NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

National Research Council (US) Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003.

Cover of Minorities in the Chemical Workforce

Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable.

Show details

11General Discussion

The Workshop concluded with a general discussion in plenary session that was moderated by Michael P. Doyle.

Michael P. Doyle, Research Corporation: This morning we had enormously stimulating discussions of programs that, from everyone's perception, work. They work at Procter & Gamble, they work at Rohm & Haas. One of the points for consideration is, how general are they, how can they be as programs described at Louisiana State University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, be replicated elsewhere, particularly in the academic enterprise, and perhaps also in government operations.

I think the best practices that have been laid out for us are oftentimes at the back end of any consideration, if they are considered at all. Their flexibility within the corporate structure or within the academic structure is a lot different.

Isiah M. Warner, Louisiana State University: I think if we look at our discussions here and at the best practice success models, there is a common theme; several factors are common from academia to industry. The mentoring component is there. There is buy-in by employees in the case of industry and buy-in by faculty in the case of academics. There are at least three or four components that are in common. Buy-in, mentoring, the critical mass sort of thing, even though it was not quite as apparent in the industry forum.

Participant: This has been interesting. I saw recruitment as a theme. Recruitment was a theme yesterday and a theme today. I think it is a big issue.

I get concerned, because my sister was a Phi Beta Kappa, a chemistry major, and she works for Kimberly-Clark, but she will not get a Ph.D. I am concerned that we are talking about the chemical workforce as if the Ph.D.s were the only participants there. While they are a good measure of how things are going, Ph.D.s are not the only ones there.

I wanted to talk about recruitment, because I think that the same type of recruitment that goes into recruiting Ph.D. candidates can go into recruiting people for the chemical workforce. Maybe we need to recruit more people to be chemistry majors.

I was talking to John Schwab about how. This is like a chemical synthesis: Do we want to improve recruitment from 60 to 80 percent? From an industrial point of view it is cheaper, but can you do both if you want to recruit more? Ronald Webb pointed out objectives, goals, strategies, and measures (OGSM). If we have a goal of improving the diversity of the chemical workforce, maybe one goal should be to get two people from every high school who want to major in chemistry. Maybe a strategy should be for universities and businesses to work with high schools and high school teachers to get students interested in science and chemistry. Maybe a part of that strategy could be a small scholarship, such as $2,000. Two people per school, or we will buy all their chemistry books. A company can do that.

We could do things like that. We could have the goal of getting two students out of every high school to major in chemistry. We could have a strategy for doing it with scholarships or buying books or having universities work with schools. It is a measurable objective.

I am pushing recruitment, because recruitment is as important and as useful as most of the other things that we need to try, and we need to try them all.

Stanley C. Israel, Southwest Texas State University: If we are talking about the chemical workforce, there is a part of the chemical workforce that we have not addressed except tangentially, and that is the K-12 teachers.

In fact, the other part that we have not really addressed is what happens to our undergraduate students that do not go on for a Ph.D. This is the feedback loop that we are missing. We can affect the pipeline, but what we need is teachers in K-12 who are chemists, who are scientists, who have love of the discipline and can convey the excitement of that discipline to their students.

We are not educating our undergraduates about what is important. That is the only way we are going to greatly affect the pipeline. Across the country, school boards are downgrading the qualifications of the science teacher. Rather than be a chemist and go into the teaching profession, their requirements are teachers who can teach any science course. If they take three courses in each of chemistry, physics, geology, and planetary science, they can then teach any science course in grades 9-12.

That is the trend across the nation, and we should be addressing that with our chemistry students by saying, this is a viable profession for you, K-12th-grade teaching. One other point: It has been said here that we lose a lot of students because chemistry is too hard, and they go over to the liberal arts—to the departments of letters as I like to refer to them—because they get better grades.

Let me explain to you why they are at the departments of letters and we are at the departments of numbers and why they get better grades over there. When one of our chemistry or science students takes an exam and gets 100 and takes the next exam and gets a zero, 100 and zero averages out to 50, and that is an F.

The same student in liberal arts gets an A and an F. An A and an F averages out to a C. They look at science as unforgiving. They cannot make a mistake in science. If they miss an exam, they get a zero, and a zero and 100 equal an F. But over in liberal arts, an A and an F average out to a C. That is why they are in letters and we are in numbers.

Isai T. Urasa, Hampton University: Just a comment about orientation. I want to underscore the importance of orientation even in our academic institutions. I would say that orientations are even more important in our academic institutions than in industry.

When you come into academia, there are three things that you are supposed to do: teach, serve, and research. The order in which you do those things depends on where you are. The emphasis that you place on those things depends on where you are. But you are expected to succeed.

Now, let me make another point. Teaching at the college level is probably the only profession we do not really get trained to do what we do. Most of us do not take teaching lessons. We are not trained to become teachers, so it is almost on-the-job training. You learn as you go along. So orientation is very important. Those of us who have been in it for some time have the responsibility of telling those who are coming behind us some of the loopholes, some of the things you have to do, because you do not get trained formally as a teacher.

