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Tailoring DEIA Programming through Current Field Analysis: Promoting Allyship in STEM of University Graduate Students

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2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)


Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 1: Technical Session 2: Tailoring DEIA Programming through Current Field Analysis: Promoting Allyship in STEM of University Graduate Students

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Mia Leigh Renna University of Maryland College Park

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Mia Leigh Renna is a PhD Civil Engineering student at the University of Maryland College Park, specializing in disaster mitigation engineering policy with a focus on equitable decision-making. She was formerly among the Allies in STEM leadership team at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign while a graduate student there. Since 2020, Renna has volunteered as a policy advisor for Minority Veterans of America and other veteran grassroot coalitions with the mission of advancing equity, inclusion, and justice for military servicemembers and veterans. Renna obtained her B.S. from Clemson University and her M.S. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Recognized as a 2021 Tilman Scholar awardee and 2023 Clark Doctoral Fellowship recipient, Renna also holds professional certifications in Project Management Professional, Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt, and LEED Green Associate. Additionally, Renna is a National Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project. As a military veteran, Renna served honorably in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for over 8 years in multiple capacities.

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Emily Lawson-Bulten University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Emily Lawson-Bulten is a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a research focus on equitable access to infrastructure, especially for WASH services in non-industrialized nations. She has served on the leadership team of Allies in STEM at UIUC since May 2022. She has been heavily involved with racial equity issues since she was a John M. Perkins Fellow at Calvin University. There she received her BSE in Civil/Environmental Engineering and International Development Studies. Her work in industry as a civil engineer and for the Natural Resource Conservation Service have made her passionate about creating an equitable environment for historically underserved populations in STEM. She is a 2021 SURGE fellow, 2022 Tinker Fellow, and recipient of the Student Diversity Leadership Award.

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Although the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have seen increased diversity over the last decade, there remains a significant disparity of representation across race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and more. Achieving diversity within STEM requires more than an increase in numerical representation: it must foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity for marginalized demographics. Allies in STEM (AiS), a graduate student-led organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), designs and hosts educational workshop programming to accomplish its mission to promote allyship and foster inclusivity within the STEM. AiS recognizes allyship, defined as active support and advocacy by individuals – particularly those with privilege – for marginalized groups, as a critical tool in reducing discrimination and promoting equity. Concurrently, AiS understands the importance of developing effective diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) programming to create concrete, demographic-specific strategies for allyship as informed by existing research within the literature. This process involves addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals within specific marginalized groups through tailored programming to meet their specific needs. This paper explores and measures areas where allyship is needed within STEM through assessing discrimination experiences and opinions on inclusivity to guide future AiS targeted programming. The mixed-methods approach employed by the authors includes quantitative methods, such as Likert scale measurements, and qualitative methods, including thematic coding through reflexive thematic analysis (RTA). Results show that study participants who have personally experienced or witnessed discrimination within their place of work or during any formal education within STEM based on a specific demographic category are more likely to perceive that group as very discriminated against, highlighting the importance of personal experiences on perceptions of STEM inclusivity. Additionally, the results identify that study participants perceive their current academic institutions or places of employment as more inclusive than the STEM field as a whole. The findings of this study provide insights into the current climate of inclusivity and discrimination within STEM, particularly at UIUC, that will inform the development of effective workshops for AiS programming. AiS can enhance awareness and understanding of systematic issues beyond individual experiences through allyship tailored for the overrepresented groups attending its programming. Furthermore, this study provides a guide for other graduate-led STEM DEIA programs at other academic institutions to develop effective targeted programming.

Renna, M. L., & Lawson-Bulten, E. (2024, February), Tailoring DEIA Programming through Current Field Analysis: Promoting Allyship in STEM of University Graduate Students Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45482

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