Decades of research by scientists show that socially diverse groups—those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation—display higher levels of innovation than homogeneous groups. Our own experience informs us that people with varying backgrounds bring new perspectives and information to the table, and result in more creative solutions to complex problems.
Disciplinary diversity is also important in “thinking outside the box.” Removing barriers between disciplines creates open channels between specialists in different fields, resulting in fresh approaches to solving pressing global health challenges. QuEST’s approach grows out of a long history of interdisciplinary collaboration at UVM.
To create better science, the QuEST program seeks students from different ethnic backgrounds who study in a variety of scientific fields, including biology, mathematics, computer science, engineering, environmental studies and health sciences.
Robust workforce and research needs in the future require cultural sensitivity and inclusion; the QuEST program is unique in that it devotes resources to cultural sensitivity and social inclusion training. The research program of Dr. Vijay Kanagala focuses on increasing diversity in STEM higher education and in training faculty and staff on how to address race and cultural inclusion in their courses and in mentoring.
Cultural sensitivity training will address areas such as implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and the effect of educator expectations on learners. In recent years, educational researchers, scholars and practitioners have reframed how low-income, first-generation students of color navigate their college pathways and ultimately experience college success using the various forms of capital (strengths) that they gain from their families, culture and life.
To ensure the success, persistence and graduation of the QuEST NRT program student participants, it is important for us to establish a diverse and inclusive learning community environment. The program is committed to mentor participants and help meaningful employment for their students after graduation.
These asset-based and student success frameworks will demonstrate a paradigm shift in how students participating in QuEST NRT program are welcomed into our campus community and program. As part of our cultural sensitivity training, a series of workshops will be held that QuEST NRT program faculty and staff will be required to participate. These workshops will be structured to review the historical background of underrepresented and underserved students; understand the structural diversity or the numerical representations of individuals from racial and ethnic backgrounds on a campus; evaluate the actual actions or behaviors that occur on campus to try to enact a more diverse campus community such as new curricular and programmatic changes; and examine the policies and practices of an institution both explicitly and implicitly affect the campus community in relation to diversity.