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The Importance of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Physics Departments Presented at the SPIN-UP Southern Regional Workshop At North Carolina State University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Importance of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Physics Departments Presented at the SPIN-UP Southern Regional Workshop At North Carolina State University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Importance of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Physics Departments Presented at the SPIN-UP Southern Regional Workshop At North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC Willie S. Rockward, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Micro/Nano Optics Research & Engineering (M.O.R.E.) Laboratory September 12, 2009

2 Outline Overview of Morehouse College Perspective on Diversity and Inclusiveness The National Problem and Local Challenges Tools, Tips, and Techniques on Mentoring Minorities Reflecting Thoughts References / Contributions / Acknowledgements

3 Overview of Morehouse College The College (founded 1867) –Private, fully-accredited, 4-year liberal arts, all-male, historically- black college (Atlanta, GA) –Cooperative member of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) –Approx. 2,850 students and 190 faculty (15:1 student-faculty ratio) –Top 50 feeder C&Us for graduate and professional programs Division of Math & Sciences –Strong programs in Biology, Chemistry, Math, & Physics –Boast the Nation’s most productive Dual Degree (3/2) Program in Engineering –Over 98% faculty with Ph.D. –Strong teaching & service –Faculty load distribution Faculty Average: T-60/S-20/R-20 Physics Dept.: T-80/S-20/R-10 Dr. Rockward: T-60/S-20/R-40

4 Perspective on Diversity & Inclusiveness Physics = the science of describing natural phenomenon that can be verified through experiment. Diversity = a system composed of persons from different genders and cultures (race, national, ethnic). Inclusiveness = a system that intimately and dynamically operates with a diverse set. –Not social integration but social combination

5 Perspective on Diversity & Inclusiveness PHYSICS uses EVERYONE because EVERYONE uses PHYSICS. There is more than enough PHYSICS for EVERYONE. A RECESSION in PHYSICS is an UNIVERSAL catastrophe!

6 As a community, Physics failed in its former ability to create economy-changing knowledge and technology-driven society. Physics is the foundation of the current recession!! The National Problem & Local Challenges

7 Physics stands out among the sciences for its inability to attract enough women or minorities that their representation in physics will, in the foreseeable future, be commensurate with their proportions in the general population. Shirley Malcom, Director of Education and Human Resources Programs American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC. - Physics Today and AIP 75 th Anniversary Meeting, July 2006 The National Problem & Local Challenges

8 Diversity in Physics Compared to Other STEM fields Historical Trends 1985-2005 As degrees awarded to African Americans increased from 1985-2005, physics has not have not benefited from this increase % of BS Degrees awarded to African Americans% of BS Degrees Awarded to African Americans by field Physics hovering around 5%

9 Degrees granted to US citizens by minority/ethnic group (2006 Data) These numbers have been increasing lately but these are slowly varying phenomena


11 Only 185 of 4500 physics baccalaureates are awarded to African Americans Greater than 50% of those degrees are awarded by 36 HBCU programs Many of the nation’s 780 physics programs have never graduated an African American physics major. Many never will.


13 Hispanic students tend to be more broadly distributed



16 Diversity Pyramid Copyright. Frank Hall Foundation of Tips, Tools, and Techniques

17 Tips, Tools, and Techniques Cultural –Share personal heritage –Seek to understand ethnic factors Community –Family (local and long distance – NCBPS, Summer intern, etc.) –Friendships (non-disposable) –Critical mass recruitment (ex. GT Black Hole) Coaching –Personal motivation (ex. Prof. Flannery) –Focus & direct –Career follow-up & contact Collaboration –Group dynamics –Truthful Reinforcement

18 ● Build an integrated support system A successful physics department should have tutoring (academic services) and social outlet services integrated with sense of community in the department, paying particular attention to cultural differences in the social outlet, and culturally different perceptions of academic services. ● Build an inclusive curriculum How does this play out in physics? ◊ Compare the images in Halliday & Resnick vice Giancolli. In Halliday & Resnick the diagrams (pictures of people, cartoons or depictions of people, e.g., demonstrating the right hand rule, riding a bike, sliding down a giant slide, often show diverse races and genders. Not so in Giancolli. The message in H&R, if you are not male and not Caucasian physics relates to you; the message in Giancolli…???? ◊ Do you have seminars and colloquia? Who do you invite? From what institutions? Tips, Tools, and Techniques

