Our department’s work in the area of equity and inclusion has been ongoing and was prioritized over the past two years through feedback and help from Biology majors, alumni, and HSTEM students. We are committed to equity and inclusion in our teaching, advising, mentoring and scholarship. All students are welcome members of our courses, our offices, our research labs, and Biology Majors have a home in our department.
We recognize the structural and systemic issues related to the ability for minoritized and other under-represented groups to thrive and graduate from STEM fields and are working toward changes in our curriculum to allow students to further their understanding of these issues and improve the ability for students to be successful in Biology. We strive to give every student who enters our introductory courses the tools, resources, and support needed to thrive, and we want students to see themselves as potential majors in our department such that our majors reflect the demographics of the entire student body. Similarly, we are dedicated to fostering the same ability to flourish in all our advanced courses and our Senior Honors program with a goal of our demographics in these areas also reflecting those of the student body.
Ultimately, we recognize and are committed to essential anti-racism work within our classrooms and labs and in the continued development of our department in order to create an inclusive and welcoming culture for all students and a strong community among our majors. To achieve these this plan, we approach our efforts through a lens of an equity framework that is central to the College's DEI mission.
Thus far, we have initiated a number of efforts in our department:
- We continue to approach our efforts through a lens of an equity framework that is central to the College's DEI mission.
- Our Biology Steering Committee maintains a goal of building community within the major including regularly hosting events and helping to increase awareness on how to navigate the major and identify research opportunities. They also generated a new webpage that is student focused for the Biology major: Students of the Amherst College Biology Department
- We hired two DEI Interns to advance our department's equity and inclusion goals including to integrate more anti-racist principles and pedagogy into our department, major, and courses.
- Organized and held a research invitational attended by more than 50 students. The goal of the invitational was to reduce barriers to accessing research opportunities at Amherst and beyond.
- Worked with biology faculty to implement and integrate HSTEM activities into select introductory and advanced courses, with a goal of expanding more broadly in the future.
welcoming culture for all students and a strong community among our majors.
- Started the process of bringing a student-nominated speaker (for the 2022-2023 year) to discuss both their research and DEI issues in their field of biology.
- We regularly provide a BioNews Newlsetter focused on building Biology community and showcasing accomplishments of all our Biology family (students, staff, and faculty).
- We updated our Learning Goals to reflect that graduates from Amherst College with a B.A. in Biology should have a cultural understanding of the barriers to access and inclusion that exists within STEM fields for marginalized individuals and also knowledge of the methods and tools needed to bring about needed change.
- In alignment with our Learning Goals, we added an Equity & Inclusion course requirement to our major for the class of '23 and beyond for science-related courses dedicated to structural and systemic issues of equity and inclusion to count towards the major.
- Biology faculty now contribute to the Being Human in STEM ("HSTEM") course and it is now cross-listed in Biology and counts for the DEI course requirement of the major.
- A great source of energy and inspiration has been the new summer research Incubator Program that was just launched in the summer of 2020 by Professors Edwards (Biology), Durr (Chemistry), and Bailey (Math & Statistics), with the aim of providing a pipeline for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) STEM students to smoothly transition from first-year STEM courses to the advanced curriculum, and ultimately to stay in STEM as majors and as members of the STEM research community. Several biology faculty members including Profs Emerson, Clotfelter and Goutte, contributed to the program.
- We play an active role in the annual Summer Science program--which is now part of the Summer Bridge Program--providing incoming first-year students an opportunity to learn about research at Amherst and navigating the transition from high school to college approaches to math and science.
- We have rededicated efforts to incorporate specific inclusive practices from suggestions in the HSTEM handbook, in our intro courses.
- The majority of us enrolled in the 2020 Summer ACUE and 2U Programs offered through the Center for Teaching and Learning to aid and improve our inclusive pedagogy skills for remote teaching and learning.
- We are dedicated to presenting more about BIPOC biologists and their work in our introductory courses, and we will seek opportunities for this throughout our curriculum (and we welcome student recommendations and contributions on this effort!). Both our introductory courses feature stories and seminars by under-represented scientists that includes their history and career paths.
- We are committed to inviting outside seminar speakers that represent the broad diversity of scientists in our world. We are also working to have students take part in the selection, invitation, and hosting of speakers.
- We continue to draw from the resources produced by HSTEM workshops and the HSTEM website.
Our work has been guided from within and by important help from Biology alumni and HSTEM students, including several valued letters to our department that share lists of action items (for example, letter from summer of 2020). We are committed to working towards these goals and to continuing collaborative work to the betterment of all involved with Biology at Amherst.
We also support and are dedicated to the goals and actions of the Amherst Anti-Racist Plan as outlined by President Martin on August 3rd, 2020