2021 Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program Project Spotlights

Student Voices in General Education Assessment
Sarah Wu

Today, students still ask, "why do we need to take General Education (Core Curriculum) courses?" The value of General Education learning is likely unclear to our students. This project aims to explore students' learning needs and how they see General Education connects to their degree programs and career goals. Our student participants from diverse groups engaged in General Education conversations through (1) Microsoft Teams for online interactive conversations with their peers and (2) focus groups to provide more feedback and suggestion. The results indicate that students seek more clear outcome wordings, multiple ways to show their learning performance, more opportunities for students to engage in the assessment process, and they also like to provide some suggestions for General Education curriculum design. In addition, students were able to draw connections among General Education learning, their majors, and career goals.

pearl alexander headshot

Empowering Students from the Global South
Katja Weber, Ph.D.

Georgia Tech prides itself on a diverse student population spanning the globe. While this is true, not everyone feels equally welcome. Due to differences in upbringing, culture, religion, (sometimes) language, etc., students from the non-western world—particularly the “Global South”—often struggle when they arrive at Georgia Tech.

In a two-part workshop with students from the Global South—trust-building/leadership activities (at the CRC’s climbing wall) and candid group conversation—we discussed ways to make new arrivals feel safe, welcome, and empowered at GT. Having identified some main challenges (prejudice, language barrier, cultural insensibility, loneliness, financial hardship…) we recommend steps (International Office follow-up; wellness checks, resource lists, greater emphasis on cultural exchange; inclusive sports events, tutorials…) the Institute might take to address these challenges. After all, a culture of inclusive excellence would be a win-win for the entire campus community.

The Allies: Addressing BIPOC Women Representation in STEM
Jagriti Sahoo

Project Partners: Harini Sridharan, Amy Wood-Yang

Our goal is to raise awareness for the issues faced by BIPOC women in STEM at Georgia Tech. We organized events to facilitate discussion among these women and between allies. Using available data on demographics of the Georgia Tech student population (lite.gatech.edu) and national statistics of student enrollment (NSF), we were able to make others aware of the discrepancy in representation of female versus male students in STEM fields, and between bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. We conducted a campus-wide anonymous survey to gauge students’ views on how role models in STEM have influenced their decision to pursue similar degrees, how to be a better ally and to guess the distribution of BIPOC female versus male students in selected STEM departments. Finally, we will hold an event to discuss selected scenes from the Netflix show, The Chair, to facilitate discussion on media representation of BIPOC women in academia.

Bruce N. Walker, Norah Sinclair

Co-Lead: Norah Sinclair, GT Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI)
Collaborating units: Psychology, Computing, CIDI, OMS-CS, Office of Disability Services (OMS)

AccessCORPS is a team of students (plus staff, and faculty) who systematically review and assess the accessibility of GT course materials and activities for learners with disabilities, and work with faculty and schools to implement more accessible versions or approaches. From Fall 2022, AccessCORPS is offered as a Vertically Integrated Project (VIP), which allows students to remain involved and engaged throughout their time at Georgia Tech. See accesscorps.gatech.edu.

Intersectionality Learning Community
Justina Rodriguez Jackson

Using readings from Dill and Zambrana’s Emerging Intersections and selected works from scholar and poet Audre Lorde, eight women shared and discussed their intersectional lives both in and out of academia. Two meetings–one hybrid, and one in-person–led to a fruitful conversation among racially diverse colleagues that explored inner criticism, advocacy, and justice. Together we used empathy and compassion to encourage one another and move beyond these doubts toward a confident resolve that would support our boldness to “speak action.” We also discussed constructive dialogue for addressing complex issues related to race, gender, and social status. With attention to being “brave”, we recognize the cost of silence, the silencing of others, and the need for space to be brave. These initial activities also included the purchase of books that will be used for upcoming book studies. The work continues…

Inclusion and Mentoring of Ph.D. Women in CoC
Judy Hoffman

Less than 25 percent of Ph.D. students in the College of Computing identify as women. This project promotes the inclusion of Women Ph.D. in CoC to aid in their success, improve their satisfaction with the program, and have a positive long-term impact on increasing diversity within our community.

The project had four key goals: 1) Aiding in community development, 2) Encouraging student leadership, 3) Providing access to mentoring, and 4) Supporting the creating a peer support network. The four goals were identified after a series of focus groups with current students to identify the most pressing student needs.

