Kiera Patterson is a Newnan, Georgia, native and pending Double Jacket. She completed her undergraduate degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech in 2015 and is a first-year Full-time MBA student at Scheller College of Business, focusing on a concentration in Marketing and Business Analytics.
Patterson was also selected as a Georgia Tech 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. Launched in 2017, with support from Institute Diversity and the ADVANCE program, the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program brings together faculty, staff, and students throughout Georgia Tech who individually and collectively advance their action, research, or teaching objectives while improving inclusivity on campus.
Patterson describes herself as someone who is dedicated to raising awareness about disabilities and is working on a three-part project that will provide Tech students with disabilities resources on accessibility, as well as a community to share their experiences.
Diversity and Inclusion are core values at Georgia Tech and Scheller College of Business. How has your personal experience and background prepared you to be effective in establishing this message on campus?
I attended Georgia Tech for my undergraduate degree and as a student who uses a wheelchair, I know what students struggle with and what areas need improvement. There are a lot of brilliant students, faculty, and staff at Tech who have disabilities but sometimes it’s difficult to find a way to connect with them and talk about our shared experiences. I am excited as an alumnus, and now again a current student, to build this network.
How long have you been a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow?
I was selected to be a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow October 2018. Diversity and Inclusion Fellows spend a year completing an individual or group objective to share with the campus community.
Provide detail about your Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program project and its progress so far:
My Diversity and Inclusion Fellows project will provide Georgia Tech students with disabilities resources on accessibility and a community to share experiences with. My project is broken into three parts:
Alumni investment/networking: events that will provide mentoring and career development for disabled students. These events feature Georgia Tech alumni with disabilities and are intended to give current students an idea about life after graduating from Tech.
Online resources: this will be for all current and future disabled Georgia Tech students, faculty, and staff, including a website with resources.
Building a disabled community on campus: social activities that will give students with disabilities a chance to gather and provide input on accessibility; discuss school initiatives; and brainstorm innovative ideas.
Why are you passionate about your Diversity and Inclusion Fellows project? How do you feel it will benefit Scheller College and Georgia Tech, even after you have graduated?
Diversity is very important to me; I am a black woman with a disability who uses a wheelchair. I am proud of each of these labels and I am proud to serve as a representative for these respective communities. During my time as an undergraduate student, I was involved with a club that raised awareness about disabilities and I also enjoyed participating in classes and volunteer projects that worked with Georgia Tech’s Westside communities.
I love Georgia Tech and I want future students to have resources to help them succeed while they are here and post-graduation. I believe my project will be able to establish a more close-knit disabled community and provide support for challenges they may face. I also think this project will increase the visibility and voices of disabled students, faculty, and staff.
In general, how do you feel about the diversity and inclusion efforts at Scheller College and across Georgia Tech? Is there anything the two need to improve upon?
I think Georgia Tech and Scheller College are moving in a great direction for diversity and inclusion. This year, Scheller added automatic doors to all classrooms, bathrooms, and common areas which is a huge help for wheelchair users like me. I am excited to see how Scheller’s new building, part of Tech Square Phase III, will aid students with disabilities. My hope is that this new building will provide more accessible common areas for students outside of classrooms. Programs like Diversity and Inclusion Fellows provide opportunities for individuals to create an environment where people feel safe, comfortable, and empowered to make a positive impact on diversity and inclusion.