D-Lab's Megha Hegde wins Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Inclusion


Staff from across the MIT Office for the Vice Chancellor gathered for virtual ceremony on June 7 to honor colleagues for exceptional service to OVC, the Chancellor’s Office, and MIT. D-Lab research associate and UROP coordinator Megha Hegde was one of two recipients of an award in the Diversity and Inclusion category. Following is the text of the nomination submitted by her D-Lab colleagues:

We are pleased to nominate Megha Hedge for an Infinite Mile Award in Diversity and Inclusion. Over the last nine months, Megha has played a critical role in raising and addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within D-Lab.

In the summer of 2020, a national movement emerged around anti-racism. Like many other organizations, MIT took the opportunity to apply an anti-racism lens to its work, and D-Lab joined in this effort. As part of these activities, Megha Hegde and Libby Hsu formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) task force at D-Lab, composed of several staff members, which has met regularly since then. This group has invited stakeholders from MIT to help the task force understand the landscape of DEI, provided learning opportunities for staff, identified tools to assess D-Lab’s current state on DEI, interviewed potential consultants to conduct this assessment, mapped hiring and promotional pathways, and identified potential sources of bias within those maps, among other activities.

Megha has taken on a leadership role in this task force by convening the group, doing considerable research on resources, identifying training opportunities, helping to set agendas, reporting out to the rest of the organization, prioritizing important activities for the group, and holding D-Lab leadership accountable for the task force’s proposals and expectations.

One colleague said, “Megha has been moving our organization forward in its pursuit of DEI. She created a task force, has shaped the task force's trajectory through what is often a murky and nonlinear process, and demonstrated real leadership and patience in guiding this work forward. Her passion, determination, and optimism is the beating heart of D-Lab’s recent institutional focus on its own DEI work, and we are fortunate to have her leadership.”

Another colleague said, “At her own initiative, Megha has taken on a critical leadership role in D- Lab’s work integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) perspectives into the way we operate. Megha was among the people to set up a DEI task force and has served as chair of the committee. She has shown initiative and has kept the work moving through several stages. Without her leadership, we would not have made as much progress. As a member of the committee, I have appreciated Megha’s steady hand, patience, and commitment to the work. Not only has Megha taken on these new responsibilities, but she has done it with warmth and grace.”

Megha has demonstrated a commitment to educating herself and others on DEI issues. She has developed her own capacity through reading online resources such as “Awake to Woke to Work” by Equity in the Center and the “Organizational Equity Toolkit” by JustLead Washington, as well as workshops including “Standing Up, Not Standing By.” She has also worked with her colleagues on the task force to identify and share relevant tools and resources with the staff and set up conversations at staff meetings to discuss these materials. She encouraged others to take courses such as “Standing Up, Not Standing By” and “Bias Free Hiring.”

She has continued to raise difficult issues and questions. With support from the DEI committee, Megha encouraged staff to share stories of white-dominant culture. She worked with her colleagues to create opportunities to discuss these topics, analyze the stories, and identify concrete steps to address their root causes.

One colleague said, “Megha has developed the courage to raise uncomfortable questions and keep her colleagues in that place of discomfort until we deal honestly and openly with them.”

Another colleague said, “Megha has encouraged our staff to think about and reflect on DEI
issues within our organization, from our hiring and promotion practices to how to pronounce an individual’s name. She has also continued to encourage our staff and leadership team to address these issues through concrete actions. I really appreciate her leadership in this area and her efforts to make D-Lab a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.”

Buy-in at the leadership level is critical to creating change within an organization, especially on DEI issues. Megha has continued to share resources with the leadership team and encouraged the team to discuss and reflect on these topics and identify sources of funding to support the task force’s work.

Megha has also demonstrated a commitment to making people of color feel more comfortable and welcome, including working with our communications administrator to add pronunciations of staff names to the D-Lab website and making sure people of color feel welcome and appreciated.

Over the last nine months, Megha has played a critical role in promoting DEI within D-Lab and the Office of the Vice Chancellor, where she has also served as an active member of the OVC DEI committee. With her colleagues D-Lab, she has created opportunities to educate our staff, have difficult conversations, create a more welcoming environment, and address DEI issues. She has persisted in dedicating significant time and effort to this work, above and beyond fulfilling her work responsibilities.

One staff member said, “Megha’s commitment to DEI radiates from all of her work. She believes in the fundamental importance of D-Lab’s participatory mission, which seeks to elevate the voices of marginalized groups and take their needs seriously.”

About Megha Hegde

Megha Hegde is principally focused on creating and implementing research plans for conducting field studies including needs assessments, market assessments, technology evaluations, technology adoption, and behavior change interventions in developing countries.

Some of her research work has included user research for the development of a low-cost water filter using plant xylem, an assessment of needs and challenges of tribal goat herders in India, an assessment of cookstove adoption in Uganda, and a solar lantern technology evaluation in Morocco.

Megha also serves as D-Lab's UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) Coordinator. As such, she is the point person for any student who is interested in learning more about UROPs at D-Lab or creating their own UROP experience to keep working on a project of personal interest.

Megha is a member of the MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OVC-CDEI) and will serve a two-year term through August 2021.

Originally from India, Megha completed a master's degree in Sustainable International Development from Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. She did her masters' practicum at D-Lab, doing her thesis research on "Participatory Approach in the Design of Pro-Poor Technologies." In addition to English, Megha speaks Hindi and Kannada. She loves traveling, photography, dancing, and hiking!