November 13th, 2020: Building Inclusive Communities Seminar Series November Seminar with Dr. Ellise LaMotte
Our third seminar of the year, “How to Advocate for Yourself and Your Community,” was led by Dr. Ellise LaMotte, Director of the Center for STEM Diversity at Tufts University. This was our first discussion-based event of the year, where attendees had the opportunity to meet others in STEM and share advocacy experiences and strategies. Discussions from two breakout sessions about advocating for yourself and your community led to a set of recommendations for advocacy, including:
- The need to form a relationship and trust with someone first before making or receiving a request for help.
- Asking questions rather than making statements can be much more effective in challenging someone in a position of power.
- Have confidence! We need to be heard, share our opinions, control the agenda, and make our needs known.
- It’s important to acknowledge additional difficulties in advocating for ourselves as women, as international students, as a result of gender norms, language barriers, culture differences, etc.
- Take time to understand and work with the power structures in place: find allies, advocate as a collective rather than as an individual, etc.
Dr. LaMotte also shared some effective ways to advocate for ourselves and others as graduate students, including developing peer-to-peer, faculty-to-peer, and alumni-to-student mentoring groups, developing and participating in accountability groups, and setting commitment dates and rewards for accomplishing tasks.
The event was capped off with a networking discussion on our own needs and offerings. This followed another central theme of the event: Advocacy is a two way street! Attendees shared skills and services that they are willing to share or looking to find, including CV/resume peer edits, help identifying non-academic career paths, and coding skills. We plan to continue to facilitate this type of networking among our members. Please keep an eye out for further information on the skill-sharing network in our upcoming newsletters!
Finally, Dr. LaMotte emphasized the importance of having a sense of self-worth and knowing your strengths and value. Understanding that “you belong here” is crucial for advocating for the needs of yourself and others, and will allow you to ask for the help you need to be successful. Building community and finding the support you need will allow you to do great things in graduate school for yourself and those around you.
About the Speaker: Dr. Ellise LaMotte is the Director of the Center for STEM Diversity at Tufts University. In this role, she supports underrepresented populations in STEM fields through programmatic offerings, as well as financial and social/emotional support. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology and a master’s degree in business administration, both from Northeastern University. She also received a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, focusing on the experiences of African American women in engineering as they successfully persist to degree completion.
Prior to working at Tufts, she was the Director of Academic Services at Olin College of Engineering and worked for Babson College’s Graduate School of Business as the Director of Operations for the Graduate Admissions organization. Dr. LaMotte previously served as the Director of the Women of Ethnic Diversity Initiative for the Commonwealth Institute, an organization that supports women entrepreneurs. In this role, she managed recruitment efforts, program development, and implementation, as well as fundraising initiatives to assist women of ethnic diversity as they grew their businesses.
October 15th, 2020: Building Inclusive Communities Seminar Series October Seminar with Deja Knight
We held the second seminar of the year in our virtual speaker series, “Building Inclusive Communities,” on October 15th, 2020 with Deja Knight. The series consists of one seminar & discussion per month, and features a selected guest speaker to discuss the roles that we can play on our campuses to make learning and research more inclusive for everyone. The title of Deja’s talk was “Creating Inclusive and Safe Spaces for Minority and First-Generation Students That Effect Measurable Change.”
The presentation began with an introduction to an overview of NE GWiSE given by Roya Huang, an executive co-chair of NE GWiSE, before introducing our speaker Deja Knight. Upon beginning the workshop, Deja presented her background and her journey to becoming a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University. She discussed the differences and overlap between equity, diversity, and inclusion: equity is the recognition and redistribution of power, diversity is who is sitting at the table, inclusion is who gets a voice at the table, the belonging is the central overlap of all of these. She raised pressing points about the links between racism, ableism, and success of students on all levels, and how imperative it is that we support students by building inclusive communities, and fight the loneliness that so many of us might feel in STEM. Throughout the remainder of her presentation, Deja spoke about her experiences and gave insight on the need for graduate students to work together to welcome students of all backgrounds and have conversations about the diverse identities that all students hold, regardless of what might be most visible on the exterior. Following her presentation, she answered questions from the audience that touched on topics of privilege, pushing back the idea of STEM as an objective discipline, where to start in building inclusive spaces, and collaboration to break barriers across groups. All in all, Deja gave a wonderfully thought-provoking workshop, and we are grateful that she joined us and shared her experiences for this important discourse.