19 ● Make your classrooms interactive Shift the culture from competitive to interactive, or make the competition not between students, or between students and the teacher, but between knowing and not knowing. Make the process of learning part of the reward. Is the grade a measure of the students’ ability to learn, or the instructors ability to teach? Take advantage of peer mentoring and collaboration, work these into the grading system (group assignments and group grades on those assignments). The students in the NSBP project often described peers as the “saving grace” and many said that they would not “make it” if it were not for them. Lessons from High Achieving Minorities in Physics Fries-Britt, Younger & Hall, (2008) Tips, Tools, and Techniques

20 ● Understand the psycho-social positions of underrepresented students Different perceptions of support services Minority students will often wonder “where is this coming from?” vis a vis academic support services. Research suggests that some students view support systems, especially students of color, as remedial and inappropriate. Berkeley students were sent letters that stated “Dear Minority Student: Congratulations on your admission to Berkeley. Berkeley is a difficult institution. You are going to need a lot of help and we are here to help you….” Students typically ignored the letters. Many viewed them as insulting or inappropriate as they were often academic leaders in their high schools. The a priori assumption of low academic abilities affected the students self-esteem and confidence. Treisman, 1992 Tips, Tools, and Techniques

21 ● Understand the psycho-social positions of underrepresented students Finding #1 The proving process: Does it ever end? Students often reported feeling like they had to prove themselves in the classroom no matter how long they persisted in physics. Each semester they had to start over with a new professor, or even the same professor (but in a different class) proving that they could handle the work. They also expressed frustration with having to prove to people that they deserved to be admitted into top programs; and if they attended lesser known schools that they were just as capable as other students in more competitive programs. This same sentiment was expressed by some of the graduate students especially those who completed their undergraduate degrees at HBCUs. Many of these students shared examples of how their enrollment in graduate level physics programs at PWIs was questioned because of their previous institutional affiliation. This is psychologically exhausting. Lessons from High Achieving Minorities in Physics Fries-Britt, Younger & Hall, (2008) The National Society of Black Physicists supported a study of 100+ African American and Hispanic American physics students. Tips, Tools, and Techniques

22 ● Realize what faculty say, and convey, matters Finding # 2. What faculty said to students and how they conveyed confidence, or lack of confidence, in students’ abilities matter. Participants talked about the “tone” that faculty used to speak with them and how their body language communicated an openness to work with them. These interactions were perceived by students as conveying directly or indirectly what a professor thought of their work and ability to do science. In some instances, students’ perceptions were that these interactions had to do with their race. Students gave vivid examples of how professors were positive and negative in what they communicated. A fairly common experience was professors who tried to discourage them from science by either blatantly recommending that they find another major or by shutting them down in the classroom. Lessons from High Achieving Minorities in Physics Fries-Britt, Younger & Hall, (2008) Tips, Tools, and Techniques

23 ● Understand the psycho-social positions of underrepresented students Finding #3 The process of getting a college education can be particularly stressful and off-putting for underrepresented minorities Financial aid worries Overall campus climate Dating opportunities Feeling of isolation Stereotype threat Lessons from High Achieving Minorities in Physics Fries-Britt, Younger & Hall, (2008) Tips, Tools, and Techniques

24 Are role models for underrepresented students on your faculty? · The profile of new faculty hired by physics departments at primarily undergraduate institutions is very different from those hired by research departments. Most of the new faculty hired by bachelors-granting departments are young physicists who earned their PhDs in the U.S. · By contrast, only 35% of the new faculty hired by PhD-granting departments in 1999 were young physicists from the U.S. Almost as many of the new hires were physicists who had earned their PhDs abroad, most of whom had strong international reputations and were in mid career. Similarly, a significant number of new hires were mid-career physicists from industry and government labs. · The profile of new faculty hired by PhD-granting physics departments in 2000 was very different from that of 10-20 years ago. For example, during the decade of the 1980's, only 16% of the new faculty hires were physicists who had earned their PhDs abroad. Tips, Tools, and Techniques

25 Roles of Professional Societies Control certification and accreditation processes Set the parameters in which people practice the profession Stewards of communication channels and archives of the profession Mechanisms where people gain recognition in the profession Standards for ethical professional practice Advocates for the profession in government and with various other venues Institute change in the profession Provide forums for marketing, intellectual pollination, and career networking Provide personal and professional services. Tips, Tools, and Techniques

