Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in ESE

The Department of Engineering Systems and Environment (ESE) strives for a community in which all our members are acknowledged and appreciated for the characteristics that make us diverse, including; ability condition, age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, medical condition, nationality, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Our diversity makes ESE an innovative, efficient, and enjoyable department in which to learn, work, and advance.

Many institutions, including UVA, perpetuate bias and favoritism based on race, gender, ethnicity, and place of origin  through inherited design and structure. Members of our society continue to be treated unjustly, because of the color of their skin. Members of the Black community in particular have been denied equal opportunity, justice, and protection, under the law.

ESE acknowledges that people of color are particularly underrepresented in the ESE community and we will devote special attention to achieving their full representation in our department.

ESE believes that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are core principles valued and shared by all members of our community and we are committed to pursuing and preserving these principles in our department.


The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goal of ESE is to pursue a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community in the Department that promotes an innovative, efficient and enjoyable environment to learn, work, and advance. ESE will achieve this goal through three objectives, namely:

  1. Attract, recruit, retain, and advance a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty that reflect the composition of our society.
  2. Continuously engage in open communication and transparent policies and actions to address DEI issues in our community and greater society.
  3. Partner with our broader community in SEAS, UVA, Charlottesville, nationally, and globally to promote and achieve the benefits of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.

To foster a shared understanding of our vision, we define Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as follows[1]:


Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In this case, the workplace is the setting and the differences typically refer to identities like ability condition, age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, medical condition, nationality, race, religion, and sexual orientation. A person is not diverse. They are unique. However, they can bring diversity to a group. We are not looking for diverse individuals. Diversity is about a collective or a group.


Equity is an approach that ensures that everyone has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes that we do not all start from the same place because advantages and barriers exist. It is a process that acknowledges uneven starting places and seeks to correct the imbalance. Diversity and inclusion are both outcomes. Equity is not. It refers to the process an organization engages in to ensure that people with marginalized identities have the opportunity to grow, contribute, and develop.


Inclusion has to do with people with different identities, feeling  valued, leveraged, and welcomed within a given setting (whether that is a team, workplace, or industry). Longtime Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion educator, Verna Myers, said: “Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance[2].” Inclusion is not a natural consequence of diversity. You can have a diverse team of talent, but that does not mean they feel welcomed,  valued, or given opportunities to grow.


[2] Myers, V., Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go from Well-Meaning to Well-Doing, American Bar Association, 2016.

Message From Brian Smith

Dear Systems and Civil Engineering Students

I am writing to inform you of an upcoming workshop series offering provided through the department this academic year. This workshop series will cover the foundations of Social Justice through the lens of Engineering. This eight-part workshop series will take place over both Fall and Spring semesters and be available both in-person and virtually.

Workshop attendees that complete all workshops will be eligible for a Certificate of Completion. This certificate acknowledges your hard work and participation as our inaugural Engineering in Social Justice Cohort.

You can find more details regarding the workshop series here. Additionally, the instructors have asked that those interested in participating complete the application form found here. The deadline to apply for this workshop series is by 5 pm on Wednesday, September 8th.

If you have any questions about the instructional series that you would like answered before registering, please contact Patrick Hancock (pih9nc@virginia.edu) or Sadegh Eghdami (me2ts@virginia.edu).



Brian Smith