The goal of the Being Human in STEM class is to create a space for dialogue between STEM students and STEM faculty to investigate together the themes of diversity and climate within STEM. The course combines academic inquiry and community engagement to understand how students’ identities shape their experience in STEM.
The course has two components that are intertwined throughout the semester:
- Reading and discussion: during one of the two weekly class meetings, we ground our understanding through critical reading of primary scholarly research as well as popular literature. Example topics include: implicit bias, identity threat, antiracism, STEM and queerness, STEM and disability, intersectionality, and many others.
- Project development: the other weekly class meeting is devoted to the design, execution and evaluation of interventions led by the students with the goal of improving the experience of STEM students at the U.
At the end of the semester, students present their group projects to the campus community via a public event.
Overview of Spring 2020 class
In its first implementation at the University of Utah in Spring 2020 the course had students enrolled from three different colleges: the College of Science, the College of Engineering, and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences. As a class, students and faculty read the book “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and attended his Tanner talk at the U in February 2020.
For the final class project, students collected survey data from STEM students across campus and asked them about their positive and negative experiences with respect to inclusivity and diversity. Students discussed the results of the survey with President Watkins as part of her U Rising podcast. https://twitter.com/RuthVWatkins/status/1251170039455027201. Listen here or https://bit.ly/3bi0MSx
Students compiled a Final Semester Report that summarizes the highlights of the class as well as the main results of the survey data.
The idea of a course called Being Human in STEM came from chemistry Professor Sheila Jaswal from Amherst College in response to Fall 2015 racial controversies across several American college campuses. The student protests brought to light a need for dialogue between students and faculty about inclusivity; this need was even more acute in STEM where often students perceive that their “identity should remain at the door.” Conversely, Being Human in STEM asserts that students’ identities matter. Every student deserves the space and freedom to be themselves in a STEM classroom. A course with the same purpose, Race and Gender in the Scientific Community, was already initiated at Brown University in 2014 by students, including Black women, and then adopted by the University. Amherst’s and Brown’s allied courses connected in 2016. Since then the Being Human in STEM course has been taught with the following mission:
Collaboratively designed project that aims to foster a more inclusive, supportive STEM community and develop a framework for students and faculty to understand and navigate diverse identities in the classroom and beyond.
Inspired by Amherst’s and Brown’s work, several other colleges in the Northeast (e.g. Yale University) started their own implementation of the course. Claudia De Grandi, Assistant Professor (Lecturer) of Educational Practice, co-taught the class twice at Yale University before she joined the University of Utah in 2018. Being Human in STEM had never been offered at a public university before, and Dr. De Grandi was delighted to spearhead the implementation of this course at the University of Utah.
The course was offered for the first time at the University of Utah in Spring 2020, co-taught by five instructors across the College of Science: Claudia De Grandi (Physics & Astronomy), Kelly MacArthur (Mathematics), Jon Rainier (Chemistry), Holly Sebahar (Chemistry), Anil Seth (Physics & Astronomy).
The course is supported and managed under the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) and satisfies the Diversity (DV) requirement.
The course will be taught again in Spring 2021.
Why should you take this class?
This class will help you develop a deeper understanding of the culture of STEM, its opportunities, inequities, and potential for change. Being Human in STEM will give you the tools to identify how you can uniquely contribute to innovation and inclusivity in STEM as a student as well as a future scientist, academic, teacher, etc.
In addition, this class satisfies the DV requirement.
Quote from a student in the class:
Being Human in STEM was an amazing class that helped me to develop my voice as a woman, a student of color, and an immigrant from a developing country in a STEM field. This class allowed us as students to explore different facets of identity and how identity affects one’s experience in STEM through a deep dive into rich and diverse literature, and small open discussions with each other and guests – some students, some staff – from departments all over campus. It created a space for students and instructors of different backgrounds to interact and learn from each other. We spoke about all the touchy topics civilly and constantly changed each other’s minds in a way I did not previously think was possible. Whatever our background was – our color, gender, religion, national origin, etc. – we were all able to recognize that what we and others had to share was important, and that all of our voices matter and deserve to be heard. It radically changed my view of what a STEM environment could and should be like for everyone. The Being Human in STEM class allowed us all to rapidly improve our understanding of the eponymous idea of the class together in an unprecedented way.
