Riley honored for diversity, equity and inclusion research

Assistant Professor Tennisha Riley has been awarded the Outstanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Achievements Award from the IU School of Education’s Diversity Committee. The purpose of the Award is to recognize IU School of Education faculty or staff who have demonstrated outstanding diversity, equity and inclusion achievements, a testament to the research Riley dedicates her career to doing.

I was incredibly honored to receive (this award),” Riley said. “This award was earned in collaboration with great colleagues, students and community members who have been gracious with their time and are engaged in addressing challenges to achieving equitable spaces. I am grateful for the award and for their collaboration."

All of Riley’s work addresses the need to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, a research lab she works with is called the Black Youth Emotional Development and Identity in Group Context research team: “Our goal is to understand how Black children and their families navigate racial discrimination and its emotional impact across multiple contexts,” Riley explained. “A key part of gaining that understanding is to acknowledge that Black children and their families are experts of their own experiences, so we include them as collaborators. That is one way that we ensure diversity in academic science/research, provide equity in decision-making in research, and include diverse perspectives.”

The work of DEI is about shifting our current structures that have maintained inequities of power. But that takes the help of many people and diverse perspectives.

Tennisha Riley

Last year, she wrapped up a community and youth-led project by developing a learning context where high school students would be in charge of their own research project. The idea was that youth are aware and knowledgeable but just need the adult support and space to address issues that are important to them. The group of youth Riley worked with came up with a really important and pressing issue to address racial discrimination in their schools. Since ending the project, they have continued in their efforts, with Riley adding the research team is honored to have been a part of their learning process and their pursuit of equity in their communities. The team considers the students to be an extension of the important DEI work they do.

Riley started at IU as a postdoc through the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES), a position which aims to get other DEI researchers and teachers to come to IU.

“This work is incredibly important and if we are serious, it should be embedded in what we do day-to-day. For example, within my teaching there is not a certain section or week when we talk about diverse experiences or systemic inequalities because we discuss DEI in every class session. I remember what it was like to be an underrepresented student at a large and predominantly white university. This work is important for students to see themselves in the physical space of the School of Education, within the curriculum, within academic research and to know that others who share their experiences are included as well (such as those in the Bloomington community),” Riley said.

In the future, her goals are to continue in the spirit of collaboration: “The work of DEI is about shifting our current structures that have maintained inequities of power. But that takes the help of many people and diverse perspectives.”

She’ll also share that perspective in a future Teach, Educate, Act Talk facilitated by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.