[Rackham] Race-Consciousness Understandings and Interventions to Demolish Racism for Black, Indigenous, Graduate Level Students of Color

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Ebony O. McGee, Ph.D.

What do we need to improve the experiences of graduate Black, Indigenous, Students of Color (BISOC)? How do we retain these marginalized and minoritized students and faculty? This session will focus on making race-conscious mentoring and programming a critical component of graduate education, cultivating cultural competence in faculty, requiring departments to recognize the time-intensive nature of mentoring and compensating it properly, establishing unique programs specifically for graduate-level BISOC, and supporting proposal writing for fellowships and external resources from funding agencies and foundations.

Despite long-standing research on the role underrepresented graduate students play in advancing innovative scholarship, diversity, and equity, many universities struggle with recruitment and retention, particularly the challenges associated with retaining underrepresented faculty members, who are critical for the retention of graduate students of color. The historical forces that have shaped differential access to educational, social, political, employment, and other resources and opportunities to advance, are racialized, multifactorial, and complex, but their impact is clear. The result of an individualistic, ultracompetitive, lily-White, mostly heterosexual, militaristically grounded, middle- to upper-class, nationalist, able-bodied, biased institutional culture, leaves BISOC with all types of bruising and even some permanent bruises.

This talk brings together more than ten years of research on high-achieving BISOC and faculty within and beyond STEM fields. The presenter will provide race-conscious answers to the following questions: How do some graduate BISOC manage to survive brutal academic climates, and what does it cost? Why do schools continue to recruit BISOC (and faculty) into disciplines whose climate regularly drives them away?  


Ebony O. McGee

As an associate professor of diversity and STEM education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, I investigate what it means to be racially marginalized while minoritized in the context of learning and achieving in STEM higher education and in the STEM professions. I study in particular the racialized experiences and racial stereotypes that adversely affect the education and career trajectories of underrepresented groups of color. This involves exploring the social, material, and health costs of academic achievement and problematizing traditional forms of success in higher education, with an unapologetic focus on Black folk in these places and spaces. My National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant investigates how marginalization undercuts success in STEM through psychological stress, interrupted STEM career trajectories, impostor phenomenon, and other debilitating race-related trauma for Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx doctoral students.

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