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Building belonging

HCDE launches new initiatives supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the department.

In 2019, the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering adopted a strategic plan to align the department's initiatives around shared goals for the following five years. One of the identified strategic goals is to advance and sustain diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across HCDE's work and communities.

Advancing DEI as a priority in the department includes everything from understanding the current state of DEI across HCDE's programs and processes to identifying and implementing new practices and policies to make HCDE a community where everyone belongs.

"Anti-racism and equity work is vital to our evolving department culture and affects every aspect of the work we do." said Daniela Rosner, associate professor in HCDE and current chair of the department's diversity committee.

The following objectives for the department have been informed by input from the HCDE community — community discussions, the faculty and staff departmental retreat, and meetings with student leadership.

Understanding HCDE's strengths and weaknesses

College of Engineering Climate Assessment

HCDE has been participating in a DEI climate assessment facilitated by the College of Engineering Dean's office. The climate assessment will help inform HCDE leadership about the current state of equity and inclusion within the Department, and identify areas for improvement. The results of the climate assessment, expected to conclude later in 2021, will inform future strategic initiatives for the department.

Listening and empowering

Receiving feedback

In autumn 2020, HCDE Professor and Chair Julie Kientz created a Chair's Student Advisory Board to have a direct line of communication with representatives from all of HCDE's degree programs. The HCDE diversity committee also welcomed four student representatives to the committee, to ensure that concerns and priorities of students are integrated into departmental initiatives. In addition, the diversity committee is creating a process to enable students, faculty, and staff to share their experiences and suggestions with the Department in a safe and supported way.

Student Resource Groups

The HCDE Student Associations (undergraduate and graduate) developed student resource groups to build community, connect one another to resources, and advocate on behalf of traditionally underrepresented communities. The following student resource groups host events and connect students across the department and the University:

+ HCDE Spectrum (LGBTQIA+ & Allies)
+ HCDE Able (Dis/Ability)
+ HCDE WMN (Women)
+ HCDE URM (Underrepresented
minority students)
+ HCDE INTL (International students)

DEI Mini Grants

The HCDE diversity committee launched a mini grant funding mechanism to support DEI-related efforts proposed by anyone in the HCDE community. Grant funds can support initiatives such as supporting speaker honoraria, to travel costs for a community-building event, to compensating participants from vulnerable groups in student course projects. Funded projects in the first year of the mini grant program include a community-wide screening of the film Coded Bias and an hourlong conversation with the director Shalini Kantayya; a Design-a-thon for Social Good, in which HCDE students explored barriers to mental health resources experienced by people in underrepresented communities; and support for a Decolonizing Design Toolkit, a research project aimed at encouraging students to identify and critique practices in human-computer interaction reinforced through pedagogies that seek to uphold unquestioned and dangerous societal norms.

Improving DEI in our teaching, learning, and outreach

Workshop for faculty and staff

HCDE welcomed an external consultant to run two workshops with staff and faculty to discuss departmental culture and focus on supporting and listening to all members of the Department community effectively. HCDE faculty continue to discuss how to diversify course content, such as revising syllabi and incorporating new curricular materials.

Sustained Dialogue in HCDE

In 2020, HCDE began planning a dialogue program, under guidance from the Sustained Dialogue Institute. With support from a grant from the UW Resilience Lab, 25 HCDE students, faculty, and staff, underwent a 16-week training to learn how to facilitate discussions using the Sustained Dialogue method of communicating “peacefully, justly, and productively” about difficult conversation topics, inequity, and oppression within organizations. Individuals trained as moderators will lead small group discussions for members of the HCDE community beginning in the summer quarter.

Revising hiring and admissions processes

Examining and revising practices around recruitment and admissions

The HCDE curriculum committee is examining current admissions practices, and working to develop new practices that will mitigate bias and holistically evaluate applicants to HCDE's academic programs.

Student retention

HCDE has introduced two fellowships to support graduate students in the department: the Neon Blackboard Term Fellowship that supports students with a demonstrated commitment to DEI; and the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program Matching Fund that supports students with a supplemental award based on financial need and merit. Students facing financial hardship can now apply for help with unexpected expenses from the Kientz and Patel HCDE Student Emergency Support Fund.

"Our work is only scratching the surface of what needs to be done," said Rosner. "But every step we take toward dismantling institutional exclusions and inequities is critical. We need to build the conditions for a more just and equitable world."

Setting priorities and adapting to community needs is an ongoing process for HCDE faculty, staff, and students. The department leadership is committed to continual prioritization of DEI work to listen, learn, and take action against systemic bias.