On Equity

As a queer, immigrant, woman of color, my commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusivity is deeply rooted in my personal experiences and is reflected in my teaching and research philosophy. To decolonize my own ways of knowing and being, I constantly question the normative processes that structure lives, actions, language, power and knowledge. By doing so, I attempt to create educational spaces that are inclusive of different voices, identities, ideas, and people.

Although the terms diversity, equity, and inclusivity are often discussed, their true meaning is often left ambiguous. These terms are often tied to capitalist issues that sustain economic competitiveness of institutions rather than being discussed as issues of justice and fairness that exclude the voices and knowledge of women and people of color from history and achievement. It is important to me as an educator to listen to what people say, their silences and the contextual meanings behind them by fostering the agency to tell their histories. As a scholar and teacher educator, I respect that Drew University as an institution serves to include voices of people from disenfranchised communities, listens to the diversity of their perspectives, and understands, respects, and includes their ways of learning, knowing, and doing.

I practice what I preach in my research and teaching. In my research, I attempt to question the normative exclusionary way of approaching equity and diversity in computer science education at the undergraduate level by understanding the experiences of first-generation, students and women of color (Mehta & Yadav, SITE 2020, AERA 2019, RWE Conference 2018) and intentions of teachers to adapt culturally responsive pedagogies (Mehta dissertation manuscript, 2021). I problematize how educational technologists perceive the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the design and development of educational coding and programming software (Lachney, Mehta, Dunbar & Opps, AERA 2021). Through my research, I urge policymakers and practitioners to consider transnational experiences, perspectives, and struggles of women and people of color globally to better understand equity and justice in education.

In my teaching, I attempt to make my students aware of their own privilege—their cultural ways of being, knowing, and doing; and their own identities that are deeply tied to their communities. Without centering my own perspective or politics, I aim to serve as a mentor for first-generation and younger students in their first encounters with higher education, particularly understanding those whose families have limited or no experience with academia. I recognize that my position as a teacher and scholar should not overshadow that of my students. In my student-centered approach to education, I am a co-collaborator with my students, letting my individuality become a constituent part of the diversity of the classroom. I deploy my privilege and power as an educator to amplify my students’ voices and experiences and to advocate for their success. For instance, in my CEP820 graduate-level technology course, one of the assignments prompted in-service teachers to discuss how they implemented TPACK and design thinking principles into students’ learning experiences. Such pointed prompts allowed teachers to connect abstract ideas with pedagogy while sharing unique challenges they face in catering to a diverse student population. It also enabled teachers to reflect on their own privilege and share with each other their disciplinary experiences of marginalization.

As a teacher-researcher, I address the gendered, racial, and sexual injustices and inequities in STEM fields and relinquish my own power to foster student agency. Bringing together the nuances of intersectional feminist works and culturally responsive teaching, I continually reflect on my own privilege. For these reasons, I seek to continually add to the on-going conversations on and commitment to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusivity within and across institutional boundaries.

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