Progress Report: January 2022
The Cornell EEB department is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming workspace for all faculty, staff, and students, and to enhance diversity. In the interests of striving towards these goals, 15 months ago we created several working groups to address various concerns related to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB). Each working group is a mix of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and staff. Over the period since they were formed, these groups have made considerable progress towards their respective goals, as detailed below. Last March we also set up a DEI committee to help coordinate our diversity and inclusion activities.
The DEI Committee was set up as one of the main committees in the department (together with the Executive Committee [supporting the Chair], the Director of Graduate Studies [DGS] Committee and the Director of Undergraduate Studies [DUS] Committee). As with the working groups, its membership represents different sections of the department (graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and staff). The chair of the committee is the departmental Leader of Diversity and Inclusion (LDI). The committee oversees diversity and inclusion actions in the department, including fostering the activities of the working groups.
Training Working Group
Purpose: Increase awareness of DEIJB issues in the department and encourage community involvement by providing tools and training to faculty, graduate students, postdocs and staff
Accomplishments: This group has been responsible for several new seminars and workshops over the past 15 months. The group also initiated a Google document to coordinate activities of all the DEIJB Working Groups, and has generated lists of DEIJB trainings that individuals can take in their own time. In terms of presentations, Dr. Corrie Moreau led one on the topic of DEIJB in STEM in December 2020, which was followed by a department-wide survey on desires for training topics. The EEB department also hosted Dr. Kurt Jordan (Director, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program) in April 2021 for a seminar on Cornell’s historical and present relationships with indigenous communities, and he revisited again in October 2021 for further discussion. During Fall 2021 we have also had department-wide workshops on Difficult Conversations and Conflict Resolution hosted by Jim Sheridan (Sr. Management Consultant, Organizational Development and Effectiveness) and Dane Cruz (Director, Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble), on Microaggressions with Anthony Sis (DEI Learning Consultant, Department of Inclusion and Belonging) and on Bystander Intervention with Laura Santacrose and Laura Weiss (Interim Director and Sexual Violence Prevention Program Coordinator, respectively, in the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives).
Future: The departmental training group is continuing to plan future workshops and seminars for members of the EEB community, as well as exploring the possibility of accountability groups to meet on a semi-regular basis.
Statements and Website Working Group
Purpose: Evaluate the department’s written statements on diversity and inclusion and update the EEB website with further information on these topics
Accomplishments: The departmental statements group composed four separate statements (on antiracism, acknowledgement of indigenous land, commitment to a safe workplace, and the importance of departmental/student diversity) and reorganized the website to make them more visible and accessible from the homepage and in a new section dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion. Additional resources such as in-depth information for relevant awards, directories and partnerships can also be found in this section along with a list of relevant publications from a variety of sources.
Future: Further plans for this working group are to continue to update such statements as necessary, as well as using the website’s news feed to highlight the continued DEIJB-related efforts and accomplishments of our department moving forward.
Graduate Recruitment Working Group
Purpose: Rework the graduate recruitment process to increase diversity in the EEB student body
Accomplishments: The recruitment working group has done much work to implement holistic admissions practices including a rubric for more objective and fair assessment of applications. The working group has updated the EEB website with more detailed advice for graduate student applicants. Additionally, this group has also changed the policy for future in-person recruitment cycles to pay for travel costs up front instead of using reimbursement.
Future: Members of this working group are still considering other ways to more proactively reach out to graduate recruits from minority backgrounds, as well as comparing strategies with other institutions that have been successful in improving diversity (based on data from IPEDS – the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).
Curriculum Content Working Group
Purpose: Implement effective DEIJB practices into EEB courses and empower instructors to use these practices in the classroom
Accomplishments: The curriculum working group has compiled resources to help instructors with best practices on the first day of class, writing good DEI statements and land acknowledgements, and connecting to other teaching workshop materials. They have also carried out a survey of EEB course instructors to determine which resources are the most valuable for these purposes.
Future: The activities of this working group will be taken over by the broader departmental DEI committee such that curriculum guidelines will continue to be updated moving forward. The document produced by this working group will be circulated before the beginning of each semester to all instructors in that semester.
Belonging Working Group
Purpose: Increase overall sense of “belongingness” among members of the EEB department
Accomplishments: The belonging group conducted a department-wide survey of the EEB community’s thoughts and feelings on this topic and is working to implement new ideas based on the results.
Future: Current plans include a wider variety of in-person social activities (following appropriate pandemic guidelines) on top of usual departmental events (e.g., weekly happy hour). The belonging group also hopes to establish more engagements involving post-doctoral researchers and to advertise existing social events more broadly. Possible long-term plans also include a more extensive graduate student mentoring program for incoming students.
Seminar Series Working Group
Purpose: Increase diversity of invited speakers to EEB seminars (both internal and external)
Accomplishments: The set of speakers in the 2020-2021 seminar series were notably more diverse than in any previous year. The seminar working group has begun explicitly encouraging visitors to discuss how they started their research careers during post-seminar lunches with graduate students.
Future: The next step for this group involves writing up more formal guidelines for future organizers of seminar series on the nomination process. Plans also include investigations into the potential for additional seminar series dedicated to particular career stages (e.g. postdocs, early-career faculty).
Fieldwork Working Group
Purpose: Assess attitudes towards fieldwork in the department and make it a safer process for all members of the community who engage in field research
Accomplishments: The fieldwork group has commissioned departmentally owned field safety equipment for use by EEB members, including Cornell-branded safety vests and vehicle decals for higher visibility. Several satellite communicators have also been purchased to be lent out to field researchers in case of emergencies. The group has created a field safety document for the use by all groups in EEB who are engaged in field activities.
Future: This working group is planning to implement regular field safety workshops, ideally as part of orientation for incoming students, faculty, and staff, and also hopes to coordinate knowledge of field sites among students to provide more points of contact for safety. In particular, plans are in place for wilderness first aid courses.
Hiring Practices Working Group
Purpose: Promote equitable hiring practices for future job searches
Accomplishments: The hiring practices working group has led targeted searches for more diverse job candidates, which has already led to the extension of two faculty offers, and the successful hiring of one member of faculty. The working group have also developed a best practices document to be used by future hiring committees.
Future: The working group is continuing to work on improvements to recruitment processes. Efforts are also underway to improve the experience of new hires with various proposed welcoming measures. This working group also plans to improve advertising efforts for positions, and to expand research and job opportunities for undergraduate students within the department as well.