College Co-Hosts Third Diversity in STEM Symposium
On Feb.17, the College of Sciences and the College of Natural Resources hosted NC State’s third Diversity in STEM Symposium, featuring sessions on topics related to issues in increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
With more than 480 registrants, the virtual symposium brought together NC State students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public to explore this year’s theme, “Your Role in Inclusion.” The event was sponsored by BASF.
“I’m proud to say that our college has been a campus leader in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for more than 35 years, and has made creating a culture of inclusive excellence a centerpiece of our new strategic plan,” said Chris McGahan, dean of the College of Sciences.
Faculty, staff and Ph.D. students in STEM programs served as panelists throughout the day’s nine sessions, which included topics such as “Science Serving Communities,” “Broadening Accessibility for Students With Disabilities,” and “GLBTQ+ in STEM.” Among them was Mwenda Kudumu, a Ph.D. candidate in informal science education at NC State and panelist at a session titled “How Race Impacts the Field of Science.”
“One of the things that would be helpful for my field is for people in the field to recognize their own culture and the relationship between culture and race and science,” said Kudumu. “I think that oftentimes when your culture is the dominant culture, you can think of yourself as not having a culture. And you see other cultures as ‘that is culture’ and ‘I just am.’ When people actually learn to appreciate their own culture and value their own culture, then they can value someone else’s culture.”
Joseph L. Graves, Jr., professor of biological sciences at North Carolina A&T State University, gave the keynote address. He leads programs addressing the underrepresentation of minorities in science and has written books on the biology of race. Graves’ research in the evolutionary genomics of adaptation continues to shape our understanding of biological aging and bacterial responses to nanomaterials.
In his keynote address, “Voice in the Wilderness: How Evolution Can Help Us Solve Our Biggest Problems,” Graves spoke about the role of race in science, the history of racial thinking in Western society and his work in dispelling racial myths and stereotypes throughout his career.
“It is time for a new agenda in science that addresses the fact that underrepresentation is the product of historic structural racism,” Graves said.
Some of his recommendations included drawing from best practices at historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions and tribal colleges; reimagining hiring, promotion, advancement and retention for equity; and rethinking incentive systems.