Wishes for the future: How would you imagine your environment needing to be for you to feel that you don’t have to do DEI work anymore?

I don’t think there is ever a time when we will not need to do DEI work. Our world is always evolving, so we should never stop learning from each other’s perspectives. Seeing the fruits of our labor would include hiring more female faculty and faculty of color. Seeing more diverse faculty members in the classroom and in the community will impact our current student in a positive way and inspire future aerospace engineers.

Kimberly Johnson

Communications and Outreach Specialist, Aerospace Engineering

College of Engineering

Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?

Over the past few years, the Department of Aerospace Engineering has made great progress in regards to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I am proud of the faculty, staff and students that make up our department’s DEI, Faculty & Staff Relations, and Outreach committees. In particular, our graduate student volunteers have done an amazing job presenting virtual seminars at high schools in Detroit and Flint. There are two moments where I felt my DEI best. They both came as a result of candid conversations with two undergraduate students. The students shared their experiences as a Black student graduating from the program and as an Asian transfer student entering the program. Moved and inspired, I searched for ways that we could address their feelings of isolation and academic stress. My best DEI moment was seeing the Black Students in Aerospace (BSA) and the A.E.R.O. Mentorship Program (AMP) launch in 2020. It’s been amazing to watch BSA grow into being. They promote diversity and the importance of Black student representation in the Department. I am grateful for the alumni and senior students who mentor students in the A.E.RO. Mentorship Program. AMP is specifically for students of color, female, transfer, and first generation students. We pair each mentee with an Aerospace Engineering alumni and senior student mentor. Both of these initiatives build a sense of community, which is essential in light of pandemic. There is nothing more rewarding for me than seeing the successes of our BSA and AMP students.

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?

Being a recipient of the MLK Spirit Award is an honor. I too have a dream of equality on all platforms especially for our students. One day our students will graduate and run this country based on their education and experiences. Collectively, U-M must provide an education in an environment that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion. I hope I can play a small part in meeting this goal.