Semester Retrospective/Class Prospective

I am sad that this class has come to an end. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about myself and how I can create a better environment for others. Taking this class has really opened up my eyes, on the topic and discussions of Diversity and Inclusion. I feel that I can take everything that was discussed and share it with others in some way. I have not had many opportunities in life to have these types of discussions, and I am glad this class created that opportunity. I am also grateful for the classroom environment. Everyone in class helped to create and maintain a safe space for each one of us to open up and share our experiences in life. My two biggest takeaways from this class are: (1) Own your experiences, and (2) Diversity does not work without Inclusion.

(1) Own your experiences: I have always had issues with opening up to people and sharing my experiences. I was actually really nervous about these blog posts at the beginning of the semester. The first blog post, I actually rewrote because my first draft I felt uncomfortable sharing too much personal information about myself. I think the idea of blog posts made me uncomfortable because it forced me to be vulnerable and think about my life experiences in a new way.

(2) Diversity does not work without Inclusion: Diversity will bring people of different backgrounds in the same room, but inclusion will keep them in the room. Inclusion is really the glue that keeps people together and manifests a better environment. When you have one without the other, you can have only a diverse environment, but people are unhappy, or a group of people of the same background. Fostering this balance and being able to explain this to others is a big learning idea for me. I came into this class hoping to learn what I can bring back to my organization to help our sisterhood, and this tied everything together.

Moving Forward: To me, this class was the tip of the iceberg. I feel like I have a lot more learning that I need to do. This class really initiated a spark for me to continue understanding how we can work through barriers to create inclusive environments for people. Applying the ideas and concepts we talked during class to different fields of my life (i.e., teaching methods, as a student, as a leader) can allow me to foster better environments for others and make others feel included and happy.

Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education

Issues in Higher Education

One of the biggest issues in higher education that has impacted my field on a national and global level is money and cost. The root of all evil, as some say. Money is more than the cost of the school, it is about the funding available at the school, the value of your degree, the types of resources available, and the quality of labs at your disposal. Forbes published an article a few years ago discussing issues in higher education and they stated, “Sixth, the value of a college degree as a device to signal knowledge, intelligence, discipline, ambition, and integrity is fraying, jeopardizing the economic advantages of a university education…Too many students of meager academic performance attend college; grade inflation allows nearly everyone to graduate who persists. The prestige elite schools are increasingly viewed as altogether superior institutions to less selective colleges and universities” (Vedder, 2017).

 

Previous Experience

When I was in the industry there was such an emphasis placed upon your degree when we were looking to hire. If there was an option between a candidate with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, even if the bachelor was a better fit, my boss would pass upon the bachelor’s candidate. It came to a point where it was difficult to hire anyone because the credentials weren’t high enough, despite any experience. It started to get difficult when we were extremely understaffed and being overworked because there were not enough researchers and too many projects. My team and I did not know what to do. One of my colleagues went to one of the higher-ups to talk to them to try and come up with ways that we can better evaluate a candidate experience with their degree. In the end, we did not have the power to make and changes and it still remains the same.

 

Future Considerations

It seems that the trend of requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree across all industries has become the current trend. It has come to a point where you cannot get a decent paying job without any type of college education. Even associate degrees are scoffed at. What about those individuals who do not want to go to college, or those who cannot afford to go to college? You do not need a degree to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC). The hiring process for controllers is very long and back-logged. To become a controller, you need to apply online, take an exam, and if you pass your name goes on the bottom of the list. Now, if you have a bachelor’s degree in ATC your name goes to a smaller list closer to the top and you are chosen before the other candidates. This was the process when I was in school 6 years ago, and within the last 2 years they changed it to remove the “degree jump”. When did the world start punishing people for a lack of a college education?

