discussions that have helped others better understand and embrace accessibility as a vital DEI issue, resulting in broad adoption of accessibility as a core part of M&C’s mission.
Lawrence recruited U-M digital accessibility analyst Brandon Werner to visit with M&C staff, provide a live screen reader demonstration/Q&A and multi-platform review of UMSI communications. The team has since adapted how they create informative hyperlinks to better serve experienced, high-speed screen reader users.
Collectively, the CDO team has done and continues to do dedicated work in the DEI space to further their mission of student advocacy and empowerment as well as employer education and accountability. Some of the DEI work integrated into the CDO’s curricular and co-curricular offerings, policies and practices, and assessments include:
- New and redesigned internship policies to provide greater flexibility and fewer barriers to achieving this academic requirement for all students
- Expanded internship grant funding to provide greater access for students to pursue unpaid or underpaid internships
- Expansion of the DEI career resource library including many resources for students to access and gain empowerment for self-advocacy, e.g., identities in the workforce, company culture assessment, employment rights
- New and redesigned DEI-focused co-curricular workshops that were also woven into curricular-based internship and career courses, e.g., “Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap: Getting Your Worth - Salary Negotiations for All” and “Navigating the US Job Search for International Students”
- Integration of DEI-focused questions into internship and outcomes assessments
- New employer recruiting policies to educate employers on DEI expectations and hold them accountable to provide evidence of DEI in organizational culture
Associate professor Ricky Punzalan demonstrates a commitment to bringing people together to learn about DEI in the classroom, workplace and daily interactions. In DEI workshops and trainings, Punzalan brings rich questions and discussion topics, shares openly about his experiences as a faculty member and as a faculty member of a minoritized population, and discusses the inclusive and anti-racist practices he folds into his teaching.
Punzalan is channeling his scholarship and community outreach toward advocating for Filipino communities as co-principal investigator of the project “ReConnect/ReCollect: Reparative Connections to Philippine Collections at the University of Michigan.” The project engages researchers, students, librarians, archivists and community members in repairing and replacing harmful historical descriptions attached to artifacts, photographs and archival materials in U-M’s Philippine Collections. When launching ReConnect/ReCollect, Punzalan enlisted the help of UMSI students in David Wallace's SI 547: Engaging With Communities client-based course.
Assistant professor Nazanin Andalibi advances DEI in her teaching, research and service, promoting a diverse, equitable and inclusive academic environment at UMSI and in the field of information broadly.
Andalibi prioritizes DEI in her mentorship of a diverse group of students, providing support and flexibility during the pandemic. She conducts research that centers the perspectives of people with underrepresented identities, and she engages in dialogue (both publicly and privately) that promotes civility and understanding. Andalibi prioritizes social justice-oriented research questions (e.g., attending to power, bias, marginalization and disparity in algorithmic systems), promotes anti-racist scholarship, and actively seeks ways to promote advocacy in research, like developing community partnerships.
Andalibi served on the Anti-Racist Data Justice faculty search committee this year, and in this role helped recruit new UMSI faculty whose research prioritizes DEI. She also serves as part of the SIGCHI CARES team, a group that helps to counter harassment and discrimination in SIGCHI conferences and publications (e.g., CHI). This demanding position involves talking directly with affected individuals and then working to enact change.
UMSI Award for Impact in Gender Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Information and Technology
Flux Trans Media Project Team: Manali Desai, Sona Rao, Jessie Zhou
This trio of Master of Science in Information (MSI) students conducted a mixed-methods study using user interviews, competitive analysis and participatory design to understand how trans individuals navigate and seek support in the transition process. Their participatory design results led to the design of Flux, a conceptual prototype application to help trans people connect with others in similar stages and intersecting identities.
The app provides a holistic and multimedia approach for documenting the transition journey and builds agency in connecting with others for support and affirmation in a safe space. In addition to Flux, the team members contribute implications for future research needed to support the type of information trans people want to share online. This was a project Desai, Rao and Zhou began in their MSI Mastery Course and continued working on toward a conference work-in-progress well after the course ended.