Reflections, Connections, Enthusiasm and One Really Great Luncheon!

Reflections, Connections, Enthusiasm and One Really Great Luncheon!

Emily Green, MA | July 24, 2018
Research Associate, ETR

ETR is a distributed workforce. This means we have four sites spread over three cities, along with a team of remote workers spread all over the country. This helps strengthen our ability to reach different populations and bring talented people on board who wouldn’t be able to commute to one of our physical offices.

If you work in the field of Equity and Inclusion in STEM, you’ll recognize this as a structural model that encourages greater diversity in a workforce. As an E&I researcher, these are things I think about a lot. I’ve learned that when you’re in a setting that doesn’t easily lend itself to a diverse presence, you may have to do something a little out-of-the-ordinary to reach out to others. Recently, our E&I team did exactly that.

Two of ETR’s sites (our Distribution Center and our main office) are in Scotts Valley, CA, nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains just south of the Silicon Valley. If you haven’t heard of Scotts Valley, you are certainly not alone.

This year, however, Infosys Foundation USA, a group that focuses on bridging America’s digital divide, decided to host their annual Crossroads Thought Leadership Conference right here in Scotts Valley. This meant that many of our colleagues and partners in the Equity and Inclusion in STEM field found themselves coming to Scotts Valley for the first time.

It felt like the perfect opportunity to invite folks already coming “over the hill” (that’s what us locals call the crossing of the Santa Cruz Mountains via Highway 17) to ETR’s beautiful campus. We set up an informal luncheon here, and timed it a few hours before the Infosys conference started. The spring timing was especially fun, since our resident ducks were shepherding their ducklings around the grounds.

This luncheon we hosted gave us a great opportunity to spend time on three particularly important endeavors—reflections, connections and enthusiasm.

Reflections

In preparation for the luncheon, ETR’s Equity & Inclusion in STEM team prepared a timeline banner showing our work in the field. This timeline was not only a great way to show outside colleagues and partners how much we’ve grown since we started this work back in 2000. It also gave everyone on the internal team a moment to reflect.

The timeline illustrates how many disparate populations we work with, as well as the different approaches to research we tackle. This has involved developing unique programs and curricula that have supported some of the foundational research in the field.

I find that sometimes, while doing the work and being on the frontline, it’s easy to forget all the previous experiences that have led me to where I am now. ETR’s body of work has included many partners, many hours of work, and over 26 distinct projects. I am proud to say we have collaborated and served both local and national communities. We continue to focus on populations that are historically underrepresented and work on broadening participation in multiple arenas.

Connections

Bringing external colleagues to our office was a great way to connect with those we already know. We were also able to interact more intimately with people we have not yet joined in partnerships. There was excitement in the air as people sat down over sandwiches and tea to talk.

ETR focuses on four main topics (we call them “crops”) that at first glance may seem different, even unrelated. These are Sexual & Reproductive Health; School-Based Health and Wellness; Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs; and Equity & Inclusion in STEM. Many of our E&I partners and colleagues had no idea of either our roots or our current reach. (“You have a comprehensive school health curriculum?” “You do research on adolescent sexual health risk?” “You have a tobacco resources clearinghouse?”). So another benefit of our luncheon was helping bridge the health equity gap by illustrating how these seemingly disparate topics have strong connections to each other.

As ETR representatives spent the next few days at Infosys Crossroads, there was a forged alliance that allowed everyone to feel united in understanding how inequity in STEM is connected to the same factors that affect health outcomes.

Face-to-Face: The Difference It Makes

Here are four of the great personal connections I got to make at our luncheon. Each one made a genuine difference to me.

 

Aleata Hubbard, WestEd. Aleata is a Research Associate at WestEd, a group that has been doing research on equity in education for over five decades. She’s an outstanding and well-respected researcher in this field, and much of her work and interests are aligned with ETR’s. I first met Aleata at a conference a year ago, in one of those crowded conference “seas” of people. That set the foundation for a connection, but it really wasn’t until I talked with her at the luncheon that I could fully engage on all the ways her work inspires me—it’s work I feel passionate about myself. Today, I feel like it would be pretty easy for me to give her a call to ask a question, check out an idea, or suggest a partnership.

 

 

Maggie Melone-Echiburu, Hartnell College. Maggie is one of those folks you admire from the moment you hear about their work. She’s Director of Hartnell’s MUREP Aerospace Academy (NASA MAA), which seeks to attract underserved and underrepresented K-12 students in technology learning. She’s a master at bringing prestigious programs to overlooked communities. I had a chance to interview her by phone in 2015. We’ve had a number of email exchanges, and I even considered going to work with one of her programs at one point. But it wasn’t until this luncheon that I got to meet her face-to-face and talk to her about how much I admire her work.

 

 

Bryan Twarek, San Francisco Unified School District. Bryan—everyone calls him BT—is well-known in the Computer Science for All movement. He’s Program Administrator for the impressive CS4All program at SFUSD. He’s kind of a rock star in this world—a true giant in the field. After our luncheon, he gave a talk at an evening meeting with some of our local partners on an E&I project. This was a huge favor and it had a big impact on our partners, affirming their work and the importance of what they’re doing. I will be grateful forever that he made that extra effort for us.

 

 

Tom O’Connell, Code/Interactive. Tom is the Interim Executive Director at Code/Interactive. He’s not just a national leader in the effort to bring low-income and underrepresented students into computer science education. He’s an incredibly warm, friendly guy who supports similar efforts all across this nation. At the Infosys Conference, he hosted a round table I attended. At one point, he said, “Well, the folks at ETR are developing a pair programming toolkit. Emily, do you want to say something about that?” A shout-out like this from someone like Tom brings a lot of attention to other’s efforts in the field—an act of generosity we appreciate. (We’ll be sharing more info about the Toolkit as soon as it’s launched.)

 

Enthusiasm

Finally, a powerful outcome from the luncheon was enthusiasm. We were all people working to mitigate inequity. We attend to factors that historically keep certain groups from full participation in education and society. This can be exhausting.

Events that connect us help illustrate how powerful and uplifting this work can be. Uniting with those who share our passion, but work with different populations, in different states, reminds us we are all in this together.

Many of our luncheon guests are folks we have collaborated with over email or seen at a conference in the midst of a sea of others. Being together in a smaller group, having fun, witnessing one another’s enthusiasm—these things remind us that we have more in common than just a body of work. We are all passionate people working on a cause to make the world a more equitable place.

 

Emily Green, MA, is a Research Associate with ETR. She works primarily on projects focusing on equity and inclusion in STEM. She can be reached at emily.green@etr.org.

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