Equity Through Access: Mitigating Obstacles for Underrepresented Scholars in STEM
College experiences for many underrepresented scholars can be vastly different than those of their majority counterparts due to a variety of complex factors including gaps in social, economic, cultural, and political capital. Despite a small amount of progress made, enormous gaps remain in STEM degree attainment and workforce representation for these scholars. For example, freshmen from all racial backgrounds are interested in STEM fields at similar rates, but White and Asian students account for nearly 80% of all STEM bachelor’s degrees earned. One of the direct ways we know to bridge workforce gaps is through development of student and early career opportunities as gateways to entry, including internships and undergrad research experiences (UREs).
Benefits to students who participate in internships and UREs are numerous and include gaining mentors and future career champions while expanding professional networks; learning technical skills and applying academic training to real world problems; assessing interest in particular fields while strengthening resumes; and increasing potential for future employment. Students who complete these programs are also more likely to apply for and receive additional gateway opportunities, obtain graduate degrees, publish in peer reviewed journals, and attain higher level jobs, among many others long-term benefits. Internships and URE’s also allow students to begin to develop their ‘science identities’ and sense of social belonging within the science world, which are crucial for persistence within STEM fields.
In this session, we will explore barriers to entry for underrepresented students into such programs, and share suggestions to mitigate barriers and diversify programs, while creating a more holistic, equitable experience for all applicants.
Catalina Martinez is the Regional Program Manager for the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. A certified diversity professional, Ms. Martinez began her ocean science career with NOAA in 2002 working on ship operations and logistics, as well as education and outreach initiatives associated with expeditions to explore little known and unknown ocean areas. She spent many years sailing on research vessels as Expedition Coordinator for NOAA OER, and currently spends most of her time managing the joint efforts associated with multiple important collaborations at URI, and as regional liaison for the program.
Ms. Martinez also works on a variety of local, regional, and national efforts to face the barriers to entry for underrepresented individuals into STEM fields. For this work she was honored with the 2010 URI Diversity Award for Staff/Administrator Excellence in Leadership and Service, the 2015 Women of Achievement, the 2016 NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research EEO/Diversity Award for Exemplary Service, and the 2019 Women of Color in STEM Diversity Leadership in Government Award. Ms. Martinez is currently participating in a 6-month detail with NOAA’s Office of Inclusion and Civil Rights.