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?

When DEI is not a performative academic practice, and we build long term relationships and commitments to community partners. When we are not afraid to hear different opinions and perspectives and continue to be loving to one another after difficult conversations.

Mikayla Buford

2nd Year Graduate Student, MDes in Integrative Design

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?

I was taking notes for an interview with a art therapist from Boston. My cohort and I traveled to Boston this pas summer to observe two BIPOC-led design firms who worked for community-engaged design projects. She invited my cohort and I to do her interview on the MIT campus where her ex-husband used to study. It was a hot day in Cambridge but we were able to sit at a cool bench under a tree. She told us her entire story under that tree. How she ended up in Boston, her divorce, her work on installing art in hospitals, starting a diversity education program, and her current work with the design firm. She after we ended the interview she took us on a long walk around Cambridge telling us the history of the city and her favorite spots. I felt the best just listening to her talk. This was the first time I had visited MIT since I spent a summer there 3 years ago. That summer struggled severely with imposter syndrome. It was hard for me to fathom that I was given the chance to work at MIT on my own project tied to my experience as a Black woman. That campus was a place of great joy and sadness. Tears and laughter. So to go back and sit down under a tree and talk about radical design practice was incredibly powerful. I think I felt the best because I was being the most authentic listening to someone’s story and considering the context that brought them to DEI work in art & design.

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

It’s a surprise and an honor. I didn’t expect to be nominated for an award because I feel so small on this campus. My program is very small and I’m very isolated from the campus life that I don’t even know who would notice and also appreciate the work that I do.