We recently wrapped up our first iteration of Nurturing Equity in STEM (NEST), a course designed to address both the problematic underpinnings of accepted norms in science and medicine, and highlight the value that different cultures bring to STEM. The three week-long course, taught by Dr. Keke Fairfax from the University of Utah, combines small group reflections with guided full class discourse. From discussions focused on red-lining and the two-tier healthcare system, to the dehumanization of marginalized people in the 1900’s and now — the coursework is designed to inform but also encourage participants to share, synthesize, and refine their own perspectives.
Dr. Shannon Stott, an Associate Professor at Mass General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, emphasized this and described the course as a “beautiful curation of diverse perspectives, historical context and various media formats.” She went on to mention that while she has participated in related courses “all the content felt fresh and [promoted] moments of reflection, causing me to stop multiple times and reassess how I viewed things,” which is the ultimate goal of NEST — for participants to get comfortable being uncomfortable and reflect on the very real ways racism and oppression affect our own work.
“…all the content felt fresh and [promoted] moments of reflection, causing me to stop multiple times and reassess how I viewed things” - Shannon Stott, PhD
The course concludes with participants developing and sharing their own anti-racist action plan, including how they’ll hold themselves and peers accountable. When asked about her time in the program, Dr. Carrie Leonard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, remarked, “NEST completely enlightened my thoughts on the who, what, when, where and why of research, the requirements for broader prospectives […], the necessary consideration of unintended consequences and the need to inform our own communities.”
What’s next for Dr. Fairfax, the SolvingFor team, and NEST? Well, SolvingFor specializes in boundary spanning: bringing together scientists and allies to ensure that our work actually creates the change we seek. In this case we’re putting on our social science hats, so to speak, and partnering with Dr. Neil Lewis Jr from Cornell to measure the effects of NEST. Dr. Lewis is a behavioral scientist who specializes in motivational, behavioral, and equity implications of social interventions and policies. As we shift to evaluation, we’re also crafting a ‘train the trainers’ model for NEST to share it with academic institutions all over the country.
While we’re always wearing many hats at SolvingFor, our main goal is always the same: to change the culture of science from within. NEST is a testament to that goal and through the dedicated work of Dr. Fairfax and Dr. Lewis, we hope to continue building on its success.