Addressing Racial Diversity in STEM
Recent events have ignited a renewed and sustained social movement for racial justice which is percolating through all sectors of society, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM; e.g., #ShutdownSTEM), with institutions and individuals reflecting upon how systemic racism may manifest itself within their own walls. This movement has provided a unique opportunity in history to investigate barriers for Under-Represented Minorities (URMs) in STEM and to propose and implement bold changes to knock down these barriers.
As the only funded research-intensive minority serving institution (MSI) in New England, UMass Boston is particularly responsive to the needs of URM/Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students and has recognized programs to increase minority representation in biomedical, biological, engineering, and Earth and Ocean sciences.
The integration of minority perspectives is essential for innovation which requires diversity of thought, variation in the fundamental research questions asked, and a broad set of individuals and organizations with different expertise coming together to address today’s complex problems. Innovations resulting from STEM are critical to addressing the grand challenges of society and increasing quality of life for all now and in the future.
However, the composition of the individuals, currently and historically distributed throughout the STEM pathway, does not represent the general population (NSB, 2020), and therefore innovations produced to address significant “wicked” problems (Kolko, 2012) in society are necessarily biased, often against the most vulnerable, underrepresented populations.
Building off research conducted by UMass Boston and partners through a NASA-funded planning grant in the Fall, 2020, this project will work to increase racial diversity in STEM, especially with the engagement of URM students and connect these students to rich, local research opportunities and career pathways.