In recent decades, the larger academic community has started to engage more deeply with the need for diverse perspectives. If the narrative is set by white men, what stories, lived experiences, and critical questions are left out? Professor Ana Matković is asking the same questions with regard to science — digging into the human components of scientific work as much as the research itself.
I Study Black Holes, Too
While preparing her course on black holes, Professor Matković noticed that all the scientists in the textbooks covering the subject were white men. Eager to expand the conversation, she identified two scientists from diverse backgrounds who have contributed the knowledge of black holes and gravitational waves to come and speak to her undergraduate students about their research and their experiences in scientific careers.
I wanted students to see how knowledge is produced, how others have overcome adversity through perseverance and diverse teams, to show them why diversity and representation are important.
Throughout her course, Professor Matković encourages her students to reflect on gender, racial, and implicit bias in their own life and to be aware of the ongoing role these biases play in the scientific study and development.
A member of the Equity Pedagogy Network (EPN), a central hub at the university that brings together initiatives and professional learning communities focused on institutionalizing equity pedagogy and culturally sustaining curricula, Professor Matković was selected to be a STEM Faculty Learning Community (FLC) leader in the spring of 2021. In this role, she connected faculty from across the commonwealth campuses to discuss the issues minority students face in STEM.
Matković says the goal of the FLC’s research and discussion was to:
Recognize issues of equity and racism in our curriculum
Learn why and at which stage students leave STEM
Reflect on and gather equitable teaching practices that are adaptable to STEM classrooms
Share successful experiences and methods of interacting with students to increase their sense of belonging in STEM.
As part of their work, the group reviewed and discussed the book "Talking about Leaving Revisited: Persistence, Relocation and Loss in STEM Undergraduate Education" as a way to help STEM faculty see the impact of inequity on student success and persistence. Professor Matković continued her work over the summer with seven new members from Eberly College of Science.
Excellence in Science Teaching and Learning
Professor Matković received the 2021 Teaching Innovation Award for her "I Study Black Holes, Too" project, in recognition for the ways she was able to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the course curriculum. She is also a member of the Climate and Diversity Committee that works to further the college’s vision of providing a supportive and welcoming environment in which all of its diverse members can carry out their individual missions of research, service, teaching, and learning.