News on current grants to Carleton faculty and staff.

Campus Compact reports in Anita Chikkatur's research project

August 2, 2017
By Christopher Tassava, Associate Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations

Anita ChikkaturOn its website, Minnesota Campus Compact has published a great summary of the results of Anita Chikkatur's research project on the experiences of under-represented students in STEM classes and majors at Carleton. Campus Compact and Youthprise supported the project with a Participatory Action Research grant; several Carleton departments also contributed support.

Prof. Chikkatur and a team of students conducted a literature review and extensive interviews with faculty, staff, and students that led to concrete recommendations for making STEM more inclusive at and beyond Carleton. Many of the recommendations relate to improved communication within and across the disciplines and the College:

  • Keep doing the things mentioned by students as what makes them feels supported and welcomed! Students mentioned that faculty support them, for example, by being approachable and patient; making an attempt to understand students’ backgrounds; getting to know students holistically; being proactive about reaching to students struggling in their courses; and showing students that they are capable through concrete actions such as hiring them as teaching or research assistants. Student groups, such as the Women in Physics group, also provided a supportive environment for traditionally under-represented students. Given the challenges that under-represented students face, visible interest from faculty and staff in learning about these challenges and creating solutions is highly appreciated by these students.
  • Faculty who come from under-represented backgrounds themselves and are open about talking about their experiences are important role models. 
  • Create a welcoming and collaborative space for students in the classroom by encouraging group work and participation in class discussions
  • Having department-wide conversations, rather than just having college-wide conversations, about issues of diversity may help more students feel like they have a stake and have a voice.
  • Make clear expectations for office hours: Are students supposed to be prepared before they come to office hours? How should they be prepared?
  • Help students develop personal and community resources and frameworks for describing their experiences of marginalization or discrimination.
  • Make clear what avenues students can use to speak to faculty about troubling peer dynamics.
  • Ensure that there’s more communication and integration between STEM departments and spaces of support for under-represented students (e.g. TRIO, a federally funded program, and Carleton offices such as the Gender and Sexuality Center and Office of Intercultural and International Life).
  • Be more careful with the language used when talking to students about what is expected of them when they come to classes; do not make assumptions about students’ abilities or preparation.
  • Acknowledge, rather than ignore, diversity in student experiences, identities, and backgrounds.
  • Reach out to students who are not already interested in STEM about science, technology, and mathematics education and opportunities.