Carnegie Mellon University

MOSAIC 2020: An Annual Conference on Intersectionality

Redefine, Reprioritize, and Re-Engage: Finding Humanity in a Post-Pandemic World

  • Sunday, November 1, 2:00-5:30 PM EST
  • Monday, November 2, 4:00-6:45 PM EST
  • Thursday, November 5, 6:30-8:30PM EST

The Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion at Carnegie Mellon University is pleased to present our annual MOSAIC conference in a virtual format. Our conference theme this year is "Redefine, Reprioritize, and Re-Engage: Finding Humanity in a Post-Pandemic World." 

MOSAIC 2020 will happen in the long shadows of a continuing COVID-19 pandemic and all the systemic fractures that it has revealed, the global Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice, and--soon to come--the US presidential elections. Through the lens of intersectionality, we wish to continue a critical community conversation about the societal and political contexts that we inhabit, the injustices that mar our collective humanity, and what it means to re-engage with that humanity. Furthermore, we want to embolden attendees to take MOSAIC 2020 as an opportunity to reflect deeply and act concretely for justice and community. Lastly, we hope to provide a space for our on- and off-campus community to build solidarity and community with one another during a time of physical distance.

This event is funded, in part, by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), Graduate Student Activities Fee, Feminists Engaged in Multicultural Matters and Education (FEMME), and Undergraduate Student Senate.

MOSAIC 2020 is open to all presenters who are interested in or working in community building and social justice spaces. We are looking for 60- or 75-minute workshops on a wide variety of topics. More specifically, we seek workshops that use the lens of intersectionality to investigate societal, humanitarian, political, and historical issues. Examples of topics include but are not limited to: decolonizing medical training and healthcare practices; structural oppression in the age of technology; artivism (art and activism). Furthermore, we hope that workshops provide one or more of the following components: context, knowledge, and actionable items that attendees can apply later.

Reasons to present:

  • Inspire others to take meaningful actions.
  • Share best practices and examples of programs/projects in which you have implemented those practices successfully.
  • Foster an environment to allow for sharing of ideas, create opportunities for partnerships, and facilitate connection for future collaboration.
  • Connect with fellow presenters and community members of similar goals.

View a PDF version of the application. Submissions for presentations will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on September 29, 2020.

The application to become a presenter has now closed.


MOSAIC Giveaway

MOSAIC Conference attendees will be entered into a raffle for giveaways including:

  • Merchandise from MOSAIC, 1Hood Media, and City of Asylum

  • Candles from Blis 23 (a woman-owned, black-owned, Pittsburgh candle company)

  • CMU Bookstore gift certificates

Winners must be located within the United States for shipping reasons.

We will let our winners know what they’ve won following the last day of the conference and will work with them to coordinate delivery. Register and attend MOSAIC 2020 to enter to win.

Conference Schedule

View our conference program.

2:00 - 2:30 p.m. EST

Introductory Plenary

Description: Introductory Plenary by the MOSAIC 2020 Planning Committee, the Graduate Student Assembly, and the Undergraduate Senate

2:45 - 4:00 p.m. EST

Blockbuster Session with Mónica Ruiz

Speaker: Mónica Ruiz-Carabello, Executive Director, Casa San José

Description: Mónica Ruiz-Caraballo is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Mónica has been working with Casa since 2014 when she started as an intern, then moved to service coordinator and then community organizer. Prior to that, she worked for Catholic Charities as a case manager. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio and has Latino roots from Guatemala and Puerto Rico, where her mom and her dad are originally from. Mónica holds a Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology.

Mónica is a powerful advocate for Latinos on legal, housing, development, and educational issues. She fights for those facing deportation proceedings and launches projects to assist women, children and youth. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all.

