NSFOpen Education ResourcesThe Research University (TRU)

RCN-UBE: The Undergraduate Network for Increasing Diversity of Ecologists (UNIDE): Ohio State University

Maria Miriti

[email protected]

Minorities are underrepresented in ecology and environmental sciences despite efforts to broaden participation. Although ethnic and racial minorities (Asians, African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, and people of multi-racial backgrounds) represent 29% of the Science and Engineering workforce, representation in environmental fields, broadly defined, is only 16%. Most interventions to broaden participation emphasize fixing skill deficits by providing additional coursework and research opportunities. However, research on teaching and scientific communication show these efforts can fail because they do not address cultural and social barriers that contribute to isolation and marginalization and thereby reduce student retention. Cultural competence theory, which has been applied in medical contexts, provides a promising framework to address barriers to broaden recruitment and retention in ecology specifically and STEM more broadly. This project aims to identify culturally value-laden concepts that are foundational in ecology; to develop evidence-based strategies to improve inclusion; to assess the relative impact of color-blind compared to ?identity-safe? teaching interventions at the university level; and to develop and promote pedagogy that promotes social-belonging in support of greater inclusiveness in ecology and environmental education. The results of this project will contribute to developing the ?cultural wealth? that is required to empower educators and practitioners to engage across cultures independent of individual background. This knowledge can improve education and disciplinary practice and improve recruitment and retention of underrepresented students; because recognizing sociocultural biases can open new avenues for scientific investigation, it also can improve ecological knowledge. Because cultural competence applies to many disciplines, the activities of this network can be translated to other STEM disciplines that endeavor to increase diversity. <br/><br/>The Undergraduate Network for Increasing Diversity of Ecologists will promote collaboration among ecologists, educators and social scientists to engage distinct stakeholders including underrepresented students and practitioners, those who work with underrepresented students, those who are invested in pedagogical development, and those who practice in ecology and environmental sciences. The objectives are to co-develop and assess inclusive, culturally sensitive teaching tools that are based on evidence-based pedagogical models, and to foster broad interest and participation in ecology and environmental science. The network will hold five annual workshops to build the network, identify implicit socio-cultural biases in ecology, identify alternative perspectives held by minorities, develop and test teaching practices that take diverse perspectives into account, and disseminate findings and teaching tools to the broad community of ecologists and environmental practitioners. <br/><br/>This project is being jointly funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Biological Infrastructure, and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their efforts to address the challenges posed in Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action (http://visionandchange/finalreport/).<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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