Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics faculty, students, and staff affirm a commitment to protect and nurture, first and foremost, the mental and physical well-being of each member of our community. A core value of our department is a commitment to diversity, which connotes an awareness and acceptance of the value and strength derived from engaging the richness of multiple cultures, including race, disabilities, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and skin color, among other attributes. The full potential and impact of our scholarship, teaching and learning, knowledge creation, innovation, and service can only be realized in an environment where people are supported and valued for their humanity, without prejudice, and where inclusion, collaboration, and sharing are core principles.

The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is committed to advancing the inclusion of underrepresented minorities and women in our community of faculty, students, and staff. We are cognizant of the Institute’s goals of the 2004 faculty resolution to increase the number of underrepresented minority and women graduate students and the 2010 Report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity (pdf.)

The full potential and impact of our scholarship, teaching and learning, knowledge creation, innovation, and service can only be realized in an environment where people are supported and valued for their humanity, without prejudice, and where inclusion, collaboration, and sharing are core principles.


The MIT AeroAstro Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee comprise faculty, staff, and students interested in advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The goal of the DEI Committee is to represent the many different perspectives of our community. The DEI Committee will listen, gain feedback, and provide updates and actions related to our commitment to improving department culture. In order to ensure that diverse voices and opinions are represented at the meetings, the DEI Committee meetings will be open to the entire AeroAstro community.

  • Members of the AeroAstro community can log in (via Touchstone) to view the AeroAstro Diversity Dashboard, DEI meeting minutes, upcoming events, and more.

Committee Members (2023-2024)

NameRole
Kristen Joyce AmmonsGraduate Student, Diversity Fellow
Steven Barrett Department Head, AeroAstro
H.N. Slater Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics
Director, Laboratory for Aviation, and the Environment
Director, Electric Aircraft Initiative
Kerri CahoyAssociate Department Head
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Co-director, Small Satellite Collaborative
Bisplinghoff Faculty Fellow
Chair, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Committee
Chris ChinGraduate Student
MaryAnn CareyEvent Planner
Rosemary K. DavidsonGraduate Student
Ryan de Freitas BartGraduate Student
Annick DewaldGraduate Student
Sydney DolanGraduate Student
Sebastian EasthamResearch Scientist
Jen-Hung FangGraduate Student
Pam FradkinAdministrative Assistant
Kunal GargPostdoctoral Associate
Wesley HarrisC.S. Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Polly HarringtonGraduate Student
Kyle HornGraduate Student
Jess JohnsonResearch Staff
Shokofeh KhadiviAdministrative Assistant
Christopher KwonGraduate Student
Michelle LinGraduate Student
George LordosGraduate Student
Fran MarroneAdministrative Assistant
Nichole McGaaUndergraduate Student
Brían O’ConaillDirector of Administration and Finance
Denise PhillipsDiversity Officer
Nicholas RoyProfessor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Jessica ToddGraduate Student, Diversity Fellow
Eunice NgangaHuman Resources Administrator
Hailey PolsonGraduate Student

The AeroAstro Diversity Scholar is awarded to two currently enrolled Ph.D. students. Two Scholars are selected each academic year in the AeroAstro Department. The Diversity Scholars must have demonstrated passion and commitment to improving and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the AeroAstro community. This Role aims to build an inclusive community within AeroAstro and support historically underrepresented groups in aerospace engineering, specifically underrepresented minorities, LGBTQIA+, low-income, and first-generation students, and students with disabilities. This prestigious role is an excellent opportunity to develop skills critical to a leader in industry or academia.

Meet the 2023 Diversity Fellows

Kristen Ammons


Kristen (she/her) is a PhD student in STAR Lab with Professor Kerri Cahoy. She is a lover of all things CubeSat-related and is currently exploring how these tiny tools can be utilized for monitoring infrastructure and the impacts of climate change in economically distressed regions of the United States. Kristen is also an active organizer at MIT where she prioritizes understanding the issues that directly impact the graduate student body and working with her peers to implement solutions to these problems. When she’s not working or hosting events, Kristen can be found knitting, hiking, or talking about her home region of Appalachia. 

Jessica Todd


Jessica (she/her) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program, working in the Human Systems Lab in AeroAstro with Professor Dava Newman and in the WHOI Autonomous Robotics and Perception Lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with Dr. Dana Yoerger. Jessica loves working at the intersection of science and engineering, developing autonomous systems to support the scientific exploration of Earth and space. Her research focuses on path planning and decision-making algorithms for scientific robots in the ocean and on other planets to increase the amount of science data that a mission can return. Jessica has been a passionate student advocate at MIT, leading both GA^3 and GWAE, and is always working to build a strong and happy grad student community. Jessica is a passionate SCUBA diver, avid traveler, and vintage sci-fi film lover outside of MIT.

