2022 Diversity Symposium Explores Invisible Barriers to Belonging

What are some of the barriers that some students, faculty, and staff face when trying to build community and find a sense of belonging at Georgia Tech? How can institutions work to address these issues if they are not readily observed by others?

These were some of the questions explored during the 14th annual Georgia Tech Diversity Symposium on September 14.

The 2022 Georgia Tech Diversity Symposium focused on the Illusion of Inclusion: Invisible Barriers to Belonging and featured nationally renowned scholars, as well as Georgia Tech students, faculty, and staff, who shared their thoughts and expertise on creating an environment where every person can feel a sense of belonging.

“Each year, this forum provides the Georgia Tech community with an opportunity to come together and engage in important and sometimes difficult conversations about the issues that face our communities,” said Archie Ervin, vice president of Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “This year, we wanted to continue the conversation started earlier this year about the factors that impact the experience of our Asian, Asian American, Desi American, and Pacific Islander students, faculty, and staff. There are often external factors that influence a person’s experience that are beyond our control, but as an institution, we have a responsibility to provide any support that we can to mitigate those.”

For the first time, the symposium was held in the John Lewis Student Center’s Atlantic Theater, the significance of which was noted by Archie Ervin, vice president of Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

“John Lewis was a pioneer in the civil rights movement,” Ervin said. “He dedicated his life to building a society that lifts everyone, not just those with a certain background or skin color.”

The program kicked off with a powerful keynote presentation from Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Ph.D., professor of history, American studies, and ethnic studies at Brown University. Before beginning her presentation, titled 'Finding and Locating Asians in America: a Quick Walk Through a Long History,' Hu-DeHart implored attendees to invoke the names of the Asian women who were murdered in Atlanta on March 16, 2021.

“Before we begin, we must remember those who were lost by your community last year during a hate-crime spree,” said HuDehart, remembering the hate crimes that happened last year in the Atlanta area. “Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Kim Grant, Sun Cha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan, Yong Yue, Delaine Ashley Gonzalez, and Paul Andre Michaels.”

Hu-DeHart then went on to share the history of Asians in America, from their immigration to America to their being labeled as 'the model minority.'

The event continued with a panel discussion featuring Georgia Tech students, 'Empowering Students from the Global South to Build a Culture of Inclusive Excellence.' The panel was facilitated by Katja Weber, Ph.D., professor in the Nunn School of International Affairs, and student participants included Ashan Deen, B.S. candidate in computer engineering, Azell Francis, doctoral candidate in international affairs, Rachel Goh, B.S. candidate in mechanical engineering, and Yasser El Masri, doctoral candidate in architecture. Students shared their experiences and barriers they (and other students from the Global South) face and proposed resources that would assist international students in adjusting to life at Georgia Tech.

A second panel, 'Challenging Conversations: Building Cultural Understanding by Addressing Barriers to Belonging' was facilitated by Diley Hernandez, Ph.D., associate vice president for Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Panelists included Usha Nair-Reichert Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Economics, Kenji Terawaki, business intelligence developer with the Office of Undergraduate Education, and May Dongmei Wang Ph.D., professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, who discussed the tension between superficial knowledge and deep understanding that contributes to the illusion of inclusion.

Following lunch, Keona Lewis, Ph.D., associate director of research for Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion presented Donna M. Ennis, director of diversity engagement and program development with the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute (faculty), Arianna Robinson, assistant director of business operations for the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in the Scheller College of Business (staff), Nina Sara Fraticelli-Guzman, fourth-year doctoral student in bioengineering in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (student), and the LGBTQIA Resource Center (unit), with Diversity Champion Awards for their commitment to building belonging and community at Georgia Tech.

“This was a record-breaking year for nominations,” Lewis explained. “We had more than 65 nominations for this year’s awards, which is a testament to the work being done at Georgia Tech to make students, faculty, and staff feel like they belong here.”

The afternoon sessions kicked off with a keynote presentation from Jennifer Ho, Ph.D., professor of ethnic studies and director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder. In 'My Path to Anti-Racism as an Asian American Educator,' Ho shared her family’s immigration story, why she embraces the label 'Asian American,' and what being Asian American means to her.

The final panel session, 'Media Representations as Cultural Perspectives on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,' was facilitated by Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Modern Languages. Panelists included Jin Liu, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Modern Languages; John Thornton, M.F.A., senior academic professional in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication; Amanda Weiss, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Modern Languages; and Ida Yoshinaga, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. The panel offered an opportunity to reflect on the ideas about diversity, equity, and inclusion that creators reference in media and that consumers learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion from the media.

To close out the symposium, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion partnered with Georgia Tech Arts to create a mural that symbolizes what a more inclusive campus community could look like if everyone had a seat at the table.

'The Humble Chair' is an art-based DEI experiential developed by art therapists Deanna Barton and Zachary D. Van Den Berg with ARTiculate ATL, where participants were challenged to explore their background, lineage, and lived experiences, as well as their communities and support systems, as they put together a chair that is as unique and special as they are. The chairs were then incorporated into a larger art piece, where each participant’s chair is arranged around a metaphorical Georgia Tech table. 

The Humble Chair can be found in the lobby of the Ferst Center for the Arts, where visitors can view the different chairs that represent the diverse representation of Georgia Tech.

The event was presented by the 2022 Georgia Tech Diversity Symposium Planning Committee, chaired by Ervin and co-chair Carol Colatrella, professor in the School of Literature, Media and Communication and co-director of the Center for the Study of Women, Science and Technology.

Committee members included: Adjo Amekudzi-Kennedy, professor and associate chair, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Jie Cao, marketing and event coordinator, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Melanie DeMaeyer, assistant dean of students and director, Women’s Resource Center; Amy Bass Henry, executive director, Office of International Education; Tia Jewell, program and portfolio manager, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Shiraz Karaa, counselor, Georgia Tech Counseling Center; Sabir Khan, associate professor, School of Architecture and School of Industrial Design, and director, International Education, School of Architecture; Keona Lewis, associate director of Research, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Natalie Matychak, assistant director of producing and residency, Georgia Tech Arts; Tegra Myanna, director, LGBTQIA Resource Center; Tammy Parrett, communications manager, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Shamecia Powers, assistant director, administrative operations, Office of International Education; Stephanie Ray, associate dean of students, and director, Student Diversity Programs; Julian Rimoli, associate professor, School of Aerospace Engineering; Catherine Ross, Regents Professor and Harry West Chair, School of City and Regional Planning; John Stein, associate vice president for Student Engagement and Well-Being and Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair; Aaron Shackelford, director, Georgia Tech Arts; Carol Subino Sullivan, senior academic professional, Center for Teaching and Learning; and Ashlee Toomey-Flinn, Education Abroad scholarships advisor and marketing specialist, Office of International Education.

For more information about the 2022 Diversity Symposium, visit diversity.gatech.edu/14th-annual-georgia-tech-diversity-symposium.

Related Media

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  • Evelyn Hu-DeHart highlighted the history of Asians in America, and how the perception and treatment of them has evolved

  • The Humble Chair is a DEI art experiential that symbolizes a more inclusive Georgia Tech, where everyone can have a seat at the table.

  • Arianna Robinson, Donna Ennis, Nina Sara Fraticelli-Guzman, and the LGBTQIA Resource Center were honored as Diversity Champions at the 2022 Georgia Tech Diversity Symposium.

For More Information Contact

Tammy Parrett (she/her)
Communications Manager
Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion