The passion and dedication of the steering committee and research fellows drives the Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education (RDEISE) project. Experts and trailblazers in their fields, they bring their commitment to anti-racism as well as their lived experience to the RDEISE project.
As we continue to develop the project, we invited development fellows Isis Dwyer and Taylor Spencer to tell us more about themselves, their work, and what the RDEISE project means to them.
Isis Dwyer: I became involved in the RDEISE project through previous collaborations with Dr. Tina Lasisi. I believe that all knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, should be accessible to the greater public. Accessibility in public education and science communication not only refers to the formatting of content, but also the removal of financial barriers and excessive jargon that can make science incomprehensible to people who haven’t spent decades researching our work. The RDEISE project was an opportunity to contribute to public education in a meaningful way, and create learning materials on race and anthropology that can be accessed by students and educators of all backgrounds.
Taylor Spencer: My academic mentor invited me to be a part of the project. I was really excited because these topics are what I'm passionate about. There is a great power in being an educator. We really have an impact on how students learn and relate to the material, so it is crucial that we are teaching from an anti-racist lens so as not to cause more harm.
Isis Dwyer: The way that we understand and talk about race has material consequences for marginalized people. The RDEISE project felt like a way to provide resources for students and educators to begin unlearning harmful stereotypes and beliefs about how race and ancestry work.Social race, and the consequences of racism, are very real, and we see their impact in our everyday lives. However, the idea of biological race is fundamentally false. I believe unlearning biological race and stereotypical understandings of human difference is a key first step toward an anti-racist worldview.
To learn more about the mission behind the RDEISE project, read: The Making of the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education Project
Isis Dwyer: Throughout my early education, I always felt that I had to choose between STEM and the humanities. As a student who loved anatomy and physiology classes as much as world cultures and history classes, it always felt as though eventually I would have to choose a path.So, a key concept that I would like to communicate to STEM students and educators is that none of our science happens in a vacuum! Our cultures, worldviews, identities, and more influence not only the ways we answer scientific questions, but also the kinds of questions we choose to ask in the first place. The humanities and social sciences offer incredible context to STEM research and education, and understanding these connections and intersections can only help us create better science.
Taylor Spencer: Do more to advocate for Black and Brown girls in STEM. A 2018 Microsoft study found that women generally lose interest in STEM careers before they reach adulthood, with nearly 60% losing interest in the field by the time they enter college. As you can imagine, Black and Brown women suffer a worse fate. "According to the National Science Board, women make up 47% of the current workforce but only 34% of the current science and engineering workforce. Of this percentage, women of color comprise about 11%". Nourish their interests, promote creativity, expose them to the plethora of possibilities within STEM, become a role model or mentor, and most importantly, advocate for them.
Isis Dwyer: The National Museum of African American History and Culture has a great website, “Talking about Race,” that provides different resources on race and anti-racist advocacy for students, educators, parents, and allies. The RACE: Are We So Different? textbook is a great introduction to understanding the history and present day impact of race. This book takes the reader from the origins of the race concept to current understandings of race, with real-world examples and opportunities for self-reflection along the way.
Taylor Spencer: Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris. And the podcast Intersectionality Matters! from The African American Policy Forum, hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Isis Dwyer: I draw a lot of inspiration from museums when I think about inclusive science education. Spending so much time at the Liberty Science Center and the American Museum of Natural History is probably why I am working in anthropology today.Museums are such influential institutions, with so many opportunities to educate the millions of people who pass through their doors, as well as through intentional community outreach programming. Public education shouldn’t be relegated to museum professionals, but instead it should be a part of every scientist’s research program. What good is all of the work we do, if the only people who will read it are the colleagues and collaborators we already work with?Taylor Spencer: Ultimately, my inspiration comes from my community. I didn't see women who looked like me in my anthropology classes nor did I learn about any of the phenomenal Black anthropologists. So I continue to push for inclusivity, not only for the Black kids who need to see themselves represented, but also for the little me who dreamed of seeing someone like me.
Isis Dwyer: While we still have a long way to go, I am optimistic to see more scholars who look like me in biological anthropology and STEM at large. So many of us are beginning our careers with clear visions of decolonizing and anti-racist work, and I have hope for a future of science and science education that uplifts a diversity of voices. Science (and science education) should be as diverse as the world it studies and the people we teach.
Taylor Spencer: It has been encouraging to see professional organizations like AABA (American Association of Biological Anthropologists) acknowledge their contribution to scientific racism and using race to explain biological variation. This is a step in the right direction. There is still work to be done and we definitely still need more anthropologists of color to continue to dismantle the harm that was caused, but I am hopeful.
Want to learn more about the people behind the RDEISE project? We also spoke to research and content development consultants Dr. Tina Lasisi and Udodiri Okwandu about their RDEISE journeys. Looking forward to engaging with the assets our research fellows have been working on? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on the RDEISE project.