Works Cited

Vedder, R. (2017, August 29). Seven Challenges Facing Higher Education. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ccap/2017/08/29/seven-challenges-facing-higher-education/#66ed0cdc3180

Contemporary Issue

Contemporary issues are the philosophies, occurrences, or feelings about a specific topic (or area/field) that is happening now in our current society. I am a Human Factors and Systems engineer, thus in my previous job I was interacting with all disciplines of engineering. One contemporary issue that is affecting engineering fields currently is how do we get younger people interested in a STEM related field. An article completed by Elsevier discussed ten major engineering challenges that we are going to face in the next decade. They stated “By 2018, the United States will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. Meanwhile, according to a UCLA study, 40% of students enrolled as STEM majors switched subjects or failed to get a degree” ( (10 major engineering challenges of the next decade , 2018).  I feel this issue is really important for current engineers to focus on because it is up to use to be mentors and leaders to these young minds. It is about engaging all types of students and sparking that interest in STEM fields.

When I was in 6th grade, my mother told me I had to go to this club called TSA (Technology Student Association) one Saturday morning. She said if I didn’t like it after I tried it then I never had to go again. She told me to give everything an equal chance and do not say you do not like something until you gave it an opportunity. I went to my first meeting the next Saturday morning and I was the only girl with 39 other middle school boys. I was teased for being a girl and trying to join a “boys” club. My father (being a handy-man) had taught me how to fix things on my own and helped create my passion for building and designing things. So being the only girl there did not bother me because I was doing something I enjoyed! My mother told me “ignore the boys and prove them wrong.” That, I did.

I worked hard, listened and learned from my teachers and persevered. I took first place in multiple categories in the TSA competition – beating out all the boys who laughed at me. I encouraged other girls to join TSA the next year, and it went from a club where I was the only girl to a club that was growing with more girls joining every year! I continued to participate in TSA throughout middle school and high school. Over those 6 years, I won over 25 first place trophies and placed nationally 3 times amongst 10,000 competitors.

I was ridiculed, and everyone said I was given special treatment. No one believed a little girl worked hard and did everything on her own. My mother then told me, “You will be ridiculed your whole life, but if you work hard and continue to work hard no matter what people say, you will be successful.” I took what my mother taught me and never gave up my entire life.

I feel like I always go back to women in the engineering field as an issue, but it has been a big part of my life and made me into the person I am today. But a bigger question I was to pose is how do we get young minds (of all ethnicities and genders) involved into STEM? For me it was being involved in a club that allowed me ability to be hands-on and create things. It was about having mentors who bent over backwards to teach us and sacrificed their own personal time to enrich the minds of young ones. I was privileged that my school offered these opportunities for me, and that I had such great mentors. So, how do we reach out to the young people who do not have these privileges? I don’t know the answer to this, but it is a question that needs to be asked to get our minds working. I feel this is something we can achieve but we (current engineers) need to be willing to put in the effort to sacrifice our time (the little we have) to educate and inspire the future STEM majors.

 

Works Cited

10 major engineering challenges of the next decade . (2018, March 8). Retrieved from Elsevier: https://www.elsevier.com/rd-solutions/industry-insights/other/10-major-engineering-challenges-of-the-next-decade

Stereotype Threat

Defining Stereotypes:

The principles of social psychology define stereotypes as “the positive or negative beliefs that we hold about the characteristics of a social group. “ (Stangor, Jhangiani, & Tarry, 2011). I decided to share this definition because I found it interesting that the book tried to explain that stereotypes can be positive. To me, stereotypes are negative characteristics of a group that someone uses to marginalize someone. People use these phrases to bring someone down.

The assigned reading titles Prejudice and Discrimination explained how often times the stereotype is a positive quality of the group. But in most instances when the stereotype is used there is a negative connotation to it. I thought this was an interesting, and different from what I know. In what I have experienced and seen the majority of stereotypes were negative in meaning and delivery.

