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Conversations on Inclusion and Equity

About the Series

This series of networking events enables members of the departments of Astronomy and Physics to meet informally and discuss issues that affect the climate for women and minorities (including racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, learning and physical disability issues) and to envisage ways to improve the communication, support and thereby climate.

Information about our past presentations is archived below.

 

2018 - 2019 Talks

 

Breaking the binary: Rethinking approaches to gender equality in STEM
Presented by: Dr. MacKenzie Warren, Research Associate, MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy
Friday, October 12 at 9:30am
411 West Hall

Abstract

There has been tremendous work in recent decades to increase the number of women in STEM fields, and to great effect. However, many of these approaches have relied on promoting a gender binary of women/men and, in doing so, have continually left transgender people out of conversations about gender equality and have upheld masculinity as the standard of behavior and success in STEM fields. We will discuss how many current approaches to gender equality in STEM reinforce a gender binary and reimagine how such approaches could be expanded, to the benefit of everyone.

About the Speaker

 

“Senior Scientist and Senior Education Manager at the American Museum of Natural History: A non-traditional research and outreach path”
Dr. Jackie Faherto, Sr. Scientist, Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History
Friday Oct. 26, 9:30 - 10:20am (9 - 9:30 light breakfast reception)
411 West Hall

Abstract
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is a unique academic and education environment which hosts large numbers of domestic and international tourists as well as public school students from NYC and the metro area throughout the year. As a senior scientist and senior education manager at AMNH I am in a unique position to develop and disseminate scientific material to a plethora of visitors. In this talk I will highlight a number of initiatives that AMNH is involved in that promote equity and inclusion in STEM fields through unique informal education activities.

About the Speaker

 

How astronomer Frank Kameny got fired, got angry, and changed the world
Dr. Jane Rigby, Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Friday, March 22
Time/Location TBD
Abstract TBA

About the Speaker

 

Past Presentations

Astronomy Department Climate at UC Berkeley
Presented by Dr. Dan Weisz (University of California, Berkeley)
Friday, September 28 from 9:30-10:20pm
411 West Hall

Abstract
I will discuss the historical and current state of the climate in the UC Berkeley astronomy department. I will describe various programs in the department aimed at improving and safeguarding climate (department-wide climate survey, advising structure, small council, mandatory Title IX reporting) and provide quantitive and anecdotal evidence of their effectiveness and outcomes. Questions and discussion throughout the talk are highly encouraged.
 

 

Let's Talk About It: Mental Health in Academia 
Presented by: Johanna Teske (Carnegie Observatories)
340 West Hall at 2pm
(Light refreshments following the talk in room 337)

Abstract

Mental health struggles are often equated with personal weakness or deficiency, rather than an illness, in society at large and particularly within academia. This has led to a stigma around mental health and little meaningful discussion of the significant effects it can have on happiness, productivity, and overall health. Recent studies have shown that large fractions of people working at universities are at risk of having ordeveloping mental illness, and that graduate students are especially susceptible due to the great demands on their time, high expectations, and little control over the direction of their work and/or job prospects. In this talk I will present results from some of these studies, and I will also share my personal journey with mental health struggles. I will conclude with recommendations for what we can do as a community to help break the silence surrounding mental health and make academia a more supportive and inclusive environment. 

Co-sponsored by the Department of Astronomy

About the Speaker

Slide Presentation                                                                                     

 

The tragic destiny of Mileva Marić Einstein
Presented by: Pauline Gagnon, Retired Senior Research Scientist, Indiana University
November 6, 2017 from 4-5 PM
335 West Hall

Abstract

What were Albert Einstein's first wife’s contributions to his extraordinary productivity in the first years of his career? A first biography of Mileva Marić was published in Serbian in 1969 but remained largely unknown despite being translated first in German, then in French in the 1990’s. The publication of Mileva and Albert’s love letters in 1987 brought more information but more recently, two very well documented publications shed even more light on Mileva Marić’s life and work. I will review this evidence in its social and historical context to give a better idea on her contributions. The audience will be able to appreciate why such a talented physicist has been so unkindly treated by history.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Physics

About the Speaker

Talk Recording

 

