COSM Diversity & Inclusion News

April 2021


The Diversity & Inclusion newsletter is delivered monthly via email during the fall and spring semesters and is always available on the new COSM D&I webpage. Send contributions and suggestions to any of the COSM D&I Ambassadors listed at the bottom of this newsletter and on the webpage.

Diversity Quote of the Month

Blue background with gold and white text. Gold and white explosions on background. "Look for where your privilege intersects with somebody’s oppression. That is the piece of the system that you have the power to help destroy."   - Ijeoma Oluo, Author of the NYT Bestseller So you want to talk about race?

"Look for where your privilege intersects with somebody’s oppression. That is the piece of the system that you have the power to help destroy."

- Ijeoma Oluo, Author of the NYT Bestseller So you want to talk about race?

Fact Fuel - THANK YOU COSM Staff and Faculty!

COSM is making a big and important impact in STEM. 2018-2019 data for first- to second-year retention shows that for the most part, across race and ethnicity our college is holding firm at 77% and above.

COSM has amazing staff and faculty who have worked tirelessly over many years to make this happen; the most impactful work is often “invisible” and unacknowledged.

So, we would like to take a moment to THANK YOU for this achievement as our college community continues to work toward greater retention and broader representation in our student body.

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Credit: Dr. Sara Gremillion (Biology, Georgia Southern University)

Link to this data and more for COSM, in a convenient dashboard!

COSM Community D&I Spotlight

Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) on Inclusive Excellence (IE) led by Dr. Diana Botnaru and Dr. Arpita Saha

The Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) on Inclusive Excellence (IE) are led by the two University System of Georgia (USG)-Chancellor Learning Fellows, Dr. Diana Botnaru, Professor, Waters College of Health Professions and Dr. Arpita Saha, Associate Professor, College of Science and Mathematics. The purpose of the FLCs is to create a safe space and engage participants in a discussion about inclusive practices in the classroom. Dr. Saha says that she enjoys learning from a diverse group of educators of various ranks, ages, disciplines, and interests. Dr. Botnaru has participated and led other FLCs and appreciates the opportunity to meet new colleagues, to create a community of learners and to reflect together on teaching experiences.

Both groups actively explored several topics centered around inclusive course planning, content and climate during six meetings throughout the spring 2021 semester. FLC sessions included examining the course syllabus through an IE focus, addressing microaggressions in the classroom, re-designing material to promote diversity in course content, reflecting on own teaching practices, and assessing the effectiveness of newly adopted inclusive assignments or activities. The FLC participants also met several guest speakers, Drs. TaJuan Wilson, Associate VP of IE and Karelle Aiken, Professor and Co-lead of COSM D & I Collaborative and participated in heartfelt conversations on everyday challenges related to IE in academic settings.

Screenshot from a virtual meeting of the FLC group showing eight women of various ages, races, and ethnicities.
These virtual FLCs were scheduled purposefully on Wednesday (for TR teaching schedules) and Thursday (for MWF teaching schedules) to offer flexibility to participants. Each FLC meets on Zoom every three weeks and has between 8-10 participants representing a variety of departments and colleges at Georgia Southern. FLC participants are eligible to receive USG Certificates upon attending all scheduled sessions. In addition, the USG Chancellor Learning Scholar program can fund the registration cost for a Professional Certification Course (“Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom”) from Columbia University for interested FLC participants.

Try This! – Syllabus Diversity Statement

Adding a diversity statement to your syllabus and going over that statement on the 1st day of class is a small but high impact step for showing your commitment to inclusion and creating a welcoming environment. See this article for guidelines and the Georgia Southern 2020-2021 Inclusive Excellence Action Plan for definitions of key terms. Examples are provided by CalPoly Inclusion and Classroom Climate statement, and the Georgia Southern Office of Inclusive Excellence (below).

“At Georgia Southern University, we are committed to supporting our students and fostering an environment that is free of bias, discrimination, and harassment in the classroom and in the broader University community. As such, we have an expectation that our learning community is inclusive and respectful. Our diversity may be reflected by differences in race, culture, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, political beliefs, socioeconomic background, and myriad other social identities and life experiences. The goal of inclusiveness, in a diverse community, encourages and appreciates expressions of different ideas, opinions, and beliefs, so that conversations and interactions that could potentially be divisive turn instead into opportunities for intellectual and personal enrichment.”

This Month's Theme: Confronting Anti-Asian Discrimination & Our Sphere of Influence

The increased incidences of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is everyone’s problem and directly impacts our AAPI students and colleagues.

For those who have been in academia for decades, the current push for diversity across higher education institutions is not new. There have been multiple periods marked by bursts of excitement and a succession of wonderful letters of declaration with very little followup. While frustrating, the efforts of the past have given us many important lessons. One such lesson is that creating an inclusive environment requires that we acknowledge and confront the history of discriminatory practices that harm racial minorities and other marginalized groups. Another is that we cannot rely on one person or group to do this hard work; the work belongs to each of us regardless of our rank or role in the university.

As we mourn the senseless loss of eight lives in our home-state including the lives of six Asian women and grapple with the increasing prevalence of anti-Asian attacks, let us recognize that each individual has a sphere of influence. In addition to condemning racist behaviors and practices, we can support each other, increase our own awareness, and create change. Let’s followup by:

  • Acknowledging that the escalation in attacks against our AAPI community is a serious problem and stems from long standing racist ideology.

  • Learning about each other's experiences. Be mindful in doing so. The responsibility for our education is our own, not that of our AAPI students, colleagues, friends or family members. Consider resources that cover AAPI history and present-day experiences in the US (articles, documentaries, books, podcasts, etc.).

  • Challenging (micro)aggressive statements disparaging a particular group including those said in jest. If you are not sure where or how to start, consider the Georgia Southern workshops on Managing Difficult Conversations.

  • Safely intervening if we witness a conflict. In determining whether/how to intervene, consider the 4 D’s of bystander intervention as explained by Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice trainers (NPR Listen, 5 mins.):

    • Create a Distraction (for example: spill your drink or pretend you know the person being attacked and greet them loudly).

    • Delegate by seeking help from someone else, maybe a person with more authority.

    • Document what is happening (for example: record the conflict; note landmarks, day, time). Seek permission from the person impacted before making anything public.

    • Delay and check in with the targeted person after the conflict to make sure they are okay.

    • If safe, Directly intervene.

  • Report incidents of bias, harassment, and assault against the AAPI community here. Find Anti-Asian violence resources here for further consideration.


03.18.21 / Asian Aggression by pacificanetwork

Sometimes, our silence causes the most damage.

Dr. Chenyi Zhang, an Associate Professor at Georgia State University spoke out about the rise in discriminatory attacks against Asian Americans. In this clip he covers a number of important topics (5 mins., 24 secs., scroll down & click on the play symbol beside “Play Story”). He reflects on how the killings at the Asian spas in Atlanta were described and explains the problematic use of the term “model minority” which renders AAPIs invisible and hence, excluded from important spaces and conversations. Additionally, Dr. Zhang shares a recent experience he had while grocery shopping and what it felt like when others around him stayed silent.

"But we can't talk about THAT at work!"

Looking for in-depth resources that offer practical and proven ways to support persons from historically marginalized groups and engage in challenging conversations?

We Can't Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics. Dr. Mary-Frances Winters, Founder and CEO of The Winters Group, Inc., a 36-year old global diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm, teaches us to meet people where they are and take a developmental approach to discussing these sensitive topics. Dr. Winters notes that people are thinking about these issues all the time and nowhere is that more evident than in the intense discourse continuously happening on social sites. Her book is a guide for creating more inclusive organizations by learning to safely confront biases and stereotypes through bold conversations. She emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that being able to engage in these discussions is a learned skill. Dr. Winters provides guidelines for initiating these conversations from multiple perspectives--persons who have been personally impacted, those who do not feel personally impacted, and individuals in leadership positions.

Bandwidth Recovery by Dr. Cia Verschelden guides the reader in learning to see the strength and resilience students bring with them. Dr. Verschelden provides practical steps for cultivating environments that value students’ perspectives, foster a growth mindset, create a sense of belonging, and promote self-efficacy. Importantly, the author explains how instructors, advisors and the institution can work synergistically to help students reclaim cognitive resources depleted by poverty, social marginalization and racism.

It’s possible to address the inherent bias in teaching evaluations.

Dr. Rebecca J. Kreitzer and Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman performed a detailed analysis of student evaluations. As a complement to student evaluations, Dr. Kreitzer and Dr. Sweet-Cushman suggest that reviews of faculty’s teaching should include other assessments such as peer evaluations, teaching portfolios, and course materials. They also offer recommendations for improving existing evaluation tools which are often biased against LGBTQ persons, women, racial minorities (Asian, Black, Latinx), and instructors with “accents”. To find out more, check out The Skinny on Teaching Evaluation and the original research article, Evaluating Student Evaluations of Teaching: a Review of Measurement, and Equity Bias in SETs and Recommendations for Ethical Reform.

Reflective Moment

The NSF STC Center for Science of Information said that when they first started they made the mistake of treating Diversity as a separate program. In this short video, they explain how they retooled their approach and found great success by incorporating inclusive diversity throughout the entire process. STEM Dive Video 2020: Broader Participation with the Center for Science of Information

STEM Dive Video 2020: Broader Participation with the Center for Science of Information

Upcoming Events

  • COSM Inclusive Excellence Mini-Grant (up to $5000) Deadline just passed! We look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition across our college.
  • Picture a Scientist: This documentary about women scientists' fight for equity and inclusion is excellent! Georgia Southern is currently in the process of adding it to our DVD and digital library, and the Women in Stem Alliance will be hosting a screening in the fall!

D&I Campus Connections and Opportunities

STEM Organizations

University Opportunities:

External Opportunities

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Something you'd like to see? We'd love to hear from you.

Brigette, Karelle, and Ryan lead the COSM Diversity & Inclusion webpage & newsletter team. They’d love to hear from you, and you can also contact any of your COSM D&I Ambassadors if you would like to contribute to or comment on the newsletter - or discuss other D&I issues. The webpage also includes information on becoming an ambassador yourself.

COSM Diversity & Inclusion Committee Co-Leaders

  • Arpita Saha - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Brandon Quillian - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Karelle Aiken - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Sabrina Hessinger - Mathematics


  • Amanda Klingel

  • Brian Koehler

  • Issac Taylor


  • Brigette Brinton

  • Geneva DeMars

  • Jennifer Brofft-Bailey

  • Johanne Lewis

  • Justin Montemarano

  • Marylou Machingura

  • Sara Gremillion

  • Sue Ellen Dechenne-Peters

Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Arpita Saha

  • Brandon Quillian

  • Brent Feske

  • Debanjana Ghosh

  • Karelle Aiken

  • Ryan Groom

  • Shainaz Landge

Geology & Geography

  • Amy Potter

  • Rob Yarbrough

  • Kathlyn Smith


  • Duc Van Huynh

  • Eryn Stehr

  • Jim Brawner

  • Kyle Bradford

  • Sabrina Hessinger

  • Stephanie Wiggins

  • Tuyin An

Physics & Astronomy

  • Hua-Jian Jason Liu