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Furthering Black resistance in academia through personal sacrifice

Director of Equity and Inclusion for Strategic Undergraduate Initiatives Yvette Moore makes Pitt history with Inspiring Leadership award

Yvette Moore, director for equity and inclusion for strategic undergraduate initiatives at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been mentoring and inspiring students, faculty and staff for almost two decades. 

Last Wednesday, Moore’s dedication to creating an equitable environment was honored at Pitt’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s A Night of Celebration: Honoring Local Heroes of Black Resistance in the “Inspiring Leadership” category – which was created solely for her. Having received 61 nominations from colleagues, Moore surpassed all other nominations submitted to the committee by more than 50 percent. 

“I honestly was in shock,” Moore said. “I just do the work that I am called to do and never realize that people are watching. I have the privilege to work with a team of colleagues that cares just as much as I do. So, to know that they did this for me is humbling and honestly mind blowing!” 

Yvette Pic Engage Pitt (002)

Mary Besterfield-Sacre, associate dean for academic affairs, the Nikolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering, and director of the engineering education research center at the Swanson School, led the charge in gathering nominations for Moore in the “Unsung Hero” category. Besterfield-Sacre said Moore helps foster a learning environment about diversity, equity, and inclusion for her peers and students – putting her own heart and passion into it. 

“We are able to go to her with questions about appropriate and thoughtful verbiage and wording in these areas, and she is so thoughtful in providing a response that creates an opportunity for us to learn,” Besterfield-Sacre said. 

In her current role, Moore is devoted to creating a welcoming and fair environment for underrepresented students at the Swanson School. She has sacrificed a lot of her work – a sacrifice that may sometimes go unnoticed. Because of the nature of what she does, Moore has missed holidays and family gatherings. But, she finds catharsis in that diversity, equity and inclusion are now discussed in higher education, and she has personally worked on policies and initiatives that have been part of that growth. “When you look at Black resistance, it’s in every part of academia,” Moore said. “It’s important to learn how to navigate these spaces in higher education to bring DEI initiatives to the forefront of problem-solving and planning.” 

At the Swanson School, she credits the Pitt EXCEL program to be her largest achievement. The Pitt EXCEL program is committed to the recruitment, retention and graduation of historically underrepresented engineering students. Moore isn’t an engineer by trade, but said she understands how to build engineers “with the hope that they will go on to improve the world around us.” 

Like the students she mentors, she’s benefited from similar programs in her youth. As a young scholar at Shippensburg University, she was mentored by Diane L. Jefferson, who currently serves as the university’s director of the office of multicultural affairs. Jefferson hired Moore quickly after she had graduated – paving the road to Moore’s current success. She said her time under Jefferson helped shape who she eventually became. 

“It defined who I was as a scholar, and I learned how to negotiate and advocate for myself. I learned the importance of my voice as a Black woman. I learned how to be an ally and advocate for others.”