Brown University's Alfred H. Joslin Joslin Awards recognize a small group of seniors who have contributed in a very significant way to the quality of student life at Brown, enhancing the learning environment for all students by providing their peers with services, programs, and other opportunities for involvement. This year, one of the winners was Brown CS student Chelse-Amoy Steele, who recently graduated with a joint concentration in Computer Science and Africana Studies.
Out of numerous achievements (President of the Undergraduate Council of Students, multiple teaching assistantships, spearheading Project Tampon, contributions to a free textbook initiative, and activism work with accountability and institutional bias), Chelse cites Mosaic+ as the creation she's most proud of during her time in Providence. The student-led initiative aims to create a receptive and equitable space for racially underrepresented minority students and faculty at Brown CS, and Chelse describes it as the best example of the focus on diversity and access to resources that's been the center of her student experience.
"The spirit we started with," she says, "had activism at its core. We wanted to be in community and work together with folks who looked like us, not just improve numbers but take proactive measures to secure a sense of belonging for underrepresented folks in the department. That meant that we needed to look at who was missing and not just include them compositionally, but make space for them in all facets of Brown CS. Our goal was to start a conversation, to really change the tide."
Now that other students will be taking the Mosaic+ helm, Chelse says she's eager to see how Brown CS will continue to take a proactive stance and implement the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan that she helped create: "We were students in the Department who felt forgotten. It took us boldly speaking up and acknowledging our experiences –and the inequities that created them– as consequential in order for change to happen. I'm proud of the work that we did and am proud of the students who will be leading the organization as we leave. I hope that when they bring forth new issues students are facing, they'll be heard and responded to, but more than anything, this experience has taught me that response is not enough. It is important to proactively see and understand the needs of folks who are often not thought of. I hope that Brown CS, folks in industry, research, and even at other institutions will continue to nurture this work – not solely in response to crises, but through conditioning themselves to be more critical and thoughtful in regards to the needs and experiences of underrepresented students."
Modestly describing herself as a "do what needs to be done" person, Chelse is also looking forward to her new career at Microsoft, where she's accepted a position as a Product Manager in their Educational Products division, which produces software such as Immersive Reader and OneNote Class Notebook. There's little doubt she'll be putting to use the energy and creative powers that helped earn her Joslin Award.
"It's not a stretch to see certain needs – to know that there is an issue," she says. "Figuring out how to address it is the hard part. I'm proud of the creativity of the interventions that I've been a part of and hope that when I come back to visit Brown CS, the world the next generations of leaders of Mosaic+, the Diversity Advocates, WiCS, and the Mental Health Advocates create will continue to be one of excellence, rigorous criticism, and passionate activism!"
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.