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Creating spaces for diverse and intellectual communities

Two programs sponsored by VPGE support building intellectual communities and expanding diversity among grad students and postdocs.

“Critical Studies of Blackness in Education (CSBE) creates a space where graduate students can engage with the discipline of Black Studies – particularly the theoretical underpinnings rooted in Black knowledge – and apply those lessons to the field of education,” said CoCo Massengale, PhD student at the Graduate School of Education (GSE).

From L to R: Angie Hawkins and Nandita Bhaskhar

DIF and SPICE first joint reception took place on Nov. 4, 2021. Pictured are (left) Angie Hawkins, associate director of educational programs, VPGE, and Nandita Bhaskhar, PhD student in electrical engineering. (Image credit: Anna Chalmers)

CoCo Massengale and fellow PhD student in education Danielle Greene founded CSBE. Their mission is to use various community functions dedicated to understanding and developing solutions to combat anti-Black racism in the classroom. And with Student Projects for Intellectual Community and Enhancement (SPICE) funding, CSBE has expanded its reach across several disciplines, building an intellectual community with the shared goal to dismantle racism in education. 

“SPICE has allowed us to engage with students who share our interests outside of the GSE,” continued Massengale, “We are now able to collaborate with scholars from English, history, music, etc., making CSBE a truly interdisciplinary group.”

SPICE is one of several funding opportunities provided by the Office of the Vice Provost of Graduate Education (VPGE). SPICE supports graduate students’ efforts to build and expand their intellectual communities at Stanford. For example, Stanford Ocean Networking and Research (SONAR) facilitates interdisciplinary discussions across several departments on the topic of marine environments. SONAR hosts several SPICE-funded events throughout the quarter, ranging from a speaker series to graduate research talks. 

“Our goal is for anyone who would like to engage with SONAR to see events on our schedule that are exciting and accessible to them,” says SONAR co-organizer Meghan Shea, who is a PhD student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. “But we know nothing will be universally appealing. So, by having as many different types of events as we can, we hope to make SONAR as fresh and inviting as possible!”

In addition to SPICE, VPGE also sponsors Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Funds (DIF). DIF supports graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to develop and lead projects that will advance diversity within their populations. With DIF funds, groups are able to facilitate events, networking opportunities and discussions on diversity-based topics.

Anika Green, VPGE’s assistant vice provost and director of the DARE (Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence) doctoral fellowship program, shared the history of SPICE and DIF: “VPGE developed SPICE to give students the agency and financial resources they need to create the interdisciplinary intellectual communities that are a hallmark of graduate studies at Stanford. DIF was launched as a parallel program in response to students’ incredible dedication to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. Students’ – and now postdocs’ – continued engagement in both programs is tremendously gratifying to all of us in VPGE.”

Certificate in Critical Consciousness and Anti-Oppressive Praxis, a DIF-funded project for the past two years, is a certificate program that aligns its values to Stanford’s mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The certificate aims to “educate and prepare trainees with the tools necessary to navigate a dynamic future from a position of knowledge, empathy, and justice.” Certificate in Critical Consciousness and Anti-Oppressive Praxis has already made an impact around Stanford. Their efforts earned them the 2021 President’s Award for Excellence Through Diversity, an award that honors individuals and programs who have contributed to enhancing and supporting diversity within the Stanford community. 

Groups and projects like Certificate in Critical Consciousness and Anti-Oppressive Praxis, CSBE and SONAR met during the first joint SPICE and DIF reception in November 2021. This year, 84 student groups had the opportunity to network and celebrate their impact on the Stanford community and beyond.

Angie Hawkins, VPGE’s associate director of educational programs, shared a celebratory sentiment during the reception.  

“You all are doing amazing work both within the graduate student community and also to the broader Stanford and Bay Area communities, sometimes involving faculty, undergraduates, nonprofit organizations and even high school students. So today we celebrate you, acknowledge your leadership and thank you for the hard work you have put into your projects.” 

Visit the VPGE website to learn more and get involved in the 2021-22 SPICE and DIF projects.