4:15 - 5:30 p.m. EST - Concurrent Workshops

Breakin' Binaries: Gender Disruption in the Virtual Age

Facilitators: kai huizenga (they, them), 4th year undergraduate, Carnegie Mellon University; Névé Monroe-Anderson (he, they), 2nd year undergraduate, Carnegie Mellon University; Ranjan Mahanth (they, he), 3rd year undergraduate, Carnegie Mellon University

Description: In this workshop, three current nonbinary CMU students will guide you on a bias-busting, educational, and explorative journey through ‘gender’ and binary regimes. We will engage with two central dialogues. In the first, ‘AP Gender’, we will deconstruct the nature of gender before discussing how these systems affect misconceptions, and the lived experience of trans, intersex, and nonbinary folkz. We will examine how those experiences intersect with other systems of oppression like racism, classism, and ableism. In the second, ‘Community, Collectives, and Comfort in Covid-19 Contexts’, we will provide perspectives and prompts to engage with the impact this pandemic and this ‘Virtual Age’ have had on our communities. Come through and learn with us in a lively, whole-hearted conversation! 

Content warning: transphobia, queer-phobia, internalized oppression, emotional and traumatic narratives, frank bodily/anatomical language

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: Some experience


Intersectional Environmentalism: Protecting People and the Planet

Facilitators: Maegan Bogetti (she, her), 2nd year undergraduate, Carnegie Mellon University

Description: Intersectional Environmentalism is a contemporary movement revolutionizing environmentalism in the 21st century. Pioneered by activist Leah Thomas, this movement focuses on the interconnectedness of social justice and environmental justice. It centers people at the forefront of the conversation about environmental issues. In this presentation, CMU undergraduate student Maegan Bogetti will contextualize the emergence of this philosophy, explain the mission of the Intersectional Environmentalist council, and explore an issue prioritized by the movement. As a case study, this presentation will focus in on the fashion industry, particularly the human and environmental costs of this system. This presentation will leave the audience equipped with knowledge on how to incorporate this perspective and its goals into their own lives, disciplines, work, and thinking. It will illustrate how intersectional environmentalism will be a crucial consideration in shaping a post-pandemic world. 

Content warning: Photos from the Rana Plaza building collapse will be shown. These images may be disturbing to some viewers. 

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: No prior experience


Intersectionality in Fair Machine Learning: Where Are We and Where Should We Go from Here?

Facilitators: Hoda Heidari, Ph.D., School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University; Steven Wu, Ph.D., School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Description: Machine Learning (ML) technologies have brought about substantial change to society. They increasingly influence our economic activities, political choices, and cultural attitudes in a myriad of ways. The rapidly growing influence of these technologies on individuals, communities, and society at large has given rise to an urgent need to ensure that they reflect our collective values, such as fairness and justice. As a concrete example, ML technologies increasingly automate or inform high-stakes decisions in areas such as education, employment, credit-lending, child welfare, health, and criminal justice. If not done carefully, ML-based decision-making systems may fail to correct for social injustices and impose unfair harms or burdens on already-vulnerable social groups and individuals. Through that vein, ML may exacerbate structural oppressive forces against disadvantaged communities and bolster systemic discrimination against their members. This realization has spawned an active research area into quantifying and guaranteeing fairness for ML (Fair-ML). 

Fair-ML has proposed various mathematical formulations of fairness. The majority of these notions focus on "group-level" fairness, requiring that a certain metric—quantifying benefit or harm—to be equal across socially salient categories such as race or gender. Another class of formulations suggests formalizing fairness at the individual level, requiring that individuals who are "similar" with respect to the task at hand receive similar outcomes. We will provide a brief overview of these formulations, and discuss the legal contexts and political interpretations behind the existing mathematical definitions of “fairness” in ML. 

Among the many shortcomings of the Fair-ML scholarship to date, prior work in this area has devoted relatively little attention to intersectionality and fairness at different levels of granularity. We will provide several examples illustrating the importance of accounting for the interconnected nature of social categories and circumstances when defining, measuring, and mitigating ML (un)fairness. Next, we will present an overview of the small but growing line of work on intersectional- and subgroup-fairness, covering existing methods for eliciting subjective judgments and perceptions of fairness, translating these judgments into computationally-feasible formulations, and algorithmic mechanisms for reducing the resulting unfairness notions in ML predictions. 

