- Begin an Office of Institutional Diversity official project on Race and Gender in STEM striving to address the complicated effects of race and gender on student experience. In order to be transformational in a systematic way, the University has to articulate its commitment to these issues. We recommend the Office of Institutional Diversity launch a “Race and Gender in STEM” project that will address retention head-on and also provide a confined and institutionalized space for the work done in this GISP to continue. The goal would be to better the experience of women and minorities in STEM at Brown by transforming the way we think about science and the scientist identity. The recommendations that follow would also be overseen by Office of Institutional Diversity members under this project.
- Make the course on Race and Gender in the Scientific Community a permanent offering, and consider making it a requirement for STEM concentrators in the future. Members of the GISP have thoroughly studied the assumed objectivity of the scientific community and framed structural issues in that context. This is what makes a course like this unique and resulted in such transformation for GISP members. In order to ensure that this work continues, we request that the University implement plans to add this course to the curriculum. Who will be qualified to teach this course is the next question that comes to mind. This can be found in understanding what made this GISP so successful. GISP members are all studying a STEM subject and therefore familiar with the scientific environment. In addition this, certain GISP members also study issues of race or gender and sexuality. This combination is key and is why we suggest a joint teaching of the course. The University Course on Race and Gender in the Scientific Community should be led by two instructors- one from a STEM department and one from a faculty member with expertise in issues of race, gender, and/or sexuality. For example, an ideal combination would be a faculty member in engineering and a graduate student in Africana Studies. The syllabus and model used for the GISP can and should be used for this course with adjustments based on the liking of the instructors. Most members of the GISP will graduate in 2015, therefore, it is critical for an appointed administrator or administrative staff member to familiarize herself with the syllabus and the details of the course in the spring semester of 2015. Syllabus, classroom blog, and more information is available on this website and members of the GISP are open to meetings to finalize these plans.
- Investigate and implement strategies and solutions that address and incorporate existing research on the experience of being an underrepresented minority, focusing on teaching styles and assessment methods. (Education and training about stereotype threat and differential learning styles explicit about race and gender effects at Brown). The GISP syllabus reveals the abundance of scholarship available on these issues. It is our belief that the University is not adequately utilizing this existing scholarship. We resolve specifically that administrators and students advisors be educated on stereotype threat and differential learning styles of students. That is only the preliminary step; we suggest the Office of Institutional Diversity incorporate that scholarship into programs that help students. For example, Office of Institutional Diversity can collaborate with Kathy Takayama and the Sheridan Center to develop the language and format of exams and performance assessment in STEM courses. One important issue that we came to understand is the inability of minority students to talk about science material in or out of the course and the way in which that hinders a student’s ability to 1) articulate questions and 2) understand why they may be under-performing. We envision a space where these students are informed that this may be a problem for them and provide resources that will help them learn the “language of science”.
- Make administrative support more visible to students. It is our understanding that administrators have been making plans to address the experiences of underrepresented minorities in STEM. We recommend a tab on the Institutional Diversity Website that is a space for information on Diversity in STEM initiatives and plans. This would also be a great space for a link to our GISP website. Office of Institutional Diversity can also add some of this information to our “Why are there so many White and Asian males in STEM” brochure and hand them out around the University for students wanting to know about these existing plans.
- Development of new teaching techniques in introductory courses as well as assessment. Brown is one of eight research universities chosen by the Association of American Universities (AAU) as a project site to improve undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It is our understanding that plans are being made to transform the way science is taught at Brown and science culture at Brown. Efforts to address the experiences of underrepresented minorities need to be explicit and intentional in these efforts. We suggest also developing a “survival kit” that will help underrepresented minorities and women navigate science degree programs at Brown. Our fear is that these efforts to improve STEM education will leave the unique experiences of underrepresented students invisible and further perpetuate the problems.
- Hire a learning specialist available to work with students on understanding their style of learning and to work with Science Center + STEM departments on plans to transform STEM courses. Minority students are often advised to work with SEAS to receive support for results of stereotype threat and other psychological effects associated with identity. SEAS is only equipped to provide standard accommodations for students such as extra time or separate rooms for exams. Many minority students in STEM are receiving these accommodations even though they have not been proven to address issues related to the experience of being a minority in STEM. We suggest Brown hire a learning specialist available to work with students in STEM and contribute to the improvement of undergraduate science education. This learning specialist should be charged with the work to provide strategies that will help Brown support minorities in STEM. We also find it concerning that SEAS staff members are not trained to identify when students are having learning and testing anxiety as a result of being racial minorities in our academic community. In addition to hiring a learning specialist, we recommend the University train SEAS staff to address these issues carefully and appropriately. Currently, Diane Green is available to work with undergraduates who are a part of the PLME program and medical students. She does not work with other STEM undergraduates. Brown might consider adding a learning specialist who will in fact work with minority students in STEM to figure out new and possibly unknown learning needs.
- Create a medium for students to express concerns and experiences to faculty and administrators who have the power to implement changes. NSP or Catalyst would be a great medium for administrators to hear about the experiences and the concerns of students. There needs to be a more visible administrative component to the NSP program. It is not clear to students that the Dean of the College or other administrators find the low rates of retention for underrepresented students in STEM to be a priority. This needs to be visible to students, and one way to make this happen is to create spaces for students to engage with administrators.
- Form collaborations between Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC) and administrators who work on these issues. We suggest that BCSC designate a person to provide input on minority concerns in STEM. Shane Lloyd from BCSC was extremely helpful in the planning of our GISP’s “Why are there so few women and minorities in STEM?” workshop for introductory science courses. BCSC staff members are familiar with facilitating discussions on race across campus. We found it concerning that there is not a connection between programs for minorities in STEM and the BCSC. Many first year minority students attend the pre-orientation program TWTP, but there seems to be silence surrounding the experience specifically in the scientific environment at Brown. We suggest a visible collaboration between a designated person in BCSC and NSP or Office of Institutional Diversity in order to bring science and issues of the scientific community into the BCSC space.
We are a group of students who organized a GISP on Race and Gender in the Scientific Community. We are working closely with University Administrators on institutional solutions, and would like to give students the chance to support and critique our efforts. Many university programs only support survival mechanisms, which are necessary but temporary for addressing underrepresentation in STEM. Below are transformative strategies we would like the University to prioritize and implement, focusing on the University’s goal to support underrepresented minorities in STEM. This is what we came up with as a result of our study--we would love to hear your input on what other strategies are necessary to create meaningful change. If you support the strategies listed below and have a Brown University email address, please sign this form.
This week we talked about feminist philosophy of science, diversity arguments, and the history of science. We read about other knowledge communities, e.g. polynesian navigators, and used this to discuss what we mean by "science". Are polynesian navigators scientists? We came up with the following list of attributes often used to describe, or even define, western science.
How Scientists would define Science
After discussing what it means to be a "scientist", we spent a significant amount of time writing down our most recent goals for the course (also known as the GISP, short for Group Independent Study Project).
The goal of the first class was to create a safe space where everyone could feel comfortable sharing opinions, analysis, and experiences. Creating a safe space can be an interesting balance between promoting risk taking and critical thinking while also making sure everyone is comfortable. Although pedagogically, risk taking and being comfortable aren’t distinct and we recognize that some discomfort is indicative of learning, when dealing with the topics of race and gender, our class must also create an environment where we practice overcoming entrenched and often invisible racism and sexism. Here are some of the guidelines that we came up with and some of the discussion around them: