BUILDing Knowledge on the Intersection of Ethnic & Scientific Identity at SACNAS

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On October 14, 2016, San Francisco State University (SF State) BUILD led a session at SACNAS on the intersection of Ethnic & Scientific Identity that included a member of its Environmental Affairs Committee (EAC) and a California State University, Northridge (CSUN) BUILD PODER leader. This session brought together Stereotype Threat and Critical Race Theories that ground SF State and CSUN BUILD efforts.  The session speakers applied these theories to the intersection of ethnic and science identities and presented data documenting how this intersectionality affects success in science. This session was led by a diverse group, capturing a variety of expertise and experience levels. Ghilamichael Andemeskel is a BUILD scholar and biology undergraduate student at SF State. He discussed his current research project on Black Identity and Stereotype Threat. Dr. Gabriela Chavira is a multiple PI for BUILD and a psychology professor at CSUN. She discussed Ethnic and Science Identity Formation through the lens of Critical Race Theory. Dr. Alegra Eroy-Reveles, an assistant chemistry professor from SF State, shared her research measuring Science Identity as a function of underrepresented minority (URM) status in chemistry courses at SF State. Lastly, Dr. Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton discussed his expertise in Rejection, Acceptance, and Identity Formation in Academia. Dr. Mendoza-Denton is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the External Advisory Committee for BUILD at SF State. The session was moderated by SF BUILD lead PI and biology professor, Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña.

The goal of the session was to engage the SACNAS community in discussion of how the intersection of ethnic and science identities can affect student success in science. Nearly 100 participants attended the session, both students and faculty alike who were surprised to learn that on some campuses ethnic identity is protective in STEM, while in others it can negatively affect student success. Based on these results participants were tasked with developing strategies to improve institutional environments to facilitate the healthy connection of ethnic and science identities in STEM. Themes that emerged from the task included: (1) focus on inclusive pedagogy by faculty and (2) institutional changes to showcase the value of diversity to science. Session participants agreed that faculty should be trained on issues related to ethnic and science identity. They also suggested faculty learn the correct pronunciation of their students' names, that they welcome personal stories, and provide opportunities for students to share their stories in one-on-one conversations in the classroom. At the institutional level, session participants suggested spotlighting diverse scientists and deconstructing the history of science by including indigenous roots (e.g. astronomy) in their curriculum. These suggestions coincide with reports in the scientific literature about how to create intellectually safe spaces for students in the classroom necessary for increased diversity at all levels. Participants also suggested that these efforts should be advanced by institutional support. The institution should consider ways to support faculty research on science and ethnic identity as a way to help institutions understand the importance of diversity in science. By engaging more people in this dialogue at the national SACNAS conference, the team of presenters successfully engaged members of non-BUILD institutions in the work to improve institutional environments for STEM by recognizing and embracing ethnic identity in science.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.