This page features SEISMIC Collaboration members and their interests, goals, reflections, and perspectives on their SEISMIC work. We post a new SEISMIC Voice every month here and in our newsletters.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Biopsychology Undergraduate Student | Research Assistant in the Szumlinski and Wood labs
Featured in May 2022 Newsletter
How has participating in research in SEISMIC impacted your undergraduate experience?
“Participating in research in SEISMIC has been one of the most influential undergraduate experiences I’ve had. My project investigates the impact of office hours on academic performance and identifies different strategies to increase student attendance. I was trained in data coding and literature review while having the opportunity to experience firsthand the work behind research and publications and familiarize myself with the protocols. This project with SEISMIC helped me develop essential skills for my career and offered me a space to interact with faculty and students that share my same passions and from which I have learned immensely.“
Chandralekha Singh, PhD
University of Pittsburgh
Distinguished Professor | Department of Physics & Astronomy; Director | Discipline-based Science Education Research Center
Featured in April 2022 Newsletter
How has the SEISMIC collaboration helped you to advance your local work for equity and inclusion in STEM?
“It has been a true privilege to be part of the SEISMIC collaboration from the time of its founding in 2019. The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) has benefited from the collaboration in many ways. We have been part of various working groups, e.g., working group 1 which focuses on measurement. Sarah Castle from Michigan State presented this collaborative work at the 2021 AERA Conference with a presentation titled “Equity in the STEM landscape: A multi-institutional approach to mapping systemic advantages within STEM courses”. This group is in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication in a journal. The Pitt team recently published related results in AERA Open in a paper titled Not all disadvantages are equal: Racial/ethnic minority students have largest disadvantage among demographic groups in both STEM and non-STEM GPA, K. Whitcomb, S. Cwik and C. Singh, AERA Open 7 (1), 2021. The SEISMIC monthly and annual events have been very valuable to the Pitt community involved and we have gotten new ideas from SEISMIC colleagues about strategies for promoting and supporting equity and inclusion in STEM courses. We have also invited 5-6 SEISMIC speakers each year to the weekly seminar series of the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center at Pitt and these seminars have greatly energized the Pitt STEM faculty members who are interested in making their STEM introductory courses equitable and inclusive. It has also been wonderful to get to know many colleagues who are passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM courses and brainstorm with them about various issues.”
Emily Bonem, PhD
Assistant Director, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning | Center for Instructional Excellence
Featured in March 2022 Newsletter
What are your hopes for Purdue’s Week of SEISMIC?
“Working with SEISMIC over the past 3 years has been a great opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from the other SEISMIC universities. We hope that Purdue’s week of SEISMIC could be a chance to leverage these collaborations to enact greater change at Purdue. We plan to use this time to raise awareness of current and potential SEISMIC projects and expand the SEISMIC community at Purdue. Our goals for the week include connecting with administrators to identify ways to support and foster classroom innovations in STEM courses and foster institutional change by examining and discussing equity data and policies. We also want to bring instructors and teaching and learning staff together to explore possible projects for the implementation of classroom innovation in STEM courses. During this time we aim to brainstorm potential DEI applications for learning environments using equity analyses and research. We look forward to our first real in-person event in quite awhile!“
Kameryn Denaro, PhD
University of California, Irvine
Research Specialist | Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation
Featured in February 2022 Newsletter
What is the power of inter-institutional parallel analyses for equity and inclusion in introductory STEM?
“It is well established that there is a national problem surrounding the equitable participation in and completion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) higher education programs. It is unclear though how pervasive these issues are within an institution, from the individual instructor, course, and discipline perspectives as well as what those intra-institutional patterns are across institutions. Leveraging parallel analyses across institutions can not only demonstrate how persistent equity gaps are across STEM, but also provides varying policies, classroom practices, and curriculum structures (among others) that lead to more equitable courses and inclusion in STEM. However, it is important to note that it does not provide an explanation as to what is causing existing inequities. By providing a way to use inter-institutional analyses to identify exemplary instructors, courses, and departments, a more detailed qualitative examination can help to better identify the practices and policies that result in more equitable outcomes.”
Arizona State University
Featured in January 2022 Newsletter
What parallel analyses have you been involved with in the collaboration and what do you see as their benefit?
“I have contributed primarily to two projects in the measurement working group. Project 1 is a high level exploration of demographic effects in introductory STEM courses and Project 4 is a more targeted examination of AP credit policies and their empirical grounding (if any). I think they are both great examples of the value of SEISMIC, because much of the prior research has been limited to single-institution studies.
Speaking of Project 1, although there certainly is prior work highlighting demographic effects (including the pre-SEISMIC Matz et al., 2017), our work seeks to establish a starting point for asking important questions about if and to what extent these effects are similar between different institutions. Our results show that the patterns of grade inequity are broadly similar. While this does underscore the challenge that must be overcome nationally, it may also mean that common solutions can be employed across multiple institutions.
