During the Spring 2023 semester, CUNY selected Project Director of the Men’s Center Dr. John Meche and Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Jean Berteau to be Diversity and Inclusion Fellows.

According to the program Website, “CUNY’s Central Office of Student Affairs (COSA) and the CUNY Innovative Teaching Academy (CITA) have created the CUNY Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship Program. This initiative supports faculty, staff and student leaders to create and implement equity- and justice-based workshops that help their colleagues enhance their campus climates and cultures.

“The overarching goal,” the statement continues, “is that we all begin to engage more intentionally and thoughtfully to create safe spaces for our students and colleagues that will empower them to fully and fearlessly participate in the CUNY community.”

When asked how he feels to be a part of the fellowship program, Dr. Meche stated, “I am extremely happy to have been selected as a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. After Trayvon Martin’s death, I became more involved in advocacy work. It was hard for me to watch men who looked like me being killed by those in a position of authority. So, I decided to act and become the change I wanted to see. This led me to conduct research for my dissertation on the ‘Lived Experiences of Male Students from the African Diaspora’ with a particular focus on gender, ethnicity, and race.”

For his part, Berteau said, “Being selected as a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow is an immense honor and a source of great enthusiasm for me. It represents an acknowledgment of the importance of diversity and inclusivity in academia. This opportunity allows me to actively contribute to a meaningful project exploring the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the sciences. The joy comes from personal achievement and the prospect of making a lasting impact on fostering a more inclusive scientific community.”  

Both Fellows have had extensive experience in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts at the College. In his current role, Dr. Meche provides guidance, mentoring, and coaching to male students through the Men’s Center and the Black and Latino Urban Male Initiative. He also serves as a resource to all male students and engages in discussions around racial and ethnic relations and social justice with the ultimate goal of addressing and developing solutions to race and gender-based disparities at CSI and working toward achieving racial equity.

Besides his academic role in the Physical Therapy Department, Dr. Berteau also serves on the advisory committee for Verrazzano School and Macaulay Honors programs, as well as being a member of the PT admissions program and the LGBTQ liaison for students in his department.

Throughout the course of the program, so far, both Fellows had an orientation, professional development sessions, and workshops that were designed to prepare them to conduct a workshop for the campus community.

Dr. Meche’s workshop is titled “Imposter Syndrome” and will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 2:30pm to 4:00pm.

“Imposter Syndrome,” Dr. Meche explained, “is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. The workshop aims to identify and provide strategies to navigate through the experience.”

Dr. Berteau stated that his project, “LGBTQIA+ Representation, Inclusivity, and Challenges in STEM,” which will take place on December 1 from 1:00pm too 2:00pm via Zoom, “delves into the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the sciences. Drawing from my biomedical engineering and clinical sciences background, I bring a unique perspective to the intersection of academia, diversity, and inclusion. I have been involved in various activities and initiatives, creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people in my lab, advocating for inclusivity in scientific research, and being a member of the Diversity Council at CSI.”

As they continue their work in the program, Drs. Meche and Berteau will work to affect positive change in the DEI landscape at the College.

Summing up his approach to his experience in the program, Dr. Meche said, “I have learned that if you’re not present at the table, then you might become the subject of discussions or decisions made without your input. My work in diversity, equity, and inclusion has made me realize the difficulties that many individuals experience in their daily lives. After completing my fellowship, I am committed to being a strong advocate for positive change.”

Dr. Berteau added, “I want to contribute to creating an inclusive environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and valued. This involves addressing the specific challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals in the sciences and fostering a broader culture of acceptance and collaboration. I aim to leave a positive and enduring impact on the scientific landscape by dismantling systemic barriers and promoting diversity.”

By Terry Mares