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Thirteen Faculty-Led Projects to Foster Equitable Communities in Departments and Schools

Duke Faculty Advancement Seed Grants support efforts to build inclusive campus communities

The Office for Faculty Advancement has awarded seed grants to 13 faculty-led projects exploring new ideas and expanding existing initiatives to promote an equitable and inclusive academic environment at Duke. The theme for this cycle is “Improving Departmental Climate and Building Community.” Project leaders represent the Divinity School, Nicholas School of the Environment, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Pratt School of Engineering, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

2022-23 Faculty Advancement Seed Grants

Building a Community of Practice for Statistics and Data Science Education Researchers

Lead: Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel, Professor of the Practice of Statistical Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Co-Lead: Yue Jiang, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Statistical Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

This project aims to provide venues to discuss current literature and generate ideas for the creation of scholarly works, as well as for experience-sharing and group mentoring. There will be three types of engagements for professors of the practice in the Department of Statistical Science: journal clubs, seminars and lunches. The journal clubs will also be open to undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs and other faculty members in the department. The seminars will be open to an even broader group of individuals, including faculty and students with similar interests in statistics, data science, mathematics and computing education.

Building in Justice at the School of the Environment

Lead: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Associate Professor of the Practice of Environmental Policy & Management, Nicholas School of the Environment
Co-Lead: Nicolette Cagle, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

This initiative will build awareness among Nicholas School faculty and staff of the roots and manifestations of environmental injustice and the strategies being employed to counter these issues, as well as the relevance of environmental injustice to the school’s mission and daily work. It will also strengthen the sense of community and shared vision and purpose. Activities include incorporating the environmental justice framework into existing efforts by including relevant speakers in existing seminar series, facilitating focused discussions during faculty and staff meetings, centralizing promotion of related events on campus, and creating novel learning and community-building opportunities through a panel discussion series and field visits to communities experiencing and contesting environmental injustice.

Computational Biology Reading Group

Lead: Matthew Hirschey, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, School of Medicine
Co-Lead: Akshay Bareja, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

The Duke Molecular Physiology Institute (DMPI) is home to a wide range of biologists, from bench scientists to statisticians. Members’ varying computational backgrounds can be a barrier to collaborative engagement with the more quantitative aspects of biological research. This project’s goal is to lower the barrier to participation through a reading group that will equip participants with foundational data science, statistical and computational biology skills and knowledge. Welcoming participation by the wider Duke community and beyond, the group will meet every other Wednesday morning, both in person at the DMPI and online, to work through relevant books.

Duke STEM Coffee Conversation Corps

Lead: Nicolette Cagle, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

Research suggests that the unique culture of STEM disciplines can make the climate unwelcoming and exclusionary, lagging behind other disciplines in cultivating a diverse community of scholars and practitioners. The Nicholas School of the Environment, in cooperation with the departments of biology, chemistry, engineering, and evolutionary anthropology, will launch a peer-to-peer initiative to create a more inclusive community among faculty for STEM units across campus. The Coffee Conversations program aims to enhance faculty members’ professional socialization, while cultivating a common set of values and beliefs for the good of the whole community, to help develop a more inclusive climate.

Exploring the Person You Mean to Be

Lead: Nan Jokerst, J. A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering

In the Pratt School of Engineering, students primarily have interactions with faculty in the classroom. While instructors attempt to create meaningful relationships with their students, this effort can be difficult for those who teach large classes. Students are challenged to find a sustained way to connect with their instructors that is not solely through attending office hours. To address this challenge, this project will facilitate a book club between Pratt faculty and undergraduate students. The aim is to help bridge gaps and address misconceptions that students and faculty may have of each other, and to create more spaces for intercultural dialogue.

Exploring Race in Global Humanities

Lead: Mark Hansen, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Literature, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

The Literature Program currently includes a number of faculty who work on issues of race, but no one specializes in African diaspora or African-American culture. This has sparked a series of conversations about how the departmental culture is affected by this absence. Building on initiatives the Literature Program has begun, a new speaker series in race studies, co-curated by faculty and graduate students, will bring in innovative scholars and offer an ongoing forum for exchange of ideas among faculty and students in the program as well as the broader Duke community across the humanities and the social sciences.

