Foundational Statement on DEI at LLE from former Director Mike Campbell

19 June 2020

To LLE staff, students, faculty, and colleagues:

In a recent message to the University community, President Sarah Mangelsdorf and Chief Diversity Officer Mercedes Ramírez Fernández shared some steps that are being taken to address issues of systemic racism on and around the campus.

On this important day to celebrate the end of slavery in the country, the necessity of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) has never been more important as our country is engaged in protests and demands for needed change. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with all victims of the racism that unfortunately still exists today. We are listening and learning, and we stand with our students, staff, and colleagues as they attempt to awaken the University community, the Rochester community, and the entire country. It is far too easy for our scientific institutions to be unmindful of the systemic racism that exists and to allow the discriminatory status quos to remain as we are absorbed by the exciting challenges in science and technology.

I want our LLE community to know that we are actively working towards building a more diverse and inclusive research environment for all. We have much work to do and we have taken actions that demonstrate our commitment to this goal. In October 2019, the position of Diversity Manager was added to the LLE senior management with the primary goal of establishing strategies to increase workforce diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related positions.

Additionally, LLE has been accepted into a new program of the American Physical Society to increase diversity in physics departments and laboratories. We hope that the lab’s participation will lead to several concrete measures, including collaborations with historically black colleges and universities. One of our goals is to develop a database of STEM professionals from under-represented groups, including recent graduates and individuals at various stages in their careers, to help all institutions expand their hiring pool.

In recognition of the fact that we have a responsibility not only to the University community but the larger Rochester community as well, in 2019 we initiated the Lab’s first program specifically for underrepresented groups. We believe that in order to build diverse STEM employment pipelines, we must foster early exposure during a student’s educational career. The BEST (Broad Exposure to Science and Technology) Student Research Experience intends to introduce students from the City of Rochester to the many areas of science and technology involved in laser energetics research. Students will be exposed to STEM fields, institutions, and individuals who offer resources and encouragement to explore the next generation of related jobs and careers. A major component of this program is to listen and respond to feedback from the students on how they could best be supported by our institution.

A diverse workforce is vital to a thriving science program. Although the struggle continues beyond this moment and requires a long-term commitment from all of us, we are dedicated to doing the work. We must be continually critical of our own position and impact on communities of color. Support from the LLE community is vital to achieving meaningful change and creating an environment of inclusion. We welcome your suggestions as we move forward.

E. Michael Campbell
LLE (former) Director, Laboratory for Laser Energetics

Terrance J. Kessler
LLE Diversity Manager