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SEEDS of Success: Initiative Hosts Annual Dinner with the President

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    UM President Donna E. Shalala talks to faculty members at the recent SEEDS networking event.

    UM President Donna E. Shalala talks to faculty members at the recent SEEDS networking event.

    SEEDS (Scientists and Engineers Expanding Diversity and Success) hosted their annual dinner with President Shalala on April 4 at the Newman Alumni Center.

    SEEDS, which is supported by a National Science Foundation Grant and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, has developed multiple programs to support women in science, including many that enhance the formation of community within and across all three UM campuses. SEEDS is characterized by its successful empowerment of grass-roots efforts that are in turn supported by the highest levels of the administration. Community members are engaged in every aspect of developing programs for both local and UM-wide impact. A prominent example is building community through SEEDS “You Choose” awards in which individuals or groups identify programs or events that will best aid their community. Another is the SEEDS Interactive Theatre in which communities across UM have assessed and honed sketches that deal with unintended obstacles to career success.

    The event began with a networking and dinner session during which attendees from all three UM campuses met and discussed topics of mutual interest.  Guests were able to view and discuss a SEEDS poster, presented at the NSF ADVANCE Workshop in Washington, D.C. in early March. Prepared by SEEDS Director Kathryn Tosney and SEEDS graduate research assistants Hilary Cook, Brittany Harder, and Aaron Puhrman, the poster analyzed results from the SEEDS Climate Survey.

    The keynote address by President Shalala described the importance of diversity programs throughout UM and highlighted her continued strong support for SEEDS programs and initiatives. She emphasized the importance of institutionalizing programs that support women and diversity across the nation and at UM. President Shalala particularly lauded the integration of SEEDS programs that have been designed as “best-fits” for each school. One success is a “Grantsmanship and Mentoring” program at the Miller School of Medicine that offers all junior faculty, men and women, opportunities to improve their grant writing and to receive effective mentorship from senior faculty. Three additional successes described by Tosney were “Distinguished Visiting Mentors” in the College of Engineering, a “Mentoring and Leadership” program at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and a “Facilitating Academic Success” program in Arts and Sciences.

    Several winners of SEEDS You Choose Awards described their triumphs: Mark Stoutenberg, epidemiology and public health; Justin Stoler and Diana Ter-Ghazaryan, geography; Louise Davidson-Schmich, political science; Amy Clement and Angela Colbert, meteorology and physical oceanography; Caitlin Augustin and Katie Crosley for Kenneth Broad, Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. Activities included an International Diabetes Foundation training workshop to foster collaboration between UM and Colombia; Geospatial Technology workshops for data analysis combined with peer networking and partnership building among junior faculty; a two-day collaboration workshop about intersectionality and German politics between international female scientists; an interactive science policy workshop and its association with research; and a panel workshop on developing an interdisciplinary career.

    The evening culminated with a new SEEDS Interactive Theatre Sketch, “The Process,” presented by SEEDS Theatre Director Jennifer Burke, acting facilitator and SEEDS artist-in-residence; Jeffrey Steiger; SEEDS Repertory Players Jennifer Burke and Veronica Segarra, who are UM faculty; and Aaron Alpern and Chris O’Connor of Actors’ Equity Association.

    The Interactive Theatre develops and presents provocative vignettes that engage the audience in thinking and talking about issues of diversity and inclusion. Sketches draw the audience into a scene with a mix of comedy and drama designed to portray the complexities and challenges of everyday academic situations. After each sketch, audience members engage in dialogues with the actors and each other, in the process exploring climate/social relations within an academic institution. After the discussion, in some events the roles of a woman and a man are reversed. This simple switch causes a remarkable change in audience perception and reveals to many an unexpected implicit bias.

    SEEDS Interactive Theatre will continue to address issues crucial to diversity and to student and faculty success and will be available for performances both within and outside UM.

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