AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  Session: Addressing Race and Ethnicity
  Paper Type: Invited
  Title: Creating Counter-Space: Deliberate Strategies Faculty Can Use to Create Environments Where Women of Color Thrive
  Meeting: 2016 Summer Meeting: Sacremento, California
  Location: N/A
  Time: 2:30PM
  Author: Angela Johnson,
301-904-6783, acjohnson@smcm.edu
  Co-Author(s): Apriel Hodari
  Abstract: Counterspaces are academic or social safe havens where the experiences of underrepresented students, such as women of color, are validated and seen as critical, and where deficit notions of people of color and women are challenged (Sol√≥rzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). Counterspaces, often located at the margins of academia, serve to counter isolation, microaggressions, and discrimination that women of color often experience in mainstream education spaces in higher education, like departments, classrooms, and laboratories. In this paper, we explore the possibility of extending the standard notions of counterspaces to include the mainstream space of physics departments. We ask: Can physics departments be counterspaces for women of color, and if so, how? In two parallel studies that focus on women of color students who are thriving in physics, astrophysics, engineering, math and computer science at predominantly white institutions, the authors examine strategies that administrators and faculty use to make their departments counterspaces that support women of color. Strategies include: a zero-tolerance policy against racial or gender discrimination; a critical mass of students of color; deliberate recruitment of both male and female faculty members committed to creating inclusive majors; frequent faculty assertions that success in STEM majors results from hard work rather than innate ability; interactive classes and universal use of group work; and expressed faculty beliefs that they want to support all students. The paper describes the cultural contexts in which physics counterspaces may be created, and policies and practices that ensure their maintenance.
  Footnotes: None
  Presentation: AAPT 2016.pptx

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