Action-based initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion
Save these dates in March and May when three anti-racism programs created by Department of Communication faculty will offer hands-on learning through research innovation.
By Allison Brock
Over the next few weeks, programs using a multidimensional approach to creating inclusion while moving forward on diversity and equity at Texas A&M will be available to students, faculty and members of the campus community. Hosted by Department of Communication faculty and students, the virtual events will offer eye-opening experiences and informative and affirming discussions. The events are designed to empower participants to address racism at Texas A&M and to practice anti-racism on campus – and in the world.
For Professor Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, Ph.D. and chair of the COMM Climate & Inclusion Committee, and Professor Srividya “Srivi” Ramasubramanian, Ph.D., the events bring decades of academic research to the public in ways that are accessible to students, faculty and the Texas A&M community.
‘Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging’
Wanzer-Serrano will host the final conference of “Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging,” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Sawyer Seminar focused on addressing challenges facing Latina/o/x studies. Discussions center on the way dominant cultures imagine Latina/o/x peoples and the way Latina/o/x folks imagine themselves.
Academics from all over the country in the fields of performance studies, queer studies, cultural studies and Latina/o/x studies will join Wanzer-Serrano and his co-directors Rene Rocha at the University of Iowa and Ariana Ruiz at the University of California San Diego in wrapping up the “Imagining Latinidades” conversation. The events had been mostly in-person until the coronavirus pandemic began.
“The closing conference will bring great scholars from coast-to-coast together to present their research, answer questions and have discussions about the importance of Latina/o/x Studies for students and universities everywhere,” said Wanzer-Serrano.
Previous podcast episodes and free registration for the March 26-27 virtual closing conference can be found on the “Imagining Latinidades” website.
Wanzer-Serrano joined Texas A&M University in 2021. Through his research and faculty appointments, Wanzer-Serrano is committed to the promotion and education of DEI on campus. Wanzer-Serrano said his identity in the field of communication is as a rhetorician, one dedicated to disrupting the rhetorical studies norm that predominantly promotes the voices of white rhetoricians while suppressing BIPOC – Black, Indigenous and people of color – voices. He makes the conscious effort to translate his research into the classroom by challenging the narrative of Western texts based on white scholars.
“There’s a really close relationship between my research and teaching,” said Wanzer-Serrano. “My job here is to challenge the stability of these narratives that allow race and racism to continue unchecked.”
Annual Communicating Diversity Student Conference
Undergraduate & Graduate submission deadline, April 1
Conference registration, open April 15
Communicating Diversity Conference, May 22
The Communicating Diversity Student Conference began in 2012 to allow undergraduate and graduate students to present research on different diversity themes every year. The conference is led by Department of Communication graduate students and is hosted by the department’s Climate & Inclusion committee. The conference is open to students outside of the communication discipline and from other universities.
This year’s virtual conference has a theme of “Communication for Collective Healing,” said Emily Riewestahl, a doctoral student in the COMM department, who is planning the May 22 conference.
“We’re recognizing how traumatic of a year it’s been since COVID-19,” said Riewestahl. “One of the things we really need to emphasize in our research is talking about healing, and how we come back from this year as COVID-19 continues to be a global crisis.”
This year’s conference is sponsored by the Texas A&M University Department of Communication, Texas A&M Department of Sociology, Texas A&M Women’s and Gender Studies program, and Texas A&M Latino/a and Mexican American Studies program.
Students are encouraged to use their research to connect healing and diversity in one of three ways. Students wishing to present a research paper can submit a 250-word abstract summarizing their project. Those with partially completed research projects can submit them for research escalator sessions, which will pair the student with a mentor in the field to help develop the project over the course of the conference. The research escalator sessions are new this year, noted Riewestahl. A third form of submission is for work in forms other than traditional research projects.
“We want to open it up to things like art, film and performance that can show scholarship in a different and more interactive way,” said Riewestahl.
The submission deadline for all works is 11:59 p.m. on April 1. Submissions and questions can be directed to Riewestahl on the Communicating Diversity Student Conference website. Registration for the May 22 conference will open on April 15.
Action-Based Dialogues for Anti-Racism
While the final Difficult Dialogue workshop of the spring semester concluded March 18, a new anti-racism program will continue from March 23 through April 27 through Flourish, a program for Texas A&M faculty and staff.
Difficult Dialogues are cafe-style discussions, facilitated by trained moderators and dedicated to advancing anti-racism. Attendees enter a learning environment about diversity, equity and inclusion, explained Dr. Srivi.
“I felt that a lot of students in liberal arts were exposed to these topics and conversations, but not everybody else on campus,” said Dr. Srivi. “Those who are interested in being involved in these initiatives can come discuss with others on these topics.”
Like the Communicating Diversity student conference, Dr. Srivi created the Difficult Dialogues initiative at Texas A&M through her research and ongoing anti-racism work. In March, Dr. Srivi was honored at the 2021 Chancellor Summit on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Texas A&M University, College Station, in recognition of her commitment to encouraging and embracing DEI on campus.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Dr. Srivi after being notified in March of her selection for the Chancellor’s award.
“It is a recognition of all the work of not me, but the teams I have led, and all of the students that I work with.
“We are specially positioned at Texas A&M,” said Dr. Srivi. “As a public university, it is our responsibility to teach our students about global diversity in multiple ways.”
The Chancellor’s Award follows Dr. Srivi’s selection for the Gerald M. Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship, announced during the 106th National Communication Association virtual convention in November 2020. Dr. Srivi was the recipient of a College-Level Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching and honored at the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s reception in October 2020. The annual award recognizes and rewards superior classroom teachers. In addition to these recent honors, Dr. Srivi is a Presidential Impact Fellow, Professor of Communication and Liberal Arts Cornerstone Faculty Fellow at Texas A&M.