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A Training Ground for Women of Color in STEM: Spelman College Tackles the STEM Pipeline as a Social Justice Issue

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3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
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A TRAINING GROUND FOR
WOMEN OF COLOR IN
STEM: SPELMAN COLLEGE
TACKLES THE STEM
PIPELINE AS A SOCIAL
JUSTICE ISSUE
Advancing Social Justice from Classroom to Community
A National Symposium
November 20-21, 2015
New York University
Washington, D.C.
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212.998.2090
INFO@FACULTYRESOURCENETWORK.ORG
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Mentewab Ayalew, Spelman College
Dolores V. Bradley, Spelman College
Kimberly M. Jackson, Spelman College
Yewande Olubummo, Spelman College
Jakita O. Thomas, Spelman College
Joycelyn Wilson, Spelman College
Training the granddaughters of the “double-bind” is critically
important work. It has been approximately forty years since the
groundbreaking report “The Double Bind” examined the
complexities of being a woman of color in a STEM career. The
report summarized the collective experiences of women of
color as they are shaped by, among other factors, past and
current family dynamics, academic preparation, ethnic and
cultural biases, and diculties experienced throughout their
career path (Malcolm, Hall, & Brown, 1976). The experiences
described were complex and diverse, yet shared common
undertones that often coincide with race and gender
dierences. Despite the widespread conversation prompted by
the report, many are still concerned about women in science
and are troubled that the barriers highlighted in 1976 still
remain today (Lempinen, 2011). A more ominous fact is that
the numbers of women in STEM have shown little gains (Rosser
& Taylor, 2009). In fact, there has been a subtle but steady
decline in the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by both
white and black women (Lehming, Gawalt, Cohen, & Bell, 2013).
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While the US population is more than 50% female, only 24% of
the STEM workforce is female. Furthermore, 33% of women
entering college intend to major in STEM, with 50% of these
majors earning science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, but
with less than 23% of these women earning a graduate degree
in these elds. Moreover, the level of success achieved by
women in the eld, in comparison to their male counterparts, is
signicantly lower than the female-to-male population ratio. In
light of the national statistics, there is a clear need to promote
the increased presence of women in the STEM workforce.
However, there is even more need to train women of color in
STEM how to navigate an infrastructure with systemic racism
and gender inequities that requires more than just “leaning in,”
as suggested by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook.
Spelman College has sustained a strong record of educating
African American women in the sciences and mathematics who
earn the doctorate degree and pursue professional scientic
careers. It has been noted by the National Science Foundation
(NSF) that Spelman College is the second highest ranked
institution from which black science and engineering (S&E)
doctorate recipients earn bachelor’s degrees (Fiegener &
Proudfoot, 2013). Spelman faculty have capitalized on this
eort to demonstrate that immersing our students in a culture
of research, mentoring, and networking can promote success
and attainment of a PhD degree in STEM elds (Jackson &
Wineld, 2014). As mentors, they also help students
3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
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4/17
understand their role in this atmosphere of social injustice and
how the intersecting roles of race and gender may impact their
careers as African American women in STEM. From our
outreach activities with the young (grades 6-8) to training our
undergraduates, Spelman’s academic, research, and
community programs have led the College to becoming a
leader in educating black women who go on to excel in the
sciences. This paper highlights the outcomes and successes of
various campus initiatives and addresses why Spelman is
uniquely positioned to solve the inequities of the
underrepresentation of African-American women in STEM
elds and contribute to national eorts to create a diverse
population in the 21st-century scientic workforce.
The RISE of the Next Generation Black Female Scientists
The NIH-funded Spelman Research
Initiative for Scientic
Enhancement (RISE) program
seeks to address this critical need
by leading the eort to produce
the next generation of Black
women scientists. One of our longstanding student research
programs, RISE shows students that pursuing a career in
biomedical research is an intellectually exciting way to impact
the world. Our goal is to immerse students in a dynamic
interdisciplinary research community, while taking a holistic
approach to their professional development and making them
3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
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5/17
more competitive for admission into top doctoral programs in
the biomedical and behavioral sciences. We do this work with
very specic and concrete aims:
To increase student awareness of biomedical
research and to encourage students to pursue a
career in research. Activities include a Seminar
Series and our RISE Aliate program for students
who want to learn about research without paid
laboratory positions. To introduce incoming
freshman and rising sophomores to research and
research careers, we oer the Summer Training
About Research Techniques (START) program, which
includes placing students into active research
laboratories for 6 weeks of part-time work, as well as
having them participate in workshops that provide
academic or professional development engagement.
