In 2016, three women familiar with the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in the UK–specifically, the implementation of the Athena SWAN Charter promoting gender equity in higher education at Queen's University, Belfast–approached the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with an idea. What if the United States could adapt ECU's equality charter process to promote systemic transformation through self-assessment? What if institutions were asked to consider not only gender, but race, ethnicity, and the intersectionality of these? What if institutions went beyond that to examine other factors that have led to bias and unequal treatment, particularly in science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics (STEM) fields in higher education?
Paula Rayman and Julie Chen from University of Massachusetts, Lowell, along with Joyce Wong from Boston University, worked with Shirley Malcom at AAAS on a concept paper detailing the need for such a transformative process in the US. They proposed the STEM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change Awards, mirroring the equality charter process from ECU in the UK, using self-assessment and SMART action plans to promote systemic change at both the institutional and departmental level.
A workshop with a variety of institutions in 2016 served as a "proof of concept," asking high-level college and university officials if they had access to a diverse array of institutional data; if they were interested in truly transformative, systemic change; and if they were interested in piloting SEA Change. Many said yes, and SEA Change broadly introduced its pilot in October 2017 and officially launched in January 2018, with approximately ten institutions "going for the Bronze" Institutional Award.
“Once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.”
— Seamus Heaney, The Cure at Troy
Involvement of disciplinary societies
Many disciplinary societies are beginning to partner with AAAS, providing input for the development of Departmental certification. Inclusion of disciplinary societies now is crucial to ensure that institutional certification is an effective umbrella for aligned departmental and school action.
SEA Change Departmental Awards will not launch until well after the institutional pilot is finished and some institutions have earned their Bronze Award. However, some departments are ready for self-assessment! Collaborative networks of professional societies for each STEM discipline are working together to identify particular issues for their fields, develop criteria and guidelines for self-assessment, and the resulting set of best practices will inform the SEA Change Departmental Award structure and standards.
SEA Change Advisory Board
In the 1980s, Paula Rayman, PhD, launched "Pathways for Women in the Sciences" funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She is the Co-Founder of CURIES which published The Equity Equation (published by Jossey-Bass) and was a member of the BEST Advisory Board chaired by Dr. Shirley Jackson which published Lost Talent: The Challenge for Diversity in STEM Fields. She has been the Principal Investigator on many NSF grants focused on the necessity for transformative change in the US STEM workforce and co-created the original partnership between the Equality Challenge Unit and SEA Change at AAAS. She is currently a Senior Scholar at AAAS and an emeritus professor.
Imogen R. Coe, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biology and the founding Dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University in Toronto and an affiliate scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Keenan Research Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital. Coe has been a leading Canadian advocate and advisor on equity, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for many years and has spoken on the issue on numerous occasions, in diverse venues, such as TEDx, the Gender Summit, and the Canadian Science Policy Conference. In fall 2016 she was recognized by the Women's Executive Network (WXN) as one of Canada's Top 100 Women, in the Trail Blazer category, for her advocacy work promoting equity in STEM.
Rita Colwell, PhD, chaired the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM) of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) from 2012-2017 and initiated the current NASEM study on sexual harassment. While serving as the Director of the National Science Foundation from 1998-2004, Colwell played a major role in establishing ADVANCE and was a strong supporter of minority serving institutions. Colwell is currently a Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Sarah Dickinson Hyams
As Head of Charters, Sarah Dickinson Hyams leads the strategic and operational development of the Athena SWAN Charter and the Race Equality Charter at the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU; soon to be Advance HE) in the United Kingdom. Prior to joining the ECU, Dickinson Hyams worked at the University of Cambridge where she managed the Women in Science Engineering and Technology Initiative (WiSETI), a positive action gender equality project aiming to improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in STEMM. She previously worked at the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) as the Science Policy and Diversity Specialist. She has an MSc in Gender, Sexuality and Society from Birkbeck University and a BA (hons) in Social Science from the University of Brighton.
Michael Feder, PhD, is the Program Director for the Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity at AAAS, and is serving as the Director of Research for SEA Change. Dr. Feder brings over a decade of experience in STEM education policy, research, and practice to the initiative. Previously, he was director of Battelle’s STEMx network, served as a policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and was a Senior Program Officer for the Board on Science Education at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Shirley Malcom, PhD, is head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. In this position she works to improve the quality of and increase access to education and careers in STEM. Dr. Malcom is a trustee of Caltech, a regent of Morgan State University and a former member of the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation. Malcom chaired the NASEM Committee on Barriers and Opportunities to 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degree Completion. She serves on the boards of the Heinz Endowments, Public Agenda, the National Math-Science Initiative and Digital Promise. In 2003, she received the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest award given by the Academy.
