GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 203-6
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


LERBACK, Jory C., University of Utah, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Salt Lake City, UT 84102 and ST. PIERRE, Gabriela, Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112,

Diversity is important for science and innovating ideas in considering complex phenomena. Studies on diversity dictate that different personal experiences lead to more creative problem solving, more rigorous testing of information, and ultimately creates better leaders (Phillips, 2014). However, many universities lack gender, LGBTQIA, and ethnic diversity (amongst others) and are neglecting the unique benefits that these groups can bring, whether unconsciously or consciously.

The University of Utah (UU) underrepresents both women and minorities as compared to the rest of the nation. Faculty contain 23% ethnic minority and students only 10% as compared to 30% of US employed persons in STEM (data from 2010, from Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016). The gender statistics are not much better, with 19% faculty being female as compared to US employed persons 29% female in STEM (Bureau of Labor statistics, 2016). These statistics are particularly relevant as both students and faculty have expressed experiencing bias and harassment on campus.

A two-pronged approach may be useful in tackling these problems. A “top down” administrative approach may be taken to fix the issues with rules, discipline, and quotas, and a social “bottom up” approach can be supported by the administration and spearheaded by students. To tackle these issues at the UU, we have created a student organization for the College of Mines and Earth Sciences (CMES) named ‘Inclusive Earth’, to encourage open minded and respectful conversations about bias and safety whilst celebrating people’s unique experiences. Our mission statement is to encourage unity and inclusivity into the CMES community, and to facilitate constructive and respectful dialogue about safety, bias, and diversity with respect to science, community, and professional development. Cultural shifts towards more open networking environments will undoubtedly aid in genuine mixing of social groups, and are currently underway. Our club has grown in the last year from ~5 interested members to over 20 full members spanning all 4 departments. We provide trainings and workshops covering topics such as: mentoring and networking, interviewing, navigating conflict, unconscious bias, and disabilities. We hope to test different training methods and welcome a discussion at GSA about where to go next.