Grinnell is planning a summer 2015 national conference that seeks innovative ways to train faculty and develop creative approaches that foster diversity in the sciences.

Mark Levandoski, professor of chemistry, is guiding the effort. “Let’s become as innovative in the area of diversity in the sciences as we are in science education,” he says.

The problem of implicit bias is well-documented, Levandoski says. People can unconsciously act in ways that reflect stereotypes or are discriminatory. The effects on underrepresented groups in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math also are known. However, knowledge of implicit bias and solutions are not a part of everyday science education, he adds.

“Given that most science courses rarely, if ever, deal with diversity in their content,” Levandoski says, “scientists perhaps are prone to think that issues of difference and exclusion don’t factor into their classrooms and laboratories. So how do we engage someone in a conversation about a problem that she or he doesn’t understand is a problem?”

“The goal of our conference is to empower educators to initiate diversity and inclusion efforts on their campuses,” Levandoski says.

Participants will include small teams of faculty and teaching and learning professionals from Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Carleton, Grinnell, Harvey Mudd, Haverford, Hope, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Pomona, Swarthmore, Wellesley, and Williams colleges.

These schools, all members of the Liberal Arts College Association for Faculty Inclusion, are small, private institutions with strong science programs. “The challenges we face regarding diversity are very similar. More importantly, as small schools, the ways we can address problems of diversity and inclusion will be more similar than those for other types of institutions,” Levandoski says.

The conference will include sessions on implicit bias as well as successes and failures. Small-group discussions will allow different colleges to share best practices. Time will also be set aside for institutional teams to develop their diversity and inclusion action plans.

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