Two members of the Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE) have been honored with Inclusive Excellence Awards from UC San Diego for their contributions to a more diverse and inclusive community. CSE Ph.D. student Ariana Mirian and CSE Undergraduate Affairs Manager Veronica Abreu will be recognized during an awards ceremony held Tuesday, February 4, from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. in the Price Center Ballroom West.
"CSE is very proud of Ariana and Veronica and the impact they've had on campus and in our department," said Dean Tullsen, chair of the CSE Department. "These awards are especially significant because they reward not just their individual efforts, but their leadership in rallying many in our community to make this a more welcoming and inclusive department."
Ariana Mirian, Ph.D. Student (Computer Science and Engineering)
In January 2018, Ph.D. student Ariana Mirian and two peers launched the CSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, a grassroots organization that provides a platform for students, faculty and staff interested in enacting change. From a team of three, the committee has grown to include between 30 and 40 regular members. Mirian counts its formation as one of her proudest achievements.
Today, Mirian is being honored with an Inclusive Excellence Award for actively working to make her community welcoming to people from all backgrounds.
“I’ve experienced first-hand how it feels when you don't belong — when you double guess every action, and truly don’t feel like you can be yourself,” said Mirian. “I’ve also experienced what a difference it can make to be in an environment where you feel like you truly belong. I’ve been able to grow and flourish in ways I never imagined before, and much of that is because I can be me.”
The CSE DEI committee fosters initiatives like the CSE Celebration of Diversity, a day-long event that had its inaugural year in 2019. The free event features a keynote speaker and workshops on resources for the LGBTQ+ community, more inclusive designs and tactics for handling microaggressions. Mirian is also active in Graduate Women in Computing (GradWIC), which offers resources for women in her field of study
Within both organizations, Mirian considers herself part of a team that works hard to create an environment where others can succeed and pursue their own projects. She says she was “absolutely shocked” to hear that she’d received the award.
“To me, receiving this award is truly a testament to the amazing work my colleagues do in the department,” she said.
This year, Mirian looks forward to watching both the CSE DEI committee and GradWIC grow as they tackle the 2020 CSE Celebration of Diversity and a series of collaborative wellness workshops, respectively.
Veronica Abreu, Undergraduate Affairs Manager at CSE
Within the CSE DEI committee, Veronica Abreu acts as a culture subcommittee co-lead, focusing on the committee’s forward momentum and devoting time to learning about social justice issues. She describes realizing that she felt “very frustrated” with perceived imbalances of power in society, and decided to channel it into action.
With the help of a colleague, Abreu established a training workshop for advisors in her department. The training prepared staff to identify microaggressions, a term defined by Merriam-Webster as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”
The reaction to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive among Abreu’s peers, especially for members of more underrepresented communities.
“I am proud to have worked on creating a workshop… it helps bring awareness to issues and situations that some people do not even realize still happen today or maybe do not realize how they hurt members of our community,” said Abreu.
Abreu discovered that she was a recipient of an Inclusive Excellence Award via email. Like Mirian, she’d had no idea that she’d been nominated.
“I was very shocked but honored that my work would be recognized by people outside of my immediate circle,” said Abreu. “Those close to me are quick to support me and validate my work, but it was an entirely different feeling to have the larger community essentially say ‘we see you’ and ‘you have earned this.’”
The award and an outpouring of support and congratulations has inspired Abreu to keep moving forward. In the future, she looks forward to continuing to push herself to create space for difficult and complex dialogues, and raise awareness about causes in social justice.