Towards a More Inclusive Astronomy (TaMIA):
Centering Diversity and Inclusion Conversations
on Marginalized Lived Experiences
Presented by: Angie Wolfgang, Penn State
October 20, 2017
411 West Hall from 9:30-10:45 am
(continental breakfast beginning at 9:10 am)

Abstract 
During this (slide-less) edition of Conversations on Inclusion and Equity, I will model TaMIA's version of these conversations and our approach for addressing issues in inclusion and equity.  TaMIA, or Towards a More Inclusive Astronomy, is a discussion group started by Mallory Molina at Penn State in 2016, with current co-leaders Angie Wolfgang, Caleb Cañas, and Jonathan Jackson. We began as a grassroots effort to introduce intersectional discussions about equity and inclusion in our department, highlighting the importance of the experiences of those with marginalized identities.  During this event, I will take the participants through the typical structure of a meeting while talking about TaMIA's goals, philosophy, how and why we started, as well as some lessons learned.

Co-sponsored by Astronomy

About the Presenter

 

Astrophysics Survival Guide: Becoming a Safe Port in theMost Tumultuous of Environments
Presented by: Dr. Katherine Alatalo, Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, CA
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 from 1:30-2:30 pm
340 West Hall
(followed by a conversation with students and postdocs from 2:30-3:30 pm)

Abstract

The stories that have come out over the past couple of years have exposed endemic levels of harassment in academia. The question is: would you be able to recognize a student in distress if they came to you? I will walk you through a personal case-study of one such student, to teach you what to look out for, and challenge you to question your own views of "a student in over their head scientifically." I will then chronicle the resources that were in place that resulted in success in spite of tremendous headwinds. Finally, I will introduce you to the "Astronomy Allies" concept, as an example of what we as a community are trying to do to allow victims of harassment to retain a sense of belonging and safety, so that they too can persist, and eventually thrive.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Physics

About the Speaker

Slide Presentation

 

The Prison Teaching Initiative
Presented by: Professor Jenny Greene, Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University
Friday, February 10, 2017 from 9:30am-10:30am
411 West Hall
(Continental breakfast beginning at 9:15 am)

Abstract  

The Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) is an all-volunteer organization comprised of Princeton graduate students, postdocs, and faculty that teaches college-accredited courses in State (and one Federal) Correctional Facilities in New Jersey. As background, I will discuss mass incarceration in this country, and the impacts of higher education on recidivism. Then, I will talk about the history of our program and our model, in the context of other programs nationwide.

About the Speaker

Slide Presentation


Sexual Harassment in Academia: A Call to Action
Presented by: Julie C. Libarkin, Professor Michigan State University
Friday, January 6, 2017 at 11am
340 West Hall
(Light refreshments at 10:30 a.m. in 337 West Hall)  

Please Note:

•Content in this talk may make you or those around you uncomfortable.
•Content which does not affect you may adversely affect those around you, and vice versa.

Abstract

Despite headlines to the contrary, sexual harassment is both a far-reaching and longstanding problem in academia. The 1964 ban on sex discrimination in the workplace, the coining of the term “sexual harassment” in 1975, and the 1980 guidelines on sexual harassment issued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) all clearly emerged from a need for workplaces free from obscene remarks or advances. Despite fifty years of attention, sexual harassment continues to be a problem across many disciplines, including science. This talk will review existing research on academic sexual harassment as well as insights gleaned from an analysis of nearly 500 cases documented in media reports, legal briefs, and university documents. In the past year alone, sexual harassment perpetrated by a US professor, dean, or university president has been documented at least once a week.

While individual academic institutions are currently working to generate policies to protect against sexual harassment, these individual efforts are unlikely to produce the type of cultural shift needed to combat sexual harassment in academia. We analyzed sexual harassment policies for 38 universities responsible for graduating many future faculty as well as 252 affiliated societies of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This analysis indicates that most professional societies do not have sexual harassment policies. Those policies that do exist within both professional societies and universities fail to meet minimum standards established by the EEOC. We suggest that it is incumbent upon parent organizations such as AAAS to articulate norms and expectations regarding sexual harassment.