In the second half, we will critically discuss the existing Fair-ML work on intersectionality. We will contrast the technical definitions and methods with the birth and evolution of the concept of intersectionality in social sciences (including but not limited to feminism studies). We will engage with the audience to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing work, and put together a list of concrete suggestions as to how Fair-ML should account for the compounding nature of discrimination in its formalizations and algorithms. We will wrap up by emphasizing other equally-significant avenues through which automation fueled by big data and ML may miss the mark on diversity and intersectionality. For instance, ML-based decision-making systems are the output of a complex series of steps and design choices, including but not limited to: how we define the problem, the data we collect, how we process it, the type of model we train and deploy. These steps all involve making normative judgments (sometimes explicit, but mostly implicit) regarding people, social interactions and situations, and our values. A diversity of perspectives in making these choices is a key factor in ensuring that ML contributes to positive social change (as opposed to unwittingly systemizing existing biases and prejudices in the form of algorithms).

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: No prior experience; some experience with machine learning is helpful but not necessary

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. EST

Using a Community Participatory Research Ethics Training to Address Power Dynamics in Community Partnered Research

Facilitators: Erricka Hager, M.P.H., Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Pittsburgh; Bee Schindler, L.M.S.W., Ed.D. candidate, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Pittsburgh

Description: We will explore the use of an ethics training to better develop co-creative space between community experts and researchers in the university-community research relationship. Specifically, we move through ethics training to ground participants in the workshop, and then apply its use to existing activity offered at the institute for which we work. The exploration will help us to examine power and privilege in the relationship(s) and seek opportunities to disrupt those dynamics with the assistance of participants who might wish to add best practices and experience(s) to the discussion. We will explore definitions and history of oppression, some of which might facilitate discomfort as we briefly talk about medical mistreatment(s) and critical missteps in research leading to mistrust, illness and death. We seek to provide actionable steps to researchers, research teams, community leads and experts and any one (!) to think more deeply about antiracism, equity and justice in research, making it a more diverse, intersectional and inclusive process.

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: No prior experience

5:30 - 6:45 p.m. EST - Concurrent Workshops

Embracing Entangled Histories of Music in our Teaching and Research

Facilitators: Chris Lynch (he, him, his), Ph.D., School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexa Woloshyn (she, her, hers), Ph.D., School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University; Kristin Heath (she, her, hers), University Libraries, Carnegie Mellon University

Description: This workshop builds from Margaret Walker’s call to teach “entangled histories.” As a music educator, Walker criticizes music studies in the United States as Euro-centric, with global musics and webs of interaction absent or presented as an homogenous “other” in comparison to Euro-American classical music. Instead, Walker calls for music education to immerse students in the rich and complex socio-political contexts of global musics, including confronting the histories and legacies of imperialism, colonialism, the slave trade, cultural appropriation, and anti-Black racism. 

The workshop facilitators are presenting case studies from classes within the formalized music curriculum. However, music can be a powerful medium for exploring intersectional approaches to justice and community in many other areas of study, particularly social sciences and humanities (though all disciplines have “entangled histories” we can explore with students using music or other arts practices). Attendees do not need to be musicologists to engage with the case studies. 

In this workshop, the facilitators present four case studies from the music history classroom to illustrate how we can teach music as complex, intersectional, and globally-situated. Each case study includes discussion about course design, assessment, and evaluating the effectiveness of centering entangled histories. We also address how to navigate institutional issues, such as accreditation and concerns about changing curriculum from departmental colleagues. Each case study is presented by a musicology instructor and CMU’s music librarian, who explains how CMU Libraries can support faculty and students in researching and teaching entangled histories of music. 

The four case studies are as follows: 

1) A challenge to textbooks that center white men and make few references to people of color, people outside of Europe, or global forces that shaped European culture. Specifically, this case study focuses on teaching about the impacts of the “Chinggis Exchange,” a series of cross-cultural interactions between Europeans, Mongols, and Persians, ca. 1250–1350. 

2) An interrogation of institutional and cultural forces that enable the production of the so-called “great works of art.” Focusing on the career and legacy of composer George Frederick Handel, this case study highlights one aspect of Western cultural history that is often overlooked in classrooms: the role of wealth earned through the slave trade and enslavement. 

3) An intersectional analysis of barriers to a career as an American classical composer. As a Black woman composer, Florence Price faced a double discrimination, from the time of her early career in Arkansas to her success during the Chicago Black Renaissance. 