About the Speaker: Deja Knight was born and raised in Baltimore, MD where she currently resides for school. Knight is a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the International Health Department, where her research interests focus on HIV, substance use, gender-based violence, social determinants of health, and health equity. At Hopkins, Knight is currently a scholar in The C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholarship Program. She recently graduated from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with her MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and from The University of Iowa, with her MA in Psychology. Knight prides herself on being a social justice warrior who aims to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, both domestic and abroad, through means of formal research, community-based interventions, health education, and advocacy.At U IOWA, she co-founded and co-directed Our Collective Brains, an organization that helps minority and first-generation students who are majoring or minoring in psychology and/or neuroscience to excel academically and professionally at the university. Most recently, at Harvard, Knight served as an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Fellow in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion where she planned and attended events holding spaces for diverse identities and voices. Lastly, Knight is an alumna of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Fellow at Wesleyan University, where she received her BA in African American Studies and Neuroscience & Behavior.
September 24th, 2020: Building Inclusive Communities Seminar Series Keynote with Prasha Sarwate Dutra
New England GWiSE hosted the first seminar of the year in our virtual speaker series, “Building Inclusive Communities,” with Prasha Sarwate Dutra on September 24th, 2020! The series consists of one seminar & discussion per month, and will feature a selected guest speaker to discuss the roles that we can play on our campuses to make learning and research more inclusive for everyone.
The seminar started off with a brief introduction from Michelle Sugimoto, who is currently serving as professional development chair for NE GWiSE. She passed the (virtual) mic to Prasha, who talked us through her background and how she became such a powerful voice in the women in STEM worldwide community. She shared a poignant story about her marriage ceremony, where she was joined and supported by close friends from around the world that were all women with solid careers in STEM disciplines such as Cisco, Unilever, and Amgen. She then discussed her feelings at the time about her own job working as an engineer at Rhode Island; at the time, she felt lonely and isolated with no one that she felt she could relate to in her workplace. After seeing her friends join her for the wedding, she had a thought: “If I can find people who look like me, maybe they can help me see myself succeeding in STEM.” With this realization, she implored the audience to consider our existing communities, and whether we see ourselves succeeding in STEM careers. We need to feel included in order to be successful – an idea that she then explored throughout the remainder of her talk, as she highlighted the meaning of inclusion and its necessity in building communities. After her talk, she answered questions from the audience about how to have empathy and respect for others that don’t share your same views, the importance of sincerity, and the strength that comes from creativity in science.
About the Speaker
Prasha Sarwate Dutra (she/her/hers) moved to the US from India in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Mechanical Engineering. She has a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. She has been working in the manufacturing industry for the last 5 years and has been a manager for the last 2 years. In 2017, after working on an all female engineer team, Prasha wondered why no one was sharing the amazing stories of the women in STEM that surrounded her at work and in her personal life. As a result, she started Her STEM Story – a weekly podcast where she interviews women in STEM from around the world. In the last two years, she has interviewed 125 women in STEM, created a community of 10,000 women from around the world, and has given a recent TED talk on her work bringing women together. She loves podcasting, public speaking, coaching women in STEM & creating valuable content to empower women!
If you are interested in hearing more from Prasha, here are some suggested episodes of Her STEM Story:
March 7th, 2020: Due to concerns related to COVID-19, we decided to postpone our 2020 Spring to Action event, “Advocating for Ourselves and Others: How to Build Inclusive Communities.” We’ve included the incredible program we had lined up above. Although we are disappointed that we were unable to host the full event as planned, we look forward to having a modified, virtual version of this programming in late summer and fall.
2020 Spring to Action at Northeastern University – POSTPONED
August 10th, 2019: NE GWiSE hosted our third annual Retreat at Tufts Medford on campus inclusivity. Graduate students from over 8 universities across New England heard from leading researchers, practitioners, and advocates about key challenges and solutions in empowering individuals to foster an inclusive campus climate.
