My Pledge to Diversity and Inclusion
Current world affairs have shed light onto the prevalence of systemic racism within the sciences. Through the various conversations that have ensued, I had the opportunity to hear from individuals of marginalized identities, and learn about their experiences within STEM and higher education. A major thread that emerged was the need for allies to use their online platforms to publicly pledge their commitment to diversity and present themselves as available resources.
As an individual of multiple marginalized identities (Lebanese-Armenian immigrant, LBGTQ+), I have some insights into the various forms that micro- and macro-aggressions may take in discriminating against minorities. However, my personal identity does not provide me with an inherent understanding of the plight of another marginalized group. As such, I pledge to serve as an ally by listening to underrepresented minorities, recognizing and validating their experiences, opening my network to them, and generally supporting their journeys to my utmost capacity. As part of my commitment to diversity, I will provide a platform for all individuals whose voices are underrepresented and address the systemic roots of minority-centered inequality within science and academia.
Below, I document previous efforts that I have made and future proposals for addressing such inequality. In so doing, I hope to provide others with concrete ways of how they can help in this regard, and receive feedback of how I can improve, as well.
Past Experiences/Moving Forward
As part of my previous efforts to promote diversity, I have focused on developing support systems for marginalized groups. Namely, I served as the President and Social Convener of the LGTBQ+ Graduate Students Group at the Johns Hopkins University, where I helped pioneer the Johns Hopkins OUTList: an online list of over 250 LGBTQ+ self-identifying members of the university community (staff, students, faculty, alumni, etc.). This list served to provide a support system for LGBTQ+ individuals, opportunities for networking, and a way for the university to diversify by attracting top talent. During my time at the University of Toronto, I served as the President of the Armenian Students Association, where I helped develop mentorship programs to connect students underrepresented in education with professionals in their respective fields. This mentorship program provided students with examples of individuals who were similar to themselves and who were also successful in their academic and professional endeavors.
During my graduate career, I helped organize “Brain Awareness Week”, a community outreach program where graduate students from the Johns Hopkins University presented scientific concepts in interactive ways to high school students in inner-city Baltimore. These types of programs are critical for bringing about social change, as systemic barriers (e.g. low socioeconomic status) and lack of representation prevent young minds from entertaining the possibility of pursuing careers in STEM. Simply put, science and higher education has an input problem. I firmly believe that if we want to ensure diversity at the university level, we must intervene at an earlier stage.
To create positive social change, I plan to challenging individuals’ implicit biases towards minority groups by serving as a visible example of a minority working within the sciences. Moreover, I will leverage my platforms to educate individuals within my network on these matters. I would continue to support racialized minorities by serving as a faculty sponsor, and I would implement community outreach programs to ensure diversity among the next generation of university applicants. I would help organize panel discussions, serve on committees, and develop white papers on the realities of what it means to be a minority in higher education, in the hopes of identifying and addressing the systematic obstacles that hinder equality in academia. These are just a few things that we can each do to bring about real social change.
Resources for (Self) Education and Allyship
* Thank you to the Harvard Vision Sciences Lab for bringing many of these materials to my attention
Strategies for Leaders:
Supporting African American Colleagues:
Racial Bias in Scientific Fields: