Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We believe that fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to the realization of our mission, vision, and values.  As such, we seek to cultivate a supportive, healthy, and respectful community, free from harassment, disruption, violence, and intimidation. We aim to continuously improve our program culture, policies, and operations, guided by a framework of harm reduction and the understanding that identity markers (e.g., race, class, gender) intersect to create systems of privilege and marginalization shaped by social and cultural contexts.

Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion aligns with our mandate from the National Science Foundation to broaden participation in STEM for underrepresented groups, including American Indians/Alaska natives, Black and/or African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, disabled persons, veterans, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We recognize the role that academic institutions can play in creating, maintaining, and exacerbating disparities in education, adversely affecting individuals with marginalized identity markers. These disparities stem from centuries of racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and ableist policies and are exacerbated by the unique and exclusive norms, expectations, and value systems that can exist within higher education. We therefore commit to using our power and positionality to redress these inequities and contribute to a higher education ecosystem where all members can thrive.

This effort is a shared responsibility of all members of our community, and while we freely admit that we are not there yet, we are working hard to make our vision a reality. In order to be continuously accountable to these commitments, we include below our efforts to date and our plans for the future.

Ongoing Efforts:

  • Mission and Impact: In Summer and Fall 2020, we developed a Mission, Vision, and Values Statement in order to articulate and pursue our goals with greater transparency and accountability. We also restructured our External Advisory Board to better represent the diversity of career paths and identities of the URBAN community and the communities we serve.
  • Actively Recruiting a Diverse Cohort: During our first two years as a program, we attended the SACNAS Conference annually and built relationships with Minority Serving Institutions such as Howard University and UMass Boston. We promoted our program through social media and professional listservs and encouraged applications from members of underrepresented groups.
  • Broadening Participation Awards: In Summer 2020, we launched a financial award to encourage and financially support trainees to 1) participate in public engagement activities that reach under-represented groups, and 2) engage in capacity building for scientific communication and research centered on inclusion, equity, and intersectionality.
  • Communication and Community: We developed infrastructure to meet the communication needs of trainees, staff, faculty, and partner organizations, in recognition that an inclusive program requires communications that are accessible and a community that is connected and supportive. New infrastructure includes a weekly URBAN UPDATE e-newsletter with program announcements and recommended events, Twitter and Instagram posts to highlight program accomplishments, a Slack Workspace for trainees to connect with each other, and a monthly trainee email with student-specific information. We also strengthened collaborations with numerous programs across Boston University (see Affiliated Staff and Affiliated Centers and Program) and curated a list of resources for health, wellbeing, community, and professional development.
  • Departmental Connections: As a program, we engage multiple academic departments and schools across the university, and each unit has worked to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within their respective domains. We communicate regularly with affiliated units, leverage ongoing activities when relevant, and work to avoid redundant or counterproductive efforts.
  • Self-Reflection and Growth: We work with our External Evaluation team based at University of California Santa Barbara that conducts surveys and interviews in order to provide recommendations on programmatic progress and processes as well as trainee experiences and outcomes. In addition, we internally evaluate our events and operations through post-event surveys and bi-annual meetings with trainees and with faculty. Transparent decision-making that values all voices and experiences is necessary to advance equity and inclusivity. As such, we take feedback seriously and make program adjustments frequently.

Plans for 2020-2021 Academic Year:

  • As the BU URBAN Program, we commit to continue all of the efforts described above and bring to fruition the items below.
  • Recruitment:
    • Participate in at least three professional conferences or recruitment events serving underrepresented minority students
    • Host at least eight virtual information sessions in collaboration with our affiliated departments and engage in outreach to Minority Serving Institutions in order to raise awareness of opportunities within BU URBAN
    • Implement a pre-application recruitment model paired with dedicated stipends with the explicit goal of broadening participation
  • Retention, Mentorship, and Advising:
    • Create and implement an Annual Activities Report for trainees and faculty advisors to review programmatic progress
    • Collaborate with other BU partners to facilitate faculty training on retention and mentoring best practices, focused on supporting individuals with marginalized identity markers
    • Expand formalized mentorship from the Program Manager through weekly office hours, group check-ins, and easy-to-schedule individual meetings
    • Engage faculty advisors through end-of-semester feedback sessions
  • Accessibility:
    • Review and update website and communications to maximize accessibility and usability for diverse constituencies
    • Create and implement meeting/event norms and procedures that are inclusive to all
  • Outreach and Impact:
    • Create opportunities for trainees to engage K-12 audiences, especially in lower-income communities and communities of color, in authentic science and science communication
    • Engage in values-based sourcing and procurement, prioritizing businesses that are women- or minority-owned and/or embrace sustainability practices
    • Increase our emphasis on co-production and environmental justice within URBAN Workshops and curricula
  • Decision-making:
    • Create structures for faculty, staff, and trainees to provide input on programmatic and policy decisions through 1) a small team of volunteers who provide targeted input as needed, and 2) an “Open Comment” process for new policies and plans, in which all URBAN community members can take part
    • Publicly share external evaluation findings on our website

We look forward to working with you on these shared commitments. For questions, comments, or concerns related to the plan above, including feedback on our progress or lack thereof, please contact Pamela Templer, Program Director, or Evan Kuras, Program Manager.

Last updated November 2, 2020