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DE&I and the Importance of Empathy, Perspective, Curiosity, and Listening

Georgia Tech is in a critical period of evaluation, planning, and now approaching the execution of championing the much-needed DEI work throughout our academic community.

 By Sarah Naumann

Georgia Tech is in a critical period of evaluation, planning, and now approaching the execution of championing the much-needed DEI work throughout our academic community. In the thick of this necessary labor is ILSI, with Dr. Terry Blum leading the charge. We sat down with her to discuss ILSI and Scheller College of Business's most recent efforts to develop as an institute marked by empathy, perspective-taking, curiosity, and listening. Dr. Blum stated, “As the world becomes more multi-dimensional, advances must become more multi-dimensional. We’re all being humbled by what we do not know.”

 Q: Can you speak to the work that you are personally doing with DEI?

Dr. Blum: My own personal research has addressed race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, and cultural differences. I also serve on the ADVANCE committee and am co-owner of Goal #3, which is Diversity. Through my work with ADVANCE, I work on issues such as salary, the processes of attracting and retaining faculty, and questioning how current practices mitigate against DEI. I look at ways to continue developing within the values and culture of Georgia Tech. I believe we do this by teaching, learning, researching, innovating, collaborating, and creating value.  I lead a team of 6 women from different colleges at Georgia Tech to select issues that they would like to address and advance our institute in. Finally, I have worked on the development of the required MBA leadership development course, Inclusive Leadership.

 Q: Where is ILSI at in terms of the institute’s efforts?

Dr. Blum: We’re at the forefront of executing- still very much a planning role to ensure we utilize all tools available to move the needle that’s moving in the same direction as the institute. We have a broad focus on DEI and are taking initiatives such as purchasing books for the DEI book club. We also support experiential learning of cultural differences and global citizenship through our Leadership for Social Good study abroad practicum.

Q: How has academia and inclusivity looked this last year with the continued need for hybrid functions?

Dr. Blum: We’re learning to communicate across new mediums. We need to be more purposeful about how we connect and achieve goals. The goal doesn’t change, it’s how we achieve it. You have to schedule serendipity now, instead of brushing shoulders with colleagues in the hall.

A lot is emerging about virtual leading and teamwork. Inclusive teaching has taken on a new dimension in the way we do things. Neurodiverse students weren’t at the forefront of university design, but a lot of assistive technology has emerged because we were forced to go online. Excel students made the transition well because they were already familiar with the tools.

 Q: What does the future of work look like for people of different ethnicities, ability levels, and other minorities?

Dr. Blum: The future of work is complicated. We need to elevate the needs that people have; it takes the purpose of action and then the facilitation of those opportunities. An example of this is our new efforts to help our Excel alumni remain connected through virtual socials and holiday events.

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact is an interdisciplinary institute that promotes servant leadership and organizational practices that contribute to a more just, caring, and equitable world. Learn more about our work!

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