Colorful strings coming together into a circle

A Message From the Dean on DEI Progress

Thanks to all who have contributed to the progress in 2021-2022

June 24, 2022

Dear Members of the CNS Community,

Our vision for the College of Natural Sciences is to transform the opportunities created through the study, research, and application of science and mathematics into impact for the world. To do so, we must begin on our own campus, by ensuring an environment in which every member of the faculty, staff, professional team, and student body can identify, pursue, and succeed in the path that best expresses their creativity, develops their talents, supports their career aspirations, and fulfills their passions.

I firmly believe that this vision unites us while also acknowledging that access to this vision differs for members of our community based on the lived experiences both on and off of our campus. I am writing to express my deep gratitude for so many members of CNS, particularly students, to bridge this gap between our aspirations and our reality. Although we have much more to accomplish together and for one another, I am honored to share our progress during the 2021-2022 academic year, which reflects our on-going commitment to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB) in the college. This year, I have organized the reporting of our efforts to align with the petition developed by UMass for Black Lives, with my gratitude for their leadership. 
Mandating structural changes that create a more inclusive academic environment:

  • Provided financial support for on-ramp programs for graduate students in the Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in Life Sciences and Physics and funding for the American Geophysical Union Bridge Fellowship 
  • Instituted fee waivers for admission to graduate school for applicants from groups that are underrepresented in the discipline
  • Participated in STEM pipeline programs for middle and high school students (i.e the Massenberg Institute and Eureka!)
  • Renewed the NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program with the goal of diversifying the nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented in these disciplines and supported 10 LSAMP scholars this academic year
  • Undertook college-wide strategic planning process and prioritized analysis of student outcomes by demographic group and the development of institutional strategies to promote success for all
  • Completed a self-evaluation and external USDA Civil Rights audit including on-campus visits and evaluation of graduate and undergraduate support
  • Encouraged the adoption of the Academic Works software platform to promote an equitable and transparent awarding of CNS and Department scholarships
  • Required the use of the student success software platform, Navigate, for all summer 2022 advising appointments for new students (first year and transfers) to ensure all students have an equitable experience
  • Led an effort to provide transparency and resolve holds on student accounts that prohibited them from enrolling in Fall 2022 courses
  • Organized and sponsored an Inclusive Excellence Fellows program where 7 teams of faculty and staff across CNS worked on projects aimed at increasing inclusion in our undergraduate experience
  • Met with 684 students, many BIPOC, for advising through the CNS Office of Student Success and Diversity
  • Participated in PACE (Partnerships for Advancing Completion Equity), a campus-wide effort to increase the graduation of BIPOC students in the graduating class of May 2022
  • Participated in and supported summer offerings of foundational CNS courses through ARPA-funded program for over 500 CNS students with academic challenges
  • Held numerous workshops and events through the Office of Student Success and Diversity and the CNS Advising Office to promote belonging, build community, and enhance the academic success of our students:
    • Applying to Graduate School Workshop - October
    • Funding Your Dreams: Scholarships Workshop - November
    • Funding Your Dreams: Scholarships Essays Writing Workshop - December
    • Getting Involved in Research Workshop, Part 1 - February
    • Working with Google Calendar for Study Flow Workshop - February
    • Preparing for Graduation Workshop - February
    • Getting Involved in Research Workshop, Part 2 -  March
    • CNS Career Chat Workshop: Make the Most of your Summer - March
    • Get Involved! Finding Volunteering Opportunities - April
    • Friendsgiving - November
    • Hot Cocoa for Final Exams - December
    • Winter Crafts to Donate as Holiday Gifts - December
    • Black History Month - February
    • CNS Scavenger Hunt
    • CNS CARES tents
    • CNS Wayfinder tents 

Reaffirming that a sense of complacency, especially in positions of power, inhibits system change toward equality:

  • Organized a Solidarity Gathering for CNS faculty, staff, and students in response to racist email sent to Black members of the UMass community
  • Participated in The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Collaborative, a digital space for collaboration and mutual support for UMass faculty and staff who are involved in the important work of building diversity, equity, and inclusion rooted in justice on campus
  • Sponsored participation in urban extension programs
  • Invited external speakers on "Extension's Role in Addressing Historical Inequities" and hosted a facilitated discussion on "Connecting our Values with Intentions and Actions" at the CAFE annual retreat
  • Co-sponsored with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences a seminar and campus visit by Micere Keels: "Stepping Outside the Diversity Box: Considering Multiple Dimensions of Inclusion in Our Work with Students" 

Advocating for a climate where white peers can routinely learn about unseen hardships faced by BIPOC, especially between the Black community and our judicial system: 

  • Launched CNS Leadership Fellows Program to provide leadership opportunities to advance initiatives in our core mission including those aimed at creating a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just community
  • Organized and co-sponsored intergroup dialogue training for faculty and STEM administrators across campus
  • Organized DEI training for department heads/chairs, associate deans, and the dean
  • Organized department and program climate advisory committees and funded their work
  • Recognized faculty, staff, and students making exemplary contributions to DEIJB through college-level and unit-level awards
  • Developed Wikipedia project to increase the representation of historically minoritized groups in STEM on this platform and challenged departments to embed the project in at least one course required for each major in CNS
  • Offered two live-theater workshops on microaggressions and bystander training by Theater Delta to faculty, staff, and students
  • Advocated for students whose academic accommodations were not met
  • Initiated conversations with transgender students and students with disabilities to learn about their needs and to determine future actions
  • Worked with staff and Climate Committee to provide awareness training including IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) assessment work and sponsoring two book clubs (including "Black, Brown and Bruised" and a CAFE centered discussion of "Caste") 

Implementing all points mentioned in this petition document to all departments across the campus at the undergraduate, graduate, faculty, and administration levels within the next two years: 

  • Continued monthly diversity leadership meetings to initiate, coordinate, and assess activities to advance DEIJB across the college
  • Continued practice of annually updating the college community on our progress and activities 

I thank all who have contributed to these efforts, which I hope will inspire all members of CNS to engage. Although there is so much more work to be done, every effort, big or small, makes a difference, and our collective efforts will drive sustained change. Please visit the CNS diversity, equity, and inclusion website  and Office of Equity and Inclusion website for resources and opportunities to learn more and to participate.

I wish you a wonderful summer. 

Tricia Serio, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences

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