While in Japan, Recapping Vanderbilt’s Panel on Diversity in STEM

While waiting for a flight to leave Japan and go to Taiwan, I wanted to recap some of my comments from the “Multi-disciplinary Panel Discussion on Diversity in STEM,” held at Vanderbilt University, June 8, 2016, as part of the www.BlackengineeringPhD.org project by Dr. Ebony McGee and Dr. William Robinson.

Vanderbilt 2016

My comments were part of an answer to questions about things that institutions can do to improve the climate and enhance opportunities for students of color in STEM, and how to recognize girls and women of color .

I started with an introduction my background and training in engineering and science, and noted that I would frame my answer in the context of programs, particularly those that have been developed by UMBC and those that are in Maryland. The National Science Foundation’s PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) includes 12 institutions within the University System of Maryland, and has as its foundation, the Meyerhoff undergraduate program (includes UMBC’s project for the NSF’s LSAMP – Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation), and the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows program in the biomedical sciences, sponsored by NIH.  After explaining briefly that PROMISE has as its conceptual framework “A psychological sense of community,” and that there are approximately 40 seminars within the PROMISE network per year, I wanted to make four points. You can hear my full ~8 minutes here: https://youtu.be/1L7E1O0edmA?t=33m4s. The content for the full program begins at 17:13,after the prelude of music that was played as people came in to take their seats.)

My points were as follows:

  1. Create a climate that welcomes all students, actively, not passively, into the classroom. As a professor, you have the power to set the atmosphere for your space. What do faculty do to welcome students? Are there basic greetings? Is there an ice-breaker on the first day? How are students invited to engage in the classroom? Are teaching and learning techniques employed? The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is taking the opportunity to work with its member deans, faculty, and staff from centers of teaching excellence to talk about, develop, and disseminate resources that can create spaces that are inclusive environments for all.
  2. Give ALL a chance to learn, be trained in techniques, be trained on all of the equipment, and disseminate. I gave an example of an inclusive education model: UMBC’s Discovery Center, which redesigned the recitation to include rotating roles and a team-based approach that includes supervising, record keeping, data collection, and dissemination of results. I also discussed the importance of making sure that all have a chance to speak and present, particularly the women in the groups. Too often, speaking and presentation roles are abdicated to men in STEM groups of mixed genders, so deliberate invitations and strategies that engage all in the group with all of the roles are necessary for full inclusion. In short, broadening participation requires professors and or facilitators to actively engage their students. This is not a passive endeavor on the part of the educator.
  3. Enhance opportunities for women to engage, and directly invite them to do so. Again, with respect to broadening participation, it is not enough to point attention to an announcement on a wall. Professors should personally invite students from underrepresented groups to attend seminars, conduct research in their labs, and  present work at a conference.
  4. Foster recognition of brilliance. Create a culture where time is taken to affirm students and their contributions.
  5. Put resources (money) into programs that foster professional development, and foster community. Programs require funding and staff, and institutions need to plan budgets accordingly. A discussion of ways to set up a program like PROMISE is discussed in:Tull, R. G., Rutledge, J.C., Warnick, J. W., & Carter, F. D. (2012). PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Enhances Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Minority Graduate Students. Academic Medicine, 87(11), p. 1562-1569. 


Vanderbilt 2016

With Vice Provosts for Diversity from Northwestern University and Vanderbilt University

vanderbilt banner

The banner that was part of the video announcements around the campus. Vanderbilt also had the PROMISE AGEP books available for sale.