Helping Students Feel Welcome at Cal Poly and Inviting Meaningful Dialogue
Recognizing a need, Tina Smilkstein formed the Cal Poly EE/CPE Diversity inclusion and Equity Project, which encourages both discussion and action to combat discrimination. The group meets once a week, and topics of discussion include recent diversity and inclusion topics on campus, in the community and worldwide that might make students feel unwelcome. The group has written letters to faculty and staff on campus, asking for their support on diversity and inclusion and made a presentation to the Electrical Engineering Industrial Advisory group. The project also hosted a welcome party for transfer students.
“The Diversity and Inclusivity Project has given me an environment to speak openly and comfortably with other underrepresented students in S.T.E.M.,” wrote one of the students who nominated her.
Smilkstein also volunteers as a faculty greeter at dormitories to welcome families to Cal Poly during the Week of Welcome. One of those students she greeted, a first-generation, low-income immigrant of color, said Smilkstein had a deep understanding of diversity and inclusivity.
“Tina’s empathy and charismatic personality puts her way beyond the
understanding of most people,” the student wrote. Smilkstein can relate to being in an underrepresented group, having lived in Japan as a white American for 20 years.
“I’ve always tried to support people that didn’t have support,” she said last year.