Founders of UMass BriDGE share action steps departments in higher education can take to make lectures more diverse and supportive of underrepresented scholars
Geoscience graduate students ran into many challenges as they tried to make their department’s annual seminar series more diverse, which led them to form the BRiDGE coalition with CNS grad students in other departments. BRiDGE’s mission is to make lectures more inclusive and support underrepresented STEM faculty and students. In an article for EOS, BRiDGE members share tips for making seminars more diverse with speakers from a wider variety of backgrounds.
From ‘What’s in a Seminar?’
When we volunteered to coordinate the Geosciences Lecture Series for the 2017–2018 academic year, we learned that the challenges we faced in diversifying the seminar series were not unique to our own department. This made us wonder: What would our ideal seminar series look like?
We decided our ideal seminar series would involve speakers from underrepresented communities and would also provide opportunities for underrepresented students to see early-career scholars who could provide career advice tailored toward students from diverse backgrounds.
Beginning in 2018, we built a coalition with graduate students in other departments who shared our vision. Through this coalition, we conceived BRiDGE, a first-of-its-kind, graduate student–led, multifaceted seminar series.
“[W]e learned that the challenges we faced in diversifying the seminar series were not unique to our own department.”
BRiDGE encompasses three types of speaker presentations. BRiDGE2Science presentations are traditional science talks cosponsored by a hosting academic department. BRiDGE2Impacts are events in which the invited speaker shares how they use science to make an impact in their community. BRiDGE2Students events connect underrepresented postdocs and graduate students with successful scientists who share some of their identities and experiences.
We believe that other departments and programs could undertake similar initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here are five ways to improve your program’s seminar series:
- Look at who is invited to give seminars and set goals for increasing diversity.
- Broaden the networks you rely on to identify candidate speakers.
- Invite diverse speakers to your seminar series.
- Provide dedicated spaces and times for students to engage in conversations with visiting scholars.
- Encourage seminar speakers to spend 5–10 minutes during their presentation to discuss how their science affects communities they serve.
Source: Environmental Conservation News