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Let's Start Here

Story by
J. Murray Gibson, Ph.D.
multiethnic hands

Intentional focus on diversity, inclusion and ending systemic bias on our campus and beyond

As the nexus of two distinct universities, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is uniquely positioned to build on the strengths of each of our great universities. The partnership of Florida A&M University, a top-ranked HBCU and Florida State University, a top-ranked Research-1 institution, brings unique opportunities for excellence, one of which is the prospect to be a leader with regard to diversity, inclusion and race relations in higher education. I believe that our unique diversity is a great strength. However, we know that we are not all that we could be, that the social injustice we see nationally is reflected in the college, and that we have a responsibility to be leaders and not followers in diversity and inclusion.

Embracing diversity, achieving inclusion and confronting bias has always been, and continues to be, one of our most important tasks in educating engineers. In the words of Ryunosuke Satoro, “Alone, we are a drop. But together, we are an ocean.”


Message from the Dean

Dear FAMU-FSU Engineering family,
 
I am reaching out to you to connect during these difficult times with a heart that is troubled and frustrated by recent events. I am deeply disturbed by the insidiousness of injustice and inequity in our society, and I want to express my worry and concern for each of you. Please know that you are important; to your family, of course, but also to me, to our staff and faculty, your community, our nation, and the world.

Let's Start Here

In light of the current turmoil, I am grateful for what we are working to accomplish at our college—a unique and progressive partnership between two proud institutions whose history began in segregation. We have made progress toward equity and fairness in engineering education, but we still have a long way to go to achieve our dream.

The goal of improving diversity and inclusion within the college expands this year with a process we are calling #LetsStartHere. The first step, in the Fall semester, begins as each of us completes a detailed anonymous survey of our climate. Then begins an extensive and inclusive process to honestly identify any barriers—whether based on race, gender or other individual differences—that exist in the college, and to work on eliminating them. The process will be challenging, uncomfortable and possibly painful at times as we work through difficult and divisive issues. Watching the news has brought home, however, how high the stakes can be if we fail to take seriously the challenge of improving the world for all.

During the summer I will be assembling a LetsStartHere leadership committee composed of students, faculty, staff and alumni, to guide us through this difficult but cathartic process. I urge us all to fully engage in the process, but please let me know if you would like to play a larger role in shaping #LetsStartHere.

As engineers, we want to design and build a better world. Let us work together to make our college a model for the nation.

J. Murray Gibson
Dean, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

P.S. You can read my Diversity & Inclusion Plan (April 2019) which will serve as a template for the structural growth I intend for FAMU-FSU Engineering.


DEI Advisory Council Members

rachit agarwal

Rachit Agarwal

(he/him)
Hometown: Troy, Michigan
Languages: English, Hindi
“A diverse intellectual environment uplifts learning since we learn from those whose experiences, beliefs and point of view are different from our own. Having improved my own cognitive and emotional abilities from the same, I wish to do my part for the community with the DEI work.”


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Yousuf Ali


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David Amwake

(he/him)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Languages: English
“Diversity brings with it more experiences and ideas and promotes creativity. Inclusiveness fosters a welcoming and friendly environment for all, I would want anywhere I spend time be welcoming to all.”


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Breda Arnell

(she/her)
Hometown: Florida
Languages: English, Spanish (un poquito) and German (ein bisschen)
“Working to improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Engineering is very important to me, as perspective is EVERYTHING!”


Sam Awoniyi, Ph.D.

Sam Awoniyi, Ph.D.

(he/him)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Languages: English, Yoruba
“DEI work is important to me because it agrees with my own Christian viewpoints.”


Shaon Barua

Shaon Barua

(he/him)
Hometown: Chittagong, Bangladesh
Languages: Chittagonian, Bengali, English
“A diverse range of students come together in the university, and by default, there is always some degree of unconscious bias among us, which can adversely affect the inclusive environment. In my opinion, it is essential in the university setting to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and spreading trust across the campus.”


richmond bowen

Richmond Bowen

(he/him)
Hometown: Bloomington, MN
Languages: English
“DEI is important to me because I want the best for everyone, no matter their background. I want to be a part of the difference that will become a better and more bright future of FAMU, FSU, and the College of Engineering.”


nathan brooks

Nathan R. Brooks, Ph.D.

Hometown: Houston, Texas
Languages: English (native), French (conversant)
“I believe the key to future progress in our world for all people is growing in how we treat one another. DEI focuses on that and specific to our education system, it will result in more opportunity and success for all university stakeholders. But most importantly, DEI will impact the next generation who will determine the future of our world. Doing this work is my way of contributing to that better future for all people.”


Stephanie Burrs, Ph.D.

Stephanie Burrs, Ph.D.


