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). 

Ongoing Programs and Initiatives

  • Formation of a Chemistry Anti-Racism Action Committee (CARAC) in summer of 2020, 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.  
  • 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. She is also the recipient of the 2021 Carl Brändén Award for her HSTEM work. The course is offered regularly and has been cross-listed in Biology, Sociology and LatinX studies to include faculty in those departments.
  • 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. We will seek to explicitly include speakers whose research and identity contribute to ongoing conversations on anti-racism. 
    • New Cheminar events in the 2020-2021 academic year: a "Summer in The Chemistry Department" welcome back event during the first week of the Fall semester, a reading/discussion about anti-racism in chemistry by Dr. Sibrina Collins, and a "Chem-unity" community-buidling HSTEM workshop. These events sought to promote transparency, community, and open conversation in the Department.
  • 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. 
  • Curricular Innovation:
    • 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. 
    • CHEM 120 Plant Cultures: Chemical Perspectives on Slavery and the Land. This course was co-taught by Professors Carey and Lopez  and introduced 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 was offered in the Janurary '21 term and was also offered as ARHA 120 and ARCH 120.
  • The Department has devised and supports the inclusion of the following syllabus statement in all chemistry courses:

    The Chemistry Department is committed to equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. As a result of systemic racism, both nationally and here at the College, we are strengthening existing programs and spearheading new initiatives to make chemistry at Amherst College a more welcoming place for all students. We acknowledge that this work is ongoing, and together, we will continue to listen, learn, and strive for a just and inclusive community.

    We encourage you to visit our Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism website for information on our initiatives and educational resources for making the field of 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 (CARAC). 

  • 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 alum and would like to provide suggestions, please e-mail the current chair of CARAC, Jacob Olshansky.