Equity and Inclusivity in the School of Physics
Nadia Qutob

These projects aimed to improve the status of Diversity Equity and Inclusion awareness in the School of Physics. Over the past year, the SoP DEI Committee started hosting a disability awareness workshop for members of the department to raise awareness about common types of disabilities that may affect students in the classroom and how best to accommodate them. As a part of new student safety initiatives a Society of Women in Physics safe space room was established and a full camera system is scheduled to be installed in the Howey Physics building this summer. As a means of empowering student voices in the department student listening sessions have been established to allow students a safe space to voice concerns with their department which will be heard by the SoP chair and the DEI committee. We will continue to pursue these initiatives in the coming year with the new department chair. 

Enhanced Wayfinding and Assistance for People with Visual Disabilities 
James S. Logan, Ph.D.

60% of blind and low-vision students who enter college don't graduate. 

Enhance Wayfinding, Social Distancing, and Assistance for People with Visual Disabilities using Aira was deployed. Aira provides on-demand, remote visual interpretation services for the blind and low vision at Georgia Tech.

This solution over time will reduce the campus dropout rate. Aira will deliver a better on-campus experience and increased students’ efficiency. Also, it will reduce social and accessibility barriers on campus.

Black Queer Graduate Group 
Brooke Bosley

Project Partners: GT Grad Pride, Black Media Studies Program

My pitch was to develop a partnership with the LGBTQIA resource center and work with the Black Queer Lives Matter program to create a Black Queer Graduate group on campus. The group will host discussions with Black Queer faculty and professionals, mentors Black Queer undergraduates, host virtual/in-person events, and a community service project with a local Black queer organization. As a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, I have worked with the Georgia Tech Grad Pride to create a Black Queer subcommittee with the purpose of doing more activities and discussions centered around Black Queer experiences. We partnered with LGBTQ+ center, and the Black Media Studies Program within the school of LMC to kickoff our first event, a discussion with Dr. Briona S. Jones on the anthology, Mouths of Rain.

Commitment to Inclusion for Student and Alumni Programming
Emily Laurence

The Georgia Tech Alumni Association strives to connect students and alumni through three student organizations alongside their various programs and events. The Student and Young Alumni Team did not have appropriate processes or resources in place to address discriminatory situations, should they arise. Not only do we want to be prepared for an incident, but we also want our participants to feel valued, supported, and included at events where our diverse student and alumni networks can engage. In alignment with the Alumni Association's values of integrity and community and to advance this initiative, we created a Commitment to Inclusion policy and partnered with the Office of the General Council to include our reporting within EthicsPoint. We continue to work to add educational resources for our alumni before coming to campus. 

Faculty Mentoring for Inclusive Teaching
Jennifer Leavey and Carrie Shepler

Teaching excellence cannot be achieved if the instruction is not inclusive. The focus of our project is creating an inclusive teaching mentoring program that includes a formative assessment to provide feedback to faculty on their inclusive teaching practice. In the long-term, we hope to develop processes for the summative evaluation of inclusive teaching that can be incorporated as part of a holistic promotion and tenure process.  

We have compiled and are in the process of gathering feedback on materials that faculty can utilize to create more inclusive course structures and syllabi as well as materials for peer evaluation and feedback. We continue to seek faculty partners to provide feedback and participate in observations. 

Empowering Minority Students in the Art of Presentation
Faiz Syed

Project Partners: Georgia Tech Project ENGAGES 

Project ENGAGES (Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering & Science) is a high school science education program tailored towards minority students. I worked this years' cohort and individually mentored 11 students in their preparation for science competitions. 9 of the 11 scholars placed and will move on to compete at the state level.

Skiles Studio: Diversity in Faces: Self Portraits
Mark Leibert

The Diversity in Faces project creates an opportunity for Georgia Tech students to represent themselves. Our goal is to create our own dataset based on this artwork to extend our understanding of Machine Learning and neural networks in practical ways while adding nuance to conversations around algorithmic bias and representation.

GT is recognized for its work in the areas of science and technology but needs to better integrate innovation in these areas with arts and humanities. This Skiles Studio (School of Literature, Media, and Culture) project combines art and technology and asks us to think about how this intersection can impact dialogues around race and identity.

Integrating Personal and Professional Identities: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the CEE Community
Susan Burns

This project held a panel discussion on professional identity for LGBTQIA students in Civil and Environmental Engineering. While the college years are a time of transition for all students, many professional development issues are often magnified for students who are members of the LGBTQIA community. In the workshop, three CEE faculty/alums shared their personal stories, ranging from their time as students, through their job searches, to their experiences in a range of work environments, with insight into how they searched for the right workplace, integrated personal and professional identities, and built their professional support networks.

