TEAM-UP Task Force

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The AIP National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP)

The number of physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees awarded in the US is at an all-time high.  Yet, the proportion of these degrees earned by African Americans remains appallingly low.  A smaller proportion of physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees are awarded to African Americans today than was the case two decades ago.

The AIP TEAM-UP Task Force is investigating the reasons for the persistent underrepresentation of African American undergraduate students in physics and astronomy, and will produce a report of its findings with evidence-based recommendations for increasing the number of African American students obtaining physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees.

Activities and Timeline

The Task Force will conduct its work over a two-year period and undertake the following:

  • A Survey of African American physics & astronomy students to understand their experiences (Spring 2018)
  • Site Visits to varied institutions to learn first hand from students, faculty and administrators about the climates, challenges, and opportunities for increased diversity and inclusion within the physics and astronomy fields. (Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019)
  • Develop evidence-based recommendations and work with pilot schools to implement them (Fall 2019)
  • Release Task Force Report to disseminate recommendations broadly in the physics community (Spring 2020)

 

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Number of Bachelor's Degrees Earned in Physics, 1955 - 2016

Number of Bachelor's Degrees Earned in Physics, 1955 - 2016

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The Proportion of Physics Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to African-Americans and Hispanics

The Proportion of Physics Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to African-Americans and Hispanics

Click image for larger version.

Task Force Members

AIP Task Force Chair:

Mary James
Mary James
Physics Professor and Dean of Institutional Diversity, Reed College, Mary has served as both a member and chair of the APS Committee on Minorities in physics for two years and was instrumental in launching the APS National Mentoring Community.  She has vast experience with diversity and committee/task group dynamics.
 

Task Force Members

Brian Beckford

Brian Beckford
Brian is an Assistant Professor of Physics, President’s Fellow at the University of Michigan, and chair of the physics dept. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Prior to his position at Michigan, Brian was the APS Bridge Program Manager, overseeing this multimillion dollar program to increase the production of African Americans earning PhDs in physics.

 

Ed Bertschinger
Ed Bertschinger
Formerly the head of the Department of Physics at MIT, Ed is now the MIT Institute Community and Equity Officer.  As head of the physics department, he introduced initiatives that increased the percentage of underrepresented minority students to 17%, well above the national average.  Now, as the ICEO, he works on issues of inclusion, community, equity and diversity for all of MIT.  Ed has a long track record of diversity leadership and advocacy, not only on campus, but within the larger scientific community, and among APS and AAS diversity efforts.
Tabbetha Dobbins

Tabbetha Dobbins
Associate Professor of Physics at Rowan University and strong promoter of diversity in physics at the undergraduate level, Tabbetha earned her degrees at both HBCUs and Predominantly White Institutions.  Following these experiences, she returned to her HBCU roots as a faculty member at two HBCUs before landing at Rowan.  She is fiercely dedicated to her undergraduate students and participates in diversity panels around the country.

 

 

Sharon Fries-Brit
Sharon Fries-Britt
Higher Education Professor at the University of Maryland and former Director of the Higher Education, Student Affairs and International Education (HESI) Program, Sharon’s research examines the experiences of high achieving Blacks in higher education and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM fields. As such, she has conducted qualitative research on the experiences of African Americans in physics over a 5-year period at the National Society of Black Physicists meetings, and is currently working with colleagues to develop and implement a survey based on her prior research with Black physics students.
Sylvester James Gates
Sylvester James Gates
A world-renowned theoretical physicist, who until recently was the John S. Toll professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, Jim is now physics professor and Director of the Presidential Scholar program at Brown University. He has served on national committees including Obama’s Presidential Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) and the National Commission on Forensic Science.  Throughout his career, he has been an outspoken national advocate for diversity in physics and has contributed to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on the value of minorities in physics.
Jedidah Isler
Jedidah Isler
Currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University, Jedidah was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Astrophysics from Yale. She is an award-winning astrophysicist, TED Fellow, and a nationally recognized speaker and advocate for inclusive STEM education. She is also the creator and host of the monthly web series “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.”
Mia Ong
Mia Ong
Founder and Director of Project SEED (Science and Engineering Equity and Diversity, Mia conducted empirical research focusing on women of color in higher education and careers in STEM and has led the evaluation of several STEM diversity/inclusion programs. She directed an undergraduate physics program for minorities and women at U.C. Berkeley and received a U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. At TERC, Mia is a Member of the Diversity Council, the Diversity Recruitment Sources Task Force and the Institutional Review Board. She holds a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Studies in Education from U.C. Berkeley.
Arlisa Richardson
Arlisa Richardson
Currently a faculty member in the physics department at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Arlisa has had a rich and varied career. She received her physics bachelor’s degree at an HBCU, her physics Master’s degree at UT Dallas, a second Master’s degree in materials & engineering, and a PhD in science curriculum, both from the University of Arizona.  Arlisa also spent a significant amount of time working as an engineer in private industry before returning to academia.  In that time, she has worked with diversity organizations to increase access to science for underrepresented minorities and she is now running as a candidate for the AAPT Board of Directors.
Quinton Williams
Quinton Williams
Professor and chair of physics at Howard University, Quinton has a history of leadership in APS, AAPT and AIP diversity efforts. As a former Provost at Jackson State and current physics chair at Howard, he is a staunch advocate for the health and well-being of HBCUs and for their recognition as the leading producers of African American physics bachelor’s degrees.  Quinton is a former member of the AIP Governing Board and was a member of the APS and AAPT Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs, which recently released their report, Physics 21: Preparing physics students for 21st century careers.
 

AIP Project Staff

Philip "Bo" Hammer
Philip “Bo” Hammer
Bo Hammer is a Senior Director at the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the AIP Staff Liaison to the AIP Liaison Committee on Underrepresented Minorities (LCURM). Bo, in partnership with LCURM, wrote the successful proposal to the AIP Board to authorize and fund a national Task Force on the underrepresentation of African Americans in physics & astronomy.

 

Prior to assuming his role as a Senior Director, Bo was Associate Vice President for the AIP Physics Resources Center.  He was responsible for AIP’s Industrial Outreach program, GradSchoolShopper.com, Government Relations, and AIP’s diversity program.  He was recently appointed to the advisory committee for the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute and serves on the AAAS Fellows Advisory Committee.

Arlene Modesta-Knowles
Arlene Modeste Knowles
Now managing the TEAM UP project, Arlene formerly managed and coordinated many diversity programs for the American Physical Society including the now retired, Scholarships for Minority Undergraduate Physics Majors, and the National Mentoring Community, a mentoring program to increase the number of minority physics bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, Arlene worked closely with the ad-hoc APS Committee on LGBT+ issues to elevate the presence of LGBT+ physicists within the APS community, and to help them produce the first ever, LGBT Climate in Physics Report. She also served on theProgram Management Team of the multi-million dollar grant-funded, APS Bridge Program, and has been instrumental in moving several APS diversity initiatives forward.
 
For more information, contact:
Arlene Modeste Knowles
+1 301-209-3164
aknowles [at] aip.org