A seven member team from Electrical and Computer Engineering has received the Distinguished Diversity Leaders Team Award, established to shine a light on those staff members who have shown “extraordinary commitment and dedication to diversity at U-M.”
This team, comprised of individuals in some way involved in graduate student recruiting, retention, and climate, has spent countless hours planning and executing outreach activities to make our highly diverse and international student body feel welcome, and to expand its diversity in key areas, including women and underrepresented minorities. Pictured above, they include: Kevin Calhoun (M.S. Program Coordinator),Lisa Armstrong (Department Manager), José-Antonio Rubio (Ph.D. Program Coordinator), Steven Pejuan (Ph.D. Program Coordinator), Rose Anderson (Graphic Designer), Jason Davis (Alumni and External Affairs ), and Ann Stals (Event Planning)..
In the past couple years, several new events were planned around culturally meaningful celebrations of different groups that were open to the entire graduate student body in the College of Engineering. These included Lunar New Year, Iftar, and Diwali Celebrations, reflecting the department’s Chinese, Muslim, and Indian populations, respectively. These events featured live music and performances, ethnic food and drink, and other activities.
One student in line at the Diwali Celebration said,
“I can’t wait to call my parents, they will be so proud that I attend an institution that recognizes and values our culture.”
Another student remarked,
“I am so homesick, this event helps to alleviate that feeling by being able to celebrate our traditional customs.”
Electrical and Computer Engineering is committed to continuing these events, and expanding into other areas. For example, a smaller scale event for our Hispanic population, called Dia de los Muertos, was held November 1, 2016.
The team has also begun emphasizing diversity and inclusion in their graduate student recruiting process. For example, they send welcome messages to admitted students in their native languages, and communicate to them our commitment to celebrating diversity of all types. They have also initiated a video series featuring current students giving advice to newly-admitted students about the university, Ann Arbor, and transitioning to what is for them a foreign culture. The team is currently producing videos in Arabic, Hindi, Korean and Chinese.
In addition, our graduate student coordinators have been travelling to national conferences to specifically target underrepresented groups in electrical and computer engineering. These include the national conference for the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Khalil Najafi, Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was excited to learn that the team received this honor. “I am proud of this team,” he said. “I am impressed by their commitment to inclusion, and deeply gratified to see the profound impact their outreach activities have made on our students. Everything we do begins and ends with our people – we are the Michigan ECE family.”
The team was honored at a ceremony held December 6 where they were presented with a plaque and $2,500 toward the team’s professional development activities. They are one of five teams across the University to receive the award.