Resilience to Empowerment: The Asian American Experience
Nazia Zakir
Project Partners: Special Thanks to Hyen Sung and Ajay Patel

Asian Americans have demonstrated resiliency in the face of racism, violence, and targeted attacks. How has this impacted our individual and collective physical and mental health? How can Asian Americans move from stoic resiliency to feeling empowered to address these issues at the local and national levels? How can we break free from our cultural mindset of “put your head down and keep working hard” to acknowledge the depth of fear, rejection, and cultural exclusion we are experiencing?

The turnout of Asian American voters hit a historic high of nearly 60% in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Asian Americans are beginning to implement their collective political and social strength at the local level. 

We are hosting an event in April to hear from local Asian American advocates and to allow a safe space for Asians to express themselves.

Establish a framework to intrinsically motivate underrepresented students in higher education
Maysam Nezafati

Developing an inclusive learning environment could motivate students to pursue higher education and decrease the dropout rates. Studies show dropout rate is significantly higher in underrepresented minorities. Creating an environment that intrinsically motivates students to work, could result in resolving that issue (An environment that helps students to develop a sense of autonomy, competency, and relatedness). A framework was developed to help the faculties develop such an environment. It includes a toolkit for the instructors to create a syllabus that accounts for diversity and inclusion when they are designing a course. An assessment tool is required to help them evaluate the effect of such considerations on the motivation of the students. The framework includes such assessment toolkit that consists of two quantitative surveys. We hope the development of such a framework can increase the intrinsic motivation of underrepresented students.

Promoting Gender Diversity in Financial Technology 
Amy W. Corn

While Georgia Tech may aspire to graduate more women in technology-related fields, there is much work to be done to achieve gender parity in the financial services sector. This project aims to research and define the primary barriers to career advancement and identify opportunities for GT to act in overcoming these obstacles. The research indicates that while women account for over half of the entry-level workforce in financial services, they represent fewer than one in five positions in the C-Suite. GT can advance the institution's aspirations of amplifying impact and expanding access specifically in the financial services industry. But this cannot be accomplished by simply graduating women in the field. GT must concentrate on elevating awareness of the lack of parity in the industry, collaborating with the industry in addressing the issue, and providing women mentoring, sponsorship programs, training, professional development, and career advancement.  

Data Science at Georgia Tech
Kendra Lewis-Strickland, Ed.D.

The original project proposed a monthly working group to explore the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion in data science research.  Firstly, the researcher attended numerous national, institutional, and domain-specific meetings, symposiums, and conferences to identify resources regarding the topic.  Secondly, the researcher spoke with individuals on campus interested in the intersection of diversity, equity, inclusion, and data science.  Together, these steps revealed that this intersection is fairly new nationally, leaving quite an interest in the topic, but limited resources from proven theoretical or professional experience.  Institutionally, the pandemic revealed numerous challenges to creating a working group.  From recommendations gathered during the process, the researcher decided to develop a limited web series focused on amplifying the voices of diverse researchers and those who use data and analytics to engage in research impacting underrepresented groups. Finally, the web series is in production, identifying participants, and preparing to share the final product with the larger GT community.  

Building Community through Facilitated Dialogue
Ami Waller-Ivanecky, LPC, NCC

The School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering launched its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee in the fall of 2020. When discussing how we wanted to engage with undergraduate students about these issues, I believed we should focus on the individual student experience in order to:

1. Acknowledge the importance of respect and belonging within the community of CHBE
2. Provide an opportunity for frank and open dialogue about issues of DEI 
3. Identify challenges students may face as a result of feeling under-represented

I launched the ChBE Diversity Table Talks in the fall of 2021. Facilitated by trained graduate and undergraduate students, each Table Talk revolved around a selected topic, which included Respect, Belonging, Allyship, Storytelling, Unconscious Bias, and Social Justice. Following the discussion, dinner was served to encourage continued engagement. 

ChBE plans to continue the program for 2022-23 with modifications based on feedback and assessment. 

Faculty Retention Exit Interviews
Dawn Baunach

How can we improve the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women and minoritized faculty members at the Institute? To answer this question, this project explores best practices for conducting qualitative exit interviews with faculty members who leave Georgia Tech through resignation. Upon completing the creation of the qualitative interview instrument, a connection strategy will be designed and human subjects' approval will be sought. Implementation of the interviews, analysis, and report writing will commence in Fall 2022.