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DEI in action at UA EcoCAR

Written by: Helene Renninger

The University of Alabama’s EcoCAR EV Challenge team works to develop an energy efficient vehicle while addressing and educating members about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in mobility.

Bethany Welty is the DEI Manager for the UA EcoCAR EV Challenge. She is a senior studying math, and this is her third year with UA EcoCAR. While Bethany originally began and still is a part of UA EcoCAR’s V2X team, she is passionate about DEI and officially became the DEI manager for the EcoCAR EV Challenge. As the manager, Bethany works with the DEI team to recruit students, promote an environment of inclusion and diversity, and even created a series of DEI workshops for the team.

This past semester the DEI team has held the following workshops: DEI 101, Imposter Syndrome, Implicit Bias, Equity in Mobility. The DEI 101 workshop was an introduction to what diversity, equity, and inclusion means, and how it applies to UA EcoCAR. The imposter syndrome workshop addressed how students of all studies may experience feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt, and how to combat these struggles. Equity in Mobility workshops addresses the struggles of the disabled, elderly, and those below the poverty line regarding transportation. The DEI team discusses the options available to the local Tuscaloosa area, and where improvement lies.

Each workshop serves a key role in the education and well-being of UA EcoCAR members. DEI is incredibly significant from a technical standpoint, as engineering a car and only having input from one person will only allow it to benefit one person. If everyone working on the project is the same, it is difficult to consider aspects that require more accessibility. Considering that aspect, the DEI team works to recruit and retain students that represent the diversity of automotive customers. UA EcoCAR aims to build a vehicle to be accessible to everyone and the DEI team hopes to uphold this ideal in their community outreach efforts.

As we kick off the Spring 2023 semester, Bethany shares her thoughts on the past semester and her goals for the future. Improvements include consistent attendance and integrating more interactive discussions and activities. Attendance to a DEI workshop is a step of the UA EcoCAR onboarding process. This was effective in introducing new members to the role that DEI plays in EcoCAR and the opportunities available by joining the DEI team or continued attendance at future DEI workshops. The workshops typically take place prior to or after the all-hands meetings, making the time and place of the workshops very accessible. Bethany hopes to include more interactive discussions and activities in future workshops, addressing that many students have already sat through lectures and hopes that DEI workshops serve as a more interactive environment. These workshops are a wonderful place to meet other UA EcoCAR students from other teams. For instance, members of the communications team may not know those on the CAV team. However, the DEI workshops allow members of all UA EcoCAR teams to meet and discuss significant topics.

UA EcoCAR members look forward to the upcoming DEI workshops; DEI 102 and additional planning and discussion about Equity in Mobility are expected this semester.