Improving the Climate in Research and Scientific Training Environments for Members of Underrepresented Minorities

California State University, San Marcos, San Marcos, California, United States
The Neuroscientist (Impact Factor: 6.84). 03/2004; 10(1):26-30. DOI: 10.1177/1073858403260304
Source: PubMed


Despite significant efforts in recent years to increase diversity in science and academia, African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaskan Natives remain severely underrepresented in these fields. To date, institutional social climate has received little attention as a target to improve the representation of these minority groups. In this article, we suggest that improvement in the social climate in both individual laboratories and larger institutions may lead to better recruitment and retention of minorities in science and academia. After documenting the magnitude of the underrepresentation problem, we offer a framework for a better understanding of climate, illustrate how members of majority and minority groups may perceive climate differently, and provide specific recommendations for improving the climate. The benefits of a diverse workforce in the sciences include a commitment to social justice, a broad diversity of perspectives leading to greater opportunities for scientific advancement, and a potentially enhanced focus on understanding and eliminating the health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups.

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    • "Most institutions recognize the value of multi-cultural outreach and engagement, but often fail in reconciling its importance and associated implications for organizational decision-making. In other words, institutional leaders recognize the benefits of recruiting URMs and gaining ideas from diverse sources, but lack the understanding or will to ensure they are integrated into an environment of Barrier Select Reference(s) Inequities in training, degree attainment and recruitment and/or retention Moreno et al., 2006; Leboy and Madden, 2012; Whittaker and Montgomery, 2012; Whittaker and Montgomery, 2014 Established environmental culture(s) and traditions Hurtado et al., 1998; Girves et al., 2005; Sethna, 2011; Harper, 2012; Moss- Rascusin et al., 2012; Zambrana et al., 2015 Disparities in research grant support Ginther et al., 2011; National Science Foundation, 2012 Limited or inadequate integrations into academic communities and/or isolation Laden and Hagedorn, 2000; Tillman, 2001; Cawyer et al., 2002; Smith and Calasanti, 2005; Turner et al., 2008; Zambrana et al., 2015) Levels or perceptions of environmental support or lack thereof Crowley et al., 2004 Negative stereotypes about underrepresented minorities Figueroa and Hurtado, 2013 Implicit bias Turner, 2002; Moody, 2004 Lack of will or understanding on the part of institutional leaders/leadership Price et al., 2005 The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE), Summer 2015, 13(3):A136-A145 A139 respect, inclusion and meaningful engagement (Price et al., 2005). These deficiencies in full integration across all groups are central to the development of barriers and convey messages that URMs are not highly valued in the academic environment. "
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    ABSTRACT: The student and faculty make-up of academic institutions does not represent national demographics. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately underrepresented nationally, and particularly at predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Although significant efforts and funding have been committed to increasing points of access or recruitment of under-represented minority (URM) students and faculty at PWIs, these individuals have not been recruited and retained at rates that reflect their national proportions. Underrepresentation of URMs is particularly prevalent in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This reality represents a national crisis given a predicted shortage of workers in STEM disciplines based on current rates of training of all individuals, majority and URM, and the intersection of this limitation with persistent challenges in the recruitment, training, retention and advancement of URMs who will soon represent the largest pool of future trainees. An additional compounding factor is the increasingly disproportionate underrepresentation of minorities at higher professorial and administrative ranks, thus limiting the pool of potential mentors who are correlated with successful shepherding of URM students through STEM training and development. We address issues related to improving recruitment and retention of URM faculty that are applicable across a range of academic institutions. We describe challenges with recruitment and retention of URM faculty and their advancement through promotion in the faculty ranks and into leadership positions. We offer specific recommendations, including identifying environmental barriers to diversity and implementing strategies for their amelioration, promoting effective and innovative mentoring, and addressing leadership issues related to constructive change for promoting diversity.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education
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    • "Impacts of highly successful programs look at easily identifiable or quantifiable factors, including academic supports, funding, engagement in research, graduation rates or progression to graduate programs in STEM, yet these studies cannot control easily for the impact that these successful programs have on the environment or the extent that program-related changes that occur in the environment contribute significantly to success of training and developing URM students in STEM. Some researchers have started to understand that identifying virtual barriers or environmental contributors to the success of URMs in STEM is vitally important (Crowley et al., 2004; Bauer-Dantoin and Ritch, 2005; Gibau et al., 2010; Brown, 2011; Ovink and Veazey, 2011). Increasing diversity by increasing representation without addressing virtual barriers is likely to increase transitional issues for URMs or how the environment supports or deters their success (Hurtado et al., 1998; Hurtado et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: The need to increase the number of college graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines is a national issue. As the demographics of the United States' population grow increasingly more diverse, the recognition that students of color are disproportionately under-represented among those individuals successful at completing STEM degrees requires exigent and sustained intervention. Although a range of efforts and funding have been committed to increasing the success of under-represented minority (URM) students at primarily white, or majority, institutions, widespread progress has been slow. Simultaneously, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions have demonstrated disproportionate successes in graduating URM students with STEM degrees and those that proceed to completing graduate-level degrees in the sciences. The differential successes of particular institutions with promoting the achievement of diverse individuals in obtaining academic STEM degrees suggest that with committed and strategic leadership, advancements in creating academic communities that promote the success of a diverse range of students in STEM can be achieved in part through assessing and mitigating environmental barriers that impede success at majority institutions. In this paper, we address issues related to the engagement of URM students in majority settings and describe some efforts that have shown success for promoting diversity in STEM and highlight continuing issues and factors associated with cultivating diversity in academic STEM disciplines at majority institutions. Recommended efforts include addressing academic assistance, professional and cultural socialization issues and institutional environmental factors that are associated with success or lack thereof for URMs in STEM.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education
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