Office of Diversity and Inclusion Announces 2023 Diversity Transformation Award Winners

Winners of this year’s Diversity Transformation Awards are, clockwise from left: Elizabeth Vasquéz and Carmen Serrano, Jennifer Goodall, Elizabeth Jach, Nurat Affinnih, Zakhar Berkovich and Tassiana Maura de Oliveira.
Winners of this year’s Diversity Transformation Awards include, clockwise from left: Elizabeth Vásquez and Carmen Serrano, Jennifer Goodall, Elizabeth Jach, Nurat Affinnih, Zakhar Berkovich and Tassiana Moura de Oliveira.

By Erin Frick 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 2, 2023) — The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has announced the winners of the 2023 Diversity Transformation Awards. The program, which started during the 2012-13 academic year, offers UAlbany faculty, staff and graduate students an opportunity to earn funding in support of innovative events, programs or research initiatives aiming to promote diversity and foster inclusiveness within the campus community.

Among this year’s recipients are projects aiming to support UAlbany’s BILPOC faculty, undocumented students and members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as efforts to increase presence of historically underrepresented groups in UAlbany curricula and STEM departments.

The award selection committee includes representatives from across campus selected by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, including a student representative.

Congratulations to the 2023 award recipients:

BILPOC Spring 2023 Community Building

Submitted by Associate Professor Carmen Serrano, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, College of Arts and Sciences.

In August 2022, working closely with Elizabeth Vásquez, associate professor in the School of Public Health, Serrano organized the inaugural meeting of the BILPOC faculty mentoring group — a faculty-led association focused on providing UAlbany faculty who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx and People of Color opportunities for career development, research collaboration and community building.

Since its launch, the association has quickly gained momentum, adding new members and receiving funding for programming designed to support promotion and retention among UAlbany’s BILPOC faculty. The packed spring calendar includes a lunchtime speaker series, a writing retreat and research presentations and workshops to be offered in person and via Zoom.

“I am extremely proud of the strides that our association has taken in its first semester,” Serrano said. “BILPOC members are finding new ways to collaborate thanks to our various research presentations and social gatherings. Senior colleagues are actively mentoring junior faculty. And all our members are working to create a community of care in a difficult environment. Together, we are building a culture that will help us thrive, not just survive.”

Contact Serrano via email to learn more about upcoming events.

'UndocuAlly' Training at UAlbany

Submitted by Visiting Assistant Professor Elizabeth Jach, Department of Educational Policy & Leadership, School of Education. 

According to the program planning committee, “Anyone can attend SUNY schools, regardless of their immigration status. Unfortunately, undocumented students face legal, bureaucratic and practical barriers that can compromise their collegiate journey and path to graduation.

"While the SUNY system provides general information about pursuing higher education as an undocumented student, there is a need for training and resources regarding how to facilitate undocumented student success at UAlbany. The ‘UndocuAlly Training’ is designed to fill this gap and help university leaders, staff and students gain the knowledge and skills needed to support and advocate for undocumented students.” 

Two upcoming “UndocuAlly” trainings will be held on Feb. 23 and 24 in the Campus Center Assembly Hall. The first session is for directly-impacted students and allies, including individuals working in K-12 schools who can advocate for undocumented students. The second session is for SUNY faculty, staff and graduate assistants/teaching assistants that could play a role in supporting undocumented students. Participants will come away with foundational knowledge needed to advocate with and for undocumented SUNY students. 

Women's Day 2023 Gender Diversity in STEM

Submitted by Vice Dean Jennifer Goodall, Department of Information Sciences and Technology, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC).

Using funds from the Diversity Transformation Award, the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security is bringing blockchain developer Semirah Dolan to campus as part of the college’s International Women’s Day Celebration to be held on March 27. Dolan will lead a faculty workshop, followed by a presentation for students exploring her journey in tech. All are invited.

“The purpose of this event is to give CEHC faculty an opportunity to reflect on their own biases and privileges and consider how we can work together to foster a more inclusive climate,” Goodall said. “This is one piece of a broader effort within CEHC that began in the summer of 2020. Additional efforts include centering diversity during the faculty/staff search process, hosting presentations by guest speakers, holding campus events such as with Semirah Dolan and climate surveys of students, faculty and staff.”

Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Inclusivity

Submitted by PhD Student Nurat Affinnih, Department. of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences.

The Biology Department's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee has twin goals to increase intermingling among students and faculty from different STEM departments at UAlbany, and to improve visibility of historically underrepresented researchers among the department’s invited seminar speakers. With new funding from the Diversity Transformation Award, the committee is seeking a speaker to invite to campus during the fall 2023 semester.

“During gatherings with students both within and beyond the biology department, we noticed a lack of diversity among the invited speakers,” said Affinnih. “Increasing visibility of underrepresented groups in STEM is critical, and these seminars are an opportunity to shape who students see as scientists working in their respective fields. We are excited to invite a speaker for the fall 2023 term to bring this sort of visibility into our community. Improving inclusivity in our research seminars will require a constant and conscious effort from our department. I believe that with this award, we will be able to take some much-needed steps in this direction.”

In the future, the group hopes to expand programming to include inter- and intradepartmental events that will bring together graduate students across STEM departments to discuss DEI issues and promote inclusivity among students.  

LACS Spring 2023 Lunch Series on 'Amefricanity'

Submitted by Lecturer Tassiana Moura de Oliveira, Department of Latin American, Caribbean and Latina/o Studies (LACS), College of Arts and Sciences.

This talk series will explore the work of Lélia Gonzalez, a Black feminist author from Brazil who was instrumental in establishing key concepts of Afro Latin-American feminism and coined the term “Amefricanity”. The program aims to answer a student-initiated request to learn about pedagogical perspectives developed by Black Latinx people, while promoting equity for UAlbany’s Amefrican individuals.

“When I thought of this Lunch Series on the work of Lélia Gonzalez, a Black feminist, activist and academic that created the concept of Amefricanity, I wanted to bring together a community of Afro Latinx people in the University while also bringing attention to the fact that there is great diversity within the Latinx community,” said Moura de Oliveira. “I hope that students, faculty and staff feel safe to share their experiences as Black Latinx people, and I hope that we can establish a community and keep working together.”

The first two events of the series will take place on April 3 and April 11 via Zoom, featuring scholars Keisha-Khan Y. Perry and Edilza Correia Sotero. All are welcome to register here.

The program organizers plan to translate the talks into a cross-disciplinary curriculum module for faculty, as well as a poster exhibition on UAlbany’s Showcase Day on April 27.          

LGBTQ+ Advisory Council, 'A Sense of Belonging' Events

Submitted by Director of Undergraduate Student Services and Co-Chair of LGBTQ+ Advisory Council Zakhar Berkovich, Associate Professor of Social Work & Co-Chair of LGBTQ+ Advisory Council Sarah Mountz and Assistant Director of Intercultural Student Engagement Courtney D'Allaird.

“Since the pandemic prevented many gatherings, it simultaneously created spaces of isolation and loneliness,” said Berkovich. “We are offering the ‘Sense of Belonging’ series to help counteract these effects. Our goal is to design events that will stimulate UAlbany’s LGBTQ+ community, including allies and accomplices, and provide new opportunities for gathering and interaction. We are hopeful that these events will reenergize the community and create sense of belonging, as well as deepen discussions around inclusion."

“As an institution of higher learning, we are also aiming to facilitate reflection — both on the historical treatment of LGBTQ+ community members, as well as aspirations: what can we envision for the future of the LGBTQ+ community, and how can we make that future real? One of our aims is to amplify intersectional experiences both within and beyond the LGBTQ+ community. In particular, we will be engaging in dialogue around the need to decenter whiteness and promote racial justice alongside our efforts to eradicate oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Events slated for the spring semester include: a celebration of the International Transgender Day of Visibility in March, presentations by invited speakers such as student affairs scholar specializing in race in higher education Melvin Whitehead and renowned AIDS activist and author Sarah Schulman, and UAlbany’s annual Lavender Graduation. Dates forthcoming.

Connect with UAlbany’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council to learn more about upcoming events and campus resources.

Next DTA Cycle

Do you have a project that aligns with the Diversity Transformation Award mission? The next application cycle will be announced early in the Fall 2023 semester.