Diversity Statement

A downloadable PDF version of my diversity statement can be found here.

Accessibility and diversity have always been the cornerstone of my research and teaching philosophies. All my research projects have focused on underrepresented communities, particularly people with disabilities. As a woman who has overcome the adversity associated with having a disability, I recognize the unique challenges inherent in academia. I draw on this personal experience to give me insight to connect with and mentor students from diverse backgrounds. Accordingly, inclusiveness is central to my research, teaching, and service goals.

My desire to create a more equitable and inclusive community has been reflected throughout my research agenda both nationally and internationally. Locally, I have served as an instructor for Technology in the Workplace workshops for young adults with autism for the past four years. These workshops have served approximately 60 students per year, and helped to place high school students with jobs and entry into college. My research has also brought me to work with people with visual impairments in the Washington DC area through the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I assisted the National Federation for the Blind in their national elections with the deployment of more accessible voting machines. Internationally, I have worked in both Mexico and Japan with autistic children, developing affordable software systems to be used in local communities. In each of these projects, my overall goal was to use my expertise to serve the needs of the local community.

I have taken on a variety of leadership roles through participation in community outreach and diversity initiatives. At Washington State University Vancouver, I founded the Women in Computing group. The representation for women in this computer science program was 5%; I was the only woman in my cohort. Therefore, as the inaugural President, I organized an outreach event to promote computing for women, including speaking on a panel about my experiences as a student. There was overwhelmingly positive feedback from the over 40 local community college women in attendance. This past academic year, I stepped into a prominent leadership role and served as the elected Informatics Graduate Student Association President, which included organizing and hosting weekly networking opportunities with notable visiting scholars. As part of my service role in the Assistant Professor position, I would continue working on committees to promote diversity in STEM programs and outreach to potential students.

As an incoming underrepresented PhD student, I participated in the Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience (DECADE) Competitive Edge program. Eager to share my experiences with others, I completed training in the Mentoring Excellence Program and served as a mentor to other underrepresented students entering the Informatics program. My mentees have graduated and gone on to graduate school and into industry. Under my mentorship, one of the women who attended my Women in Computing event successfully completed her four-year degree in Computer Science. Before her degree she held a minimum wage position, but is now working as a software programmer for a large company and plans on returning to graduate school.

Growing up and being in Seattle for much of my life, I was fortunate to live in such a diverse community and that has become integral to the balance I would like to see reflected in the students and staff that I might have the opportunity to work with.  In all aspects of my career, research, teaching, and service, I will continue to achieve broader impact through inclusion and accessibility.

UCI Summer Research Symposium 2016

 

Cover of a booklet for the summer research symposium. Has images of students posing in a group and working together to finish an obstacle course.
Cover to the Summer Research Symposium program.

Today was the end of the summer research programs on the UCI campus. This summer I was a mentor to both an incoming PhD student in the Competitive Edge program and an undergraduate student in the SURF program. The summer ended with a wonderful research symposium where half the students presented their work via oral presentations and the other half presented posters. We then had an awards ceremony lunch where everyone was recognized for the great work they did this summer.

A woman giving a presentation at a podium. To her right is a slide projected with the title "Developing a user friendly system to 3D print minecraft creations for autistic children"
SURF Undergraduate, Aminah Tamimi, giving her presentation on 3d printing from Minecraft.
Woman stands next to a podium and a slide that says "Who watches the overwatchers?"
Competitive Edge PhD Student, Amanda Cullen, giving her presentation on Overwatch.

These programs are a really nice way to help students prepare for graduate school. As someone who participated in a similar program (DREU) as an undergrad and in the Competitive Edge program, I can attest to their usefulness.

As a mentor for students in these programs I am also extremely grateful to the programs for the opportunity to give back and be a mentor. As someone who is passionate about increasing diversity in academia and in STEM programs, I am always excited about chances to “do my bit.” In this instance, working with both Aminah and Amanda was a wonderful experience. Not only are they both hardworking students who are going to go great places, but they are generous with me as I felt my way through my role as a peer mentor. I plan on staying in touch with them (especially Amanda since we sit next to each other in lab) as they progress along their careers and continue to be helpful when I can.

A big thanks to everyone who made this summer fun and full of learning!

A flock of birds silhouette against a yellow-orange sky.