The portraits of eight of the RDEISE fellows. Six of them are Black women: Juanita Crumbly-Franklin, Aundrea B. Collins, Jordan Honeyblue, Dr. Ebony N. Russ, Jada J. Ledbetter, and Veronica Wylie. The other two are Black men: Dr. Jamal Z. Bankhead, and Dr. Duane J. Wallace II. They are all smiling and wearing smart, formal clothes.

Meet the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education Fellows

Launched in 2021, Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education (RDEISE) is an interdisciplinary collaboration to create free online materials that address anti-Black racism in healthcare and science education in the United States. 20 select fellows who are graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Harvard University, and other leading institutions are researching and authoring the content.

You can read more about how fellows were identified and selected in our last blog post, The Making of the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education Project.

The project is informed, in part, by the fellows’ interdisciplinary knowledge, their lived experience, and their commitment to recognizing and rectifying the structures that perpetuate racism in health, science, and education. The fellows’ academic expertise spans multiple disciplines, from public health and education to sociology, psychology, and evolutionary biology. In addition to their academic work, the fellows are science educators, poets, active service members and social workers.

Their collective knowledge, experience, and passion will inform the two forthcoming clusters, Racism as a Public Health Crisis and Advancing Equity in STEM Through Inclusive Teaching, which will be released on a rolling basis throughout 2022.

While the clusters are under development, biographical narrative videos introducing the 20 fellows are now available on LabXchange. In these videos, each graduate fellow shares their research interests, describes their career trajectories, and offers advice to young Black scholars pursuing careers in similar fields. The narratives emphasize the importance of studying racism as a public health crisis, and urge viewers to consider the role that racism played throughout the history of science.

How can biographical narratives be used for learning?

The RDEISE biographical narrative videos provide a better understanding of the fields and disciplines that make up the foundation of the Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education project. Just as importantly, the videos contain deeply personal stories about mentorship, learning from setbacks, and building determination in the face of challenges. These types of stories can increase a sense of belonging in college students from marginalized groups. In a 2011 study, Gregory M. Walton and Geoffrey L. Cohen found that, when teaching students that social adversity is common and can be transitory, Black students’ health and wellbeing improved and the GPA gap between Black and white students closed.In this clip, Owen Dorsey explains how being the first African American in his degree program has strengthened his identity as a scientist.

Historically, evolutionary biology is among the top science fields graduating the least number of minorities holding PhDs. As the first African American in my degree program, I am acutely aware of how underrepresented we are among STEM PhDs. I believe that an essential duty of being one of the few African American scientists working at the interface of evolutionary genetics and behavioral ecology is facilitating minority participation in science as a STEM education leader.

Brianna Holiday is a student of dietetics at Morehouse School of Medicine who has experienced deep personal loss as a result of type 2 diabetes, an illness which disproportionately affects Black Americans. Brianna’s academic research and the work she is doing at LabXchange both focus on type 2 diabetes in Black American communities.

My father passed away from type 2 diabetes, and I really just feel like, because he grew up in those underserved communities, because that’s where he got all of his ideas, that’s where he got all of his lessons and his teachings. He really didn’t have access to certain foods, certain nutrition, certain resources, and that followed him into his adulthood.
I want to give back to those communities so that people don’t have to experience the loss I did.

Why are biographical narratives valuable in improving equity?

Research on science identity and stereotype threat from organizations like Scientist Spotlight indicates that exposing students to diverse representations of scientists can increase their persistence in science careers. Educators need to ensure that students can access the stories of diverse role models.

In a 2021 study of 752 college biology students, researchers found that implementing Scientist Spotlight curricular materials led 36% of students to shift from disagreement to agreement with the statement, “I know of one or more important scientists to whom I can personally relate.” Encountering the authentic stories of successful leaders in their fields can thus help build a sense of belonging for future scholars, and has the potential to improve racial equity in the sciences.

Shanita Jackson’s narrative video is an example of the importance of role models. In the video, Shanita shares how their mentor, Dr. Jamiella Brooks, inspired their passion for pedagogy and informed their understanding of how to foster Black students’ success. (Dr. Brooks is also a member of the RDEISE faculty steering committee.)

I didn’t realize how much race and learning went hand in hand and how much it impacted Black students’ learning success until I started studying pedagogy.
Designing classrooms, designing learning spaces universally, so that when you design it with traditionally marginalized students in mind, at the center, every other student is automatically covered. Traditionally marginalized students are usually left out.

Furthermore, engaging with these stories helps foster empathy. As Bridgette Bell, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology, explains, “I know we often talk about serving the underrepresented communities and underserved populations, but often we don’t take the time to get to know why people are uniquely different.” These biographical narrative videos bring to light some of the unique challenges faced by Black American scholars - in this instance, the graduate fellows of the Racial, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education project.

For more information about the origins of the project, read this blog post: The Making of the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education Project.

Written by
LabXchange team

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