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Broadening Participation – Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Scientists in the Botanical Sciences Organized by Anna K. Monfils and Ann K. Sakai BSA.

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Presentation on theme: "Broadening Participation – Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Scientists in the Botanical Sciences Organized by Anna K. Monfils and Ann K. Sakai BSA."— Presentation transcript:

1 Broadening Participation – Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Scientists in the Botanical Sciences Organized by Anna K. Monfils and Ann K. Sakai BSA Human Diversity Committee

2 Sponsors iDigBio Ecology Section of Botanical Society of America Teaching Section of Botanical Society of America American Society of Plant Taxonomy/Systematics Section of Botanical Society of America

3 Increasing Participation of African Americans in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Attitudes, Experts and Interventions Henry L. Bart, Jr. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Director, Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute

4 Outline of Talk My journey to EEB My EEB and STEM-wide diversity efforts Perceptions of African Americans toward EEB Plan for stimulating African American participation in EEB – Attitudes:– professional survey – Experts: accomplished EEB professionals – Interventions: activities Proposal development and implementation plan

5 My Journey to EEB Born to a large, New Orleans “Creole” family (Creoles of Color). Raised as Catholics, attended Catholic schools. Parents placed no restrictions on the career paths we could follow.

6 My passion for EEB (fishes) As boy growing up in New Orleans, I enjoyed fishing in the estuaries and bayous around the city. Soon developed into an all consuming passion for fish. Favorite childhood movie: Incredible Mr. Limpet. Childhood hero: Jacques Cousteau Favorite childhood book: Golden Nature Guide on Fishes (my bible).

7 My passion for EEB (fishes) Enjoyed fishing as a boy growing up in Gentilly area of New Orleans. Favorite Movie: Incredible Mr. Limpet. Childhood hero: Jacques Cousteau Favorite book: Golden Nature Guide on Fishes (my bible). Learned about field of Ichthyology in 1977 while working for my predecessor as a curatorial assistant at the Tulane Museum of Natural History… Duck Pond

8 My succession in EEB First learned about field of Ichthyology in 1977 while working with my predecessor, Royal D. Suttkus, as a volunteer curatorial assistant at the Tulane Museum of Natural History. Succeeded Suttkus as Curator of Fishes at TUMNH 15 years later.

9 EEB and STEM-wide Diversity Active in promoting campus diversity (faculty, staff and students) my entire career: – University of Oklahoma: Black Graduate Students Association – University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana: Black Faculty Assoc.; Black Graduate Students Assoc.; awarded first ever Chancellor’s Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship; mentored minority students in S.R.O.P. – Auburn University: Founder and first president of the Auburn Black Caucus (Faculty and Staff organization ), Advisor to Auburn Black Student Union.

10 Tulane LS-LAMP Campus Program

11 Tulane LS-LAMP Program Successes Served as Campus Coordinator for LS-LAMP at Tulane from minority undergraduates from Tulane, and all of Louisiana’s HBCUs participated in 10-week summer program of faculty mentored research and graduate school preparation (all STEM fields). 187 (77%) of program participants completed bachelor’s degrees, 56 (23%) enrolled in graduate school, 28 (11.5%) earned Master’s degrees, 7 (3%) earned doctoral degrees, and 12 (5%) were candidates for doctoral degrees in the Fall 2010.

12 My Tulane LS-LAMP Mentees Personally mentored the research of 19 program participants (18 African Americans and one Pacific Islander). Three of the 19 students have earned Master’s degrees in biological fields; one earned a Ph. D. in Neuroscience. Although all of these students were engaged in research in fish biology as undergraduates, none pursued careers involving studies of fishes.

13 Graduate Alliance for Education in Louisiana

14 Served as Project Director for GAELA from STEM doctoral education program funded by NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. 169 minority STEM doctoral degrees were awarded to minorities at Tulane, LSU, and Southern Baton Rouge during the GAELA funding period (twice the number from the previous 10-year period). Only one African American (my lone African American doctoral student) earned a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

15 My EEB Trainees I have mentored nine Master’s students, seven Ph.D. recipients, and three postdocs in EEB. One postdoc, one of the Ph.D. recipients, and two of the Master’s recipients are African American. Only the postdoc (a Belizean national) is employed as an academic biologist who specializes in the study of fishes. All of the non-minority Ph.D. recipients are research-active fish biologists.

16 Xavier University of Louisiana

17 U.S. Dept. of Education consistently ranks Xavier as tops nationally in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans in both the biological/life sciences and the physical sciences. For years, Xavier graduates have populated Tulane STEM graduate programs in Cell and Molecular Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience, Chemistry, and doctoral programs in Biochemistry, Interdisciplinary Molecular and Cell Biology, Pharmacology and Physiology in the Tulane Medical School (big factor in the success of GAELA).

18 Doctoral Fellowships in EEB Each of the past 12 years, the Tulane EEB Dept. has received one or more 4-year doctoral fellowships from the Louisiana Board of Regents for recruiting superior doctoral students. Only one fellowship was awarded to an African American student (left the program after one year). In most years, no African American students apply for the fellowships.

