Inclusive Astronomy Meeting Notes

Recent Meeting Notes

05/03/18: At this meeting we began discussing the LGBT+ Inclusivity in Physics and Astronomy Best Practices Guide. We spent time discussing some of the introductory material and resolved to begin discussion of Section 1.1 at the meeting the following week. We also took a quick look at some of the excellent resources surrounding issues of diversity compiled by Kevin Flaherty. A link to this page will be added to the department resources page.

04/26/18: Discussed two articles, one about Virginia Trimble and one about the high rates of mental health issues in graduate students. We additionally wrapped up discussion on the Nashville Recommendations and our commitments posted on the AAS webpage. Future discussion, possibly in the summer or fall, will most likely be aimed at this paper, regarding best practices for an LGBT+ inclusive department and workplace, and generalizing these to support other minority groups.

02/22/18: Further discussion of pizza lunch talk, with date set to April 16th.  Have rough drafts of your slides ready for examination by the group by March 15th!

02/15/18: Discussed organization of pizza lunch talk.

02/08/18: At this meeting, we started a google slide presentation for our pizza lunch talk. We listed the highlighted Nashville recommendations in the Google Doc that we decided we wanted to present on last week. We discussed potential options for organizing the presentation including by topic (e.g. accessibility, teaching, dept culture) or by progress (what are we already working on, what can you do as an individual, what can the department do in the future). We decided to proceed by topic and grouped the recommendations in order in the google presentation. Some people signed up as willing to present those topics (see slide 3 of the google doc), but these are not confirmed and we want to ask everyone else what they might want to present. We will proceed by making the presentation available to everyone, determining who will present each topic, allowing people to edit the presentation on their own time, and spending meeting time going over our additions to the presentation with the group. There was also some discussion of the recommendation regarding making a student centered matrix of support. A few suggestions that were discussed include giving incoming students a secondary faculty advisor and clearly communicating that as soon as students accept, encouraging advisors to introduce their current students to new students perhaps in a special research meeting at the beginning of the year, and having a meeting in September each year between current grad students and all undergrads in the minor who have indicated they want to apply to graduate school.

02/01/18: Today’s meeting began with a brief review of the article How To Inspire More Young Women To Enter STEM in 2018 before moving onto the primary discussion. We again revisited the “Removing Barriers to Access” and “Creating Inclusive Environments” sections of the Nashville Recommendations, specifically focusing on which subjects we will present in our pizza lunch later this semester. We highlighted those topics we feel are most applicable to the department and made further notes about the topics, department achievements, and actionable improvements the department can make to become more inclusive (see Google Doc). We also briefly reviewed the main themes of the “Improving inclusion and access to power, policy, and leadership” and “Establishing a community of inclusive practice” sections and decided that their importance and complexity require more time to properly address, so we will consider another future presentation about these issues. Attendees were asked to consider those topics the group decided to discuss in the context of which issues they would be interested in spearheading and brainstorm the specifics of how they should be presented.

01/25/18: After finishing up discussion of the Creating Inclusive Environments section of the Nashville Recommendations at the previous Inclusive Astronomy meeting (11/09/17), we reviewed our action items and plans to address the CIE goals (see Google Doc), and briefly revisited our action items and plans for the RBA goals as well, in order to assess our progress. The most notable result from today’s discussion was the decision to request that all incoming TAs (and preferably, all TAs in general) attend the Teaching Academy workshop: “Teaching 101: Excelling on Day One and Beyond” on Aug 13&14. We also discussed the possibility of hosting a teaching workshop specific to our department+students to inform incoming TAs what they can expect and how they can handle certain situations, as well as share innovative teaching methods with all TAs. Plans for next meeting include a discussion of our intended Pizza Lunch talk this semester, in which we will, among other things, address the Nashville Recommendations and our progress in meeting their goals for our department.

11/16/17:  Discussion was focused on the CIE medium and long-term goals.  Many of the goals covered by these sections are either already in place at the institutional level or are not something easily affected by department or student-level authority (e.g. “Provide three to six months of paid parental leave at all career stages.” under CIE2L).  Many of the suggestions thrown around in this meeting could be converted into general recommendations for us to give to the department.  Caitlin is going to try to compile our existing suggestions into a summary-type Google Doc for later reference (link forthcoming).  At the next meeting (11/30), we will likely move onto the Inclusion and Access to Power, Policy, and Leadership portion of the Nashville Recommendations.

11/09/17: This week we were joined by our colloquium speaker, Dr. Jane Rigby. We had a great discussion about the short-term goals in the Creating Inclusive Environments section of the Nashville Recommendations. In particular, there were significant comments on CIE4S about creating a matrix for student support independent of their research adviser. We talked about promoting dual faculty mentorship of students, especially during the first couple years, and discussed ways that the student buddy system might be improved. We also brainstormed ways that we can better support and integrate the undergraduate students associated with the department. We thought that creating an email list for all undergraduate researchers and astronomy minors would allow us to invite them to events more easily and help further their participation in the department. There was also some discussion of CIE6S about providing training for graduate student teachers. While the TA meetings and AGSO resources are very helpful, it was suggested that there could be some basic pedagogical and classroom management training for TAs at the start of fall semester to help those who might not have any prior experience. The courses hosted by the NMSU Teaching Academy were also highlighted as a resource to improve teaching practices. Dr. Rigby pointed out that classes like these are extremely useful for job applications as they provide a serious advantage since very few graduate students have access to this kind of training.

