Illustration by Shonagh Rae

Centering Equity and Inclusion in STEM

As the United States seeks to tap every available resource for talent and innovation to keep pace with global competition, institutional leadership in building research capacity at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) is essential, as Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates explain in “The Role of Institutional Leaders in Driving Lasting Change in the STEM Ecosystem” (Issues, Summer 2023). Transformational leadership, such as that displayed by Chancellor Harold Martin and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University as it elevates itself to the Carnegie R1 designation of “very high research activity,” and by former President Diana Natalicio to position the University of Texas at El Paso as an R1 institution, provides role models for other institutions.

Payton and Gates argue elegantly for utilization of the National Science Foundation’s Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Theory of Change model. For fullest effect, I suggest that this model must include two additional elements for institutional leaders to consider: the role of institutional board members and the role of minority technical organizations (MTOs). To achieve improved and lasting research capacity, the boards at HBCUs and MSIs must view research as part of the institutional DNA. Many of these institutions are in the midst of transforming from primarily teaching institutions to both teaching and research universities. For public institutions, the governors or oversight authorities should appoint board members with research experience and members who have large influence in the business community, as one outcome from university research is technology commercialization. HBCUs and MSIs need board members with “juice”—because, as the saying goes, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

To achieve improved and lasting research capacity, the boards at HBCUs and MSIs must view research as part of the institutional DNA.

Finally, as the nation witnesses increasing enrollments at HBCUs and MSIs, the role of minority technical organizations cannot be understated. If we are to achieve the National Science Board’s Vision 2030 of a robust, diverse, domestic workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM fields—these organizations are crucial. MTOs such as the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science are two of the many MTOs that provide role models for STEM students, hold annual conferences for students and professionals, and foster retention of Black and brown students in the STEM fields. As part of the NSF INCLUDES ecosystem, let’s also not forget the major events that recognize outstanding individuals at HBCUs and MSIs, such as the Black Engineer of the Year awards and the Great Minds in STEM annual conferences.

Vice President for Research, University of the District of Columbia

Vice Chair, National Science Board

As the president of a national foundation focused exclusively on postsecondary education, I was especially intrigued with Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates’s ambitious recommendations for the philanthropic community. The authors challenge traditional foundations to make bigger and lengthier investments in higher education, especially minority-serving institutions (MSIs). At ECMC Foundation, we do just this. By making large, multi-year investments in projects led by public two- and four-year colleges and universities, intermediaries and even start-ups through our program-related investments, we aim to advance wholesale change for broad swaths of students, particularly those who come from underserved backgrounds.

One project worth noting is the Transformational Partnerships Fund. Along with support from Ascendium Education Group, the Kresge Foundation, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, we have created a fund that provides support to higher education leaders interested in recalibrating the strategic trajectory of their institutions in service to students. Such recalibrations might be mergers, course sharing, or collaborations that streamline back-end administrative functions. Although this fund does not offer large grants or long-term support, it nonetheless helps higher education leaders understand more deeply how they need to respond to the challenges that lay ahead for their colleges and universities.

Barring incentives that might make significant change possible, college leaders often stick with the status quo, preferring tactical, stop-gap measures rather than strategic reform.

Payton and Gates advance a compelling moral argument about the need to better support MSIs and the students they serve, especially in STEM-related majors. What they do not emphasize, however, are specific institutional incentives that will drive lasting improvements in diversity and inclusion. Presidents and chancellors report to trustees, whose primary fiduciary obligation is to keep their institutions in business. Barring incentives that might make significant change possible, college leaders often stick with the status quo, preferring tactical, stop-gap measures rather than strategic reform.

Arguments for institutional change that appeal to our better angels, although earnest and well-intentioned, have failed thus far to significantly alter the postsecondary education landscape for our most vulnerable students. The consequence is that too many students choose to leave before completing their degree. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the population of students with some college and no credential has reached 40.4 million. The loss of talent in STEM-related and other disciplines is staggering, and a reversal of institutional inertia is required to alter course.

Still, the authors offer a theory of change that makes a positive, forward-looking contribution to our thinking about institutional transformation. I eagerly await the authors’ future work as they translate their powerful worldview into a bold set of recommendations that offer up key incentives for higher education leaders to employ as they address the challenges their institutions face in postpandemic America.