At Hampton University, we do a lot of that, because we are now trying to look at those three segments of college levels. They are very important, and we are trying to help people balance their importance.

Sandra M. Bowe, DuPont: Just a couple of comments. There is a lot of work going on with regard to science that is associated with diversity. Much is published on this because companies are all trying to correlate the benefits of the work around diversity to the bottom line. So there is some science out there, for instance, calculations as to what we lose after we have invested when people leave a company.

As we evolve in our understanding of diversity, it started out being a program. And now we think of diversity as diversity management, so there is a journey. For that journey of management, we are getting smarter and smarter about opening up our definition of diversity. This morning we have seen some of the dimensions, but, of course, just looking around this room, diversity is much more than the few characteristics that were described this morning.

One of the things that I think is applicable and we ought to rally around and be appreciative of is diversity of thought. Please do not shortchange the constituencies and the people we represent, because diversity of thought for employees is very important. It is how we get problems solved in a different kind of way that is being valued more and more.

Tyrone D. Mitchell, National Science Foundation: I want to speak about affirmative action and diversity. The ideal situation would be to have affirmative action and diversity, because people talk about them together like one is replacing the other, but this is not the case at all.

The problem is that there has been affirmative action, and people have bought into that, and people have bought that diversity is going to replace affirmative action. Well, it is not going to do that.

My wife is an expert in both areas. One of the things that we talk about is writing a paper or a book on the downsides of diversity, but the misconception is that people think that diversity is going to replace affirmative action. Affirmative action is a legal ruling. Affirmative action is the law. It was created in a skillful way. If you have government funds, or if you have somebody you are working with that has government funding, then you have to abide by this law.

That brought a lot of companies of a certain size into compliance with hiring and promoting women and underrepresented groups, but with this push now for diversity and the deemphasis on affirmative action, there are a lot of companies, that do not have diversity models like we saw today. That is the problem, because that is where the majority of the workforce is.

So we can talk diversity, but it is going to be a long time before you get some of the smaller companies to pick up on this diversity. Basically, with all these companies it is the bottom line, and the bottom line means making money. It is still a situation in which the last hired is the first fired, I do not care what you say. If you look at any corporation that starts downsizing, you will see who are the people who are gone first.

Barbara A. Burke, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona: My colleague, Edward Walton, and I were able to gain a tremendous amount of credibility in changing the way we teach one of our freshmen chemistry courses, because we were able to get National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA funding. To the people in our department, that raised our credibility. Otherwise, they would have just cast us aside as regular individuals doing our thing. This gave a certain amount of credibility as we demonstrated our ability to go after those curricular grants from these agencies that can be helpful in promoting change. Other people have looked at what we have done in our class and have taken some of that to heart.

The other thing I want to mention is that I do a lot of chemistry magic show type things. But I am always mindful to have any undergraduates help me with these shows, and they come away really jazzed; this is so much fun, I wish we did some of this stuff in our regular chemistry classes, and just talking about the applications of chemistry.

So maybe we just need to involve our undergraduates a little bit more, whether they are a chemistry major or not, in some of these outside activities that show what chemistry is all about and how exciting it can be.

D. Ronald Webb, Proctor & Gamble: I want to add something. We discussed the loss of incoming undergraduates who fail and do not make it through the system. We have discussed the rate of people who enter doctoral programs and do not succeed.

However, let us examine the postgraduate who actually gets a Ph.D. that no one wants. These are the people that I seek and the people I try to hire. My competition is the faculty at any university who want to include them as assistant professors. You are not my competition. You do not seek them, you do not woo them. I get them from your campus. That helps me, but there is a point here that it is not fair to the student.

Government is another competitor, and a fair number go to government. But in life science more than chemistry (although chemistry is included), what about the graduating student or Ph.D. that nobody woos, nobody wants? Right now in life science, the average length of stay for a postdoc is four years. I have met students on campus in life science completing their third postdoc, six or seven years after earning their Ph.D. They cannot find a position in industry; they have no place to go.

That is a problem. You have built a huge resource, you have encouraged people to reach for a high goal, you have granted them a degree, and nobody takes them. We cannot absorb all of them in industry. Think about that!

E. Kent Barefield, Georgia Institute of Technology: I just wanted to comment to Professor Jackson about doing away with faculty orientation at your university because of cost.

The administration at Georgia Tech puts on a quite lengthy orientation. Spanning four or five days, it has some interesting effects. I am sorry to say that, when I went to Georgia Tech, I did not think I needed to be oriented, so I did not go to the two-day program that they had in those days. That was a mistake on my part, because I did not build the connections with the other people coming in, which is quite a sizable number these days. It builds a camaraderie among the people that come into the group. I see this persisting for many years afterwards, the connections they have made in orientation.

