Inclusion and Wellness

Inclusion and Wellness

Department Roadmap Statement Concerning Health and Diversity

  • We are a community that cares about the mental and physical health of our students, faculty and staff first and foremost
  • We value diversity in and inclusion of our students, faculty and staff and appreciate their backgrounds and opinions
  • We remain committed to MIT’s goals of increasing the percentage of faculty and graduate students from under-represented groups
  • We are inspired by the MIT 2004 pledge and seek to accomplish progress in diversification of our Department and our field
  • We pledge to create and implement an action plan towards full achievement of the goals stated in 2004 and the recommendations of the 2010 report on Faculty and Diversity

Message from the Department Head Paula Hammond
(February 6, 2019)

Dear Chemical Engineering Community,

At MIT, as a scientific and engineering community, we have always embraced challenges. Along with the many technological obstacles that the members of this Department tackle on an everyday basis, we also face the challenge of ensuring a workplace and academic setting in which all of the members of our community can excel and prosper. These issues go beyond just gender, ethnicity or nationality, and include how we treat each of the members of our Department.   Over the past few years, I, along with the rest of the faculty, have been listening to you, receiving your feedback in surveys and in town halls, one-on-one meetings and student board discussions, and we recognize an opportunity to openly embrace the goal of a welcoming and inclusive community for our students, researchers, faculty, administrative and support staff. I am reaching out to you today as we start the Spring term to let you know that our faculty is determined to ensure an academic climate and culture in which all can prosper. As a faculty, we feel that it is important to demonstrate the importance that we place on an inclusive setting to achieve the highest levels of excellence from every participant, and provide the most meaningful academic experiences for our students and trainees.   We anticipate that these efforts will extend from independent research labs to our undergraduate classrooms, and that the faculty will work in partnership with student groups and staff to explore areas where the Department can grow or improve, as well as areas where we identify positive outcomes that may inform additional efforts in the Department. We also recognize our responsibility to teach and inform our students and postdoctoral trainees on the importance of inclusive work environments.

As a field, Chemical Engineering has seen some increase in diversity over the past few decades in terms of numbers of women and underrepresented groups; however, we still have far to go in terms of representation among these groups, and there remain some imbalances and meaningful differences in the experiences of those who are traditionally underrepresented when it comes to mentoring, academic or career advance. More subtle differences can exist in the degree to which some in the field feel empowered to take part fully in their scientific settings. Research groups represent one of the core and most influential sub-communities within an academic setting. In creating an environment in which every participant feels empowered to engage in their work, the faculty voted overwhelmingly this January to take positive action by committing to a lab-by-lab workshop, “Promoting a Professional and Inclusive Lab Culture”, to be given for every research group (smaller groups may be combined) that will include the PI, lab managers and staff, postdocs, and students together. The workshops will be organized and led by Sarah Rankin of the Title IX office and Kelley Adams of the Violence Prevention and Response Office. It should be noted that the program’s focus goes beyond gender and includes other forms of harassment (including  based on race, nationality, culture, seniority etc.) as open topics of discussion in the groups, as well as ideas for different ways in which lab cultures might be better able to ensure an inclusive environment. We plan to implement these workshops in every Chemical Engineering research lab by August of this year.

The workshops are simply the initiation of what I hope will be a much broader series of efforts within our Department. Our undergraduate student culture within the Department is dominated much more by our undergraduate courses and the core curriculum, as well as interactions with advisors and student groups. Our graduate students have also provided feedback about their first year experience, which is also influenced by coursework. Because much of the student academic experience is in the classroom, I hope to hold forums with both the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board (USAB) and the Graduate Student Advisory Board (GSAB) that will bring faculty instructors and students together in groups to constructively discuss elements within and beyond the classroom that are helpful to an overall enabling and inclusive learning environment. I will be working with these student groups, and others, including the new Graduate Women in Chemical Engineering group, in conjunction with the Student Office, throughout this Spring and next Fall to elicit ideas that may help to inform generalized best practices for discussion by our faculty, as well as more constructive and informative modes of feedback for course instructors.

In the end, these efforts are about all of us as a Department community, and include our faculty, students, and staff who help to create, build and support the environment in which we work. The generation of a welcoming and inclusive culture is important for us all to embrace – the peer-to-peer experiences of our undergraduate and graduate students can be just as impactful as a student’s interactions with a research PI, the manner in which support staff or lab personnel are treated can set or influence the tone for interactions in the larger group, and interactions between students and faculty that maintain mutual respect provide the basis for much more effective learning in classrooms or labs. As a Department, we embrace these values of shared respect and sensitivity to others, academic integrity, and high standards of interpersonal behavior. We are an excellent Department; it is my hope that our continued efforts to ensure these values extend throughout every aspect of our Department community life will only help to make us an even more outstanding place to learn and live.

Best Regards,

Paula Hammond