As a scholar of gender and sexuality, I regard the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as central to all aspects of my work at the university. Their presence—and absence—has defined my time in academia. As a gay man, I distinctly remember how inhospitable classroom environments impaired my learning throughout my education—and how inclusive, positive ones enhanced my learning and empowered me to pursue a career in higher education.
Borrowing from the University of Michigan’s DEI Strategic Plan, I define these terms as follows:
Diversity: I commit to increasing diversity in all forms: race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, and (dis)ability status.
Equity: I commit to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. I am committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and to institute change so that these opportunities become realities for students, staff, and faculty.
Inclusion: I commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. By building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are inseparable from my commitment to academic excellence, both for myself and my students. By grounding my research, pedagogy, and service to the university in these three principles, I aim to create the conditions for all to flourish as students, workers, colleagues—as human beings—and foster a community of respect and learning.
Research: In my research, I explore how methodologies oriented around female and queer erotic identity and desires (traditionally ‘unacceptable’ as legitimate models of knowledge) can retell narratives about German culture and history and explore forms of oppression. I thereby promote alternative modes of knowledge production to spur methodological innovation.
Teaching: My advocacy for those who have been effaced by hegemonic epistemologies and underserved by traditional university cultures has informed how I cultivate inclusivity in my classroom. In my upper-level language course, “Queer German Cultures”—the first undergraduate course on this topic in my department—I present an overview of German history and culture from LGBTQ perspectives. Along with queer and trans materials, I experiment with non-heteronormative teaching approaches—learning to talk about sexual and gender identity in German, engaging with non-traditional texts and media about sex and gender—cultivating an atmosphere of belonging in which a diverse body of students saw themselves represented.
Service: In 2018, I helped co-found the inaugural DEI Committee in my department, which aims to implement the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our undergraduate and graduate programs and department governance. In the 2019-2020 academic year, I will be the graduate student representative on the committee. Additionally, I am pursuing the Rackham Professional Development DEI Certificate, in which I will acquire further knowledge and skills to work effectively in and for diverse environments and to foster an inclusive climate.
Funded by a competitive university-wide DEI grant, I have created an unprecedented German Studies DEI Research and Teaching Database, which compiles teaching and research materials and sources by and about historically underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. A dynamic, interactive, and searchable online portal, the database invests in undergraduate education, serving as a springboard for discussions on inclusive pedagogy as well as for new courses and the remaking of old ones to make our curricula more inclusive. For researchers, it will serve as a seed farm of understudied materials, fostering innovative projects and new lines of inquiry. Together, it aims to bring the marginalized into German Studies not as diversity tokens but as active partners in recasting our field.