Posts Tagged: EDI

Toronto’s first-ever Black student-run hackathon returns for third year, going virtual and global

NSBEhacks 202 team

The NSBEHacks 2020 team, many of whom are back to lead NSBEHacks 2021. This year’s student organizers also include Adam Cassie (Year 3 ECE), Rebecca Lashley (Year ECE), Kyra Nankivell (Year 1 IndE) and Boleng Masedi (Year 4 ECE). This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of NSBEHacks)

Bu Liz Do

This weekend, 300 high school and university students will have 24 hours to code, design, build, network and learn from mentors at NSBEHacks 2021 — an event that aims to equalize the footing of Black and other minority students within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Alana Bailey (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

“Black-facilitated events like these are important because limited opportunities are often afforded specifically to Black students in STEM, as there aren’t many of us,” says Alana Bailey (Year 3 CivMin), president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) U of T Chapter, and one of the lead organizers.

Launched in 2019 and founded by U of T computer science alumni Kyra Stephen and Temisan Iwere, as well as alumna Ayan Gedleh (IndE 1T9), NSBEHacks is the first Black student-run hackathon within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“It was very important to me to make sure that things are easier for incoming Black students in tech,” says Iwere, who has stayed involved with NSBEHacks since graduating. “The technical industry can be very intimidating, especially when you get into certain spaces and realize that you’re the only one who looks like you. It can be an alienating experience.”

This year, NSBEHacks goes beyond city limits. For the first time, the hackathon is fully virtual, allowing participants to join in from across North America, the Caribbean, and Asia.

Temisan Iwere (Photo courtesy Temisan Iwere)

In addition to sponsors RBC, Accenture, Google, NVIDIA, TD, Bloomberg, Ecobee, Shopify, FDM and EA, the event has also partnered with Major League Hacking (MLH) this year. MLH is the official student hackathon league in North America and is providing free access to software to participants during and after the hackathon.

Keeping students engaged in coding and designing, even after they’ve virtually walked away from this weekend, is how the NSBEHacks team will be measuring the event’s success.

“We want to see students feeling confident and a sense of belonging. We want to inspire them to get involved with NSBE after, applying to STEM programs at U of T, and staying in touch with companies from our career fair,” says Bailey. “NSBEHacks is one of the ways to ensure that going forward, we are building strength in numbers.”

This story was originally posted in the U of T Engineering News.


Ontario universities create fellowship to increase diversity in engineering and technology

Sandford Fleming Building

U of T Engineering is one of six universities announcing the launch of the new Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Momentum Fellowships, designed to expand pathways and improve inclusion of Black and Indigenous voices in higher education and the STEM fields. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

By Engineering Strategic Communications

Six universities in Ontario have partnered to create a new fellowship to expand the pathways for Indigenous and Black students pursuing doctoral degrees in engineering to prepare them for academic careers as professors and industry researchers.

Announced today, the Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Momentum Fellowships aim to address the urgent need to provide pathways that encourage and support the pursuit of graduate studies by under-represented groups. This lack of representation has hindered the enrolment of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Metis) and Black graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

IBET Momentum Fellowship recipients will receive financial support, mentorship, training and networking opportunities to foster a robust professional community for participating PhD candidates.

“It’s clear that U of T Engineering — as well as the engineering profession and academia in general — must accelerate our work to improve representation of Black and Indigenous students, staff and faculty members, at all levels,” says Chris Yip, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “Launching the IBET Momentum Fellowships is a start, and we plan to listen and evolve our program as we learn from its first candidates. Today, we are pleased to join our partner universities in launching this important initiative.”

In addition to U of T Engineering, the partnership includes the engineering and math Faculties at the University of Waterloo, and the engineering Faculties at McMaster University, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University and Western University. The six partner universities share the understanding that greater diversity is needed among academic leaders in engineering and technology to reflect all populations and to ensure a full range of thought and problem-solving approaches.

The Momentum Fellowships are a central pillar of the new IBET PhD Project, which aims to change the academic landscape within the next five to 10 years by increasing the number of Indigenous and Black engineering professors teaching and researching in universities across Ontario. The project will also bring more diverse perspectives and voices into engineering research and the Canadian technology industries.

Two recipients each year will receive $25,000 annually for four years as they pursue doctorate degrees and specialized engineering research. Interested Canadian students can apply for the IBET Momentum Fellowships following their application to their graduate program.

