Lesson

Film as a Powerful Tool for Increasing Awareness of the Importance of Belonging in STEM

Author(s): Tracie Marcella Addy*1, Kendall Moore2, Erin Whitteck3, Jenn Rossmann1

1. Lafayette College 2. University of Rhode Island 3. University of Missouri - St. Louis

Courses: Professional Development and Career PlanningProfessional Development and Career Planning

Keywords: stem inclusion film belonging

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Abstract

Resource Image

People of color in STEM fields can face a variety of challenges with belonging due to structural, cultural, psychological, and institutional barriers. The professional development sessions described in this lesson involved using film as well as institutional data and case studies as tools to increase awareness of such issues and identify actionable changes that can promote belongingness. Two different models are described based on the sessions conducted at two different institutions, one at a private liberal arts college with growing energy around inclusive STEM initiatives, and the other at an urban Tier 1 National Research University with a stated commitment to inclusion. Both involved the screening of the film Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields, but differed in implementation based on institutional context. Institutions can use these models to facilitate experiences that can transform the culture of STEM for people of color in their respective academic spaces. This article will also detail challenges and lessons learned in successfully carrying out these events.

Primary Image: Image from the film, Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields.

Citation

Addy TM, Moore K, Whitteck E, Rossmann J. 2022. Film as a Powerful Tool for Increasing Awareness of the Importance of Belonging in STEM. CourseSource 9. https://doi.org/10.24918/cs.2022.47

Lesson Learning Goals

  • To initiate or continue dialogues around fostering belonging for people of color in STEM and other disciplines.
  • To empower groups into action in STEM academic settings to foster communities of belonging in their disciplines.

Lesson Learning Objectives

  • Participants will increase their awareness of challenges to belonging facing people of color in STEM fields.
  • Participants will identify institution-specific barriers and challenges.
  • Participants will articulate actionable steps to increase belongingness in STEM at their institutions.

Article Context

Article Type
Class Type
Class Size
Lesson Length
Pedagogical Approaches

Introduction

Belonging can be defined as “[a] student’s perceived social support on campus, a feeling or sensation of connectedness, and the experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, valued by, and important to the campus community or others on campus such as faculty, staff, and peers” (1). Sense of belonging has been associated with student achievement and overall well-being in higher education (2). Belonging can be particularly important for students of color who may be one of few in their respective STEM fields (3). When students of color do not feel a strong sense of belonging in their STEM major, they may leave the discipline (4).

Belonging can differentially impact groups of varying social identities. In a study examining the intersections of race and gender with sense of belonging in STEM, white men were found to report the greatest sense of belonging and women of color the least (3). Interpersonal relationships, perceived competence, personal interest, and science identity were each found to contribute to a sense of belonging (3). In general, students who persisted in STEM disciplines were found to have a greater sense of belonging, but belongingness of students from underrepresented groups was lower. The racial climate on college and university campuses has also been implicated in a relatively weaker sense of belonging for racially diverse women in STEM fields (5). Black and Latino/a/x students within STEM fields report using a variety of strategies to mitigate the harmful impacts of stereotypes and microaggressions committed against them (6).

Because of the continued importance of supporting the success of all learners in STEM fields, lack of awareness of the importance of belongingness in STEM and not intentionally fostering a welcoming environment can have additional negative impacts. They can limit creativity and innovation in the field by contributing to the diversity-innovation paradox in science—underrepresented students innovating at higher rates but having their contributions devalued or ignored (7). In general, students of color in STEM fields can face a variety of challenges in their STEM journeys. They can have powerful stories to share.

Advancing racial justice in STEM fields necessitates listening to the voices of those excluded and working in partnership to dismantle structural barriers. Allies, “people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns” (8), are critical in this work. Such allyship will be ineffective and only perpetuate inequalities if it is performative or if allies frame issues around racial injustice as being caused by excluded groups or suggest only individual and not structural solutions (9).

Film can be a powerful tool for highlighting the stories of people of color in STEM fields, increasing awareness of the harms incurred, and empowering individuals, groups, and institutions to remove the institutional barriers and structures to enhance inclusion and promote persistence in STEM. The activities described in this article center around the film Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields (10). The 50-minute documentary is directed and produced by Dr. Kendall Moore (co-author), an award-winning filmmaker and professor at the University of Rhode Island. The film examines various obstacles and impediments—structural, cultural, psychological, and institutional—that limit the inclusion and participation of underrepresented people of color in STEM fields. This film, and other films in the Can We Talk? series, are used in various contexts, with professional facilitators. The third film, tentatively titled Decolonizing Science?, critically examines western science and erasure through colonial legacies from various scientific knowledge sites. Please contact Dr. Kendall Moore at kendallmooredocfilms.com for further information on screenings and facilitation.

This lesson describes professional development opportunities that center on the topics of the film and aim to increase awareness of the belongingness challenges that people of color in STEM fields and beyond can face, in addition to empowering participants to actionable change.

Two different educational development models are described and can be replicated or adapted based on institutional culture and readiness. Model A was implemented at a selective small, private liberal arts institution given the developing interest and importance in inclusive STEM initiatives. Model B was implemented at an urban Tier 1 National Research University to complement a common read initiative on campus. Because we implemented the programming at two different institutions, “we” or “I” are used in the article text in the voice of the author(s) of each respective section. While this professional development experience focuses centrally on the power of film, examples are also provided for carrying out this professional development experience in lieu of the film or filmmaker.

Intended Audience

Administrators, faculty, staff, and students (graduate, undergraduate, and professional) within STEM fields at institutions of higher education in addition to allies, advocates, and sponsors of people of color in STEM fields.

Required Learning Time

Depending on the activities chosen, the range is between 85 to 130 minutes.

Prerequisite Student Knowledge

There is no expectation for participants to have prior knowledge or skills before the sessions.

Prerequisite Teacher Knowledge

Facilitators who are presenting institutional information will need to prepare talking points on the state of the institution around inclusive STEM initiatives. These can include an overview of institutional strategic plans around inclusive STEM education, current or future initiatives, relevant data, and future steps as described in the lesson timelines. Institutions should consider any costs related to holding these events. Screening the film and co-facilitation by Dr. Kendall Moore involves a fee and in this article we also present other options for holding sessions on these important topics without incurring large expenses.

Facilitators should consider the impacts of their own positionalities and experiences when running these events. For example, co-author Tracie Addy identifies as a Black, cisgender woman, and an experienced educational development professional comfortable with leading discussions around equity and inclusion topics including these events. Co-author Erin Whitteck identifies as a White, able-bodied cisgender woman, and at the time of the event a relatively inexperienced educational development professional learning about how to lead discussions about equity and inclusion. Important foundational knowledge and skills for session facilitators are awareness of bias, knowledge of inequities in STEM disciplines, anti-racist approaches in STEM education, and how to navigate difficult conversations. Facilitators may find it helpful to review resources such as Black, Brown, and Bruised: How Racialized STEM Education Stifles Innovation (McGee) and Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education (Landis).

Institutions facilitating similar belonging in STEM events should also consider which community partners are important for session co-sponsorship. For example, at both institutions the center for teaching and learning led the coordination of these events. At one of the institutions the STEM academic planning unit was a major partner, and departments were encouraged to send faculty to events. At the other institution, additional partners included the office of diversity and inclusion, office of student affairs, counseling and mental health services, and STEM departments.

Scientific Teaching Themes

Active Learning

A major goal for the Model A workshop is for participants to apply the information individually and to their institutional contexts, and small group discussions and case study exercises facilitate such efforts. Groups respond to a discussion prompt and develop solutions to a case study with participants seated nearby. Participants also individually reflect on the discussions and develop initial action plans for how they can increase belongingness for people of color in their own contexts. During the film screening in Model A, participants reflect on their own individual contexts and apply the information and ask questions and engage in the panel discussion.

Model B involves separate events for faculty/staff and undergraduate/graduate students. Both groups watch the film and are prompted to reflect on their own context. The students participate in a discussion with the filmmaker (co-author Kendall Moore) and faculty/staff complete an activity where they reflect on paper on their privilege (11), hold discussions, and engage in case studies acted out by facilitators.

Assessment

There are many times when facilitators ask low-stakes questions to participants during the events as formative assessment. Additionally, participants are invited to complete a feedback form at the end of the Model A professional development experiences to assess their experiences. This survey data is included in the Teaching Discussion section of the lesson. Model B carried out a similar form of assessment. Some of the responses to the survey can also be found in Tables 5–8. Given that the surveys were used to evaluate the professional development experiences, both Institutional Review Boards indicated that they did not meet the criteria for research and did not fall under their purview.

Inclusive Teaching

The topic of the professional development sessions, sense of belonging for people of color in STEM fields, is inherently focused on inclusion. Additionally, during the sessions, participants are encouraged to reflect upon their own experiences with belonging, and how they can foster a sense of belonging for the people of color with whom they interact.

Lesson Plan

Below are the two institutional models that can be used or adapted at institutions based on institutional culture and readiness.

Model A: Allyship Workshop, Film Screening, and Student-Faculty Panel (Lafayette College: Tracie Addy & Jenn Rossmann)

This professional development experience involved two major activities. The first was a workshop for faculty and administration on the importance of allyship held in a space with participants seated at round tables to encourage group interaction. The second was the screening of the film Can We Talk? and a subsequent panel discussion held at the campus theater. Participants were encouraged to attend both events if they were able, or just one for which they could commit the time. We designed the workshop to encourage participants to focus on their institutional contexts, and at the beginning institutional data on inclusion in STEM disciplines was shared by a faculty member within a STEM-related field who held a leadership role in inclusive STEM. The mini-presentation highlighted the challenges faced by students within STEM disciplines at the institution. Specifically, the data on DFW and attrition rates across various STEM departments, and also the percent of students leaving STEM majors over a 10-year period at the institution, were shared in tabular form on slides.

Next, Dr. Kendall Moore (co-author) discussed allyship; what it means and how to be an ally for people of color in STEM fields. Participants were also invited to share stories in their groups of experiences when they felt as if they did not belong. Participants discussed several case studies addressing issues of inclusion in STEM academic environments and came up with solutions. Cases included students of color changing majors at a high rate at an institution, all students of color sitting together during class, students of color as forced spokespeople in class, as well as lack of diversity among the faculty. The workshop concluded with participants engaging in initial action planning to consider what they can do to be an ally to people of color in STEM.

The second event involved a welcome address, initial overview of the film Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields, the screening of the film, and a panel discussion. The welcome address was performed by the center for teaching and learning director (TA) with a mini-presentation on the inclusive STEM initiatives underway at the institution by a STEM professor who held leadership roles in inclusive STEM at the institution (JR). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Kendall Moore and involved three students in STEM majors as well as three faculty who identified as allies or advocates of people of color in STEM fields. Panelists addressed the following questions:

  • How do you define belonging?

  • How have institutions failed at promoting a sense of belonging for students underrepresented in STEM disciplines?

  • What can we do at our institution to improve how we foster a sense of belonging for people underrepresented in STEM disciplines?

The audience, composed of faculty, staff, and administrators were invited to ask questions after the panelists shared their responses (see Table 1 and Table 2).

Table 1. Lesson Plan Timeline for Model A: Allyship Workshop

Activity Description Estimated Time Notes
Preparation
Obtain institutional data Obtain institutional data on inclusion challenges in STEM (DFW rates, number of students leaving STEM majors, senior exit surveys and alumni survey responses about students’ experiences in STEM majors, etc.) through Office of Institutional Data or similar office or assessments done within the department. Data can be disaggregated by major, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, first-generation status, and other factors. 1–2 hours A recommendation is to include a few main data high level points to focus the time mostly on discussing issues of belonging and action planning.
Create 3–4 case scenarios

Develop a few scenarios relevant to issues or challenges facing people of color in STEM fields. Below are sample topics.

Case 1: STEM courses having high DFW rates for groups historically excluded

Case 2: Students of color sitting together during class

Case 3: Professor asking students of color to speak up on behalf of their race

Case 4: Institutions having few STEM faculty of color

Case 5: Knowing when and how to redress harms committed to people of color

1–2 hours A recommendation is to ask faculty, students, and administrators the challenges they have seen or experiences and focus case studies on such stories.
Prepare presentation Prepare a presentation with visuals that include the data, an overview slides of allyship, case studies, and a slide for action planning or next steps. 1–2 hours  
Advertise event Invite department heads, administration, and faculty. Varies One approach is to invite departments to encourage a team of faculty to attend including the head or someone in their place, with the intent of following up with the rest of the department concerning actionable items.
Session
Welcome and presentation Welcome participants to the session and present the institutional data as well as definitions of allyship. 30 minutes Depending on goals, consider having departments disperse or sit together at tables.
Case studies Allow participants to discuss the first case study in their groups for about 20 minutes then discuss as a whole group. Run through remaining case studies as a whole group unless there is time to discuss in individual small groups. 45 minutes  
Action planning Invite participants to reflect on what next steps they can take to increase belongingness of people of color in STEM fields. 10 minutes A recommendation is to encourage faculty to take it back and discuss actions further with their departments.

Table 2. Lesson Plan Timeline for Model A: Film Screening and Student-Faculty Panel Discussion

Activity Description Estimated Time Notes
Preparation
Synthesize institutional initiatives in presentation form Gather institutional data. Identify current and future initiatives around inclusive STEM occurring at the institution. (Examples may include mentoring programs, student affinity groups or professional society chapters, faculty development of inclusive pedagogies.) 1–2 hours A recommendation is to focus on larger scale institutional initiatives and to acknowledge that departments may have their own initiatives as well.
Panel discussion preparations Recruit members of the panel, a few students and a few faculty members and share questions of focus with panelists prior to the event. Varies  
Session
Presentation Describe the current and future initiatives around inclusive STEM occurring at the institution. 10 minutes Include institutional data about student demographics in STEM, with historical trends, and relevant climate study data if available, highlighting institution-specific information about factors involved for those who leave STEM. Describe current practices focused on recruitment, retention, and thriving of diverse STEM community.
Film screening Screen Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields. 50 minutes  
Student/faculty panel

Moderator has panelists respond to the following questions:

  • How do you define belonging?

  • How have institutions failed at promoting a sense of belonging for URMs in STEM disciplines?

  • What can we do at our institution to improve how we foster a sense of belonging for URMs in STEM disciplines?

Moderator invites Q&A from the audience.

45 minutes  
Concluding remarks   5 minutes  

 

Model B: Film Screening, Discussion, Privilege Reflection Activity, and Embodied Case Study (University of Missouri - St. Louis: Erin Whitteck)

This professional development activity was intended to raise awareness with students, staff, and faculty about the importance of the shared responsibility of fostering a sense of belonging on campus. We did not only focus on STEM but invited the campus community as a whole to the events. In order to give students and faculty/staff the opportunity to speak freely and openly without the inherent power dynamics present in faculty/student interactions, two separate events were held for each population.

The student event (undergraduate and graduate students) was held on the morning of the same day of the event with the faculty/staff. There was a shared lunch for both sets of participants mid-day. The student and faculty/staff events were organized by the Center for Teaching and Learning and funded by the Common Read Program, STEM departments from the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of Academic Affairs.

The student event was introduced by our Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. This administrator oversees the advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences and has strong, established relationships with students in STEM. In her introduction, she made an explicit connection between the sense of belonging event and larger campus conversations about our Common Read text and reiterated our shared commitment to fostering a sense of belonging on campus. The students watched the film as a group and participated in a discussion with the filmmaker Kendall Moore (co-author). Kendall asked the audience these three questions:

  • How do you define belonging?

  • How have institutions failed at promoting a sense of belonging for students underrepresented in STEM disciplines?

  • What can we do at our institution to improve how we foster a sense of belonging for people underrepresented in STEM disciplines?

The afternoon event hosted a large group of faculty, staff, and administrators. We believed that our faculty and staff were ready for these conversations because of initiatives such as the Curriculum Alignment Process (CAP) that grounded conversations about degree programs in student success (12). The event was introduced by our Interim Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost and Associate Provost for Student Success and Academic Innovation. The Interim Chancellor outlined the importance of inclusion in our strategic plan and the Associate Provost presented institutional successes in terms of social mobility, comparative retention data to peer institutions and also our institutional challenges. She presented data about why students leave college, the top reason being social integration and cultural adjustments. Faculty and staff watched the film together and participated in a series of activities planned and executed by the filmmaker Kendall Moore. Dr. Moore first discussed her motivations for the film and her upcoming film about allyship. Participants were led through an activity where participants recorded their movement on paper where they individually reflected on their individual privileges (11) and engaged in a discussion about the impact of the activity. Participants also experienced the performance of a case study performed by Kendall and a staff member from the CTL depicting an interaction between a faculty member and STEM student in office hours. Participants were prompted to reflect on how they could make an impact in fostering a sense of belonging in their own context (see Table 3 and Table 4). Participants were given a bookmark (S1. Film in STEM – Bookmark) with ideas about how to foster belonging and relevant literature. The event was also followed with a list of how different units on campus are working to foster a sense of belonging and how faculty and staff could learn more. Faculty and staff were also encouraged to reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning to arrange screenings in their courses or units with a facilitated discussion.

Table 3. Lesson Plan Timeline for Model B: Film Screening and Discussion with Students

Activity Description Estimated Time Notes
Preparation
Advertise event Invite undergraduate and graduate students to the event. Varies Invite STEM undergraduate students by preparing an announcement for STEM faculty to present in their courses. Spend time advertising where large STEM classes meet. Invite graduate students through similar means and the Certificate in University Teaching Program (if present).
Session
Welcome Welcome participants to the session with a representative appropriate for the audience. 10 minutes Institutional context will dictate the person best able to connect with the students.
Introduction Provide context and motivation for the film from the filmmaker. 20 minutes  
Film screening Screen Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields. 50 minutes  
Moderated discussion

Filmmaker asked audience to respond to the following questions:

  • How do you define belonging?

  • How have institutions failed at promoting a sense of belonging for URMs in STEM disciplines?

  • What can we do at our institution to improve how we foster a sense of belonging for URMs in STEM disciplines?

30 minutes A moderator present or table microphones are necessary for large audiences to provide support.
Discussion Invite participants to reflect on what next steps they can take to increase belongingness of people of color on campus. 10 minutes  

Table 4. Lesson Plan Timeline for Model B: Film Screening and Faculty/Staff Discussion

Activity Description Estimated Time Notes
Preparation
Recruit administrators to provide introductions Identify current and future initiatives around inclusion campus-wide. 1–2 hours A recommendation is to reach out to administrators early and provide clear goals that connect campus goals with the event.
Advertise event Recruit faculty and staff from academic and student affairs units across campus. Varies We extended our focus campus-wide and did not only focus on STEM.
Session
Presentation Describe institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 5 minutes A recommendation is to show commitment from upper administration to such initiatives.
Welcome Presentation of data about successes and challenges at the institution. 5 minutes A recommendation is to ensure that data is presented in an asset based way (i.e., data is not presented as a gap where White students are presented as the norm).
Film screening Screen Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields. 50 minutes  
Filmmaker comments Give context to the film and introduce the concept of allyship. 10 minutes  
Student panel Facilitated panel of examples from undergraduate and graduate students in different contexts where faculty or staff made them feel a sense of belonging. 30 minutes Students should be provided questions in advance and an opportunity to prepare. Faculty and staff can ask questions but should submit questions through a moderator. This can be accomplished by writing questions on notecards.
Embodied case study Two approaches to an interaction between a STEM faculty member and student were presented and the audience asked to comment on each approach and how it would or would not contribute to a sense of belonging for the student. 20 minutes  
Concluding remarks Participants asked to reflect on how they could foster a sense of belonging in their own units. 10 minutes Participants were given a bookmark (S1. Film in STEM – Bookmark) with ideas and relevant literature. Event was also followed with a list of how different units on campus are working to foster a sense of belonging and how faculty and staff could learn more.

Teaching Discussion

Model A: Allyship Workshop, Film Screening, and Student-Faculty Panel Findings (Lafayette College: Tracie Addy & Jenn Rossmann)

Participants who registered for the allyship workshop and film screening and discussion were surveyed for their feedback. The feedback was mostly positive for the sessions increasing their awareness of belongingness issues facing people of color in STEM fields and understanding the importance of allyship (See Table 5 and Table 6). They also expressed interest in taking next steps to advance inclusion.

