Thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion work in doctoral education research

2nd August 2022

Author: Pamela Felder-Small

Pamela Felder-Small photo

In this blog post I discuss some brief perspectives on diversity, equity and inclusion and the work I have done to foster social justice.

I discuss how I centre these perspectives and grapple with the distinction between equity, inclusion and social justice with specific examples of practice. This is a work in progress, and taking accountability for the ways we see ourselves in our work is a critical step of reflection and positionality.

I centre equity, inclusion and social justice work by being mindful of myself, my ways of knowing, and belief systems and how they can potentially shape my perspectives of others and context. I am thankful for the opportunity to be an instrument in the work of equity, inclusion, and social justice. This includes knowledge of life in marginalised communities.

To grapple with the distinction in these issues the role of research on equity in STEM in higher education has mostly identified systems and forces that have led to inequitable practices and policies leading to oppressive spaces where there has been a lack of inclusion for specific populations and experiences.

Social Justice happens when there is work to incorporate policies and practices that serve to bring balance to oppressive spaces through equitable approaches and actions. Examples of this in my work have been my writings on the Black Doctoral experience in STEM/STEAM disciplines to highlight the need for this work in the research and in conversations with students, doctoral degree completers, faculty and administrators on why this experience is valuable in higher education.

Additionally, I consider research approaches and methodologies in specific areas of my work with the goal of being culturally responsive and considerate of context.  To be culturally responsive a critical research approach and methodology for STEM learning or education research is qualitative methods.

Qualitative methods allow for meaning-making to occur in ways that promote an understanding of culture and cultural differences. This happens through the interpretation of perspectives of data, researcher positionality, and context.

An example of where I promote this ideology in my work can be found in a collaborative project I worked on for the Council of Graduate Schools in 2015 on the attrition of marginalised doctoral students in STEM. In this project, we addressed the implication of the Doctoral Initiative for Minority Attrition and Completion for STEM doctoral students. We discussed the importance of qualitative research and the necessary methodological approaches to unpacking the experiences of historically marginalised doctoral students.

In projects that involve complex, grant-funded initiatives I have had the opportunity to work with multiple partners within academia and within the community. In these collaborations, success has been achieved through being specific about the needs of projects and available resources to support our work.

The most recent project I worked on involved multiple stakeholders inside and outside of the institution. The context was a community college where both institutional and community perspectives were vital to the success of the project. My participation in this work was as a lead consultant where I worked in several different capacities including giving formal presentations for an alliance for anti-racism and inclusion, to notetaker for small work-groups, representing many different populations, to support the alliance. A primary goal in this work has been to build trust, develop meaningful dialogues toward building community to support project goals, and a commitment to facilitating collaboration among stakeholders.

our goals

Quality education for all

We believe in quality education for everyone, everywhere and by highlighting the issue and working with experts in the field, we can start to find ways we can all be part of the solution.