Professor of Ecology/Dean Emerita Eastern CT State University Wethersfield, Connecticut, United States
Session Description: The interplay between the identity of those we are trying to attract into the discipline and curricular content is central to advancing the meeting theme, “ESA for All Ecologists.” ESA has shown commitment to supporting ecology instruction for majors and non-majors through efforts that include Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) and endorsement of the Four Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework. Although valuable, these efforts do not address identified racial barriers to inclusion in ecology such as low sense of belonging for minoritized students or disciplinary biases that arise from extremely low racial diversity among educators and practitioners. Such biases are associated with social, cultural and racial identities.
The Undergraduate Network for Increasing Diversity of Ecologists (UNIDE) is a NSF-Research Coordination Network (RCN). This network has been working to build a sustainable and interdisciplinary network of ecologists, educators and social scientists to address how cultural and social barriers impact human diversity in ecology and environmental disciplines (EE). To meet our objective of building an inclusive ecology curriculum, UNIDE is committed to centering student perspectives. We have recruited a Student Advisory Board (SAB) that currently is composed of 12 undergraduate and 3 graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds representing 11 states and US territories. The SAB is instrumental in informing how ecology instructors can broaden student interest by identifying mismatches between formal ecology education and minoritized students’ aspirations of what can be achieved with an ecology degree.
This session will share and reflect upon the significance of structurally elevating minoritized ecology student experiences and voices into practices and assessments of ecological education. Programmatic interventions for increasing minoritized students in ecology over the last 30 years have centered on changing the portrayal of what an ecologist might look like. However, efforts to increase diversity representation in ecology must also confront the question of whose interests does our current ecology curricula serve well and whose interests are excluded.
The session will provide a series of student perspectives and experiences on undergraduate ecology education in field and classroom settings. Student panelists will engage participants by facilitating a general discussion aimed to outline curricular interventions.