As someone who identifies as Asian, I have experienced racial trauma but stayed silent under the stereotype of the Model Minority. In the wake of Asian Hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally realized how I was affected by racialization.
Because everyone deserves to be liberated from the negative effects of identity-based discrimination, I have been proactively taking action to cultivate an inclusive environment and see DEI expertise as an integral part of the professionalism of educators and researchers.
Through my work in founding the Mines Asian Community Alliance (MACA) and being an inaugural officer of the newly-created Postdoctoral Program at Mines, I received a university-wide Mines Diversity, Inclusion & Access Award for creating a culture of inclusion.
This mindset manifests in my service, teaching, outreach, research, and mentoring.
— October 31, 2022
I. Service for Belonging and Inclusion
As a postdoc funded by federal grants, I have primarily contributed to university and my profession.
A. University: Founding Mines Asian Community Alliance (MACA)
Three months after joining Mines, I founded MACA in November 2021 to foster an inclusive environment and sense of belonging for faculty and staff, focusing on Asians. I believe that this was a necessary action given that Chinese and other Asian communities were increasingly targeted as part of Asian Hate.
1) Fostering Dialog: After founding, there was a classroom incident involving an Asian professor. Vice Chair Jane Shiao and I discussed it during the semester listening session with the university leadership, with whom I arranged meetings with the professor to foster dialog. With other Mines Community Alliances (Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and Women), we co-wrote and issued a statement of support with actionable resources.
2) Raising Awareness: In Spring 2022, I designed a one-hour interactive workshop to raise awareness of the history and harm of the Model Minority myth of Asians. I broke the “Not Your Model Minority” film into three interactive sessions. With Treasurer Angie Reyes, we received remarkably positive feedback, e.g., “Really interesting historical context—I appreciated the insights!”; “Thank you both for putting on such an engaging presentation on this topic!”
3) Needs Survey & Cultural Events: With over 25 workshop attendees, MACA gained momentum, and I designed a concise questionnaire surveying needs and interests of the Mines Asian community. The responses help identify our top priorities: raising cultural awareness and community building. Since then, we have invited speakers on revitalizing the historic Denver Chinatown, organized the East Asian Mid-Autumn Festival, which attracted over 80 employees, and the South Asian Diwali Festival, which had over 75 attendees.
4) Impact & Solidarity: MACA has grown to over 35 members in less than a year, who actively participate and form sub-committees for cultural events. Our activities reached more than 270 employees. We have also issued support statements and organized large-scale events collaborating with other community alliances.
B. University: Founding Officer of Mines Postdoctoral Program
I am also serving as an officer at the Mines Postdoctoral Program because I believe postdocs, with a temporary nature, uncertain future, and under-financed, are also a minority group. I have helped centralize benefits, housing, professional development, mental health, and DEI resources and contributed event ideas.
Additionally, I contribute at the state and national levels. I helped organize the Front Range Industry & Postdoc Summit, securing sponsors appealing to computer science and engineering postdocs. And I am on the Advocacy Committee of the National Postdoctoral Association to identify and improve NSF policies related to postdocs.
C. Professional: Diversifying Participation
I am a General Co-Chair of the ninth Artificial Intelligence for Human-Robot Interaction (AI-HRI) Symposium at AAAI 2022 Fall Symposium Series. I initiated the role of the DEI Chair, which whom I negotiated five complimentary registrations for members of under-represented groups. AAAI later adopted this policy for all other symposia and has started formalizing a process for this initiative to offer more with secured funding.
The organizing committee has a diverse representation: Ph.D. students, postdocs, liberal arts and research university professors, and people from government and industry. We also have more female organizers, which increased from 3/13 (23% in 2021) to 6/15 (40% in 2022).
While serving on the program committees of ACM/IEEE HRI and ACM AutoUI, I intentionally counteract implicit bias in the demographics of authors and potential reviewers.
II. Equity-Focused Teaching and Outreach for Diversity
According to the 2021 Computing Research Association (CRA) Taulbee survey, less than 30% of CS degrees awarded were female, severely below the national 50.5% demographic data from the 2020 Census. Racial and ethnicity data is also seriously imbalanced. Although Black and Latinx accounted for 13.9% and 18.9% of the US population, they only received 3.2% and 3.4% CS degrees, respectively.
This disproportion issue exacerbates wealth and power inequality. Moreover, it perpetuates stereotypes and biases towards oppressed, underrepresented groups. In my teaching, I strive to be equity-focused to achieve social justice and retain minority students. Below are some practices besides those in my teaching statement.
A. Countering Implicit Bias
When interacting with students in and out of class, I focus on their work and addressing their needs and concerns, rather than applying stereotypes. To further counter stereotypes, I started reading books that give account for personal feelings to develop perspective-taking for the specific experiences of other minoritized groups. I am in the Latinx book club and helped MACA to create one.
B. Debiasing by Diversity
Addressing implicit biases is also relevant for students to encourage full participation. I invite speakers and feature videos from underrepresented groups to decrease implicit bias among students. They also serve as role models to increase self-efficacy among underrepresented groups.
C. Equitable Assessments
To accommodate students with different experiences, I provide low-stakes homework exercises to build towards more challenging assignments. I also design step-by-step tutorials to address disparities in previous knowledge. To encourage underrepresented groups to dispel stereotypes, I hold everyone to high expectations and ask students to share and reflect on their learning strategies for success.
D. Equitable Tool Access
My Augmented Reality course requires a Windows or macOS laptop and smartphones for deployment. For students with Linux and AR-incompatible smartphones, I worked with the CS department to lend devices rather than making implicit assumptions about students’ socio-economic status.
E. Outreach for Equal Opportunities
To diversify the future student body of CS, I am active in outreach and have designed engaging demos, like robotic pick & place and how math is applied to robotics. These recent efforts reached over 100 parents, boys, and girls with more racial and gender diversity.
III. Research and Mentoring
In my human-subjects studies, I have started collecting free-response racial information and made gender an open-ended question to foster inclusion and self-expression. In my research statement, I have proposed to work in the DEI space, i.e., inclusive remote participation with telepresence robots and virtual reality (VR). I also planned to adopt more community-based methods for equitable research participation.
A. DEI Workshop Submission to HRI 2023
I recently co-authored a workshop application on DEI submitted to the 2023 ACM/IEEE HRI conference. The workshop has two parts. Part I aims to share experiences and research insights on identifying, addressing, and integrating DEI aspects in HRI, including robot design, applications, research methods, and the community. Part II aims to co-construct a guideline to address sampling bias in participant recruitment and develop it into a journal paper.
B. Mentoring and Future Research Lab
Among the 22 undergraduate researchers and three graduate students I have been mentoring, 12 (54%) are underrepresented, and 12 are female. Recently, I developed a mentor-mentee agreement document in part to structurally understand their background.
Partly due to my DEI effort in undergraduate mentoring, I have been elected as a division councilor of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) to further promote undergraduate research.
In my future research lab, I would recruit a diverse group of lab members and foster an inclusive and equitable environment. Like my class, I plan to evaluate my goals by hosting interactive feedback and reflection sessions.