SAGE Musings: Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Department Level

Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College
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published Oct 3, 2019 9:44am

At the 2019 meeting of the Geological Society of America, one of my colleagues from graduate school asked me for a list of actions that her department could take to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. This immediately reminded me of our -- as yet unpublished -- SAGE 2YC Departmental Practices Inventory, a tool familiar to every faculty Change Agent involved in the project. The full Departmental Practices Inventory (DPI) addresses all three of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project strands: supporting the academic success of all students, broadening participation in the geosciences, and facilitating students' professional pathways. This inventory, which is based on the research literature, can be used by any department to self-assess its alignment with evidence-based practices related to these goals. For this Musing, I've mined the DPI for "action items" a department could take to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

These items are related to attracting, supporting, and engaging a diverse population of students, including fostering a sense of belonging among students in your department or program. I would be amazed if any department does all of these things. However, if your department is not as diverse as your institution's student population, I encourage you to implement an idea or several from the list below.

Attracting students to your program

To what extent does your department

  • Use displays, website, and/or any publications (e.g. recruitment flyers) to advertise the geosciences on campus?
  • Use your geoscience courses to promote your programs?
  • Identify potential geoscience majors and invite them to discuss the possibilities with a faculty member?
  • Participate in career fairs and/or informational events about degree programs at your institution?
  • Build students' awareness of career opportunities and pathways in traditional geoscience fields? Build students' awareness of career pathways beyond the traditional geosciences (e.g. environmental studies, urban planning, business)?
  • Inform students about external internships or research opportunities? Provide opportunities for students to learn about how to apply for internships or research opportunities?
  • Build alliances with the local K-12 school system?

Supporting and engaging a diverse population of students

To what extent does your department

  • Collect and analyze data on student success across all courses in your department or program, including success rates for students in different demographic groups? Note: Your institutional research office has these data.
  • Nurture a culture of collaboration in courses and program activities?
  • Talk about and show examples of diverse geoscientists, including underrepresented minorities of all genders and White women?
  • Coordinate efforts with existing campus resources for diverse student populations (e.g. cultural centers, office of campus life)?
  • Incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy and science content (e.g. place-based learning, teaching about environmental justice)? Do you do this in your introductory level courses?
  • Engage students in research projects, in or outside of courses? Engage students in service learning?
  • Provide a mechanism for students to earn financial support, e.g. as peer advisors, tutors, teaching assistants?
  • Ask about student goals (e.g. career, degree, transfer) when you meet with your advisees? Track progress toward degree and/or transfer each time students register for courses?

Fostering a sense of belonging

Does your department

  • Have a written statement, displayed publicly, that affirms that you value diversity?
  • Have a public display that shows examples of diverse geoscientists, including underrepresented minorities and White women?
  • Have an active student organization for anyone interested in the geosciences?
  • Have a website or online group (such as a facebook group) for students in geoscience?
  • Have regular social events (picnics, movie nights, etc.) for students in geoscience? Are those social events open to family members of your students?

To what extent does your department ensure that departmental events for students are designed to maximize accessibility (e.g. affordable, providing daycare, food that meets dietary restrictions, etc.)?

How well do department members understand implicit bias and stereotype threat and their effects on student learning? Do they know about evidence-based strategies that mitigate those effects?

The checklist above represents a subset of the evidence-based activities a department could engage in to support the academic success of all students, broaden participation in the geosciences, and facilitate students' professional pathways. Are you interested in seeing the complete Departmental Practices Inventory? Email me. Do you have additional actions to suggest? Please put them in the "comments" section below.

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