The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have long lacked diversity1, as is evident in the demographics of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing STEM majors, and correspondingly, the composition of faculty hired in many institutions of higher education. The lack of diversity is particularly acute in the geosciences, encompassing the Earth, ocean, atmospheric, geographic, geospatial, environmental sciences, and related disciplines2. For example, participation in these disciplines by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) — one major group of underrepresented individuals — are far below levels of representation in the broader U.S. population. In the U.S. only ~6% of geoscience doctoral degrees are awarded to underrepresented minoritized groups3, and this trend is also evident in other western countries.4

The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University (OSU) is a major international education and research institution focused on the geosciences. The 2019-2024 CEOAS strategic plan5 emphasizes our collective responsibility to conduct research and deliver academic programs that benefit society, and to make our world-class research facilities and educational opportunities as broadly available and inclusive as possible. This document serves to identify our values and priorities as the college takes action to address underrepresentation and promote the success of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, women, first generation to college, and other underrepresented groups and individuals in the geosciences.

Our Values

  • We value diversity and the participation of all groups and individuals in our college and scientific communities. Addressing issues related to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are paramount to the success of our research, service, teaching and other missions, and to the future of the broader geosciences.
  • We value underrepresented perspectives. Wide consultation is a critical part of realizing effective and lasting positive change in our college and in our scientific communities. Our rewards and incentive systems must recognize and value the efforts needed to enact the improvements we seek. At the same time underrepresented individuals should not be solely burdened by the efforts required to facilitate lasting change.
  • We recognize the important role that the geosciences must play to support social well-being, and that this must extend to underrepresented communities. Some of the biggest problems facing society — including climate change, environmental degradation and the after-effects of natural disasters — have disproportionate impacts on communities of color and other underrepresented groups. It is not possible to adequately address these problems without listening to diverse perspectives, including those from people from impacted communities.

Our Priorities

  • Improve the culture of CEOAS to be welcoming and to embrace and support diverse communities and perspectives. We are working to make CEOAS as welcoming as possible for people from different backgrounds. This includes being open to constructive criticism and welcoming a broad set of perspectives within our CEOAS community.
  • Increase the number of graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups in our CEOAS degree programs. In addition, we also strive to provide a supportive environment for all of our students within the college, university and broader scientific communities.
  • Increase the diversity of CEOAS faculty and staff. A more diverse faculty and staff in CEOAS will create a more inclusive climate and culture, and will strengthen our ability to mentor the diverse group of students we seek to attract. A more diverse college will help provide an environment in which all individuals may thrive and feel supported.
  • Remove barriers to individuals from underrepresented groups within our curriculum, degree programs, and research groups and facilities. Barriers may be structural, economic or cultural and can often include established practices and entrenched perspectives. We also seek to consider a range of perspectives in our curriculum, degree programs and research groups and facilities, and to acknowledge the ways in which past practices such as colonization, slavery and white cultural dominance have inhibited participation by diverse groups in the development of our scientific disciplines.

Our Actions

We are keenly aware that — in addition to the values and priorities outlined above — deliberate actions are required to effect change6. As a result, we are currently developing a detailed DEI strategic and implementation plan for the college in consultation with our faculty, staff, students, and other partners and stakeholders, but we also believe it is important that our values and priorities are clear.

As part of this commitment, we are undertaking or have completed a range of actions, including:

  • Introducing holistic admissions processes for all graduate academic programs, and removing the GRE requirement for entrance into all CEOAS graduate degrees7.
  • Developing and implementing inclusive hiring practices, including embracing the Oregon State University search advocate program8, and directly involving graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the hiring processes.
  • Developing and implementing a new program to recruit and support graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Prioritizing robust discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion activities at all levels of the college, including the College Leadership team, all our discipline groups, and graduate students.
  • Providing numerous opportunities for faculty, staff and students to educate themselves about issues of equity, diversity and inclusion through workshops, screenings, and information sessions, including working with the OSU Social Justice Education Initiative9, the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning10, and the OSU Sexual Violence Prevention team11.
  • Providing ongoing access to emergency hardship funds for students in financial need, recognizing that underrepresented individuals are often less able to support college expenses.
  • Following up on recommendations from the more than 40 CEOAS staff and graduate students who engaged in the 2020/2021 NSF-funded Unlearning Racism in Geosciences (URGE) program.
  • Evaluating contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion in research, service and teaching at all stages of our faculty and teaching review processes.
  • Developing innovative programs such as the recently NSF-funded ARC-learn project12 to train a new generation of creative and diverse scientists.
  • Incorporating more diverse voices into weekly colloquia and seminars, including the 2020 “Pathway into your career” remote seminar series in the Geology and Geophysics group that prioritized early career speakers from underrepresented groups. All speakers were also supported by honoraria.

Notes

  1. We define diversity following the OSU Office for Institutional Diversity (OID) which considers that diversity reflects the many ways in which individuals and communities are unique, contributing distinct and valuable experiences and perspectives to the mission and vision of an organization. See Diversity Strategic Plan 2018-23.
  2. We refer to all the areas covered by these disciplines by the collective term “geosciences.”
  3. Bernard, R. E. & Cooperdock, E. H. G. Nat. Geosci. 11, 292–295 (2018).
  4. Dowey, N., Barclay, J., Fernando, B. et al. Nat. Geosci. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00737-w
  5. 2019-2024 CEOAS Strategic Plan
  6. Ali, H.N., Sheffield, S.L., Bauer, J.E. et al. An actionable anti-racism plan for geoscience organizations. Nat Commun 12, 3794 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23936-w
  7. https://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/feature-story/ceoas-drops-gre-admission-requirement
  8. https://searchadvocate.oregonstate.edu/
  9. https://hr.oregonstate.edu/social-justice-education-initiative
  10. https://ctl.oregonstate.edu/
  11. https://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/violence-prevention
  12. https://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/arc-learn