Underscoring the Institute's commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) across campus, the Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity (CCID) has over the last two years significantly expanded its staff and programming.
Previously focused on creating an inclusive educational experience for students, the center now acts as a hub for IDEA strategy, implementation, and community-building campuswide.
In 2021, the Institute named two leaders with experience in equity in STEM-focused higher education to key roles: Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, Caltech's chief institutional research officer, assumed the role of assistant vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and assessment, taking on the oversight of the CCID; Tashiana Bryant-Myrick joined Caltech as the new CCID director.
"Advancing IDEA at Caltech is a shared responsibility," says Malcom-Piqueux. "Our success depends on everyone in the Caltech community considering how they can be more inclusive in their interactions and within their learning, working, and research environments. Emphasizing the CCID as a hub of expertise in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion to which our community members can turn is vital to making progress."
Bryant-Myrick says one of her goals is to get people comfortable talking about IDEA, so she utilizes a "brave space" framework in her conversations: "I want people to be open to making mistakes. I want to meet them where they're at. Chances are, if you're someone who thinks IDEA has nothing to do with your scientific work, it does. You can benefit from diverse perspectives in your research. Whether or not people see themselves in your lab, that matters."
The CCID provides training sessions for research labs, staff teams, and the academic divisions, including courses like "Inclusive Leadership," "Decoding Diversity," and "Responding to Microaggressions." During the winter 2023 term alone, the CCID hosted 11 educational workshops, 47 programs, and seven outreach opportunities that attracted more than 800 attendees.
"It's time to reintroduce the CCID to the community so that people don't see us as a space just for students," says Bryant-Myrick. "Even though at the core of what we do is for students, all our programs are open to everyone. We are a community space."
Bryant-Myrick says that some of her next goals for CCID are to provide more cultural exchange opportunities and to work collaboratively on IDEA initiatives across campus.
"It's important to me to provide an opportunity for people to participate in their cultural traditions and practices from their communities," says Bryant-Myrick. "I also want to invite folx to participate in these experiences and learn from each other."
Some of the most recent cultural exchange opportunities from CCID included a Día de los Muertos celebration, Lunar New Year, and an African drum and dance circle in honor of Black Heritage Month.
When it comes to collaboration, the CCID's repositioning has allowed for deeper and more meaningful partnerships, says Bryant-Myrick. "When I first started, I noticed that although there were great things happening in regards to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility at Caltech, they were very much siloed," she says. "CCID has now become this hub of IDEA resources and work. Whatever is going on, whether it is in an academic division, Student Affairs, the Provosts' office, or another department, we are connected to it in some way."
One of Bryant-Myrick's future goals, in partnership with Malcom-Piqueux, is to establish an annual IDEA symposium or conference at Caltech.
"Communication and collaboration are already big values at Caltech," says Bryant-Myrick. "A symposium will provide a venue for all the groups across campus working on IDEA to share what they've been doing and learn from one another."
In the past two years, the CCID has gained valuable perspective from several new staff hires. Shortly before Bryant-Myrick started, Yazmin Gonzales, an IDEA strategist, researcher, and practitioner joined as the CCID's assistant director. She is now associate director.
In June 2022, Brody Wyman started as program coordinator for the First-Year Success Research Institute (FSRI), which helps incoming first-year students from historically excluded backgrounds transition into Caltech's research and academic environment. Even more recently, Meri Makhmuryan joined as a program coordinator and Devon Dobbs joined as program manager for advocacy.
In April, CCID is welcoming two new staff members to the team: Lizette Álvarez is the new FSRI program director, and Sarah Lynn Miralles will join as the program manager for allyship. The CCID staff all work to develop, implement, and assess programs that promote equitable experiences for students from historically excluded backgrounds.
"It's so exciting to have so many new folx on the CCID team," says Bryant-Myrick. "Someone new simply asking ‘Why?' or ‘Have you considered…?' is powerful! All of us bring unique experiences that strengthen our department and our programs."
Despite being relatively new to the Institute, the CCID team already has strong connections with the Caltech community—students greet Gonzales with a hug, Wyman and Dobbs join members from PRISM, Caltech's LGBTQ club, on trips to drag shows, and Bryant-Myrick introduces her young daughter to Caltech colleagues as if they are family.
The CCID is central to Caltech's mission to create an inclusive educational and research environment that upholds the importance of diversity in advancing the scientific endeavor. But more than that, the CCID provides all Techers with a safe space, a getaway, and a community that feels like home.
The Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity is located on the second floor of the Center for Student Services. View their event calendar here.