Plus, you do learn about the culture of the place. All institutions have their special culture. I think it is just as important and maybe more so for academic institutions to do this as it is for industry.

Isiah M. Warner: I would like to follow up on Ronald Webb's comment about the oversupply. When I was in undergraduate school we used to be taught that a liberal arts education was the best kind of education you could have, because you can work in all kinds of cross boundaries and work in all kinds of different parts of industry.

I contend that in this century, a science education is the best kind of education you can have. With all of the technology that is being developed, physical chemists have recognized this for a long time. But those students do not have to get jobs in physical chemistry; some of them are working on Wall Street.

If we train scientists for the next generation, there will be jobs. It may not be in chemistry, but there will be jobs. There are jobs out there for people that are science oriented and that are science knowledgeable. This is not going to be a problem in the foreseeable future. In fact, I would like to ask Douglas Raber to speak to what might be possible even at the National Research Council (NRC) and beyond. Could you do that now, because it follows up on exactly what Isai Urasa was thinking about.

Douglas J. Raber, National Research Council: My role is normally to give you institutional advice, but I would like to offer a challenge to you. The challenge is for you to turn around and challenge me.

The NRC is a remarkable place. I spend a considerable amount of time working with the scientists and engineers from around the country. Five to ten times a year we hold meetings like this, interacting with the best of the best in the chemical sciences community.

In perspective of the discussions of the past two days, I hear a clear need. Together we must show the rest of the world that our top minority, young scientists are as good as everybody else. We have to do some showcasing.

I challenge you to call me and tell me you have a really good young student who just received his or her Ph.D. and might like to spend a summer here as an intern, or a year with us as a postdoc. Or maybe you know somebody else who is a little older, who would like to come spend a year on sabbatical. The latter might be more difficult, but placing an intern or postdoc is possible, and I believe that we could come up with the funds to do that—I even challenge some of you here who have the funds to support this.

But I believe this is important. Think about it. The NRC is a place where you could send someone for a few months or a year. It is a place where they would meet many people who could help them develop their networks. They could use the time to help themselves succeed as well as benefit our profession, and they would be role models for many others.

Rigoberto Hernandez, Georgia Institute of Technology: What would that person do at the NRC?

Douglas J. Raber: A postdoc would do things like we are doing right now, for example, by helping us organize these workshops. We usually work as a team, sharing the tasks and responsibilities. For example, many of you have corresponded with Shawn Robertson, who is an intern with us this summer. I am proposing now the idea of recruiting some minority recent Ph.D.s to work with us.

Isiah M. Warner: I have a Ph.D. student who wants to go into science writing. Is there an opportunity like that here?

Douglas J. Raber: I would say the answer is yes. We produce reports. Those of you who were here for the workshop on “Women in the Chemical Workforce” may remember Susan Morrissey, who was an intern at that time. She subsequently was hired by Chemical & Engineering News. So the answer is yes, there are opportunities here right now. It might even be a good experience for somebody who wants to stay in research—to gain the experience here and then go back to the laboratory.

Participant: It is time for an American Chemical Society (ACS) plug, for the congressional fellowship program and policy fellowship program that we have at ACS, that is bringing in recent completers of masters and Ph.D.s, who want to go work on Capitol Hill. We need the voice of science on Capitol Hill. When they are looking at basic issues, they need someone who knows what the science is about. We also have a policy fellowship. That person works in our office, deals with policy matters, and puts on congressional briefings and such.

Krishna L. Foster, California State University, Los Angeles: My comment comes on the same stream of ideas. I am dealing with the marketing of the chemical workplace. I am teaching general chemistry right now, and what I notice is that the students want to know how the course material applies to the biological sciences, or how some people make huge salaries as chemists. Not only that, but they remember the material for the exams, right?

I think part of the problem that we have not addressed is marketing and letting students know what they can do. All they realize is that it is challenging, it is a high activation barrier to get into the sciences, and that is all they see. Our jobs as professors are not very glamorous, and they do not see any of the other possibilities, or understand what those of us who are faculty enjoy about the jobs.

Michael P. Doyle: Thank you very much. It is problem that needs addressed.

Parry M. Norling, RAND: I want to speak of one aspect of recruitment or getting people into the chemical workforce that we tried and were only successful to a small degree.

Thirty years ago, I was a plant superintendent. I ran the methyl methacrylate plant in Memphis, Tennessee, for DuPont. It was a time when the farm community furnished most of the workers, most of the wage roll in the plant, and things were changing. We were beginning to get workers from the inner city, primarily having high school degrees.

The thing that was interesting was that the unit that I ran was about 50 percent African American, 50 percent Caucasian, high school educated. During that time the people that were running the plant began to learn a lot of chemistry. We began to realize how smart they were and how much they were excited and interested in how the chemistry was working in the plant and how the process worked.

