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 imagine an environment at the Stamps School and at the University of Michigan in general, where faculty, staff, and students feel that they are being heard, valued, and treated with respect. I imagine an environment where equitable treatment is codified into everyday processes and procedures that would establish an equal level playing field for minority groups when competing for limited resources, and opportunities securing those resources and opportunities would advance and further the mission and objectives of the Stamps School and University of Michigan at large, irrespective of their color of their skin, sexual orientation, race, religion or some other form of inherent bias or discrimination, without fear of any retaliation. Unless until we can achieve such an environment, the DEI work will never be done…

Mahendra Kumar

Chief Administrative Officer

Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

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?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us, faculty and staff, have been forced to work from home in order to protect ourselves and our family from contracting this SARS-Cov2 virus. This meant the Stamps School had to provide all kinds of help with technology tools, like computer laptops, monitors, keyboards, mice, and other accessories so faculty and staff could continue to teach online as well as work from home to continue to help our Stamps School students learn and thrive during this pandemic. This meant that as Chief Administrative Office of the Stamps School, I had to allocate significant funds for these technology tools, organize surveys to collect the type of tools needed, procure those tools, secure permission from UM Procurement to ship those technology tools to individual homes of faculty and staff. As an example, I have strived to secure funding for ‘student centered DEI funding’ to help some of our ‘Stamps in Color’ students to spend a week visiting entertainment studios in L.A. every year, allowing them to develop new contacts in industry, where they would pursue internships and future career opportunities. Another example, a couple months back, one of the replacement Apple mice ordered by a central service department ended being delivered to my residence by mistake. I then identified the Stamps staff member who had needed the mouse, who was a minority person, and asked my son to take the Apple mouse and deliver it at that staff member’s residence the same day, so that that staff member can continue to serve the Stamps students’ effectively. During this fall 2020 term, I have helped a couple of Stamps faculty, who had worked hard to establish a local polling location at the UMMA, by providing the necessary guidance to procure marketing/promotional materials through UM strategic suppliers. This really helped turn up the vote among our UM student population. These are instances where I have gone the extra length to serve the Stamps Community for the last 20 years that I have been with the Stamps School, to make sure the Stamps School faculty, staff and students have the necessary resources for them to work toward their advancement, efficiently and effectively, especially during this pandemic.

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