Introducing the New IDEA Faculty Development Fellow: A (somewhat surprising) Interview with Sean Garrick

Sean Garrick Photo

The Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) is proud to present these profiles highlighting our faculty’s outstanding research and community engagement around grand challenges.

by Amelie Hyams

There are three things you should know about Sean Garrick, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and incoming Faculty Development Fellow for the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA). Some of them might surprise you.

  1. He once wanted to be a writer or a poet (and still kind of does).
  2. He wasn’t always good at math.
  3. He credits his academic success to a couple of wonderful mentors and a smart sister.

Garrick has an incredible understanding of fluid physics and computational fluid mechanics. And he truly enjoys his work. He recalls exactly the class he was in when he “fell in love with fluid physics.” It was in his first fluid physics class in his junior year of college. This, and the course he later took in Computational Fluid Mechanics, amazed Garrick. And he was hooked.

Given his love of engineering, it’s not surprising Garrick was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study the effects of fluid turbulence on atmospheric aerosols. He is looking forward to working with an elite group of scientists in Finland.

It might surprise you however to learn Garrick started out as an English major. He loves poetry and essays about the human condition. “My dream job was to be able to write those things.” He still seems a bit wistful when he talks about it.

But by his second year of college he came to believe his enjoyment of science and technology made engineering a better fit for his career pursuits. “I just really enjoyed it – looking at theory and the fact you can combine mathematics and programing and see these wonderful things.”

As a gifted engineer you might assume Garrick has always been good at math and science. “That’s not really true,” he says. He actually struggled with learning algebra in ninth grade. With obvious fondness he recounts how his older sister spent hours tutoring him everyday after school. She stuck with him until something just clicked.

Once he got it – math wasn’t a problem for Garrick again. In the dedication for his Ph.D. he said, “This is to my sister, who taught me all the math I ever needed to know.”

Garrick’s attributes his love of science and technology and his ultimate success as an academic to the influence of two mentors: Associate Professor Ching–Shi Liu at SUNY Buffalo and Professor Peyman Givi, currently with the University of Pittsburgh.

Between them, Garrick says these two taught him how to work harder than he thought was possible, and how to be a professional. Working with Givi as a graduate student “was like a finishing school,” he says. “It was a fantastic environment to be in.”

He also credits Liu with encouraging him to give back by being a role model and helping others. “He knew I was very passionate about working with other people. He led me down the road of making sure I did something for the betterment of society.” This goal still guides all of Garrick’s work.

As the incoming Faculty Development Fellow for IDEA, Garrick looks forward to finding ways to support faculty and help them advance. But he’s aware there are many challenges.

Relevance is essential. “How do you come up with the right mix of programs that will be useful for a significant number of our population?” Garrick starts by asking them. He is connecting with faculty from other parts of the University to learn about what challenges they’re facing and what they need.

He’s aware his experience is different from faculty in other disciplines and their challenges are also different. “I think we have to be careful in thinking every story is like our own.” Talking with colleagues provides insights to help shape programming.

A sense of community is also important. Within a single department or unit, the number of underrepresented faculty may be very small. But not when added up across campuses. Garrick feels if underrepresented faculty were more aware of their colleagues at the U, they could build a stronger community.

“You don’t need to be working on the same thing because these are our colleagues. These are our resources that we can all utilize to help improve our sense of community.”

Garrick points to a story from his own experience about how he came to collaborate on a proposal with Jigna Desai from Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies (GWSS).

“What would someone from GWSS and Mechanical Engineering have in common, subject-matter wise? Nothing.” Not true. He met Desai while working together on a committee and learned they share an interest in getting more underrepresented students into STEM.

“The more you bring people together, the more their commonalities become apparent and the more they can find solutions.”

Time is another challenge in bringing faculty members together. Faculty are very busy. So it’s difficult to find the right time to schedule things. “This sounds like a small thing but you have to make sure that a significant number of the folks who would like to be there, you’d like to be sure they can make it.”

