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BIO-DEI

Biology Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (BIO-DEI) Committee

Origin and Goals

The Biology Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (BIO-DEI) Committee was formed in July 2020 in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and to the voices of SUNY Cortland students calling for change in the aftermath of these murders.

The overarching goals of the BIO-DEI Committee are to 1) promote retention and academic success of students from underrepresented groups; 2) develop a departmental community and create a sense of belonging and respect for all our students, especially those from underrepresented groups; and 3) promote awareness and discussion of DEI issues within our department and STEM fields.

The BIO-DEI Committee is composed of seven faculty and two student members. Since its origin, students have served on the BIO-DEI Committee because we strongly believe that student voices are imperative to make meaningful change that meets the needs of our student body. Student members earn internship credit for their participation in the committee, and we are in discussion with the University over providing financial compensation for their labor. All members are motivated by a desire to create a more inclusive and liberating environment for STEM majors. 

Accomplishments

2020-2021

DEI Climate Survey:
In Fall 2020, BIO-DEI developed and administered a climate survey for students, faculty, and staff in the Biological Sciences Department to gauge individual perceptions about the department and to determine willingness to participate in several proposed DEI initiatives. We used the results of this survey to prioritize our initiatives. The survey also provided the first demographic data about gender identity and sexuality in our department—nearly a quarter of the respondents identified as LGBTQIAP+. 

Diverse Voices in STEM seminar series:
To promote academic success and sense of belonging, BIO-DEI hosted two speakers in Spring 2021 as part of a Diverse Voices in STEM seminar series. Dr. Marcus Lambert, Downstate Health Sciences University, spoke with us about Promoting an Inclusive Scientific Workforce, and Dr. Melchor Antuñano, Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, spoke with us about Lessons on Leadership by a Minority Professional. These events were funded by the Campus Artist and Lecture Series (CALS), Biology Club, and Premed Club.

Inclusive Social Events:
To strengthen our inclusive department, the BIO-DEI Committee, together with Biology Club, has organized several community building events within the department. We jointly hosted BIO Social Bingo Night for faculty and students to get to know each other, biology Trivia Night through Kahoot, and a biology-based virtual escape room event.

Biology Peer Mentoring Program:
Student members Gabriella Alvarez ’22 and Derrick Solari ’22 proposed an action plan for implementing a Biology Peer Mentoring Program in the future where current Biology students will mentor incoming first-year students in our department. The aim of the program is to generate an inclusive environment that allows for the vertical transfer of knowledge from experienced biology students to incoming first-year students. By engaging with peers, new students will forge bonds with mentors who can reassure them that the challenges they experience as they transition into college can be surmounted. Building community within their major will help new students see the academic success that is possible in just a few short years and help increase their confidence to persist and to ask for help when needed. The goal was to implement a pilot of the program in Fall 2022. See below for an update on this program.

2021-2022

Inclusive Social Events:
BIO-DEI continued to organize social events to develop community and to create a sense of belonging in our department, including a Fall Festival in Fall 2021, which was open to the entire campus. The Bloom-Bateman-Lu family generously donated part of their feral apple harvest for the Fall Festival. Prior to the Festival, BIO-DEI and Biology Club members traveled to the Bloom-Bateman-Lu property where they learned about land management and feral apple cultivation. At the festival, Dr. Bloom Bateman and Mx. Lu taught members of the Biological Sciences community how to press apple cider, along with apple/fall themed games and activities.

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       Apple picking with Biology Club students                                                        Students participating in a donuts-on-a-string
      at the Bloom-Bateman-Lu family property                                                                 competition at the Fall Festival


Student member C’Ality Hackett ’22 organized a Bio Senior Send Off event at the end of the Spring 2022 to celebrate graduating seniors in the department and provide an opportunity for graduates and faculty to reconnect before graduation. C’Ality secured funding to purchase food for the event and gifts for the seniors from sources on campus (the Haines Fund and the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office).

Diverse Voices in STEM seminar series:
In Spring 2022, BIO-DEI organized two seminars. Dr. Shersingh Joseph Tumber-Dávila spoke about his work at Harvard Forest, and in demystifying STEM in Spanish-speaking communities. During the Diverse Voices in STEM Alumni Panel, Kirsten Duroe ’15 (Geology), Brandon Williams ’17 (Conservation Biology), and Bria Williams ’20 (Math) spoke about their experience in the STEM workforce after graduating from SUNY Cortland. These events were supported by CALS, Biology Club, the LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation) Program, and the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association.


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                                                                                      Dr. Shersingh Joseph Tumber-Dávila's seminar

Biology Peer Mentoring Program:
Student member Christine Gildea ’23 revisited the action plan from 2020-2021 and helped to organize a two-hour mentoring training that biology students must complete before becoming mentors for the program. BIO-DEI trained 27 students in mentoring in Spring 2021 in events catered with funds from the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office. Twenty-five of these students agreed to be mentors in our pilot program in Fall 2022 and are registered for a 1-credit Bio Peer Mentoring Internship through Career Services. We have begun to recruit incoming first-year students for the Biology Peer Mentoring Program during Summer Orientation and are very excited about this program.

Future initiatives

In the 2022-2023 academic year, BIO-DEI will focus on implementing the pilot of the Biology Peer Mentoring Program in Fall 2022 as well as improving the program for future iterations based on feedback from our first participants, both mentors and mentees. BIO-DEI will also organize another Fall Festival plus an additional trip to the Bloom-Bateman-Lu property to pick apples in preparation for the Fall Festival. We will continue to invite speakers in the Diverse Voices in STEM seminar series to promote academic success and a sense of belonging for our diverse body of students. BIO-DEI looks forward to working with new student members Sophie Marin ’25 and Trinity Tobin ’24 in continued anti-racism work as well as in building a sense of belonging for all students, especially for students from underrepresented identities in STEM and in higher education.

BIO-DEI Committee Membership

2020-2021
Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy (she/her/hers), Chair
Ms. Gabriella Alvarez ’22 (she/her/hers)
Dr. Jesse Bloom-Bateman (they/he)
Dr. Christa Chatfield (she/her/hers)
Dr. Theresa Curtis (she/her/hers)
Dr. Andrea Dávalos (she/her/hers)
Dr. Laura Eierman (she/her/hers)
Dr. Lauren Goldman (she/her/hers)
Mr. Derrick Solari ’22 (he/him/his)

2021-2022
Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy (she/her/hers), Chair
Dr. Santanu Banerjee (he/him/his)
Dr. Jesse Bloom-Bateman (they/he)
Dr. Christa Chatfield (she/her/hers)
Dr. Theresa Curtis (she/her/hers)
Dr. Andrea Dávalos (she/her/hers)
Dr. Laura Eierman (she/her/hers)
Ms. Christine Gildea ’23 (she/her/hers)
Ms. C’Ality Hackett ’22 (she/her/hers)

2022-2023
Dr. Jesse Bloom-Bateman (they/he), Co-chair
Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy (she/her/hers), Co-chair
Dr. Santanu Banerjee (he/him/his)
Dr. Christa Chatfield (she/her/hers)
Dr. Theresa Curtis (she/her/hers)
Dr. Andrea Dávalos (she/her/hers)
Dr. Laura Eierman (she/her/hers)
Ms. Sophie Marin ’25 (she/her/hers)
Dr. Christian Nelson (he/him/his)
Ms. Trinity Tobin ’24 (she/her/hers)