Past EDI talks

Department Alumni Fest 2016

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Past EDI talks

SEPTEMBER 22nd 2022

Reshaping the Opportunity Structure for Equitable Leadership and Advancement in Statistics, Data Science, and Academic Medicine

In this talk I will discuss how my personal journey as an African-American, female, and lesbian biostatistician has informed my scholarly work and service as it relates to transforming the demographic landscape of biostatistics and data science. Additionally, I will draw attention to the tightly woven interplay between power and privilege as an impediment to and catalyst for progressively reshaping of the opportunity structure for leadership in our field. Lastly, I will share how my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in statistics and data science has been particularly useful for increasing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of underrepresented trainees and faculty in academic medicine.

Dr. Emma K. T. Benn (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Center for Biostatistics and Department of Population Health Science and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). She is also the Founding Director of the Center for Scientific Diversity and Associate Dean of Faculty Well-being and Development at ISMMS. Dr. Benn holds a Bachelor of Arts from Swarthmore College and a Master's and Doctoral degree in Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Benn has collaborated on a variety of interdisciplinary research projects over the course of her career and is particularly interested in health disparities research. She has committed to increasing diversity, inclusion, and equitable advancement in the biomedical research workforce, more broadly, as well as reducing racial/ethnic disparities in faculty promotion in academic medicine.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this talk? 

2. Think of your personal identities for example age, class, gender and so on. Which of these resonates with you most and which ones have the most impact on how you see others? 

3. Do you consider yourself a person with power and privilege? In what ways can our power and privilege affect others in the classroom, in the department or at the university?  

4. What structures can we implement in the classroom, department or university to help ensure that opportunity is created for everyone? Are there barriers that exist to implement those changes?  

5. Based on this talk, would you change any main aspect of your research or teaching? If yes, what would it be? 


OCTOBER 6th 2022

Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom: Perspectives from an Indigenous Lens

Challenges in the pursuit of knowledge are often characterize by the philosophical commitments that are operationalized for a specific cultural tradition of knowledge production. When exploring these philosophical commitments and traditions it can be found that the intent and purpose of knowledge may vary across cultural groups. Important in these circumstances are the contextualization of data as an integral step in purposeful attempts to develop understanding. Pathways to understandings can often be mapped in terms of meaningful engagements. Explored further is the question, when is engagement transient versus static? How do these engagement types lending to different conceptualizations of “data” versus “understanding”? Also, to what degree does data, knowledge and understanding operate in the subconsciousness and remain inaccessible to the worldview of others? This presentation will focus on an Indigenous characterization of levels of engagement with knowledge production pursuits and the inherent Indigenous philosophical questions that remain when our consciousness intersects with Western science.

Dr. Shandin Pete (Salish/Diné) was raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Arlee, Montana. He completed a M.S. in Geology and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on science education at the University of Montana. He is an Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at the University of British Columbia. He is also an independent researcher and co-founder of Tribal Research Specialist, LLC, providing ethnographic and educational research and consultation. In addition, he is the producer and co-host of “Tribal Research Specialists: The Podcast”, a show that discusses matters important in Indigenous Communities, including reclaiming research traditions, highlighting Tribal values and bringing to the forefront issue and current state of affairs. From 2008 to 2020, he served as faculty at Salish Kootenai College where he co-developed their Hydrology program and founded the Indigenous Research Center on its campus. Dr. Pete continues to advance understandings of Indigenous research methodologies from Salish philosophical commitments with an emphasis on environmental and geoscience disciplines.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is one aspect of Dr. Pete’s talk that was most salient to you? 

2. By which criteria do you select data for you research or class material? 

3. What could be some limitations or challenges learners could face when they cannot relate to information provided in classes? 

