As an African-American woman who earned a doctorate at Princeton University in the male-dominated field of mathematics, Taniecea Arceneaux Mallery understands what it’s like to feel alone and to need support.
She’ll be drawing on that experience in her new role as director of equity, diversity and community engagement for the Office for Campus Diversity at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“In my own personal experience, I always kind of felt like the ‘only one’ in my classes, so I’ve always utilized diversity resources, and I know the impact it has had on my career,” Mallery said.
Mallery, who started at UL-Lafayette in January, has been working to connect students with diversity resources around campus — the kind of resources she said were a vital part of her success in college and graduate school.
During her time at Princeton, Mallery was actively involved with the The Wesley L. Harris Scientific Society, an organization devoted to supporting minority students in science and technology fields.
“I really got involved with that organization, and I found a peer group of students who had the same experiences that I had, who could relate to the same challenges that I had,” Mallery said. “It really was a source of motivation, camaraderie and support for me.”
Although Mallery received an undergraduate degree in math from Loyola University in New Orleans and spent a year working at the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., she was still uncertain of what career path to take.
“That’s when I found Princeton, which I found to be one of the most open and interdisciplinary programs, so I studied applied and computational math there, ” she said. “It was there that I started to understand the importance of who you know and how that impacts your opportunities and information you have access to.”
After graduating with her doctorate, Mallery spent a year doing diversity work at the Association of American Medical Colleges. But she always knew one day she would return home.
Mallery grew up in Scott and went to Lafayette High School, and her roots in the Lafayette area are strong.
When the position at UL-Lafayette opened, Mallery felt it was “the perfect opportunity for me to bring all this national-level experience I had gained, because I’ve always felt that Lafayette was my home, even though I traveled away and lived away for many years. I always came home as often as I could. “
Mallery said she was drawn to the position at UL-Lafayette partly because it seems clear that university leadership values diversity.
“Some institutions have an office of minority affairs or an office for diversity and inclusion, but it’s very decentralized and it sits far away from the center of campus,” Mallery said. “And they very much rely on that one person to do all the diversity work, but what really attracted me here was that the commitment to diversity really comes from the president.”
Mallery said the changes she intends to bring to campus will come mainly through creating supportive policy.
“It’s not so much addressing one issue with a policy, but the way I see it is supporting the culture of the institution through policy,” she said.
Mallery believes having students engage with groups they are less familiar with is an integral part of creating a more diverse campus culture.
“I would encourage students to get involved, particularly by engaging with student groups with which they are less familiar,” Mallery said.
She also said it is key for students who do feel under-represented to find ways to engage with other cultures.
“I’ve found, through personal experience, that these resources are often integral to success, particularly for students from under-represented groups,” Mallery said. “I would also say that diversity resources and initiatives are just as relevant for those students who are not under-represented, as they provide opportunities for students to learn about individuals and cultures outside of their own.”