Regarding Project 4, I think this was a very well-conceived study and one that, again, takes full advantage of SEISMIC. Different universities and departments within them choose to award AP credit at different score thresholds. Although there are multiple considerations behind these policies, our work set out to examine the empirical basis for the question of whether students who skip the first of a two course sequence are in fact prepared to succeed in the second course. Our results show that students who use AP credit to skip the first course perform as well or better than students who do not skip. We hope that our findings will lead departments to revisit their existing AP credit policies and to make those decisions with a clearer understanding of the real course performance data.”
Past 2021 SEISMIC Voices
Michigan State University
Featured in December 2021 Newsletter
What do you think is the potential of the backchannel approach to in-class inquiry?
“Picture this: you are sitting in a large lecture hall for a course you must pass to graduate in your major when you realize you aren’t quite grasping a new concept the professor presented and need to ask a question. You look around at the other students and it seems like they are following along with no problem, and you don’t want to look like you know less than them, so you don’t ask your question.
Being nervous about asking a question in class is a common experience for nearly every student. This experience is likely heightened for students in large enrollment courses and for students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. Not being able to ask questions as they occur may not only inhibit conceptual understanding of course material, but may decrease students’ feelings of belonging and self-efficacy. Therefore, it is imperative that students have a safe way to ask questions in class. And, now they may have just that: an anonymous backchannel where they can ask questions as they occur to them. The backchannel provides a powerful tool for students to seek help – via questioning – which will facilitate their conceptual understanding, and may also increase their sense that they belong and can succeed in STEM.”
Michael N Johnson III
Undergraduate student studying mathematics
Featured in November 2021 Newsletter
What recommendations would you give to STEM instructors who are trying to make their grading more equitable?
“I think that the planting of the seed of equity as it pertains to grading is the most important. From conversations I have had with instructors about the topic, it was never something that they thought about applying to grading. Best practices and long held traditions may not ever have had equity in mind during their creation. I think that instructors thinking about how equitable a practice is and talking with other instructors as to how these traditions can be more equitable is the first step.
A specific practice that can be found to be inequitable is curving the grade of an entire course. Although this is typically done in good faith to help the students, there are underlying inequities at play. This now makes the course competitive, that is each student’s grade is connected to each other’s success or failure. It would behoove a student to withhold information if it meant their success and another’s downfall. You can imagine which students this would disproportionately affect, those who are marginalized from the STEM community on the whole. There are implementations of a curve that may be more equitable than others, but the most important thing is to start talking about equity as it pertains to grading.”
Undergraduate student studying pharmaceutical science
University of California, Irvine
Featured in October 2021 Newsletter
What did you learn from your SEISMIC Scholars experience that you are carrying forward with you?
“The SEISMIC Scholars program emphasized a variety of essential research skills that developed my confidence to perform my own research. My project focused on qualitative research, and I had the opportunity to train hands-on in data coding and literature reviews. Through my research, I am now more educated on the inequalities students face in their STEM courses. I was also exposed to professional networks who were well-versed in this research and had the opportunity to “be a sponge” and absorb all of their advice and knowledge. Carrying this knowledge forward with me allows me to be a stronger advocate to others of SEISMIC’s goal to improve student experience and eliminate non-inclusive practices from STEM courses.”
Executive Director | Center for Instructional Excellence
Featured in September 2021 Newsletter
What lessons from the last year will you be bringing to your work this fall?
“The most important lesson I am bringing to my work this fall is the importance of flexibility in working with faculty. I am also integrating this lesson into our programming at the Center for Instructional Excellence (CIE) by offering a greater number of hybrid events. Instructors really appreciate the ability to choose to participate in our programming either by meeting in-person or virtually. Even for the in-person events, we have made plans for participants to join virtually when they are not able to meet face-to-face due to Covid restrictions and protocols. In CIE, I also work with instructors who want to learn more about how to integrate more choices, options, and flexibility into their teaching and their work with students this semester. As students face ongoing challenges as they return to campus, flexibility is very important for the success of all students.
The importance of being flexible is also a lesson I’m intentionally carrying in my personal life by striving to take care of my physical and mental well-being daily, by spending time on personal pursuits, such as bike riding, jogging, or walking with my dog Bella.“
Undergraduate student studying mathematics and Chicano/a studies with a minor in Education
University of California, Davis
Featured in August 2021 Newsletter
How does your work as a SEISMIC Scholar connect to your interests?
“As a SEISMIC scholar, I have been working with Maggie and Vanessa, and mentored by Anna, to learn about the factors that influence a student’s belonging in STEM courses. Through this access to practice project, I have learned about methods and practices that help increase a student’s science identity and perseverance in STEM. This connects to my own interests as I have become more informed about the factors that play a role in helping students get into and finish STEM careers.
My work at SEISMIC has also motivated me to continue my work with migrant students by providing me with the professional resources and skills. With these skills, I just recently organized a school supply drive for students at a local migrant camp. Through this drive, I hope to motivate students about their education and get them excited for their school year. I am very grateful for my SEISMIC community as they have allowed me to grow professionally and personally. “
Undergraduate student studying neuroscience and on the pre-med track
University of Pittsburgh
Featured in July 2021 Newsletter
How does your work as a SEISMIC Scholar connect to your own interests?