This story was originally published on Jan. 18, 2021, in the U of T Engineering News.


The year ahead: Q-and-A with U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip

Dean Christopher Yip in December 2020. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

 

By Tyler Irving

A lot of adjectives have been used to describe the year 2020 — unprecedented, unusual, challenging — but Dean Chris Yip would choose a different one: inspiring.

“What I saw across our Faculty was people rising to the challenge,” he says. “That innovative spirit is what engineering is all about, and I think many of the creative solutions we developed will still be valuable when the pandemic is over.”

Writer Tyler Irving sat down with Dean Yip to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next year at U of T Engineering.

Read their conversation in the U of T Engineering News.


‘Reflect, remember, respond’: U of T commemorates National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

From left, clockwise: U of T Engineering Dean Chris Yip; Alana Bailey, president of NSBE U of T Chapter; Jennifer Blackbird, Centre for Indigenous Studies; Micah Stickel, Acting Vice Provost, Students; and Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean & Director, Diversity, Inclusion and Professionalism for U of T Engineering.

By Liz Do

Members from across U of T’s three campuses gathered virtually to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

On Dec. 6, 1989, a gunman entered an engineering classroom at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered 14 female students, injuring another 10 women and four men. The victims were targeted because of their gender. The date of the massacre has become a day of remembrance and action against gender-based violence and discrimination.

Each year, the university community marks the day with an event at Hart House. On the 30th anniversary of the massacre in 2019, U of T Engineering was among 14 engineering schools from across the country to shine one of 14 beams of light — one for each of the women killed — into the sky from coast to coast.

National Day of Remembrance

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

This year’s tri-campus virtual memorial was led by U of T Engineering and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, in partnership with Hart House.

“Today we are here to remember the past, the 14 women who died from violence,” said Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean & Director, Diversity, Inclusion and Professionalism at U of T Engineering. “We are here to acknowledge how far we have come in the present, and we are here to take actions, reimaging a future without violence or aggression towards women within the intersections of many identities.”

“This a song for all of our sisters, my Indigenous sisters, my kin, and extending out to all the sisters, including transwomen and non-binary. We have a lot of violence pushed up against us,” says Jenny Blackbird — coordinator, Ciimaan/Kahuwe’ya/Qajaq Indigenous Language Initiative Program, Centre for Indigenous Studies, and outreach communications and programming coordinator for Hart House — who gave a performance at the start of the event. “I love you all, this is for you.”

Students from across the university then led in reading the names of the 14 women before a moment of silence.

Professor Micah Stickel (ECE), Acting Vice Provost, Students, also announced this year’s three recipients of the Award for Scholarly Achievement in Gender-Based Violence, in recognition of U of T students who have shown commitment on issues around gender-based violence and discrimination through research and prevention.

The recipients are:

  • Ferdinand Lopez (Women & Gender Studies Institute)
  • Rajpreet Sidhu (Department of Human Geography, UTSC)
  • Kanishka Sikri (Centre for Critical Development Studies)

The event culminated in a fireside chat, facilitated by Jennifer Flood and Bristy Chakrabarty of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, and featuring panelists Dean Chris Yip, U of T Engineering; Alana Bailey, president of the National Society of Black Engineers U of T Chapter; Tee Duke, assistant director, Indigenous initiatives, at UTM’s Indigenous Centre; and, Andi Alhakim, intercultural programs assistant, UTM International Education Centre.

The conversation highlighted concrete actions individuals can take to question, call out and take action to end violence against women — the discussions emphasized the need to centre the narrative around protecting and preventing violence against racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

“It’s crazy how [violence is] happening to us, Black women, Indigenous women, the most — and yet less focus is on us,” says Bailey. “People need to wake up and not be desensitized. This energy is what makes society look away. To centre the narrative, I think we need to create spaces where we have a voice, spaces where we won’t be shamed, ignored and looked over.”

The group also discussed how non-Black, Indigenous and people of color (Non-BIPOC) U of T students, staff and faculty can commit to taking actions, informed by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“I encourage folks to actually read the report,” says Duke. “It’s going to take some time, it is 1,200 pages with 231 recommendations, but it’s not that we don’t have a roadmap. It comes down to everyone having a responsibility in ending violence.”

Angela Treglia, director of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, closed the event with a call to action: “Today we reflect, we remember, but we need to respond. May we all find the courage and strength to take action and speak out against violence against women and may we continue to work for change.”

This article was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


© 2020 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering