DEI for Global Society Final Reflection

What a semester and a privilege to immerse myself and learn about the many facets of diversity and the principles of inclusion and equity. Taking this class, Diversity and Inclusion for a Global Society, has radically changed my perspectives and outlook on DEI. I am a little bit wiser in that I now have a better understanding that diversity is truly expansive and beyond traditional factors such as race and gender. It is all encompassing and includes many ascribed attributes and selected factors. Diversity is really the thread of humanity, and the essential ingredient that makes people, situations and life more beautiful, enriching and enlightening. We must embrace diversity and the unique differences we all bring to the table to complement, uplift and stimulate each other.

Inclusion requires proactivity and involves taking individual and collective responsibility to create spaces and environments where everyone feels valued, affirmed and a sense of belonging. It goes beyond mere representation but promotes a system of togetherness and interdependence. When we understand that everyone and each group or community has something of great value to offer and that we all can benefit and learn from, then I believe we can experience real growth and edification. Exclusivity on the other hand is the thief of enrichment.

Furthermore, equity is ensuring fairness and equality of opportunities and access by having a level playing field. Understanding there is more to gain in removing barriers and allowing everyone to rise to greatness and make society a better place.

Indeed, this class was very enjoyable, thought-provoking, stimulating and enlightening. I feel inspired and challenged to be intentional in acknowledging, respecting and advocating for DEI initiatives. Certainly, the people and groups affected by DEI issues are important, and their challenges significant in addressing, for the greater good of society.

The topics discussed in class were riveting. I learned a lot of invaluable and important information from the course content, discussions and interactions. I gained recognition about gender pronouns and how I can respectfully and appropriately address myself and different people. Additionally, I gained knowledge about microaggressions and how to detect them. I also learned about implicit biases, stereotype threat, and the 5 different forms of racism and how these pervade and perpetuate in people and society. Moreover, I learned about the many identities people can have and the privileges awarded to the dominant groups in society. Most importantly, I learned that I need to be mindful and aware of my own conscious and unconscious biases and how to examine my own stereotypical perceptions, behaviors and reactions to avoid enacting them onto members of society. The topics reviewed and discussed were very helpful in allowing me to see how I can identify and personally debunk such mindsets, behaviors and attitudes towards others.

Interestingly, the insights from the topic of intersectionality was impactful in that I learned that people are a totality of their experiences and cannot be viewed from singular lens. People are made up of diverse identities and we must do our best to communicate to people with this awareness in order to better understand and relate to each other. Furthermore, the issue and topic of diversity extends beyond the U.S. borders. Many countries around the globe must engage with DEI and work towards making their institutions and society more tolerant and forbearing. I can confidently say that I feel a greater sense of internal and external awareness and I gained a deeper level of growth and development after taking this class and interacting with the content and my peers.

Also, Dr. Grimes was a great facilitator for the class and he really challenged and encouraged us to think outside the norm and to absorb, digest and engage with the controversial material and commentary in a respectful manner. I very much appreciated the classroom environment and I am grateful for the experiences and discussion shared by my classmates and their unique perspectives on DEI to enhance my learning and understanding.

Data Governance, Management and Protection in Higher Education

We are bombarded with data. Higher education institutions have no shortages of data and experience daily influxes from diverse streams. From confidential student and institutional information to sensitive research data sets, it becomes increasingly crucial that higher education institutions enforce and regulate stringent data protocols and practices to ensure proper data control, data management, data protection and data privacy. As pressure increase for higher education institutions to do more with the resources they have at hand, paying attention to these issues are imperative for their sustainability and continued success.

With the increasing power and capability of data, there is so much that can be done using data-driven initiatives to enable improved outcomes and effective decision making in higher education. Data can be used strategically to achieve greater impact in higher ed. decision-making that better meet the goals and outcomes of the institution, departments and student affairs. The key remains in properly controlling and leveraging the data to achieve these desired outcomes. EDUCAUSE [1] recommends that for higher education institutions to implement effective “data management and governance practices” they should:

    • Learn: Read about higher education data management and governance topics and find proven practices that helped other institutions implement data management and governance.
    • Plan: Benchmark their current data capabilities and lay the groundwork for their data management and governance strategic direction.
    • Do: Implement data management and governance practices and validate their forward progress.[1]

Furthermore, there exists many data quality problems from the vast array of data sources, but higher education can utilize data governance to help continuously mitigate this problem in order to ensure quality data for strategizing and planning initiatives such as those that help to drive student success.[2] Hayhurst claims [2], “The success of any data-driven initiative depends on that data being relevant and trustworthy.” Universities can ensure high-quality data by ensuring these “key attributes” that include:

 