Position Description

The AeroAstro Diversity Scholar is awarded to two currently enrolled Ph.D. students. Two Scholars are selected each academic year in the AeroAstro Department. The Diversity Scholar must have demonstrated passion and commitment to improving and advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the AeroAstro community. This role aims to build an inclusive community within AeroAstro and support historically underrepresented groups in aerospace engineering, specifically underrepresented minorities, LGBTQIA+, low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities. This prestigious role is an excellent opportunity to develop skills critical to a leader in industry or academia.

Scope of Fellowship

  • Support the efforts of the MIT AeroAstro Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
  • Support the efforts of the MIT AeroAstro Diversity Officer
  • Lead the MIT AeroAstro Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tracking Committee
  • Lead the Graduate Application Assistance Program (GAAP) and participate in recruitment and outreach
  • Work with the leadership of MIT AeroAstro student organizations (AIAA, WAE, GWAE, GA^3, AeroAfro, dREFS, RPA^3)
  • Plan department events and educate the AeroAstro community on diversity best practices in aerospace, academia, and in general

Commitment

The Diversity Scholar must commit to two semesters. The estimated time commitment is 10-12 hours per week. This Scholar may also continue over the summer term, to be determined on an individual basis.

Compensation for the Academic Year

This Role covers expenses equivalent to those covered by a half-RA for one academic year. The Diversity Scholar may also continue over the summer term, to be determined on an individual basis.

Eligibility & Application Requirements

Applicants must submit materials by 11/30/2023. Please direct any questions to the AeroAstro Diversity Officer. To be eligible, applicants must be current Ph.D. candidates in AeroAstro at the start of their tenure.
Please submit:

  • Resume
  • One page written Diversity Statement that speaks to your commitment to and experience with advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts
  • One letter of Recommendation from someone (not necessarily AeroAstro) who can speak to your involvement with community building
  • Signed form from advisor accepting terms of the Diversity Scholar

MIT Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
ERGs are one example of the variety of MIT-sponsored activities that all staff, including support staff, are encouraged to attend. Participation in these kinds of activities may provide long-term business benefits for MIT and professional and personal development for the participants. Participation in ERGs also contributes to a strong sense of “one community” at MIT.

LGBTQ+ Services
LBGTQ+ Services supports numerous student, employee, and alumni groups as well as other departments and initiatives on campus aiming to foster equity, intersectionality, and the continuum of social justice. From individual student support to organizational development and institutional policy advocacy, LBGTQ+ Services’ support, programming, and educational endeavors aim to enhance the experiences of MIT’s LBGTQ+ community.

QuASAR
The Queer Advocacy Space in AeroAstro is a group for all members of the AeroAstro community that are part of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. This group has two primary goals; to create a space where LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty can make connections in the department and improve the department culture around queer and trans-related issues.

Veterans
MIT and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics welcome veterans, service members, dependents, and affiliates from the US and abroad! In addition to graduate and undergraduate students, we count several veterans among our staff, faculty, and administration. As veterans may have unique circumstances and needs, we have linked some resources below to assist you with your journey to, though, and beyond MIT. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our student groups or the Department for additional assistance.

MIT Veterans Student Association
This group provides outreach, community-building, and advocacy to foreign and domestic MIT community veterans, active duty service members, national guard, and reservists.

Graduate Veterans Benefits
Learn about the resources available to graduate student veterans from MIT Student Financial Services.

Student Veterans Success
MIT’s dedicated point of contact for service members, veterans, and their dependents, collaborating with offices across the Institute to ensure a smooth transition to an academic career and help navigate VA education benefits.

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) sponsors a wide range of events, activities and initiatives for the AeroAstro community. From courageous conversations on specific topics related to race to co-sponsored large-scale celebrations of diverse cultures in the AeroAstro community. 

Thankful Gathering, November 2019

Events organized to promote ongoing DEI efforts include:

  • Blindspots Dialogue Series
    The Blind Spot Dialogue Speaker Series is a platform to provide a space to bring the AeroAstro community together with an invited faculty scholar who present and discuss evidence-based DEI relevant topics related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Gender, and LGBTQ+ issues. Each talk has a centralized theme.
  • Fireside Chat
    The Fireside Chat Series is a platform for the AeroAstro community to come together to increase cultural awareness through discussing relevant Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion topics in Higher Education. Additionally, we explore current events and DEI evidence-based literature, and selected books on the topic of race.
  • Promoting Inclusive Office Environments (PIE)
    In collaboration with the Institute Discrimination and Harrassment Response Office, AeroAstro provided PIE lab trainings to all AeroAstro labs
  • #ShutDownSTEM
    Denise Phillips and Raina K. Puels worked together with other members of administrative staff as well as GA^3 to host a virtual day-long program to engage the entire AeroAstro community in a discussion about systemic racism, which included topics such as unpacking privilege and addressing microaggressions in the classroom.

Contact

Denise Phillips, M.Ed.
AeroAstro Diversity Officer
Pronouns: she/hers

Email: dap1@mit.edu or aa-diversity@mit.edu
Office: 33-315

Submit a comment, question, or request a meeting.