Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism

The Chemistry Department is committed to equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in our teaching, mentoring, advising, and research. As chemistry educators, we recognize that our discipline is embedded within the broader cultural context and that we are not immune to the racism and discrimination that plagues our society as a whole. We are devoted to educating ourselves on the history and pernicious effects of racism and systemic oppression and are committed to dismantling these systems. We will continue to listen, learn, and strive for a just and inclusive community. 

We aim to make all members of the chemistry department, including students, staff and faculty, feel valued and welcome and strive to establish a community that respects each member, views difference as strength, and is open and transparent to the need to actively work to dismantle systemic biases especially for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). 

New Initiatives as of 2020-2021 Academic Year

  • The Department has devised and supports the inclusion of the following statement in all chemistry courses:
    • The Chemistry Department is committed to equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. As a result of various movements and uprisings both nationally and here at the College, we are strengthening ongoing programs and spearheading new initiatives to make Chemistry at Amherst College a welcoming place for all students. We acknowledge that this work is ongoing and encourage you to visit our Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism website for information on our initiatives and educational resources for making chemistry inclusive and equitable. To encourage open dialogue on the topic, feel free to submit suggestions through the website to the Chemistry Anti-Racism Advisory Committee.
  • Curricular Innovation:
    • CHEM 120 Plant Cultures: Chemical Perspectives on Slavery and the Land. (Also offered as ARHA 120 and ARCH 120) This course introduces students to the social and chemical characteristics of the buildings and landscapes that slaves constructed in North Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, West Africa, and the Indian Ocean from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. This course will be offered in the Janurary '21 term. 
  • Formation of a Chemistry Anti-Racism Advisory Committee (CARAC) composed of students, staff, and faculty members who will regularly meet to brainstorm new initiatives, process suggestions from the larger community, curate the resources compiled on this page, and interface with the department at large.  
  • Chemistry Seminars (Cheminar) schedules will be reformatted during speakers’ (virtual) visits for conversations with students on identity, personal journey, and practicing anti-racism in chemistry. New Cheminar events, including a reading/discussion about anti-racism in chemistry, will promote transparency, community, and open conversation in the Department. Furthermore, we will seek to explicitly include speakers whose research and identity contribute to ongoing conversations on anti-racism. 
  • Comment form to submit suggestions for the chemistry department. The form is limited to current members of the Amherst College community, and submissions will be reviewed by CARAC. If you are an alumnus and would like to provide suggestions, please e-mail the current chair of CARAC, Alberto Lopez.

Strengthening Ongoing Programs

  • Sustained commitment to “Being Human in STEM”  CHEM 250, a nationally recognized course created in response to the 2015 Amherst Uprising. The course is student directed and has been curated from its inception by Chemistry Department Professor Sheila Jaswal. Professor Jaswal (Dr. J.) is the recipient of the 2020 Jeffrey B. Ferguson Teaching Award given in recognition for her efforts to investigate identity, inequality and representation within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields--at Amherst and beyond. The course will next be offered in January 2021, and will be cross listed in Biology, Sociology and LatinX studies and include faculty in those departments.
  • Mellon project recently funded to support inclusive initiatives in the Chemistry Department. In phase one of the Mellon project, we will address issues of perception around the chemistry major curriculum in order to make it a more accessible and viable option to students with different academic backgrounds, plans, and goals. The second phase of the project will serve as the basis for curricular revisioning from micro to macroscale that incorporates explicit concept integration, active learning strategies, and HSTEM-based inclusive practices in order to meet the needs of all students regardless of background or preparation. 
  • Summer Bridge Program: The Chemistry Department plays 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.  Dr. Richmond Ampiah-Bonney (Chemistry) has greeted new students to the Amherst BIPOC STEM community since 2008.  This year the program will be broadened to include mentoring by alumni and social events as permitted.
  • Incubator Program: A great source of energy and inspiration has been the new summer research Incubator Program launched in the summer of 2020 by Professors Durr (Chemistry), Edwards (Biology), and Bailey (Math & Statistics), with the aim of providing a pipeline for BIPOC 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.