The H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) announced the first cohort of the School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Fellows: Coca-Cola Foundation Professor Dave Goldsman, Assistant Professor Lauren Steimle, Senior Writer/Editor Shelley Wunder-Smith, and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies Chen Zhou. ISyE established the DEI Fellowship program in Spring 2021 to support initiatives that enhance diversity within ISyE’s faculty and graduate student body and to highlight a wide range of minority experiences within the entire ISyE community. The program fits within the overall vision and mission of ISyE’s recently created Center for Academics, Success, and Equity (CASE).
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are paramount to our continued success as a school and a community,” said ISyE School Chair Edwin Romeijn. “The DEI Fellowship program is part of my commitment to ensure that our school is a place where everyone's contributions are valued without exception. The work done by these inaugural Fellows – and those to come – will help ensure that ISyE is not only the No. 1 industrial engineering program in the country academically, but is also a school where all people can achieve their goals and feel welcome.”
Goldsman, who is ISyE’s director of master’s programs, noted in his project proposal that “while ISyE has been the No. 1 program in our field for decades, we continue to have issues attracting women and underrepresented minority students – particularly to our graduate programs.” His focus this year as a DEI Fellow will be to both visit with and host faculty from women’s colleges, HBCUs, and other small colleges in Georgia Tech’s sphere of influence; the goal is to engage with faculty mentors at these institutions who will then be able to recommend both the field of industrial engineering (IE) – and the Stewart School itself – to their brightest students.
Steimle currently serves as the Georgia Tech INFORMS chapter advisor, and through conversations with the chapter’s members, she realized that undergraduates studying math, computer science, and other engineering disciplines are sometimes unaware of industrial engineering and how these fields of study prepare them to be excellent candidates for studying IE and operations research at the graduate level. Evidence suggests that women and students from underrepresented minority groups are attracted to fields with potential for social impact, so there is an opportunity to showcase to students how IE can improve society. In partnership with Georgia Tech INFORMS and CASE, Steimle is offering a series of outreach events to connect with STEM students throughout Georgia, particularly those at the state’s minority-serving institutions and women’s colleges.
Zhou, who has written recently on the moral and ethical implications of supply chain optimization, plans to use his DEI Fellowship funds to connect with HBCU faculty and students who want to research the lack of equity in food access. In his project proposal, Zhou noted that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the systemic racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to medical care and overall health, and that so-called food deserts and their broader impact are a significant part of the problem.
Last spring, during the social justice protests that followed the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, Wunder-Smith reached out to several Black ISyE alumni and students and invited them to share their thoughts on the current moment, as well as their experiences of being Black in STEM and at Georgia Tech. These interviews, and subsequent others, formed the foundation of the ISyE “In Conversation” series. As part of her DEI project, Wunder-Smith – who has also been selected for the 2021-22 cohort of the Georgia Tech Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship program – plans to work with CASE Director and Senior Lecturer Damon P. Williams to further develop the In Conversation series through a succession of video interviews.
Each spring semester, a call for applications to the ISyE DEI Fellows program will be extended to ISyE faculty and staff. ISyE’s associate chairs, members of the ISyE DEI Committee, and CASE leadership will review the proposals and make recommendations for selection, with final award decisions being made by the School Chair. Up to five Fellows will be chosen for each cohort, which will participate in the program for one academic year.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering