Student-driven approaches to adding discussions of race and racism to STEM courses

Thursday 1:45pm - 2:15pm Brighton 3/4
Oral Presentation

Monica Linden, Brown University
Bjorn Sandstede, Brown University
This presentation focuses on two new courses on race and gender in STEM at Brown University that were initiated by students. The first course on race and gender in the scientific community was run for a semester as a student-led independent study. It is now a regular course that examines disparities in representation in the scientific community, issues facing different groups in the sciences, and paths towards a more inclusive scientific environment through texts dealing with the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. The course also discusses specific problems faced by under- and well-represented racial and ethnic minorities, women, and LGBTQ community members. The course is limited to STEM students, who can integrate their STEM background with rigorous reading and their own personal experiences as STEM scientists. The course ends with a final projects where students can enact change. More recently, undergraduate neuroscience students wanted the opportunity to integrate their academic interests with their passions for living in a more equal world. Inspired by a brief discussion of implicit bias in a Neurobiology of Learning and Memory course, two students from that course, along with six others, expanded the idea into a full-semester course that contextualized racism from a neuroscience perspective and allowed for an understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that play a role in discriminatory ideologies and behavior. The course culminated with a presentation to the broader community summarizing some of the key points they learned about and the insights they developed through their presentations and discussions during the semester. Additionally, the students evaluated all of their readings from the semester so that the best materials could be incorporated into future curricula in the neuroscience department. Some of their materials have been incorporated into a senior seminar in the Fall 2018 semester.