Two years ago, the DEIWG embarked on a mission to create a more inclusive environment for SoIC students.
In fall 2018, the School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) organized the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group (DEIWG), led by Department of Library and Information Science chair, Andrea Copeland, at the request of Senior Executive Associate Dean Mathew Palakal. The groups’ members—students, alumni, faculty, and staff—were self-nominated based on a sincere interest in working on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The DEIWG defines its mission as “The DEI Working Group is committed to having an inclusive environment in the School of Informatics and Computing. We are dedicated to identifying situations where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not being met in order to create a more inclusive and accepting school. By having a venue for students, faculty, and staff to provide feedback, we can engage in dialogue for area of improvement. Membership is open to all in our community that want to cultivate a school environment where all feel truly welcome and encouraged to thrive.”
The group first focused on learning from campus experts and resources; examining data: climate survey, students surveys, as well as school data; and brainstorming ideas specific to the school community. They met with Wayne Hilson Jr., then Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as Jessica Alexander, Instruction Designer from the Center for Teaching and Learning.
In late 2019, the DEIWG launched its website, held a UniversiTEA community building event, and received a budget of $10,000 from the dean, with which two students were hired to further develop the website. The site is intended to provide a centralized place to find and share information related to DEI in the School of Informatics and Computing and on the IUPUI campus.
Website features include:
· Make Your Voice Heard form allowing anyone in the SoIC community to anonymously share their experiences related to DEI.
· Forums encouraging discussion online of issues related to racism as well as other issues related to DEI, with moderation provided by working group members.
· Digital Exhibits helping students understand diverse expressions of culture that are timely. The group started with a St. Patrick’s Day Exhibit as many international students are often confused by the importance of this holiday to Americans. Currently, a Black Lives Matter exhibit is being created.
· News items from school and campus, and a resources portal with links to a comprehensive list of resources on our campus and a suggested reading list.
Continuing to change the landscape and move forward
Since its launch in 2015, the Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) program has expanded to eight Indianapolis area high schools, reaching more than 1680 students, including 492 who have graduated. Seventy-two percent of those are now attending college; 75 percent in STEM-related majors. The iDEW program, administered by SoIC and supported by multiple community businesses and organizations, provides underrepresented minorities the opportunity to experience project-based computing by design courses, IT training, and preparation for college and careers.
In 2018, the school began a campaign to create a scholarship to encourage diversity in the library and information science professions. The Wilma Gibbs Moore Graduate Endowed Scholarship is named in honor of IU graduate Wilma Moore, who worked as an archivist of African-American History at the Indiana History Center for much of her career. The first two recipients of the scholarship, Olivia MacIsaac and Lyndsey Blair, are currently studying for their MLIS degree at the School of Informatics and Computing.
Recruiting diverse faculty is another important part of addressing racial inequalities. “In the spring of 2020, we tried to start the Future Faculty Fellows program; however, the COVID crisis prevented any new hires,” said Copeland. “The goal of this program is to recruit future faculty as they are finishing their dissertation work and provide mentorship as they embark on their careers, with the hope that the fellows would join our faculty. When the budget improves, we intend to try this again.”
The school is also participating in the campus initiative, IChange, which is devising an action plan to encourage inclusive practices in STEM schools on the IUPUI campus. Other changes being encouraged are the addition of Diversity Champions to advisory boards, program and course learning outcomes that address diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a new school award created to acknowledge the work faculty, staff, and students who make notable contributions to building a more inclusive school environment.