The thing that was also interesting was that several of them started working back-to-back shifts, or they would work 16 hours a day, and then go to school at night. Continuing education made them another source of employees for the chemical workforce, basically because they started learning chemistry by doing chemistry. They received a degree and essentially moved up in chemistry. Initially they were learning by doing, and this was another source of employees for the chemical workforce.

There was another issue that I found exceedingly difficult. Thirty years ago I had a talented minority working in my group, and I was trying to convince management to transfer her to a higher position. There were still barriers to making that move, and it might take an extra year to convince people in other places. This person was really fantastic, did wonderful work, but there were still internal barriers that management had to work on. This is one of my experiences with diversity management and a case history of one person that is doing a fantastic job still today. But it took a little extra time to get her in the right place.

Michael P. Doyle: Did DuPont provide support for the educational advancement?

Parry Norling: Yes, the continuing education and providing those funds certainly was one thing. There sometimes could be more education on the job in some cases. But there are certain ways of upgrading people's education and skills, either on the job or off the job, that can certainly help populate the chemical workforce with more diverse and more talented individuals.

Michael P. Doyle: Thank you very much.

Robert L. Lichter, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation: I am going to lower the intellectual level a bit. I have been contemplating a notion that was triggered by a comment somebody made. I mentioned it before: We cannot find them. I am reminded of the old saw about Willie Sutton, why he robbed banks—because that is where the money was. In this case, go where the people are. There was a time when, if you wanted to hire an African American scientist, you called up Dr. McBay. He knew where every African American scientist was, because he taught most of them. Many of his former students are or have been here.

Now that process has been much more delocalized. But you still go where the people are. So go to the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native American Scientists meetings, go to NOBCChE meetings, go to a whole host of places where the people are. That is where you are going to find the people to hire.

Similarly, with respect to the notion of students, particularly undergraduates and high school teachers taking part in research: If you are going to do research, go where the research is.

I do not want to get into an argument about whether liberal arts colleges are better places for students to do research than universities, but the fact is that universities are where the research is, because that is what doctoral institutions do. They do not sell themselves well enough as places for undergraduates doing research. I have had people at universities ask me, “Why should we invest our time in undergraduates in our laboratories if they are not going to become chemistry majors?” We do not have time for me to respond to that. Many of the answers are obvious, many of them came up here. The fact is there is a real opportunity and a real obligation for chemistry and other departments to be available for people who are going to benefit from doing chemistry, including those who are not going to be chemistry majors.

Earlier, I mentioned the NRC/Ford Foundation minority predoctoral fellowship program. Everyone who was on the list of finalists in the physical sciences and mathematics panel had done research as an undergraduate. So there is a positive outcome for getting students into research labs, to meet all of those criteria and opportunities that we talked about here—mentoring, nurturing, advancing, opening pathways, strengthening intellectual capacity, strengthening skills, at the earliest possible stages.

Finally, in terms of affirmative action and diversity, the take that I find most useful is that affirmative action is a strategy and diversity is an outcome. Diversity is a characteristic that applies to a group. It does not apply to an individual.

James D. Burke, Rohm & Haas: I wanted to ask a question. How many people here are representing community colleges?

Participant: There were some here earlier.

James D. Burke: More than half of the first- and second-year college students in this country are educated in community colleges.

A leading reason why people go to community college is economics. If you look at how riches are distributed in this country, you are more likely to find an African American or Hispanic in a community college than somewhere else.

So, two thoughts. One is, if colleges want to form better links to historically underrepresented student bodies, they would do well to take a look at their local community colleges to see who can move over. Companies can look in that direction because somebody who has come through two years of chemistry is certainly well qualified to be a chemical technician. Parry Norling fed me this idea, although he did not know it.

When you are employed with a company, certainly a company like Rohm & Haas or DuPont or Procter & Gamble, employees go to college free. The company picks up the entire bill, including books. So there is opportunity. Of course, employees must attend school at night, unless they can get shift work that will allow them to go to school during the day. But they have an opportunity to advance through different kinds of resources.

When I was at Rohm & Haas, the good B.S. chemists were encouraged to go on for the Ph.D. degree. But if they did not, we would encourage them to leave research eventually and maybe go into manufacturing, simply because nobody that I know on campus ever proposes manufacturing chemistry as a viable career. We are very unlike Europe in that way, where industrial chemistry is highly respected.

It would be wonderful if you could have plant managers in Memphis or Knoxville who were successful African American chemists, who now had become respected managers and citizen leaders. But we see little of that, because no one is trying to fill the pipeline of manufacturing chemists with minorities.

Patricia Phillips-Batoma, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: I heard people say here that one of the barriers to minority students succeeding in the chemical sciences is perhaps, for certain students, a poor preparation in high school in chemistry, math, and the sciences in general.

But something that was said last night by our speaker Freeman Hrabowski made me think about another possible barrier to their success that we may not have recognized. I was wondering what people might say to the idea that perhaps skills in general are a barrier to success in scientific courses.

