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DEI Student Ambassadors Program

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2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 12 - Paper 2: DEI Student Ambassadors Program

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Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


J. McLean Sloughter Seattle University

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J. McLean Sloughter is an associate professor of mathematics at Seattle University. He completed his PhD in Statistics from the University of Washington. His research interests include statistical forecasting and modeling, energy poverty, mathematical pedagogy, and diversity in STEM.

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Brooke I Wynalda

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Brooke Wynalda (she/they) recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with minors in Philosophy and English from Seattle University (’21). Brooke is proudly part of the first cohort of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambassadors alongside three other undergraduate STEM students. In addition to working as a DEI Ambassador, they served on several boards for social change and integrated their perspectives on abolitionism, anti-racism, trans-inclusivity and accessibility into their work as a Bannan Scholar, Resident Assistant in the Kolvenbach Living Community, Ignatian Leader and Intellectual Traditions Honors Program Graduate. Brooke is a passionate advocate for both scientific literacy and deconstructing institutionalized racism and transphobia on college campuses and beyond.

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Agnieszka Miguel Seattle University

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Agnieszka Miguel received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 2001 from the University of Washington, and MSEE and BSEE from Florida Atlantic University in 1996 and 1994. Dr. Miguel's professional interests involve image processing, machine learning, and engineering education especially active learning, diversity, equity, and inclusion, retention, and recruitment. Her teaching interests include MATLAB, circuits, linear systems, and digital image processing. She is an ASEE Fellow and a member of the IEEE, SWE, and Tau Beta Pi.
Currently, Dr. Miguel is the ASEE First Vice President and Vice President for External Relations which gives her a seat on the ASEE Board of Directors. Dr. Miguel has held several other officer positions across the ASEE including: Professional Interest Council I Chair, Division Chair and Program Chair of the ECE and New Engineering Educators Divisions, and ASEE Campus Representative. Dr. Miguel is also a Vice-President of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) and a Conference Chair for the 2022 ECEDHA Annual Meeting.

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“DEI Student Ambassadors Program” Keywords: Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Disability, 1st Generation, LGBTQIA+, Veterans In the winter quarter of 2020, the College of Science and Engineering at XYZ University launched a new program of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Student Ambassadors. In this paper we describe the DEI Student Ambassadors program and the initiatives and activities that the ambassadors have been engaged in. This program drew inspiration from several Bias Busters groups created by industry and academia, especially the Bias Busters @ Carnegie Mellon University and the Bias Busters in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at University of California Berkeley. The student ambassadors were given broad objectives to improve the college community and educate the student population about diversity, equity, and inclusion. They were charged with organizing meaningful and impactful events for other students as well as providing feedback from students to faculty and staff regarding college climate. Faculty mentors from the college’s DEI Committee helped to provide support, and guidance when needed, while still leaving the students with the autonomy to develop their own ideas on how to work towards these goals. An initial planned project of the ambassadors was to organize a DEI Takeover Week during spring of 2020. This project had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The student ambassadors took this as an opportunity to instead develop programs focused on equity and inclusion issues that arose due to the pandemic and the transition to remote / virtual instruction. Soon after the university transitioned to virtual teaching and learning, the DEI Student Ambassadors started organizing Zoom Town Halls that were open to all students, faculty, and staff in the college. The Town Halls were an opportunity to engage in frank conversations about the challenges of the pandemic and the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the college. Early Town Halls focused on challenges that virtual learning poses to students with disabilities and how to improve the experience for both students and faculty. The later Town Halls transitioned to discussions about how microaggressions manifest in a virtual learning environment, and ways to effectively implement bystander interventions in these virtual environments. Looking forward to a return to in-person instruction, they also discussed how some of the new ideas tried out during virtual instruction could help us to make the STEM curriculum more equitable and inclusive in the future. The second major project that the ambassadors undertook was a result of our observation that it is challenging to engage undergraduate students in DEI themed workshops and other activities if they are offered as an extracurricular activity. On the other hand, faculty are frequently reluctant to cover DEI topics in classes, either because they view them as not related to the course material, because they feel uncomfortable or unqualified to lead discussions about these topics, or because they are worried about losing class time that could have been used to cover course material in more depth. Inspired by theater-based DEI workshops run by a professional theater group at Colorado State University, the DEI Student Ambassadors developed mini-workshops that are designed to be run in online courses and take only about 15 minutes. The mini-workshops start with a realistic theater skit acted out by the ambassadors about microaggressions and the need for bystander interventions and are followed by a short discussion led by the ambassadors. The scenarios that the ambassadors developed are based on real-world scenarios that could happen in any STEM classroom. They were drawn from student surveys conducted in spring 2018 as well as the DEI Student Ambassadors’ own experiences. One scenario explores misgendering and improper use of pronouns. A second scenario addresses intersectional issues of racism and sexism in STEM. More scenarios are under development, specifically addressing hidden disabilities and their accommodations in STEM classrooms. In this paper, we give more details about the work of our DEI Student Ambassadors. We first describe the organization and best practices of Town Halls as well as give examples of feedback received from students and faculty during the events. We then focus on the in-class theater-based mini-workshops. We review literature on the effectiveness of interactive theater-based DEI workshops. We present results of student surveys administered after the workshops, in which students reflect on what they liked about the workshops, what they would have changed, and their attitudes toward bystander interventions, including if participation in the workshops has changed their reactions to microaggressions that they witness during the term. We then summarize feedback and impressions received from the faculty who invited the ambassadors into their courses. Finally, we give voice to the DEI Student Ambassadors to hear their perspective about the workshops and their engagement with them. We conclude with a description of a future work planned for the new cohort of DEI Student Ambassadors when we all return to in-person instruction. Their challenge will be to find ways to engage students in events that will rebuild the supportive learning communities fostered for many years in most departments within the college. They will have to find ways to organize events that include students who spent their first year of college on zoom, without face-to-face interactions with peers or personal connection to their faculty.

Sloughter, J. M., & Wynalda, B. I., & Miguel, A. (2022, February), DEI Student Ambassadors Program Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana.

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