Diversity is deeply connected to research innovation and excellence. Students from diverse backgrounds bring new ideas and perspectives, and ask questions that reflect diverse values and life experiences. For this reason, it is widely recognized that diverse groups perform better.
However, at the Office of Undergraduate Research, we acknowledge that systemic and structural exclusion from research spaces has created disproportionate challenges in research advancement for students from minoritized backgrounds.
For example, BIPOC students contend with underrepresentation within the research enterprise and may experience negative psychosocial side effects that impact their ability to access and thrive in research opportunities. Students with high financial need may be excluded from volunteer research opportunities, which often serve as gatekeepers to more in-depth, paid research opportunities. While research happens in all academic disciplines, most STEM fields are deeply rooted in white, male, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able bodied, Western norms. This historical and contextual reality within STEM can be unwelcoming to individuals that do not share these privileged identities.
We also acknowledge the inextricable ties that the term “research” has to colonialism and the abuse of indigenous peoples by Western “researchers”.
At the Office of Undergraduate Research, we commit to the process of decolonizing research and to promoting research frameworks that respect indigenous peoples and their sovereignty, and uplift their knowledge. The Office of Undergraduate Research acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land on which we live and work, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.
As UW’s central unit for connecting undergraduates with opportunities for research, we recognize that we can play a critical role in closing opportunity gaps for students historically excluded from the research enterprise.
In our work, we aim to promote social justice and advance equity by 1) developing and offering programs, practices, and resources that amplify marginalized voices, 2) promoting more equitable access to research experiences, and 3) supporting research mentors in creating spaces that are welcoming and inclusive. A few of our equity initiatives include:
- Designing and facilitating programs that promote the examination of structural and systemic inequities and advance research in the arts and humanities, which are historically underfunded research disciplines.
- Building welcoming, inclusive spaces for those with an interest in research to come together to connect and build community.
- Providing research mentors with workshops and resources to promote more equitable and inclusive mentorship practices
While we are excited about these initiatives, we recognize that we have more work to do. We look forward to learning how to continue to advance our equity goals from others who are engaging in this important work and from the students who are brave enough to share their lived experiences as they navigate undergraduate research spaces.