Joseph S. Francisco, Purdue University: I would like to comment on that. When I was at Wayne State, I always heard in my freshman class, “Dr. Francisco, I really studied for this class. I studied so many hours for this class, and I flunked your test. The problem was you.” I constantly heard that.

As an assistant professor, I can relate to what you are saying. That puts extra pressure on me, because my evaluation is going to be low, my worst nemeses are going to use that against me at the promotion and tenure time. I had to be a little bit creative on how to address that issue, to remove the burden of responsibility from me.

So I went over to the University of Michigan, to their social science school, and got a social psychologist to come in the classroom to evaluate me and tell me what I am doing wrong. I could then understand what I need to do better to help these kids, if the problem was me.

She evaluated me, gave me some comments, and it was not bad. I said, I can do that. However, she decided she wanted to come back again. The second time she came back, she sat around the classroom and she watched the students. She watched what they were doing when I was giving them clear instruction of what to think about and what to look for. She discovered that the kids were not listening in terms of basic skills. We, as professors, assume that students all have these skills when we admit them.

When she pointed all these things out to me, I said, “We can work with that. I know what to do.” So instead of telling this kid with these deficiencies to go to the university student resource (and feel stigmatized or inferior), we brought the study skills person to the classroom. I then got the social psychology person to come in for some extra things outside the classroom. We addressed that within the context of the classroom. All those kids who struggled, by the end of the course, were making As andBs.

We learned something. A lot of kids do not acknowledge that they have a problem. Yet as instructors, if you address these things within the context of the course, in a positive learning process, correction can be made that is successful for all senior courses. We have now published these results in the Journal of College Science Teaching (2000), where the results were statistically significant, in terms that it was less threatening to the students and the students were more apt to utilize it.

Rigoberto Hernandez: I want to mention something with regard to what Dr. Francisco just said to give further context to his point that stigma is not necessarily self-inflicted. When I first went to graduate school, I went in with an NSF doctoral fellowship. It does not matter that it was a minority scholarship or not; it was a cool thing that I got it and I am happy for anyone who gets either. But my colleagues, my so-called friends, assumed it was a minority scholarship immediately, because they saw the color of my skin or where I originated. So that is a stigma you have to live with, and it exists regardless of whether or not you have your hand out.

The other point I want to address begins by reiterating Jim Burke's comment. Earlier, he said something that was very apropos. He said that among the models that are successful in creating success stories—whether they be faculty, industrial, or not-for-profit success stories—the keys are the same. It does not matter whether the individual is a member of one of these many groups that we have identified. The fact is that when a program is successful, it is going to be successful for everybody. So we need to also look at what things have been done or which techniques have been implemented to bring about any particular success story and bring those in as part of our approaches to achieve success.

I want to give a personal example of this. When I was in high school in the 11th grade, I had the opportunity to participate in a research experience at the Mailman Center at the University of Miami. This had nothing to do with being a minority student; it was just a program within Miami-Dade County, and many of its students took advantage of this opportunity. I am sure that it led to several future scientists. I know, for example, of a friend—not of color—from this program who is now a professor at the University of Washington in physics. The opportunity certainly helped me. Thus such a program was instrumental in creating success stories, but the same elements—providing research opportunities to high-school students—served to create success stories with people of color.

The other point I want to reiterate is what I said about involving the chances of creating success stories to the extent that they are defined within the context of academia. This problem must be discussed within the context of a lack of color in our academic ranks. This is clearly a problem in terms of numbers. (It is also a problem in terms of gender, but we are addressing color.) If we want to fix it, we need to recognize the fact that the chances of success for anyone who obtains a Ph.D. to enter into an academic position is very small, one out of 20 or one out of 50. I obtained this figure using a simple argument involving ratios of large numbers across all chemistry departments. Now, it gets better if you notice that 47 percent of those faculty members in the top 50 chemistry programs, according to funding in the chemical sciences, come from ten of those 50 schools.

So maybe your chances are better than one in 20 if you come from one of those top-ten schools. But we do not have that many Latino Americans or African Americans or Chicano Americans or Native Americans going to those top-ten programs, and for whatever reason only a few of those that do attend those top-ten programs are becoming academic success stories.

Moreover, if we want to solve the problem of the lack of color in our academic workforce, we have to recognize that it is hard to succeed, whatever color you are. I face that difficulty in recruiting students. I tell them, “yes, I love my job, look how cool it is to do what I am doing, and that is why I am doing it, because it is the thing I always wanted to do, and you should do it too, because you will find job satisfaction for life.” However it is hard to honestly tell them that they are going to be offered a faculty position at one of the top 50 institutions at the end of their 15 years of effort.

