Inclusion and Diversity Statement

Throughout my academic career I have been committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity in education. This commitment began with own my experiences in youth programs targeted for people of lower-socioeconomic status, then continued through programs related to people for whom English is not their first language, and was further developed in my undergraduate education through learning about people with various cognitive, mobile, and other physical disabilities. These experiences in conjunction with my interest in improving inclusion in education have informed my research and teaching.

Undergraduate Contributions

During my undergraduate education, I made three primary contributions to diversity. First, I volunteered with a campus organization (“Campus Y”) to teach English-as-a-Second-Language classes for the local community. Most often my students were staff of the university or the businesses nearby. Second, as a resident advisor within the department of housing and residential education, I had the opportunity to work in support of our campus-dwelling students from all backgrounds. As part of my participation in this program, I elected to go through “SafeZone” training – to heighten awareness of LGBTQ community issues, and had the opportunity to become one of the first “SafeZone Challenge” (now “Safe Zone Gender Identity & Gender Expression”) trainees. Finally, through a Computer Science course about assistive technologies, I was able to work with people with various disabilities (we called them “diffabilities” at the time) to understand their daily lives, and to identify barriers that could be avoided through design of an assistive technology.

Postgraduate Contributions

During my postgraduate education, I have contributed to diversity in a few different ways. First, I served in the review of applications for the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing program. I have worked on research in the area of Computational Thinking (CT). Our group’s work on CT has followed an approach of integrating CT in existing core curricular classes, specifically from a social justice standpoint about access to computing classes if they are extracurricular. My dissertation work Colisten, the reimagining headphones, is a critical design project that challenges the idea of superficial “connections” with remote contacts, often at the expense of more meaningful co-located interpersonal interactions. I participated with a Design Against the Status Quo workshop at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Designing Interactive Systems 2016 conference. I have also had the opportunity to help with more administrative aspects of inclusion and diversity at Virginia Tech. As the university was envisioning the Inclusion and Diversity approach, I worked alongside Vice Presidents and other leadership to create an interactive graphic that illustrated the integrated, distributed model of delivering inclusive practices across the institution. This InclusiveVT Explorer – a unique interactive graphic and database – allowed the community to sort, search, and visualize the concepts and initiatives being offered by over a dozen academic and administrative units. Finally, through my work with our lab on ThoughtSwap, I have been working on facilitating in-class discussions between students who learn to better understand and more constructively confront counter-attitudinal intellectual positions.

My Commitment

As an emerging scholar, social justice advocate, and instructor, I stand firm on my beliefs to include all populations in the technologies and research that inform our daily lives. I am committed to incorporating various pedagogical approaches into my teaching through various modes of instruction and to adjust my approach when needed. I consider myself a lifelong learner and understand the journey toward inclusive excellence is in development in higher education and I plan to be a part of the faculty who lead this effort in the classroom and in the department.

Michael Stewart