4
Reports from the Breakout Sessions

Following the presentation described in Chapters 1-3, breakout sessions were organized to enable more extensive discussions among the workshop participants. The following questions and statements were suggested to the breakout groups as possible topics for discussion:

  • Consider the previous talks regarding successful diversity models and discuss which models can likely be replicated.

  • Discuss potential problems that may be encountered in trying to replicate a given model.

Rapporteurs from the breakout groups then reported in plenary session what they believed to be important ideas and topics that had emerged during the discussions.

Rigoberto Hernandez, Georgia Institute of Technology: All of us thought that we were just attending a typical workshop in which all the usual problems leading to a lack of diversity in the chemical workforce would once again be aired out. This morning, we quickly realized that this workshop is different. The first three lectures were truly outstanding, and we were surprised at the success stories that they described. This cognitive dissonance probably led us to say a lot more than what we expected to say during our one-hour discussion. Consequently, although I may not give a direct statement about any one of the lectures, the common consensus among the group is that we felt it was very useful to listen to all three of the speakers describing diversity models that work. In what follows, I summarize several of the questions we formed during our discussion as well as our attempts to answer them.

How and where do you find diversity? Of course, we need diversity of students, but that alone is not enough. We need diversity among our faculty, because that allows us to obtain or prepare a more diverse student body. We need diversity in the agencies. By that, I mean the funding agency that recognizes the importance of diversity by having that diversity among them. Of course, this is just a microcosm. There should be diversity everywhere, including the general workforce. Perhaps diversity that is anchored at the front end of the pipeline will allow diversity to filter throughout our country.



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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable 4 Reports from the Breakout Sessions Following the presentation described in Chapters 1-3, breakout sessions were organized to enable more extensive discussions among the workshop participants. The following questions and statements were suggested to the breakout groups as possible topics for discussion: Consider the previous talks regarding successful diversity models and discuss which models can likely be replicated. Discuss potential problems that may be encountered in trying to replicate a given model. Rapporteurs from the breakout groups then reported in plenary session what they believed to be important ideas and topics that had emerged during the discussions. Rigoberto Hernandez, Georgia Institute of Technology: All of us thought that we were just attending a typical workshop in which all the usual problems leading to a lack of diversity in the chemical workforce would once again be aired out. This morning, we quickly realized that this workshop is different. The first three lectures were truly outstanding, and we were surprised at the success stories that they described. This cognitive dissonance probably led us to say a lot more than what we expected to say during our one-hour discussion. Consequently, although I may not give a direct statement about any one of the lectures, the common consensus among the group is that we felt it was very useful to listen to all three of the speakers describing diversity models that work. In what follows, I summarize several of the questions we formed during our discussion as well as our attempts to answer them. How and where do you find diversity? Of course, we need diversity of students, but that alone is not enough. We need diversity among our faculty, because that allows us to obtain or prepare a more diverse student body. We need diversity in the agencies. By that, I mean the funding agency that recognizes the importance of diversity by having that diversity among them. Of course, this is just a microcosm. There should be diversity everywhere, including the general workforce. Perhaps diversity that is anchored at the front end of the pipeline will allow diversity to filter throughout our country.

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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable What is diversity? Within this workshop, we have been primarily defining diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. There is also diversity in gender as well as diversity in career paths. Diversity in the chemical workforce should not be framed solely within a discussion of academic achievement as the one and only possible route for a success story. Success stories are also to be found in industry. We should therefore think about the need for diversity in many different directions. We should think about it in a holistic kind of way, if you will pardon a new-age term. It is all related. So, do not try to solve just one diversity problem within a particular setting. Instead think about how solving that problem might fit in within the context of all the other problems. A most important action item in this sense is the delivery of the diversity message. Do not just come to a diversity meeting or workshop and say, “this is my contribution to diversity for the year because I attended this workshop.” Go back and talk to members of your institution and let them know what facts you discussed, for example, diversity models that work and how diversity should be viewed within the context of your institution. A common theme in our group discussion came under the refrain, “programs, programs, programs.” In today’s lectures, we heard about several new and successful diversity programs. However, there is a sentiment that at many workshops one often hears about new programs or initiatives and that in general there is an increasing proliferation of such programs every year. Unfortunately, the fact is that the success stories have not seemingly proliferated. That is, the success stories do not seem to be increasing at the same rapid rate at which the programs have increased. So, the question is, What do we need to do with these programs, and how can the increase in the proliferation of these programs increase the success stories? The group consensus is that we need to buy in. But from whom do we need buy-in? We need the buy-in from the students. We will get this kind of buy-in if we advise them properly. How do we advise them properly? Let us start by advising their teachers. A lot of capable teachers have an idea of what they need to do to prepare the kids to apply successfully to college, but maybe they do not have a good enough idea of what those kids’ needs are in order to be successful in college. For those of us who are faculty members, the burden is therefore on us to educate these teachers, particularly high school (9th-12th grade) teachers and counselors, on what they need to teach the students before they go to college. Perhaps with this better preparation, we can have a higher yield of success stories at the college level. We need to persuade the importance of buy-in to the entire faculty and administrators. That is, we need buy-in from ourselves. It is an excellent advance to exclaim that diversity is important. However, at the end of the day, or better yet, at the end of the year, when you are expecting a promotion, nothing that you do to enhance diversity affects your promotion or your salary increase. Clearly, diversity has not been an issue in measuring most of our academic careers. Perhaps this could be factored into the equation. We need buy-in from funding agencies. For example, when a funding agency is asked whether or not they will renew your grant, perhaps the agency could base their consideration on how well you have handled diversity at your place of business. This is a double-edged sword because we want such grants to be based solely on the scientific merit. The challenge is to achieve this quality and yet reward investigators who enhance diversity. How do we define a success story? By success, I do not just mean absolute success, as in whether the science is good, which of course is part of the question. Instead, we are also asking whether the social context of the success story is also one that has promoted diversity. There are at least two parts to this question:

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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable The first involves the preselection process. How do you identify which students are going to be successful, and what is the right criteria for this selection process? One relevant example given today by Sylvia Hurtado is the University of Michigan case involving the question of how to include diversity in acceptance standards for incoming students. The case has just recently percolated through the legal system up to the Supreme Court. I do not know the details, but maybe someone who does will tell us more on that later. Nonetheless the take-home message is that one has to be careful in applying a standard that may give rise to diversity at the risk of creating a bias against other members of the society. In any event, the sad truth is that a mere 1 to 1.5 percent of the incoming class of undergraduate students at the University of Michigan is African American despite the fact that a diversity criterion is in place. Given that this percentage is significantly lower than in the American population, it can be argued that in practice it is not adversely affecting other groups. And, moreover, it is helping to enhance the diversity at the University of Michigan. In our group’s experience, we have found—as Sylvia Hurtado more quantitatively shows—that the effect of taking students of ethnically or racially diverse backgrounds does have positive nonadditive effects on the education of the entire student class. That may or may not be something you would agree with. The second involves the postevaluation of success as well as how it is rewarded. As remarked earlier, your success in promoting diversity does not play a role when it comes to grant renewal time or promotion. That is, at least in the experience of the academic members of our group, the promotion of diversity initiatives is not a reason why you are or are not awarded a grant. And yet, many funding agencies include mission statements for their grants that seek to promote diversity. In the final analysis, therefore, we need to ensure that the rhetoric matches the action. If you believe that diversity is important, then put your money on it. If you are not going to put your money on it, then do not say that you will, so that other people do not spend time on it—particularly African Americans, Latino Americans, or other members of diverse groups. For example, I spend time on diversity issues because I want to help people and I am happy doing it. If I were rewarded for it, that would be good too because that is what the rhetoric says I am going to be rewarded for. However, there is clearly a time-management problem. If I spend time on diversity issues that I could have spent directly to promote my science, then I am sacrificing some erstwhile success. What is the role of nurturing and support groups in promoting diversity? Both in industry and among our faculties, there should be an attempt to develop support groups in which a mentor is assigned to different individuals starting within the system. Such mentoring may involve guidance in how to deal with office politics that may be inhibiting the successful initiation of a project or in how to write a grant proposal to a particular funding agency. Through mentoring, you can have a substantial impact on the success of their careers. In summary, mentoring and nurturing is important for both industrial and academic members—at this relatively upstream stage of a scientist’s career—in order to obtain the success stories we have been talking about. Nurturing also plays a significant role in the development of diverse students. You may argue that you have to impose a sink-or-swim standard in your graduate program, but that does not mean that you cannot nurture. Nurturing does not mean coddling. Nurturing means challenging and paying attention to someone. If you pay attention to your students as well as challenge them to be successful, they may very well be. Finally, there is the issue of transition. It can be found both at the undergraduate and at the graduate levels. Specifically, the issue is that we need to have a better understanding of how we take students from college to graduate school. Do we prepare them appropriately for those graduate schools? Do we keep track of them? Among the tools used by some funding agencies and smaller colleges is a tracking