President, ECMC Foundation

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates summarize the critical challenges and opportunities ahead for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. The STEM ecosystem is vast, complex, and stubbornly anchored in inertia. The authors present a compelling vision for the future: institutional excellence will be defined by inclusion, actions will be centered on accountability, and the effectiveness of leadership will be measured by the ability to drive systemic and sustained culture change.

Achieving inclusive excellence begins with a commitment to change the STEM culture. Here is a to-do list requiring skillful leadership:

  • Redefine the STEM curriculum, especially at the introductory level.
  • Resist the impulse of requiring STEM students to go too deep too soon. Instead, encourage them to explore the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
  • Review admissions criteria and STEM course prerequisites.
  • Reward instructors and advisers who practice the skills of equitable and inclusive teaching and mentoring.
  • Increase representation of persons heretofore excluded from STEM by valuing relevant lived experiences more than pedigree.

We yearn for leaders with the vision, strength, and patience to drive lasting culture change. We must nurture the next generation of leaders so that today’s modest changes will be amplified and sustained.

Inclusive excellence, already challenging, is made more difficult because of the pressures exerted by powerful forces. Many institutions succumb to the false promise of external validation based on criteria that are contradictory to the values of equity and inclusion. The current system selects for competition instead of community, exclusion instead of inclusion, a white-centered culture instead of equity. The “very high research activity” (R1) classification for institutions is based on external funding, the number of PhD degrees and postdoctoral researchers, and citations to published work. In the current US News and World Report “Best Colleges” ranking, half of an institution’s score is based on just four (of 24) criteria: six-year graduation rates, reputation, standardized test scores, and faculty salaries.

Many institutions succumb to the false promise of external validation based on criteria that are contradictory to the values of equity and inclusion.

It is time to disrupt the incentives system, as the medical scholar Simon Grassmann recently argued in Jacobin magazine. It is wrong to believe that quantitative metrics such as the selectivity of admissions and the number of research grants are an accurate measure of the quality of an institution. Instead, let us develop the means to recognize institutions that make a genuine difference for their students and employees—call it an “Institutional Delta.” Students will learn and instructors will thrive when the learning environment is centered on belonging and the campus commits to the success of everyone. Finding reliable ways to measure the Institutional Delta and assess institutional culture will require new qualitative approaches and courageous leadership. An important lever is the accreditation process, in which accrediting organizations can explicitly evaluate how well an institution’s governing board understands and encourages equity and inclusion.

The STEM culture must be disrupted so that it is centered on equity and inclusion. This requires committed leaders with the courage to battle the contradictions of an outdated rewards system. Culture disruptors must be supported by governing boards and accreditation agencies. Let leaders lead!

Senior Director, Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates emphasize that systemic change to raise attainment of scientists from historically underrepresented backgrounds must engage stakeholders at multiple levels and from multiple organizations. These stakeholders include positional and grassroots leaders in postsecondary institutions, industry leaders, and public and private funders. The authors posit that “revisiting theories of change, understanding the way STEM academic ecosystems work, and fully accounting for the role that leadership plays in driving change and accountability are all necessary to transform a system built upon historical inequities.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce, released in 2019, highlighted that such institutions graduate disproportionately high shares of students from minoritized backgrounds in STEM fields. The report found that minority-serving institutions (MSIs) receive significantly less federal funding than other institutions and recommended increased investment in MSIs for their critical work in educating minoritized STEM students. To reinforce this work, the report also called for expanding “mutually beneficial partnerships” between MSIs and other higher education institutions, industry stakeholders, and public and private funders.

Even research that has attempted to link higher education organizational studies with STEM education reform has primarily been conducted in highly selective, historically and predominantly white institutions that are predicated on exclusion.

Payton and Gates rightfully recommend that strengthening the ecosystem to diversify science should “build initiatives on MSIs’ successes.” Yet the National Academies report on MSIs noted that research on why and how some MSIs are so successful in educating minoritized STEM students has been scant. Conversely, most research on this topic has been conducted in highly selective, historically white institutions. Paradoxically then, most of this research has neglected the institutional contexts that many racially minoritized STEM students navigate, including the MSI contexts in which they are often more likely to succeed.

