Texas ECE hosted an inclusivity roundtable on September 2 to take a look at the demographics of our current student body and brainstorm ways that we can build a more inclusive and welcoming community. The event was part of ECE Welcome Week supported by Texas Instruments.
"There was a common thread among the examples that the way a person is made to feel included was by someone else, often someone in a position of “power” in the space, simply behaving as a human," said Christine Julien, Professor at Texas ECE & Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Cockrell School of Engineering.
Panelists also shared how they, as leaders in the Texas ECE community, used techniques to make spaces more inclusive for others. "For many reasons, students may have questions they don’t want to ask in class," said Nina Telang, Associate Professor of Instruction at Texas ECE. "To ensure that their questions are still heard, I ask every single student to submit a question at the end of each lecture. I then incorporate the answers into the next lecture."
Creating individual relationships with students can also be key to making every student feel they belong.
"Small talk is important," said Alex Tekle, Texas ECE Undergraduate & President, National Society of Black Engineers, UT Austin Chapter. "A lot of people are intimidated by people with positions of power. Little things like acknowledging students when you see them outside of class by smiling, nodding, or waving make a difference."
Another idea to help make the Texas ECE environment more inclusive was representation.
"Representation is where it starts," said Tim Kinnard of Texas Instruments. "If you talk about inclusion, but don’t have any diversity, then maybe “I don’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” Showing inclusivity is the biggest way to invite more inclusivity. Break down the barriers and force people to connect, and this will build the conduit for inclusion. People won’t hesitate to put their ideas forward once they’ve built those connections."
Ashlee Garcia, Texas ECE Graduate Student & Member, Graduates for Underrepresented Minorities (GUM), suggested supporting the culture. "Be attentive to your culture. It’s important to be intentional about supporting a positive culture within the group. You need to get to know people to know what they specifically need."
Indhu Gunda, Texas ECE Undergraduate Student & President, Women in ECE feels you need a diverse set of people to talk about programs and opportunities. "If a student doesn’t see a lot of diversity in a program, they may not feel welcome participating."
To close out this roundtable, each of the panelists was asked to share one recommendation with the attendees: an article or book to read, a movie to watch, a podcast to listen to, or some action to take. Here are those recommendations:
Nina Telang -- rewatch that episode of Seinfeld with the suggestion that all New Yorkers wear name tags
Veronica Vasquez -- read the book The African American LatinX History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
Tim Rice -- read the article The difference between first degree racism and third degree racism by John Rice (the Atlantic)
Alex Tekle -- learn more about John W. Hargis
Indhu Gunda -- watch the Ted talk Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection by Reshma Saujani
Ashlee Garcia -- challenge yourself to have at least one conversation a week with a completely new person
"I had the privilege of being in audience for this roundtable and have felt the strength and impact of the thoughts shared by the panelists," said Diana Marculescu, professor and ECE chair. "It is not easy to have an honest and open discussion on inclusivity and equity, especially when it comes with sharing our experiences in our most vulnerable times. As a department, we will continue to have these thoughtful conversations - they make us a better community."
Professor at Texas ECE & Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Cockrell School of Engineering
Texas ECE Graduate Student & Member, Graduates for Underrepresented Minorities (GUM)
Texas ECE Undergraduate Student & President, Women in ECE
Worldwide Fab Manufacturing Leader at Texas Instruments
Texas ECE Undergraduate & President, National Society of Black Engineers, UT Austin Chapter
Associate Professor of Instruction at Texas ECE
Director – Student Services at Texas ECE