On Friday, January 31, 2020, members of the Eberly College of Science community gathered to recognize three individuals who have displayed extraordinary commitment to enhancing the environment of mutual respect and diversity in the college over the past year. The college’s Climate and Diversity Awards, sponsored by its Climate and Diversity Committee, are presented at an annual ceremony in recognition of the efforts of staff, faculty, and students who improve the climate and diversity of the college.
The Climate and Diversity Committee chose three winners from the total nominations: Sarah Lonsinger, Miriam Freedman, and Källan Berglund.
Lonsinger, administrative coordinator of chemistry, was nominated by Phil Bevilacqua, head of the Department of Chemistry, Megan Kuhlman, assistant to the head of the Department of Chemistry, and Raymond Schaak, professor of chemistry. During her time in the department, Lonsinger has promoted inclusion and a positive climate among staff, students, and faculty. Notably, she spearheaded an initiative to distill information from the Red Folder—a Penn State guide to recognize and respond effectively to distressed students—from a large folder to an index card, which she distributed to all students and faculty in the department.
Lonsinger frequently organizes events for members of the department to develop connections. During the summer of 2019, she initiated the first team-building staff retreat, where attendees focused on ways to better support one another. She oversees luncheons throughout the year, where faculty can meet and connect with staff members. Lonsinger also works one-on-one with staff to build individual development plans to identify leadership opportunities.
“Sarah works with staff to balance and modify their workloads, aid in their professional development, and ensure that they feel appreciated, needed, and respected as integral members of our department,” said Schaak. “She is also able to navigate complex situations in ways that maintain a positive climate. Most of her efforts are behind the scenes, but they are important.”
Freedman, associate professor of chemistry, was nominated by Bevilacqua, Schaak, and Scott Showalter, professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology. Bevilacqua praised Freedman’s work as associate department head for climate and diversity for helping improve the climate of the chemistry department, as reflected in the department’s most recent climate survey.
Freedman has taken on a number of initiatives to enhance the department’s climate, not only for faculty, but also staff and students. As part of the new faculty search committee, she developed guidelines to ensure that interviews are fair while emphasizing diversity and adapted a workshop to improve diversity and excellence in recruiting. She also leads brief sessions at each faculty meeting to discuss topics related to climate and diversity, including implicit bias in reviewing applications and faculty-graduate student relationships.
Freedman regularly hosts a variety of events, from town halls to ensure that graduate student concerns are heard and addressed by the department to social events to break down barriers among faculty, staff, and students. She also creates space for conversations regarding how current faculty and staff can actively promote a welcoming climate. Her support of open communication and resources has led to an increase in event attendance.
“Miriam has had a transformative impact on the chemistry department, and indeed the college,” said Bevilacqua.
Berglund, a graduate student in the physics department, was nominated by fellow graduate student Brett Green and Louis Leblond, associate professor of physics.
“Berglund is a third year graduate student in physics that has already contributed immensely to many aspects of the climate in the physics department,” said Leblond. “She has a deep breath of knowledge on climate and diversity issues. Many of us in the department are learning from her about inclusivity issues and behaviors that we were not even aware of.”
Berglund is currently the president of the student organization Physics and Astronomy for Women+ (PAW+). She has worked to rebrand the organization, including a plus in the name to signify that the organization strives to be inclusive of underrepresented groups beyond women. Berglund also serves on the department’s climate and diversity committee and has led pioneering changes to the visual media within the physics buildings to be more inclusive of minority groups. With her assistance, posters of featured researchers have been swapped out to feature a larger diversity of scientists.
As a teaching assistant, Berglund is perceptive of both faculty and students and helps to communicate concerns to instructors and course administrators. She has also created an inclusivity presentation that educates students on how to respond during cases of systematic bias.