“As a SEISMIC Scholar, I’m able to pursue my passions for both advocacy and science through meaningful research as well as seminars that broaden my intellectual horizons. My project, led by Dr. D’Souza, seeks to map the institutional diversity resources in STEM undergraduate education at Indiana University. Engagement in this project has not only taught me new skills such as qualitative coding but has also provided me with an outlet through which I can pave a way towards better equity and inclusion in STEM education amongst my peers. The weekly SEISMIC Scholar seminars have been an invaluable opportunity to hone my abilities in statistical analysis, proper literature review, and other research competencies. I’ve also loved getting to learn novel skills such as programming in R while furthering my understanding of the process of investigative research. I’m excited to continue this path of exploration and self-development through the remaining weeks of the SEISMIC Scholars program!”
Associate Director at the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning
University of California – Santa Barbara
Featured in June 2021 Newsletter
What advice would you give STEM instructors to better support their students?
“In conversations with instructors and TAs about assignments, effective communication with students, and how to deal with the “surprises” of teaching remotely, I find myself bringing up one simple yet incredibly important point: we are all human and we are in this together.
When it comes to remote lectures, this idea can be useful for faculty. Sometimes they think, for instance, that recorded lectures have to be absolutely perfect — because they are recorded. But when they’re lecturing in an introductory STEM course and misspeak in minute 20, they don’t stop everything, walk out of the lecture hall, then return to say “Ok, let’s give this another try, shall we?” The instructor may make a joke out of the mistake or simply continue on, contingent on their style. Some instructors even want students to point out a mistake in order to open the door for further communication. That small moment reminds students that the professor in front of them is also a human who sometimes makes mistakes, and that creates a sense of comfort.
I think that one of the ways instructors can better support students is to foster an environment in their courses where students feel like they are part of a community and that in this community it is alright to make mistakes and learn from them. The lectures whether delivered in person or asynchronously do not have to be perfect, students will benefit from lectures that include a human element to the content delivery. It may be a personal story, it may be recognition that it is okay to struggle with new content, or it can be an acknowledgement that something went unplanned during a lecture. Inclusion of the human element to instructions helps students to feel like they belong in the course and the discipline, it can also help them feel like they can reach out to the instructor when they have questions.”
What opportunities will you be embracing this summer to move your SEISMIC work forward?
“Before starting my PhD program, I taught high school science in Detroit and Virginia and completed an MS degree in biology from Tufts University. As a first year (soon to be second year!) PhD student and as a person new to social science research, I spend a lot of time networking to informally present and chat about my research interests. This practice of networking and making time to read articles I find interesting has helped me to understand the landscape of education research and how my ways of thinking fit therein.
With the SEISMIC Measurement Fellowship, my informal meetings with members of the Education Research Initiative and the learning analytics team at UCI are evolving into formal guidance and collaboration. The SEISMIC fellowship is a powerful tool to grant me a seat at the table of research projects starting at a variety of universities in California and Michigan. Thus, the opportunities I perceive to be of importance this summer are spaces for collaboration and the people who occupy those spaces.
As part of the SEISMIC Measurement Fellowship, I will have the privilege to meet with other fellows to discuss our interests and discuss equity in STEM education. I anticipate this opportunity for discussion will refine my vision of how data dashboards can mitigate the dissonance between faculty and students in higher education STEM courses. As a novice researcher, I value early refinement of my ideas so that my efforts this summer can serve as a foundation towards sequential projects in the future.”
Senior Instructional Developer | Center for Instructional Excellence
Featured in April 2021 Newsletter
What do you hope to gain from participating in SEISMIC book groups this summer?
“I have been facilitating teaching and learning reading groups at Purdue for the past four years, and I always consider the discussions a highlight of my semester. I find that reading groups serve multiple purposes. First, they keep me accountable. In the stress of trying to juggle too many things, unfortunately reading time gets lost too easily. Second, I find discussions illuminating and provides a space for faculty to share and develop different strategies and methods of implementing similar ideas. Third, I really enjoy the discoveries we make through these discussions that help us better understand, contextualize, and adjust some current practices that we might have come to through unstructured reflection and experimentation. Most of all, we are much better at talking about our research than talking about our teaching.
What I really value is how reading groups provide an opportunity (i.e., excuse) to gather and talk about teaching. I am especially excited for the SEISMIC reading groups because they will offer the opportunity to share these ideas and practices across campuses, and I hope they will inspire new collaborations, viewpoints, and experiments.”
Student Project Coordinator | Center for Educational Effectiveness
University of California – Davis
Featured in March 2021 Newsletter
How did you become involved with SEISMIC and what do you hope to achieve?
“During my first year at the University of California, Davis, I found myself wanting to become more involved with the school and organizations offered. I found an application to become involved with SEISMIC at UC Davis as a Student Project Coordinator. I found SEISMIC’s involvement with STEM education and its goal to improve students’ experiences in their pursuit of STEM education to be empowering. I spent most of my time in high school exploring STEM related clubs such as Girls Who Code and CyberSeniors which impacted the way I saw pursuing an education and career in the STEM field, especially as a woman of color. Having any part of the effort for positive change in STEM education is one of the reasons I have enjoyed becoming involved with SEISMIC.
