Missed the live event? Read the recap on MIT News and check out the full video recording.

This event is organized by the MIT Communications Forum, a speaker series open to the public that fosters discussion around the cultural, political, and technological impact of communications as well as issues facing the MIT community. MIT GOV/LAB is one sponsor of this event. For more information on the origin of #BlackinTheIvory check out this piece in Nature

Left to right: Dr. Shardé Davis, Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden, Dr. James Mickens, and Tanya Ballard Brown (MIT Communications Forum).

For many Black scientists and researchers, working in academia means weathering systemic bias, micro-aggressions, and isolation. Dr. Shardé Davis, a communications researcher at the University of Connecticut, created #BlackInTheIvory this past summer as a platform for discussing the experiences of Black academics. Dr. Davis joins Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden, a nuclear engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and Dr. James Mickens, a computer scientist at Harvard University, to examine academia’s role in perpetuating institutional racism and efforts to change those systems. Tanya Ballard Brown, an editor at National Public Radio (NPR), will moderate.


Dr. Shardé Davis is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut and the creator of #BlackInTheIvory. Dr. Davis’s research examines the way Black women leverage communication in the sistah circle to invoke collective identity, erect and fortify the boundaries around their homeplace, and backfill the necessary resources to return to white/male dominant spaces in American society. Dr. Davis also serves as the Chair of the African American Communication and Culture Division (AACCD) of the National Communication Association.

Dr. James Mickens is the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University, where his research focuses on the performance, security, and large-scale distributed web services. Prior to his work at Harvard, Dr. Mickens spent six years at Microsoft Research where he worked in the Distributed Systems Group. He is currently on the Board of Directors at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden is a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Prior to taking on her current role at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Snowden completed fellowships at the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Nuclear Policy Program. She is the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT.

Moderator: Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor at National Public Radio (NPR), where’s she’s covered families of shooting victims in New Orleans, the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, and sexual assault against people with disabilities. Ballard Brown was a 2019 Nieman Foundation for Journalism Fellow where she studied how comedic journalism — the intersection of humor, satire, and journalism — can help journalists connect with their audiences and build community. Projects she has edited while at NPR and The Washington Post have been awarded Peabody, Murrow, and Gracie awards, among others.

All Communications Forum events are free and open to the general public. This event is co-sponsored by Radius at MIT and the MIT Governance Lab.

Photo by Muzammil Soorma on Unsplash. 

#BlackInTheIvory: Academia's Role in Institutional Racism