About the Speaker

Slide Presentation

This event was co-hosted by MIRA and Earth and Environmental Sciences

 

Unseen Dimensions of Diversity and Overcoming Invisible Obstacles
Presented by: Professor Smadar Naoz (UCLA)
April 15, 2016 at 9:45 am
411 West Hall (Pavo)
(Light breakfast and coffee at 9:30 in 412)

Abstract

Attempts to promote diversity in science often focus on issues related to gender and race; however, there is a wider range of individual differences that can limit the full participation of a diverse set of scientists. If our goal is to maximize scientific excellence by creating an environment that is equitable and inclusive for all, we need to recognize this wide range of variation and the related impediments that can exist.  It is important to learn about these--often invisible--barriers in order to help to dismantle them and to provide better support for a truly diverse group of scientists.

In this presentation, Prof. Smadar Naoz will tell us her personal story of overcoming challenges relating to learning disabilities, in combination with cultural impedance, being a women in STEM, and a first generation college graduate.

About the Speaker

 

Do Black Lives Matter in Science?
Presented by: Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Tuesday, February 16, 2016 from 4:00 - 5:00 pm
340 West Hall
(Light refreshments, 337 West Hall at 3:35)

Abstract

We all learned in December that at least two Supreme Court justices think the answer is no. But where did they get this impression? What has the scientific community done to counter that narrative both before Fisher vs. Texas and since those comments were made? Moreover, what is the scientific community doing to support Black students more broadly on campus? In this discussion, I'd like to explore the role that scientists play in promoting the health and well-being of Black students in their departments and beyond their departments. Taking the Salaita case at the University of Illinois as an example, I will explore the broad implications the choices of scientists have for the future of universities and Black on Campus.

About the Speaker

 

Creating Future Stem Leaders: The National Astronomy Consortium
Presented by: Dr. Kartik Sheth, Deputy Program Scientist, Cosmic Origins, NASA, Goddard Flight Center
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 from 3-4pm
411 West Hall (Pavo)

Abstract

The National Astronomy Consortium (NAC) is a program led by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and Associated Universities Inc., (AUI) in partnership with the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP), and a number of minority and majority universities to increase the numbers of students from underrepresented groups and those otherwise overlooked by the traditional academic pipeline into STEM or STEM-related careers. The seed for the NAC was a partnership between NRAO and Howard University which began with an exchange of a few summer students five years ago. Since then the NAC has grown tremendously. Today the NAC aims to host between 4 to 5 cohorts nationally in an innovative model in which the students are mentored throughout the year with multiple mentors and peer mentoring, continued engagement in research and professional development / career training throughout the academic year and throughout their careers. I will summarize the results from this innovative and highly successful program and provide lessons learned.

The Imposter Syndrome
Presented by: Sarah Ballard, (MIT) Kavli Institute
October 2, 2015 from 2:10 pm - 3:30 pm
411 West Hall

Abstract

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a surprising number of bright, capable, and often highly successful people dismiss their achievements as due to luck, charm, or other external factors. Individuals suffering from the Impostor Syndrome tend to believe they have somehow managed to "fool" others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. As a result, people experiencing this syndrome live in fear of being “found out.”

From Wikipedia: "Impostor Syndrome has been commonly reported by graduate students and scientists beginning tenure track."

About the Speaker

Dr. Sarah Ballard Presentation Slides

 

Highlights of the 2015 Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists: Revisiting the Future of Scientific Leadership
Presented by: Bryan Terrazas, Alejo Stark, Nuria Calvet and Emily Rauscher
April 3, 2015
411 West Hall

 

Increasing Diversity in Science and Engineering at the PhD Level
Presented by: Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt University
February 5, 2015

 

Fall, 2014 Presentations

In Fall, 2014 the presenters were Prof. Kathryn Johnston (Columbia University) who gave a talk entitled Perspectives from a Woman in Science, on November 7, 2014 and Prof. John Asher Johnson (Harvard University) who gave a talk entitled Black People in Astronomy: Why so Few? on December 5, 2014. Links to their presentation slides appear below.

Prof. Kathryn Johnston (Columbia University) Presentation Slides

Prof. John Asher Johnson (Harvard University) Presentation Slides