The authors also call to revisit organizational theories of change as a step toward transforming STEM ecosystems in more equitable directions. Yet the social science research on higher education organizational change has historically been disconnected from research on improving STEM education. The American Association for the Advancement of Science report Levers for Change, released in 2019, highlighted this very disconnection as a key barrier to reform in undergraduate STEM education.

Even research that has attempted to link higher education organizational studies with STEM education reform has primarily been conducted in highly selective, historically and predominantly white institutions that are predicated on exclusion. Limited organizational knowledge about how MSIs educate minoritized students and how that knowledge can be adapted to different institutional contexts have together hindered the development of a STEM ecosystem predicated on inclusion. Enacting Payton and Gates’s recommendation to revisit organizational theories of change to transform STEM ecosystems will require that scholarly communities and funders generate more incentives and opportunities to conduct research that integrates higher education organizational change, STEM reform approaches, and the very MSI institutional contexts that can offer models of inclusive excellence in STEM. Such social science research can yield the most promising leadership tools to transform STEM ecosystems toward inclusive excellence.

Executive Director, Diana Natalicio Institute for Hispanic Student Success

Distinguished Centennial Professor, Educational Leadership and Foundations

The University of Texas at El Paso

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates highlight the role of leadership in transforming the academic system built upon the nation’s historical inequities. Women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans remain inadequately represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics relative to their proportions in the larger population.

For the United States to maintain leadership in and keep up with expected growth of STEM-related jobs, academic institutions must envision and embrace strategies to educate the future diverse workforce. At the same time, federal funding agencies need to support strategies to encourage universities to pursue strategic alliances with the private sector to recruit, train, and retain a diverse workforce. We need visionary strategies and intentionality to make changes, with accountability frameworks for assessing progress.

Leadership is one key element in strategies of change. Thus, Payton and Gates perspicuously illustrate the role of leadership in advancing the STEM research enterprise at minority-serving institutions. At the University of Texas at El Paso, its president established new academic programs, offered open admissions to students, recruited faculty members from diverse groups, and built the necessary infrastructure to support research and learning. As a result, in a matter of a few years the university achieved the Carnegie “R1” designation signifying “very high research activity” while transforming the university community to reflect the diverse community it serves. Thanks to such visionary leadership, it now leads R1 universities in STEM graduate degrees awarded to Hispanic students.

We need visionary strategies and intentionality to make changes, with accountability frameworks for assessing progress.

At North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the chancellor has likewise transformed the institution, increasing student enrollment by nearly 30% in 12 years and doubling undergraduate graduation. Because of the strategies intentionally implemented by the chancellor, the university during the past decade experienced a more than 60% increase in its research enterprise supported by new graduate programs. Similarly, the president of Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, a community college for Native Americans, has led in forging partnerships with Tribal colleges, universities, and the private sector to ensure that graduates can develop successful careers or pursue advanced studies.

As Payton and Gates note, the private sector has a major role to play in training a diverse STEM workforce, citing as exemplar the $1.5 billion Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program established in 2022 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Every other year, the program will appoint 30 early-career scientists from diverse groups, supporting a total of 150 scientists over a decade. This long-term project will likely yield outcomes to transform the diversity of the nation’s biomedical workforce.

It is clear, then, that the nation needs to embrace sustained and multipronged strategies involving academic institutions, government agencies, private enterprises, and even families to achieve an equitable level of diversity in STEM fields. It is also clear that investments in leadership development and academic infrastructure can help foster the growth of a more capable and diverse workforce and advance the nation’s overall innovation capability. The good news is that Payton and Gates provide proof positive that institutions and partnerships can achieve the desired outcomes.

Professor of Atmospheric Science

Pennsylvania State University

The author chairs the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, chartered by Congress to advise the National Science Foundation on achieving diversity across the nation’s STEM enterprise.

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates remind us that despite some positive movement, the United States has substantially more to do in broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM fields. The authors promote two often overlooked contributions to change: the key role of institutional leaders and the importance of minority-serving institutions. Even with their additions, however, I believe there is a significant deficiency in building out an appropriate theory of change to address the overall challenges we face in STEM.

