fbpx Texas iSchool Welcomes First Assistant Dean for DEI, Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz | UT iSchool | The University of Texas at Austin

Texas iSchool Welcomes First Assistant Dean for DEI, Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz

Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz, Assistant Dean for DEI

The School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to welcome Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz as the school’s first Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). In this role, Gómez-Cruz will lead the iSchool’s effort to establish a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Gómez-Cruz, who was appointed to the position last spring, joined us in January 2022. He came to Texas from the University of New South Wales, Australia, where he was a Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the School of the Arts and Media. His research focuses on digital mediations using an ethnographic approach following people’s practices with digital technologies, including a focus on data and algorithms in the global south.

Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz:

“We have an amazing opportunity to turn the iSchool into a hub for DEI initiatives and research at the university and in our community. We have programs, experts, and knowledge that are central for the creation of a more just world, so we need to make sure we reach the populations that need us the most.”

“Becoming the school’s first Assistant Dean for DEI is a huge responsibility, an exciting opportunity, and a humbling experience,” Gómez-Cruz said. “DEI work is not only important but essential for three key reasons: (1) because it is a path for a whole community of people with different backgrounds, beliefs and needs to thrive collectively. If we all succeed, the iSchool succeeds. (2) It is important because the university should be the place where differences are not only respected and acknowledged but also leveraged to inspire new ideas and innovation. (3) It is essential because DEI is a track to achieve social justice. Historically, several power imbalances have been present in all sorts of institutions and society at large. Universities are no exception. Not everyone has had the same access to the opportunities, resources, support, and acknowledgement required to have a voice, be part of the discussion, and succeed. We are in a particularly delicate moment, and we need people interested in closing the different gaps we still have as a society. But perhaps more importantly, we need institutions committed to supporting the necessary changes to make this happen. To lead with actions. While I am the iSchool’s first Assistant Dean for DEI, and I am ready to lead the way, the school’s DEI effort is not solely mine. We need all iSchoolers to become ambassadors, activists, and promoters of DEI—inside the classroom, the labs, within the university, and in our communities. We have important work ahead of us, tackling the possible imbalances, biases, and injustices that could still be present.”

Gómez-Cruz’s vision for improving DEI at the school can be summarized in the acronym ACT: Acknowledging and Awareness, Celebrating and Consolidating, and Transforming and Transferring. “What we have ahead of us is a triple task,” he said. “On the one hand, we need to make sure that we offer opportunities and improve conditions so that everyone—regardless of their background, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, culture, or bodies—who wants to be a part of our community can be. It’s important to make sure that the iSchool is a safe and inclusive place for everyone to thrive, where people are seen in the way they want to be seen, and all feel welcomed and at home here. On the other hand, we need to tackle historical inequalities in order for the iSchool to be a place where all faculty, staff, and students can find the support that they need to thrive in their research, work, or studies. And finally, we have the amazing opportunity to turn the iSchool into a hub for DEI initiatives and research at the university and in our community. We have programs, experts, and knowledge that are central for the creation of a more just world, so we need to make sure we can reach the populations that need us the most.”

Dean Eric T. Meyer said, “I am incredibly pleased to have an international scholar of Edgar’s caliber joining the iSchool, and also leading our collective efforts to create opportunities for students, faculty, and staff from all walks of life. This is not the work of a single person, but with Edgar in place to coordinate and lead our efforts, I am confident that our entire community will see both immediate and long-term impacts. I am grateful to have Dean Gómez-Cruz on my leadership team.”

In addition to serving as Assistant Dean for DEI, Gómez-Cruz joins the iSchool faculty as an associate professor. A digital ethnographic researcher with an international reputation, his research explores what people do with, and think about, digital technologies in their everyday lives. “In the last ten years, I’ve became increasingly interested in what we could call digital inequalities and vulnerabilities, particularly those present in the global south,” he said. “If technologies help in the creation of worlds, what happens when the access, use, and imaginaries of these technologies are not close to the centers where they are produced? This has led me to a particular interest in issues concerning social justice, critical thinking, digital capitals, cultural and historical contexts, and social (in)visibility. My current research develops decolonizing approaches to digital culture, algorithms, and data, particularly (but not only) in Latin-America. More importantly, this interdisciplinary agenda has become an interventionist one, either creating theoretical and methodological innovation or participating in policy recommendations and technological development.”

Gómez-Cruz sees his double role as an associate professor and as Assistant Dean for DEI as the perfect combination to develop a diverse curriculum in which students can expand their critical and strategic thinking by exploring multiple possible contexts with a diverse, inclusive, and equitable understanding. “As I always say, technology is not the same for everyone and not everyone has access to the same technology. Therefore, people don’t use technology in the same way, nor understand it similarly. What can we learn from this diversity and how can we use this knowledge to develop better and more just technologies?” He hopes to engage students in this question in his courses on decolonial approaches to information, data, and digital culture; methodological courses on qualitative research and digital ethnography with a particular activist approach; and more experimental and lab-inspired courses on sociotechnical futures.

Feb. 15, 2022