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Results from NASA MUREP Planning Grant

As part of our NASA PATHS Planning Grant workshops conducted in Fall 2020, we observed three consistent themes emerge from among our 46 participants representing 27 organizations. 

The overall conclusions of the group(s) were:

  • There is a need and desire in Massachusetts (MA) for a broad coalition to diversify STEM across and among multiple pathways and experiences;
  • We have begun to build a trusted network of individuals and organizations, all who have expressed great interest working together with us to achieve our common goals; and
  • We can do more together as a broad coalition than individually within our organizations.


Regarding the overall goals for diversifying STEM, participants discussed the injustice of the existing system, and the capacities of students from marginalized communities to improve science. Below are some exemplary comments:

We need to center our work to diversify STEM around people’s intrinsic capacities, rather than using a “deficits” mindset that assumes the problem is with the people and communities we are trying to reach. 

As humans, we bring our lived experiences and perspectives with us even into “objective science” spaces. This influences the “why” as much as the “how” projects, research agendas, and responses to phenomena like climate change. We need these diverse perspectives and experiences to do better science.


Regarding implementation, participants emphasized the importance of focusing on long-term diversity outcomes and cultural change across institutions: 

People may give lip service to this rationale [that diversifying STEM will improve outcomes], but in practice it is often not reflected in the actual hiring or admissions behavior of our institutions.

Some of the biggest barriers to overcome are old-fashioned ideologies in STEM [and] academic systems that favor those who think and look like the scientific establishment.


In summary, participants agreed that the existing system for science and engineering is not working as well as it should, but the PATHS coalition can support shifts of individual mindsets that will facilitate the needed cultural change to promote diversity in engineering.


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