As a Student Project Coordinator I hope to continue creating and building more relationships with other SEISMIC participants. My goal is to create and organize information and resources for newcomers and current SEISMIC members. Being able to increase involvement in SEISMIC at UC Davis is my current focus which I hope to achieve through monthly/quarterly Zoom meetings that provide information and the opportunity to network with other participants.”
Ph.D. Student | Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB)
University of Minnesota
Featured in February 2021 Newsletter
How did you become involved with SEISMIC and what do you hope to achieve?
“I became involved with SEISMIC after joining a biology education research journal club at the University of Minnesota and hearing about a project that Sehoya Cotner and Cheryl Scott were working on in collaboration with Kevin Binning at the University of Pittsburgh. I was very lucky because they had just collected a huge amount of data about how “ecological belonging interventions” can improve students’ sense of belonging and performance in introductory STEM courses. They needed someone to start analyzing their data, so it sort of just fell into my lap! Since then I’ve become more and more interested in how classroom activities can transform learning environments and improve students’ experiences—particularly students from minoritized groups. I’m hoping to pursue a teaching-focused career in biology, so being involved in this SEISMIC collaboration has been a boon in many ways. I’ve gained new data analysis skills, learned about new research about equity in STEM, and met some very kind and supportive people.“
IES Postdoctoral Fellow | Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan
Featured in January 2021 Newsletter
What are you excited to bring to your role as Theme Director for the Policies, Practices, and Assessments for Change Theme?
“I was drawn to participate in the SEISMIC collaboration because of its potential to bring about widespread change in STEM education and improve the student experience in those critical foundational STEM courses. Also, the collaborations mission and values are ones that I always expected to be striving toward as an educational researcher. I see the Theme Director position as a great way to use my expertise and skill set to move SEISMIC’s mission forward. As a Theme Director, I am excited to learn more about the different Working Groups and to identify connections between them. My goal is to facilitate synergies across these groups and address the broader question about policies and practices to promote STEM classroom equity. I think more interactions with one another and learning opportunities will bring us closer to making SEISMIC-level recommendations that will impact students and how they experience STEM education.”
Past 2020 SEISMIC Voices
Postdoctoral Researcher | Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology
University of California Santa Barbara
Featured in December 2020 Newsletter
Why are you excited to lead the Policies, Practices, and Assessments for Change Theme?
“Being part of SEISMIC has been immensely enlightening. I have learned an incredible amount about the methods, collaborations, and practices needed to develop actionable strategies capable of bringing real change to STEM education. Assuming a Fellow role provides me an opportunity to gain leadership experience and equips me with the skills and knowledge necessary to aid in implementing change in introductory STEM courses. I am excited to lead the Policies, Practices, and Assessments for Change Theme, as I have quickly come to understand the critical role of departmental/institutional norms and policies in making necessary changes to introductory STEM classrooms a reality.”
Ph.D. Student | Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Pittsburgh
Featured in November 2020 Newsletter
What is the connection between SEISMIC and your graduate work?
“My research focuses on using quantitative and qualitative tools to understand the experiences of minority students in introductory physics courses to make the classroom more equitable and inclusive. Recently, I’ve been investigating learning environment factors that correlate with a students’ physics identity and grade in the course. The work being done in SEISMIC feels like an extension of my graduate work as I am working on a project to explore the demographic effects in introductory STEM courses. It has been exciting to work with members who are so passionate and knowledgeable about these issues.“
Assistant Professor of Teaching | College of Biological Sciences
University of California Davis
Featured in October 2020 Newsletter
As someone involved in many SEISMIC projects, how do you make the time to contribute to these projects?
“I think that there are three key factors that have made it possible for me to work and contribute to several SEISMIC projects.
The first is that, in my mind, all the projects that I am involved in complement each other and have the same overarching goal: To use quantitative and qualitative data to guide institutional decision making and interventions that are rooted in strong theoretical frameworks to improve the outcomes of STEM students and eliminate equity gaps. With this framework in mind, the work that I do in each project feeds and informs the other projects, so I am never really working on a single project, but instead, on aspects of a larger project.
The second reason is that the work that I do with SEISMIC falls exactly within one of the research focuses of my laboratory. As an Assistant Professor of Teaching at UC Davis, my research focuses on using quantitative and qualitative tools to better understand the experiences of minority students in STEM and how these experiences inform their decisions to remain or leave STEM. In fact, my most recent NSF grant that focuses on experiences of students on Academic Probation in STEM and its aim are related to the goals of Working Group 1, project 2 (WG1P2). As a result, the work on WG1P2 has helped me identify the best analysis techniques and models to use in my own study. In addition, before starting with SEISMIC I was already studying gender and ethnic gaps in STEM courses, albeit upper division. My work with the SEISMIC groups has informed how I analyze the data in that project and my hope is that I will be able to take advantage of the network to further grow that aspect of my research.
The third factor is that the community within SEISMIC is fantastic: amicable, willing to listen, willing to help and extremely knowledgeable. I learn something new at every meeting with my project coworkers. Thus, time devoted to SEISMIC also provides me with social support and professional development. Overall, an incredible win for me.”
Assistant Professor | Department of Biology Teaching & Learning
University of Minnesota
Featured in September 2020 Newsletter
What is a project you are currently working on, and why is it meaningful to you?