The authors recount that the National Science Foundation’s Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Initiative was established to leverage the many discrete efforts underway. They note that “episodic efforts, or those that are not coordinated, intentional, or mutually reinforcing, have not proven effective.” They advocate revisiting theories of change, understanding how STEM academic ecosystems work, and fully accounting for the role that leadership plays in driving change and accountability. But while I strongly agree with their case—as far as it goes—I believe there is considerably more that ought to be added to the theory of change embraced by the INCLUDES Initiative to make it more useful and impactful.

I posit that to successfully guide STEM systems change at scale, a theory of change ought to incorporate at least three (simplified) dimensions:

  • Institution. At its core, change is local. Classroom, department, and institution levels are where policies, practices, and culture have to change.
  • Institution/national interface. Initiatives must have bidirectional interaction. National initiatives influence institutions, and a change by an institution reflects back to a national initiative, hopefully multiplying its success through adaptation by other network members.
  • Multiple dimensions of change. Changes in policy and culture must be translated into specific changes in pedagogy, student belonging, and faculty professional development. We also need better ways to track the translation of these changes into the STEM ecosystem, such as graduating a more diverse class of engineers.

The INCLUDES theory of change focuses almost exclusively on the second dimension. It presents an important progression for initiatives from building collaborative infrastructure to fostering networks, then leveraging allied efforts. It captures the institution/national interface with a box on expansion and adaptation of better-aligned policies, practices, and culture, but only alludes to the institutional change on which such advances rest. Payton and Gates add to the theory by focusing mostly on the missing role of leadership in fostering institutional change. They describe examples of key leaders who have been critical drivers of specific changes. They also devote attention to multiple dimensions of change by describing important successes that minority-serving institutions have had in increasing student graduation in STEM and to the policy and program changes by leadership that made such change possible.

I believe there is considerably more that ought to be added to the theory of change embraced by the INCLUDES Initiative to make it more useful and impactful.

Even after Payton and Gates’s critical additions, I’m left with deep discomfort over a major omission: in the theory of change they offer for the STEM ecosystem, there is virtually nothing specific to STEM activity in it. While well-conceived, it appears entirely process-oriented and doesn’t directly translate to metrics enabling an assessment of progress toward broadening participation in STEM. Surely increased collaboration and changes in policy and culture are imperative, but they can apply to virtually any societal policy shift. What makes the INCLUDES theory of change applicable to whether the United States can produce a more diverse engineering graduating class?

Having offered this challenge—stay tuned from this quarter.

Senior Vice President for STEM Education and Research Policy

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

Creating transformative (not transactional), intentional, and lasting change in higher education—specifically in a STEM ecosystem—requires continuity, commitment, and lived experiences from leaders who are not afraid to lead change and disrupt inefficient policies and practices that do not support the success of all students in an equitable context. The long-standing work of higher education presidents or chancellors such as Diana Natalicio at the University of Texas at El Paso, Harold Martin at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Freeman Hrabowski at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Tamarah Pfeiffer at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute would not have materialized if they were conflict-adverse.

What do each of these dynamic leaders have in common? They were responsible for leading minority-serving institutions (MSIs) of higher education, which they transformed through deliberate actions. More importantly, their deliberate actions were intentionally grounded in understanding the mission of the institution, understanding the historically minoritized populations for which the institution served (among others), and understanding that a long-term commitment to doing the work would be required, even if that meant disrupting “business as usual” for the institution and setting a trajectory towards accelerating systemic change.

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates make a compelling case for what is required of institutional leaders to harness and mobilize systemic change in the STEM ecosystem by using the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES model as a case study. Payton and Gates argue that “higher education leaders (e.g., presidents, provosts, and deans) set the tone for inclusion through their behaviors and expectations.” This argument is tantamount to the individual leaders’ strengths, strategies, and successes at the types of institutions highlighted in the article. Moreover, Payton and Gates point out that “leaders can hold themselves and the organization accountable by identifying measures of excellence to determine whether improvements in access, equity, and excellence are being achieved.”

