Today’s post is by STEM Center Director, Dr. Sharon Locke.
Since its founding, the SIUE STEM Center has maintained a strong focus on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. Yet, over the last two weeks as the full extent of systemic racism in this country and in higher education has been brought to light, we have begun to think critically about what we as a STEM center do and how we do it. Much of our efforts have been to provide access to resources, whether it be to equipment, curriculum materials, or enriching learning experiences. “Access” means “providing permission or ability to enter,” and it is clear that in the context of education, ensuring access is only the beginning of what is needed to transform educational outcomes. The system must also support and advocate for learners along every step of the path as they move towards fulfillment and success.
Now more than ever is the time for the SIUE STEM Center to examine what we are doing to create an environment that ensures high-quality teaching and learning is taking place for Black students. An effective learning environment is welcoming, motivating, and supportive. It recognizes that learners have many assets, with knowledge and skills previously learned in their home and community that are relevant, should be heard, and provide additional value to learning. Our highest ideal as educators is to offer learning experiences that affirm the humanity of every individual, upholding their dignity and drawing on their unique and valuable perspective.
The SIUE STEM Center is recommitting to its role in creating a STEM education system that is truly equitable and inclusive. Over the coming months we will engage in a series of discussions around our own understandings of racism and other inequities in STEM. We will examine how we design our programs and whose voices we are amplifying as we teach and learn, and whose voices we are hearing. We dedicate ourselves to being open with each other and to sit with discomfort when necessary to ensure that Black voices are heard. Most importantly, we will revamp, reinvigorate, and redouble our efforts to bring meaningful STEM education experiences to our community of learners and educators, always reaching for those who have been systematically excluded for too long.