“My group conducts research that examines the nature of student-teacher interactions in undergraduate STEM classrooms. I am particularly excited about a new project that aims to capture and characterize the classroom talk patterns used by STEM faculty in foundational undergraduate STEM courses. The project builds on work we recently did at the University of Minnesota that characterized teacher discourse moves (TDMs) in undergraduate biology classrooms across three institutions. TDMs are specific conversational strategies that can foster classroom culture in which dialogical interactions occur among all classroom participants. By leveraging the parallel data collection opportunities provided by SEISMIC, we hope to: (1) capture and characterize instructor talk moves among undergraduate STEM instructors across the multiple institutions that make up the SEISMIC collaborative; and (2) to quantify how TDMs influence student reasoning and levels of explanatory rigor during learning tasks as well as the influences of gender and other demographic variables on ensuing discourse. This matters because a persistent barrier to student success in foundational STEM courses is related to faculty instructional practices that leverage teacher-led talk over dialogic discourse.
With this project, we hope to shift the emphasis on what is researched from examining instructional effectiveness via comparative studies to an examination of more nuanced understanding of instructional practices in undergraduate STEM departments. Speaking more broadly, I think the overall results of the project will provide insights into effective instructional practices that advance the development of a globally competitive STEM workforce. By leveraging the investment and the moment of the SEISMIC collaborative, we hope to inform STEM educators how to more effectively stimulate student discourse and argumentation in STEM foundational courses. This, hopefully, will increase our scientific understanding of learning and enable STEM instructors to promote scientific literacy and understanding for all, a broader national goal.”
Nikeetha Farfan D’Souza
Postdoctoral Fellow | Office of Vice Provost for Diversity & Inclusion
Featured in August 2020 Newsletter
How are you bringing your own research interests into the Constructs Working Group and SEISMIC overall?
“My research interests revolve around culture, identity and power in science teaching and learning. In particular, I use sociocultural and critical frameworks to investigate science education systems and learning spaces, and interrogate structures of power and discrimination within these systems and spaces, with the goal of transforming these systems to be more inclusive and equitable. My research interests and critical research practice emerged from my experiences as a science student and science teacher in India. I grew up and worked in science education environments that were multicultural and multilingual but were characterized by power and discrimination based on religion, caste, gender and language. English and western-based education, being the language of our colonizers but also the current language of opportunity and globalization, added to this conflict of power in the science classrooms I studied or taught in India. I came to the United States to explore and find resolutions to these conflicts. My educational journey in the United States has helped to understand these experiences, deepen my comprehension of issues of identity, culture and power in science and science education and lead me to work towards equity in science education.
With its explicit emphasis on equity in science education, SEISMIC has provided a learning community to belong to and a space for me to continue my explorations and investigations into systems of power in science education and its relationship with culture and identity. I hope to bring the multiple experiences and research perspectives I have gained to SEISMIC. I want to utilize sociocultural and critical frameworks to define our goals of diversity and equity in STEM education, and guide my investigations into systems of power that work in college foundational STEM courses. In particular, as part of the Constructs Working Group, I am interested in using these critical frameworks to map current institutional resources that support Practice for Diversity & Equity’. By highlighting how power, culture and identity interact in institutional practice for diversity and equity, I hope this work will inform SEISMIC and other institutions as they plan and implement programs and services to support goals of equity, which is significant given our current political climate and how institutions have responded (or not) for equity.”
Ph.D. Student | Program in Mathematics Education
Michigan State University
Featured in July 2020 Newsletter
What are your takeaways from Part 1 of our Summer Meeting?
“What resonated with me was the conversations about race, specifically the pre-meeting work surrounding #BlackintheIvory. Sometimes I think that within academia, there can be an idea that there is insulation against ‘worldly problems’ and that academia sometimes can sit within a bubble – and not only is this not the case but it highlights privilege and does not allow space for voices to contradict this. This has challenged me not only as an instructor and researcher, but as someone as part of the academic system to reflect, listen, and focus on how to be anti-racist, especially within academia. We are seeing how as of right now, academia is not a safe haven for conversations about race and racism. It is my duty to educate myself, listen to my BIPOC colleagues and students, as well as continue to speak out against injustice and racism.”
Associate Professor | School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
Featured in June 2020 Newsletter
What advice do you have for mentors working to better support their students?
“Research mentors need to be thoughtful about the emotional strain that many students are under right now. Depression and anxiety are increasingly among our college students and these are only exacerbated by the recent events of shifting college coursework online, rising employment rates, senseless violence against Black Americans, and uncertainty about the future, in addition to countless other stressors. Research can be a positive outlet for students, but we must be thoughtful about our interactions with our undergraduate researchers. A new study led by Katelyn Cooper and Logan Gin has documented a number of challenges in undergraduate research for students struggling with depression and has identified a concrete suite of strategies for research mentors to help students with depression. An additional study by this team has revealed that many undergraduates with depression feel uncomfortable sharing this information with their faculty research mentors and know few faculty who struggle with depression. We encourage faculty mentors to open up and talk more explicitly about mental health with students. Normalize it. If you struggle with mental health, share that information with students so they can see that you can both have depression and be a successful scientist.”
