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Featured Promising Practices


Museum of Science, Boston exhibit

Grinnell College: Engaging Faculty and Staff to Create a Positive TIX Reporting Climate

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Grinnell buildingGrinnell College approaches Title IX and Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act education through a distributed leadership model. We believe that successful sexual harassment and assault prevention and response require commitment from every individual in our community. Our work is guided by a Task Force on Safety, Responsibility, and Prevention, which includes the following members:

  • Student leaders from residence life, athletics, student government, and student research.
  • A faculty member with relevant research expertise.
  • Campus Title IX Deputies for Prevention; Confidential Response and Support; Case Management; and Athletics.
  • One staff member each from the offices of Alumni Relations; Communications; Campus Safety and Security; and Diversity and Inclusion.

The Task Force includes people who identify as male, female, and transgender, and are reflective of the spectrum of sexual orientations.

Grinnell's Title IX Coordinator Angela Voos and Deputy for Prevention Jennifer Jacobsen jointly present campus training sessions at which participants develop bystander behavior skills, discuss consent and sexual respect, and learn how to encourage and support reporting of sexual misconduct. They facilitate the workshop using clickers to allow real-time, anonymous audience response, enabling the facilitators to measure learning progress and see attitudinal shifts in real time. The PowerPoint: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct on Campus is specific to Grinnell’s culture. It emphasizes that:

  1. College is a place for learning. Learning cannot take place in an environment of sexual or other harassment. We all share a responsibility for and interest in promoting the well-being of our students and community.
  2. Each of us can make a difference in making our environment safer for ourselves and others.

Grinnell students talkingIn order to lower barriers to reporting and make sure campus community members know what to do if someone comes to them seeking help, Grinnell created a wallet-sized card: Title IX Resource Card. One part of the perforated card provides sample language that individuals can use to offer support. The other side of the card provides guidance for the complainant, along with a list of resources. When approached, a student or faculty or staff member can tear off this second part of the card and offer it to the complainant to use as a guide to sources of help.

To learn more about Grinnell’s Title IX and SaVE efforts please visit us at: Grinnell College - Sexual Respect.

Or contact Angela Voos, Title IX Coordinator at: [] or Jennifer Jacobsen at [].

Museum of Science, Boston exhibit

Texas A&M: Innovative information dissemination on Title IX rights

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Texas A&M is leading the way in efforts to inform its academic community about their rights under Title IX and to engage them in efforts to address sexual harassment and violence. The University is taking full advantage of online and print media to get the word out. This includes web pages designed to place critical Title IX information at students’ finger tips, such as the names of Title IX coordinators and other reporting officials, and a clear-cut, straightforward rendering of the process of raising a complaint. In addition, Texas A&M is doing an excellent job with old-fashioned media too - “Know Your Title IX” posters are everywhere on campus, from message boards to stall doors in both the men’s and women’s rest rooms. The University also has created its own training video [or see below] to inform its 130,000+ students of their Title IX rights and to convey other Title IX-related information in compliance with U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights guidance. In the summer of 2014, the University filmed the 14-minute video on three of the A&M System’s campuses: its flagship campus in College Station, Prairie View A&M University, and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. All of the individuals in the film were A&M System students. According to Dr. Joni Baker, Director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for the A&M System, the video has been extremely well received by students and employees alike. These efforts show a strong commitment on the part of the University and its Title IX compliance officials to “get the word out” and NASA commends the university for its actions in this regard. Such efforts can truly help those protected by the law to learn more about the rights it affords, and make use of that information should the need arise.

Title IX Student Video from The Texas A&M University System on Vimeo.

Museum of Science, Boston exhibit

Museum of Science, Boston: Enhancing accessibility for all through universal design principles

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In 2015 MOS produced a video which MOS executive staff describes their experience in creating an accessible museum environment for all of its patrons (such as the use of Universal Design principles in exhibit design). Staff also discuss their experience with the NASA Section 504 onsite compliance review at MOS in 2009. The video concludes with MOS staff providing advice for other museums in providing accessible programs, exhibits and amenities.

Science in the Park
This component of the Museum’s “Science in the Park” exhibit uses a see-saw to demonstrate the physics of weights and balance. The full-scale see-saw is supplemented by a table-top version that allows multiple modes of engagement with the exhibit. Audio, text, and graphics are all used to convey instructions and content.

The Museum of Science (MOS or the Museum) in Boston shows its commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities and strives to create an environment that is inviting, engaging, and accessible for everyone in large part through the work of two internal bodies charged with addressing issues of accessibility. At the organization-wide level, the Museum has an Accessibility Committee composed of representatives from seven of the Museum’s eight Divisions, including the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Human Resources. The Committee is responsible for identifying and resolving programmatic and physical accessibility concerns across the institution, as well for educating staff and informing the local and museum communities about the Museum’s efforts and offerings. The Committee’s formal Vision Statement spells out that the Museum will further its goal of inclusion by:

  • Establishing meaningful inclusion as a core institutional value evident in all of our actions;
  • Designing our exhibits, programs, and facilities, especially key experiences, so that they are inclusive of a broad range of individuals;
  • Creating a work environment that is inclusive of a broad range of staff members and volunteers;
  • Embracing a process of continuous improvement toward greater inclusion;
  • Educating staff and volunteers about inclusive practices;
  • Communicating and demonstrating our commitment to the internal and external community;
  • Involving external partners through collaborations; and
  • Identifying, prioritizing, and committing the resources necessary to achieve this aim.

