Committee makes diversity recommendations for iSchool

Ferguson, John  |  Apr 26, 2017

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Diversity Report
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Diane Bailey
Lynn Westbrook

The School of Information’s diversity and inclusion committee has issued its first report.

Drawing on conversations among students, faculty and staff, as well as a community-wide survey, the report makes eight recommendations for the iSchool. They include:

  • Recruiting students from diverse backgrounds
  • Adjusting or augmenting course materials
  • Hosting school social events
  • Publicizing the committee’s actions and findings

Nearly 60 percent of iSchool community members participated in the anonymous climate survey conducted in March. Key findings include:

  • 97 percent of respondents believed that having meaningful interactions with people who are different from them is an important or very important part of their iSchool experience.
  • About one quarter of respondents thought that members of the iSchool community were treated inequitably based on various demographic traits, such as race, age, gender or life experiences, particularly based on English language proficiency.
  • Just over a quarter of respondents (28%) thought that diversity and inclusion were not adequately addressed in most iSchool courses.

In its report, the committee also makes several requests of UT Austin Provost Maurie McInnis. The requests include asking for funding for a diversity faculty hire, for faculty and staff training, and for a school staff position of a minority-liaison officer.

School of Information Dean and Professor Andrew Dillon formed the diversity and inclusion committee in 2016, answering a charge from McInnis as part of a broader effort to create a more inclusive campus culture. The University of Texas at Austin released its first university-wide diversity and inclusion action plan in late March.

Also earlier this spring, Dean Dillon sent a letter to iSchool stakeholders that announced a new initiative that includes news, events, research and resources to increase community dialogue about diversity and inclusion.

“The Texas iSchool is a vibrant, enriching, and exciting place to study and work together, and we intend to practice and celebrate what makes us special through this new initiative,” he said.

The iSchool’s diversity and inclusion committee members are Diane Bailey, committee chair and associate professor; Itza Carbajal, master’s student; Carol Carreon, graduate coordinator II; Kamar Nassor, finance manager; Crystal Paull, master’s student; and Lynn Westbrook, associate professor.

In the 2017-18 year, the members are planning to expand on their preliminary actions to include diversity workshops and panels, among other initiatives. More information about diversity & inclusion at the School of Information can be found at Diversity and Inclusion at the iSchool.

MSIS Student Alia Gant Awarded 2014-2016 ARL Diversity Scholar

Oct 09, 2014

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ARL Diversity Scholars
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Alia Gant (top left) pictured with the other 2014-2016 ARL Diversity Scholars at the Leadership Symposium in Chicago. Photo by Lorenzo De Gregorio
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Alia Grant
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Alia Gant

iSchool Masters student, Alia Gant, has been selected as one of 13 MLIS/MSIS Diversity Scholars for 2014-2016. The Diversity Scholars program is part of the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW) by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Underwritten by ARL member libraries, the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce offers numerous financial benefits to program participants as well as leadership development provided through the annual ARL Leadership Symposium, a formal mentoring program, career placement assistance, and an ARL research library visit. This program reflects the commitment of ARL members to create a diverse research library professional community that will better meet the challenges of changing demographics in higher education and the emphasis on global perspectives in the academy.

Alia's interest in the field of library and information studies was sparked at the University of Iowa, where she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant for a professor working on two books. Her academic research utilizing a variety of databases, periodicals, and other library resources fueled an interest in learning more about the field. Now as a first-year student in the MSIS program, Alia is interested in pursuing many facets of the field including reference services in government and international studies, as well as preservation and digitization.

As a Diversity Scholar, Alia, will receive mentoring from an ARL librarian or library professional, a tuition stipend, a trip to the ARL Leadership Symposium, a visit to Purdue University Libraries, and other unique leadership, development, and professional association opportunities.

"I think the library in itself represents a diverse collection of materials varying from so many subject matters and the same should reflect for librarian professionals - including individuals from different ethnicities, age groups, areas of expertise, professional backgrounds, general interests, and much more", said Gant. "In recent years there have been initiatives from libraries, as well as many library and information organizations, to ensure that there is diversity among library professionals. I think these initiatives are great and really illustrate our national and international community."

Digital Archive Holds Untold History of African American Mental Health

Feb 07, 2014

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Resplendent in his trademark sport coat and bow tie, Louis Armstrong plays a trumpet for a large gathering of patients underneath a grove of trees outside of Central State Hospital, the world's first African American psychiatric hospital in Petersburg, Virginia. This is one of the many priceless images stored away in the hospital's filing cabinets that were on the brink of destruction. Due to changes in Virginia's records retention laws, any hospital document over 10 years old had to be destroyed-one hundred years of historic materials lost forever.

When King Davis, professor of African and African American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, found out about the impending demolition, he immediately flew to Virginia to negotiate a means to salvage the treasure trove of African American mental health history. Davis, who is a former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Mental Health, was granted a certain amount of time to copy and digitize the archives.

Established in 1868, Central State Hospital - formerly Central State Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane - was created in response to the newly freed slaves after the Civil War. The mounds of forgotten materials offer a rare glimpse into what life was like for African Americans following the Civil War to the post-civil rights era.

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