Ph.D. Student | Educational Psychology and Educational Technology
Michigan State University
Featured in Apr. 30, 2020 Newsletter
How do you stay connected with colleagues while working remotely?
“For general communication, I’ve been using a mix of Slack and Keybase for chatting plus Zoom and BlueJeans for video conferences. I’ve been using these tools for a while now so the transition to fully remote work was rather seamless. I’ve found Slack and Keybase to be great tools for cutting through a colleague’s sometimes thick email backlog; serving as a back channel to get quicker responses than email. To maintain a sense of presence, we at MSU hold a weekly SEISMIC team check-in over Zoom. We share updates and feedback with each other on our projects. Personally, I like having a regular institution-specific meeting on the calendar because I need hard dates and deadlines when deciding which tasks to prioritize on my personal calendar.”
Ph.D. Student | Combined Program in Education and Psychology
University of Michigan
Featured in Apr. 10, 2020 Newsletter
What work are you interested to bring in to SEISMIC?
“My love affair with statistics began many years ago when I realized how numbers can help solve life’s biggest problems. However, what I did not realize is that often the stories that researchers arrive at with the help of data often center institutions and individuals who hold the most power. Even when researchers try to incorporate the experiences of underrepresented groups, individuals who are more closely aligned with dominant power structures are made the most visible. Through participation with SEISMIC, I hope to use my knowledge of Black Feminist frameworks to help us as educators rediscover new ways to understand what success and persistence look like outside of oppressive ideologies. Specifically, I am interested in integrating intersectional frameworks and epistemologies into quantitative research that move beyond solely focusing on identities, but also address the ways in which institutions and classrooms work to oppress marginalized populations. As researchers, we hold the power to make sure the stories we tell serve the people whose voices tend to get left out of conversations surrounding equity and justice. Ultimately, I look forward to learning from and working alongside experts who are passionate about making foundational STEM courses more inclusive and equitable.”
Professor & Associate Chair | Department of Chemistry
Featured in Mar. 2020 Newsletter
What has the process been like to implement SEISMIC experiments in your department?
“I’m a chemistry professor at Indiana University, and I have the pleasure of working with more than a half dozen colleagues among our faculty who are committed to planning and taking part in SEISMIC classroom experiments. The most exciting part of our participation in SEISMIC so far has been watching the enthusiasm build among faculty in the STEM areas as we have hosted SEISMIC speakers Kevin Binning, Sehoya Cotner, Becky Matz, and John Gates. Faculty from different areas are coming together and talking to one another about SEISMIC experiments and about other ideas we have for improving STEM teaching here at IU and beyond. Most of our work to date has come from bringing faculty and our terrific Learning Analytics and Assessment teams to map out a viable path for implementing the SEISMIC experiments. At this stage, we are still trying to figure out technology for the Write to Learn and Backchannel projects, and we are planning to implement those two projects and the Sense of Belonging experiment in the fall— almost certainly in multiple disciplines. We also have faculty who have been inspired enough by these ideas to adapt them in less formal ways in their classrooms. Few of the faculty who are taking part in these efforts have formal training in educational research, but all of us share a commitment to helping all of our students flourish. There is no doubt that participation in SEISMIC has already helped us to do that.”
Distinguished University Professor & General Chemistry Director | Department of Chemistry
University of Minnesota
Featured in Feb. 2020 Newsletter
How do you connect with your local SEISMIC team?
“It is challenging to get a large group of busy people together at any given time. Our full SEISMIC team gets together and touches base about once a semester. Updates are shared on working group projects and progress, along with opportunities to pull in additional collaborators. We also discuss speaker visits and any funding opportunities that align with our goals. Smaller subgroups meet more frequently to divide work and plan next steps within their respective campus projects. I am looking forward to the summer meeting to both share our campus work and hear about collective SEISMIC progress!”
Virgina M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment| School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
Featured in Jan. 2020 Newsletter
How do you see SEISMIC impacting national-level change in STEM education?
“Providing conditions in which academic leaders can induce one or a few individuals in a unit to change is easy compared to altering the culture of a department, college, or university. As research reveals the best ways to foster inclusive excellence, a major challenge will be scaling those discoveries from individuals to larger academic units. I had the opportunity while at NSF to help drive change over scales by initiating and supporting the “Vision and Change” report. Involving many colleges and universities across the US was a key contributor to the success of that report. SEISMIC also offers a chance to foster change by individual faculty members, then propel that change across units within our individual universities and ultimately among universities. SEISMIC is an alliance of multiple institutions committed to using successes within institutions to improve practices between institutions. As such, it affords a wonderful opportunity to identify the best ways to make progress regarding inclusive excellence, relatively quickly, among academic institutions. SEISMIC offers a distinctive model for demonstrating how local successes can be scaled up to change STEM education at the national level.”
2019 SEISMIC Voices
Postdoctoral Fellow| Physics Department
University of Michigan
Featured in Dec. 2019 Newsletter
What are the advantages of SEISMIC for early-career participants?
