The goal of the paraDIGMS initiative is to create channels of communication, spaces for reflection, opportunities to collaborate, and a greater sense of collective responsibility for the well-being of the profession at the graduate level. Graduate directors and graduate committee members, as well as department chairs and others invested in graduate education, often work in relative isolation. The activities of paraDIGMS are designed to help build a professional community among these faculty and to provide professional resources to support their work.
In addition to serving as support and professional development for individual graduate program leaders, the activities of paraDIGMS aim to energize systemic changes in graduate education by enacting policies and practices that provide equitable opportunities for all students, with a particular focus on students belonging to groups historically marginalized in the mathematical sciences.
Each working group brings together about six current and prospective graduate program leaders from different institutions with shared interests and concerns. These small collaborative groups identify common challenges, develop solutions, share successful practices, and build a supportive community with a shared sense of purpose. Group members develop and implement equitable policies and practices for recruiting, admitting, retaining, and supporting students in their programs, especially students from underrepresented groups. Working groups are provided with discussion prompts and have access to paraDIGMS Workshops and other resources to stimulate their discussions.
All levels of experience and expertise are welcome—we are all here to learn from one another.
Some working groups have begun to meet and will continue to meet on a regular basis through April 2021. Scheduling is flexible and is coordinated by working group members. New working groups are being formed on a rolling basis. Register here to join a paraDIGMS working group.
Workshops covering a variety of topics in graduate education and equity will be offered throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. The first workshop on Equity in Graduate Admissions occurred during the paraDIGMS 2020 Fall Conference. Dr. Julie Posselt and Dr. Casey Miller presented evidence about the role of typical admissions criteria and practices in maintaining racial and ethnic inequities in graduate education.
Additional workshops in the 2020-21 series will be announced on a rolling basis.
The paraDIGMS Fall Conference, hosted by the Institute for Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) on November 20-23, 2020, highlighted the work of organizations to build a diverse and equitable profession through graduate education. We were honored to host plenary addresses:
Black, Brown, and Bruised: How Racialized STEM Education Stifles Innovation, Ebony McGee, PhD, Vanderbilt University
My research reveals that most of the stress STEMers of color report is associated with factors other than academic demands. Stereotyping colors their daily interactions with others, becoming cognitively intrusive and creating constant tension in their academic lives. Empowering URM STEMers requires more than reciting basic principles and the virtues of mentoring and gets down to the nitty gritty. I argue for the creation of equitable and inclusive environments in which URM students and faculty feel welcome, can be open about who they are, and can thrive in their chosen disciplines. I expose the need for support designed for URM students in STEM, support that ensures more than mere survival, support that leads to flourishing and feeling like valued members of their disciplines. Solutions do not involve fixing the URM student; rather, I put the burden for change on STEM departments and their racialized cultures. View the recording.
Graduate Education in Mathematics: How Has it Served the Minority Community? William Y. Vélez, PhD, University of Arizona
What is the purpose of graduate education in mathematics in this country? Is it to create a cadre of top- notch research mathematicians? Should graduate education be viewed as serving the needs of the nation, equipping its citizens to use their mathematical training to address the serious problems that confront society? My view of graduate education in mathematics is the former, an industry heavily invested in its own research programs, almost blind to the empowerment of our domestic students. This situation has gone on for decades, much to the detriment of the minority populations in this country. The US has been producing doctoral students for more than 70 years, yet there is a dearth of minority faculty in our top departments.
We are fortunate as mathematical scientists that our subject is now an invaluable tool in addressing so many different scientific problems. As we look towards the future, a commitment to provide the mathematical skills to our citizens should be uppermost in our minds. View the recording.
EDGE: A Thriving Community of Women Mathematicians. Raegan Higgins, PhD, Texas Tech University
Mathematics is the gateway to all STEM (science, engineering, technology, and mathematics) subjects. Yet, women are underrepresented in this vital field. There is a litany of reasons for this absence, such as women often being tokenized and their brilliance and accomplishments not being credited to their abilities and hard work. Prevalent as this absence is, fortunately, for over twenty years, the EDGE Program has provided a mathematics ecosystem in which a widely diverse group of women has thrived both academically and personally. We will discuss the philosophy on which the EDGE Program is built, as well as outcomes and perspectives on which program features foster success in women, and in particular, women of color. We consider some of the professional and personal benefits that participants seem to derive from a community of this kind and the value EDGE participants add to the mathematics community. View the recording.
Information about the paraDIGMS Spring Conference will be posted later this winter.
The AMS offers many thanks to our program coordinators: Matthew Ando (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Justin Lanier (University of Chicago), Marissa Loving (Georgia Tech), and Bianca Viray (University of Washington).