Jason Liu, Eminent Scholar Chaired Professor and Interim Director of the School of Computing and Information Sciences, and Sharan Ramaswamy, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, are two of this year’s Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity (AWED) Faculty Fellows.
Faculty Fellows gain experience with university leadership and administration and make valuable contributions to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and improving the climate at FIU while participating in all aspects of FIU ADVANCE project initiatives. FIU ADVANCE is a $3.2 million dollar NSF Institutional Transformation grant aimed at developing strategies to increase the number of women and minority professors in STEM and the social behavioral sciences.
Liu became interested in diversity issues after he attended AWED’s Bystander Leadership Program, a workshop for faculty members that addresses gender and race bias within faculty interactions in positive and prosocial ways. He admits to originally feeling reluctant to attend due to his busy schedule, but now believes Bystander is one of the best workshops he’s ever attended. “The program teaches you about the biases we don’t realize we have, and how they can dictate our relationships with our colleagues. You learn how to detect these biases in day-to-day interactions, but also how to cope with and correct them.”
As a Faculty Fellow and as Interim Director, Liu has met with the school committee responsible for updating its diversity, equity and inclusion plan, is applying for a grant that would look at the school’s curriculum and instruction in order to increase the number of women and minorities in computing, and is working to bring DEI programing to the school in the spring semester. “I want our faculty and staff to be open to these workshops and experiences. What can I do to bring more opportunities to my school and my faculty?”
Ramaswamy is similarly dedicated to promoting DEI within his department. Ramaswamy had long noticed a need to address diversity as a part of outreach and mentorship. “I’ve served on faculty search committees and have observed that there is certainly a need to increase awareness in how to truly emphasize diversity. The desire was there but it wasn’t always being implemented,” he says. Last year, Ramaswamy served as the Interim Chair of the College of Engineering’s Faculty Council, which made him further aware of the importance of having documents like diversity statements as part of administration manuals.
As a Faculty Fellow, he’s already co-presented a STRIDE workshop, which covers best practices for faculty hiring. He’s also a member of his department’s diversity committee, and one of his major tasks this year is working with the committee to establish evaluation criteria for hiring. “Hiring is subjective, so it’s important to create a tool that a given department’s search committee can use in an objective manner.”
Says Ramaswamy, “as a Faculty Fellow, my job is ultimately to augment diversity, equity, and inclusion in my department, in my college, and throughout our institution.”