As part of its educational mission, the Committee has produced a "tips booklet" Tips booklet based on materials developed by the Massachusetts State House’s accessibility office. A physical copy of this booklet has been provided to every MOS staff member and an electronic copy is available on the Museum’s intranet to assist staff in appropriately addressing accessibilities issues. Both the State House and the Museum have made their materials available for adoption by other institutions without copyright.

Recognizing the importance of its exhibits both to the Museum’s overall mission and to accessibility, the Museum’s has also set up a Universal Design for Exhibits Committee (UDEC), which is responsible for ensuring that the design of the Museum’s exhibits follow principles of universal design (and compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act). UDEC’s purpose is to:

  • Serve as a brainstorming and resource group.
  • Organize professional development and share associated resources with colleagues.
  • Convene and coordinate an advisory panel for the universal design of exhibits.
  • Keep an ongoing record of the universal design approach used for MOS exhibits.
  • Hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable to UD standards.
  • Serve as advocates for UD within their own exhibit teams.

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, UDEC has produced the Universal Design Plan Universal Design Plan, a manual to assist MOS exhibit teams as they design and develop exhibits. The Plan includes sections on process; overall exhibition, component, and label design; and evaluation. Each section leads with a broad question to guide new development and remind the reader why the issues covered are important. Also included is a checklist combining ADA requirements and accepted MOS best practices, illustrations of measurements, and an appendix of background readings.

To accompany the Plan, UDEC has also produced a quick-reference poster Quick reference poster showing key UD and ADA dimensions at a 1:1 scale, to illustrate by direct example the design standards which exhibits should follow. Smaller illustrations of other important specifications supplement the life-size information.

UDEC is in the process of creating a web site through which to make these and other materials available across the museum field. The new site is expected to go live later in 2014, at which time MissionSTEM will post a link to the site.

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University of Maryland Engineering: Stimulating young minds and improving diversity in STEM fields

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Clark School Ambassadors inspire high school students to pursue engineering by speaking about the exciting undergraduate projects and cutting-edge research at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Some students in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park are taking a break from their classes and extra-curricular activities to reach out to future generations. The Clark School Ambassadors Program is a diverse group of undergraduate engineering students of various majors. Ambassadors are specially selected to represent the college and share their unique experiences in engineering at the University of Maryland with prospective applicants.

According to a 2009 Microsoft-sponsored study of collegiate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students, 78% reported that they chose their field of study in high school. The Clark School Ambassadors Program targets this age group to motivate young people, such as those without exposure to engineering in their middle and/or high schools, to pursue a degree in engineering at the University of Maryland. The Clark School of Engineering has attributed its success in improving the quality and diversity of applicants in part to the efforts of their student Ambassadors.

The incoming fall 2012 class at the Clark School of Engineering was extremely diverse, with 24% female students and 13% underrepresented minorities. The median SAT range was 1320-1450 while the median ACT range was 29-33. Of the 60 current undergraduate Ambassadors, 60% are female! By working in conjunction with offices in the Clark School such as the Women in Engineering Program and the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering, the Clark School Ambassadors are making a real impact in helping to reach out to a diverse group of perspective STEM major in Maryland.

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Exploratorium’s Mars Curiosity Landing Spanish Language Broadcast

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Dr. Isabel Hawkins, astronomer at the San Francisco Exploratorium, shares the most up-to-date information on the Mars rover Curiosity through a live webcast with Diana Hernandez from Oaxaca, México, and with the Latino public onsite and online.

In the summer and fall of 2012, the Exploratorium presented an extensive series of live webcasts and onsite programming that focused on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. Created as part of an ongoing partnership with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the programs tapped into the public’s excitement about Curiosity’s landing and exploration of the Martian surface. Exploratorium staff and visiting scientists followed Curiosity’s activities and shared updates and images of this amazing mission with live and remote audiences. Over the course of 25 days in August, hundreds of museum visitors were part of the studio audience in the Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio. During this period, 22 webcasts were viewed by 18,000 people on the Exploratorium’s Return to Mars website This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain with an additional 2,250 views on the Exploratorium YouTube channel. One activity of the partnership with JPL includes sharing impact data with the producers of JPL’s museum alliance website

In planning this Mars program, staff astronomer Dr. Isabel Hawkins seized the opportunity to leverage the Exploratorium’s talent and production capabilities to reinforce the museum’s commitment to engage more broadly with Latino audiences. In August and September she hosted four live Spanish-language webcasts, two with Exploratorium colleague Modesto Támez, and two others featuring bilingual/bicultural summer interns from México. These programs—offered as integral parts of the museum’s Mars programming—expanded access to Latinos. In August, approximately 200 Spanish speakers were in the webcast studio audience, with over 2,000 viewing the Spanish-language archived programs online.