As a former dean of a college of liberal arts and a college of arts and sciences at two MSIs (Jackson State University, an urban, historically Black college and university—HBCU—and the University of La Verne, a Hispanic serving institution, respectively) and now serving as the chief academic officer and provost at the only public HBCU and exclusively urban land-grant university in the United States—the University of the District of Columbia—I know firsthand the role that institutional leaders must play in moving the needle to “broaden participation” and the need for urgent inclusion of historically minoritized participants in the STEM ecosystem. As leaders operating within the MSI spaces, we recognize that meeting students where they are is crucial to developing the skilled technical workforce that our country so desperately needs.

We must do more to address the barriers that prevent individuals from embarking on or completing a STEM education that prepares them for the workforce. According to a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, by 2022 “the percentage of skilled technical job openings is likely to exceed the percentage of skilled technical workers in the labor force by 1.3 percentage points or about 3.4 million technical jobs.” The report finds that the number of skilled technical workers will likely fall short of demand, even when accounting for how technological innovation may change workforce needs (e.g., shortages of electricians, welders, and programmers).

As leaders operating within the MSI spaces, we recognize that meeting students where they are is crucial to developing the skilled technical workforce that our country so desperately needs.

At the same time, economic shifts toward jobs that put a premium on many lines of work on science and engineering knowledge and skills are leaving behind too many Americans. Therefore, as institutional leaders, we must harness the power of partnerships with industry, nonprofits, and community and technical colleges to increase awareness and understanding of skilled technical workforce careers and employment opportunities. This will be an enduring challenge to balance traditional and emerging research. In the long term, we demonstrate what Payton and Gates argue is necessary for lasting change—a change that affects multiple courses, departments, programs, and/or divisions and alters policies, procedures, norms, cultures, and/or structures.

Suggestions for next steps:

  • The challenge for MSIs in the twenty-first century is to figure out how to collaborate among institutions to renew, reform, and expand programs to ensure students have the opportunity for educational and career success.
  • As we think about MSI collaborations, there needs to be a broader discussion to include efforts that will yield high levels of public-private collaboration in STEM education, advocating policies and budgets focused on maximizing investments to increase student access and engagement in active, rigorous STEM learning experiences.
  • If we are to reimagine a twenty-first century where we have fewer HBCU mergers and closures, we must recognize that leadership at the top of our organizations must also come together to learn best practices for leading change. The old mindsets, habits, and practices of running our colleges and universities must be reset.
  • Through collaboration, HBCUs can pool resources and extend their reach. Collaboration opens communication channels, knowledge-sharing, and community-building between HBCUs and MSIs.

Chief Academic Officer

University of the District of Columbia

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates effectively conceptualize how inclusive STEM ecosystems are developed and sustained over time. The Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES initiative at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which the authors write about, is a significant investment in moving the needle of underrepresentation in STEM. After thirty years as a STEM scholar, practitioner, and administrator in academia, industry, and government, I believe we are finally at an inflection point, although inflection can go both ways: negative or positive—and possibly only incrementally positive. For me, Payton and Gates’s framework triggered thoughts on the meaning of inclusion and why leadership is instrumental in building STEM ecosystems.

Inclusion has many different meanings, and those meanings have shifted over the years depending on context and purpose. Without consistent linguistic framing, inclusion can be decontextualized—rendering it into a passive concept rather than an action to be taken or an engine to be used to drive culture and climate. NSF’s INCLUDES program emphasizes collaboration, alliances, and connectors. The program is designed to inspire investigators to actively engage in inclusive change, a mechanism that requires us to use both inclusively informed and inclusively responsive approaches.

After thirty years as a STEM scholar, practitioner, and administrator in academia, industry, and government, I believe we are finally at an inflection point, although inflection can go both ways: negative or positive—and possibly only incrementally positive.

Diversifying STEM is challenged by the lack of a shared concept. Although the concept of “inclusion” does not have to be identical among institutions, it should be semantically aligned. As an example, Kaja A. Brix, Olivia A. Lee, and Sorina G. Stalla used a crowd-sourced approach to capture the meaning of “inclusion within diversity.” Their grounded theory methodology yielded four shared concepts: (1) access and participation; (2) embracing diverse perspectives; (3) welcoming participation; and (4) team belonging. For those of us who have advised doctoral students, inclusion is sort of like a good dissertation: there is no real formula for a high-quality dissertation, but you know it when you see it.