— Kori, Being Human in STEM 2020
- The course meets twice a week: Tue-Thurs 2-3:55pm
- Credit: 3 units (it satisfies the DV requirement)
- Cross-listed with HONOR 3990 (it qualifies for Honors Elective credits)
- Enrollment cap: 20 via instructor approval
This course welcomes students across STEM fields and pre-medical students. Students who do not major in STEM but are interested in the course may be approved upon instructor’s consent.
The course will be taught again in Spring 2021 in IVC format.
Spring 2021 Instructors: Claudia De Grandi (Physics & Astronomy), Amanda Cangelosi (Mathematics), Dave Carrier (Biology), Sushma Saraf (Chemistry), Suresh Venkatasubramanian (School of Computing).
Please contact Dr. De Grandi with any questions and to ask about permission codes for this course.
Resources for Students
U of U students have so many resources available that it is sometimes difficult to navigate all of them. We have compiled a list of what we found most helpful.
- Student Success Advocates (SSA) help with stress and time management, test anxiety, study skills and personal growth, among others. https://ssa.utah.edu/. Watch a 1-min video on SSA here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70n-QOQLH5s&feature=emb_title
- Counseling Center provides crisis services, individual/group/couple counseling, psychiatric medication services, and mindfulness clinics. https://counselingcenter.utah.edu/
- LGBT Resource Center offers mentorship, scholarships and aid in name changes https://lgbt.utah.edu/
- Center for Disability and Access provides scholarships, accommodation services, and assistive technology https://disability.utah.edu/
- Office of the Dean of Students guides students to the appropriate resources, supports students facing challenges, manages student crises, helps student-faculty communication, assists interpreting Student Code, etc. https://deanofstudents.utah.edu/
- Center for Students Wellness provides training, events and resources regarding Health, Wellness, Sexual Health, Education, Outreach, Mindfulness. It also includes Victim-Survivor Advocacy https://wellness.utah.edu/victim-survivor-advocacy/
- Women’s Resource Center offers educational and support services for women https://womenscenter.utah.edu/
- Center for Ethnic Students Affairs (CESA) supports students academically, personally, socially, and culturally https://diversity.utah.edu/centers/cesa/
- Dream Center supports undocumented students through advising and scholarships https://dream.utah.edu/
- TRIO Programs offers services for qualified students (e.g. low-income, first-generation) to support their academic success. https://trio.utah.edu/
- Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA) deals with Illegal Discrimination, Title IX, Incident Reporting, Investigation, Accountability https://oeo.utah.edu/
- Office for Inclusive Excellence provides consultation and trainings regarding inclusivity (e.g. microaggression), as well as Bias response
- Veterans Support Center supports individual and academic success of veterans, service members, and their family members who attend the university https://veteranscenter.utah.edu/
- Math Tutoring Center offers free drop-in tutoring https://www.math.utah.edu/undergrad/mathcenter.php
- LGBTQ+STEM Interest Group https://theroglab.org/lgbtq
- Curie Club (Department of Chemistry) organizes events to foster community building among young scientists, provides peer mentoring, It was founded to help ensure that all historically under-represented scientists are given the opportunity to help shape that future. https://www.curieclub.org/
There are many more resources available at the U, you can find the full list at the links below:
- Student Services: https://www.utah.edu/students/services.php
- Student Support https://studentsuccess.utah.edu/resources/student-support/
Statistics at the U
As a class, we have looked into the publicly available data from the Office of Budget & Institutional Analysis (OBIA) at the U https://www.obia.utah.edu/ to search for the current situation of STEM at the U.
Here are some examples of what the class found interesting in Spring 2020:
- 16.6% of STEM majors at the U are from underrepresented minority groups
- 3.2% of STEM faculty at the U are from underrepresented minority groups
Everyone can access the OBIA data to search for more specific information by college, major, course, etc.