What Did I See To Be Except Myself?

This is the title of a poem by Lucille Clifton, the poet laureate of Maryland from 1974-1985 and a two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. From the perspective of the narrator, it describes the triumph they feel from achieving all that they have in the face of obstacles without any role models (“both nonwhite and woman”). How they shepherded themselves through each step of their life (“my one hand holding tight my other hand”). It is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking in its description of the narrator’s journey, which is probably the one way to describe the experience of being female and a person of color in America.

With that as inspiration, an idea began forming in my head about an event that would bring scientists to Davidson College that identify as and advocate for underrepresented people in STEM. The faculty in our Chemistry department all present as white, and several students have shared with me their pessimism about the lack of role models that show a person of color can make it in science. Just like Clifton, they have to look elsewhere for inspiration, or find it within themselves….

So I thought why not bring inspiration to them!? Here are the three awesome people that graciously agreed to come to Davidson and bring their message to our students:

Raychelle Burks is a professor of Chemistry at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX, and is also a gifted science communicator. She’s been featured on the Science Channel, published in The Washington Post and Slate, and cofounded the DIYSciZone at GeekGirlCon. Her tweets are a mixture of science, politics, advocacy, and #BlackandStem.

Mary Crawford is a professor of Chemistry at Knox College and has been a voice for the LGBTQ community in the ACS for many years as a former chair of the Gay and Transgender Chemists and Allies. She was highly recommended by several people, and I couldn’t be happier to have her coming to campus!

Last but not least is Maria Gallardo-Williams, a professor of Chemistry at NC State. As far as I understand, she created her own track for teaching-focused academics in the Chemistry department, to ensure that those who are scholars of teaching are equally supported by the institution in their chosen profession.

This event is co-sponsored by Wendy Raymond’s Faculty of the Future fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s FIRST initiative led by Barbara Lom (Biology). The panel discussion with the three visitors will be hosted by the Black Student Coalition on February 11th at 4:30 PM.


EDIT: We had a great time!

Raychelle Burks, Maria Gallardo-Williams, Mary Crawford, and Mitch Anstey standing in the Wall Academic Center having a good time!
Raychelle Burks, Maria Gallardo-Williams, Mary Crawford, and Mitch Anstey standing in the Wall Academic Center.

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