A Diverse team. Serving Diverse groups. With Diverse Activities.
Written By: Alison Grant, Kayenat Kabir, and Travis Atkinson, on behalf of the AgEcon GSO
The Agricultural Economics Graduate Students Organization (AgEcon GSO) was awarded the Unsung Diversity Hero Team Award for their tireless efforts to build a diverse and inclusive community and improve the climate in the College of Agriculture. The Diversity Action Team presented the award and $1,500 for the organization’s future activities.
Transforming from an informal team focused mostly on occasional social activities, the AgEcon GSO developed into a fully registered GSO in 2019. The newly registered AgEcon GSO is dedicated to coordinating increased social and professional contact, connecting students with resources for professional development and promoting diversity and collegiality among graduate students, faculty, and staff.
A diverse team
The current GSO officers represent a mix of international and domestic students with officers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Uruguay, and the USA. The team resulted from a conscious effort to include representation of different race, region, and gender.
Serving a diverse group
The AgEcon GSO serves a diverse community: the AgEcon student body (62% of whom are international students); the AgEcon faculty and staff, the broader Purdue Community, and the Tippecanoe County community.
Organizing a portfolio of frequent academic, cultural, social, and sporting events and activities is now the norm in AgEcon GSO. Some activities included are weekly coffee hours, faculty seminars, welcome events for new students, informal gatherings outside the department, departmental BBQs, intramural sports events, mentoring for new students through an academic help desk, and facilitation of visits by prospective students from historically black colleges. In every single one of the events, the AgEcon GSO has strived to make everyone in the department feel included and welcomed. Beyond the department, the GSO also organized winterization activities for homes of elderly people and volunteered for Spring Fest, deepening the relationship with the community.
But most importantly perhaps, the AgEcon GSO has thrived to integrate cultures, make GSO elections more participatory, and emphasize mental health and wellness in the seminars.
Actively seeking to integrate different cultures represented within the department, the GSO has organized international potluck dinners, exposing members to different cuisines. They have also celebrated important festivals from around the world (e.g. Lunar New Year, Nowruz, Pahela Baishakh/Bangla New Year). Though these may appear trivial, these activities have been integral in creating a more inclusive culture within the department where people are more open to talk about cultural differences and embrace cultural similarities.
Clockwise: Solving riddles in Lunar Year; Yummy sweets in Bangla new year flanked by cute owls; The table of Haft-seen, an arrangement of 7 symbolic items whose name starts with the letter “seen”.
Diversity & Wellness Sessions
The GSO has worked to bring resources to the department for mental health and wellness of students and faculty for the first time. There are two workshops to mention: 1) Boiler Up and Intervene by the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education (CARE). It deals with confidently and safely intervening in dangerous situations, and 2) Dealing with Imposter Syndrome, a seminar conducted by the Dean of the Graduate School, which is particularly relevant for underrepresented groups who may be more prone to feeling out of place and at greater risk for being overlooked.
Many of these activities were possible in part due to the competitive Graduate Student Organization (GSOGA) grant from the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG). The AgEcon GSO remains committed to diversity, inclusion and collegiality. Here at Purdue, “we take many small steps that turn into giant leaps,” and the AgEcon GSO has proven to take those necessary steps toward a more diverse and welcoming community.