Table 5. Feedback on Model A: Allyship Workshop

Item % somewhat to strongly agree
This event enhanced my awareness of diversity & inclusion concerns relevant to underrepresented students in STEM fields at (X) institution. 81.25
This event enhanced my awareness of the critical importance of allyship for underrepresented students of color. 87.5
This event helped me start to consider how I can be an ally for underrepresented students in STEM fields. 86.66
I would like to attend a follow-up session where we further discuss this topic and develop actionable items relevant to (X) institution. 87.5

Table 6. Feedback on Model A: Film Screening and Student-Faculty Panel Discussion

Item % somewhat agree to strongly agree
This event enhanced my awareness of diversity & inclusion concerns relevant to underrepresented students in STEM fields at Lafayette. 90.48
This event enhanced my general awareness of diversity & inclusion concerns relevant to underrepresented people of color in STEM fields. 95.23
This event enhanced my motivation to improve the experiences of underrepresented people in STEM fields. 90.48

In addition to these short-term outcomes, there was also evidence of longer-term impacts of the film screening and panel discussions on students. In focus group discussions among women in STEM designed to explore STEM belonging and identity formation (13, 14), held two years after the screening event, participants recalled its impact:

A big thing that I remember was a screening of a film that was… basically people who had either stayed in STEM or had left STEM. And there was a panel afterwards, and they described things that they had been told that made them upset and feel like they didn’t belong. And I was like, oh, I’ve heard things like this before, but I just brushed them off or thought that it was like [my individual perception that made] these things or that most people heard them.

This senior engineering student felt that the film screening and panel discussion helped her develop an understanding of her own experiences as representing systemic biases in STEM rather than her individual shortcomings, an experience that contributed positively to her confidence and sense of belonging in STEM herself.

Another focus group participant attributed her persistence in STEM in part to the film screening and discussion: “I do remember leaving that movie and I was like -- I was so angry.” Another participant agreed: “It was affirming. This is happening.” The first participant concluded that “Removing the blame and fault from yourself is – makes it easier to be in the places.”

With regards to alternatives to running the sessions, if institutions are unable to screen the film Can We Talk?, they can consider inviting students and faculty at their institution to share their success stories and challenges of being in a STEM discipline in lieu of the film and expand the timeframe of the panel discussion. A recommendation is for the discussion to be moderated with clear ground rules. Additionally, institutions could consider having students submit experiences anonymously to a survey and share the themes that emerge and discuss them during a panel discussion.

Both our College’s Center for Integration of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship and new Center for Inclusive STEM Education are committed to fostering a STEM environment in which all community members can thrive. A range of programs have sustained conversations relevant to belonging in STEM and addressing structural obstacles to such thriving, including: the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Inclusive Instructors Academy and Anti-Racist Teaching Community of Practice, Distinguished Teaching Fellows sharing student perspectives on inclusive classrooms, campus-wide discussions among faculty about inclusive teaching practices and how they can be assessed and evaluated, workshops for faculty to integrate racial justice concepts and context in STEM classes and to implement Universal Design for Learning; and a range of guest speakers emphasizing inclusion in STEM. Building on the effectiveness of the “Model A” approach, planners of these events have intentionally involved internal voices and conversations related to external speakers’ talks. These intentional internal efforts have included on-campus reading groups of external speakers’ research for both faculty and students. The new Center for Inclusive STEM Education expands the College’s repertoire of STEM inclusivity initiatives and also provides institutional infrastructure for existing efforts. For example, the Center has identified opportunities to coordinate among various student affinity groups in STEM and provide structured programming for peer mentoring and other programs.

Model B: Film Screening, Discussion, Privilege Reflection Activity, and Embodied Case Study Findings (University of Missouri - St. Louis: Erin Whitteck)

Participants of both events were asked for their feedback using an anonymous online survey. Separately, an email was sent out to participants detailing how units currently foster a sense of belonging on campus in order to emphasize the idea that fostering a sense of belonging is a shared responsibility.

The feedback from both events was mostly positive but also indicated that more conversation was needed and wanted across campus (See Table 7 and Table 8). I do not recommend the privilege reflection activity due to it being a deficit model exercise. Instead, a student panel outlining examples of ways faculty and staff have fostered belonging in different contexts, and use context-relevant case studies, can be much more generative in helping promote faculty and staff dialogue. I suggest that a very clear path to a discussion about action be planned after the film screening event. Both groups wanted more time and space to process and discuss what a sense of belonging might look like for each individual in their unit, and students in their classrooms and programs. Unfortunately, this event was held at the end of January 2020 and many of the events planned to follow the film were canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This does not mean that these conversations have not continued but instead have taken different forms than originally planned.

