Are you an engineering student looking to educate yourself on diversity? If so, the new diversity educational series, New Roads, is an excellent opportunity for you.
This past semester, Lisa Nicole Smith, the diversity, equity and inclusion manager for the College of Engineering, started New Roads, an educational series focused on engaging engineering students about diversity. Smith said that an abundance of engineering students are super busy, so they may not be able to seek out all of the resources available to them in the college.
Smith wanted to give engineering students the opportunity to hear informational pieces specifically regarding diversity. She highlighted that The University of Alabama is over 70% white, so she found it necessary to implement opportunities for students to learn about diversity on campus.
Smith said she chose this semester’s topics based on conversations that she had with students. The students told her about their daily situations in class and other social groups regarding racial issues.
The series is a presentation-based lecture, but students are more than welcome to chime in with any questions. Smith said that many students have questions about topics they don’t feel knowledgeable about, so they listen first and ask questions later.
“What I want to do is just plant a seed and give them the opportunity and the space to feel comfortable about talking about whatever is on their mind when they are finished with that conversation,” said Smith.
She shared that one of the best things students get out of attending these training sessions is verbiage. After students attend a session, they can talk about topics they did not have the words to talk about before. However, Smith acknowledged that must-needed conversations about diversity are hard to start for students who are not in a specific group but want to be an ally for that group.
“I think there are opportunities to talk about diversity all over the place. We just let them ride under the table most of the time, and we do that because it is more comfortable for us,” Smith said.
Smith said that although these conversations can be challenging, we can not ignore them. She said implicit bias happens, microaggressions happen and systemic racism is still happening. New Roads prepares students for the hard conversations they will eventually face.
According to Smith, New Roads is not like the diversity training that many students have probably had in the past. She said that students are often biased against diversity training because it targets white guilt, but this is not what New Roads does. This program focuses on the education of diversity, not training.
“If you are going to learn how to fight, you need to have the right tools to be able to fight,” explained Smith.
In order to find out information on meetings, engineering students can look at the televisions in their academic buildings. The graphic includes a QR code that links to information on where the next meeting is taking place.
If you are not an engineering student but are still interested in learning about diversity, Smith shared that all are welcome to join. She said, “This is an opportunity for people to receive diversity education on a more practical level.”