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Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of developmental psychology and the founding chair of the Committee of the Promotion of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We are excited to announce that on behalf of PrEDI, she accepted the CHS Collaborative Work in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Award. Lozada has created a community of inclusion in the psychology department through training and networking events for students, faculty and staff. Her research focuses on how cultural-related beliefs and race-related experiences impact socio-emotional competence among ethnic minority youth.
On behalf of PrEDI, we are excited to chat with Lozada about the honor of receiving this award.
What does receiving the CHS Collaborative Work in Leadership in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Award mean to you?
Receiving the Collaborative Work in Leadership in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity CHS Award feels like a milestone for our group, the Committee for the Promotion of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (PrEDI). We care deeply about and are committed to supporting the psychology department in making sustainable changes toward creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive academic environment, especially for students from marginalized backgrounds.
We recognize that universities and the many power structures that operate within them have been complicit in the oppression of marginalized individuals and that trying to create meaningful and sustainable change to academic culture and policies is sometimes slow and arduous work. We will not pretend that this award means that "we have arrived" with regard to achieving equity. We recognize that this is a continual process and a journey on which we will continue.
However, we think that receiving this award means that people are paying attention to what we are trying to create and maintain and we hope that it inspires other departments and units to work toward the same.
As a founding chair of the group, what inspired the creation of the IDEC awards?
PrEDI was formed as a direct result of a call to action by graduate students in the psychology department who wanted better dialogue and engagement with issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, ableism and intersectionality in their coursework, training, and professional development. After having a few moderated sessions between graduate students and faculty about some of these issues, it was clear that we needed a sustainable resource within the department that would serve to support Psychology in working toward equity.
The chair of psychology at that time, Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., was responsive to this need and charged the first inaugural members of the committee with developing the mission and organizational framework for PrEDI, with a key emphasis on there being an equal representation of students and faculty members and being inclusive of departmental staff. This is important because PrEDI is designed to have a faculty/staff-graduate student co-chair model. We believe this model is integral to shifting the power dynamics that are often present in university committees whose membership is primarily made of faculty, with one or two student representatives.
Instead, PrEDI was created as an outlet for graduate student voices in which elected students can work alongside faculty as colleagues to achieve equitable and inclusive means. Other important key features of PrEDI is that we have set forth a mission statement, institutionalized PrEDI in the psychology department bylaws and developed a framework with which we seek to promote equity, diversity and inclusion through a safe and affirming departmental climate, education and research. The inaugural faculty chair of PrEDI, Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., was a driving force in establishing these foundational elements during the committee's first year.
"I believe that once we can hear each other's perspectives, see each other's humanity, and become invested in supporting one another regardless of our varying experiences and perspectives, that this will lead us to the sustainable change that PrEDI is trying to make."
Are there partners in your work that helped you achieve this honor?
Our greatest partners in this work are the graduate students. We are so fortunate to have graduate students who are critically and socially-justice-minded. Our graduate students come into their respective programs looking to be the change they want to see in the world and I think that motivates them to hold the psychology department to a high standard for providing training and coursework that reflects the current and historical context of the communities that we serve in Richmond.
The graduate students who serve on the committee are newly elected each year and every new group of students brings increasingly critical and innovative ideas of how PrEDI can support departmental change. Working with students on issues of diversity and equity is exciting and rewarding, especially because they tend to be less entrenched in the existing academic culture which leads them to think outside of the box to address these issues.
What excites and motivates you about your research and work?
Besides working closely with our graduate students, one of the most motivating things about serving and leading PrEDI is the ability to see observable change with regard to the way that our departmental members interact and work together to discuss issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. As a committee, we spent our first few years not only assessing departmental climate but also trying to create opportunities in which departmental members could break down the walls and barriers that precluded us from having effective communication around these issues.
We did a variety of things to try to create these opportunities such as engaging in small acts of kindness (pre-COVID we were very fond of going "door-to-door" to offices to pass out treats and words of gratitude), hosting departmental board game parties, gathering to watch TED talks, and hosting/co-hosting influential speakers to provide students and faculty with the language to have effective conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion. I think that these activities have at least made us a more connected and aware department and have laid a foundation for us to be more willing and able to have difficult conversations.
I believe that once we can hear each other's perspectives, see each other's humanity, and become invested in supporting one another regardless of our varying experiences and perspectives, that this will lead us to the sustainable change that PrEDI is trying to make. It is in this spirit that we will continue working together and learning as much as we can.