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Let's Start Here

Story by
J. Murray Gibson, Ph.D.
multiethnic hands

Intentional focus on diversity, inclusion and ending systemic bias on our campus and beyond

As the nexus of two distinct universities, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is uniquely positioned to build on the strengths of each of our great universities. The partnership of Florida A&M University, a top-ranked HBCU and Florida State University, a top-ranked Research-1 institution, brings unique opportunities for excellence, one of which is the prospect to be a leader with regard to diversity, inclusion and race relations in higher education. I believe that our unique diversity is a great strength. However, we know that we are not all that we could be, that the social injustice we see nationally is reflected in the college, and that we have a responsibility to be leaders and not followers in diversity and inclusion.

Embracing diversity, achieving inclusion and confronting bias has always been, and continues to be, one of our most important tasks in educating engineers. In the words of Ryunosuke Satoro, “Alone, we are a drop. But together, we are an ocean.”

Date:    March 25, 2021

To:       The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Community

From:   Murray Gibson, Dean & Mahogany Newell, Chair, Let’s Start Here Leadership Committee

Re:       Statement of Support for Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

The Let’s Start Here Leadership Committee members wish to offer their sincere condolences to the families, friends and communities impacted by last week’s violence targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Atlanta and the senseless mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Our students, faculty and staff within the College of Engineering may find themselves and their loved ones reflected in the victims.  

It is a sorrowful time. It is a time for reflection and action. 

We stand by your side and are committed to combatting xenophobia, misogyny and the “othering” of our community members.

In engineering disciplines, we work together to solve humanity’s problems and design better solutions for all. It is in this spirit we will continue to work together towards building an inclusive community, strengthened because of its diversity.

To those in the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander community who are also in our college: You belong here. You are valued here. You matter.

We will host a virtual Share Space on Friday, March 26 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm via Zoom. This will be a safe, inclusive space for all who want to respectfully share their thoughts, experiences and needs. Join us at: https://fla.st/3lLIcIB

Please know and make use of the campus resources available to our students at our partner universities:

  • Florida A&M University: To schedule an appointment, students can walk-in or contact the FAMU Office of Counseling Services by phone at (850) 599-3145. For after-hours counseling, call (833) 848-1765 (for counseling only; not for making appointments).
  • Florida State University: If you or someone you know experiences racism, harassment or targeted violence of any kind at Florida State, please file a report at report.fsu.edu. Campus resources are available for faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program and for students through the University Counseling Center



Let’s Start Here Leadership Committee Meetings

May 6, 2021 at 10:00 am (via Zoom)

June 10, 2021 at 12:00 pm (via Zoom)

July 15, 2021 at 10:00 am (via Zoom)

August 4, 2021 at 5:00 pm (via Zoom)

If you have questions or would like to attend any of these meetings, please contact Tisha Keller. If you need reasonable accommodations to attend, please let us know in writing at least 3 business days in advance. 

Find resources and information about this committee’s work here.

Let’s Start Here initiative Leadership Committee

This group will outline our path forward into this uncharted territory. It will be under their counsel that we define the next steps. The table will be big enough for everyone, and there will be a seat at it for all who want to engage in a meaningful conversation about what it means—and could mean—to be FAMU-FSU Engineering.

  • Rachit Agarwal, FSU graduate student
  • Ja’Niyah Allen, FAMU undergraduate student
  • Breda Arnell, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Sam Awoniyi, Department of Industrial &   Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mark Bacchus, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
  • Richmond Bowen, FSU undergraduate student
  • Nathan Brooks, Boeing
  • Yuqi Cheng, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Jair Cole, FAREVA
  • Lauren Daley, FSU undergraduate student
  • Michelle Douglas, Florida State University
  • Deborah Gautier, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
  • Kimberly Hunter, Department of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering
  • Sungmoon Jung, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Courtney McHenry, Florida A&M University
  • Mahogany Newell, NextEra Energy Transmission
  • Juan Ordonez, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Tracey Payne-Tellis, Aptiv Automotive Data Connectivity
  • David Perez, FAMU graduate student
  • Jeremy Phillips, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
  • Garit Poire, Turner Construction
  • Sandi Smith-Anderson, Florida A&M University
  • Kosi Sumpter, FAMU undergraduate student
  • Sabrina Torres, FSU undergraduate student

Message from the Dean

Dear FAMU-FSU Engineering family,
I am reaching out to you to connect during these difficult times with a heart that is troubled and frustrated by recent events. I am deeply disturbed by the insidiousness of injustice and inequity in our society, and I want to express my worry and concern for each of you. Please know that you are important; to your family, of course, but also to me, to our staff and faculty, your community, our nation, and the world.
Let's Start HereIn light of the current turmoil, I am grateful for what we are working to accomplish at our college—a unique and progressive partnership between two proud institutions whose history began in segregation. We have made progress toward equity and fairness in engineering education, but we still have a long way to go to achieve our dream.
The goal of improving diversity and inclusion within the college expands this year with a process we are calling #LetsStartHere. The first step, in the Fall semester, begins as each of us completes a detailed anonymous survey of our climate. Then begins an extensive and inclusive process to honestly identify any barriers—whether based on race, gender or other individual differences—that exist in the college, and to work on eliminating them. The process will be challenging, uncomfortable and possibly painful at times as we work through difficult and divisive issues. Watching the news has brought home, however, how high the stakes can be if we fail to take seriously the challenge of improving the world for all.
During the summer I will be assembling a LetsStartHere leadership committee composed of students, faculty, staff and alumni, to guide us through this difficult but cathartic process. I urge us all to fully engage in the process, but please let me know if you would like to play a larger role in shaping #LetsStartHere.
As engineers, we want to design and build a better world. Let us work together to make our college a model for the nation.

J. Murray Gibson
Dean, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

P.S. You can read my Diversity & Inclusion Plan (April 2019) which will serve as a template for the structural growth I intend for FAMU-FSU Engineering.

Interested in being a part of the Let’s Start Here initiative? Volunteer below: