Evidence-Based Strategies for Improving Diversity and Inclusion in Undergraduate Research Labs
Ahmad, Afra Saeed; Sabat, Isaac; Trump-Steele, Rachel; King, Eden
Institutions of higher education strive to support diversity and inclusion efforts as they recognize the benefits at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels (Terenzini et al., 2001; Denson and Chang, 2009; Pascarella et al., 2014; Moriña, 2017). Diversity can be defined as “the varied perspectives and approaches to work which members of different identity groups bring” (Thomas and Ely, 1996) and inclusion can be described as a person's ability to contribute fully and effectively to an organization (Miller, 1998; Mor Barak and Cherin, 1998). One strategy to diversify higher education is by focusing on creating a diverse pipeline, whereby undergraduates from different backgrounds engage in high quality research. These experiences provide students the ability to build competencies and achievement records that propel them to and through graduate school as well as beyond. Previous research has demonstrated that undergraduates who participate in research projects and positively interact with faculty are more likely to pursue and attain post-baccalaureate degrees as well as subsequent careers as faculty or research scientists (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Astin, 1993; Tinto, 1993; Adedokun et al., 2013; Yaffe et al., 2014). Opportunity and mentorship are particularly critical for underrepresented students, as previous research has found that students' interactions with faculty members have a stronger influence on their decisions to pursue graduate education than their initial background characteristics (e.g., socio-economic status; Ethington and Smart, 1986; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Carpi et al., 2017). While many mentors may intend to support minority student researchers, they may not be aware of how to do so. Thus, this paper will highlight some of the challenges faced by underrepresented students (i.e., students of color, lower socio-economic status, LGBT) and provide evidence-based solutions on how to recruit, select, retain students from diverse backgrounds to promote diversity and inclusion in undergraduate research labs working toward publishable research.