Laura Balzano receives 2023 MLK Spirit Award
Prof. Laura Balzano received a 2023 North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Award for her commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion – exemplifying the leadership and vision of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Working on DEI is so important to me because I had so many people throughout my career who believed in me, supported me, and helped me feel included in a very white male dominated field,” said Balzano. “I try to pay it forward with the hopes that our efforts will continue to build a community of engineers and mathematicians who strive for excellence, regardless of race or gender.”
Balzano actively contributes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) through her service, classroom instruction, and mentorship of research students. She has been an active member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Committee for an Inclusive Department (CID), where she helped draft a positive Code of Conduct for faculty. This effort has invigorated discussions and awareness regarding climate issues and the effects of faculty conduct on students, staff, and fellow faculty members.
In her classes, Laura incorporates diversity-promoting modules, including videos from Black engineers, a machine learning ethics lecture about race and gender bias in machine learning algorithms, as well as historical views of statisticians who studied and supported eugenics.
She has also been active in helping prepare the next generation of engineers through her support of outreach to high school students through Wolverine Pathways and the Engineering OnRamp.
“She has done all of this while conducting groundbreaking research in the machine learning area,” said Prof. Fred Terry, who has served with her on the CID committee. “Her interweaving of all these activities is a model for other faculty to emulate.”