Diversity is a fact and inclusion an act!


What can be your own contribution to the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) process? This was the question we asked during the Q&A session of the webinar “Diversity & Inclusion on campus: A general framework and the D.I.V.E.R.S.I.T.Y. model,” a jointly organized webinar by the 4TU/CEE that was hosted by the University of Twente (UT) and co-presented by myself last week.

Sterre Mkatini, D&I Officer at the UT, opened the session and presented a general framework of what D&I is about on a university campus, including the concept of intersectionality i.e. mapping out D&I domains, identifying our overlapping identities, areas of disadvantage and possible discrimination, and hence making them visible in order to take actions. She further focussed on the benefits of creating a sense of Belonging in our communities, and appropriately finished off with the five-step D&I Maturity Model to position our institutions on this development scale, starting from unawareness and reaching up to the ultimate level of disruptiveness when your institution is leading the way to a corporate citizenship.

My part consisted of showcasing my D.I.V.E.R.S.I.T.Y. model for joining the dots of these important D&I aspects and developing best practices aimed at creating that sense of Belonging and ultimately generating Wellbeing on our campuses. See this article for a review of the whole model.The recording of the webinar is available through the following link.

Back to the question asked at the webinar: It’s indeed important to start with yourself, develop self-awareness, take regular small steps towards inclusion on a small individual scale by creating the right psychologically safe environment within your team or in the classroom. So start with yourself and contribute this way by adding a brick to the building of our community.   

“Diversity? More than a buzz word” was the title of my column in Cursor in April 2018. It is June 2021 now. Reflecting on the past three years, we can see that diversity has indeed been more than some buzz word, it’s a reality now at TU/e. If we consider the two generally accepted approaches to the concept of Diversity: Creating it when deemed necessary and accepting it as a fact of nature, we can see that TU/e has been involved in both ways during the past years.

First, by creating more diversity on the gender level by hiring more female scientists within the framework of the Irène Curie Fellowship, a recruitment scheme that aims to attract talented female scientists. Second, by emphasizing the importance of the International Classroom concept in our educational practices in general, and in particular in this research project on “International student team effectiveness,” related to challenge-based learning and conducted by the IE&IS Dept. and the ESoE.

In the former approach, both diversity and inclusion are actions taken by individuals, while in the latter approach diversity is a fact and inclusion an act, a choice you make and actions you take to develop it. Where? In the international classroom or in the innovation space applying challenge-based learning as a clear and strong inclusiveness process.

And there are currently more diversity and Inclusion actions on our campus. Compass, the LGBTQ+ community and an important D&I stakeholder at TU/e has now started a series of podcasts on D&I related issues called “Sciversity”. I had the honor of being interviewed last week for their first episode. This podcast will also soon be made available.

But this is not enough. In light of the recent cases of outspoken racism, intimidation and abuse of power that occurred at TU/e, we must remain extremely vigilant in our daily work or study practices. Many of our unconscious biases based on various privileges we enjoy, result in daily mini-aggressions, discrimination, sexism as perpetrators and cause frustrations, vexation or grief to victims. We must remember that it always “takes two to tango,” and we consequently need to develop the necessary empathy and compassion to further build our community at TU/e and beyond.       

To finish off on a personal note: This column will be my last contribution to Cursor. Indeed, after authoring about 50 pieces (I’ve lost the real count) over the past years, I’ve decided to stop. Not because I have no inspiration in these current trouble times, but simply because I’m going into retirement (although I’ll still be around TU/e for another year). In all my columns (which you can find here) I shared stories, observations and experiences in the large area of interculturality, community-building, D&I and lately also about our new lives during the pandemic. All related more or less to our TU/e-community. So, it’s time to say goodbye now!

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