DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION, AND SAFETY

I do a variety of work broadly aimed at making the culture of academic science healthier, safer, and more welcoming to all.

Some projects have the goal of making science more diverse and inclusive, while others are aimed at keeping scientists safe, especially in the field. Some are attempts to make institutional change, and others are just personal efforts to be better educated and prepared.

Graduate recruitment

I am a founding member and current Treasurer of the Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team, which works to improve the recruitment and retention of students with disabilities, women, underrepresented minorities, and LGBTQ+ students in STEM doctoral programs at the University of Virginia. As Treasurer, I am responsible for the acquisition, analysis, and custody of all recruitment and retention data, to make sure we understand what we are doing well and what we need to do better. We also host annual "GRIT Days" for students, faculty, and administrators to come together and share ideas across departments.

 

I help put these ideas into practice by volunteering with my department's recruitment, from talking with students at SACNAS and ABRCMS to making our recruitment process more transparent and accessible. For example, I make sure all prospective students understand what interviews will be like and try to get them a chance to practice with current graduate students before they interview with faculty. No one should be penalized for not understanding the hidden rules of the process.

Department service and education

I have worked on a number of small projects within my department to increase awareness systemic injustice and contribute to a positive culture. I helped draft both the Brodie Lab's statement of values and the department's “Statement on Diversity." I invited an expert to give a department seminar on the history of eugenics research at UVA and the legacy of eugenics in modern immigration policy. I also serve as treasurer for the Biology Graduate Student and Postdoc Association.

Approximately 30 people, or varying ages and ethnicities, pose for a picture in an auditorium.
People sit in small groups at tables. A Black man is showing a slide saying "What can we do better?"
Two flip charts of handwritten notes, one titled "Recruitment" and the other "Retention"

Workplace equity

I am a member of the University of Virginia chapter of United Campus Workers Virginia, a wall-to-wall campus worker organization advocating for the equitable treatment of graduate workers, staff, and adjunct faculty. Unions decrease gender and racial pay disparities and provide recourse in the face of inequity or exploitation. I serve as a department lead on the graduate worker committee. 

A woman holds up a sign saying "I joined the union because we have to take care of each other."

Harassment and violence prevention

Fieldwork is an essential tool in ecology and evolution, and it can be incredibly rewarding. But it is also a multiplier of existing inequities and vulnerabilities; women, LGBTQ+ researchers, and researchers of color are more likely to face harassment and discrimination in the field. My activism background is in sexual violence prevention and response, so I provided a trainee perspective during the drafting of the Mountain Lake Code of Conduct. I also designed and co-facilitated the first training in the MLBS REU program on preventing harassment and discrimination, building on resources from the IRIS REU Program. I have training through AdvanceGEO, Hollaback, SaVE, and the Survivor Support Network. 

Outside of the field context, in 2019 I received funding to host a workshop for STEM graduate TAs on how to fulfill our reporting responsibilities in a trauma-informed way. In 2021, I worked to get this included in the training for first-year graduate students, and soon it will be offered to faculty as well. I have also served as an "EvoAlly" conduct moderation for the last few Evolution meetings. 

 

I am a member of a student group advocating for survivors of sexual violence at UVA. We work closely with Title IX to help make the reporting process more humane and easy to navigate. 

Trauma training for TAs 2021

Broader service on DEI in the field

I have served as an external reviewer for another field station, providing feedback on their current DEI action plan and progress so far. I also helped advice, best practices, and resources for graduate students on how to be effective and inclusive leaders of field teams from the community. The results of that project will soon be available in Ecosphere.


Field safety
Fieldwork often means being isolated and relatively far from help. I help run the safety trainings for new students in our lab, and as a mentor who takes students into the field, I maintain a current certification in Wilderness First Aid. I receive additional training and give back to the broader community as a member of a volunteer search and rescue team.

Mental health in the field

An under-appreciated risk in the field is the lack of mental health awareness and access to care. Many serious conditions emerge in the late teens and early 20s, so undergraduates in particular may experience symptoms for the first time in an unfamiliar, high-intensity environment. I have Mental Health First Aid training to recognize symptoms and have worked to find and publicize resources that all students, regardless of home institution, can access while at Mountain Lake. If you are looking for similar resources in your area, I recommend starting with your local community services board.
 

If you want to know more about any of these projects, please get in touch! pac6he@virginia.edu

A hand drawn image of a beetle waving the Philly rainbow flag.