We interviewed Jayashree Arcot, a Professor in Food and Health (Nutrition) in the School of Chemical Engineering. She is the Undergraduate Food Science Program Director and Advisor, and one of the EDI School Officers within the Engineering Faculty.

What are your responsibilities as EDI School Officer?

My role is to make sure staff and students are aware of all the EDI-related programs, events and potential funding opportunities available for activities - both within education and research. I also help to keep our school up to date with activities within the Faculty and University that they may wish to participate in. Importantly, I'm always available to all staff and students to discuss EDI issues.

Why did you take on this role?

I was nominated to be a member of the Faculty EDI committee in 2020, representing the School of Chemical Engineering, and to be the EDI Officer within the School. I took on this role because I believe in social justice, equality and inclusion and believe I can contribute meaningfully to Faculty EDI policies and strategy. Coming from a different cultural background myself, I was also keen to provide my  perspective and lived experience on diversity and inclusion.

Are there any areas that UNSW Engineering needs to work on in respect to EDI? And what are we doing well?

Accessing human rights is part of our broad EDI strategy, and the Faculty is recognising this through its collaboration with the Australian Human Rights Institute. In addition, the focus on access (equitable opportunities for under-represented students), equity and inclusion by driving diversity (visiting academic program), opportunity and support (carer’s award, revisiting ENABLE Mentoring program and the Level-up program) in the workplace is to be appreciated with policies in place in the last couple of years and development of the 2023-2027 Strategy.

The new program on Pacific partnerships that commenced in 2023 will hopefully provide tangible outcomes and build capacity in the Pacific, making a difference through collaboration across education and research.

I believe that by empowering student societies on campus to encourage diversity and by providing them with more resources, we could create an even more inclusive culture on campus. I also think that we can increase our focus on EDI training for staff and students; and facilitate more outreach activities to encourage students from SES and indigenous backgrounds to access UNSW education. Finally, we should increase awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals - which should be embedded in as many teaching programs as possible.

How can others get involved in EDI activities?

One of my key roles is to be available to all students and staff within the School to discuss ways in which we can have a more diverse and inclusive culture. I encourage everyone within the school to contribute to achieving Faculty goals by simply sharing their ideas.