Melanie Manos


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?

In my course Detroit Connections: In the Classroom, Stamps students and I travel to Bennett Elementary School to work on collaborative creative projects with two 4th grade classes. During this hour of artmaking chaos and focus, I’ve overheard discussions between 4th graders and Stamps students about college life: Bennett students asking what it is like, about how expensive it is, and Stamps students explaining there are options and support for funding, and describing their activities and classes. I felt elated that the discussions I held earlier in the semester with my students on the power of sharing their experiences, of creating a pipeline for low-income and potential first-gen students had resonated, and it was an exchange that was meaningful for both sides – the Stamps students and the Bennett 4th graders. Also, the art pieces they created were spectacular!

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 would imagine that rape culture no longer existed on campus, or in the world. That women were valued as equal citizens, with parity. That caregiving and childcare and education were at the top of the capitalist totem pole – valued and integrated in our systems. After all, we have no students, no freshmen, no graduating classes, no future leaders, scientists, artists and innovators if we have no children – and if they aren’t given the care they deserve to be their full selves. Why does this labor persist in being devalued, and even unsalaried, demoted and categorized as “women’s work”? In the future we have succeeded in upending this system, of creating a paradigm shift that supports an intersectional workplace.

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

It is humbling. It means I am working in the right direction. It also means I need to persevere.