Stephanie Rowden

Associate Professor

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?

Not long after we opened the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s office at UMMA I spoke with a student who asked me for one of the t-shirts we designed for the project. He told me he had just become a citizen—and this was his first time voting. His voice was soft but the emotion was palpable. I hope the feeling of welcome we aimed to create in that space accompanies him as he participates in elections throughout his life. That said, one’s ‘best DEI self’ is always a work in process. So maybe that best self resides in the moments of asking questions—in what ways does this project need to be more accessible? whose vantage point haven’t I considered?

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?

What a large hopeful question. When it comes to voting, it’s hard to imagine DEI work being complete. But let’s imagine it—a world where all voices feel invited, where people are excited to vote because they know their voices truly matter.

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

Our work on the Creative Campus Voting Project is about using art & design to make the experience of voting a visible, celebratory and welcoming part of campus culture. The work of Dr. King and so many brave civil rights workers was centered on removing barriers to the vote. So to have our work recognized with an MLK Spirit Award is an honor and an inspiration to continue our efforts.