11/02/17: We briefly did a short recap of the past two meetings just to ensure everyone was up-to-date on the group’s current activities. As we wrap up the RBA goals from the Nashville Recommendations by following up on the action items needed to complete/commit to the goals, we start looking at the next broad topic, Creating Inclusive Environments (CIE). Many of these goals are university/institution/professional society focused, but we can start working on the CIE1S goal: Adopt and publicize clear anti-harassment policies and procedures, including highly transparent reporting avenues. We have initiated action items to pull together all anti-harassment resources from the 110 online course, a previous department-wide email from the department head, and info on identity networks around NMSU to create a new page on the Astronomy Department website that will contain all anti-harassment resources and networks available to us.

We also very briefly discussed the prospect of doing a mock-workshop within the Inclusive Astronomy group similar to the microaggressions session at the Women in Astronomy IV conference during summer 2017. The activity poses “Academic Gray Zone” scenarios that may be discussed amongst a group in order to determine the best way to diffuse or handle the situation. More to come on a specific date for this activity.

10/26/17:  Recruitment posters having already been sent out, participants are spared from an hour of labeling envelopes.  Individuals report updates on the RBA goals they have committed themselves to pursuing.  WIA-facilitated white paper Graduate Admissions in a Post-GRE World (link forthcoming: 11/17 link distributed to attendees) is acknowledged and briefly discussed, including noting of the possible benefits or short-comings of some of the suggested metrics in the paper (e.g. the Emotional Social Competency Inventory).  Lastly, the group resolves to next address the Creating Inclusive Environments (CIE) topical area of the Nashville Recommendations, although deferring significant discussion to the next meeting, where hopefully fewer people will be traveling/busy.  Group should consider beginning to consolidate ideas into a pizza lunch/talk to present to the department at large.

10/19/17:  Group reviewed our earlier conclusions regarding the RBA topical area from the Nashville Recommendations.  Google Doc created detailing the goals that the department has completed, has committed to, should commit to, or is exploring.  Individuals in the group are asked to access the document (link sent on 10/26/17) and sign themselves up to help the group address that particular goal, the hope being that this will facilitate accountability.  We discuss sending out recruitment posters, planned for the next meeting.

10/12/17:  Our discussion revolved around the RBA3 goals from the Nashville Recommendations.

  • RBA3S:  Hiring practices: relevant for us since we expect to be hiring new faculty soon. No faculty were present at the meeting this week, so this topic was difficult to discuss meaningfully. We learned about the h-index, a seemingly common system for measuring productivity based on papers published and their citations.
  • RBA3M: This goal is about making astronomical data open-access. Make sure your work is available on arXiv when you publish.
  • RBA3L: Discussing options to give undocumented students access to undergraduate and graduate programs and financial aid. We learned that NMSU has a “Immigrant Student Issues Committee” which deals with this on campus. We also discussed transportation, which is one of the biggest barriers for commuting students who can’t get state driver’s licenses.

Soon, Carlos wants to lead a super special Inclusive Astronomy meeting about his personal experiences in the department. The tentative date for that will be November 2nd. We will try to advertise so we have a larger community for this session. Look forward to it!

10/05/17:  After a brief discussion of our opinions on AAS president Christine Jones’ letter to congressional leaders, we diverted to the RBA2 goals from the Nashville Recommendations.  Regarding these goals:

  • RBA2S:  We covered our options for waiving or reimbursing the application fee.  Determined that NMSU already has a low fee compared to other schools, so perhaps this is a low-priority item for us.
  • RBA2L:  This goal focuses on wheelchair accessibility, and is likely more-geared towards university or government-level “stakeholders”.  While the department building is wheelchair-accessible, the campus observatory can present difficulty to students/guests.  We considered the possibility of creating a standardized assignment to replace the campus obs trips required by the ASTR 110 classes, which also would be of benefit to students who live far from campus.  Resolved to collect past alternative assignments and review our options at a later date, or to create a new one utilizing the World Wide Telescope.
  • RBA2M:  Accessibility of astronomy material, both publications and classwork.  Brief discussion of recommendations from the University of Washington disability resource office, which offers suggestions for instructors/TAs who are offering material online (see their recommendations for online classes here).  There were also further recommendations for making Google Docs accessible courtesy the Portland Community College website (see their tips and warnings here).  It was noted that the ASTR 110 online class needs subtitles on the short lecture videos, and PCC’s list seems to imply that screen readers cannot handle math in Google Docs.  More research is needed to determine how to address the math presentation in the online class.

Lastly, we resolved to include brief writeups of the meetings to help us keep a better record of the IA group’s activity and goals.  This is the first such entry, though it may be relocated to a different page.

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