Annette Vincent, newly appointed Associate Dean of Diversity and Climate at a Qatar Foundation partner university, talks about how her role can help create transformative impact for society
Research shows that diverse populations can lead to greater innovation, and can create an environment for better problem-solving and higher productivity.
And being part of Education City – a place that is already unique in terms of immense cultural exposure – the goal of the Office of Diversity and Climate at Qatar Foundation partner university Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), according to Annette Vincent, its newly appointed Associate Dean, is “to create a supportive and inclusive setting, not only for its own university, but also across Education City”.
Being the campus’ first Associate Dean of Diversity and Climate, Vincent spoke about the uniqueness of this initiative. “Our goal at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar is to lead and support the university-wide initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, for faculty, staff, and students, but what the terms mean to us in Qatar is different.
We aspire to create a supportive climate, not only at CMU-Q, but also across Education City by collaborating with other universities and departments, to promote mutual respect and equal treatment among members of our community
“We aspire to create a supportive climate, not only at CMU-Q, but also across Education City by collaborating with other universities and departments, to promote mutual respect and equal treatment among members of our community, and make everyone feel a valued member.”
In the first year of her new role, Vincent aims to build a team that can take the mission forward. Orientations programs for new faculty and staff members are being developed, while “teaching with intention” workshops for faculty are being rolled out. These initiatives will ensure that the right strategies have been put in place to foster more inclusive and equitable classrooms, and to make students feel safe to contribute, and to learn.
During this academic year, Vincent’s office is working on bringing the Bias Busters program from the home campus of Carnegie Mellon University to Qatar, which encourages people to look at their biases and confront them, at the university, while also developing it to become more relevant to the region’s context. It is an established program at universities in the United States that was built at the home campus of Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with Google.
Besides this, the Office of Diversity and Climate is also looking to create a student organization called Diversity and Climate Advocates (DC Advocates), where “the students will be our voice within the student population”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased inequities in many societies, especially with education shifting online – are students in countries that do not have access to good internet able to cope with this shift?
“We also aim to engage our Student Majlis, as well as other student clubs at the university in the things we do, and assess how many more initiatives we need so that people feel empowered to talk about these topics in their everyday lives,” Vincent says.
The new role of Associate Dean of Diversity and Climate at CMU-Q came at a time when there were intense global conversations around racial discrimination and various other forms of inequalities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased inequities in many societies, especially with education shifting online – are students in countries that do not have access to good internet able to cope with this shift?” Vincent says.
Vincent’s office looks at equipping students and faculty with strategies to create a more equitable education through workshops, and innovation in education.
In 2012, Vincent joined the CMU-Q faculty and served as the Program Director for Biological Sciences, and her new role is a continuation of tasks and projects she has already been involved in.
“The university started two main initiatives prior to this role: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Action (IDEA), which concentrated on creating a five-year strategic plan to improve diversity, inclusion, climate, and equity within its learning and working community,” she says.
“It has also established the Campus Climate Committee, which I was co-chairing with the Chief Information Officer. We worked to structure our programs based on having students, faculty members and staff from different parts of the world to build a family where student and faculty interaction is always encouraged.”
Vincent originally hails from Singapore – a country full of diverse populations and races that live in harmony. Growing up in such an environment helped her adapt to the community here in Qatar. “I brought that culture with me in my small microcosm, to a bigger element now with CMU-Q community,” she says.