“When one starts grad school one of the most common advice is: “Find your people”. But no one ever talks about how hard that actually is. It requires you to engage with different groups testing the waters until you find a sense of belonging. A group where you not only can engage and be challenged academically but can also be sure you are working for the same thing. SEISMIC actually can help people figure that out and turn it into productive research relationships. Becoming part of a group is as much as you learning from them and you providing your skills and knowledge, filling a gap. The way SEISMIC is organized facilitates that; it supports early-career researchers by taking out a lot of the guesswork on how to work in interdisciplinary groups as well as how to create a professional network. I hope to support SEISMIC with my expertise in equity and justice in science education, as well as be nurtured by the amazing minds that are trying to solve higher education’s most pressing issues.”
Research Scientist | Center for Academic Innovation
University of Michigan
Featured in Nov. 2019 Newsletter
What do you see as the role of the Collaboration Council in promoting SEISMIC efforts?
“The Collaboration Council acts as an organizing body, like a hub that supports each of the working groups and the projects therein. CoCo’s activities (like planning for the summer meeting, helping to develop the Principles of Operations guide, and establishing an MOU with each participating university) help provide a foundation so that when someone joins a project team, they are actually joining something much bigger! Personally, being a member of CoCo has really widened my circle of professional contacts with a great group of people that are all invested in improving undergraduate STEM courses. It has been useful to see all the different roles that CoCo members have on their campuses — attention to improving undergraduate STEM courses is coming from directors of teaching centers, faculty in STEM departments, college- and university-level leaders and all the places in between.”
Assistant Professor | School of Engineering Education
Featured in Oct. 2019 Newsletter
What challenges are you trying to address with the experiments you are running in your classes this year?
“I am a part of the Experiments Working Group. I joined this group because I wanted to see how engineering education and STEM education research might be translated into actionable and testable efforts in introductory STEM classrooms. Most of my research to date has focused on measuring identity, motivation, or belonging as a part of how individual students experience the culture of engineering. I’m at a point where I’d like to see how those ideas translate into what happens in my sphere of influence, the classroom.
As a part of this working group, I’m involved with two different projects: Tests Are Stupid; or, Anxiety Matters (TASAM) and Belonging, Adversity, and Affirmation in Classrooms. For the TASAM project, I’m measuring students’ levels of test anxiety during the beginning and end of the fall semester in a high stakes testing environment to get a baseline for future efforts. I’ve also collected institutional data to understand how test anxiety is connected to student performance. Our preliminary results indicate that women in engineering have higher levels of test anxiety and that this anxiety predicts lower mathematics and science GPAs, with the effect being stronger for mathematics GPA. We found no differences in the data by race/ethnicity, first-generation college student status, or socioeconomic status. Our future work will include investigating which courses within the required engineering sequences have lower performance outcomes for women and if some of that performance difference can be attributed to test anxiety. These efforts will help us implement a different testing environment (lower stakes assessment) to see if that influences students’, and especially women’s outcomes.
For the Belonging, Adversity and Affirmation in Classrooms project, I’m working with Kevin Binning and the rest of the team to implement brief, in-class, small group interventions discussing adversity in spring engineering courses. Prior work in other STEM courses has shown that this discussion supports students’ sense of belonging, which has connections to a variety of other outcomes including performance and retention. We are particularly interested in understanding how the demographics of the instructor may influence the effectiveness of this intervention for different minoritized groups. This effort addresses a big and complex student outcome, student’s sense of belonging, with a relatively simple effort. These kinds of simple, but effective interventions seem particularly valuable for scaling across institutions and large classes to maximize students’ potential, reduce barriers for success, and provide more inclusive introductory STEM courses.”
HHMI Lecturer | Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
University of California Santa Barbara
Featured in Sept. 2019 Newsletter
What do you hope to achieve with the Experiments Working Group Key Project: Improving Office Hours?
“As a first-generation, Latino student, I always felt very fortunate to have amazing mentors in my academic life that help me succeed. Almost all of these interactions started with a visit to office hours. I have found that this one-on-one mentoring interaction was transformative for many colleagues as well. However, in my role as instructor, I have found this powerful resource is underutilized by the students that can benefit the most from it. As stated by the inspiring John Gates at the keynote of our first SEISMIC meeting, closing achievement gaps requires “intrusionary advising,” the deliberate intent to mentor students for success. We at the Improving Office Hours Project (IOHP) believe that effective mentoring has the potential to transform a student’s experience in college and that office hours are a great way to achieve that. Therefore, The IOHP aims to increase the usage and effectiveness of office hours mentoring. To do this, we have envisioned two stages for the project. First, to “mine” the existing diversity richness of office hours models across all our institutions by identifying and quantifying the best practices regarding OH and mentoring implemented by our colleagues. Second, analyze, improve, and disseminate them across all our campuses and quantify their effects on parameters including student’s usage and perception of OH, self-belonging, academic success, retention and persistence.”
Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Effectiveness | Center for Educational Effectiveness
University of California Davis
Featured in Aug. 2019 Newsletter
How are you planning to leverage the Speaker Exchange Program to advance efforts on your campus and the goals of your Working Group?
