By: Ashley Gordon and Steven MacLeod
The Coastal Society held its first meeting in the Coastal Connections Web Series on Friday, August 7, 2020. The Coastal Connections series includes two session types: Trending Topics and Professional Spotlight. The inaugural meeting on August 7 was a Trending Topics session about Improving Diversity and Equal Representation in Coastal Planning and Education Activities. The topic was selected to advance recent TCS Board of Directors initiatives to combat racism and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in TCS activities and the coastal sector at large.
- TCS volunteer Trystan Sill, Resiliency Education Coordinator with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was the moderator for the web meeting. Trystan introduced the guest presenters: (1) Dr. Brandon Jones, National Science Foundation, (2) Dr. Corey Garza, California State University – Monterey Bay, and (3) Dr. Noelle Chao, Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy.
- Dr. Brandon Jones delivered the first presentation, providing an overview of systemic racism impacts on the STEM field and how sociological problems affect participation by minority groups in the STEM field. Dr. Jones recommended critical self-reflection and encouraged the development of cross-racial relationships. Dr. Jones highlighted the importance of mentoring, support, assistance, and allyship, and providing opportunities for people of color to tell their own stories and have their own spaces.
- Dr. Corey Garza gave the second presentation, focusing on examples of different programs supporting diversity in the geosciences and lessons learned. Dr. Garza is on the Board of Directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He provided an overview of SACNAS student support through the Geo-Futures program. Dr. Garza also highlighted the Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity, and shared an inspiring story about a former student, Paris Smalls, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in oceanography through the MIT/WHOI Joint Ph.D. program. Dr. Garza also directs the NOAA Cooperative Science Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, that is designed to train a diverse future workforce for NOAA.
- Dr. Noelle Chao delivered the third presentation, describing her efforts related to congregational engagement in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Dr. Chao provided an overview of the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy’s RiverWise Congregations Program, which focuses of mobilizing faith communities to embrace an ethic of Creation Care through installing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on congregational properties. The RiverWise Congregations Program engages underrepresented communities in actions for clean water, and Dr. Chao highlighted that 30 congregants have been trained as Master Watershed Stewards and 21 Congregations have installed BMPs. Dr. Chao recommended that when engaging with communities, it is important to listen with an open heart and mind, be patient and keep your word to build trust, and let the community guide the action.
- Following the guest speakers’
presentations, Ms. Sill facilitated discussion with support from Ashley Gordon
of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. Meeting participants posed
questions related to the following topics:
- The development of mentorship programs to reach college students and K-12 students to help them learn about and consider career paths in STEM and instill confidence. The idea of forming a committee of retired individuals to serve as mentors was suggested.
- The importance of creating a network to support the advancement of equal opportunities for people of color in the coastal sciences and academia.
- Approaches for encouraging minority owned businesses or individuals from minority groups to apply for grant opportunities
Planning for the next Coastal Connections meeting is underway. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the series, please email us at TCSCoastalConnection@gmail.com.