How Do You Foster Diverse and Inclusive Environments?
LS: Diversity is not only about including people of different backgrounds in the current culture of the school; it is about evolving and shaping a new culture together. In my previous role at the University of Canberra, I set up a Cross-Cultural Design Lab to lead and shape a dialogue on the importance of cross-cultural collaboration in Design. By educating others and, in exchange, being educated in the meaning of images, symbols and behaviours of different cultures through the design process, I believe we are able to create more effective design solutions. Similarly, I feel that a truly diverse staff and student profile will allow us to create a forward-thinking culture that will provide new and innovative solutions to our greatest challenges.
As an institution, QUT is committed to increasing partnerships and research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
We will live up to these responsibilities by being guided by Indigenous Australians in core policy and by embedding Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into curriculum, by instituting strategies of tailored student recruitment and support, and through staff employment and professional development (QUT BluePrint6 2019).
Indigenous Australians have been cited as the world’s oldest culture and, as such, they have made and continue to make an immense contribution to the Creative Industries. Our aim as a Faculty and school is to foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous Australians; to this end, we have a current focus on the recruitment and retention of Indigenous academic staff and students. We are also working to establish a leading national scholarship program and a fellowship program that would see a higher representation of Indigenous Australians in the School of Design.
The School of Design is currently exploring avenues to further increase Indigenous community participation and other under-represented community groups in design education. We are particularly committed to providing all students the opportunity to engage with the unique perspectives of the Turrabal and Yugara peoples on whose land our Brisbane campuses are located. One of our Impact Labs explores the concept of “place” and we are looking to partner with Indigenous Australian elders to co-design and create new experiences of understanding the land and its history. Through this process, we hope to further educate students and provide education that gives direct exposure to First Nations perspectives in Australia “by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people QUT plans to address challenges not only faced by Indigenous Australians but all Australians” (QUT BluePrint6 2019).
GM: While living in Australia and New Zealand, I had the opportunity to work at universities witli strong policies and protocols for serving diverse societies, such as Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander people, Maori and Pasifika communities and other diverse communities. Having the opportunity to engage and work with people from many different cultures has been a truly rewarding experience. This has also made me very conscious of the need for having a vibrant and inclusive culture in the university.
When I arrived in the USA, I started administering, developing and implementing a range of equity, diversity and inclusion policies and programs. I followed best practices in the field in terms of hiring, stakeholder engagement and community outreach. But most importantly, we started implementing changes in the curriculum so that diverse communities were better represented in the content. As a result, in 2017, Insight into Diversity - the oldest magazine devoted to diversity and inclusion in higher education -recognised the Ullman School of Design at the University of Cincinnati as a “Diversity Champion,” when compared to other design schools in the country. Metropolis, the leading industry publication in the field of design and architecture, confirmed this further by calling the school a “game changer,” and by ranking the University of Cincinnati as having the #1 design school in the USA when it comes to implementing equity and diversity initiatives - with the Harvard Graduate School of Design being #2 (Von Koenig, 2017).
Following this, I have also launched several other equity and diversity initiatives. For instance, I worked with Procter and Gamble (P&G) on securing $500,000 (USD) of financial aid in the form of scholarships to support prospective design students from under-privileged backgrounds and diverse communities. In addition to the financial support, designers and executives from P&G will also provide on-going mentorship and possible career pathways in the company for these students.