This month's DEI Faculty and Staff Spotlight features Dr. Monica Giusti who is a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Dr. Giusti is also the President of Ohio State's Organization of Latinx/Hispanic Employees (OLÉ) and a member of the CFAES Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Council.
Why is engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion, important to your work?
Every member of the Ohio State community has had to work hard to get here. We all studied and put our best effort to be prepared for the job we do. Yet, when we face any challenge, we bring our own experience and perspective to the table. And the number of solutions we can bring is always shaped by them. When we add other people to the team, with their own knowledge and different experiences and perspective, the number of tools we have increases drastically, the number of ideas multiply, and we create new solutions. The idea of bringing diversity, equity and inclusion, is not just something we do to be fair and to create a better society – all very important goals. When we include others, establish a diverse team and make everyone feel included and equal, we all grow, and come up with better answers, we come up with more innovative discoveries, and we increase productivity. We all benefit by creating a better working environment and higher quality work.
In my work I need both: a positive environment and the highest possible quality of science and innovation. And for both I need DEI.
How do you contribute to DEI work within CFAES and or the greater university or community?
As a faculty member, I make sure to maintain a diverse team, because I think that is best for my research and for the team. I have learned so much from each student as an individual but also from their different ways to look at life, their unique problem-solving skills, and their personalities and I deeply enjoy seeing them grow in their own individual way. By encouraging them to be their best I create a better environment in my lab and unit, while training the leaders of the future. In addition, I have been Chair of the Graduate Studies committee in Food Science for over a decade, and during this time I have strived to recruit diverse students and to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels important, seen, heard, and valued. I know we always have room for improvement, so I try to listen to our students to better understand their needs.
More recently, I was elected President of OLÉ, the Organization of Latinx/Hispanic Employees at Ohio State. This has given me a great opportunity to work with a wonderful team to increase recruitment and retention of Hispanic and Latino faculty and staff, and to promote their continued professional development. We also provide community support and outreach and promote cultural activities. This has given me a chance to meet diverse faculty and staff from around Campus. I am also lucky to be part of the CFAES Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Council, supporting DEI initiatives throughout the college.
How did your career path lead to this type of advocacy work?
I grew up in Peru, in a very different educational system, and environment than the one I have experienced here in the US. Since a young age, I became involved with organizations focused on helping people in need. Since then, I learned that every time I reached out to help someone in need, I ended up gaining more than what I could give: I learned valuable lessons about life, the world, justice, and even about myself. I came to the US as a graduate student and this Country offered me many opportunities that I could not access in Peru. Yet, I realized that as a Latina, some people would not value my contributions or judge me with the same bar applied to others, it seemed like I had a higher bar to pass. For years, I just worked harder to achieve what I felt I deserved. But the time came when I realized I had to stand up for myself and for others that came after me. I grew up thinking I had to take opportunities when they were given to me. It has taken me many years to realize that I can create opportunities, not only for myself but also for others, and that is what I try to do now.
What do you see as strengths within CFAES related to DEI?
Our College has taken the challenge of increasing diversity equity and inclusion seriously. I am very excited to be part of the CFAES Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Council, supporting DEI initiatives throughout the college. I also think the College is invested on the recruitment of new faculty and staff that fosters DEI, a very positive effort.
In what areas would you like to see growth within our college related to DEI?
There are many areas of disparities that are carried from society into the academic world, from opportunities to education, to representation in leadership, and even to salaries. These disparities do not originate in our College, but we need to be intentional and proactive to make improvements. I believe that the College has taken some great initial steps, but there is still plenty of room for growth in all those different areas. One issue we are trying to address in my work with OLE is the issue of retention of minority groups: we have very high rotation, and we are trying to identify the main drivers of this problem and how to create better conditions for underrepresented faculty and staff to stay and succeed.
What advice do you have for other faculty or staff who are interested in getting involved in DEI work?
I encourage everyone to embrace DEI work. I see DEI work as a part of life and not as something you can choose to get involved or not. I believe we all should play a role and contribute in improving DEI in our workforce and communities. Helping others can be very rewarding. But if you are thinking you need to focus on establishing a research lab first, you can start by fostering a diverse and inclusive team, and you will be making a difference already.