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Mahogany Campbell


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Jair Cole


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Nichole Craig

(she/her)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Languages: Mandarin, Chinese
“No matter what academic discipline a person enters into, everyone deserves to feel that they belong; that their backgrounds, interests, and experiences are heard and valued.”


Johnny C. Darrisaw II

Johnny Darrisaw II

(he/him)
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Languages: English
“I am an advocate for underrepresented students in STEM education. My goal is to positively influence the cognitive and socioemotional development of these learners while making sure they have access to the necessary tools to achieve their academic and professional endeavors. It is imperative to convey the difference between equality and equity in order to ensure social reconstruction for future generations, especially in higher education. Equality allows for each individual or group of people to be given the same resources and/or opportunities. However, equity recognizes each person has different circumstances, thus allocating the requisite resources and opportunities to reach an equal outcome.”


michelle brown douglas

Michelle Brown Douglas

(she/her)
Hometown: Pompano Beach, FL
Languages: English
“I have been interested in diversity and equity for as long as I can remember. I have been fortunate enough to be able to live my passion through my work.”


Damion Dunlap, Ph.D.

Damion Dunlap, Ph.D.


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Haddie Frost


Melissa Jackson

Melissa Jackson


tisha keller

Tisha Keller

(she/her)
Hometown: Huntsville, Alabama
Languages: English
“It doesn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you. I want the world to be a more equitable and inclusive place for my children and the generations that come after me. I believe this is some of the most important work we can do.”


roberto machorrow swain

Roberto D. Machorro Swain

(he/him)
Hometown: Boynton Beach, Florida
Languages: English, Spanish, German
“I’m passionate about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion because, in an increasingly globalized world, I see beauty in celebrating the identities of those around us and importance in ensuring that people from all walks of life and backgrounds are genuinely welcomed in the spaces we share every day.”


andrea malatesta

Andrea Malatesta

(they/them)
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Languages: English, Spanish
“DEI work is essential when creating an open, inclusive environment where everyone is treated with respect and given the same chances at success. I'm passionate about establishing paths for allyship and spreading awareness to ensure that underrepresented people in STEM have a sense of belonging without having to sacrifice their identity or expression. I believe this work is necessary to confront issues that may have been overlooked in the past, develop solutions, and uphold the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”


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Anna Mills


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Juan Ordonez


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Stephanie Posedel


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Milan Rede


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Ralm Ricarte


sandi smith-anderson

Sandi Smith-Anderson

(she/her)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Lanuguages: English
“The work of diversity, equity and inclusion is important to me because according to Google, diversity, equity and inclusion is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identify, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. Today, societies have become increasingly diverse due to the merging of cultures, that can be attributed to the increase in travel, immigration and of course, the media.  In my opinion diversity is the true essence to our existence and success. Our similarities and differences allow us to evolve as a species by learning from each other. Personally, diversity is very important because it allows me to conduct daily self-reflections, it helps me to overcome cultural and communication barriers, it allows me to develop my skills by learning from others and makes me a more rounded individual. Ultimately, I want to be an HR and Diversity professional who can represent and understand all people, from all walks of life.”


kimber spann

Kimber Spann

(she/her)
Hometown: Saint Augustine, Florida
Languages: English, American Sign Language
“I am fortunate to work with a wonderful group of students, and to help them succeed I feel we must recognize they have diverse needs.”


lisa spainhour

Lisa Spainhour, Ph.D.

(she/her)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Languages: English
“For so many reasons…Because it is important to provide an inclusive, welcoming environment at our college.  Because we don't know what that is, unless we ask. Because the best solutions come with diverse voices in the mix. Because I want FAMU-FSU to be a place where diversity flourishes and where everyone is valued.”


kosi sumpter

Kosi A. Sumpter

(he/him)
Hometown: Greshamville, Georgia
Languages: English
“Working on the DEI committee gives me an opportunity to truly work with leadership to continue developing the most optimal culturally inclusive environment for engineering collaboration and innovation.”


scott thourson

Scott Thourson, Ph.D.

(he/him)
Hometown: Mount Prospect, Illinois
Languages: English
“The world is in crisis, and the only way solve our biggest challenges is by including people who bring “different” to the table. I am particularly passionate about advocating for those who learn differently in engineering (e.g. LD/ADHD) because they include some of our most brilliant minds yet statistically, perform poorly in the classroom.”


Let’s Start Here & DEI Advisory Council Meetings

  • September 29, 2021 at 4:30 pm via Zoom

If you have questions or would like to attend any of these meetings, please contact Tisha Keller. If you need reasonable accommodations to attend, please let us know in writing at least 3 business days in advance. 

Find resources and information about this committee’s work here.


Interested in being a part of the Let’s Start Here initiative? Volunteer below: