NEST 2014: Views from the Trainees—Talking About What Matters in Efforts to Diversify the STEM Workforce

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Journal Article

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CBE—Life Sciences Education

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Efforts to diversify the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce have been led by various stakeholders across all disciplines but most notably by the funding agencies and by the trainers (National Research Council [NRC], 2007, 2011; Tabak and Collins, 2011; Wilder et al., 2013). However, missing from this work and these conversations are the voices of the trainees at all levels. While this work has now begun to include the views and opinions of the postdoctoral community (www.nationalpostdoc.org), rarely does it involve trainees at mid- and entry levels of the pipeline. Interest in faculty careers decreases as training progresses (Gibbs and Griffin, 2013). Additionally, given that the greatest diversity in the scientific community is found at the undergraduate level, followed by the postbaccalaureate and graduate levels (Ramdial and Campbell, 2014), there is an urgent need to capture these unfiltered viewpoints that form the foundations for career decisions and actions. STEM training program analyses aimed at defining what matters in trainee choices, persistence, and motivation have always been guided from the top. Part of this work relies on administering surveys constructed using assumptions and inferences that we as trainers make regarding what motivates trainees and the factors that affect their choices. While useful, these approaches are often derived in prescriptive ways, which can lead to unintended biases by undervaluing or failing to measure the traits and the attributes trainees themselves possess and value, attributes that could be beneficial in contemporary interdisciplinary science. The issue of career choice, persistence, and motivation is a complex matter; discussion should not be limited by top-down decision making or by overly structured theoretical frameworks. Trainee choices are shaped by internal decisions as well as by external factors (Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2002) that are not always apparent or understood. These may go unrecognized, because adequate time is not given to trainees for reflection. With regard to knowing what matters, trainees must have adequate opportunities to think deeply and reflect on what is important to them and what motivates them most in pursuing STEM careers.




Technology, Economic Advancement



Comments/Extra Notes

Additional authors: Kawachi, Ichiro; Hohmann, Christine