A new scope for our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
This month, the dean’s office made an announcement that I want to be absolutely sure has not gone unnoticed. We have broadened our vision for building a diverse and inclusive Earth sciences community and formed a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program. Following a national search for a forward-thinking director for our reimagined efforts, we appointed Lupe Carrillo, PhD, to lead what I believe is a crucially important and expanded initiative for our school.
Building on a strong foundation
Ten years ago, during former dean Pam Matson’s tenure, geophysics professor Jerry Harris established the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to attract a diverse pool of talent into the Earth sciences and develop a pathway for students from underrepresented backgrounds to explore the field. OMA made great strides to diversify our graduate student pipeline with initiatives like the eight-week Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) program. In fact, after nine years, the SURGE program has made an impact at Stanford Earth and other universities across the country. Between 2011 and 2019, 23 percent of our school’s enrolled, underrepresented two-year MS and PhD students have been SURGE alumni and others have joined programs at 46 different universities. Another piece of OMA’s work was the creation of an Associate Chair for Diversity and Inclusion faculty role in each of our 4 departments and the E-IPER program, ensuring that we have faculty diversity champions throughout the school.
These results have demonstrated that removing barriers to opportunity and engaging a diverse pool of talent from all sectors of society is not only possible but integral to maintaining excellence at our school. The Earth sciences need perspectives and life experiences of all kinds, especially as we rely more and more on data-driven analyses which can be affected by assumptions (and biases) of the background we each bring to our research and teaching. A model, whether it be for climate change or urban planning, is only as good as the variables you plug into it. By having diverse voices among us, we not only have the potential to create better research and solutions, but we also learn more about the different Earth and environmental issues impacting a variety of communities around the world.
Broadened scope: The integration and practice of DEI
So what’s new? First, DEI efforts will be integrated into the fabric of all of Stanford Earth’s educational programs and reside within the Educational Affairs team led by Associate Dean Robyn Dunbar. We want a DEI lens on activities from mentorship and teaching practices, to planning field work and making curriculum choices—a lens that allows us to recognize power dynamics and the social and cultural barriers that may impact educational opportunity.
We believe that anyone can practice this perspective in the work that they do as faculty, students, researchers and staff. To support that practice, Robyn and Lupe will host workshops to provide educational tools, including a session on “mentoring across difference” and training on inclusive teaching and outreach.
Second, our efforts will focus on an inclusive cultural climate that creates a greater sense of community for everyone, while also giving visibility to students underrepresented in the Earth sciences, whether they be first-generation to college, low-income, women, ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ+, members of faith-based groups, international students, or any other individuals who contribute to the diversity of our community. We also will have stronger DEI programming for our undergraduates and for our growing postdoc community. We want all of you to feel not just at home in our community, but recognized for who you are and what your distinct perspectives bring.
After less than three weeks in her new role, Lupe has already created a strategy to help our scientific community build empathy and begin a dialogue about culture and identity. An early effort is her “Stanford Earth Celebrates” series—events intended to bring to the forefront the contributions made by various communities to the field of Earth sciences and the environment.
During February, Black History Month, for example, my own understanding of the image of the Arctic explorer was enlarged by learning more about Matthew Henson, who was part of the first recorded expedition to the North Pole in 1909. And I hope some of you caught Jerry Harris’ personal talk in Hartley yesterday: “My Mississippi: A meandering path in an environment of segregation, discrimination, and opportunity.”
Future “Stanford Earth Celebrates” events will focus on women’s history, Pride month, Latinx heritage, and other topics to help us all “see” and learn about each other more easily and recognize the many people who shape this field. Communications and events will be important tools in broadening the representation of who and what the Earth sciences are at our school, which I hope will also encourage prospective students and faculty to join us in the future.
Thinking through respect and equity
Third, building a community where we respect each other and have practices that are equitable and fair has been my priority from day one.
DEI has started revamping our Respectful Workplace program – a pioneering training launched 15 years ago that is required of all new Stanford Earth faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students. In 2019, we added modules on field work and microaggressions to open up conversation about race and ethnicity, behaviors in the field, as well as assumptions about gender. We plan to incorporate other new content as our programs move forward. Lupe will continue to work with our Associate Chairs for Diversity and Inclusion, who have already made efforts behind the scenes to improve a holistic graduate admissions process and have served as champions for creating a diverse and inclusive culture in their own departments and programs.
A model for others…
I am also very proud that we recently established pioneering Stanford Earth Guidelines for Transgender Transition. These are now being used as a model by other units at Stanford. In 2019, Associate Dean for Human Resources Sue Crutcher engaged a respected, knowledgeable professional to create guidance documents to help gender transitioning employees and their colleagues in maintaining a respectful workplace. The guidance is intended for students, postdocs, faculty, and professional staff seeking information about gender transition and related policies at Stanford Earth and includes information on interacting respectfully with and supporting gender-diverse colleagues.
Give your ideas and support
This is just the beginning of our DEI efforts that will put processes and resources into place to ensure that everyone has the support they need to thrive here. I have every confidence that Lupe and Robyn will bring together programming that will raise our collective awareness of one another and inspire a close-knit community.
I urge you to go to them with ideas and for support; and in turn to support their efforts. Lupe is currently on a listening tour, meeting with student groups and school leaders in addition to hosting a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Open Office Hours gathering in Mitchell 139 every Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:30-5:00 pm. Drop in for conversation, resources, discussion, or just hang out. And watch for a new and informative Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website coming soon.