Impact on my Life:

It was really difficult to think of and pick only one experience that I have been stereotyped. I think the most impactful moment was when I was in 6th grade. As a child, I had a knack for building. I loved to put together electronics and create things. I was in Mr. Snyder’s Science class, and one of three girls in the class. We had a project where he asked us to build an item and bring it in (similar to a science fair but only for our class). Well, I built an electronic motor that caused a small fan to spin. I was so excited that I created this and couldn’t wait to show my classmates. I was sitting in my desk ready to show the class my creation. Mr. Snyder got to my desk, looked at my project and immediately told me to pack up my belongings and go to the principal’s office. I was shocked and confused and made the mistake to ask “why”. He proceeded to yell at me that I cheated because there was no way a girl could make this without cheating. He lifted up my project and dropped it on the ground. I began to shake and cry, packed up my bags and went to the principal’s office. My mom arrived at the school after the principal called her, and long story short – he didn’t come back the following year.

The “women can’t be in science” stereotype has been like an annoying fly following me around since I was a child. Each time I kill the fly, a new fly (buzzing the same comments) shows up.

I think this experience definitely impacted my life, but oddly, in a positive way. I take experiences like this and I look as it as motivation. Motivation to prove everyone wrong and fuel to push me to become as successful as possible. I think I was also extremely lucky to have strong women role models to look up too and who stood up for me when I was unable too.

Future Implications:

Everyone has their own ways of moving past these experiences of when they are stereotyped. I tried to use these experiences as motivation as much as possible, but sometimes I failed. Sometimes I let the experience bring me down, but that is when I eventually had to lift myself up. I do not have a magic formula on how to get past these experiences, but this is what I tell myself:

    • I could not be generalized, I am unique
    • One person’s comments weren’t going to change me
    • I am “one of many and not many of one” (to quote my Zia)

So, as I was researching ways to overcoming when you are stereotyped, I came across this website called “How to avoid being a stereotype”. As I was reading this article, I became very uncomfortable. For example, this is an excerpt from the article “How to Avoid Being a Gay Stereotype: Do whatever it takes to talk with a manly voice.  No more high-pitched stuff. Lower it, like, at least seventeen octaves to be safe.” (Killermann, n.d.). I feel uncomfortable even including this in my blog post. At the end of the article, they explain that the comments above were used as satire and continues by saying “We need to move past this idea that we know an individual based on their group memberships. It’s idiotic.” (Killermann, n.d.). I don’t agree with how the article went about making its point, but it did make me think.

 

References:

Killermann, S. (n.d.). HOW TO AVOID BEING A STEREOTYPE. Retrieved from its pronounced metrosexual: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/06/how-to-avoid-being-a-stereotype/

Stangor, C., Jhangiani , R., & Tarry, H. (2011). Principles of Social Psychology – 1st International Edition. VICTORIA, B.C: BCCAMPUS.

Introductory Blog, Identities and Privilege

Hi!! My name is Alexandria Ida Rossi Alvarez. Yes, it is a mouthful. My gender pronouns are she, her, hers. Below is a picture of myself, my husband, and our little monster.

I am a second-year Ph.D. student in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Cognitive Engineering. My life is a little crazy. My family is from northern Spain, when I was younger I grew up in northern Italy (Bardi), lived in New York (Yonkers), then moved to Florida (Daytona Beach) for college. I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where I completed my Bachelor’s in Human Factors and Air Traffic Management with minors in Aerospace Life Science and my Masters in Human Factors and Systems. Then I moved to Ohio (Columbus) where I worked for a company called Lextant for 5 years. I worked as a Senior Human-Centered Design Associate. I then decided to quit my job and go back to school, so here I am. I love to dance (any Latin dancing), I make some killer cupcakes,  and I can recite any Bobs Burgers episode by heart.

I have been on my sororities national executive board for the last three years. Even though we are a multicultural organization, we struggle with inclusion. One reason I decided to take this course was to understand how I can help my organization grow, what can I learn about myself, and how can I change for the better. I hope to gain a better understanding of the diverse global society and what I can do better to facilitate a more inclusive environment.