      • Completeness: Related data must be linked from all possible sources.
      • Accuracy: Data must be correct and consistent, with no misspellings, for example.
      • Availability: Data must be available upon demand.
      • Timeliness: Current data must be available. [2]

Most recently, my colleagues and I, have been receiving many spam and phishing emails from administration in my department. This calls into question the issue of data protection and the necessity for heightened data protection measures. The ability for cyber-criminals to manipulate email accounts and transcend network security protocols poses a serious threat to higher education operations and trust. Cyber experts emphasize that, “It is critical university leaders consider whether their cyber protection governance is sufficiently robust.” [3] University officials must work intently to ensure that their valuable data is protected with the highest level of protection. Some critical questions that higher education providers need to ask include:

    • Who has access to data?
    • Are regular vulnerability scans performed as part of vulnerability management?
    • Do attack monitoring and mitigation systems cover the right cyber-attacks?
    • Are staff and students trained in information security awareness to spot fraudulent attacks?[3]

References:

  1. https://www.educause.edu/guides/improving-data-management-and-governance-in-higher-education
  2. https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2019/06/breaking-down-data-governance-data-quality-perfcon
  3. https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Policy-Note-12-Paper-April-2019-How-safe-is-your-data.pdf

All about Intersectionality

See the source image

 

Intersectionality Background

Intersectionality was first coined and popularized by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to portray the intersection of different classification factors and how they interplay, compound and magnify different stereotypes and oppressions that significantly impact a person’s life.  Specifically,

 “Intersectionality refers to the simultaneous experience of categorical and hierarchical classifications including but not limited to race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality. It also refers to the fact that what is often perceived as disparate forms of oppression, like racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia, are actually mutually dependent and intersecting in nature, and together they compose a unified system of oppression.’ [1]

Furthermore, sociologist Patricia Hill Collins further expounded and sensationalized the concept of intersectionality in her 1990 book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. She studied black women and other multifaceted individuals from an Intersectional Approach to better understand their unique experiences. Through this thought, it is considered that an individual’s disposition is influenced strongly by multiple attributes and collectively these inform how they are perceived and treated. Intersectionality provides a reference frame to view an individual holistically rather than through siloed lens. Indeed, looking at an individual in totality offers a better picture of their circumstances. Click for the 101 on intersectionality: What is Intersectionality?

Unique Experience

My unique experience with intersectionality was through an experience that I witnessed about a close family acquaintance. Jane Doe was a female, Hispanic, educated individual who worked in a white male dominant supervisory role. Because of her unique classifiers, she repeatedly experienced quasi-racist, sexist and condescending remarks about her inherent characteristics and strong-willed determined work ethic. As a result, she always felt pressured to work harder to prove herself and perform successfully to impress her peers and upper level managers. This significantly impacted her mental health and stress-levels. Due to her specific intersecting factors, her work oppression was compounded to a seriously threatening level.

Intersectionality best practices in the workplace

Some key strategies and considerations that can address intersectionality in the workplace include [2]:

  1. Acquire and provide proper training, education and awareness on the issue
  2. Clear unambiguous policies on discrimination in the workplace
  3. Represent and support employees at all levels and locations
  4. Establish networks to support the development and opportunity available to minority groups
  5. Proclaim/ Promote it, advocate it and fully support it in the workplace

Implications

A person should never be defined or perceived on the basis of a singular attribute but society including myself should consider appreciating and understanding the multitude of factors that can make up an individual’s identity and use that to inform our perception in an unbiased and reasoned way. We must be sensitive to the histories and realities that people are influenced by and live within. An individual is the sum-total of their identities and experiences, and we can no longer try to understand or relate to them from a narrow or hollow viewpoint. More specifically, in the workplace, employees are significant assets that should always be valued, respected and supported to the highest level.

References:

  1.  https://www.thoughtco.com/intersectionality-definition-3026353
  2.  https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/workplace-intersectionality/

Together we achieve more

We are all in this together. Endless opportunities and possibilities surround us, yet we continue to choose to limit ourselves to the sidewalk of familiarity. The time is up for playing it safe on the sidelines, we must intentionally ascend the bridge of opportunity and leverage the lanes of success to achieve more together.

The field of engineering continues to lag in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Although, much work has been done to bridge the gap, more is still needed to compound greater opportunities in order to achieve a sustainable representation of DE&I in the field. Men continue to outnumber women in engineering degree programs and within academic and research positions. Women of color continue to lag behind their counterparts in achieving STEM degrees. Furthermore, opportunities diverge widely among other factors such as age, socioeconomic status and disability. We can no longer allow missed opportunities for (DE&I)  because the biggest hurting entity from the disparities in (DE&I) is the engineering field itself.  Like the popular proverb acknowledges, “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.”