4) An affirmation of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. Inuk musician Tanya Tagaq’s career and music output is part of Inuit cultural reclamation and innovation. She prompts a consideration of Inuit history and culture in relation to broader global forces of colonialism and capitalism. Part of the workshop will have workshop participants brainstorming how they can incorporate music to explore entangled, intersectional histories in their own courses. The workshop facilitators will offer feedback, including specifying available library resources to support course revisions and new course activities and assessments. Together, we reflect on how music can be part of liberatory, justice-oriented pedagogy and formulate action plans. This workshop will be most applicable to course instructors. However, it will also be helpful to anyone who includes music in their research or who wants to contextualize their listening habits within entangled, intersectional histories. 

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: No prior experience


Bringing Together Internal Restoration and External Reparation

Facilitators: Dareen Basma, Ph.D., Counseling and Psychological Services, Carnegie Mellon University; Sara Mark, M.S., L.P.C., Counseling and Psychological Services, Carnegie Mellon University; Shubhara Bhattacharjee, Psy.D., Counseling and Psychological Services, Carnegie Mellon University; Kym Jordan-Simmons, Ph.D., Counseling and Psychological Services, Carnegie Mellon University; Mengchun Chiang, Ph.D., Counseling and Psychological Services, Carnegie Mellon University

Description: This workshop brings together internal restoration and external reparation as a way to redefine activism, reprioritize the specific practices of activists, and bring renewed energy for activism via re-engaging in collective humanity through and beyond the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The workshop starts by acknowledging current context as a frame to redefine activism. Specifically, the complex nature of staying engaged while establishing healthy self-care practices in this highly charged political climate. The facilitators propose diverse ideas of redefining activism. Activism may not involve protests or rallies, and that activists’ practices does not have to be expressly political. In fact, to be an activist is to fight for a change in the status quo, and any fight — no matter the issue — takes a toll on those in the trenches. 

The co-facilitators then highlight some ways that activism may impact the mind, body and spirit of activists. It is the nature of activist organizing that defeat comes often and can seem irreversible, and those who do it find themselves weighed down by stress, anxiety, and depression. Left unchecked, one begins to experience activist burnout, an interplay of physical and emotional symptoms that contribute to the toll of activists. 

Alongside the global Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice, the effects of activist burnout can be especially acute for marginalized groups. Often, sexism and racism pervades activists’ own ranks, compounding the stress and anxiety women and activists of color may already be experiencing related to their work (Gorski & Erakat, 2019). When activists organize around issues with direct implications for their personal lives, activist efforts can trigger past or lead to vicarious trauma. 

Sustainable activism through and beyond COVID19 amidst systemic injustices highlights clear needs for internal restoration and external reparation. The co-facilitators underscore the necessity of attending to self-care using a framework that identifies the characteristics of white supremacy culture (Jones & Okun, 2001), and pinpoint how these characteristics contribute to the psychological burnout experienced by activists. 

Participants are invited to join other community members in solidarity, first to appreciate the imperative role that practicing self-care has in activism, and second, to understand how the characteristics of white supremacy culture contribute to burnout. Via small break-out group discussions, participants discuss the cumulative toll and how they can be experienced by activists, including internalized feelings of guilt, shame, and a sense that one is “not doing enough.” 

The small group discussions will help participants brainstorm and form ideas around how to attend to oneself, how to create a sense of community, and how to do both in ways that are integral to activists’ value and striving for changing the status quo. The workshop builds a community by relying on collective wisdom. Participants may put forth creative ideas where setting boundaries to protect one’s internal self is welcomed, and that doing so is congruent to the community’s interests in promoting social justice in solidarity. 

Content warning: this workshop will discuss topics related to activists burnout and associated symptomatic experiences (e.g., depression, anxiety, and trauma).

Participants’ recommended level of experience with intersectionality: Some experience

6:30 - 7:30 p.m. EST

Blockbuster Session with 1Hood Media

Speakers: Celeste C. Smith, Co-Founder, 1Hood Media; Jasiri X, co-founder, 1Hood Media; Miracle Jones, Director of Advocacy and Policy, 1Hood Media; Chrissy Carter, Black Trans Community Activist; Shanté Needham, sister of Sandra Bland and activist

Description: Please join 1Hood Media and members of their extended activist family as co-founder and former CEO Celeste C. Smith guides us through a conversation on activism, personal political accountability, the importance of arts and culture, and the impact of it all on self and family.

7:30 - 8:30 p.m. EST

Social and Q&A