Another point made by Payton and Gates relates to sustained leadership and accountability. When she was president of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Diana Natalicio was highly effective in framing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) to support action. Given the historical disadvantages experienced by UTEP, President Natalicio never seemed to waiver on UTEP’s right to become an R1 university in a collaborative DEIA context. Her degree in linguistics may have facilitated her skill in framing ideas that move people to real action.

Effective leadership in support of inclusion must be boldly voiced in multiple ways for multiple audiences. This form of institutional voice matters to all stakeholders, both within the institution and externally, because failure to voice DEIA says something as well: it means a leader is not really committed to change. Giving voice means leaders must consult with groups on their own campus and in their own communities to understand how to elevate DEIA using multipronged, systems-wide actions.

Payton and Gates also highlight Harold Martin, an electrical engineer who is recognized for his effective leadership of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Among other accomplishments, Chancellor Martin’s leadership and practice have established an institution that strategically applies data-informed methods to advance excellence. Application of data-informed approaches is not a panacea, but metrics and measures serve to find the “proof in the pudding” regarding inclusive change. Inclusive change management is facilitated by thoughtful creation, elicitation, review, and interpretation of data in quantitative and qualitative forms. Without data, institutions will only check anecdotal boxes around inclusion, leading to no real or lasting change.

We must pay attention to shared meanings and effective leadership when leading inclusive change in STEM. Ecosystems thrive because of successful interaction and interconnection. Unfortunately, many leaders focus only on culture. While key to lasting change, culture is grounded in shared meaning, values, beliefs, etc. But culture change without climate change is ineffective. In organizational research, culture is what we say; climate is what we do. It is high time we are all about the “doing” because full reliance on the “saying” may not move diversity in a positive direction.

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Fay Cobb Payton and Ann Quiroz Gates shed light on the critical role of leadership in addressing historical inequities in the STEM fields, particularly in higher education. One of the key takeaways is the importance of visionary and committed leadership in fostering lasting change. Although their article provides valuable insights into the importance of leadership in promoting STEM equity, there are a couple areas that could use additional examination.

First, their argument would benefit from further exploration of systemic challenges and proven strategies. Payton and Gates focus primarily on leadership within educational institutions but do not address external factors that can influence STEM diversity. For example, they don’t discuss the role of government policies, industry partnerships, K–12 preparation, or societal attitudes in shaping STEM demographics. Understanding the specific obstacles faced by underrepresented groups and how leadership can address them will add value to the discussion. While the article mentions the importance of inclusive excellence, it would be helpful to provide specific strategies that college and university leadership can implement immediately to create lasting change in STEM.

It would be helpful to provide specific strategies that college and university leadership can implement immediately to create lasting change in STEM.

Second, there should be a wider discussion of intersectionality. The article primarily discusses diversity in terms of race and ethnicity but does not adequately address other dimensions of diversity, such as gender, disability, or socioeconomic background. Recognizing the intersectionality of identities and experiences is crucial for creating inclusive STEM environments.

To create lasting change in STEM, college and university leadership can take several additional steps, including collecting and analyzing data on the representation of underrepresented groups in STEM programs and faculty positions. These data can help identify disparities and inform targeted interventions. Leadership also needs to review and revise the curriculum to ensure it reflects diverse perspectives and contributions in STEM fields. Faculty must be encouraged and rewarded for incorporating inclusive teaching and research practices.

Creating lasting change in STEM demographics is a long-term commitment. Institutions must maintain their dedication to diversity and inclusion even when faced with challenges and changes in institutional leadership. Payton and Gates beautifully articulate the case that college and university leadership can create lasting change in STEM by implementing data-driven initiatives, fostering local and national collaborations, and maintaining a long-term institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Mathematics Clinic Program Director

Harvey Mudd College

Cite this Article

“Centering Equity and Inclusion in STEM.” Issues in Science and Technology 40, no. 1 (Fall 2023).

Vol. XL, No. 1, Fall 2023