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TECAID Team Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Project Impacts

As formal project support for the TECAID Teams drew to a close, TECAID Project Leaders were interested in understanding the broader impacts of establishing departmental teams of emerging diversity, equity, and inclusion culture change leaders, so we asked the question: How did the work of the TECAID teams, as focused by department projects, change the culture of Mechanical Engineering departments?  Below are comments drawn from focus groups with TECAID teams and comments from TECAID team representatives’ taken from TECAID On-Demand Webinar 2—Insights from Engineering Department Culture Change Leaders:  Applications of the TECAID Model.

Increased Awareness and Knowledge
  • We certainly are much more sensitive to the kinds of issues that TECAID was intended for, both for the faculty, the team, and student perspective.
  • There was not a lot of awareness about diversity issues in the department. We are now getting involved with it and it is going to be a regular topic now in the department.
  • Most of us weren’t very knowledgeable about diversity and diversity issues. Those who were pointed out a lot of things to us and stimulated conversations about things we didn’t know how to talk about.
  • I think we are really engaging people in actually putting it more on the forefront in a more regular basis.
  • Getting an opportunity to talk to other people, hearing their experiences, things we can learn from is extremely valuable to us, not to mention having experts who understand this well. Bouncing ideas off people who do this all the time is very helpful.
  • We recognizing the importance of D&I. More people, as time goes by, understand better.
  • Recognition of the issues at hand has improved.
  • At a minimum, we have at least opened peoples’ eyes to what diversity means.
Increased Engagement and Commitment
  • There has been less resistance and more willingness to discuss it. There is more openness to discuss these things amongst our group, the faculty, and students. The idea that this is a discussion we could have in this department is probably more reasonable than it was before TECAID.
  • I think those of us who have been to TECAID are more willing to discuss it and be open about it. I’m not sure it was a discussion we were having at all before TECAID. The fact that we are willing to have that new discussion matters.
  • Prior to this, there was more, it was more lip service. We talked about it but didn’t do anything. There was not accountability. To me this is what stimulated a more focused effort. Having to meet with people periodically requires us to actually accomplish something and follow-through. Initially, it’s forced us to look at ways to engage our faculty through our faculty meetings, through the summer minority program, and a lot of other things like that.
  • When we first stood up in front of the department, we did get a significant amount of resistance. As time has gone on, we worked with the faculty, had a workshop and retreat focused on it, and I think you could see that resistance slowly starting to diminish. There is not a stigma now with diversity as its understood as a broad concept that applies to everybody.
  • We have certainly started to identify many faculty members who are interested in the topics that we are considering in the TECAID program, and who are willing to help the school move to that direction. So this mechanism allowed us to see certain areas which we don’t usually venture into.
  • I would say that where we never had any steps in that direction, we are starting to take those steps, and we are not being questioned why we are taking those steps. Nobody is putting stumbling blocks in that process.
  • The project is helping us make sure we are having those conversations, to really make it a focus for us and we can have more conversations across faculty.
  • We see a lot more involvement…we have probably had a dozen faculty help with the pre-college minority in engineering program this summer.
  • At least one person who I would not have expected to go to our LGBTQ ally training has done that and made all his students go as well. Us participating in TECAID probably has a lot to do with that.
  • We attended the multicultural engineering program banquet. Doing TECAID helped us engage mentally, more frequently. And that helps us allocating our time and effort towards D&I more compared to others. This elevated the priority at the departmental level.
  • The topics of D&I come up a lot more frequently with colleagues. It wasn’t something that came up a lot, so now I would say that’s a positive change and has opened me up to other people who share some of these same interests.
  • I had a faculty member come to me last week and say “how do I get my grad students trained? They need to understand this.” That’s a new question. That’s different.
  • It’s more on the forefront because there is some formal activity around it within the department. Personally, before being involved there was no interaction on D&I topics, since then I have gotten a few questions about things. I have had people approach me that wouldn’t have in the past on the topic.
  • I do feel like we have contributed to a level of culture change from the department because there are a lot of people talking about it now. People have realized that this is something to be taken seriously.
  • When we first told the department we were going to have a diversity workshop I received a lot of eye rolls and snarky comments. After the workshop, I didn’t get any sarcastic comments. So I have a feeling that it is different than they thought it was going to be.
  • There are more hallway conversations that positively contribute to diversity and inclusion.
  • Monitoring and tracking basic percentages in terms of URM students and gather the data, we look at those, we are also paying much more attention to faculty recruitment and how we must improve our effectiveness in recruiting faculty members from underrepresented groups. Towards that we re-focused in our advertisements for faculty positions for example. This is a joint effort at the college and university level. It is not just our department, but I see TECAID as part of the overall effort. It was very timely because there are several elements who were open to this idea so we kind of have each other. Women in engineering program and alumni provided a woman in ME who awarded the first fellowship, so these are all…Without TECAID maybe these things would have happened too, but maybe not. But I have heard from our alumni a few of them have come and told me they are really happy and surprised that we have come that far and they have been talking to our students and other stakeholders.
Institutional Connections and Synergies
  • We have had a lot more conversations with the minority in engineering people, building a much stronger relationship with them which informs what we are doing. We are talking about diversity a lot more with people who are very well informed which in turn informs us well.
  • There are elements throughout the university, parallel efforts and not just efforts due to TECAID but I think TECAID strengthened similar initiatives throughout the university and college. For example, we have a women in engineering program, and because of our involvement in TECAID, we participated in some of the events and supported them. I believe they appreciated our presence, our encouragement, and overall support. I talked to some of our women alumni that they were extremely surprised and pleased that we are engaging in TECAID but in a broader sense are aware and putting effort into improving the climate. So there are lots of these pockets of events and initiatives. I think TECAID became a complementary effort.
