Past EDI talks

Department Alumni Fest 2016

Subscribe to email list

Please select the email list(s) to which you wish to subscribe.

User menu

You are here

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?   



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?