In memory of Donna T. Auzenne - first African American female graduate in Petroleum Engineering
Meet Dr. Taniecea Mallery, the director of equity, diversity and community engagement in the Office for Campus Diversity. She's been on the job for about eight months, and returned to Acadiana after earning her master's and doctorate from Princeton University and working in Washington, DC.
With her background in math and a love of data, Dr. Mallery's approach to improving campus diversity is an analytical one. As director, she's working to foster diversity among students, faculty, and staff, and to ensure that underrepresented groups have equal access to educational opportunities and resources.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I’m obsessed with Sudoku puzzles—especially during long flights. It’s always fun to see the strange faces I get from passengers seated next to me when they realize I’ve done about 20 puzzles over the course of a 2-hour flight!
How do you use your mathematics background in your role as the Office for Campus Diversity director?
My math background comes in handy quite a bit! I’m a very strategic thinker, so I like to dig into the data to really understand diversity in terms of the demographics of our students, faculty, and staff. And because of my own personal experiences as a mathematician, I’m especially passionate about increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me is a combination of meetings, student events, and planning for the next thing. One of my favorite aspects of the job is the ability to interact with students one day, faculty and staff the next day, and the community on the day after that. No two days are ever the same, and that certainly keeps the job interesting and fun!
What would surprise people to know about your job?
As busy as I am with campus activities, much of my work is spent off campus, engaging with the community. In just this past year, I’ve cultivated relationships with groups such as One Acadiana, the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce, the Acadiana Black Nurses Association, and the United Way of Acadiana.
The relationship between UL Lafayette and the surrounding community is a quality that is unique to the Acadiana area. Many of these organizations share the same goals as the Office for Campus Diversity, and I especially enjoy broadening the reach of the office to have a positive impact on the community. I’m looking forward to reaching out to even more community organizations in the coming years.
What do you want to accomplish as the Director of Equity, Diversity and Community Engagement?
My biggest hope for this role is to have a positive impact on the climate and culture for equity and diversity on campus. Creating and sustaining a campus environment that is welcoming and supportive of diverse perspectives will ensure that all students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to thrive and to succeed.
What’s been your favorite experience on campus so far?
One of my favorite experiences so far has been a partnership with the Graduate School to create a new community of support for minority and underrepresented graduate students. Named for the first African American to obtain a graduate degree at UL Lafayette, the James Jackson Community of Scholars provides professional development and a network of support for graduate students. I attribute much of my own success in graduate school to my involvement with a similar organization at Princeton University, so it has been a personal goal of mine to bring that sort of resource to our own graduate students.
Anything else we should know about you or your job?
Since I am a researcher at heart, I love opportunities to blend my research interests with my work in equity, diversity, and community engagement. In fact, I think diversity work that is grounded in research is the most effective. So, I am always excited for opportunities to collaborate with faculty and students on research projects.
Why did you want to come to UL Lafayette? Did you have any previous connections to the area?
I am originally from the Lafayette area, so I always knew that I wanted to return one day. After living in New Jersey and Washington, DC, for several years, I was especially thrilled with the opportunity to join the University—to be back home near family and contribute to the community that I have always loved. Oh, and the food is great too. Oh, the food!
How do you take your coffee—and how many cups do you need every day?
I’m more of a tea drinker than a coffee drinker. My favorite is chai tea with just a hint of cream, but I don’t need to have a cup every day. I’m a morning person, so I’m usually pretty chipper even without caffeine!
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