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Here's how the UNC libraries are advocating for diversity in science


Ph.D. Candidate Leah Bowers poses for a portrait in the Kenan Science Library in Venable Hall on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.  Bowers is one of the creators of the Diversity in Science Brown Bag Lunch Series. A once a month a talk is held in the Science Library in order to promote diversity in science.

The University Libraries invite students, faculty and community members to bring a brown bag lunch to Kenan Science Library and talk about diversity in science once a month. 

The series is called the Diversity in Science Brown Bag Lunch Series, an event in which a speaker is invited to discuss their journey in science through the scope of diversity and inclusion. 

Therese Triumph, one of the creators of the program and the interim head of Kenan Science Information Services, said she got the idea for the program after attending a diversity lunch series for librarians. 

“I was sitting there at the meeting, and was like you know, maybe we should do this for science,” she said. 

Triumph said she then reached out to the Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering, or AM_WISE, a graduate student organization on campus that co-sponsors the program with the University Libraries. 

“The reason why she reached out to AM_WISE is because our mission has been fundamentally rooted in trying to get more underrepresented minorities, not only in academia and STEM particularly, but to increase the retention of those students here," Leah Bowers, former AM_WISE president and Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry, said. 

Bowers said hosting these diversity lunches is a way of encouraging the retention of STEM students from underrepresented groups.

“By talking about it in a space where a lot of people with their own perspectives could weigh in on matters of different kinds of things that students and postdocs were facing then we could all become a more cohesive community,” she said.  

Triumph said she looks for speakers of varying backgrounds. 

“I just send out an email to the scientists that I work with and I ask them to pass it around, ask them who they suggest," Triumph said. "So it was just a word of mouth.” 

Michelle Itano, who spoke at the event in January, said she heard about the program through AM_WISE.

Itano said she believes the program is a wonderful opportunity for students and post-doctoral students to engage with others on campus who they might not engage with in their own departments or programs. 

“I also think that it is important to reserve a dedicated time to focus on issues of diversity and how to have conversations about improving the STEM environment on campus for the entire community,” she said. 

The next installments of the Diversity in Science Brown Bag Lunch Series will be held Mar. 5 and Apr. 1.

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