March 2023 Faculty Spotlight
In this month’s special Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) focused faculty spotlight, Associate Professor Anna D’Souza tells us about the Marxe School’s DEI Fridays.
You are the organizer of DEI Fridays at Baruch. Can you tell us about that program and your involvement in DEI efforts?
In Fall 2021, the Marxe School Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee created DEI Fridays – a virtual weekly gathering to improve our campus climate around issues of equity, inclusion, and justice. DEI Fridays is a practice of community building, self-reflection, and learning, where we aim to equip participants with knowledge and tools to engage in social transformation in their communities. We are grateful to the many people who have supported this initiative at Baruch and across CUNY, including the Black Race and Ethnic Studies Initiative, whose funding has allowed us to pay speakers and expand our marketing and repository efforts.
Topics range from exploring individual biases to creating a sense of belonging in organizations to identifying structural and institutional discriminatory policies, procedures, and practices. In Spring 2023, we are engaging in critical issues ranging from centering indigenous perspectives to protecting faculty and staff who address racism from targeted attacks. In the sessions, we learn from experts who work on and study these issues and we have opportunities to share knowledge and practical strategies to implement our learnings into our daily lives. Also, and importantly, we recognize the knowledge, experience, and expertise of all our participants. We are a community in process – learning and growing together.
I am also part of a few other DEI-related initiatives. I’m a member of the Coalition to Undo Racism at Baruch (CURB) and the CUNY DEI Incubator. I’m also the Provost Innovation Fellow for Inclusive Teaching, in which capacity I have organized several teach-ins over the past two years – specifically, the teach-ins have been on the following: (1) Supporting First-Generation College Students; (2) Inter-Cultural Approaches to Teaching and Learning; (3) Showcasing Inclusive Pedagogy Practices; and (4) Trauma-Informed Pedagogy. This semester, there will be one on Anti-Racist Pedagogy on Wednesday, April 26 from 4:00-5:30pm. Recordings and resources can be found on the Marxe DEI Committee website. I co-facilitate the Schwartz Institute Inclusive Pedagogy Seminar and, this semester, I am a Mellon TLH Faculty Fellow, learning and practicing student-centered, equitable, creative pedagogy. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities and support I have had at Baruch and CUNY.
How does DEI relate to your area of study and teaching?
From childhood, I have wanted to work for poverty alleviation and justice. That interest drew me to join the Peace Corps (Senegal) and then to study development economics. For a while, I thought of poverty and injustice as relating to socioeconomic status alone, but I have realized that there are many barriers to freedom – some monetary, others not. I appreciate the description that Amartya Sen has put forward: ‘development as freedom’ or development as increasing a person’s capabilities to live a life they have reason and yearning to live. In my research, I examine challenges to household and individual well-being in low-income countries and the policies that can improve their quality of life. In my teaching, I think about how many of our students face barriers to improving their and their families’ quality of life.
In 2017, I attended the Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop, which had a profound impact on me – showing me how little I knew about our country’s history. As I have educated myself about racism, colonialism, sexism, and other oppressive systems, I have incorporated different content into my courses. For example, when I discuss climate change in my Economic Analysis of Public Policy undergraduate course (given that it is the existential issue of our time), I also discuss inequality and injustice given that at both the global and local levels, its impacts are being felt disproportionately by the most vulnerable, historically oppressed communities. And in my International Development graduate course, I emphasize the historical drivers of global inequality, with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa – recognizing that many of our students do not know much about the region.
Finally, to me, a central tenet of DEI work is the recognition of each individual’s humanity and the desire for freedom and safety. I love the work of bell hooks, a Black feminist, social activist and professor (including at CUNY) who writes about education as a liberatory practice. I am grateful that my work inside and outside the classroom allows me, together with my students, to co-create liberatory, learning spaces where we can practice bringing more humanity to our interactions.