Congratulations to Vrushali Bokil for being awarded the first of eight 2017-2018 ADVANCE faculty fellowships from the OREGON STATE ADVANCE program . The ADVANCE program is funded by the National Science Foundation with $3.5M for five years through June of 2019. The program uses the systems of oppression theory to understand how institutions, such as Oregon State University, operate within larger intersecting systems of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, and ageism that reproduce and maintain hierarchies based on gender, race, class, sexual identity, ability, among others. The aim of ADVANCE is to serve as a catalyst for advancing the study and practice of equity, inclusion, and justice for women and others from historically underrepresented groups who are faculty in the academy.
Dr. Bokil is a graduate (Cohort 3B) of the ADVANCE Seminar, which is the centerpiece of the ADVANCE program. The 60-hour ADVANCE seminar is an interactive learning experience centered on analyzing the operations of difference, power, and privilege in higher education, with particular attention to STEM disciplines. Mathematics Professors Enrique Thomann (current department head) and Bill Bogley are also ADVANCE seminar graduates, and Holly Swisher will be participating in the ADVANCE seminar in Summer 2018.
“The ADVANCE seminar was an incredible experience. You feel like crying, you feel helpless, you feel outraged, you feel empowered, and you feel purposeful. You feel all these things and more. In particular, I feel grateful to be part of a community of people that are dedicated to resolving inequities and making our community more just, diverse and equitable,” says Dr. Bokil.
The eight 2017-2018 ADVANCE Faculty Fellows will assemble and review the Action Plans created by all ADVANCE seminar graduates in their college or unit, analyzing both planned and carried-out actions to find patterns and alignments across units and colleges. The Fellows will help to coalesce plans across units into sustainable practices that support an equitable and socially just academic climate, thus helping to move the work of OREGON STATE ADVANCE forward in a more integrated way. They will share the outcomes of their work with the ADVANCE community in Fall 2018.
Dr. Bokil’s specific Fellow project is focused on embedding a systems of oppression perspective in Graduate Student professional development seminars. She successfully piloted such a seminar in the Math department along with PhD candidate in Mathematics, Emerald Stacy in Fall 2017. Dr. Bokil and Stacy designed and implemented a two-session training for first-year Mathematics graduate students and teaching assistants based on the OREGON STATE ADVANCE seminar to understand how systems of oppression allow under representation of certain communities within Mathematics and in general.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to witness the conversations taking place amongst first-year graduate students in the months since the sessions. I have been thanked privately by students for opening up the conversation, and giving them a common vocabulary to use with each other,” says Emerald.
Dr. Bokil will work with her Associate Dean of Strategic initiatives and leadership, Matt Andrews, and Becky Warner, Professor of Sociology and PI of the ADVANCE program, to integrate the seminar across all College of Science departments. Dr. Bokil offered a training workshop based on the ADVANCE seminar for select faculty from each of the seven departments in the College of Science on May 29, 2018, with a second training seminar planned for May 31, 2018. The newly trained faculty will then create graduate student ADVANCE seminars similar to the piloted Mathematics seminar, in their own departments in Fall 2018.
One critical outcome of the seminar is to prepare graduate students for the shifting academic job market. In particular, many academic institutions are now requiring a “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement” for faculty applications, in addition to a Teaching Statement and a Research Statement. Additionally, our graduate students must be prepared to answer questions around equity and inclusion during job interviews.
Dr. Bokil has also started a dialogue with the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, Jennifer Brown, to explore creating such a seminar for all graduate students across the university. She will continue this conversation with the graduate school to explore different avenues for integrating ADVANCE training into the graduate student curriculum.