New assistant dean dedicated to nurturing an anti-racist culture in CoSE
Professor Diane Harris will lead the implementation of the College of Science & Engineering’s strategic plan to create an environment of multiculturalism, inclusiveness and equity
San Francisco State University Professor Diane Harris is the newly appointed assistant dean for the College of Science & Engineering (CoSE), tasked with institutionalizing an anti-racist multicultural community within the college. The inspiration for the position began in 2020 when CoSE issued a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd and others, such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
“We must honor those who sacrificed their lives. Although we continue to experience the trauma of racism, we must commit to confronting racism and to stopping its violence and destruction,” Harris noted. “More than likely, because of its ingrained historic and continuous perpetuation, we will not eradicate racism in its entirety — however, we have a choice. We can sit back and do nothing and let this racist destruction continue or we can actively do something by creating an anti-racist community within CoSE.”
As assistant dean, Harris is tasked with implementing the goals and objectives of the Strategic Action Plan developed by the CoSE Anti-Racism Task Force and completed in August 2022. Harris credits CoSE Dean Carmen Domingo for starting CoSE’s initial conversations and coordinating community commitment three years ago. One of Assistant Dean Harris’ tasks, in collaboration with Dean Domingo and members of CoSE, is to create an Anti-Racism Committee (ARC). Harris will work closely with ARC — which will be comprised of faculty, staff and students representing multicultural communities — to meet the Strategic Action Plan’s short- and long-term goals and accountability benchmarks for dismantling racist structures and building new structures of multiculturalism, inclusion, equity and anti-racism within the college.
Among the overarching goals of the Strategic Action Plan is the goal of assessing the racial climate that CoSE students, faculty and staff experience in their academic endeavors. Although eradicating racism is a worthy goal, Harris knows it’s a lofty one and she points out that this work is very complex.
“We will be constantly evaluating our policies and practices to discern whether or not they are effective in allowing us to change the existing racial climate to an inclusive and equitable community of multiculturalism,” she explained. This process requires commitment from faculty, staff and students, as well as time, effort and resources to facilitate the building of an anti-racism, multicultural community.
Another goal of the CoSE Strategic Action Plan aligns with the commitment across SF State and the CSU system to generate a climate of anti-racism through social justice for diversity, inclusion and equity. Building partnerships between CoSE and other colleges throughout the SF State community will advance social justice, create a climate of anti-racism and produce a community of multiculturalism, inclusion and equity across campus.
The work toward achieving the intended goals for creating a multicultural, inclusive and equitable community is intensive and requires experience. Harris has plenty of experience with the community at SF State based on both her childhood and professional experiences.
“I think all of this really started with my mother,” Harris said. Her mother worked full time while attending some classes at SF State and later became a longtime credentialed teacher for the Berkeley Unified School District. Harris recalls accompanying her mother to class as a child and often waited in the library while her mother attended class. She marveled at the librarians’ kindness (and patience) and fondly recalls pretending to be a college student. These experiences and the support from her family inspired Harris to pursue her education and to become a licensed psychologist, credentialed school psychologist and SF State professor. Harris never forgot those early SF State memories and deeply cherishes them.
In the Psychology Department, Harris has been the graduate coordinator for the school psychology concentration, taught and trained graduate students in the clinical psychology concentration and taught clinical psychology courses to undergraduate students prior to her recent appointment as assistant dean. Her research has focused on the development of eating disorders within communities of color. Harris’ commitment to service is evidenced by many positions of leadership in professional and civic organizations at local and national levels, and at SF State she has participated and held leadership positions in numerous on-campus service committees.
Harris also has served as one of the co-principal investigators for the NSF Advance IT Catalyst and a co-investigative team member for the NSF Transforms grant. These grants aim to examine the institutional policies and practices and transform the climate at SF State to an inclusive and supportive environment for the advancement of faculty women, especially women of color, in the academic STEM-related professions.