May 17, 2022

DEI Rackham Faculty Allies grant

DCMB received funding from the Rackham Faculty Allies grant! 

This coming year, the focus will be on activities promoting equity and inclusion for early Bioinformatics graduate students, to better understand and address the negative impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our students and to address weaknesses as noted from the results of the UM-wide student DEI climate survey. 

 Proposed activities:

  1. Having small group, informal regular discussions between program directors and students. Students will be grouped by year in the program and RMF-eligibility status and other steps will be taken to promote a safe, open space where students can speak freely without fear of judgement. To encourage attendance, we will offer drinks and snacks. One purpose of this will be to better understand the negative impacts that the pandemic has had on our students, and address them as they arise. The second purpose of this will be to further reveal the ‘hidden curriculum’ by informally discussing expectations, navigating graduate school, how to address arising concerns, etc. Several topics can be suggested, and examples for discussion provided, to assure students that it is a safe space to discuss anything they’re unsure of. 
  1. For our 1st and 2nd year students, we will help demystify scientific conference attendance, provide exposure, and guide students through the process of registering, traveling, networking, presenting, etc. This process is both very important for career development and can be quite intimidating to students. We chose the Great Lakes Bioinformatics (GLBIO) Conference, which is held regionally in the mid-west every other year in May (expected May, 2023). This is an excellent introductory conference, occurs after winter classes end, and is relevant for our students. We will announce the conference to all students a month before abstracts are due to encourage but not require presenting. At least 5-6 faculty mentors, research faculty and post-docs will attend with the students as mentors, and will provide advice throughout the experience. First year students will observe 2nd year students who present. While Rackham provides travel funds for students presenting at a conference, there are no funds for 1st year students who don’t yet have a project to present, and the total cost often exceeds what Rackham travel funds cover. 
  1. For our Master’s degree students, we will enhance their career and professional development by introducing monthly round table discussions with industry representatives starting in the fall and leading up to our annual Industry Day event, which this year was February 16th. These discussions will take place during a critical time of the year leading up to when students will be exploring and applying to internships. With ~120 Bioinformatics alumni, we will be able to invite a highly diverse panel in terms of ethnicity, race, LGBTQ+ status, gender, and 1st generation college status. In addition to inviting diverse panels, we will do research to identify and highlight companies that have shown specific DEI efforts, through their hiring practices and inclusive work environments.

Need more info? Contact Maureen Sartor, Ph.D., Professor of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, Co-Director, Bioinformatics Graduate Program