Michigan Engineering News

A group of people talking to one another in a banquet hall.

Being the DEI bridge for students

SAB members share their perspectives with the community.

A group of people talking to one another in a banquet hall.
The DEI Student Advisory Board and DEI Student Organization Sub Team meet for a retreat in the Pierpont Commons on North Campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on February 21, 2019. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing

Students are critical to the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts at the College. The DEI Student Advisory Board (SAB) is composed of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of backgrounds, departments, and class years. The SAB works to gather student feedback on the College’s DEI Strategic Plan and develop ideas that will make the College of Engineering a more inclusive place for all students to live, learn, and grow.

Hear perspectives from two SAB members – returning member Vyas Ramasubramani and new recruit Jordon Horton – as they share the board’s goals for the year and their plan to improve campus culture.

Vyas Ramasubramani

Perhaps the greatest challenge with addressing issues around diversity, equity and inclusion is not being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. Although our work with the DEI SAB for the College of Engineering can sometimes feel like a very small contribution in an institution the size of U-M, it is a valuable part of the overall DEI push at the University. Two of the most important things we can do to foster DEI are to keep open lines of communication between all parties and to maintain a high awareness of DEI efforts. These goals are among the primary aims of the DEI SAB.

In my view, the most important role the SAB can play is making sure that DEI is never too far from students’ minds. Simply keeping DEI in mind at all times can help us grow our sense of community, and we’re trying hard to keep that awareness high. The SAB’s tabling efforts have helped raise our profile, and EnginTalks was an especially important moment for us to try and reach out and directly make our impact felt by other students. The SAB also aims to be a natural mechanism for students to raise concerns, and one of our major pushes this year is to find ways to increase student feedback and our ability to respond to it. If you have anything to say, come say it to us!

In that vein, we’re also working hard to develop stronger connections with the engineering faculty involved with DEI. I attended a couple of meetings with the various departmental DEI faculty leads, and we plan to continue building this relationship this year so that we can grow our role as a bridge between students and the University. Ultimately, we all have a role in building the culture on campus, and communication at all levels is crucial to having that culture percolate. I’m looking forward to what the SAB can accomplish in the coming year, and I encourage as many students to get involved as possible as we work to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

Jordon Horton

My first encounter with the SAB was at Festifall this year when I approached Blaire Tinker, who I knew from my freshman year. I was invited to be on the board to advocate for DEI initiatives within the college of engineering to impact the campus climate.

I was inclined to join primarily to connect and work with faculty and students of various backgrounds. I’ve done social justice advocacy work during my years in high school, and I am interested in addressing DEI issues throughout college and my career.

The SAB hit the ground running during our initial meetings where we defined goals to tackle for this year and decided how to run all of our meetings. With faculty, grad students, and undergrads of different backgrounds, the SAB is a collection of many perspectives and experiences. This year I hope the SAB can accomplish two goals: First, become a well-known entity in the College of Engineering to both students and faculty. Secondly, collaborate with other DEI advocacy groups to educate and raise awareness on campus issues.

While our campus has numerous support resources, I’d like to nurture an environment where the majority are knowledgeable and willing to draw attention to problems as they come up.

The SAB is sponsoring EnginTalks: Gender Identity Monologues on Dec. 10, 2019 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. in the Duderstadt Basement. The event will focus on gender identity issues within engineering and will be a “space for students to engage in conversation, understand the spectrum of gender identities beyond the traditional male and female paradigm, and build awareness of the challenges of students through student narratives and monologues.”

The SAB welcomes input from the Engineering community. If you have any questions, concerns, stories, related to diversity, equity, or inclusion in the Engineering community, please feel free to visit their website.

This article was written by Vyas Ramasubramani and Jordon Horton.