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Improving the Academic Climate of an R1 STEM Department: Quantified Positive Shifts in Perception.


Ongoing efforts to improve diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) primarily manifest as attempts to recruit more women and individuals from historically marginalized groups. Yet, these efforts fail to repair the specific, systemic issues within academic communities that hinder diverse individuals from persisting and thriving in STEM. Here, we present the results of a quantitative, multiyear effort to make the academic climate of an R1 STEM department more inclusive. We use a student-led, department-specific, faculty-supported initiative to assess and improve the climate of the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, as a case study. Our results provide quantitative evidence that community discussions grounded in our own data, alongside cooperative community efforts to address the issues present in those data, are effective methods for driving positive change. Longitudinal assessment of our academic climate from 2018 to 2020 via annual department-wide surveys indicates that these interventions have succeeded in shifting the perception of our academic climate. This study confirms the positive outcomes of having a practical, sustainable, and data-driven framework for affecting change within a graduate community.

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