4. Based on this talk, would you change any aspect of your research or teaching? If yes, what would it be?  


NOVEMBER 17th 2022

What’s in a value – Contextualizing disaggregated data collection in Canadian Higher Education

For decades, Canadian Universities have proclaimed to be vestiges of acceptance where all can be successful. Specifically, in physical sciences objectivity is revered; upheld as the great equalizer leading us to innovation and is foundational to discovery. However, objectivity has perhaps prevented open commentary about the human aspects of science. Bias is inherent in us all, and privilege has shaped who we deem worthy to hold the title of scientist. This talk includes: 

  • A brief look into history will reveal the ways in which identity impacts upward mobility in society and success in Academia. 
  • This talk will touch on some of the barriers to success which are present in higher education and challenge us to consider the impact on current and future scientists in our country. 
  • This reflection will carry us to the current discussion on equity, diversity, and “inclusive excellence” at Canadian post-secondary institutions and considerations for what it means for scientists nationwide. 
  • Finally, we touch on considerations for the collection of sociodemographic data and how to contextualize lived experiences into these figures.

Let’s explore where we’ve come from and where we can go as we begin to challenge the status quo in ways big and small!

Dr. Evelyn Asiedu (she/her) is the second daughter of immigrants from Ghana, Africa. She grew up in the city of Brampton, ON – located on Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. As the EDI Data analyst, Evelyn contributes to the development of strategies which will identify and dismantle barriers to participation of all people on campus. Specifically, her aim is to set goals and establish methods which systematically measure progress towards their achievement. Evelyn is doing the work which she called for in Maclean’s in the summer of 2020.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What was one aspect of Dr. Asiedu's talk that was most salient to you? 

  2. Does your identity (age, class, race, gender etc.) allow for upward mobility in academia? Why or why not?  

  3. Have you experienced barriers to your success in higher education or do you know of someone who has faced more challenges than yourself? Why?  

  1. Institutions including UBC are adopting EDI frameworks to address these problems. What are your thoughts on this, and do you foresee effective change?  

  1. Can sociodemographic data aid UBC in general, help with your teaching practices or your research? How?   


DECEMBER 6th 2022

Towards Trustworthy AI

With the progressive integration of AI systems in our everyday lives, making those systems safe and trustworthy has become an imperative. This talk focuses on three interrelated aspects of trustworthy AI systems -- fairness, robustness, and interpretability. I will present our work at the intersection of machine learning and natural language processing that address those aspects. First, I will talk about existing harms in AI systems that contribute to unfairness and describe methods to mitigate such effects. Second, I will talk about investigating robustness of machine learning systems against data poisoning attacks that can contribute to unfairness of a model. Third, I will talk about integration of interpretability frameworks as means to design more fair and interpretable AI systems using attention-based mechanisms. 

Ninareh Mehrabi is a postdoctoral scientist at Amazon's Trustworthy Alexa AI team. She received her B.Sc. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from University of Southern California and completed her PhD in Computer Science at University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute. Her research is on developing trustworthy AI systems with an emphasis on algorithmic fairness in Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. Her work was published in conferences, such as EMNLP, NAACL, and AAAI. She is a recipient of 2021-2022 Amazon Fellowship from USC+Amazon Center on Secure and Trusted Machine Learning. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What was one aspect of Dr. Mehrabi's talk that was most salient to you?  

  1. Do you think artificial intelligence can be biased? Why or why not? How do you think, if at all, this bias affects your daily life?  

  1. Have you ever experienced problems with technology based on your identity? E.g., facial recognition issues, etc.

  1. Is this talk pertinent to your research or what you teach in your class? How? 


MAY 2nd 2023

Addressing Mathematical Inequity in Indigenous Education

In order to positively narrow the educational gap between the Indigenous communities and the rest of the population, there needs to be a continuous and long-term intervention for change. By leaving behind the philosophy of reduced expectations, mathematical scientists and educators in Western Canada have introduced a variety of interesting and challenging programs. Our first step has been to build partnerships with elders and schools run by Indigenous communities, as well as with urban public schools with a high concentration of at-risk students and Indigenous Students. With their input and support, a variety of outreach programs have been implemented, which will be described in this talk.

Dr. Melania Alvarez is a Mexican-Canadian mathematics educator who works as the Education Coordinator at the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), and Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Mathematics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is the 2012 winner of the Adrien Pouliot Award, given by the Canadian Mathematical Society for significant contributions to mathematics education in Canada and she also received the UBC Envisioning Equality Award in 2022 for her work with underrepresented minorities. As well as her work with indigenous people, Alvarez has been active in organizing mathematics competitions, workshops, and fundraising for mathematics education among the general population.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was one aspect of Dr. Alvarez's talk that was most salient to you?

