Faculty EDI Report

This report contains Faculty of Science actions for increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion for spring/summer and fall 2020. The report was put together as a collaborative effort between the graduate student’s associations in biology, chemistry, and math/statistics. This document serves as a collection of current initiatives ongoing in the faculty of science, but as things are constantly evolving, some initiatives may be included in updated versions of the report. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us!

Faculty of Science Actions for Increasing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for Spring/Summer and Fall 2020

September 23, 2020

Biology Graduate Students Association (bgsa@uottawa.ca)

Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences Graduate Student Association (uottawa.cgsa@gmail.com)

Math and Statistics Graduate Student Association (President Jane Shaw-MacDonald jmacd142@uottawa.ca)

Biology Department Actions

Update course curricula to include scientists from underrepresented groups

Biology professors asked to consider inclusion of research examples from scientists from historically excluded groups in course materials (started: July 2020)

  • Professors from Plant Biology and Ecology actively involved with creating and sharing materials

Dr. MacLean’s Shared Online Projects Initiative (SOPI) grant to convert upper year plant science courses within the University of Ottawa and Carleton University to an online platform directed a significant portion of funding to hire a summer student (Rinky Sharma; uOttawa) to develop teaching resources in the form of powerpoint slides, profiling researchers from under-represented groups and their research contributions.

  • Rinky engaged with 71 researchers from across the world, and created 24 profiles that are now available to faculty to enrich 3rd and 4th year Plant Biology courses at both universities (6 courses in total). 

Two 65-hour TA positions were created for the fall semester to create comparable teaching resources within other disciplines, using the format developed by Rinky. 

  • These TA positions will be overseen by Dr. MacLean and will be directly supervised by other Faculty associated with these disciplines.

Establish a Faculty-wide Code of Conduct

  • Intended to uphold standards of interpersonal conduct among staff, faculty and students in our Faculty
  • Intend to hold a Town Hall with final draft of this Code in order to welcome open discussion about what should be a positive cultural shift

Demystify the undergraduate-to-graduate transition, as first-generation students may be without guidance from family/friends

Survey of ~300 undergraduate students (49% identifying as an underrepresented minority) on graduate studies completed

Aim:  Understand what information prospective graduate students need but currently lack to make an informed decision about pursuing graduate studies

Main conclusions:

  • The vast majority of all respondents (~ 95% of each group: non-minority, BIPOC, or other underrepresented minority) reported need for additional resources to make informed decision to pursue graduate studies
  • Students from a self-reported minority group lacked more information (selected more areas that they were lacking information) per respondent
  • Participants from all groups reported need for more accessible information on scholarships, deadlines, timelines, and benefits of graduate school
  • More detailed findings are in the Survey Report

The information gathered from this survey has led to the following two initiatives:

Student-led Information Session on Graduate Studies 

Over 200 Science undergraduate students attended this information session held on September 25, 2020, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and;

Graduate Studies Guidebook

To be published September 2020

  • The guide provides undergraduate students with information and suggestions concerning contacting potential supervisors, composing letters of intent, scholarship applications, application deadlines etc.

More equitable hiring: Including less ‘color-blind’ hiring criteria, EDI-explicit job ad wording

Open letter to Office of the Vice-President of Research

Delivered open letter to OVPR regarding inclusion of EDI-explicit wording and statements of equity, diversity and inclusion expectations in all job postings

  • Met with Terry Campbell to discuss on September 9, 2020
  • Met with Steffany Bennett on November 3, 2020 to address updates taken as result of first meeting

Investigations into EDI hiring

Graduate student and faculty are in collaboration to further efforts in hiring faculty with experience and focus in EDI. Specifically we began talking about creating a new faculty position in biology, part of whose mandate would be to support faculty to address existing gaps in EDI.

Promoting continuity of EDI Awareness and actions

  • Wrote a letter to the faculty via the Fall 2020 Biomatters magazine outlining our initial goals and hopefully inspiring students as well as professors to learn about and better understand EDI
  • Started a book club to read Desmond Cole’s The Skin We’re In, to provide a safe, welcoming community to discuss EDI issues through a Canadian lens
  • Created list of Biology Seminar speakers to provide better representation for prospective graduate students

Maintained transparency of, and accountability to, the department’s EDI efforts by posting initiatives on our dept/faculty website

  • BGSA page dedicated to this progress (to be posted Sept 2020)
  • Steffany Bennett is working on standardized EDI page layouts for the university, can post our faculty-wide initiatives when this is available

Chemistry and Biomolecular Science Department Actions

Inviting a researcher from a diverse background to present their work at a departmental seminar

  • Every year, the Chemistry and Biomolecular Graduate Students’ Association (CBGSA) is responsible for inviting and organizing an invited talk for the department
  • This year, we will ensure that the speaker is a member of an underrepresented group in chemistry and, in addition to their research talk, has an opportunity to speak with students about their journey through science

Established a uOttawa chapter of the Canadians Working for Inclusivity in the Chemical Sciences network

  • Canadian Working for Inclusivity in the Chemical Sciences (CWIC) is a national network composed of individual institutional chapters across Canada that works to promote inclusivity, equity, and diversity in the chemical sciences by connecting inclusivity in chemical sciences groups across Canada.
  • Established the chapter in July 2020 and elected co-chairs for the chapter in August 2020
  • Current chapter membership includes 16 individuals within the department.

Facilitated workshops on anti-racism for graduate students at uOttawa and institutions across North America

  • Workshop provided attendees with ways to learn more about anti-racism and how to contribute to anti-racism initiatives at their respective institutions
  • Attended by 50 graduate students across Canada and the USA. Institutions include: uOttawa, Carleton, UoT, McGill, UC-Irvine, UC-Berkeley, UMass-Boston, UIowa.
  • In a post-workshop survey, most attendees found the workshop useful in: (1) identifying resources to further their own learning; (2) navigating difficult conversations with colleagues; (3) identifying ways to contribute to anti-racism initiatives as graduate students and teaching assistants; and (4) connecting a community of chemistry graduate students interested in learning and doing more to improve EDI
  • Slides to the workshop available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ndu2lyZs_Zv1zKEmdSyVF8JXSIvrPpET/view
  • Having preliminary discussions with Dr. Jaclyn Brusso, the Faculty of Science’s EDI Coordinator, to facilitate similar workshops with the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences and/or the Faculty of Science in Fall 2020. 

“Person of the Month” – Highlighting graduate students from underrepresented groups on social media channels

  • Initiative directed by the CWIC chapter. 
  • Highlights one person per month belonging to any under-represented minority from within the chemistry and biomolecular sciences department. 
  • This highlight is posted to our Twitter account (@CWIC_uOttawa).
  • Goal is to amplify under-represented minority voices in STEM and highlight their exceptional research/work/personal achievements.

Presented an open letter to the Department asking for the adoption of 14 action items to mitigate systemic racism and improve EDI 

  • The items were inspired by similar action plans announced by the University of Alberta and Queen’s University
  • Items included: 
  • Collect and track data on the demography of the department—including student and faculty sex, gender, and race—to better understand the state of diversity within the department and to allow for the development of targeted action plans to mitigate inequities.
  • Ensure that a minimum of one third of all seminar speakers invited to the Department represent underrepresented groups.
  • Require that all researchers, staff, and faculty of the Department complete unconscious bias training and provide to the Chair a certificate of completion.
  • Continue the Department’s commitment to diverse hiring procedures to ensure that at least half of those interviewing for positions are representative of the four designated groups defined in the Employment Equity Act, as well as other underrepresented groups.
  • Require a written Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement as part of the application from candidates for Faculty positions.
  • Promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns in correspondence and welcome the use of personal pronouns.
  • Expect groups to select meeting/event times that are sensitive to those with families (i.e., during business hours) and/or religious constraints.
  • Create, support, and mandate learning opportunities including seminars, workshops, outreach activities, and resources to be delivered within the Department that address systemic inequities in order to raise awareness as to how these factors can lead to biases in hiring, selection, appointment, promotion, grading, and departmental and campus culture.
  • Introduce mandatory EDI training for new graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to be implemented during their first year.
  • Highlight successes by underrepresented Department members in both scientific and EDI work, and increase advocacy for their professional advancement—for example, through the encouragement of nominations to awards and fellowships.
  • Evaluate departmental policies and practices to identify barriers and behaviours that impact the accessibility of participation in scholarship, research, and social activities.
  • Make faculty EDI statements from successful grant applications accessible to the public.
  • Produce and publish an annual report on EDI progress/results from all of the above to improve transparency.
  • Encourage EDI work as a component of faculty’s service commitments (alongside academic and research commitments).
  • Letter was submitted on September 11. Response from Department Chair Dr. David Bryce was immediate and faculty plans to discuss the letter at their next departmental meeting

Organizing a workshop on negotiations (e.g., job contracts, salaries, etc.)

  • Race and gender biases are present throughout the interview process, particularly during negotiations (ref). These biases contribute significantly to wage gaps.
  • Graduate students rarely have negotiation experience
  • We are holding an interactive workshop on negotiation skills aimed towards graduate students and postdoctoral fellows within the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences (will likely be extended to the Faculty of Science), hosted by a research associate with an MBA and coaching experience
  • Workshop will be held during the fall reading week (Oct 26-30); exact date and time to be determined

Organized a workshop on managing mental health in graduate school

Mathematics and Statistics Department Actions

  • The Maths and Stats department would like to mandate that both the History of Maths courses be required to highlight a minimum number of historically underrepresented groups including women. 
  • The Women in Mathematics Club (WIMC) established an EDI subcommittee 
  • The WIMC EDI subcommittee created a textbook and mobius fund for the undergraduate community to submit applications for a maths textbook or mobius license. Applicants from women and members of the Black and Indigenous People of Colour community were prioritised. Applicants who could demonstrate a financial need were prioritised. This competition resulted in 83 applications from which the top six candidates were selected. Five of these candidates received a maths textbook and one candidate received a mobius license. 
  • The MSGSA is planning on creating either an EDI subcommittee or a VP Equity position
  • The MSGSA wants for there to be EDI training among the faculty and graduate students, particularly the graduate students who have TA contracts. They are looking into providing such a session for their graduate community. 

%d bloggers like this: