‘Dreamer’ Journeys to the State House
In 2001, 14-year-old Danillo “Dan” Sena ’19 moved to Massachusetts as an undocumented immigrant from Brazil. Today he is the Honorable Danillo Sena, a state representative from Acton, Massachusetts, after handily winning a special election in June.
Complex Problems, Complex Solutions
With the coronavirus pandemic shining a light on health disparities, housing insecurity, and many other issues, it’s clearer than ever how complicated the big problems of the world can be. That’s why the Institute of Diversity Sciences takes a multidisciplinary approach to solving them. Program Manager Leyla Keough-Hameed ’08PhD says, “We’re interested in bringing together scientists, engineers, technologists, people from all around campus and all the Five Colleges in order to tackle some of these really big social problems.”
One such project funded by the institute this year brings together a sociologist and a public health scientist to examine how everyday police discrimination impacts Black people’s health and aging. Other recent projects have focused on biodiversity’s connection to wellness and how to price clean energy at a rate that maximizes implementation while remaining affordable.
In addition to addressing important issues related to health, the environment, and social equity, the institute also seeks to prepare a diverse new generation of STEM students for the workplace. “All of these projects involve students—either graduate students, undergrads, or a combination of both—and the mission there is to have students see how science and engineering really make a difference in the real world through what they're learning in the project,” says Director Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta. “They’re learning the technical skills of how to do the project, but it’s not abstract or made up. It’s something that is really meaningful.”
“Our second mission is really to grow the next generation of diverse STEM students and workers in Massachusetts,” says Keough-Hameed. To that end, the institute offers mentoring support through its BRiDGE initiative, which brings scientists from underrepresented backgrounds to speak to current graduate students about research and career development.
Dasgupta sees these two missions as intertwined: “Multidisciplinary STEM research that is focused on equity problems offers exactly the kind of topics that attract underrepresented students and women into STEM.”
Professor M.V. Lee Badgett of the Department of Economics analyzed the financial cost of discriminatory policies, practices, and environments, and found that they cost countries a staggering 1% or more of their gross domestic product (GDP). In her new book, The Economic Case for LGBT Equality: Why Fair and Equal Treatment Benefits Us All, Badgett outlines just how these policies cost money and offers counterexamples of how inclusivity can increase the bottom line for countries and businesses.