The Engineering School appointed its first-ever Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in response to recent police killings of Black Americans and the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
Engineering Dean Vijay Kumar announced on June 29 that the role will be filled by Raymond S. Markowitz President's Distinguished Professor Camillo Jose Taylor, who teaches in the school's Computer and Information Science department. The role strives to bring a greater focus to core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Engineering School, Kumar wrote in a message to the Engineering School community.
The position will embark on three initiatives of improving inclusion: diversifying pipelines of faculty recruitment, creating a more inclusive environment, and establishing diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and assessment tools.
Kumar said although the Engineering School has been circulating ideas about how to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the school since 2019, the push to create the new role is a direct result of recent instances of police brutality and the ensuing protests.
“It was the series of senseless killings, murders, that really awakened me to the thought that we should have somebody at the school level, at the dean's office, whose sole responsibility is to coordinate all efforts across Engineering,” Kumar said.
After two weeks of deliberation, Kumar decided to appoint Taylor, citing his educational reputation, involvement in outreach efforts within Philadelphia, and his approachable, sensible personality.
“One of the things that I believe in is that you are judged by the people you surround yourselves with,” Kumar said. “Dr. Taylor's reputation as a researcher, as a teacher, as a mentor, is just unparalleled.”
Kumar said that as a Philadelphian, Taylor is well-suited to lead outreach efforts within the city, especially those involving the Philadelphia School District.
“Ultimately, if you have to reach out to students, to minorities, and try to recruit them to Penn in various settings, you’ve got to have a Philadelphian that does it,” Kumar said.
Since his appointment, Taylor said he has jumped into action, working with Kumar to define the structure of the role and outline diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for Penn Engineering.
Taylor said his office, which includes himself and other Engineering staff who volunteered to help with the school's diversity efforts, is currently trying to identify areas of improvement by aggregating student feedback.
The end goal, he said, is to make all students feel welcome and included.
Taylor is also initiating conversations among staff about diversity in faculty recruitment, and how the Engineering School can strengthen its outreach to Philadelphia’s K-12 schools.
Taylor said there is still much to be done and many challenges to overcome, which he welcomes with open arms.
“This gives us a chance to make things better for the next generation of students and staff,” Taylor said. “I want to use this role to help smooth the path for people coming up after me.”