To develop empirical research knowledge and
skills so students will be prepared for the rigor of
advanced research training in doctoral programs.
Activities include the Academic Year Research
Development program, in which students participate
as paid members of active research laboratories. We
also oer a structured sequence of academic
preparation modules (Critical Skills for Investigation)
that focus on critical thinking, quantitative skills,
responsible conduct of research, research design,
reading comprehension, and scientic writing. All
RISE Scholars are required to demonstrate in-depth
comprehension of research design, present their
research every year, attend at least one professional
conference, and experience peer review of their
work. To prepare incoming freshmen for laboratory
3/23/2019
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The Mathematics Research and Mentoring Program
The Spelman mathematics department has made it a goal to
help increase the number of African American women who get
degrees in the mathematical sciences. To help achieve this goal,
the diversity of the mathematics faculty has been an important
factor. Six of the ten full-time faculty in the mathematics
department are women, ve of whom have a doctorate in the
mathematical sciences. Of the ve women faculty with
doctorates, four are black. Also key are the programs and
activities that the department has in place to help the nearly
placement, the Pre-Research ExPerience (PREP)
laboratory skills boot camp targets highly promising
freshmen who lack research skills and experience,
giving them an opportunity to learn basic laboratory
skills in a concentrated timeframe, before being
placed in working laboratories.
To increase the number of students directly
entering PhD research programs by making them
more competitive for admission. We are taking a
more holistic approach by not only enhancing the
graduate school admissions portrait, but also
developing the “soft skills” that will promote success
in current and future laboratory placements. It is
required that all seniors take the GRE and apply to
graduate school. A yearly retreat with mentors and
RISE students helps to foster better understanding of
the many cultures of science institutions and
laboratory interpersonal dynamics.
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100 mathematics majors each year succeed in the major and to
encourage as many of them as possible to continue their
studies at the graduate level.
One such program is the NSF-funded Mathematics Research
and Mentoring Program (Math RaMP). The overall goal of Math
RaMP is to increase the number of African American women
who pursue advanced degrees or careers in the mathematical
sciences with an enhanced understanding of the broader
career options available in pure and applied mathematics, as
well as statistics and mathematics education. Scholarships are
provided to students in the program to minimize the need for
o-campus employment in non-related areas. A primary
component of Math RaMP is the Scholars Program, open to
sophomore, junior, and senior mathematics majors with a 3.0+
overall and 3.2+ GPA in mathematics. The Scholars Program is
designed to prepare and direct high-potential students to
graduate education and to careers in the mathematical
sciences. The early introduction to research is used to connect
students to higher academic aspirations and broader career
goals. Sophomores in the program participate in a Journal Club
where they get an introduction to reading mathematical
journals and technical papers. During monthly meetings,
students also learn technical writing skills and are introduced to
mathematical software packages. Juniors and seniors in the
program conduct independent research with a mathematics or
STEM faculty member. They write a technical summary of their
3/23/2019
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8/17
research and present their ndings at Spelman College’s
Annual Research Day. They are encouraged to also present
their research at outside conferences. In addition to the Journal
Club and conducting research, Math RaMP students are
involved in mentoring rst- and second-year mathematics
majors. From 2011 to 2015, the Math RaMP program had a
total of 24 participants with 10 of those students currently in
graduate school. Since 2000, over 30 Spelman mathematics
majors earned a master’s degree and 32 earned a doctoral
degree. At the doctoral level, this is an average of two each
year, an important contribution to the national average of nine
black women per year receiving a doctorate in mathematics
and statistics.
The New Living and Learning in an Interdisciplinary
Networked Community of STEM Scholars (LINCS) Program
The LINCS program is one of the newest student programs at
Spelman. The motivation to start this program was the fact that
underrepresented minorities in general and African American
women in particular, may be academically well prepared to
succeed in STEM elds and engage in research experiences that
develop their identities as researchers, but still leave the STEM
elds because of a sense of isolation and lack of support.
Through this program we aim to create cohorts of students,
with strong and lasting bonds, who would move together up
the academic and career ladder. The goal is to leverage peer-
peer and peer-outside networks. This is being achieved through
3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
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9/17
the establishment of a Living and Learning Community (LLC) of
scholars. LLCs create a continuum between the academic lives
and the personal lives of students. LLCs have been in existence
at Spelman since the eighties. The Honors program and the
Social Justice Fellows program are examples of an older and a
more recent successful LLC. A large body of literature
documents the benets of LLCs at the undergraduate level,
such as increasing a sense of accountability (Charleston, 2012),
increasing student persistence, particularly among rst-
generation college students and low-income students (Myers,
Brown, & Pavel, 2010), promoting the production of STEM
graduates (Nestor-Baker & Kerkor, 2008), and increasing the
likelihood students will attend graduate studies in STEM elds
(DesJardins, McCall, Ott, & Kim, 2010).
The inaugural cohort consists of nine residential scholars and
eight aliates majoring in all STEM disciplines. The residential
scholars are housed in a newly renovated residence for Social
Justice Fellows. All have a declared interest in pursuing a STEM
PhD or MD and most participate in other programs that
provide research opportunities either during the academic year
or the summer. Some of the activities include monthly
meetings with the program co-directors emphasizing their
career development and submission of weekly reection voice
blogs. Students’ personal growth and professional
development are monitored through these activities as well as
surveys. Signature activities of this program are geared towards
3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
https://facultyresourcenetwork.org/publications/advancing-social-justice-from-classroom-to-community/mentewab-ayalew-dolores-v-bradley-kimberly-m-jackson-
10/17
cultivating an awareness of and analytically engaging issues
around being a woman of color in STEM and around inequality
in general. These activities include book discussions,
attendance of panels and talks, and discussion of research
papers with invited guests.
Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT):
Supporting the African-American Female Scientists of the
Future
Spelman seeks to invest early in the science ecosystem by
targeting middle school students, ultimately creating a multi-
pronged approach to establishing a national culture that
encourages women of color to reach their full potential in the
sciences. One relevant eld of interest is computational
algorithmic thinking (CAT), the ability to design, implement, and
assess the implementation of algorithms to solve a range of
problems. CAT focuses specically on how the human, as
computing agent, designs, implements, and assesses an
algorithm (an “abstraction of a step-by-step procedure for
taking input and producing some desired output” [Wing, 2008]),
or set of algorithms to solve a problem. CAT is focused on the
algorithms designed, adapted, implemented, and discarded by
the human (as computing agent) on the journey toward
choosing the “right” abstractions (Thomas, 2008; Wing, 2008).
CAT is an important scaold on-ramp as students develop
more advanced computational thinking (CT) capabilities and
apply CT to solve problems that are more constrained and
3/23/2019
Mentewab Ayalew, Dolores V. Bradley, Kimberly M. Jackson, Yewande Olubummo, Jakita O. Thomas, Joycelyn Wilson A Training Ground for Women
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11/17
require greater and greater expertise. CAT embodies the ability
to think critically and creatively to solve problems and has
applicability in a range of areas from computer science to
cooking to music (Wing, 2006; Wing, 2010).
SCAT, a longitudinal between-subjects research project created
by Spelman computer science faculty member JaKita Thomas,
explores how African-American middle-school girls develop CAT
capabilities over time in the context of game design. SCAT is a
free enrichment program designed to expose middle-school
girls to game design. The goals are: 1) to explore the
development of CAT capabilities over three years in African-
American middle-school girls as they engage in iterative game
design, and 2) to increase the awareness of participants to the
broad applicability of CAT across a number of industries and
career paths. Participants, called SCAT Scholars, develop CAT
capabilities as they engage in the game design cycle to design
more and more complex games (Fullerton, Swain, & Homan,
2004). SCAT Scholars begin the program the summer prior to
6th grade and continue through 8th grade. They engage in
three types of activities each year (called a SCAT Season): 1) a
two-week intensive game design summer experience; 2) twelve
technical workshops in which Scholars implement the games
they have designed using visual and programming languages
(e.g., SCRATCH, App Inventor) in preparation for submission to
national game design competitions (e.g., National STEM Video
Game Challenge, Verizon Innovation App Challenge); and 3)
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12/17
eld trips during which Scholars learn about applications of
CAT in dierent industries and careers. Each SCAT Season runs
from June or July through May.
While data analysis is ongoing, preliminary results are
beginning to reveal some very promising insights, not only in
regards to the development of CAT capabilities among African-
American middle-school girls, but also in regards to their
perceptions of themselves as problem solvers and game
designers. Data suggests that game design is an engaging
context for this population. While 95% of the Scholars had
never designed a game nor used SCRATCH prior to this
experience, the Scholars seem extremely engaged during the
rst SCAT Season. In fact, SCAT had an 85% retention rate
across Seasons 1 and 2, and a 96% retention rate across
Seasons 2 and 3. The SCAT program is currently in its third year
of enactment, having worked with the same set of African-
American middle-school girls over the course of these past
three years.
