Empowering Underrepresented Students in Science: STEM Students Speak - Chapter 5 - The Power of a Community to Transform STEM Students

Elsevier, Empowering Underrepresented Students in Science, 2022, Pages 63 - 80
Sonji Johnson-Anderson, Ranjana Lingutla, Margaret Riley

STEM spaces are generally found to be competitive, individualistic, objective, and somewhat cold.1 Indeed, the dominant culture in STEM has privileged norms of success that favor competitive, individualistic, and solitary practices—norms typically associated with white male scientists.2 This privilege extends to learning practices in STEM education that have marginalized groups not conventionally associated with mainstream STEM success.2 The students, researchers, and professionals who occupy these spaces understand that they are not usually sites of socialization or warmth, which is why, in part, so many STEM students find their classrooms and research labs intimidating, stress-filled, and lonely. Such students are frequently pushed out of STEM due to negative experiences within science spaces, where many are marginalized and their interests suppressed.3 These students—who are the heart of STEM AP—struggle to find their place, and these struggles often lead them to seek out or create counterspaces.2 In this very real sense, the STEM AP’s approach to providing support to our students runs counter to the general culture of STEM. It provides a STEM counterspace that is warm and inviting: a community in every sense of the word. In it, we teach collaboration by being collaborative; we teach warmth and the value of the presence of each member of the community by being warm and welcoming.