Julia Wilcots and Rohini Shivamoggi recognized by MIT for their leadership in DEI

Wilcots and Shivamoggi have gone above and beyond to empower and mentor fellow students and researchers within MIT and EAPS on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

At the 2021 virtual MIT Convocation, EAPS graduate students Julia Wilcots and Rohini Shivamoggi were recognized for their outstanding contributions to MIT in the areas of public service. Both Wilcots and Shivamoggi have advocated for DEI through numerous avenues, such as scientific research papers, public opinion pieces, outreach events, and EAPS committees, like WiXII and “Towards Inclusion and Diversity in EAPS” (TIDE), to increase awareness and education, creating positive culture shifts.

Wilcots received the MIT Larry G. Benedict Leadership Award named for MIT’s first Dean of Student Life, who served from 2000-2007. It honors two students, one undergraduate and one graduate, who have shown dedication to empowering their fellow students to develop as leaders. Recipients are active mentors and coaches to their peers within the MIT community.

Within the department, Wilcots has served as the EAPS Student Advisory Committee (ESAC) co-president, a GSC Diversity Conduit, on diversity council. She is one of the co-founders and co-leaders of TIDE, which provided a foundation for surveys, discussions, a graduate application mentorship program, and procedural changes within the department to improve inclusiveness in the geosciences and at MIT. She’s also a member of “Unlearning Racism in Geoscience” (URGE) is a community-wide, journal discussion, and policy-design curriculum to help geoscientists unlearn racism and improve accessibility, justice, equity, and inclusion (AJEDI). Wilcots has been active with the DEI officer Hiring Search Student and Postdoc Advisory Group (SPAG), the #shutdownstem event last year, and mentorship.

The nomination highlighted her focus on creating a “lasting positive change through her research and across the geoscience community. Her peers observed, ‘Julia’s grit and leadership are continuous sources of inspiration.’ Julia is regarded as the ‘face of EAPS,’ and she led several initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in EAPS.” Wilcots has been active in public service through numerous clubs since high school and is “excited about solving problems” including inequities in EAPS. She says that , “I am very proud of the work that Rohini and I did as ESAC co-presidents to promote student involvement and advocacy, which ultimately led to the creation of TIDE. … I am confident that TIDE has had a positive impact on many of my fellow students of color within EAPS, and I do feel like we have successfully pushed for (some of the) necessary changes in the department. I’d like to think this award is a testament to that.”

Wilcots is a fourth year PhD student in Geology, Geobiology and Geochemistry working with Kristin Bergmann. Her research focuses on the carbonate rock record at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. She aims to understand how shallow marine environments and climate have changed throughout Earth history. When she’s not looking at or thinking about rocks, Julia enjoys biking, hiking, camping, skiing. She would always rather be outside than inside.

“I would not have been able to do any of the service I have done in EAPS without the help and support of my peers — especially Rohini, Meghana [Ranganathan], Diana [Dumit], and Kasturi [Shah], says Wilcots. “And I really could not have done any of this without the support of my advisor, Kristin Bergmann.”

Rohini Shivamoggi received the MIT Mens et Manus Award, recognizing “a senior and a graduating masters or doctoral candidate in our community who has shown a passion and affinity for diversity and inclusion work. To be nominated for this award, the student must have made a lasting impact on the MIT community. This student has gone above and beyond to bring awareness to issues of diversity and inclusion at MIT and has been active in the community to promote cultural awareness.”

At MIT, Shivamoggi has worn many hats, including co-founding TIDE, managing the website for WiXII, serving as co-president of the EAPS Student Advisory Committee and GSC Diversity Conduit, and providing mentoring as a Resources for Easing Friction and Stress (REF) coach. She’s presented workshops and an AGU poster on resources and techniques to improve mentorship in an academic setting. Her research looks into hurricanes and her broader research interests include moist convection, tropical meteorology and dynamics, and the interactions between hurricanes and climate. “Out of my contributions, I think TIDE means the most to me because of how enthusiastically students and postdocs in EAPS joined, participated, and started volunteering to do work too,” says Shivamoggi. “I think there was a lot of demand for something like TIDE, so I’m glad that we set it up in time for everyone to get involved!”

Shivamoggi says that public service, such as hers, is “necessary work” that needs to be owned by leadership. Her efforts have helped to invigorate new dialogue with EAPS. “…while DEI issues are complex, I think there are also many areas in which organizers and scholars have already put work into finding solutions. To me, the biggest obstacle is that nobody wants to step up to take responsibility for making sure the work gets done, and eventually I got tired of waiting and decided that I would step up in whatever way I could.”

These were highlighted during the MIT RISE Awards ceremony. “Rohini is a name that immediately springs to mind when asked, ‘who has made a lasting impact on the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT?’ said one of her nominators. The list of her initiatives is long, but one of her lasting impacts will be co-funding ‘Towards Increasing Diversity in EAPS’ (TIDE) and setting up an application mentorship program for underserved applicants.”

“It feels really motivating just to be in these spaces where people are always searching for ways to grow and do better by those around us, says Shivamoggi. “I think it’s important for me, emotionally, to feel like I’m not powerless in the face of injustice, and especially this year, I feel profoundly grateful for and inspired by the sense of belonging and commitment to a better world that I’ve found in these spaces. I hope that those around me have felt the same.”

Watch the 2021 MIT Awards Convocation. Shivamoggi is recognized at 10:08 and Wilcots at 48:08. Also honored were Professors Susan Solomon for UROP Outstanding Mentor (10:40) and Kristin Bergmann for the Paul Gray Award (45:30), and 2020 awardee Charlotte Minsky for the Karl Taylor Compton Prize (5:04).

Story Image: headshots of Julia Wilcots (left) and Rohini Shivamoggi Credits: courtesy of the students