An underutilized annex room will serve as a gathering place for conversations about race and intersectionality.
Dani Scott, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, began the process of transforming Room 316 in the Clinical Sciences Building into an equity engagement space in January, with the help of Megan Mahowald.
“My office is two doors down, so I was always looking at this room like, ‘What are they doing in this room? Megan informed me it was a side room, but last year we had a lot of people online so I just didn’t see the room being used,” Scott said.
Scott said she was inspired by a piece she saw in January for the Equity Engagement Space.
“Went to this amazing play on campus. Written, produced — so creatively beautiful — called the play ‘Wounded Healers’. When I walked in there I felt so much at home, more than I’ve felt since I’ve been here because there was art there, there were books I read said Scott. “So I thought, in such a clinical building, it would be nice to have a welcoming and representative space for people of color and also for us to continue to explore, if you’re not a person of color, to start having conversations in a space.
His vision of the Equity Engagement Space resembled the Wounded Healers set; dimly lit, intimate, with educational books for a wide audience on a variety of topics related to inclusivity.
Mahowald helped Scott put the room together over the summer by acquiring furniture.
“I think I helped more with the logistics and the timing and how to get your hands on everything and build the space,” Mahowald said.
Scott graduate students, who are members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, attended the open house celebrating the completion of the space and said they looked forward to use the room for their meetings.
Bryce Mergens is one such graduate who said the group is “trying to make things more culturally appropriate” and needs a designated space to make plans to achieve that goal.
“I think for us in particular, we think it’s a really good safe space. We have a graduate lab for our entire cohort, but I think it will be really good, especially for our meetings. Because it’s not always the most comfortable subject to talk about; diversity, equity and inclusion,” Mergens said.
Another graduate student, Brittney Cooper, said she was “delighted” to see her group and others who want to learn about diversity issues using the space.
“I’m really excited for this space and think it will benefit everyone because it’s not just the Communication Sciences and Disorders room. It’s for all health and nursing allies, so I really hope people gravitate towards the room,” she said.
Rebeca Alvarez is another graduate student and DEI task force member who said she looks forward to the different uses the room will provide.
“I think it will be used for a variety of things, honestly. It’s a lovely space to relax after a long day. It’s helpful that we have books that (promote) diversity, but it’s also helpful for people who aren’t of color to learn more about diversity and equity and inclusion and that’s a good space to do it,” Alvarez said.
Some tracks include “Two Moms and Me” by Michael Joosten, “This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World” by Matt Lamothe and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
There are fiction and non-fiction books for children as well as adults. Children’s books are for students of science and communication disorders to learn about therapy for children. Scott hopes teachers will use articles for book clubs and learn about their inclusive message.
“I know Dani had two types of books she was looking for. She was looking for books that teachers could use, books that could be part of book club discussions,” Mahowald said. that kids can look at too. So multicultural books that will be helpful for those of us who work with kids to see these books before we use them, or be inspired to go buy theirs for any other setting in which they work.
Scott said she wanted to make sure the books were educational and promoted diversity without being stereotypical.
“We wanted them to be about equity, but also about intersectionality. So not just books about race, but books about gender equity, disability, all kinds of things,” Scott said. “I just hope it gets used as often as possible. I mean our (DEI working group), last year we met on Zoom because we had to. So I would like us to can meet in person in this room and just have conversations.
Header photo: Associate Professor Dani Scott created the Equity Pledge Space to be a welcoming space for students and faculty to discuss. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
Write to Carly Bahr at [email protected]