Marco Molinaro, PhD, is the Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Effectiveness at University of California Davis where he created and oversees the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE). The CEE team empowers instructors and staff, improving the educational system and fostering educational innovation and discovery, all in service of removing disparities in undergraduate student outcomes while maximizing learning. Molinaro is Co-PI of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence project to ensure that all STEM students have the opportunity to pursue and excel in STEM fields through the efforts of dedicated and informed instructors utilizing evidence-based instructional practices. He also serves on multiple national committees involved in higher education reform and diversity.
Christie níDonnell’s career spans telecommunications, healthcare, enterprise and consumer software, journalism and technology transfer. She has helped STEM companies ranging from early-stage startups to Fortune 100 corporations define, develop and market technology solutions around the world. She joined AAAS as Senior Innovation Manager, and brings her STEM diversity and inclusion experience to bear on building business strategies for SEA Change.
Becky Wai-Ling Packard
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, PhD, a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, is Chancellor's Leadership Fellow in Residence at University of Massachusetts-Amherst working on equity and inclusion initiatives. She is on leave from Mount Holyoke College where she is Professor of Psychology and Education. Recently, she studied policy levers in Ireland, including the Athena SWAN initiative. Over the past twenty years, Packard’s research has focused on the mentoring and persistence of students in STEM fields, and she has worked with over 40 higher education institutions on improving classroom and campus climate.
Muriel E. Poston, PhD, is currently serving as the Division Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure in the Biological Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation. A plant systematist with an interest in environmental studies, Poston served as Dean of the Faculty/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pitzer College from 2012-15. Throughout her career she has worked to support efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented students and faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and sought to enhance the capacity and infrastructure of the STEM facilities. Poston also served as a member of the National Research Council Board of Life Sciences and as a member and past chair of the NSF Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering.
Beth Ruedi, PhD, is the Project Director for SEA Change at AAAS. She has been involved in the STEM professional society sector for nearly a decade, first serving as the founding Director of Education and Professional Development at the Genetics Society of America. There, Ruedi helped cultivate an educational mission for GSA, resulting in a complex portfolio of over 20 activities, initiatives, partnerships, and awards, many of which worked to address systemic issues underlying the lack of diversity in STEM. In 2016 she joined the Education and Human Resources Directorate at AAAS, serving under Shirley Malcom to direct multiple projects related to STEM literacy, education reform, and diversity & inclusion.
Serge Villemure joined the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 1991. Since 2010, he has been Director of the Scholarships and Fellowships Division. In 2013, he also became Director of Equity and Diversity and undertook the responsibility of integrating equity, diversity, and inclusion considerations into policies and programs, and facilitating EDI-Based Analysis capacity building across the Agency. Villemure has sat on a number of committees and panels touching on various elements of equity, diversity, and inclusion. He was the Chair of the Regional Steering Committee charged with the organization of Gender Summit 11, held in Montreal, Canada, in November 2017.
Billy M. Williams serves as Vice President for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion at the American Geophysical Union (AGU), leading strategic initiatives related to ethics and diversity. Williams was the Principal Investigator and lead organizer for the September 2016 NSF funded workshop Sexual Harassment in the Sciences: A Call to Respond, and serves as a co-PI on the 2017 NSF Grant, ADVANCE Partnership: From the Classroom to the Field: Improving the Workplace in the Geosciences. He is also member of the 2017-18 National Academies’ Committee on Impact of Sexual Harassment in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Prior to joining AGU in 2012, he served as a Senior Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences and as a Global R&D Director at the Dow Chemical Company.
EducationCounsel LLC, www.educationcounsel.com, is a national leader on issues of education policy, strategy and law, with deep higher education experience on issues centered on equity and quality interests that include student and faculty diversity and inclusion, and free expression. Its team led by Jamie Lewis Keith, Partner, and Art Coleman, Managing Partner (supported by others, as needed) is partnering with AAAS, contributing thought leadership and other support on issues of policy, strategy, and law and other advisory services to the AAAS SEA Change project. EducationCounsel an affiliate of the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP.
Jamie Lewis Keith
Jamie Lewis Keith is a Partner at EducationCounsel and has significant experience as a policy and legal leader in higher education. She has served in diversity and equity leadership roles on AAAS initiatives, including the Capacity Center and the Diversity and the Law project, and contributed to other national work focusing on research policy and equity, diversity, quality and openness of higher education and research. Most recently, she was Vice President, General Counsel and University Secretary at University of Florida and Senior Counsel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Admitted Only in Massachusetts and Florida; Supervised directly by Arthur Coleman who is a member of the D.C. Bar.)
Art Coleman is a managing partner and co-founder of EducationCounsel LLC, with significant experience on issues of diversity, inclusion, and expression. Mr. Coleman, who previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, helps lead the work of the College Board's Access and Diversity Collaborative, and was a principal author of amicus briefs filed by national organizations in the two U.S. Supreme Court appeals in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Board of Directors of GLSEN and the Lab School of Washington.