Department Colloquium- Prof. Megan Kowalske (Western Michigan University)

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1315 Seminar Hall, North Tower
@ 3:30 pm


Title: Caught Between Worlds: Historically Excluded Students’ Experiences in STEM Higher Education


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been under increased scrutiny over the past decade, following efforts to discredit efforts to foster inclusion and dismantle diversity-oriented programs. Research presented in this seminar will utilize the perspectives of students from historically excluded groups to examine systems and structures that continue to present barriers for equity in STEM higher education. Data will be drawn from three research projects examining the experiences of women in chemistry PhD programs, Black and Latinx students in STEM PhD programs, and undergraduates pursuing chemistry and biochemistry degrees. Utilizing critical race and feminist standpoint theories, we will explore and critique widely-accepted educational practices, cultural and disciplinary norms, and university systems that threaten students’ sense of belonging, achievement motivation, social networks, and mental health. We will close with concrete strategies for support and inclusion of all students in STEM programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


Megan Grunert Kowalske has dedicated her career to enhancing diversity and equity in the chemical sciences. Her research projects have been supported with over $1.8 million by the National Science Foundation and explore the structural and systemic ways that students from historically excluded groups continue to be marginalized in the chemical sciences and STEM higher education. These research projects have focused not only on understanding the experiences and centering the voices of women, students from historically excluded racial/ethnic/cultural groups, students in the LGBTQ+ community, low-income students, and students with disabilities, but have included students from these marginalized groups as active researchers. She also serves on the advisory board for the NSF ADVANCE grant awarded to WMU and is a WMU committee member in the ASPIRE iChange network. She was the recipient of the 2021 WMU Emerging Scholar Award, the 2021 WMU Excellence in Diversity Award, and was a nominee for the 2020 Michigan Association of State Universities Distinguished Professor of the Year. She teaches in the general chemistry sequence, as well as graduate science education courses, and is currently serving as the chairperson for the Department of Chemistry.

Keywords: Graduate education, Chemistry education, Diversity in STEM, Women in STEM, Qualitative methods

Host: Ellie Plachinski / Katie Weber