The underrepresentation of women and some racial/ethnic groups remains a significant issue in STEM. My PhD research focused on understanding and addressing two of the factors known to predict retention throughout academia—inclusivity and sense of belonging. Sense of belonging directly fuels (or hinders) an individual’s feelings of acceptance, value, and inclusion within a community. Unfortunately, there is not much research geared toward understanding the factors that shape belonging among graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.
I developed strategies to assess and improve sense of belonging—and, more generally, the academic climate—in order to make the Berkeley Chemistry community more welcoming for all members. Excitingly, longitudinal survey data indicates that our academic climate has become more inclusive, that grad students, postdocs, and faculty readily engage in challenging conversations about stigmatized topics, and that mentorship has become more holistic since these efforts began.