Faculty-Student (FaSt) Math Series

Lead: Anna Nelson, William W. Elliott Assistant Research Professor  of Mathematics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Co-Lead: Margaret Regan, William W. Elliott Assistant Research Professor of Mathematics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

This project aims to improve the Department of Mathematics’ climate among faculty and students. Building on a student-led math social club that encourages discussion among interested members of the Duke community, the FaSt Math Series will include workshops on equitable teaching practices and language; invited speakers who will discuss common diversity and inclusivity issues within the mathematics community; and events such as social teas, seminars and discussions to facilitate community-building and establish a sense of belonging. Faculty and students connected to the department can build their understanding of what it means to work toward an equitable environment.

Fostering an Integrated Faculty-Staff Community Through Shared-Purpose Workshops

Lead: Christine Payne, Yoh Family Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering
Co-Lead: Crystal Chapman, Director of Human Resources and Faculty Affairs, Pratt School of Engineering

The Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science (MEMS) will undertake a series of four faculty-staff workshops to provide interactive training in areas that are common to both groups: administrative activities; diversity, equity, inclusion and community; work-life balance; and campus resources beyond the classroom. The goal is to create a shared experience that enhances training and provides an opportunity to create meaningful connections between faculty and staff. This project will be evaluated and shared through a final report to all MEMS staff and faculty as well as stakeholders in the Pratt School of Engineering.

Hybrid Cultures and the History of Christian Innovation

Lead: Polly Ha, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity, Divinity School

In 2021, the Divinity School launched a hybrid version of its MDiv program that includes residential and online components of instruction. This project will create a wider historical context through seminars and discussion for reflecting on the longer-term implications of this new program, including the opportunities and challenges it presents and seeks to address. By creating structured spaces for inclusive, faculty-led participation and discussion, the project will help build unity and cohesion within the school and empower creative thinking throughout the MDiv program’s transition to hybrid models of learning.

Improving Departmental Climate and Building Community at DUSON Through Increasing Cultural Intelligence

Lead: Michelle Webb, Assistant Clinical Professor, School of Nursing
Co-Lead: Brigit Carter, Clinical Professor, Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, School of Nursing

Building on work done within the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) community as part of its Racial Justice Task Force initiatives, this project will focus on increasing cultural intelligence — defined as the capability to work effectively across cultural differences — as a means of navigating the growing cultural diversity within the school and promoting inclusivity as a proxy for building a stronger sense of community. The education and training for faculty and staff will include three sequential workshops that are designed to be highly interactive through practical application exercises, self-reflection activities, case studies and small group work.

Leadership in the Lab

Lead: Scott Compton, Associate Professor in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, and Psychology & Neuroscience, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Co-Lead: Alifia Hasan, Research Practice Manager, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine

This three-part project will begin with a needs assessment to allow staff and faculty in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences to provide direct input into the nature and type of trainings needed to promote departmental community. It will continue with workshops informed by the assessment and focused on leadership. Through interactive sessions, participants will learn methods to improve the performance of their teams and enhance collaboration, and they will practice applying their skills through simulations. Evaluations at the start and conclusion will assess the project’s efficacy and guide future directions.

Team-Building Across Lines of Difference: Building Student and Faculty Capacity for Inclusive Group Work

Lead: Catherine Admay, Senior Lecturer, Sanford School of Public Policy
Co-Lead: Asher Hildebrand, Associate Professor of the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy

A hallmark of Sanford’s MPP curriculum is PUBPOL 804, taken by all students. The experiential learning course aims to teach students how to work in teams, but it offers minimal formal instruction on the subject. This project seeks to create a more inclusive school community through a customized training module on working together across differences. The module will combine a scenario-based theatrical exercise with structured student reflection and rigorous evaluations. Afterward, the module will be customized and presented to Sanford faculty, enabling them to deliver the module independently after the training.

Writing Group for Latinx Faculty

Lead: Cristina Salvador, Assistant Research Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Co-Lead: Cecilia Márquez, Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Inspired by the Writing and ReseArch Productivity (WRAP) Group for Black Faculty, this project will create a writing group of Latinx junior faculty members. The goal is to build community and support the writing productivity of Latinx faculty in order to help promote, retain and recruit diverse faculty. Meeting once a week to write as a group, faculty will work on their respective projects alongside one another, or they can join virtually if they’re not on campus. In addition, there will be two intensive, weekend-long writing retreats, where members will participate in workshops on writing productivity, spend time accomplishing their writing goals, and build community.