To a passionate audience, speakers shared inspirational stories about why diversity and inclusivity matter more than ever. They gave examples of how unspoken rules persist in academia and how implicit bias can be tackled. Graduate students from all walks of life shared their identity struggles on campus and how they fought back against discrimination. It was an opportunity to reconnect with individuals and groups and to remind people of the power of individual and synergistic efforts to foster a better and more inclusive campus climate.
Read more about the retreat here.
April 6th, 2019: NE GWiSE hosted our second annual Spring to Action Summit at Harvard University. Each year, the summit is held for local schools to tackle issues present in academic and STEM fields. This year the summit focused on mentorship in the sciences. The day featured a keynote address form Tamara Brown, current Director of Sustainable Development and Community Engagement at Praxair, Inc. and Founder of Tech Savvy. Tamara is former president AAUW’s Buffalo New York branch, and has been recognized for her outreach efforts being named Champion of Change by the White House in 2011 and a Hero of the 500 by Fortune 500 in 2014.
The summit also featured workshops on mentorship led by Dr. Avi Rodal (Professor, Brandeis University) and Dr. Kylie Huckleberry (postdoc, NEU), and a panel discussion featuring Dr. Kıvılcım Kılıç (Research scientist, BU), Dr. Shaun Patel (Neuroscientist and Bioinformatician, HMS and MGH), Dr. Simina Ticau (Senior Scientist at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals), Dr. Caroline Uhler (Associate Professor,MIT) and Mounika Vutukuru (PhD candidate and GWISE President, BU). Attendees devised concrete strategies to improve mentorship for graduate women in science and left the event armed with action items to change mentorship programs at their schools.
Read more about the summit here.
August 17th, 2018: NE GWiSE hosted our second annual Summer Retreat at MIT on August 17th. Each year, the retreat is held to bring the constituents of NE GWiSE together to network, meet new members, and socialize around a central topic. Since we often play dual roles as both mentees and mentors, we focused 2018’s retreat on Navigating Power Dynamics & Building Confident Mentalities as STEM graduate students in academia.
The event featured a keynote lecture from MIT Professor of Astrophysics Sara Seager. She walked us through the milestones of her academic career leading up to her present day success. As she described her research and the methods she has pioneered to identify exoplanets, she paused at key points to recount anecdotal interactions with peers, mentors, and colleagues. Workshops were run throughout the day addressing strategies to prepare for, and overcome the obstacles graduate students will likely face as they continue their careers in STEM fields. The first workshop session equipped attendees with strategies of how to interact with superiors, and how to form meaningful mentor-mentee relationships. The second session discussed power dynamics, and privilege in STEM, and how to maintain professional relationships. The final session focused on empowerment, how to respond to misused power, and mindful decision making.
Read more about the retreat here.
March 4th, 2018: NE GWiSE hosted its Inaugural Spring to Action event at Tufts University School of Medicine. Spring to Action is an annual series focused on advocacy and policy building around a specific issue of importance to the graduate student community. This year, the focus was on sexual harassment, with the event title “Breaking the silence, building a collective: A forum on sexual harassment in higher education.” #SpringtoAction18
Below is a transcript from the Tufts Sackler Insight article highlighting the event, written by Tufts Sackler Neuroscience PhD Cadidate, Alyssa DiLeo.
Read more about Spring to Action here.
August 19th 2017: NE GWiSE’s Inaugural Retreat was a day of connecting graduate women from different universities and collaborating to help make NE GWiSE an organization that can effectively address the issues we face to create change within our community!
We started off the day being inspired by our opening keynote speaker. Were delighted host Nina Dudnik, PhD, founder and CEO of Seeding Labs. For an overview of her keynote, see the article in the Sackler Insight Newsletter.
Next, we had introductions by partner GWiSE groups and breakout sessions to discuss how NE GWiSE will function. Finally, we ended the day with a scavenger hunt and BBQ social! It was a fantastic day of networking with graduate women from different departments and universities, sharing best practices and recurring issues, and fostering collaborations and friendships across the region.