Gender and racial gaps continue to be a serious issue in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). This past Monday, October 31st, the Futures Initiative held its second event in The University Worth Fighting For series, focusing on STEM education by discussing multiple perspectives on working against structural barriers to support equity and social justice in STEM, both in academia and industry.
We were lucky to have expert panelists Jill Bargonetti (Hunter College), Gillian Bayne (GC and Lehman College), Andrew Rosenberg (Queens College and IBM), and Sara Vogel (GC PhD student, Urban Education) speak of their research and personal experiences within the STEM fields. If you missed the event, not to worry, you can watch the edited livestream video at any time.
Director of the Futures Initiative, Cathy Davidson, kicked off the event with opening remarks, discussing the current state of higher education as it relates to STEM, stressing that it is in desperate need of change. Cathy was followed by our first speaker, Jill Bargonetti who spoke about her work as a researcher and as an educator. She reflected upon how much time she has spent thinking about how we engage students and how to make them interested in the sciences. She shared that her experiences have taught her that not every person learns the same, noting that some people like thinking visually and in motion. As a dancer herself, Jill decided to design a choreographing genomics course, where there are no chairs in the classroom. Jill explained that DNA is similar to how we envision the jump rope game, “double dutch”, where people are the proteins. Jill’s pedagogy design provides a great example of how educators may promote different approaches to learning.
Following Jill’s talk, Gillian Bayne then spoke about envisioning a new paradigm of STEM. Gillian stressed the need to make everyone’s voice heard, showing how co-generative dialogues help consider the individual needs of the student as well as the collective needs of the group. She ended her talk with an open letter to students, asking us to radically listen and observe, daring us to provide and seek support, and daring us to enact a different STEM.
Giving a perspective from both inside and outside academia, Andrew Rosenberg discussed the importance of having diverse mentors. He explained his personal story, where many of his mentors both in academia and industry had been women and how those experiences shaped his perspective on the issue. He highlighted the need for people to recognize that although strides have been made to include women in technology research, economic diversity has truly been neglected.
Lastly, Sara Vogel discussed the current state of K-12 Computer Science education. Some questions she brought up included: “what does it mean to promote a different STEM?” and, “Computer Science for all, but why?” She pointed out that we must spend time envisioning the purpose behind Computer Science and highlighted possible visions, such as Computer Science for… workforce development, citizenship and civic engagement, competency, technological innovation, social justice, school reform, and lastly for joy and fulfillment.
In the true spirit of ensuring every voice is heard, we performed a group activity, instead of diving right into a typical Q&A session. As a group, the audience performed a think-pair-share: a great strategy to get people to work together to answer a question.
After the activity, audience members began to share their thoughts and questions, leading into an interesting discussion regarding STEM. Among the questions asked was, what we could do about students who fall out of the STEM pipeline? How do we re-engage them? The panelists provided possible solutions, such as,
- Educating faculty on understanding the problems that students face
- Asking students how they learn best
- Training STEM educators to use co-generative dialogues to understand and change what isn’t working in their classrooms
- Taking pride in how many students succeed NOT in how many students fail
- Doing interdisciplinary work
To learn more details about the event or to share in our discussion, please check out our Collaborative Google Document or Twitter chat of the event. Lastly, a big thank you to all of our cosponsors, HASTAC, GC Digital Initiatives, the Software Studies Initiative, the Office of Educational Opportunity and Diversity, and America Needs You, for making this event possible. Our next event, Media Blackness, will be held on November 14th. We hope to see you there!