Table 7. Feedback from Model B: Undergraduate/Graduate Student Event

Item % somewhat agree to strongly agree
This workshop was relevant to my objectives. 84.6
The discussion offered direction to help accomplish my goals related to this topic. 91.7

Table 8. Feedback from Model B: Faculty/Staff Event

Item % somewhat agree to strongly agree
This workshop was relevant to my objectives. 97.6
The discussion offered direction to help accomplish my goals related to this topic. 78.6
I would be interested in attending if Dr. Moore returned next year to present her new Ally documentary. 97.5

In the future, we plan to screen the film and offer facilitated discussions with smaller groups across campus including the graduate women in science (GWIS) group, and advisors in the college of arts and sciences. It is our hope to bring Kendall Moore back to offer a screening of her subsequent films about allyship and decolonizing science.

In terms of the impact of the event itself on me as an educational developer and our center for teaching and learning, I identify two key outcomes.

Centering Inclusion

When I offered this event in January 2020 I was a relatively new educational developer and learned a great deal from building and offering the event to the campus community. I learned that I need to center equity and inclusion in everything we do (not just in workshops about the topic itself) and it is what grounds our center in all of our faculty programming. Only through self-reflection and openness to feedback do I continue to grow in this realm.

Students as Partners

In my teaching career I included students in my courses through a learning assistant program and this event helped me to see how I needed to do the same in all of our faculty development opportunities. Since that time we have piloted and have launched a students as partners program that connects students to faculty in intentional ways through faculty learning communities, and research opportunities.

Of course, this event is part of a large University ecosystem that prioritizes inclusion. The Curriculum Alignment Process aims to streamline programs with predictable schedules and clear program-level learning outcomes. Initiatives such as Degrees when Due and countless supports through Student Affairs are just a few examples of how our institution is implementing a multi-pronged approach to addressing inequities.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

After every event, we reflect on what could have been done differently or been more impactful. I do not take faculty, administrator, or student time lightly and I am grateful for any time spent with campus partners. For both events, I would have partnered in more meaningful ways with units across campus. It was a missed opportunity to not have student affairs units available after the student event with information on how they foster a sense of belonging on campus. In addition, I would have had a local student panel (like Model A) at a follow-up event or during the event itself. There were some faculty that left being aware of our institutional data, the concept of sense of belonging, and were moved by the film, but still feeling left with the question “but this doesn’t really happen here right?” This lesson stuck with me and is one of the reasons why we now incorporate students as partners in almost everything we do in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

As a facilitator and organizer be prepared for faculty, staff, and students of color that may not want to attend the event for various reasons. It is important to listen and respect those decisions and be open to feedback. For example one faculty member said something along the lines of “how can I belong if I have never been invited?” This comment stuck with me and made me start to reflect on the complexities of the concept of a sense of belonging. Gravett and Ajjawi unpack this tension in detail (15). The research supporting the importance of a sense of belonging to student success is robust but preparing as a facilitator for how you can listen and value everyone’s perspectives is important in all programming but especially in an event about sense of belonging.

Supporting Materials

  • S1. Film in STEM – Bookmark

Acknowledgments

Facilitators Dr. Tracie Addy and Dr. Jenn Rossmann express appreciation to all panelists and facilitators who participated in the Lafayette College event including Dr. Mary Armstrong, Dr. Chawne Kimber, and Dr. Bob Kurt and student participants. Facilitator Dr. Erin Whitteck would like to thank Dr. Keeta Holmes for her support and direction in planning the event, and the Chemistry, Physics, and Biology Departments and the Office of Academic Affairs for financial support. Dr. Kendall Moore would like to thank the film’s participants, Dr. Bryan Dewsbury, Catalina Martinez, Dr. Vernon Morris, Dr. Wendy Todd, Dr. Gisele Bello, Dr. Hernan Garcia, Gigi Moore Shive, Gyasi Alexander, Sabra TallChief Comet, and Lizmaylin Ramos. Their stories, and the change-work that they continue to do in their respective fields, is significant.

References

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Authors

Author(s): Tracie Marcella Addy*1, Kendall Moore2, Erin Whitteck3, Jenn Rossmann1

1. Lafayette College 2. University of Rhode Island 3. University of Missouri - St. Louis

About the Authors

*Correspondence to: Tracie Addy, 151 Quad Drive, 101 Hogg Hall, Easton, PA, 18042, addyt@lafayette.edu

Competing Interests

None of the authors have a financial, personal, or professional conflict of interest related to this work

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