I use the top 50 as an example. I would argue that it is not a much higher percentage of success for graduating Ph.D.s to obtain an academic position in any Research-I university. It is still a crapshoot. That is why it is hard for me to convince a student to do it. I have graduate students come into my office that tell me, “I do not want your job; you work too hard and you're not clearly rewarded.” On the other hand, one of these students already has interviews at two different four-year colleges. She is probably going to do just fine. She is going to love teaching at a four-year college, and I am very proud of her. But part of her choice lies in the fact that she knows the difficulty of going into a Research-I institution.

Sharon L. Neal, University of Delaware: I am glad I came to this workshop, but when I first heard about it, my first reaction was, “Oh, no, not another one of these things.” My reason for feeling that way was that I was the only black child in my first-grade class. I have been hearing people talk about how to fix this problem for 35 years.

Anyway, what strikes me beyond globalization is that we do not seem to be able to get at a kind of analysis that empowers us to use those four letters, OGSM. This is not very well thought out, because I have just been thinking about it while I have been trying to listen, too. It seems to me that maybe one of the things that is at the bottom of our struggle is that we still have not really embraced dealing with the tension that exists between the maintenance of standards and change.

Now, we all are in this room because we all pretty much agree in the intrinsic value of our public institutions, in particular reflecting the makeup of our population. I love this, because to me this is a democratic ideal. I love America, I love the idea of the importance of the individual, the opportunity for individual actualization, all of this to me is the most important thing. That is why if you get called up for service, you go, because these are noble ideals that mean something to people. Somehow or another, that truth does not get imparted into our conversation about these racial issues. We struggle over the tension that people have. The people who are not pro diversification, are not against democracy, they are not against equality, they are not against the actualization of the individual.So why is it that we have a struggle over this? I do not know the answer to that. But I know that if we can find a way to harness that, then we can do a better job of getting people to buy in, of getting that faculty collusion, of getting the collusion of the middle management, getting the students to buy in.

I want to comment about what Joe Francisco said. If he had been a white guy, those students may have complained, but they more than likely would have thought it was their fault, and they would have took that C or F and they would have gone their merry way. But, when somebody who looks like me, probably even more so than somebody who looks like him, says, “You are inadequate, you got an A in high school but it just was not up to snuff,” then it cannot be true. So they march off to the chairman's office and they say, “she is too hard.”

This is another important thing. Professor Francisco did not take that in. He said, “Let's be proactive, let's problem solve.” I want to be a scientist about this challenge. That is a powerful thing. I think we need to make people resilient to resistance, because resistance is actually a powerful thing for character development. We do not want all the hot feeling to go away, not really. If there is good in the world and there is evil in the world, you want to be on the side of the angels.

Joseph S. Francisco: I wanted to reemphasize a point, that Michael Doyle brought out and a point echoed by Robert Lichter. It is the importance of undergraduate research. I feel that you cannot start too soon with that.

I will tell you the reason why it is important. First, I have got to prepare for an ACS talk in April, for which I have been invited to honor this man for his true commitments to undergraduates and undergraduate research.

I want to just reflect on why it is important for me. As an undergraduate going to the University of Texas, one of the reasons why I picked the University of Texas aside from receiving a scholarship, was that I wanted to hide behind my social security number. I did not want anyone to know me, and I did not want my performance to be impacted by someone who saw who I was. Because of the size of the university, I can keep a low profile and perform with my social security number and never be identified and not have to worry about how my performance would ever be compromised.

But I learned that this could never happen, even at the University of Texas. That was the biggest shock. The biggest shock came when Professor Ray Davis one day saw me coming over to pick up my exam and he said to me, “You do not have to worry about your exam and your score, it will not change.”

I thought, what does that mean? Upon deeper reflection, I realized it meant that he knew who I was. As it turned out, it was my exam that forced a regrading of the entire class. So he came after class one day and said, “I would like you to come to my office to talk to me.” I knew I was in trouble. I just could not imagine why this guy wanted to talk to me. I assumed he thought I was cheating or something like that. I had no positive thoughts whatsoever.

I went there to see him, and I was shaking. He looked at me and said, “I would like to invite you to come into my laboratory and do undergraduate research.” This is right after my first semester. I had no clue what undergraduate research was all about. I did not know what that meant. In fact, I was not even a chemistry major at that particular point. But he saw something. Actually, my mission was to go to the New England Conservatory of Music, which did not happen.

But the interesting thing for me was getting into that laboratory, seeing the postdocs, seeing the graduate students, seeing other very bright undergraduates. By the way, one is now on the faculty at Berkeley, one went on to Harvard and works for the BASF Corp. in upper management, and one is at the University of Illinois. These were the members of that group. I got to see how they thought, how they were looking at problems, how they were functioning. By the time I was as sophomore, I had already decided that I was going to go to graduate school.

That was interesting, what Ray Davis did for me, as he did for all undergraduates who came in as freshmen. I did not really know enough about chemistry to do anything and make a worthwhile contribution. But he said, “We are going to give you a Robert Welch Foundation undergraduate fellowship.” I needed money. He said, “Do not consider it as work. I just want you to come in here and just be here.” That was so important for shaping all the directions that I picked for the past 15 years. That was one of the reasons too that I am always welcome to teach at the freshman level. That is why I always keep undergraduates coming in. Undergraduate research is key to making this impact.

