Future faculty Tanya Josek felt welcome and encouraged at the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop. Read about her experience.
Three highly motivated future faculty volunteers attended the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop titled, “Evolution of Data in the Classroom: From Data to Data Science” at William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Over the next few months, they will be sharing their experience with the QUBES Community in a series of blog posts. Future faculty and guest blogger Tanya Josek discusses her experience at the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer workshop below.
Before starting my Post-Doc at Illinois State University, I was asked to attend the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop. I initially was excited about the theme being “Data Science,” but I was not sure about attending. I was not sure that I would be a good fit for the meeting because I was a “fresh” out of college, my teaching experiences were limited to being a TA and some curriculum work at the high school level. Also, because of the political climate these days and because of the taboo around being out in science, I worried about being an LGBTQ identifying individual at a weeklong workshop not knowing who would be attending. After looking into both BioQUEST and QUBES, I read their mission statements and felt that this workshop would be a safe space for me and other minority individuals. In addition to being a safe safe, the workshop further met my expectations by consisting of individuals who are looking to improve their education skills by way of fun and intellectually challenging education and by learning from each other. The participants at this workshop were very open-minded and wanted to hear diverse perspectives so that they could gain new skills to best prepare their students for their futures. Overall, I had a very positive experience both as a future faculty volunteer and as an attendee at the Summer Workshop.
Here I plan to describe my experience at the workshop by breaking my experience down into three unranked categories: atmosphere, people, and activities. I ultimately hope that this post will encourage individuals interested in science education to attend this workshop, especially those who might feel like they will not have a place in this community.
Atmosphere: Even before arriving, any lingering worries about the workshop not being safe or inclusive were gone. On the workshop’s website I found a section that included “Land Acknowledgement resources,” “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion resources,” “Open Education resources,” and “Universal Design for Learning and Accessibility resources.” When I found that these resources were available prior to the workshop, I felt as though the organizers set the mood for the meeting even before it started. Additionally, having early access to these resources made it clear that the organizers were careful and thoughtful of other individuals and are trying to encourage others to follow suit. This is the first time I ever have seen this at a workshop or meeting, and I found it to be encouraging.
What made the atmosphere even better was while at the meeting, it was made clear that these references were not just made available to check a box and be done with it. Upon arrival, workshop attendees were given the option to add pronoun stickers to their badges. Use of correct pronouns is important to many people, but I think what I appreciated the most about it was that these stickers were optional – meaning I was able to choose if I wanted to be open and out about my pronouns and if I wasn’t comfortable with it, that is okay too. Additionally, at the start of the meeting, there was a Land Acknowledgement presentation, so all attendees were able to learn more about the Indigenous land and individuals that once resided there. For me, this was the first time I heard a Land Acknowledgement at professional meeting, and I was happy to see that it followed the advice given as a part of the resources mentioned earlier.
People: One of the major aspects that helps maintain a positive atmosphere at an intensive workshop is the people. I feel like everyone at this conference was eager to learn not only about new subjects but also how to improve their teaching. Because of this, everyone I met was extremely interested in any new perspective, whether about providing new insights to their teaching or learning who someone is as a person and where their passions lie. It was very comforting to see so many people that were like me and just had a genuine interest in learning about everything and everyone. For me what I saw was space for any ideas, whether they were just a spark or well-fleshed out, to be presented, talked about, accepted, and/or worked on. I found this comforting because it supported the fact that, even though I’m not yet a professor, my ideas and opinions were treated in a way that they added value to a conversation or project. I left this workshop feeling like I was a valued part of the BioQUEST & QUBES community and could reach out to any of the workshops attendees to form collaborations or receive advice. It’s all too rare to feel this way in a professional setting, so I especially appreciated the welcoming and inclusive environment established by the participants at the workshop.
Tanya Josek and other attendees share ideas during the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop.
Activities: The only “negative” comment I really have about this meeting is that they had so many interesting sessions and group projects that it made it difficult to choose which session to attend or which project to work on. There is a lot of space for professional development at the BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop, which I found to be amazing. Professional development ranged from tools you could use in the classroom to research funding opportunities. The end of the week consisted of developing a classroom activity or ideas for activities with a group of fellow attendees. This was a lot of fun and as I mentioned, everyone at the workshop was a pleasure to work with and so that made this development portion of the meeting a lot of fun. Out of all of the activities I attended, I think I was most impressed by the opening Keynote Address by Karen Cangialosi, "Interconnections in the Open Ecosystem." I think Karen’s talk was a perfect opening to set the stage for the workshop and really got me in the mindset for this meeting. The talk was unique, and I felt brought out what the future of science education can look like and it looks like there are going to be even more bright, informed scientists in our future.
I’d just like to conclude with a statement of encouragement. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in graduate school or a full-time professor, if you are transitioning over to science education or well versed in science education work, you’ll find a place in the BioQUEST & QUBES community as long as you are respectful, open to new ideas, and have an interest in science education.
Tanya Josek received her Ph.D. in Entomology with a graduate minor in College Teaching from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focused on tick physiology and science education. Currently she is a postdoctoral researcher at Illinois State University as a part of Project EDDIE.
The 2020 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop will be held at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA. If you are interested in receiving information about this workshop as plans continue to develop, please subscribe to receive updates.
QUBES appreciates and shares guest blog posts but their content reflects the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by QUBES.