UW–Madison launches STEM Diversity Network

April 10, 2017 By Eric Hamilton

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has launched the STEM Diversity Network, a website and collection of resources for students, faculty and staff in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The STEM Diversity Network was built by Ahna Skop, an associate professor of genetics and affiliate faculty in Life Sciences Communication at UW–Madison, along with Kemi Olukoga of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, and Kaitlin Morse of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, two undergraduate interns in LSC. They created the network to promote the recruitment, retention and success of diverse university members studying and working in STEM fields.

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A screen shot of the UW–Madison STEM Diversity Network website.

“The goal is to create a campus community around STEM and compile campus resources available to underrepresented students, faculty and staff in a one-stop shop place,” says Skop, who established the site during her role as chair of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Equity and Diversity Committee.

The website is supported by funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in collaboration with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. A portion of the funding supported Olukoga and Morse, who worked with Skop to design and build the website with help from Kyle Henderson at the UW–Madison Division of Information Technology. They wrote tips on how to find research opportunities, summer programs and original articles based on their own experiences navigating STEM fields. The network recently received additional funding from the UW–Madison Office of the Provost.

“I felt like it was part of my job on this campus that when I leave, the students who come after me have these resources, and they are not overlooked because they are underrepresented,” says Olukoga.

The network emphasizes mentoring and curates a list of advocates and mentors who are trained to provide guidance on professional development for students, staff and faculty from diverse backgrounds. The resources are available for all university members, especially faculty and advisers who are looking for ways to connect students with a mentor, event or summer program.

“The UW–Madison diversity website is a fantastic resource, and the STEM Diversity Network is intended to supplement it by providing information on STEM-specific professional development and news,” says Skop.

The STEM Diversity Network highlights local and national STEM diversity news and serves as a central repository for STEM diversity resources spread throughout campus. The website features articles and stories on the challenges facing university members from diverse backgrounds, as well as their accomplishments. It also provides a calendar of STEM- and diversity-related events.

“In making this site I realized that having a more diverse student body, faculty and staff here at UW–Madison is not only important for the advancement of underrepresented people in STEM, but also for STEM fields as a whole,” says Morse. “When you invite more diversity you’re also inviting new ideas and new perspectives.”