'An Opportunity for Wabash to be on the Leading Edge'

by Matthew VanTryon

June 15, 2021

Throughout her career as a scientist, Dr. Laura Wysocki has consistently been in the minority. She is a woman in a field dominated by men.

That means she always appreciates feeling like she belongs.

“As a woman scientist, I was in the room with a lot of men in my education,” she said. “Being able to see myself in the work that I was studying made a difference in the way that I felt that I belonged in that conversation.”

Chemistry professor Laura Wysocki is one of 17 Equity and Inclusion Pedagogy Fellows at Wabash.

That idea of inclusion is the driving force behind the first cohort of Equity and Inclusion Pedagogy Fellows at Wabash, funded through the Lilly Charting the Future grants. Seventeen faculty members were chosen to teach courses during the upcoming academic school year emphasizing themes of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. The faculty members represent 13 different areas of study from all three academic divisions at the College — physical science, social science and the humanities.

The fellows were chosen by faculty development coordinator Michele Pittard and will meet throughout the year to discuss their courses. Courses will be taught in both the fall and spring semesters.

Wysocki will teach a Chemistry 101 course highlighting representation within the sciences.

“Science is a really diverse field where contributions come in big and small ways from all kinds of people,” she said. “But often, when we tell the story of science, we're telling the story of predominant people that are difficult to connect with. I hope to integrate stories of chemists who have diverse backgrounds, who may be first-generation scientists, who may be scientists of color, women, immigrant scientists, and talk about their contributions to their fields, so that students can have a better idea of the diversity of people doing this important work and hopefully feel like their identities are represented in that group as well.”

Dr. Shamira Gelbman will be teaching a political science course called Governing Wabash, which will “look at college as a whole, and the Wabash student body in particular, as a political community that is governed in both formal and informal ways. The course will explore what that governance looks like and the consequences of governing decisions that are made for the campus and for the student body.”

An increased awareness of the need for social justice during the past year has made faculty more conscious of the need for intentional discussion about equity and inclusion, regardless of subject area.

“These are perennial issues,” said Gelbman, an Associate Professor of Political Science. “They're always there. In the last few years, they've risen from the background to become important issues in society. This is a great opportunity for us to harness that energy and make some concrete changes and improvements to the courses that we teach.”

Discussions about equity and inclusion are commonplace in fields like political science and philosophy. But the work of faculty in all sorts of disciplines will showcase the value of a liberal arts education, Pittard says.

“Our faculty understand the way that we teach our courses can be more inclusive, that we can help meet the needs of all our students,” she said. “There are ways that our courses can meet the needs of our students, to support and help them understand what's happening in the world through these disciplinary lenses. It shows the power of the liberal arts. It's a testament to our faculty and to the mission of the college.”

The plan was originally for the grant to fund 10 fellowships. As proposals came in, Pittard and Dean of the College Todd McDorman realized there was a need to expand.

“There's a lot of appetite in the faculty to think about issues of inclusion,” Pittard said. “It is an opportunity for Wabash to be on the leading edge, helping the country understand how a liberal arts education can adapt and meet the needs of all students.”

The following faculty members will serve as the first cohort of Equity and Inclusion Pedagogy Fellows: Christie Byun (economics), Sara Drury (rhetoric), Shamira Gelbman (political science), Jane Hardy (Spanish), Cara Healy (Chinese), Ethan Hollander (political science), Peter Mikek (economics), Derek Nelson (religion), EJ Pavlinich (English), Sujata Saha (economics), Adriel Trott (philosophy), Heidi Walsh (biology), Bronwen Wickkiser (classics), Sarin Williams (music), Heidi Winters Vogel (theater), Eric Wetzel (biology), and Laura Wysocki (chemistry).

 


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