The tragic events of spring quarter have emphasized the tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done to counteract the mistreatment and marginalization of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPoC) and create an environment that is more just, more equitable and more inclusive. Schools, programs, institutes and departments within the College of the Environment have been working hard to refine, rethink and deepen their work in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) space, often led by unit-level diversity committees. Groups within UW Environment have put in an immense amount of thought and care into building and rebuilding measures to carry this work into the future.

This work can not be reflective of the larger community without including said community in ongoing conversations about how DEI should look within College units. Groups within the College like the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences have set up forums for open discussion about topics within diversity, equity and inclusion, with the option of additional open forums available for deeper discussions with smaller groups.

Group DEI committees have also provided trainings for education on topics surrounding DEI. EarthLab staff engage in educational opportunities to support their collective capacity to support transdisciplinary and justice work, and in August the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies held a microaggressions workshop facilitated by Elba Moise.

Many groups within the College of the Environment have utilized the summer break to reflect upon and refine preexisting DEI plans, like Washington Sea Grant’s multi-year DEI roadmap. Multiple groups have also implemented a diversity hiring tool to increase diversity among staff, faculty and postdoctoral researchers. This includes implicit bias training as well as broadening the pool of applicants to include groups that may not have been previously included.

“It’s really important for us to push DEI in all that we do, so we really challenged ourselves to see if we can take our passion for DEI principles and incorporate that into our programming so we can not only influence each other but also all of Washington and all of our constituents,” says Sea Grant Director Russell Callender. “I’ve been really gratified to see that what we’re doing here in Washington is influencing DEI efforts for Sea Grants around the nation.”

Groups including the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and the Program on the Environment have centered their lecture series around DEI topics and are featuring speakers from underrepresented groups.

“The Bevan lecture series looks both inward and outward in the sense that we will advertise this online and public seminar series very broadly, but it is also linked to an undergraduate and interactive graduate class,” says School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Director Andre Punt. “The day after the public lecture, graduate students have the opportunity to meet with the speaker in class to discuss the lecture in depth and spend some time to have a conversation within a smaller group. The undergraduate class will discuss themes that emerge from the lecture series, and are given readings to explore the lecture in a deeper way.”

Many groups with graduate programs, like the Departments of Earth and Space Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Oceanography have modified the application process to allow for a more holistic review of potential students. This includes the removal of the GRE, additional personal statements to allow for a deeper understanding of the applicant’s background and experiences and applications to the AGU Bridge program.

“The opportunity to apply for the AGU Bridge program came up last year, but as a diversity committee we were so new that we weren’t ready to apply but it provided a framework for our work. It was a motivator and a vehicle for moving forward, so we worked hard during fall and winter quarters to revamp graduate admissions to be more inclusive. We wrote a comprehensive report to faculty to justify these changes, which made it relatively easy to apply for the Bridge program and allow for a broader look at applicants,” says committee chair LuAnne Thompson. “It is important for our role in society to be representative of the society as a whole instead of just white scientists. We lose when we don’t have a difference of perspectives, and the science also loses.”

While much work remains to be done in the DEI space, we also want to recognize the amount of work and effort that has continually been put into racial equity at the group level. Recently, Friday Harbor Laboratories was awarded the 2020 Human Diversity Award from the Organization of Biological Field Stations for their continued engagement of underrepresented groups in field science.

“We enter Fall quarter with a momentum on DEI that I have never witnessed before. It seems like every day, I am learning about a new initiative or action that is coming from groups of faculty, postdocs, staff and students assessing what they can do right now to address systemic racism and social injustice,” says Dean Lisa Graumlich. “People are having difficult conversations and rolling up their sleeves to engage in the long-term work of making the College a place where everyone can thrive. I am excited to see us uncovering new ways to make sure that our research and teaching on the environment includes a social justice lens.”

Below are lists of some of our unit-level DEI efforts; more information is available on all unit websites or by contacting unit-level diversity committees.