What do Diverse Students Need to Thrive in Data- and Computer-Heavy Settings?

November 19, 2020 Seminar in our Conversations on Data and Diversity Series

Below you find a list of our panelists and their backgrounds, a video recording of the seminar and discussion with times listed from the video when you can find individual components of the seminar, the roles of participants on the call, and a summary of the Q&A session.

Our panelists were:

Recording of the Workshop

Timing of Seminar Activities in the Video

  • 0:00 Introduction and Announcements, Jody Peters (University of Notre Dame)
  • 4:28 Overview of the Ecological Forecasting Initiative (EFI), Mike Dietze (Boston University)
  • 6:13 Overview of the EFI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group & Introduction of Panelists, Diana Dalbotten (University of Minnesota)
  • 7:40 Panelist: John Zobitz (Augsburg University)
  • 17:52 Panelist: Nievita Bueno Watts (Humboldt State University)
  • 31:36 Panelist: Antoinette Abeyta (University of New Mexico, Gallup)
  • 37:33 Q&A Session Moderated by Anna Sjodin (University of Idaho) followed by open casual discussions for those who could continue to stay for the meeting
  • 46:05 Formal portion of call ends with a time of announcements and reminders
  • 50:20 Q&A session continued followed by open group discussions

Roles Of Workshop Participants

Questions and Answers

The Questions and Answers are listed below and in this Google doc . The timestamp from the recording is given for questions panelists had time to answer. Additional questions we did not get to during the call are also included.

Q1: You mentioned that many students don’t have access to computers or internet – how do you overcome this barrier? 

  • Question starts at Time 37:42
  • Be cognizant of how to offer activities
  • Audio only, powerpoint, make it downloadable, work with library to check out hotspots, electronic battery packs, put material on USB drive so students don’t have to spend bandwidth on wifi or sit in McDonald’s parking lot
  • Don’t ask students to stream 2 hour video that is intensive on data/battery life
  • Give up the expectation that students will share screens or monitors. They don’t have bandwidth, access, or do not want to share their space.  Be comfortable with that. 

Q2. Great talks everyone!  Antoinette brought up a good point about how some students are limited to cell phones/tablets as their computing devices. Does anyone have suggestions for doing and teaching data science on a mobile device?

  • Question starts at Time 40:20
  • Look at what your assignment looks like on a mobile devices – resources such as Blackboard Learn or Canvas allow you to preview what it looks like on a mobile device
  • Do excel demonstrations in PC environment as well as in a cell phone environment.  Some buttons are not in the same spot
  • A lot of great apps that allow mobile interaction.  Don’t recreate the wheel

Q3. What strategies do you use for “scaffolded instruction”?

  • Question starts at Time 41:55
  • John’s experience from Calculus class.  Split a 70-minute class into three 20-minute sessions.  
  • First part, students do an activity based on a real-world example with real data. This gets them into the activity. It doesn’t assume that they have read up about it beforehand. 
  • Next 20 minutes is a “just enough lecture”. Don’t show 20 examples, just show enough so the students see how the process works.  When they walk out of class will have seen a couple of examples.
  • Last 20 minutes students work at the board solving problems together in teams or as individuals. Students put into practice that they learn.
  • 3 part stage – learn about it, see examples, and put into practice collaboratively

Q4. What cultural barriers might prevent students from math and computer science courses?

  • Question starts at Time 44:00 and came back to at Time 50:22
  • Students need to be able to see how does this lead to employment.  Their families won’t let them go down the path unless they are familiar with it.  Parents want their children to do work that they are familiar with.
  • Help students think about where they are going with their degree. Ask: If you can do anything in the world, what would you like to do? Most times students haven’t thought of  what problems they want to solve and what pathway they need to take to get there.
  • Have examples of people from the same background is powerful for connecting students to potential career paths
  • Ideas about outreach to parents
    • Diana’s Gadaa Camp – invite parents when students are giving presentations. 
    • Have former students come back and talk to students about their job and their pathway. Useful to show students what can be done with degrees
    • John’s experience for end of summer research talks – have talks open to the community, parents and younger siblings.  Be okay with a different research symposium setting. It is more lively and more celebratory and very fun.
      • Provide translation resources for parents who English is not their first language

Q5. How does this translate for students who may not have parents or family in the picture or a strong relationship but still need that support?

  • Question starts at Time 54:38
  • When Nievita brings in students she is the aunty or the grandma that they didn’t know they needed and students are okay with that.  It goes back to the importance of building relationships.  Example: help students communicate with a faculty member who doesn’t understand the students’ situation or a student who needs help navigating financial needs.
  • Underrepresented students are trying so hard and are engaged and are trying to be successful but they edon’ know when to advocate for themselves or how to advocate. Mentoring and taking personal interest in a student can help them learn.  Be intentional about mentoring – not to just get them to the end of the course, but to build critical skills that underlie any student’s success.  Reaching out and pulling students in can transform lives.  
  • Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a diversity worker. You just have to care

Q6. What works well when building relationships when we are all learning remotely over Zoom?  It is important, but it is challenging to get to know students over the internet.

  • Question starts at Time 58:23
  • It is very hard right now.  Students are having a hard time checking in, but when you are able to connect, they are very thankful for checking.
  • Think beyond the seminar, the science, the lecture. Give students a chance to talk to each other in a casual setting, talk about themselves and what they are interested in, story telling.
  • We have lot of opportunities to go to “work”, “class” meetings, but have time to have casual “water cooler” conversations
  • Find fun ways to get together.  Lab meeting just for trivia time.  Elementary school kids’ getting a chance to play games together.  
  • Open snapchat account.  Using the mediums that students use is a great way to engage with theme
  • Incorporate fun things into the curriculum as assignments.  Example from Diana’s virtual REU.  All the students were sent Go Pros and they had to make videos of things or places they enjoy. It was an assignment.  It blurred the lines between the formal school work and the fact that we are all in this as a team.  Make personal/emotional connections was part of the training.
  • Breakout groups to force students to talk to each other

Q7. Antoinette, can you tell us more about your remote geoscience research program?

  • Question starts at Time 1:04:555
  • Students have a lot of cultural obligations during the summer and before the fall. Relocating is a barrier.  Looked at skills students need in geoscience – digital data, mapping, programming. Designed REU to do research experiences in the students home community. Students were able to use campus to have access to computer, lab space, work space. But they could still go home and manage family responsibilities.
  • This type of flexible research opportunities is a good way to give students research experiences so they can see if it is something they enjoy so that in the future they are more willing to take on a more engaging and in-depth research opportunity outside their community
  • It was a 2 month program
  • Great way to connect and build relationships with students.  Students are more likely to engage in your program if you already have a relationship and if they know that you will support them when there are cultural barriers

Q8. Can you talk a bit more about what you mean by: ‘Data analysis should be culturally relevant’, thanks.

  • Question starts at Time 1:07:05
  • Students want to give back to their communities.  Start from the project design. Make it be something that will help someone they know
  • John’s example of using police data from Minneapolis.  All the data is open source data. There is power to show them that they can access the data, bring it in R, clean it up, analyze and visualize it. There is power in the process to show them that they can analyze the data.
  • Ask students what they are interested in.  You may get broad answers that you can focus down
  • Have a discussion about data and acknowledge that how data is collected or analyzed can imbue bias. Example from long-term epidemiological data is that Native Americans were not considered as a category so cannot make long term predictions with that erasure.  Discuss access to data. Many sovereign nations and tribal land control their data. Do they want their data analyzed?  Have a basic conversation about what data is and how to obtain it ethically.
  • Design projects with the community in mind. What does a community want or need? Don’t tell the community what it should or should not study.  Ask and respond.

Questions we did not get to during the call.

How do we get the students to apply for the programs in the first place.  The presenters spoke of resources once they are enrolled.

  • From Antoinette: Get rid of ‘gate keeper’ criteria on your applications. Things like GPA can be reflective more of privilege rather than potential. Make sure your programs are safe and welcoming for diverse students. Create and foster relationships with faculty at Minority Serving Institutions. 

John, considering what you’ve accomplished at Augsburg, how has your process for gathering feedback from students changed?  The usual/standard questions may not get at how students have reacted to the approaches and or if they are working.

  • I focus feedback on making sure I ask questions that prompt reflection and encourage open-ended questions. (In addition to asking them to report a specific answer, ask them to evaluate the problem and see if it makes sense in the context of the problem.  A simple question: “Does your result seem reasonable?” or “Based on what you found, what would you predict?” provides further ways to elicit feedback.

What strategies for leaders of a lab who is white middle aged male to build these important relationships with new student/intern?

  • From John: Be open to their experiences – and don’t assume that what was your experience then will be similar to their experience now.  Ask about their families, what motivates them.  Be willing to share about your background and experiences. Use affirming language that promotes a growth mindset.  Try not to minimize their frustrations and struggles, even for things that may seem small to you (like a coding error for example). 
  • Anna Sjodin (University of Idaho): I second opening up about your own life, outside of work. If all you ever talk about is work, when things go wrong (as they inevitably do in science), it really takes a hit on the self esteem. Also, make an effort to train yourself about various diversity issues and available resources. Many universities have, for example, LGBTQ+, Native American, or Black student centers or women in STEM groups. Reach out to them to ask about trainings they offer or ask if individuals outside of that identity are willing to join meetings and listen. There are also ample diversity, inclusion, and justice resources online, at meetings, and through various professional societies. And keep in mind that oftentimes mental health (e.g. imposter syndrome, anxiety) issues are rampant in minority students – understanding resources available to help with mental health, and talking about it/normalizing it so that students feel more comfortable getting help, is just a general, good tactic.

How do you keep boundaries between you and your students, while also providing the support they really need?

  • From Antoinette: Know what support you can offer, know what support you can direct to. Model healthy boundaries, be clear about what and when you are available. 

Do you have advice for where to start breaking down barriers for large universities where intro STEM courses tend to be large and navigating financial aid, etc are difficult?

  • From Antoinette: It is important to evaluate your courses to identify what are your underlying assumptions about students (e.g., what resources do they have access to, how much time can they commit to the course, what they know, etc). Provide resources to address these assumptions, such as links to tutorials, tutoring services, where they can get help. In addition, remove any unnecessary barriers that exist in your courses. Where barriers cannot be removed, provide resources.