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Implicit Bias: Allies and Action

Conference examines underrepresentation in STEM fields – and how to prepare students and educators to affect change.

By Lindsey Coulter

October 22, 2018

STEM students in classroomThe third annual Women in STEM conference is tackling an important and timely topic this year: implicit bias. It’s a term popping up across the campus and especially across the STEM spectrum, where women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

Implicit Bias: Allies and Action — a theme suggested by Megan Filbin-Wong, Ph.D., associate professor, chemistry — aims to give attendees the understanding and tools to recognize and overcome personal roadblocks, as well as those they may experience in the classroom or workplace, to help them succeed in their careers of choice.

Conference organizers Kelsey Smith, administrator and events coordinator for the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Liz Moore, program coordinator for the Department of Biology, each began pursuing STEM degrees — physics and mathematics for Moore and statistical science for Smith — at midcareer through the University’s employee tuition-benefit program.

“We can both speak firsthand about how valuable it is to find others that have experienced some of the same trials in life,” Smith said. “The resoundingly positive response we’ve received from attendees has really meant a lot.”

Smith and Moore note that it can be difficult for people to recognize and examine their internal prejudices but that acknowledging them helps to build a more welcoming space for students and staff.

“Understanding what unconscious bias is helps us recognize when we might be influenced by it,” Smith said. “While the scope of implicit bias is broad and is by no means limited to STEM fields, it is something that our student body may face during their studies and careers; this conference aims to give them the tools to identify it and affect change.”

The conference is open to all faculty, staff and students regardless of gender identity. Participants will take part in in-depth interactive workshops on identifying implicit bias, led by Ph.D. graduate student Tessa Charlesworth of the Harvard University Department of Psychology. MSU Denver Professor Janelle Johnson, Ph.D., School of Education, will present on how to carry that recognition forward into more positive action.

“Discussing topics like implicit bias is one of the first steps to developing future leaders that are respectful, collaborative and understanding of the notion that we are all in this together,” Smith said.

Implicit Bias: Allies and Action

Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Tivoli Turnhalle

Open to all students, faculty and staff

Free of charge, breakfast and lunch provided

RSVP here


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