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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable system that varies in its sophistication. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, keeps careful track of the human capital that it supports because they recognize that tracking is a significant positive that they can point to in justifying their budget allocation. Small colleges often keep track of how their students perform in graduate school by maintaining lines of direct communication. If a graduate student does not succeed in your program, then you will likely see a drop-off in applications from that student’s undergraduate college. In this way, they indirectly ensure that there is some quality control in your nurturing process. But too often graduate faculties are oblivious to this feedback. Isai T. Urasa, Hampton University: Our breakout group discussed the need for effective programs to help students transition from undergraduate programs to graduate school. This assistance must begin long before the students leave college. Undergraduate research should be a large part of preparation for a graduate program and could occur in a number of different venues: the student’s own university, other academic institutions, or industrial or national laboratories. Undergraduate research can be accomplished as summer programs or through the academic year. For example, Hampton University has developed several courses for academic credit that allow students to engage in research activity starting in their freshman year. Partnerships can also be established between baccalaureate institutions and Ph.D.-granting institutions. This allows the students to see the working culture and diversity at that institution and to decide if the atmosphere in that graduate program is right for them. There is also transition from university to industry. One of the breakout group’s concerns was ensuring that earning a Ph.D. is a worthwhile investment for a future career. Professional societies can aid in this transition process. The American Chemical Society (ACS), for example, has held workshops and short programs for students about job search, industrial research, and other topics. The attraction of students into science, mathematics, engineering, and technology continues to be a critical issue in addressing the underrepresentation of minorities in these fields. The loss of students from the leaky science pipeline transcends all levels of education from K-12, to undergraduate and graduate programs. Interest in and attraction to science must be cultivated at an early stage, and this requires programs that address not only science and math skills but also communication skills. NSF is now involved in K-12 science programs, which is a step in the right direction. There are model programs that allow high school students to spend time at an undergraduate institution to determine their field of study. Undergraduate students who are not ready to advance to graduate school could also be helped to stay in the pipeline. Such students may benefit from an intermediate master’s degree program that would give them a two-year period to firm their knowledge and reorient them into graduate school. Hampton University has done some things similar to that. Recruitment is an issue closely related to the leaky pipeline. There are several factors that impact on our abilities to recruit students for baccalaureate and graduate programs in science. There are a number of programs that have proven to be quite effective in this regard, for instance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported Minority Access to Research Careers program. NSF had the Research Careers for Minority Scholars program several years ago that has since been discontinued, but which successfully recruited and supported science students. Similarly, there is a continuing minuscule number of minority faculty members at majority institutions. Although external support and resources are essential, institutional commitment, support, and the overall climate are also important to the issue of diversity. Although we do not have the solutions to these problems today, I think there is a desire to put forth effective programs to help resolve these issues.

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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable Billy M. Williams, Dow Chemical Company: Our group spent a lot of time following up on what was reported in the success models by the first three speakers this morning, and concentrating on the issue of transition, which the previous rapporteur talked about, and disequilibrium. Therefore, most of our discussion focused on that. The disequilibrium occurs in the undergraduate-to-graduate transition for majority populations. It also occurs in academic-to-industry transition, but because of the cultural adjustment, it creates a double burden for the nonmajority population. We recognized that this is a universal phenomenon. One of our participants pointed out that this is also an acute issue for first-generation college students. Increase accountability among the faculty. One of the barriers that we discussed was the lack of incentives for faculty members to assist with this transition any more than they do already. There are a lot of faculty members who do this very aggressively, but it is done more out of their own will and desire to help society’s need for future scientists. There are limited, external faculty incentives to help with the transition. Also, there was an acknowledgment in our group discussion that professors were unlikely to change their practiced beliefs. We spent time focusing on what actions we could suggest or what actions could be taken to help influence their belief. There was some discussion on models that work for assisting transitions. One such effective model gaining use in industry (and on campus) is “affinity groups.” We heard this morning that they have a similar group at Corning. These groups were managed by employees (and/or students), but supported by the employer or educational institution. The question was whether or not these student support groups can be extended to the graduate level. Reportedly, there is an NSF program that encourages and supports the undergraduate affinity group on campus and that this could be extended to the graduate level. We also thought that academic institutions could be more proactive in helping students during the transition by making incentives available to faculty for their commitment to this effort. One of our group participants reported that in Texas there is a requirement for all students to obtain some type of diversity education and training. There was discussion on whether a university could ask untenured faculty to attend such training as a means to help raise awareness of transition-related issues. Training grants are available from NSF and NIH. There is a question as to whether some of the professional organizations could bring more attention to the issue that we are losing a lot of students during these transition stages. This could be an area for further attention by organizations such as ACS, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Hispanic professional societies, and African American professional societies. Currently the tracking system is poor. There are a number of minority students who successfully complete even the most challenging programs across the nation, many without the type of support that should be in place. But the success factors cannot be understood or correlations developed because of the poor tracking system. What were the factors that allowed students to get through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with good GPAs? Discover what was critical to that success, and publicize those findings. Promote technical careers. One person in our group discussed a study that they have under way to not only take a snapshot of capacity (what is feeding the pipeline), but also to be proactive in promoting technical careers to help increase the pool entering the chemical-related professions. Last, have a better attempt to educate institutions on the inherent value of a diverse faculty population. We heard in this workshop that when students are exposed to a more diverse group of educators, it really has a positive impact on their careers.