posted by Allison Walters — Dec 02, 2020
As an intersectional minority, I understand, first-hand, the challenges that underrepresented groups face in higher education—whether as a student or an academic. For this reason, I have endeavored to specifically address diversity and inclusion inequities through my teaching and service initiatives.
I first had the pleasure to deep-dive into these issues when, while at Harvard University, I was part of a small cohort of university leaders across the entire university tapped to join the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging—a one-year working group of key faculty and administrators selected to 1) analyze the pedagogical and infrastructural landscape of the university, and 2) catalyze a set of recommendations that have since started to be implemented. Since then, I’ve continued my advocacy through my scholarship on teaching—especially as it relates to interdisciplinary pedagogy and practices—using art and design as a point of departure and cross-fertilization with other disciplines. Most recently, I was invited be an official delegate and speaker at the 2019 Hispanic Leadership Summit at the United Nations in New York City. Part of the summit’s opening panel (“Access to Education for Hispanics/Latinxs”), I was the youngest speaker sharing the stage with such leaders as Emmanuel Caudillo (Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics), Raquel Tamez (CEO of the Society of Hispanic Engineers), and Nancy Lee Sanchez (Executive Director of the Kaplan Education Foundation). In the presence of 500 delegates, I advocated for an emphasis on STEAM (rather than STEM) disciplines, more decisive support at the university level, and renewed legislation with regards to DACA students.
With this context in mind, and building on the CAA’s previous advocacy in enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education, I believe a strong path forward for the College Art Association is to establish a renewed commitment to bringing the arts to underrepresented populations, in particular black and indigenous students, and catalyze them in existing STEAM conversations—promoting unconventional program partnerships and university-to-job pipelines. An interdisciplinary education, with creativity, design thinking, and the arts at the core, will be key to careers responsive to existing climate-change challenges and resilient to the coming technological upheaval of the “4th industrial revolution.” Moreover, due to the challenges wrought on by the on-going global pandemic, the CAA will need strong and visionary leadership on part of its Directors to help the organization navigate the uncertain times ahead. The arts have always been the soul of civilization, and to avoid their continued defunding across colleges in North America, innovative thinking will be crucial to forge a strong tomorrow.