Wide range of UMSI events focused on diversity in winter 2016

Alicia Garza, co-founder of BlackLivesMatter, spoke at a UMSI-sponsored talk during the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium in January, 2016.

Workshops, invited speakers and a lunchtime mixer were among the UMSI initiatives in winter semester 2016 that continue to make the school more inclusive and welcoming for all faculty, staff and students.

Jumanah Saadeh, Student Services Assistant (left), chats with students at the Meet & Eat lunch in January, 2016.

In January, students, faculty and staff shared a meal and discussed their backgrounds and personal experiences at the second annual Meet & Eat, sponsored by the UMSI Diversity Committee.

In addition to lunch, participants were provided with a list of questions to open up conversation and promote the exchange of ideas. “The conversation naturally converged on topics relevant to diversity, and they were quite interesting and informative,” one participant said.

A faculty workshop, also in January, was designed to help faculty infuse diversity and inclusion into their course content and classroom environment. UMSI assistant professor Lionel Robert said he attended “to find ways to better promote inclusion in my classes and to provide a safe space for all my students to actively participate in class.”

However, the event’s impact ended up being broader than he expected. “Initially, I was focused on improving my own behavior to facilitate inclusion in my classes,” he said. “However, I also learned to employ approaches which encourage students in my class to be more sensitive to each other's concerns.”

In April, staff members took part in a Dialogues on Diversity workshop to help build self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences. Staffer Ben Tobey said the event was more fun and interesting than he expected. “I learned a lot about my coworkers, and I really think that helps create sense of community,” he said.

Workshops are also part of a series hosted by UMSI’s Career Development Office throughout March focused on career paths and success strategies for women in information. In addition to a salary negotiation workshop, the series includes an alumni panel and a talk by U-M alumna and Yahoo! director of product management Erin Teague.

Recent UMSI speakers have also addressed issues related to diversity and inclusion. In January, UMSI co-sponsored #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza to speak as part of the U-M Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. In February, UMSI student group Multi-Ethnic Information Exchange (MIX) hosted University of Ontario Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Obar for a talk on how to prevent big data-based discrimination.

Meanwhile, the Queer STS Reading Club, established last fall by PhD student Jean Hardy as “an interdisciplinary space for scholars to investigate and collaborate on building queer approaches within the field of science and technology studies,” sponsored a talk this semester by University of Toronto assistant professor Patrick Keilty.

Several of these events have involved the UMSI Diversity Committee, which encourages faculty, staff and students to make progress on UMSI’s current diversity goals. Meanwhile, the strategic planning group headed by UMSI professor Margaret Hedstrom is coordinating with university-wide efforts and looking at future directions for diversity, equity and inclusion at UMSI.

Other recent UMSI efforts on diversity and inclusion have garnered staff recognition on a university-wide level. These include the implementation of the Research Experience for Master’s Students program, which offers master’s students from under-represented groups the  chance to explore a research career, and a change to ensure inclusive language regarding gender identity on admissions applications.

Posted April 28, 2016