Engineering benefits from a plethora of diverse people who bring to the table different and unique ideas, skills and experiences to create the future. Ultimately, the field is enriched through the collaboration of versatile, creative and innovative minds who push the boundaries to achieve better and to do more. DE&I ensures excellence within in the field and supports sustainable academic and research outcomes.

As an engineer, I am thankful for the programs, opportunities and peers that supported me to where I am today. I continue to see the need for (DE&I) in the field and even in my own department. I can’t begin to tell you how many times the thought of me feeling like the “ONLY ONE” has occupied my mind. It is really discouraging but I hope that very soon this will not be a memory for  generations to come. I too have a responsibility to take an active role in bridging the gap for minorities in the field. As a result, I commit my time and efforts to doing outreach and working with minoritized groups to stimulate their interest in STEM. I know the power and strength in DE&I and I want to see it in full force for a richer academic and research environment, a stronger society and for a better world.

Reference: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/diversity-in-stem-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters/

Stereotype Threat

 

Introduction

Stereotypes can significantly impact the way we live and engage with other social beings. It is important to understand what information stereotypes communicate to us and how this information impact our communication and interaction with each other.

A stereotype is referred to as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. [1]” It is usually considered as an overgeneralization about a particular group of people based on their personality traits, inherent abilities and other common preferences.

Furthermore, Stereotype Threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s social group (Steele & Aronson, 1995) [2]. It is believed that certain characteristics become formative self-fulfilling prophecies for those defined as having them [3]. It is important to know that no one is exempt from stereotype threat and because everyone is vulnerable, we all need to be proactive in displacing stereotypes and stereotype threats.

Consider watching this interesting social experiment video, Threat of Stereotypes, on stereotype threats (ST) that demonstrates the impact of ST on our behavior, performance and situational outlook.

Personal Impact

I have always felt uneasy about having conversations around stereotypes. But, I do think it is important to share your experiences to bring awareness and hopefully dismantle practices and behaviors that are seemingly spineless. Stereotypes in my opinion are hollow projections on different groups based on irrational judgments.

Migrating to the U.S and in pursuit of a higher education degree within the STEM field, I was very excited to matriculate into college and into an engineering program. I followed the necessary testing protocol for the placement tests and I successfully made the score requirements. However, because of my high school status, being foreign, I was prevented from enrolling into the college level math calculus series and required to retake the pre-requisite math classes prior to enrollment. The principal stereotype threat here was education obtained outside of the U.S. is perceived as lacking in quality, completeness and rigor. Due to this skewed perception, retaking the pre-requisite classes set me back a good year and also caused me to have doubts in my abilities to succeed in my math coursework and in attaining an engineering degree. Although, I made the mark of acceptance according to the college’s standards, I was disadvantaged because of my academic history.

Another dominant stereotype threat that I have frequently encountered is being questioned around my native language and country of origin. I was born and raised in Trinidad and I have a noticeable accent but many people assume that I speak another language other than English because of my accent. In addition, after speaking with me and hearing my accent, people usually assume that I am from Jamaica and that I know about or have consumed marijuana products. On these occasions, I had to correct many false assumptions, while also feeling a sense of frustration.

Future Implications

Stereotypes and Stereotype threats are indeed prevalent in society. Furthermore, we are all vulnerable to stereotype threats can not turn a blind eye. I think the important thing is that in order to overcome these societal practices, we must strive to be intentional and proactive in disrupting the behaviors when done to ourselves/others or when we too are inclined to project the practices onto others. I have encountered many people from diverse groups to know that superiority is not exclusive to any group. Being stereotypes try to distinguish competence and superiority among diverse groups and classes etc. However, the truth upholds that our individuality and inherent and ascribed qualities make us incomparable and unmatchable to any other.

References

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype
  2. https://diversity.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/stereotype_threat_overview.pdf
  3. https://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2012/06/the-impact-of-stereotyping.html
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTYMSulvnyw
  5. http://gal-dem.com/10-questions-caribbean-people-hate-being-asked

Introductory Blog

Hello everyone! My name is Kimberly Harry and I am a third-year Ph.D. student in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I go by she/her/hers. Currently, I work as a GRA for my advisor in the department. On campus, I am a facilitator for the VT PEERS (Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools) program, exposing and inspiring middle school students’ interest in STEM fields.

I am excited to take this class because I want to learn about the different aspects and impact that Diversity, Inclusion and Equity have on higher education, but also learn how, I as an educator can support this initiative when I transition into academia. I believe all people are valuable and enrich not only our society but also our individual experiences in a profound way.

In my free time, I like to travel and mentor our future generation scholars. I am always looking for an opportunity to learn something new and to contribute in a positive and impactful way. I am so excited to learn and grow with you all this semester and beyond!