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UMSI announces 2023 DEI Awards recipients

"2023 UMSI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards"

Thursday, 06/15/2023

The University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) is honoring 14 students, staff members and faculty members who have had a positive impact on the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. 

The 2023 award recipients, announced by the UMSI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office and the DEI Committee

UMSI Award for Impact in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  

Student award recipients: 

Phil Mendez, Master of Science in Information student 

Phil Mendez worked as a graduate student instructor to introduce equity-focused praxis to a course, positively affecting 130 graduate students. He coordinated ongoing consultations regarding best practices, and implemented changes to the course structure. He introduced a new group formation plan using a questionnaire that offered students more agency, avoided pressure on students to find teammates and created diverse and empowered teams.

Mendez also initiated efforts to enhance transparency, academic belonging, and structured interactions. He was also instrumental in organizing a DEI panel for the 2023 Information Architecture Conference in New Orleans. 

Miranda Kharsa, Master of Science in Information student 

Miranda Kharsa has demonstrated leadership and initiative in working to advance understanding and compassion for minoritized communities. Specifically, Kharsa serves on the board of two nonprofits to advance and amplify Palestinian voices: the Seraj Library Project, which builds cultural centers and libraries throughout Palestine; and the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine, a national organization that brings together Palestinian-Americans in the diaspora to engage in cultural events, advocacy and youth leadership programming. 

As part of her efforts to advance understanding, Kharsa illustrated a children’s book about a Palestinian child’s first day of school in the United States. In the book, the main character uses the classroom to walk his peers through his culture in an immersive way.

Staff award recipients:

Charles Yun, UMSI Computing 

Charles Yun is recognized for his commitment to and leadership in affinity-based DEI work. He is a founding member and core team leader of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi/American (APID/A) staff group at the University of Michigan. Founded in 2017 by Yun and others, APID/A elevates APID/A voices, creates a consistent space for sharing experience, builds relationships amongst APID/A staff, educates members and people across campus, and mobilizes activism on issues salient to the APID/A community. 

Yun has played a central role in creating a vibrant community on campus for APID/A staff, uplifting APID/A voices and advocating for APID/A people in an era of increasing anti-Asian American violence. Yun has also acted as a sounding board and informal mentor to UMSI APID/A and APID students.

Faculty award recipients:

ESC co-directors: Silvia Lindtner, Patricia Garcia, Sophia Brueckner and Christian Sandvig

The Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing (ESC) at the University of Michigan was founded in 2020, and over the past three and a half years its directors have explicitly placed DEI at the center of its activities. DEI is central to the center’s mission, the diversity of its researchers, its intentional community-building, and its research. 

ESC proposed a cross-campus anti-racism faculty hiring cluster creating three new professorships at U-M. They prioritized building a supportive community of researchers to advance non-stereotypical identities for those with technical expertise, through advising, encouraging and funding student-organized events on women in technology. 

The ESC co-directors have also represented the school in many high-profile venues, writing popular work about the role of women in technology, anti-Chinese racism, and discriminatory artificial intelligence. They have spoken and written about their DEI-related work for venues like NPR, Time, The Economist, the MIT Technology Review, C-SPAN, the US Committee on US-China Relations, the US Supreme Court and the American Association of University Professors.

Megan Threats

Megan Threats has demonstrated a significant commitment to advancing DEI at the University of Michigan and the field of information broadly through her research, service and teaching. Threats has served as a faculty reviewer for the 2023 Anti-Racism Graduate Research Grants program. She is also contributing to UMSI’s high school outreach efforts by designing and offering a college-level summer course to high school seniors as part of the U-M Wolverine Pathways Program. 

Threats’ research program focuses on leveraging informatics to achieve health justice with and for racially and ethnically minoritized and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. She has served as a mentor for women and racial and ethnic minorities through the American Medical Informatics Association. She also works to promote DEI as a member of the iSchools Black Coalition, and most recently participated on a panel about social justice design. 

Threats mentors a diverse group of students, providing advice for navigating the academic job market, conducting critical research, navigating academia as a queer person/person of color, and a host of other issues.

UMSI Award for Impact in Gender Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Information and Information Technology

Student award recipients: 

American Library Association (ALA) UMSI Student Chapter officers: Rebecca Barabas, Abby Mumby, Meghan Berry, Shelby Jeffrey, Rion Berger, Tyra Briscoe

The American Library Association (ALA) Student Chapter officers are being recognized for organizing a DEI event this year featuring a panel discussion titled “Supporting LGBTQ+ Patrons in Libraries.” The panelists included speakers confronting this issue from both the national and local vantage points, from president-elect of the ALA to a local public librarian as well as a University of Michigan librarian. The panelists were able to give concrete examples of ways to support LGBTQ+ patrons and librarians and provided a broader understanding of the current threat the LGBTQ+ community is facing, and how libraries/librarians play a role in this struggle.


Read more about the UMSI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awards