  2. Do you think the “philosophy of reduced expectations” shows up in undergraduate teaching?

  3. How could some of the solutions provided by Dr. Alvarez’s work be applied in an undergraduate context?

  4. What role can institutions like UBC, and our department, play in addressing  the “philosophy of reduced expectations” in public schools?

  5. How can institutions like UBC and our department help to invest in long term changes in education?


MARCH 19th 2024

What would desire-based research look like in a diverse research community?

This talk, which is about the context-dependence of science, is inspired by Eve Tuck’s 2009 paper “Suspending damage: A letter to communities” where she argues for a shift from damage-centred and extractive research to a desire-based approach. Tuck, an Inuit scholar, calls our attention to the ways in which the belief in context-independent and objective science is dangerous, as it hides that research always is driven by desires and interests. Importantly, this widespread belief hides that desires and interests vary among individuals and societies, and that the questions that are deemed relevant, interesting and worthwhile to explore reflect the desires, interests – and values – of those in power. Tuck’s paper is about research on Indigenous peoples, which typically has been (and still is) conducted by outsiders who, without consent, extract data, information and knowledge from Indigenous peoples, and then use the findings in ways that serve the interests of the researchers, not seldom harming those who provided the knowledge. Tuck calls for research that is driven by the interests, desires and needs of Indigenous peoples. A lot has happened since 2009: the number of Indigenous-led projects in Canada has increased considerably as has the awareness among academic and governmental researchers on how to engage meaningfully and respectfully with Indigenous communities. In parallel, an increasing number of studies are demonstrating that diverse research communities produce less biased and more innovative research. In this talk, I will walk through some of these gnarly topics and discuss how the OCAP© and CARE principles, which are developed for research with Indigenous Peoples, can support better research, more broadly.

Dr. Gunilla Öberg is a faculty member of the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. Through her interdisciplinary research and education, she is interested in investigating processes that leads to the exclusion of evidence that clashes with dominant science, such as Indigenous knowledge. In her talk, she helped us explore the answer to the question: What would desire-based research look like in a diverse research community?


APRIL 16th 2024

Recoding Demographics: Navigating the Intersection of Data, Society, and Justice

As our society continues to grapple with societal issues there is a need to better define, collect, and use demographic data. How we construct demographic data has, and will have far-reaching consequences on our society. Reflecting on the implications on our practices by critically examining both the benefits, and potential harms is essential.

In this talk, we will discuss the history of demographics in western discourse and how it has shaped our understanding of the world. We will see the impact that has on Historical, Persistently, Systemically Marginalized (HPSMs) people. This will lead us to discuss how we can approach demographic data and the importance of a person-centred approach in an increasingly automated world. Finally, we will look at frameworks like the Grandmother perspective and Nothing for us, without us.

Sahir Moosvi serves as an EDI Data Analyst for the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) at the University of British Columbia. In this role, Sahir helps advance institutional initiatives by facilitating the development and utilization of equity data. Drawing from his diverse background, Sahir brings a multifaceted perspective to his work within the equity office.

Sahir's academic journey began with an Honours Degree in Biochemistry, where his research delved into the intricacies of neural regeneration following spinal cord injury. Building upon this foundation, Sahir pursued a Master's degree in Data Science from the University of British Columbia, further honing his analytical skills and expertise in leveraging data-driven insights to enact positive change.

Beyond his professional endeavours, Sahir is deeply engaged in community outreach and education. He has dedicated considerable time and effort to empowering youth by fostering their understanding of nuanced sociopolitical issues. Additionally, Sahir actively contributes to fostering racio-ethnic sensitivity by delivering talks and workshops to law enforcement agencies and educational institutions.

With a passion for equity, a unique blend of expertise spanning biochemistry and data science, and a commitment to driving meaningful change, Sahir Moosvi hopes to help drive progress both within the University of British Columbia community and beyond.