Wed 2/12: Andrew West (BU): Beginning a Discussion about Diversity in Astronomy and the role of BU Pre-MaP

in Seminars
February 10th, 2014

Wednesday Lunch

Beginning a Discussion about Diversity in Astronomy and the role of BU Pre-MaP

Andrew West
Boston University

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
12:10pm CAS 500


Diversity (of all types) is important to the productivity, perspective and general health of an academic department.  In fact, studies show that improving diversity is not simply a matter of equity, but rather one of excellence; a more diverse workplace is quantifiably more productive, more innovative and often much happier. Despite the importance of diversity, only a few percent of faculty members (and only a slightly higher percentage of graduate students) in astronomy are underrepresented minorities.  Many departments claim that this dearth is due to the small (or non-existent) number of underrepresented applicants. While problems with the academic pipeline do limit the size of the pool, many departments are unaware of a variety of tactics that can be used to maximize the number of underrepresented applicants to both graduate school and faculty positions and create/participate in programs that build a strong and diverse STEM pipeline.  The national funding agencies and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology have made diversifying the STEM workforce a major priority.  It is therefore a discussion in which all research-active STEM departments should be engaged.  I would like to begin such as discussion in the BU Astronomy Department by presenting a few statistics, discussing some strategies for increasing the diversity of the undergraduate, graduate and faculty populations, and talking about existing (and future) programs that can help recruit and retain a more diverse population.  In particular, I will highlight the BU Pre-Majors (BU Pre-MaP) program, which was started in our department in 2012.  While I will have a prepared presentation, I hope that we can begin a conversation about diversity in our department – please bring your ideas and questions along with your lunches.