Diversity statement shows Department of Entomology's commitment to inclusivity

Kelly Jedrzejewski
September 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is committed to fostering an inclusive environment for all members of the department, and the faculty, students, postdocs and staff wanted to make clear that this commitment was not just “lip service.”

As a result, the department has released its first diversity statement, which articulates the department’s goal to “cultivate a community of people who have diverse ways of thinking, views, values and perspectives and who represent the composition of our society.”

The statement also highlights the importance of diversity in academics, saying: “Diversity is also an integral part of our academic success and productivity. We value the inherent benefit of diverse ideas. Fostering a diverse academic environment for our students, faculty and staff increases creativity, innovation and solutions to problems.”

Showing commitment to diversity is critical in any work environment, according to Margarita López-Uribe, assistant professor of entomology and Lorenzo L. Langstroth Early Career Professor, who added that the statement was a year in the making.

“We live in a multicultural society and it is important not only to acknowledge, but also value, the different backgrounds that each individual brings to the workplace,” she said. “As a department, we wanted to formalize our commitment to increasing diversity and to providing an inclusive environment to everyone.”

López-Uribe explained that Penn State has been very clear about its commitment to increasing diversity on campus, but she added that actions are just as important as words.

“Creating an inclusive environment requires a specific plan of action, and if these efforts are not formalized, it’s hard to implement significant changes that have true impacts,” she said. “I believe the Department of Entomology is paving its way to formalizing a plan of action for diversity and inclusion, and it may inspire others to do so.”

The process of developing the diversity statement brought together all members of the Department of Entomology. The effort began with a survey that asked students, faculty, postdocs and staff about topics such as “what diversity means to us,” “why is diversity important” and “where is the department doing well and what improvements could be made.”

Open discussions followed the survey, and then the statement was drafted and revised. López-Uribe said there is more than one way to develop these statements but believes the process worked well and allowed the statement to become something that the whole department had a hand in creating.

An outcome of the statement has been the formation of the department’s diversity committee that includes faculty members, students, postdoctoral researchers and staff members. Together, they have been working on a plan of action to raise awareness about the importance of cultural competence and increase representation of minority groups in the department.

Committee member Mary Barbercheck, professor of entomology, agreed on the importance of having a formal statement about diversity and added that having the statement posted on the department’s website further highlights the department’s commitment.

“Anyone who visits our website sees how serious we are and lets people know exactly where we stand on diversity,” she said. “Not only is it important internally, but it shows potential students they will be welcome in our department.”

Fifth-year doctoral student Po-An Lin also is part of the diversity committee. Although he will be finishing up his studies at Penn State soon, he hopes his role in contributing to the diversity statement will be a legacy for other international students.

Lin, who studies the interaction between plants and insects, hopes the statement will continue to inspire conversations about inclusivity.

“For me, it was especially important that international students were represented,” he said. “It was a smooth process, and I was glad to be part of it.”

López-Uribe added, “After going through this process, I think developing a diversity statement has an incredible value for any academic community. I learned a lot as an individual and I learned a lot about the community I’m part of.”

Looking ahead, she said that the committee plans to host professional development workshops on diversity and invite seminar speakers to discuss various aspects of the importance of diversity and climate in the department.

For more information or to read the full statement, visit https://ento.psu.edu/diversity-statement.

  • Diversity Committee Entomology

    Faculty and staff from the Department of Entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are shown at a diversity committee gathering. 

    IMAGE: Nick Sloff

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020