In addition to helping faculty who are already here, Garrick wants to help our potential faculty: Ph.D. students and postdocs. He’s working on a plan to provide learning opportunities and insights on academia for these underrepresented students. “This informs the path they choose.”

He has more ideas he hopes will “contribute to deepening, furthering and broadening the pipeline . . . ensuring we have enough faculty from underrepresented groups at the U.”

This is just the beginning.

What excites Garrick about this new role as IDEA Faculty Development Fellow? “I don’t think you have an option but to be excited because the need is so great.”

“I really love this university. This is an outstanding university . . . [but] to a certain degree the absence of underrepresented students and faculty, to me it’s a gaping hole that needs to be filled. And I think I can help do that.”

[Header Image Credit: Amelie Hyams, 2016]


An Empire’s State of Mind Muslims, Race and the Surveillance State

An Empire's State of Mind: Muslims, Race, and the Surveillance State

Thursday, April 21
4:30-6:00 pm
355 Peik Hall

Dr. Arshad Ali will draw upon extensive research with Muslim communities in the US and the UK to explore the historical construction of Muslim identities in the USA and discuss how contemporary representations of Muslim bodies draw upon longstanding narratives of Blackness, Indigeneity, and Muslim otherness in the Western world.

Dr. Ali will also conduct a workshop for students on April 22nd. The workshop will focus on ethical dilemmas of doing research in a high surveillance environment.

Arshad I. Ali is Assistant Professor of Educational Research at The George Washington University. Dr. Ali is an interdisciplinary scholar who studies youth culture, race, identity, and democratic engagement in the lives of young people.

This talk is sponsored by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and co-sponsored by the Birkmaeir Critical Literacy & Urban Education Speaker Series; the Institute for Diversity, Equity & Advocacy (OED); the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development; the Youth Studies Program; and the Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Initiative.

For more information, contact Nimo Abdi, Light refreshments will be served.

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Sharing A Great IDEA

Drs. Michael Goh and Priscilla Gibson

A Conversation with Dr. Michael Goh & Dr. Priscilla Gibson

“The idea around IDEA – pun intended – is that we can grow a community of scholars who care about equity, diversity and social justice issues.”

That’s how Associate Vice Provost Michael Goh answered the question, “What is the Institute for Diversity, Equity and Advocacy, (IDEA) and what does it do?”

Dr. Goh is a professor in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development in the College of Education and Human Development and he is just beginning his second year leading the institute within the Office for Equity and Diversity. Dr. Priscilla Gibson in the School of Social Work serves as the IDEA Faculty Development Fellow and is just concluding her third year in that role. They talked about the work being done through IDEA.

As with all units within the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED), Goh tells us his work with IDEA follows the tenet that “at the University of Minnesota, diversity is everyone’s everyday work.”

IDEA works behind the scenes through Bridge Funding and in pre-doc and post-doc programming, towards their mission to recruit and retain a diverse faculty.

But Goh feels these terms are inadequate in defining the goals of IDEA. He prefers the terms “attracting and thriving.”

“Attracting means more than just putting out a job ad and looking at applicants. It’s about actively seeking out diverse candidates through colleagues and national networks and developing relationships with potential leads,” Goh explains. He feels that that faculty candidates need to “feel that there’s a future at this university, in this community, for them to succeed.

Goh adds that he feels the term “retaining” has a survival feel to it. He prefers to be proactive in helping faculty to “thrive” here.

Gibson is helping faculty to thrive through her Faculty of Color writing workshops and through social events to help create a sense of community. “I love this term ‘thriving’”, she declares, “because I feel it is connected to welcoming and belonging.”

Gibson shares that the literature shows that faculty of color don’t always feel they belong. But forming relationships helps. And bringing people together helps form relationships.

“That’s why I think the writing group is so important,” says Gibson. “We are asking them to leave the convenience of their office or their home to come and write as a group.” Research has shown that this kind of activity, routinely gathering to work on their writing, helps writers to be much more productive and successful.