Derrick C. Tabor, National Institutes of Health: I want to follow up on some things that Joseph Francsico said, as well as what research is all about, or what it is not about.

We talk about research as being the important thing, that it is important to get students in the laboratory to do research. But I would contend that research and getting them into the laboratory to “do research” is really not what is important. What is important is establishing the relationship with the students. Research just provides the means, because it is that relationship that transforms.

Now, during the process they learn a lot about themselves, but, more importantly I think, they start to feel like they are part of something. The mere fact that someone invites a student, especially an underrepresented student, to come into their laboratory, given all the things that Professor Francisco described, who did not want recognition as a minority student on campus, to just let them do what they are going to do, and not have a lot of attention brought upon themselves.

I doubt that my white colleagues at the time when I was in school carried these thoughts in their head. That is what happened to me; I was invited. “Derek, why do not you come work in the lab?” And do what? That was not important, but it was the fact that I was invited, the fact that this guy took me in, showed me, helped socialize me to what chemistry and the chemical enterprise were all about.

I would contend that we do not pay enough attention to the fact that it is the relationships that we are starting with our students, especially the relationships that go between different ethnic groups, that help make the change, whether we are working in inorganic chemistry, photochemistry, or organic chemistry. It does not matter. It is really about the relationships.

I think that when we start looking at why things are not working, sometimes it is because people are uncomfortable with establishing the kinds of relationship that so many people in this room are very comfortable in establishing.

William M. Jackson, University of California, Davis: The kind of description that Joseph Francisco talked about is what we actually tried at University of California, Davis, with an NSF grant. It was in physical sciences and not just in chemistry. What we found was that just by putting freshmen in the research groups and laboratories of professors, students whose average grade point levels were Cs were raised in the basic core courses—chemistry, physics, and math and calculus were raised to Bs. They were doing research, and then we had some other interventions, but it was an observation that I had made before I got to the Davis campus.

I found another black student, the only one remaining in the second semester out of 200 who left when I was teaching general chemistry. His name is Craig Bond. He is now a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT. He was the first graduate in chemical engineering who went to MIT. I found out later that he left, too, but he went to the other professor and said he was bored, so he came back to my class. I consider that a compliment.

But anyway, he went through the same kind of experience. I have seen African American students walking the halls with chemistry majors who were almost flunking out, and I have gotten them through their undergraduate career just by putting them in my lab. Sometimes I paid them. It is that kind of relationship, talking to them, that you need to do and intervene with. That can be done with no money.

Now, actually we have institutionalized even undergraduate research at Davis through something called the creative work load policy. You get work load credits if you can get undergraduates to sign up for undergraduate research. There are 99s and 199s. When you are a junior you get a 199, before that you are a 99. You get some leave off of the normal work load if you build up enough credit.

This is really a painless way to reduce your teaching load. We have an official teaching load of one undergraduate, one lower division, one upper division, and one graduate course every year for every professor. The smart professors use that.

Robert L. Lichter: I want to take slight issue with Derrick Tabor's comments. The relationship is clearly important, and the fact that somebody indicates by such an invitation to come into the laboratory shows that that person really does care about the individual.

In the end, as came out in the summary of the yellow breakout group, you can have all the programs you want, but in the end, it is people that make a difference. However, if you want to invite a student to do research, I will assert that you do not do the student a favor by not having good research.

It is not just a matter of being invited; it is a matter of also being invited to do good research. Otherwise, the student gets misled: Encouraging the student to go to graduate school, into a high-powered graduate research enterprise, can then be—and you talk about culture shock—pretty hard. There is good anecdotal evidence for this, and it is something that maybe bears some proper study.

But I also want to correct an oversight that I made in my last outburst. I talked about how we used to call up Dr. McBay. The fact is, there are still people you can call up, and some of them are sitting right here—Dr. Gillyard and Dr. Bozeman, and I'm sure Dr. Foster, and anybody at the City University of New York, anyone who teaches in a place where there are large numbers of underrepresented minority students. People know where their students are.

I will say it again: There is absolutely no excuse for anyone who wants to hire faculty members who are not white males to be unable to find them.

Sylvia Bozeman, Spelman College: I have been waiting and I have not heard anyone bring up this one subject that we wrestle with in the mathematics community. I have not heard you worry about it in the chemistry community. You can see I am an infiltrator.

We talked about recruiting young faculty from underrepresented groups into the majority institutions, but I have not heard anybody worrying about those faculty members staying there and getting tenure there. Is that not a problem, is that not an issue?

We often worry about what happens to those faculty members, what kind of experience they have, if they progress toward tenure at the same rate and get tenure at the same rate, or maybe at a higher rate than other faculty, given that they are under more scrutiny when they are brought in. What kinds of special issues and challenges do they face in those departments?

