Institute of Diversity Sciences
Working across colleges at UMass Amherst, the Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) promotes research in science, technology, and engineering that aims to advance equity in areas such as health, learning, work, and climate change mitigation. IDS helps to match up researchers for cross-disciplinary collaborations.
For example, Christian Guzman, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Seda Şalap-Ayça, lecturer in the Department of Geosciences, were brought together through IDS's climate change interest group to study flood risk vulnerability of different populations, based on factors such as race, education, and income level.
"These learning groups really attract people who are in STEM to learn from people in the education department or in social sciences, such as economics or sociology. Traditionally, you might have come from one type of quantitative background if you ended up in STEM. But really, how it gets applied and who it really benefits, it all depends on that interpretation that's ultimately going to lead to social justice," said Guzman.
IDS also provides funding to support research with social justice angles.
John Vargas '19 is a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. IDS provided a seed grant to help him recruit research participants outside of UMass for his study on racial inequality and the disadvantages faced by individuals with learning disabilities in the education system.
"IDS has also been instrumental in making sure I have open lines of communication with people outside my department," he said.
Vargas noted, "Unfortunately, STEM right now I still think is monolithic... If we want social justice, if we want social change, then we need to provide the opportunity for a more diverse community of individuals to enter STEM, so that those individuals can also propagate and make suggestions about social change from their own perspective. When those people become leaders in STEM themselves, they can then suggest and institutionalize changes that address issues of social justice."
Oliver Arukwe '23, an undergraduate studying chemical engineering, participated in IDS's Leadership Academy, a six-week program through which he learned communication, leadership, and negotiation skills.
"One of the biggest takeaways that I got from the Leadership Academy was the growth mindset...every single day, you get better and better. So, I tell myself every single day that this is just the beginning. Embrace the flaws, use them to channel so much growth and peace, and give yourself grace when things don't really work out the way you want them to."
This story was originally published in August 2022.