Conclusion
There is an art to cultivating black women scientists. One must
understand that the women they are training occupy multiple
intersections of race, gender, and science, and that supporting
women of color pursuing PhDs in the STEM disciplines is a
social justice issue. Spelman College is changing the culture of
STEM. With talented faculty creating impactful and innovative
3/23/2019
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research and mentoring training programs that are at the
cutting edge of technology and science, Spelman is closing the
science gap and producing women who are equipped with the
intellectual engagement and personal experience required of
21st-century change agents.
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The purpose of this study was to assess how a comprehensive precollege intervention and developmental program among low-income high school students contributed to college enrollment outcomes measured in 2006. Our focus was on the Fifth Cohort of the Washington State Achievers (WSA) Program, which provides financial, academic, and college preparation support to 500 high school students who come from the lowest 35% of Washington state income levels. One important feature of the WSA Program is that it provided funding for complete high school curriculum reform among 16 Washington high schools that have a high prevalence of low-income students. The data set contained three groups of students from these 16 high schools: Funded Achievers who were part of the WSA Program and received funding for college; Nonfunded Achievers who were part of the WSA Program and but did not receive funding for college; and Nonrecipients who were neither part of the WSA Program nor received funding for college. Results from generalized multinomial logistic models found two trends (a) early and continuous financial support for college along with being active in the WSA Program nearly guarantees enrollment in college and increases enrollment in 4-year and highly selective colleges; and (b) even in the absence of financial support for college there are still quantifiable and positive effects on college-going for just participating in the WSA Program and receiving its abundant nonfinancial resources and support. These results persist even with strong controls for selection, background, academic, financial, aspiration, and school-level variables.
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Contenido: 1. Fundamentos del diseño de juegos: El papel del diseñador de juegos; La estructura de los juegos; Trabajo con elementos formales; Trabajo con elementos dramáticos; Trabajo con dinámica de sistemas; 2. Diseño de un juego: Conceptualización; Prototipos; Pruebas del juego; Funcionalidad, integridad y balance; Diversión y accesibilidad; Control e interfaces; 3. Trabajando como diseñador de juegos: Estructuras de equipos; Etapas de desarrollo; Documento de diseño; Comprensión de la industria del juego; Venta de uno mismo y de sus ideas a la industria del juego; Apéndices: Ejemplo de una hoja de de presupuesto; Revistas de la industria y sitios web.
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The ability to interpret and apply experiences, or cases (Kolodner, 1993; 1997) is a skill (Anderson, et. al, 1981; Anderson, 2000) that is key to successful learning that can be transferred (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 1999) to new learning situations. For middle-schoolers in a project-based inquiry science classroom, interpreting and applying the experiences of experts to inform their design solutions is not always easy (Owensby and Kolodner, 2002). Interpreting and applying an expert case and then assessing the solution that results from that application are the components of a process I call case use. This work seeks to answer three questions: 1. How do small-group case use capabilities develop over time? 2. How well are students able to apply case use skills in new situations over time? 3. What difficulties do learners have as they learn case use skills and as they apply case use skills in new situations? What do these difficulties suggest about how software might further support cognitive skill development using a cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown and Newman, 1989) framework? I argue that if learners in project based inquiry classrooms are able to understand, engage in, and carry out the processes involved in interpreting and applying expert cases effectively, then they will be able to do several things. They will learn those process and be able to read an expert case for understanding, glean the lessons they can learn from it, and apply those lessons to their question or challenge. Furthermore, I argue that they may also be able to transfer interpretation, application, and assessment skills to other learning situations where application of cases is appropriate. Ph.D. Committee Chair: Dr. Janet L. Kolodner; Committee Member: Dr. Amy Bruckman; Committee Member: Dr. Marcia Linn; Committee Member: Dr. Mark Guzdial; Committee Member: Dr. Nancy Nersessian
Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering
  • R Lehming
  • J Gawalt
  • S Cohen
  • R Bell
Lehming, R., Gawalt, J., Cohen, S., and Bell, R. (2013). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2013. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.
Thirty--ve years after "The Double Bind," obstacles remain for minority women in STEM
  • E Lempinen
Lempinen, E. (2011, August 15). Thirty--ve years after "The Double Bind," obstacles remain for minority women in STEM. AAAS News.