This programmatic series is just one example of the museum’s ongoing efforts to engage Latinos in all activities at the institution. Through the Exploratorium’s three-year-old Latino Audience Engagement Initiative, the institution is creating access by taking advantage of existing resources, a practice that incorporates this important audience as a natural extension of regular programming. Spanish-language descriptions and links to the archived webcasts are included.

El Exploratorium presenta una serie extensa de webcasts y programas relacionados a la misión de la NASA llamada "Mars Science Laboratory" o el laboratorio de ciencia del planeta Marte. Luego de un viaje espacial de 8 meses, el flamante rastreador de Marte, el astromóvil Curiosidad, aterrizó en la superficie marciana y comenzó su investigación y búsqueda de lugares que puedan haber albergado, o todavía alberguen, alguna forma de vida orgánica. Nuestros científicos y otros expertos estarán atentos a los descubrimientos de Curiosidad y comparten con el público por Internet las más recientes noticias e imágenes de Marte.

Evelynn M. Hammonds

MIT Physics: A Focus on Excellence, Diversity and Inclusion

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Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds delivers the keynote address at MIT’s Institute Diversity Summit, January 2012.

NASA conducted a Title IX compliance review of MIT’s Physics Department in 2007. We found the program and the institution to have a number of promising practices for creating greater diversity and a more inclusive academic environment for all students. MIT Physics has long sought to create an environment that is welcoming to a more broadly diverse student body, with significant efforts to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in the program. One of the things we were most struck by during our Title IX review was the number of women MIT Physics was graduating.

How did the program achieve such a large increase in the numbers of women? The research literature on creating greater diversity in STEM fields often emphasizes the need for a "top-down" commitment. This is certainly what MIT Physics has in its leadership. In 2001, the Department initiated a flexible major option that allows undergraduate students to replace three advanced physics subjects (typically senior thesis, the second semester of junior lab, and an advanced elective) with a concentration in any subject of interest. This has given students the opportunity to tailor their study to their individual career goals. After the introduction of the flexible option, the number of undergraduate Physics degrees grew quickly, with the greatest growth occurring among women.

Over the past five years, the program has experienced continued growth – going from 30% of undergraduate degrees awarded to women to 38%, while the national average stands at around 21%. In 2007, 12% of MIT’s undergraduate Physics degrees and 0% of PhDs were awarded to underrepresented minorities. By 2012 these percentages had grown to 13% and 11%, respectively. During the past academic year, MIT students held 29% of the minority scholarships from the American Physical Society.

Dr. Ed Bertschinger has been the Department Head of MIT Physics since 2007. In his article "Advancing Diversity and Excellence in Physics This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain," he describes the many steps MIT Physics has taken to achieve greater diversity and a more inclusive academic environment. He notes that one of the first things he did when he became head of the Physics Department was to sit down with the Graduate Women in Physics (WIP) program members and ask for their advice. They advised him that the answer was culture change. As Dr. Bertschinger says, "When I came to MIT, the spirit among faculty and students seemed to be 'sink or swim;' alumni from earlier years will recall speeches beginning, ‘Look to your left, look to your right.’ This approach seemed obviously flawed to me—after investing heavily in recruiting promising individuals, MIT (and other institutions) would fail to help people achieve their best. The result was poor morale leading to difficulty recruiting and retaining talented people."

Among the many steps MIT Physics and the larger MIT community have taken to create a more inclusive environment in the past few years:

  • Collaborate with the American Physical Society on its national Bridge Program This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minorities obtaining PhDs in physics by about 30 per year, by providing summer research opportunities through the MIT Summer Research Program This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain run by the Dean for Graduate Education.
  • Continue to support and collaborate with the MIT Office of Minority Education This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain whose mission is "to promote academic excellence, build strong communities, and develop professional mindsets among students of underrepresented minority groups, with the ultimate goal of developing leaders in the academy, industry, and society."
  • Continue to support the student-run Graduate Women in Physics (WIP) This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain program, which fosters community among women graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty members in the Physics Department. WIP provides networking and mentoring opportunities for female graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Invite the American Physical Society Committee on the Status of Women in Physics This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain and Committee on Minorities This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain to conduct a site visit This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain of the MIT Physics Department to help address challenges such as improving work-life balance and eliminating implicit and sometimes explicit bias against women and underrepresented minorities.
  • Support the MIT Physics REFS Program This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain, a student-run mediation program that provides advice, support and dispute resolution based on mediation principles. All members of REFS undergo extensive Institute-certified training in conflict mediation.
  • Ensure Physics Department faculty receive feedback from counselors with MIT’s Student Support Services on the kinds of academic issues students raise, which helps faculty to be more effective in their interactions with students, e.g., make adjustments in their teaching style.
  • Hold an Institute Diversity Summit This is a link to a page outside the NASA domain, to explore perspectives on and develop practical strategies for improving the diversity climate attended by members of the MIT community as well as leaders beyond MIT.

These are some examples of the efforts one program and institution are putting forth as they work to achieve even greater heights of excellence and innovation. We hope some of the information provided will be of assistance to your institution!

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