“We would like to invite speakers from the partner campuses to 1) serve as “sparks” for new ideas/approaches, 2) show that there are incredible ideas and projects happening at similar institutions that have a great deal of potential at our own institution, and 3) further empower local innovation since engaging and thoughtful speakers from other institutions can greatly amplify, or “reinforce” local ideas and efforts as well as bring new people to the conversation. Additionally, we really believe the speaker exchange can help expand the careers and opportunities of early career investigators and empower those relatively new to the educational analytics community. The speakers can also highlight Working Group efforts thus promoting the projects, the local campus participants while serving to recruit new participants and potential projects.”
Susan J. Cheng
Instructional Consultant in Analytics and Assessment | Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
University of Michigan
Featured in July 2019 Newsletter
How will you be moving forward from our Summer Meeting?
“My first SEISMIC annual meeting was full of creative, inspiring, and productive conversations about how education scholars can have positive impacts on student and faculty experiences in the classroom. I’m honored to have built collaborations with some of the country’s leaders in discipline-based education research. Moving forward, I’ll be connecting SESMIC scholars and their work to the faculty participating in U-M’s Foundational Course Initiative . I’ll also be working on two projects with SEISMIC’s Experiments Working Group so we can better understand how instructors can support effective office hours and build student belonging in our STEM courses.”
Ph.D. Student | School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
Featured in June 2019 Newsletter
How do you see yourself being involved in the Working Groups, and what do you hope to achieve?
“I am thrilled to be apart of the SEISMIC network! As a graduate student, I am eager to learn from the expertise and perspectives of other members of the network who have thought deeply about barriers to equity and inclusion in STEM. I am excited to see what is possible with a multi-institutional collaboration like SEISMIC, specifically through working to develop interventions to address structural challenges to equity and inclusion in STEM on a large scale. I also hope to approach issues of inequity that have historically received less attention in the research literature, such as exploring the experiences of students with disabilities in STEM. I am thankful to be a member of SEISMIC and look forward to meeting everyone at the summer meeting!”
Lead Research Management Analyst | Bloomington Assessment and Research
Featured in May 2019 Newsletter
What work are you eager to share at the SEISMIC Summer Meeting in June?
“I am looking forward to sharing some of the knowledge our institution has gained from engaging in cross-disciplinary and institutional collaborations around equity and inclusion in STEM courses and programs. The visualization of a simple metric like the Average Grade Anomaly has prompted conversations with program directors and faculty in STEM disciplines and has opened up spaces for more in-depth analyses. For example, as a part of IU’s Learning Analytics Fellows Program, faculty in the Chemistry Department are using the Average Grade Anomaly metric to gauge their course offerings as well as how grades vary vis a vis student characteristics and performance in other disciplines. We’ve also explored the academic progression in STEM. An Event History Analysis shows that STEM-related grade anomalies have a significant impact on student retention in STEM programs at IU. Graph analytical approaches show great potential for analyzing student pathways to degrees and informing curriculum design. I am looking forward to stimulating discussions on this work and hearing about other insights that members of the SEISMIC community will bring to the Summer Meeting.”
Director | Teaching and Learning Research Center
University of California Irvine
Featured in Apr. 2019 Newsletter
How do you see your own work fitting into, and benefiting from, this collaboration?
“I direct the Teaching and Learning Research Center at UCI, and we provide data and research expertise to faculty who want to publish their teaching research projects. Because we have direct access to institutional data and expertise in computational statistics, we are able to look at campuswide trends in student success in STEM. But without greater context it is hard to know if what we are seeing is an aspect of UCI teaching culture or broader STEM teaching. I am looking forward to working with a network of collaborators who can also look at their institutional data so we can draw broader conclusions. Do all biology programs have high retention but difficulty with calculus? Do all math courses have more gender equity compared to other STEM courses? Can values affirmation assignments improve student learning in many different courses?
Working to implement similar solutions and gather the same type of resulting data from different campuses is very exciting to me.”
Associate Professor | College of Biological Sciences
University of Minnesota
Featured in Mar. 2019 Newsletter
Why are you excited to join SEISMIC?
“In my recent work, we’ve identified several areas where, at our institution, we see biased performance, participation, sense of inclusion, or retention in STEM courses or fields. I’ve seen how these biases can hinge on racial or gender differences, and how they may be correlated with “hidden identities” such as political persuasion, religiosity, sexual orientation, generation in college, etc. As educators tackle these issues in a larger context, we must identify which challenges are institution-specific, and which are more broadly pervasive. Establishing collaborative networks such as SEISMIC allows us to diagnose which of our challenges to equity in STEM are systemic, and which are more localized. Further, capacious topics such as inclusivity are likely best tackled by networks with diverse experiences and perspectives. Thus, I’m really excited to learn from my peers in SEISMIC!”
What are you looking forward to accomplishing with SEISMIC?
“I hope, through participation in SEISMIC, to gain a more nuanced perspective of existing barriers to equity in STEM, and a better understanding of which interventions are most likely to be effective in a given course context or institutional setting. I’m also eager to see my own data gain new life through this multi-institutional, comparative approach. For a first step, I look forward to inviting SEISMIC participants to the University of Minnesota, so that my colleagues and I can learn from the network’s Speaker Exchange.”