A Letter to Our Community - Summer 2020

It’s been a turbulent spring in our country and around the world. We’ve faced a global pandemic that continues to impact our communities in countless ways – our health, work, the economy, and more. 

As we work to resume research activities on campus and out in the world, I want to make two important points. First and foremost, our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, faculty, partners, and research participants. We have important work to do, especially now, but we are meeting those priorities with deliberate planning and patience to protect the wellbeing of our community. Second, I want to thank and applaud our IPaT team for your dedicated work during these challenging times. You’ve given your best game when none of us had best games to give. While we’ve been physically separated, it has been tremendously important to continue to draw strength and inspiration from each other. 

As we begin to ramp up on-campus research this summer and into the fall, things will be different at the Institute for People and Technology in many ways. We’re taking extra steps to protect the health of our faculty, staff, students, and collaborators. And we will continue meeting as a community to have frank discussions about how to proceed safely. 

And now, we’re asked to do more. Much more. 

Although we’ve started to resume some semblance of our normal lives, these challenging times are now about more than a pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe. They’re also about generations of racial injustice and terrible loss of life –Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others.  

This past month I’ve appreciated candid conversations I’ve had with colleagues, friends, and family. We’ve talked about meaningful actions to end the violence inflicted on Black communities, to combat racial injustice, both historic and current, and how to actively work toward social justice and equity in every facet of our lives, including here at Georgia Tech. 

IPaT has a relatively unique role on the Georgia Tech campus. Our four-part mission calls us to catalyze our community, to provide the continuity and capacity to address important societal challenges and to advocate and educate for change that improves the human condition. We will lead through empowering voices that have been ignored, we will foment change by dedicating our time, energy and resources in new ways, and we will make a real difference through stubborn persistence and dedication. We are, and will continue to be, engaged in serious conversations about how our actions should change as part of the changes we want to see in the world. We are not interested in a “toothless” response and are critiquing our core priorities, operations, and activities to enable sustained systemic change.  

We’re committed to not only saying that Black Lives Matter, but also putting these words into concrete action in our daily lives in the academic community. We will: 

  • Amplify Black voices. Earlier this month, STEM and academia paused work to reflect on the critical changes needed in these communities. We’ll do our part to acknowledge and amplify the significant contributions of our Black colleagues, encourage more Black students in STEM, and fight systemic racism that creates barriers to advancement and equality. 

  • Incorporate social justice throughout our work. We’re proud of our ongoing social justice research, like partnering with Georgia State University to address inequity through computing or supporting research that examines the erasure of Black women’s voices in social movements. But we can – and will – do more by encouraging collaboration and fostering conversations about diversity and inclusion in research. Specifically, we will regularly incorporate speakers and open discussions surrounding social justice into our weekly Think Tank series

  • Provide pivotal research and educational experiences for our students. We can amplify our impact through the lives of our students with the research experiences, innovation activities, and educational opportunities they have with us. As one example, we are changing our twice-yearly student innovation competition (CIC) to systemically incorporate issues of equity and diversity, sustainability, and universal design; addressing the design of innovation categories, the training we offer students, and our judging criteria. 

  • Be vigilant in monitoring for gaps in communication about key resources and opportunities. We want to ensure the opportunities are equally available to all members of our community, and we commit to an active role in reducing current disparities and bias.  

Guided by our values, we will do all of this through partnership. Our campus and our city offer deep experience, wisdom, and courage and we will work to connect this richness throughout our community, including students new to the US, researchers new to these challenges, and partners seeking to promote social justice. We will continue to seek out voices from our Black leaders, our Black staff, and Black colleagues and look for their guidance to actively marshal our resources to be bolder and better than we have been to forge a more equitable society. 

I encourage everyone to keep these conversations going and we invite your input. You are always welcome to share your ideas at ipat@gatech.edu for actions that we can take individually and collectively as the IPaT community. You can also reach me directly at mynatt@gatech.edu. We have important work to do.  

I encourage everyone to take time during the upcoming holiday to rest and reflect on our nation’s challenging history and legacy and come out on the other side ready for change. This is “not a moment, it’s a movement” to create change within our spaces on campus, in our community, and throughout our nation. 

Elizabeth Mynatt 

Executive Director 

Institute for People and Technology