One of the most prominent programs IDEA supports is the Multicultural Research Award (MRA). This award is open to all faculty engaged in research on equity and diversity issues. Since it began in 1996, the MRA has been awarded to more than 180 faculty members. For many junior faculty, this award is often a springboard to larger, external research awards.

The MRA research is presented each spring in the Diversity Through the Disciplines Symposium, scheduled this year for May 5, 2016. These presentations highlight the interdisciplinary breadth of multicultural research and are open to the public. They provide the presenters a forum to share their discoveries with colleagues and engender future research collaborations.

Faculty seeking guidance in adding diversity into teaching methods, find it in the Diversity in the Curriculum workshops. These sessions are offered twice a year and represent a partnership between Gibson (IDEA) and Dr. Anita Gonzalez at the Center for Educational Innovation.

Recently Goh and Gibson have been working with Virajita Singh, Assistant Vice Provost with OED. They are trying to learn more about faculty’s perception of the work of equity and diversity in higher education, how have they been involved, where are we now and – what does this indicate for the future?

Goh is pleased that, “there is a lot more interest from administrators, faculty, staff, and students,” about equity and diversity work. Goh explains that, “student, faculty, and community activism clearly signal different ways in which we all seem to go about this work.”

This research project, says Goh “is not trying to intellectualize the issue but is a genuine attempt to learn about what motivates the different ways we engage in equity and diversity work so that we can potentially coalesce rather than collide in our efforts.”

Their findings from this research will be presented at the upcoming Keeping Our Faculty Symposium VII (April 17-19, 2016). This biennial conference has been held since 1998. So – why is this gathering still so important?

Goh tells us the symposium founders recognized the need to work together to create change. “And they recognized that no one university, no one office, no one group of scholars has the answers. Hence, the need to confer nationally about how to address this issue.”

“Issues continue to be identified,” adds Gibson, “as people become a little more comfortable, a little more empowered to talk about their lived experience as underrepresented faculty”

This makes Gibson especially excited that for this symposium “we have some of the best minds coming here to discuss, to critique and to analyze.”

“We are bringing up the next generation of scholars, and university administrators”, Gibson says. “We still need to develop that cadre.”

Goh feels, “there are a lot of good ideas being generated by higher education scholars locally and around the country that we can learn from. We need to cultivate the wisdom that is already out there and we need to be committed to moving to action.”

“Our goal for this symposium,” Goh says, “is to provide a space for scholars, campus leaders, and students to critically and honestly engage on urgent issues confronting faculty diversity so that we can discover meaningful, practical, and effective solutions for our campus and beyond.”


Critical Conversations in Chicano and Latino Studies Spring 2016

Critical Conversations in Chicano and Latino Studies Spring 2016

Critical Conversations in Chicano and Latino Studies: Cafe, Pan y Plática is an intellectual space for scholars to workshop new research, to discuss pedagogical strategies, and contemplate new issues within the field. Everyone on and off campus is welcome to attend.

Olga Herrera | Fri., March 4th, 1:00 pm | Scott Hall Rm. 2
Assistant Professor | English Department | St. Thomas University

Gerardo Licón | Fri., March 25th, 10:30 am | Scott Hall Rm. 2
Assistant Professor | Latin American Studies | University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

Sandra Soto | Mon., April 4th, 3:30 pm | Wilson Library 402
Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies | University of Arizona in Tucson Visiting University of Minnesota Winton Chair | Co-sponsored with American Studies

No Más Bebes | Fri., April 22nd, 7 pm | Mayo Auditorium 
Film screening co-sponsored by Women’s Center’s Feminist Fridays

Monisha das Gupta | Wed., May 4th, 10:30 am | Scott Hall 2
Associate Professor Ethnic Studies & Women’s Studies | University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa
Co-sponsored with American Studies

Critical Conversations is co-organized by Jimmy Patiño (Assistant Professor, Chicano and Latino Studies) and Jessica Lopez Lyman (PhD Candidate UC Santa Barbara & Instructor at U of MN) with support from the Institute for Diversity, Equity and Advocacy. For questions or suggestions please email or

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Revealing Unknown History: An Interview with Erika Lee

Erica Lee photo

The Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) is proud to present these profiles highlighting our faculty’s outstanding research and community engagement around grand challenges.

by Amelie Hyams

When people learn that U of M professor Erika Lee (@prof_erikalee) teaches history, they often tell her they are “history buffs.” Professor Lee is not a history buff.

