Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Representative: Isabel Anai Echeverria Oviedo
No one would argue that OIST is a very diverse place, because we have many different people from very different backgrounds.
This is one of the reasons why I decided to accept my position as one of the student representatives of the Gender, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Committee. Having so much diversity is not very common in other places and working directly on diversity on a place like this is a very enriching experience.
However, after being here for some months, I realized that this is a two step process: the first is having diversity; the second is being enriched by it. The second step comes from sharing our differences, understanding them and celebrating them. And this is something that I think we are missing at OIST. By being science and technology students, it is easy to forget about the social aspects of life, and there are almost no spaces to talk about culture, history, politics, art, etc. But I believe that by talking about these social aspects we can better understand ourselves as individuals and how much we can learn at OIST (apart from lab work...). My intention in this role is to host such events, to talk about topics we believe are important and by that, make people curious about each other.
During these few months, while trying to make this possible, I have also realized that there are some intrinsic problems related to diversity at OIST, which many of us are concerned with. GEDI is a very large committee with representatives from many groups within OIST, but even with this group some issues are really difficult to solve, because at OIST we don't have an office for diversity and hence, the importance of diversity at OIST as an institution is not very clear. As the student representative of GEDI, I feel the responsibility of trying to change these things. Especially because we have extra freedom compared to other employees to propose 'crazy ideas' that may make things better at OIST.
I'm really happy about the progress that these projects are having, and it is very nice to work in group with Emily, the other GEDI student representative, and Thato, the Diversity Officer, because we are very passionate about these topics. I think it is important to have a team like this for diversity issues because it is a topic that can be easily forgotten and some things need a lot of effort to make happen. For the same reason I understand the importance of my role (which is for 2 years rather than 1), because most of our projects won't be completed in one year and I can continue them with the next diversity team without losing momentum.
Finally, I'm excited to see that students really engage with our activities and that some of the things we are working on are ideas from other students. I love to see these initiatives and I'm open to listening and materializing projects or event ideas that anyone has! :)