Pedro Mago, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University, and the Statler College Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, announced the recipients of the College’s inaugural Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. The awards were distributed to the recipients in conjunction with WVU’s annual Diversity Week celebration.
“I am extremely proud of our faculty, staff and students for going above and beyond to help build a College community where everyone has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential,” Mago said. “They are an example of what we can do, together, and as individuals, to create a more welcoming learning and living environment. This award establishes a standard for us all to live up to.”
One faculty member, one student, and a student organization who demonstrated exemplarily leadership that manifests the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion into practical action, were selected for the award. The individuals were nominated by their peers in the Statler College and chosen by the DEI Committee.
“I join in celebrating the drive and creativity of this year’s award recipients,” said Meshea L. Poore, Esq., Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “These individuals and organizations are doing important work within our classrooms, out in our communities, and inspiring students to aim high.”
Nagasree Garapati , visiting assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, has received the award in part for her commitment to engage women, minority and first-generation students in her research group through outreach events.
“Integrating the values of diversity, equity and inclusion into classrooms will not only improve social skills, but also enhance creativity, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills,” Garapati said. “Personally, coming from one of the most diverse nations, I strongly believe in ‘unity in diversity.’”
Garapati recently participated in a National Science Foundation inclusivity and diversity grant where she worked to develop activities with her colleagues to help students respect and appreciate each other’s cultural and stylistic differences and to become aware of unconscious assumptions, biases and behaviors that may influence their interactions. By integrating in-class discussions and activities about diversity in teamwork in her teachings, Garapati expands and embraces the understanding of inclusiveness inside and outside of the classroom.
“With the growth of globalization, it is important to prepare our students to work in diverse groups,” Garapati said.
Raafay Uqaily, a sophomore biomedical engineering student, received the award for his involvement in student organizations on campus that work to strengthen the WVU community through creating a more inclusive learning environment and for his extensive volunteer work off campus. Uqaily also serves as a peer advisor for the First Year Leadership Academy, mentoring incoming students and acting as a source of guidance to foster a supportive environment as freshmen transition to life at WVU.
“Being of Pakistani origin myself, I go out of the way to ensure that semester-exchange students from Pakistan feel at home here at WVU,” Uqaily said. “Be it driving to Walmart, sending them home made food, or even showing them around town. I make sure they feel welcome in Morgantown and go back with a positive image of our community here at WVU.”
As part of the TedXWVU executive team, Uqaily helps evaluate potential speakers to ensure a diverse range voices, ideas and stories from throughout the region. He has also been affiliated with the Appalachian Book Project, participated in Conversation Club meetings, which allows international students to engage in friendly conversations with native English speakers, is a member of the Pakistani Student Association and participates in the Mountaineer Volunteer Program.
“I see promoting DEI as a fundamental aspect, or an unsaid necessity, for any society to succeed,” Uqaily said. “Doing so not only unites people from all walks of life, but it also seems like the right thing to do from a moral and ethical standpoint. Promoting these values is the only way to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance and feels as if they are an integral part of the community.”
The Society of Women Engineers in the Statler College received the award for their effort to continually supply women with the tools needed to ensure a successful engineering career. The organization hosts workshops, networking and outreach events and advocates to create equitable career opportunities.
“Receiving this award means that SWE has done the best we can to accomplish our mission,” said SWE President Abigail Osborne. “Promoting the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to advancements and improvements within science and within society. In order to tackle the many challenges facing the world, perspectives from all walks of life are necessary.”
SWE provides scholarships to students to promote inclusivity, while also empowering and encouraging women to enter the STEM field. The organization aims to create a community of empowered women who support those who feel outnumbered or unheard, however, they accept all members who are interested in forwarding their mission in their lives and society.”
“The ideals of working together and promoting healthy cooperation allow us to prevail over problems,” Osborne said. “Within the Society of Women Engineers, diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental in our mission; demonstrating the value of diversity promotes women to achieve their full potential as engineers and as leaders.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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