“That’s not the kind of history I do.” She explains, “I am not interested in just factual narration or memorization of little ‘tidbits’ of our past. I AM interested in asking the hard questions – how does the past connect with what’s going on today?”

Immigrant StoriesIn addition to being a professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts, Lee helped to found the Asian American Studies Program in 2004 and has served as the Director of the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) since 2012.

Raised and educated in California, she describes herself as a “Chinese American, 3rd or 6th generation, depending on how you count.” You’d expect her to have known a lot growing up, about the history of Asian Americans. She was shocked to learn how little she knew.

Lee remembers sitting in an undergraduate history class at UC Berkley. The professor was talking about the anti-Chinese movement, a time when Americans were greatly divided over Chinese immigration. Debates eroded into violence against Asian Americans, national condemnation of Chinese immigration, and expulsion of Chinese people from cities. This eventually led to a ban on Chinese immigration.

As her instructor spoke, Lee sat there thinking, “I have never heard this, [not even] within my family. I’m a history major. How come this is the first time I’m hearing this?”

“It made me realize the way we teach American history . . . really glosses things over and leaves things out.” Lee works to share the unknown stories from our past so that the next generation of Asian Americans will know about their part in history.

Asian America has grown dramatically in the past 50 years and become much more diverse. Lee tells us “there are [now] 24 different ethnicities under the Asian, Pacific American umbrella.” She wonders, “How does old Asian America and new Asian America fit together? . . . Where do they fit into a changing America?”

Lee attempts to reveal this unknown history and connect it to global history, slavery, and western Book cover for "The Making of Asian America: A History"expansion. In her new book, The Making of Asian America: A History, Lee connects the issues of the past and present into a wider perspective.

“When we think about immigration history, 2 words come to mind . . . Ellis Island.” Few Americans are aware of Angel Island, an immigration station off the California coast that processed nearly 1 million Asian immigrants between 1910-1940. A great many immigrants came from Europe, through Ellis Island. However Lee feels, “Our mission is to look at the broad diversity of immigration past and present.” And how immigration has shaped America.

Immigration has also transformed Minnesota. First settled by Swedes, Norwegians and German immigrants, we now see a huge change. Lee tells us “We actually have a larger population of refugees, compared to other states. We have the largest Hmong and Somali populations here . . . sometimes the largest populations outside of the homeland country.”

Each immigrant group is interested in their own experiences, Lee finds, and usually only their own experiences. But she feels that it’s “by making these comparisons about similarities and differences across groups and over time, that we can better understand the role of immigration in making the United States . . . and our on-going complicated relationships.”

October 2015 marks 50 years since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This act is still being debated. Lee is familiar with the concerns: “Was it a landmark move towards civil rights law? Or was it a law that helps explain how we still have an undocumented immigration situation today?”

Discussion of immigration raises some divisive questions, “Who is included? Who’s excluded? Who do we let in and who is a threat? Do they assimilate? Are they a benefit to the economy or a drain?”

Lee also reminds us that throughout history there have been those who have tried to “raise the specter of immigrant menace.” We still see this today. However, “History shows us that those xenophobes were out of step – not representing the true spirit of America.”

“Historical perspective is needed to better understand the roots of where we are now and . . . how do we fix some of these issues?” Lee feels it’s in “… looking at the between-ness” that you’re able to see the full picture.

[Header photo credit: Amelie Hyams]