19 What’s Wrong with EEB? Why are so few African Americans pursuing advanced study and careers in ecology and evolutionary biology? Not from lack of opportunity, recruitment effort, or availability of support. Something about the perceptions of African Americans of careers in ecology and evolutionary biology is creating roadblocks. Decided to study the problem and explore solutions.

20 Stimulating Diversity in EEB Developed a concept paper called Stimulating Diversity in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Discussed the concept at a meeting held in the NSF BIO Directorate in October 2012, involving Dr. John Wingfield, the Assistant Director of BIO, Dr. Parag Chitnis of MCB, Dr. Penelope Firth of DEB, Dr. Shirley Malcom and Ms. Yolanda George of AAAS. Presently discussing proposal development with DEB program officers.

21 Possible Roadblocks Family and/or financial pressure for students with high aptitude for biology to pursue biomedical training. Negative family and/or religious-based perceptions of evolution. Limited outdoors experience (especially urban minorities). Avoidance of environmental biology is a residual effect of past or lingering hatred directed a blacks (especially in rural areas of the south).

22 Family/Financial Pressure Many students completing LS-LAMP applications said they wanted to study medicine or biomedical fields to treat diseases affecting family members or people in their communities. Some GAELA scholars admitted to succumbing to financial pressure to study medicine to repay college loans or justify the high cost of education at private universities (e.g., Xavier).

23 Anti-Evolution Sentiments Public opinion polling over the last few decades has shown that between 40% and 50% of Americans consistently reject the very idea of natural evolution, largely on the grounds that it conflicts with biblical accounts of creation. African Americans, especially Evangelicals, are less likely to accept evolutionary explanations of human origins than other groups.

24 Anti-Evolution Sentiments Public-Attitudes.aspx All respondents White Evangelicals Black Evangelicals White ProtestantsCatholicsSeculars Humans and other living things have… Existed only in present form42%65% 32%33%13% Evolved over time52%28%23%62%59%83% Guided by supreme being21%20%11%26%31%90% Through natural selection26%6%8%31%25%69% Don't know how evolved4%2%4%5%3%5% Don't know7% 12%6%8%5%

25 Limited Outdoors Exposure Little studied. Finney, C Black faces, white spaces: African Americans and the great outdoors. PhD dissertation, Clark University. – Explores how the environment is represented in African-American history and how this affects current attitudes. – “Issues of fear, exclusion, little sense of ownership and lack of awareness” all influence attitudes. %20Report.pdf

26 The Plan Attitudes: survey attitudes of African American students toward careers in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Experts: Convene a panel of accomplished, high- profile, African-American ecologists and evolutionary biologists to speak to students about their career paths and accomplishments. Interventions: engage African American undergraduates in activities likely to entice them to pursue careers in EEB.

27 Attitudes Survey the attitudes of African American students, and comparison groups of students from other racial groups, about advanced STEM education in general and advanced study in EEB in particular. Use survey results to develop effective intervention strategies. Survey results will also inform topics discussed by expert panel addressing a student forum.

28 Attitudes Survey will be developed by Laurie O’Brien, Social Psychologist Tulane University Developed survey of attitudes of women toward careers in STEM.

29 Experts Five accomplished, high-profile, African American ecologists/evolutionary biologists have agreed to join me on a panel before a forum of undergraduate students at Xavier University of Louisiana. Will talk to students about how we became interested in the EEB, our training, early careers, accomplishments and the professional rewards we now enjoy because of our career choices. Will also engage students in a prolonged Q&A session, answering questions about applying to graduate school, expenses of graduate education versus other kinds of professional schools, kinds of support available for graduate education, importance of postdoctoral training, early career advancement, etc.

30 Experts Scott V. Edwards, Harvard MCB, OEB (Ornithology) Tyrone B. Hayes, UC Berkeley IB (Herpetology/Physiology) Shirley M. Malcom, AAAS (Behavioral Ecology) Charles H. Nilon, U. Missouri (Wildlife Ecology) Muriel E. Poston, Pitzer College (Plant Systematics)

31 Interventions Actual interventions proposed will be guided by the attitudes survey. Possible helpful interventions, include field courses or other emersion experiences at field stations (e.g., OTS, STRI), EEB-based internships (Smithsonian NMNH Summer Internships). Will request support to allow forum participants to participate in intervention activities. Student would be tracked to follow (and further influence) their career paths.

32 Proposal Development and Outcomes Plan to submit a proposal to DEB and EHR this fall. Attitudes survey is in preliminary stages of development (seeking input from experts). Forum would be held in Spring 2014 (may be repeated elsewhere in future years). Intervention activities would be offered starting in Summer Hope to sow a number of seeds and grow some big, fruit-laden trees.

33 Acknowledgements Ann Sakai and Anna Monfils for inviting me Botany 2013 for gracing our fair city with your presence and your great theme, Celebrating Diversity! iDigBio for co-sponsoring the symposium All of you for your attenton!


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