I arrived in Cincinnati on Christmas day in 2015 with my husband, my 2-year-old daughter, and my amazing Mom who came with us from Brazil. I came to explore a job opportunity as a professor and scientist at the Center of Cognition, Action, & Perception (CAP) at the University of Cincinnati. The CAP center is home to a team of researchers from multiple disciplines (Psychology, Engineering, Physical Therapy, Philosophy) among others with a core mission that aligns with mine. That is why I came! Professionally, I have found colleagues that are not only amazing scientists, but compassionate people committed to creating an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. With their help, I have been working on designing novel methods and technological tools to assess and enhance performance of individuals with movement-related disability and those at risk for sports injury. I have had the honor to teach and learn from an amazing group of students from diverse backgrounds. Personally, I stayed because I have found new friends that supported me and my family and saw us through the many challenges that come with living far from family and long-terms friends. I hope to stay for much longer, grow my research program, and inspire others from under-represented backgrounds to join in the fun of a career in STEM!
A city that welcomes, includes, and give opportunities to people from diverse places and backgrounds can benefit and grow from the diverse perspectives they bring to their communities and workplaces. Those living in the city get to enjoy a variety of cultural experiences different from their own without the need to fly around the world. Completely new and unique ways of doing things can emerge when people from diverse cultures with shared interest mingle. A great example for me is the unique mofongos (an originally Puerto Rican dish) you can only try in a Cincinnati restaurant born from a Cuban/Brazilian and Puerto Rican friendship, fueled by their shared passion for food, science, and business. I think immigrants and refugees are more likely to stay at a place away from their home country when they feel a sense of belonging in the new community without having to give up their own individual identities and their cultural practices.
In my vision of a truly global region, international citizens have such a strong sense of belonging that they feel liberated to live their cultural practices “out loud” and feel empowered to contribute their unique perspectives on societal challenges to the benefit of all. I believe for such a vision to be realized we need people in organizations and in the community at large who are “space makers”. That is, we need people who think critically about and talk about current practice, and use their power to change these practices as needed. This is critical for people of all backgrounds to develop a sense that their integration does not require assimilation of the predominant culture. Ultimately, we need open-minded people in general who are willing to take the time to truly get to know and build friendships with newcomers to their workplace, neighborhoods, and communities. This is a great way to challenge our misconceptions about particular groups of people, which is a critical barrier to the dissemination of ideas (and ultimately policies) that promote inclusive practices necessary to create a more vibrant and welcoming region.