A conversation with Ariana Jasarevic

Ariana Jasarevic talks about what equity, diversity and inclusion mean to her and what she hopes to accomplish as the school’s first EDI staff member

Danielle Lacey 

The McKelvey School of Engineering has recently hired its first full-time staff member devoted to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion within the school.

Ariana Jasarevic joined McKelvey Engineering in 2018 and transitioned to the role of EDI specialist in November 2022. Jasarevic spoke on what she plans to do in this role, her goals for McKelvey Engineering and why EDI is important to her.

How did you end up at WashU and McKelvey Engineering?

I’ve been at WashU for almost 12 years. I started at the School of Medicine before transitioning to Human Resources. Once I got to HR, I was always a part of diversity, equity and inclusion committees. I’m an immigrant and was a refugee when I was younger. I’m also a woman with an international background, so I had many different perspectives to share.

I joined McKelvey Engineering around four years ago, and when the EDI staff position opened up, I was recruited for it.

What do you do in this role and how do you serve the committee?

There is a big need to pull together the different content, information and activities available in the school. I’m responsible for doing that as well as moving projects forward so they don't get stuck or siloed. I also support Marcus Foston, associate professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering, in his role as director of diversity initiatives.  

Why is equity, diversity and inclusion important to you?

When I was only 7 years old, I had to run from war and was a refugee. My family had to move again to a new country when I was 14 years old. I was inspired by how my parents — who didn’t speak the language, who didn’t have a community and who were considered “outsiders” — rebuilt their lives. Looking back, I have a lot of gratitude for the people and institutions who made us feel welcome. They looked at us from an equity standpoint and said, “You don't speak the language, so what do you need to succeed and provide for your family?”

I feel called to give back because I know what it feels like to not have the resources and support you need. It's possible to fix these issues, but it requires people to recognize each other’s struggles.

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

One of my big goals is to take EDI initiatives and incorporate them into our day-to-day actions. I don't want these initiatives to be abstract or just another thing on a to-do list. I've always been interested in how we can make our workplace more equitable. How can we bring EDI to the behavioral level to actually elicit change?

I studied organizational development and psychology and have always wanted to do institutional culture change, so I have knowledge of what that takes. I want to recognize and support people and the roles they play in these efforts so we can transition from doing EDI to being EDI.

How can members of the McKelvey Engineering community get involved in EDI efforts?

A lot of the work involved in equity, diversity and inclusion is learning about people and looking outside of ourselves. Try to think about who you’re interacting with who might need to be heard or what you can do for someone else.

Be curious about what is being shared. I would love for the McKelvey Engineering community to check out the EDI stories and newsletter, attend our events and be present as much as they can; but even if you can’t make it to campus, the next time you’re on Zoom with a coworker, leave a bit of space for that human interaction.

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