The Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering hosted its third-annual ME Fall Festival on Oct. 12. The event, sponsored by the department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group, celebrates the diversity of cultures within the department.
ME faculty, staff and students gathered to share their own traditions, learn about their peers’ backgrounds and build community. The event also highlighted the holidays and observances that student groups and faculty recognize during the fall season.
Janet Tsai, associate teaching professor and chair of the DEI Working Group, explained the origins of the ME Fall Festival.
"The ME Fall Festival was inspired by the idea that there are lots of ways our students, staff and faculty mark the Fall season from Diwali and the Mid-Autumn Festival to Día de los Muertos and Halloween," Tsai said. "Timing the Fall Festival close to Indigenous People's Day also offers a chance to discuss CU Boulder's Land Acknowledgment and reconcile our local history with our current campus. The ME DEI Working Group has sponsored the Fall Festival for three years now, and it has become a highlight of our Fall semester here in Mechanical Engineering."
“After the summer of 2020, a lot of members of our department felt like we should be doing more in the area of diversity and inclusion,” said Tsai. “It was just people who wanted to start talking more and really trying to think about how we can make our department more welcoming and hospitable to everybody.”
The event had a land acknowledgment poster placed in the courtyard where the event was held and included a statement from the Center of Native American and Indigenous Studies suggesting action to address continuing inequities.
“These are great conversations for us to be having to make sure that people don't just read the land acknowledgement and feel like they're done, but actually try to engage,” said Tsai.
Event attendees participated in activities and games, including a raffle with a chance to win prizes and a cricket station where you could practice batting, which was hosted by The American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO). There was also homemade salsa made by lecturer Carmen Pacheco-Borden’s company Carmen’s Salsa, as well as coffee made from beans from around the world and brewed by students in the Design of Coffee course.
The ME Fall Festival offered student affinity groups an opportunity to increase their visibility across the department. Here’s what students had to say about their experiences in these organizations:
Jerry Nguyen, The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE): “Our main goal is to build community with Asian scientists and engineers. But we also offer professional development opportunities. Students get to go to national conferences and meet other people from other chapters and employers from all over the world. We also invite employers to our club meetings to talk to students and do professional development.”
Angelina Miller, Women of Aeronautics & Astronautics (WoAA) : “The club was created in spring of 2019 and was basically designed to help marginalized genders in the aerospace community to find a place where they can help meet other people and bring more of a community to them so that they don't feel alone. And we also try to offer a bunch of professional and technical opportunities for them to grow.”
--Pradyumna Rao, The American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO): “When I arrived in the United States from India, I made some mistakes as an undergraduate that I felt were unnecessary. With a little bit of guidance, with a little bit of support, I felt like I could have made more out of my academic experience. Our organization's aim is quite simple. We want to make sure that our members, when they come here, they can make the most inside the classroom as well as outside.”
--Isaac Chavarria,The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE): “We’re trying to help Hispanics have a connection to the professional world through either older students, alumni or professors. It’s proven that having a community helps you do better in school. Being able to offer that to other Hispanics and being the person who guides this society is such a blessing.”