Steve Simske among cohort of fellows for 2020-2021 Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence

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Indoor portrait of Steve Simske
Steve Simske, professor of systems engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at Colorado State University.

Over the past year, Steve Simske, professor in systems engineering, has been part of the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. The goal of the FIIE is to create a learning environment for faculty to engage in topics of diversity and inclusion in pedagogy, curriculum, and campus communities.

Since 2015, FIIE has been administered six times and awarded over 40 fellows. Simske is the second faculty member from Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering to become a FIIE fellow. Rebecca Atadero, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering, was part of the inaugural group of faculty members in 2015.

As a part of this program, participants engage in 20 hours of content and are committed for a year-long program with a final project at the end.

Simske’s final project involved the development of a neutral, non-judgmental storyboard to show how discrimination arises from the human need for self-preservation.

“The goal was to create something that prevents people from shutting down when you start talking about discrimination or biases,” Simske said.

His project, titled “No Trigger: Showing the Harmful Effects of Discrimination Without Eliciting a Shutdown or Denial Reaction by the Audience,” compared the mechanisms of how the human immune system develops its ability to discriminate between self and non-self to discrimination of people based on their identities.

“The immune system was a good starting place because it uses a lot of the same terminology as diversity, equity, and inclusion work,” Simske said. “For example, discrimination is a term in immunology that refers to the immune system’s response to non-selves.”

Simske hopes that people can use this initial storyboard to develop similar ones for other disciplines that may not be as engaged with an introduction to the human immune system.

“The hope is that people can find a project that relates to their audience to encourage engagement and not enragement,” Simske said.