  • Our connections with women’s studies has changed. The faculty are more aware that diversity is a concern. They have found units on campus with the expertise. I don’t know what all those agencies are but certainly we are more sensitive when we get an invitation to come to them. The raised awareness allows people to feel more comfortable attending events.
  • Because we are part of TECAID we now participate in several things I don’t think I would have participated in before. I think some of the other departments are looking at ME as something to change the culture.
  • If nothing else, we are more aware of the other resources and groups on campus. I don’t know that I have worked closely enough to say I am closer with them but I know they exist, and know what they do. If someone asked me what resources were in place for a certain subject I could do a better job steering them in the right direction.
Sustained Effort
  • Students who were our target focus group we impacted fairly heavily and what we developed under TECAID continues.
  • I think that is simply a commitment on the part of the department. We are concerned about retention of students, as is everybody in the nation. I don’t see that going away.
  • We have a D&I committee now. Our boss is still figuring things out, but asked if it’s something we wanted to continue doing. Certainly that’s new. The diversity and inclusion lecture in our intro class is new and ongoing. We participated in a D&I training for the TAs for that class. All required to participate in that training (which was about an hour) but it was just exposing them to things we’ve been exposed to.
  • I think some of the junior faculty are benefitting because a number of them were interested in working on D&I.
  • We’ve had increased interest from corporate sponsors.
  • I think it’s giving us hope.
More Effective Change Leaders
  • The way I bring up these discussions is probably modified significantly based on training. On a personal level I approach these things differently. About 6 months ago we were bringing it up in the faculty meeting. I got really fired up, I was talking about TECAID and another faculty member disagreed with what I was saying. The way I interacted with him was very different. Acknowledging his concerns, trying to do all the stuff we had talked about.
  • The training makes me more comfortable to speak about these issues. I don’t know that I necessarily would have been/felt empowered. And I think that I do feel empowered now to discuss these issues/take responsibility in a way I wouldn’t have beforehand. The training sessions empowered me to take a more active role.
  • I feel much more comfortable (as a staff) interacting with team members and people outside. I feel more confident. Before maybe I felt as staff I didn’t have as much to contribute or be more deferential. I think I passed that.
  • I think I am more aware of the way I communicate and reach out to faculty and staff, makes a difference. So as the department head and as the leader, I became more aware of the impact I might have on faculty, staff, students, and the way I approach, think, set the pace, the way I identify the goals and the objectives have an effect.
  • We have had some protests on campus (nothing major, nothing violent) but having gone through this gives me much more perspective on what protestors must be thinking about/talking about…I think I’ve got a better perspective on what we’re doing and I’ve developed a better filter on my mouth. I don’t think the timing could have been any better. Maybe we become voices of reason if things get really crazy.
  • On an individual level, I have found myself having more productive conversations with people who are not 100% supportive of what we’re trying to do, as opposed to maybe in the past I would have let that conversation drop or tried to make my case. I now reframe the conversation to try to understand where they are coming from. It’s a lot more productive.
  • I may have a little more patience in talking with people and thinking about where they are coming from. I probably haven’t had that many conversations specific to D&I issues. Just talking to students, and trying to understand why they are not getting things done. Maybe taking more interest in where they’re coming from.
  • I listen and am more patient and listening more to any issues relating to these things. I communicate with more people.
  • In my interaction with faculty and staff from other departments and what I’ve observed around campus I now realize how far we’ve come through these workshops, how much our awareness has been raised. When I do talk to other people I realize we are way ahead of where they are at! I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but we are thinking about things in a different way.
  • I shared some personal information about myself, I grew up in a poor working class family, another staff member in attendance (I talked about imposter syndrome) and this person mentioned that he also suffered from this. He is in a position that he sees a lot of students. Me bringing that to light, sharing that, he may be more comfortable sharing with students in that same situation and may smooth the path for him.
Benefits of a Change Team
  • I believe that we have come to better understand each other as a result of participating in the project. We do understand each others’ viewpoint much better now, whether we agree with them or not, helping us move forward, so what has happened to some degree is specific areas. I believe we have started to understand each other more. So now we know each other much better. What works with/what excites different people/what is their passion.
  • I feel that as a group of five faculty members who feel this bond, and accountable to each other. And so the success of TECAID and its continuation later on depends on…we are relying on each other’s efforts. That is direct pressure on us to be accountable to each other, hoping there is progress taking place every day.
  • I think teambuilding is important. It’s a key part. Creating trust and understanding (although we have different perspectives and different backgrounds) it helps to maintain the cohesiveness of the team, especially for a faculty team. Having a group of people that you trust that you have this type of interaction with is somewhat unique to typical faculty interactions.
  • Talking about team-building is helpful to get your mind in the game, so I think it’s helpful from that point of view. When you’re in meetings and thinking about how you interact with people. Maybe no one in particular, but thinking about how teams work is helpful, a structural approach to how we might do things better.

TECAID Team Project

 

I make sure I tell people that this is not just a TECAID project; it is a long-term culture change. I want us to keep talking about these issues.”

– N. Barr, Michigan Technological University

The most important part to learn while doing is the [diversity, equity, & inclusion] knowledge. Without that a person can create change but it may not impact on [diversity, equity & inclusion].”

– A. Morse, Michigan Technological University, formerly Texas Tech University

[TECAID] inspired our team to make a concrete plan for how we were going to address our challenges and build on what was already happening on campus.”

– P. Davies, Purdue University


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