26 Student involvement is professional societies is positively associated with retention in the profession. Student professional organizations are a primary source of information and mentoring (peer and faculty mentoring). Student professional organizations are an important mechanism to recognize student achievement, advance professional competency, and break down psycho-social barriers. Make sure your underrepresented minority students are members of SPS, NSBP, NSHP, APS, AAPT, AVS, ASA, AAS, OSA, MRS, SPIE and every professional society in the field. Roles of Professional Societies (continued) Tips, Tools, and Techniques

27 Ethnic associations provide a sense of community and networking for their members. When a leader of a prominent ethnic professional association was asked why he joined the organization, he said: “I found a group of people who were fighting the same battles and had the same goals and aspirations for themselves and the profession as I did”. All the available research results suggest that the larger professional societies should not view ethnic associations as competitors, because membership in ethnic groups is primarily motivated very pragmatic career concerns and community-building sensibilities. African Americans are actually more likely to be members of multiple professional societies because they are members of the ethnic professional society, which aims to keep them in the profession, and no less likely to be in any other professional society. Roles of Professional Societies (NSBP and NSHP) Tips, Tools, and Techniques

28 Tools, Tips, and Techniques on Mentoring Minorities

29 Networth = What you know? –Knowledge of fundamentals –Work ethic –Research skills –Career aspirations Network = Who you know? –Research experiences –Group interactions & dynamics –Organization & intrapersonal skills Netweaving = Who knows you? –Conferences & presentations –REU mentor, faculty & participants –Relational assessment & follow-up SMiLE Concepts NetworthNetworkNetweaving SMiLE: Undergraduate Research/Teaching Mentoring

30 SMiLE Faculty MentoringAdvisementResearch SMiLE: Undergraduate Research/Teaching Mentoring Mentoring –Professional (Faculty-to-Student) –Peer (Student-to-Student) –Parental (Father-to-Son/Daughter) –Proverbial (Reverse roles) Advisement –Guidance (Direction not Demand) –Informative (Options not Laws) –Timely (Scheduled appointments) Research –Diverse (Variety of related projects) –Resourceful (Adequate funding) –Respectable (Hard but fair)

31 Personal –Work ethic –Patience –Collaboration –Eternal learning Practical –Laboratory safety & decorum –Research techniques –Equipment & supplies acquisition –Data collection & analysis –Computational design & programming –Publication & proposal writing Professional –GRE prep & Graduate school tours –Conferences & Workshops –REUs & Internships –Faculty, Researchers, & Administrators –Future Colleagues & Employers SMiLE Skills PersonalPracticalProfessional SMiLE: Undergraduate Research/Teaching Mentoring

32 Graduate School Tours NCSU, UNC, & Duke 2007 Mississippi State Univ. 2004

33 Reflecting Thoughts … PHYSICS uses EVERYONE because EVERYONE uses PHYSICS. There is more than enough PHYSICS for EVERYONE. Apply “critical mass” recruitment and “one-on-one” coaching. Keep working on “Can we do it better?” Diversity and Inclusiveness is the KEY to SURVIVING and THRIVING.

34 References & Contributions –APS Committee on Minorities Report, AIP (2003). –AAAS News & Notes, Science, 324, 480 (2009). –AIP Statistical Research Center –Noteworthy Discussions & Contributions Quinton Williams, Dept. of Physics & Atmospheric, Jackson State U. Lawrence Norris, Exec. Director, National Society of Black Physicists Zelda Gills Sheppard, Lockheed-Martin, Marietta, GA Anthony Johnson, Director of CASPR, Dept. of Physics, UMBC Michael Williams, Dept. of Physics, Clark Atlanta University Donnell Walton, Corning Incorporate, Painted Post, NY Aakhut E. Bak, Dept. of Physics, Morehouse College

35 Acknowledgements Special Thanks to: Dr. Ruth Howes and the SPIN-UP National Task Force Team Dr. John Blodin and NCSU SPIN-UP Program Committee Physics students: Ronald Clary, Alandis Jackson, Dewayne Booker, Brandon Luckett, and Carlton McGee Dr. Jim Stith Many other colleagues, students, friends, family, etc. Questions and/or Comments??

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