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The grants are from the natural sciences division of The College and represent initiatives of The College’s JEDI framework, which seeks to support calls to action and appeals for social change and justice following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Specifically, the seed grant program was created to support novel and impactful contributions to promote equity and inclusion in The College’s natural sciences division, which includes the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the School of Life Sciences, the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the School of Molecular Sciences, the Department of Physics and the Department of Psychology.
“Dean and Provost Pro Tempore Nancy Gonzales initiated a seed grant program in the natural sciences to support JEDI-related activities in the sciences,” said Dean Patrick Kenney, of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The efforts in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and in many other units, are working diligently to prioritize justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We strive to meet this critical moment in our nation’s history to find ways to improve people’s lives with new and innovative solutions that will ultimately enhance greater scientific discovery and impact.”
Proposals were accepted from students, staff, faculty and administrators with priorities given to projects developed in partnership with the groups they are intended to impact, that integrate evidence-based principles and include a plan for continued refinement and sustainability beyond the initial seed-funding period.
The four awarded proposals featured below are interdisciplinary and involve members of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in addition to representatives from other schools and departments within The College:
Associate Professor Christy Till of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, with Professor Sharon Hall of the School of Life Sciences and Clinical Assistant Professor Ara Austin of the School of Molecular Sciences were awarded $9,550 for their proposal “Natural Sciences INCLUsion DEpartmental (INCLUDES) Training Program.” They plan to use the funding to set and run yearly workplace climate and bystander intervention trainings for their academic units.
“The INCLUDES Training Program utilizes bystander intervention and inclusive teaching and mentoring approaches to reduce the prevalence of harassment and other types of hostile behaviors,” Till said. “We will build an initial cohort of nine trainers to lead regular workplace climate and inclusion training for faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in our units, as well as annual ‘train the trainers’ workshops to renew the program each year.”
The initial cohort of trainers for the INCLUDES Training Program will be trained by the ADVANCEGeo program, which currently hosts inclusion workshops and trains trainers for the geoscience, biology, ecology, chemistry and engineering research environments.
Graduate student Aliya Hoff with Professor Monica Gaughan of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Associate Professor Amanda Clarke of the School of Earth and Space Exploration were awarded $500 for their proposal “Graduate student experiences at the School of Earth and Space Exploration.”
This project aims to characterize current and former graduate students’ perceptions of departmental culture, their sense of belonging and interpersonal interactions at the school using qualitative data and semi-structured interviews.
“We will use those findings to evaluate the efficacy of policies and initiatives currently in place to support graduate students and identify opportunities to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the school,” Hoff said. “We hope that our study design can serve as a model for other interdisciplinary units in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”
School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate student Linnea McCann and Associate Professor Patrick Young received $4,500 for their proposal to create educational materials for Title 1 schools. Their Science in a Box Educator Kits are designed to bring more science activities into the classroom through free self-contained four-week science curricula for teachers and parents.
“The next school year will provide new challenges for educators and students due to the recent coronavirus-related school closures,” Hoff said. “It is more important than ever to create opportunities for students in difficult situations to remain engaged with learning in creative and supportive ways. We hope that our kits will provide improved classroom experiences in the next year to offset some of these negative impacts.”
The curricula will include: School of Earth and Space Exploration outreach tours (which can be offered virtually), educator kits with hands-on experiments and materials for classroom science activities, graduate student volunteers to aid teachers in demonstrating the activities and instructional videos of graduate students performing experiments.
Graduate students Edward Buie II, Justin Hom and Jasmine Garani received $3,300 for their proposal to conduct a series of sexual harassment prevention and bystander workshops for schools and departments in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The project goals are to educate the graduate student community on sexual harassment and micro-aggressions and to ultimately erase these behaviors within the STEM community by giving graduate students the tools to be active bystanders who can safely intervene whenever such behaviors occur.
“Workshops like this are needed to increase the dialogue surrounding these persistent issues within academia which hinder inclusivity and diversity in the community,” Buie said. “This peer-led workshop program aims to create a more positive and inclusive environment for all graduate students.”
The School of Earth and Space Exploration has also set up its own JEDI seed grant program. It recently announced its inaugural winner, undergraduate student Bryanna Gutierrez-Coatney. Her award-winning proposal is an education initiative designed to build awareness of physics and earth and space topics among students in Arizona’s Title 1 schools.
The school’s seed grant is one of several initiatives from the School of Earth and Space Exploration JEDI Task Force, which empowers a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive environment by facilitating and promoting individual action, dialog, education, long-term planning and systemic change. It was formed in 2020, is chaired by Associate Professor Christy Till, the school’s associate director for an inclusive community, and is composed of members from all parts of the school’s community.