We hear stories about students coming to them at all times of the day, even after hours, and worrying if their teaching is good because it is so visible, and then doing research after hours. So maybe you do not have those kinds of issues with young faculty who are at majority institutions, but I just thought I would raise that to see if it is an issue.

D. Ronald Webb: I just have a short comment for the record. We have heard about diversity of thought. We have heard about how diversity helps us solve problems. Isiah Warner in his wisdom and other organizers have done something very good. They have brought industry, government, and academia together on a common theme. I think we have all learned we have the same interests and issues, but we have different ways of approaching problems.

I mentioned OGSM. I have heard it mentioned here three or four times. So in the future, as we continue to work this, I am sure all my industry colleagues, as well as the government sector, would agree that we would love to be part of the thinking process to help find a solution and not put the burden only on one sector to the exclusion of the others. I offer that as an invitation to include us.

Michael P. Doyle: Thank you very much. This session and its length and its intensity is a tribute to the topics that we are involved with and to the people who have spoken up. I would like to take special recognition of those who gave personal insights to their feelings, their histories, and their involvements, because we are all enriched by what you have said.

So with that, I am going to turn over this microphone to the organizers of the conference, to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude, Isiah Warner and Joseph Francisco, whose time and effort were unmistakably important in making this an unmitigated success. Thank you very much.


Isiah M. Warner: It is nice to have a dream, but if the dream does not come true, you are really disappointed. But to have a dream exceed your expectation, you cannot ask for any more than that. The special fuzzy feeling around my heart will be with me for another week, because of what has gone on here in the past couple of days.

I wanted to have something very different happen, from when I have been at other conferences where they have talked about minorities. I think something different has happened in the past couple of days. Now, whether that leads to positive action remains to be seen, but something different will be put on paper. Joseph Francisco and I have been brainstorming about how to get this out further into the community.

The other thing is, I learned something—I have been interacting with one of my colleagues, Saundra McGuire, who is a chemist, but she specializes in chemical education. There is something I never knew anything about, called Bloom's taxonomy. I just learned about this. Bloom's taxonomy has to do with recall. The next steps are interpretation, application, analysis, and all of that sort of thing.

When you put a student into the laboratory, what you are doing is taking that student one notch above into Bloom's taxonomy. Most students come into college operating on the recall level. They memorize it and spit it back out. When you have them working with their hands in the laboratory, you take them up Bloom's taxonomy, so they operate on a higher level of learning. That is why those students' grades begin to improve.

I knew this happened. I did not know why until I started talking with Saundra McGuire. We learn a lot from interacting with our colleagues who are not necessarily just in chemistry research, but colleagues who are in education. I think we need to do more education, more interaction with our people in education, and learn more about things that we had learned by happenstance. We need to learn why they are working, and I think we can do a more effective job.

Thank you for attending the conference.

Joseph S. Francisco: Thank you. I have just done a good job of restraining myself from interrupting these discussions. I am very excited here. I want to tell you why I am so excited for this opportunity to interface with all of you and have these important discussions.

Back in 1987, I was privileged to stand in this very room. At that time, a number of talented young chemists were invited here to talk about chemistry departments with the chemical industry, CEOs and vice presidents. Then they brought the faculty of the future, who will be leading the chemistry departments in this century.

I was invited, and I was the only black face. I did not understand why I was there, because I was not from MIT nor from Berkeley. I was from Wayne State University. That was also the anomaly. I thought the only reason why I was there was because they needed a black face. All of you know what I mean. That was my first time experiencing that feeling. Nevertheless, I decided to listen to what the issues were.

Now, one of the big problems back then was the chemical workforce. This is a problem now, but in that discussion, the question at the time was where the bodies were going to come from for the chemical industry. We knew that it would be places like the Eastern bloc countries, where the walls were going to be coming down. This was going to be the opportunity for the chemical workforce, because it was easy, because they had already been trained, and because our economy was moving toward globalization; we could actually make our workforce appear global. Remember, we wanted to be a global player in the global market with global people.

When I came to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable, I was privileged to hear this discussion on diversity in the chemical workforce, and I have to say, I cannot take credit for the organization of this workshop. It was the discussion of the minorities in the chemical workforce spearheaded by Isiah Warner, Robert Lichter, and Michael Doyle. I came in on the latter part of it. I was delighted when I heard the discussion here at the NRC. We finally have started to look at people in our own backyards.

We have a lot of talent in this country, and that talent has been largely untapped. I am delighted and happy that the NRC and industry and some universities are finally seeing the light about what we have to do to embrace our talent in this country. I hope that all the input and all your contributions and all your stories tell a story in itself that will impact every administrator, every chemistry department in this country for this new century.

Copyright © 2003, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK36305
PubReader format: click here to try


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (2.9M)

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...