Diversity and Inclusion redux

Diversity and Inclusion redux
February 11, 2016

You will recall that in the fall of 2015, I wrote a Montage about the intent to develop an Integrated Diversity and Inclusion program. The Diversity and Inclusion Council, under Chairpersons Mary Logue and Rolf Ent, has been working in collaboration with the Public Affairs office on several initiatives, which will soon go public. One of the very interesting but pernicious effects which, to a greater or lesser degree, we all are susceptible to is implicit bias. We are also looking to provide training for supervisors and also to enhance the information provided to people involved in the hiring process, which would include cultural context, gender communications, as well as implicit bias.

So far, most of these efforts are still in committee, but in fact, the world is not standing still in this regard.

A couple of weeks ago, along with partners at Old Dominion University, we co-hosted a remarkable conference. The organizers were Gail Dodge (ODU) and Latifa Elouadrhiri (Jefferson Lab). It was a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). CUWiP (http://www.aps.org/programs/women/workshops/cuwip.cfm) is organized under the aegis of the American Physical Society (APS). It was first held with a single site at the University of Southern California in 2006. It has developed into a distributed event; in 2016 there were nine separate individual CUWiP sites: Black Hills State University,  Georgia Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University/Jefferson Lab, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Syracuse University, University of California, San Diego, University of Texas, San Antonio/Southwest Research Institute, and Wesleyan University. Efforts are made to make the conference as accessible as possible. It is held on a weekend (Friday – Sunday), and the distributed organization reduces the travel costs.

This is the first time that Jefferson Lab has been involved in one of the CUWiP conferences. I was flattered to be asked to welcome the attendees at the lab on the Saturday. There was a graduate school and career fair with 32 institutions, that included faculty from a number of universities as well as representatives from the military, industry, and other organizations. Or Hen of MIT, who is a user at Jefferson Lab, emphasized to me the opportunities to recruit into graduate school.

I must say that addressing 140 undergraduate women physicists was a first for me. I should note that there were two or three men, as well. Of course, they were quick to react to the suggestions that they should be taking over from old white males. The conferees got a tour of the lab, and later in the afternoon, all conference sites plugged in to a keynote address by Ginger Kerrick of NASA speaking from Texas. Gail Dodge estimates that there was a total of about 1,200 participants across the country. If you go to the web sites, you also find old friends. Heidi Schellman, for many years at Northwestern and a member of PAC, was in the photograph of the participants at Oregon State University where she is now Chair of the Physics Department.

Of course, as I write, we are in the first week of February, so it must be time for the regionals of the Science Bowl competition. Indeed, we held the High School Virginia Regionals on Saturday, February 6. Now, I have written in the past about the science bowls, and how they are a superb vehicle to generate interest and enthusiasm for science, and how we look to the participants in this and similar competitions as our future leaders in science. They are a vital component of our Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Informally, at least, the faces we saw were a much better reflection of the face of America than are the faces of our lab physicists. As usual, we emphasized that we are relying on them to become the scientific leaders of the future.

As a final note in this Montage, and to emphasize that Inclusion and Diversity go beyond gender, I would like to mention the African School of Physics (ASP)  http://www.africanschoolofphysics.org/ . This school is a biennial event. We got into it through Steve Muanza, a French physicist with whom I had worked at Fermilab. When Steve approached us, I introduced him to Latifa Elouadrhiri. Discussions led to us providing modest support both from the lab and through a JSA Initiatives Fund proposal. The first school was held at Stellenbosch in South Africa, and subsequent schools took place in Ghana (2012) and Senegal (2014). At that conference, Latifa and Dave Heddle (CNU) discussed electron scattering, Jefferson Lab science, and the 12 GeV Upgrade in a series of lectures and discussion periods and used CLAS as an example to introduce computing in nuclear physics. The 2016 edition will be held in Rwanda, and we are again supporting the effort.

We should feel good, but not complacent, about these efforts in Diversity and Inclusion.